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The Remarried Life

Nov 12, 2019

Session 116: Are you a Chaser or a Defender in Conflict (Nov 12, 2019)

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Brian Mayer talks about conflict and disagreements between spouses in a remarriage.  The roles we each play in conflict can create some negative cycles that can make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship.  We will talk about what the chaser does and what the defender does and some of the negative cycles it creates.  We will also talk about some ways to change what we do in conflict to help create more positive cycles of connection.    We hope you enjoy today’s message.  For more information and additional resources please visit our website at

Today's Goodies

  • You have heard the phrase opposites attract.  Well this is much debated in relationships but there does seem to be at least anecdotal evidence at least in my counseling practice for the opposite ways that partners in a relationship handle conflict. 
  • Some differences include things like:
    • One person having difficulty getting over issues in the past versus one partner that wants to move forward and keep an eye on the future.
    • One partner might easily be able to ask for forgiveness and one partner is not easily able to do this. 
    • Along the same lines, sometimes one partner can admit when they have done something wrong while the other partner cannot.
    • Some in a relationship view themselves as unable to measure up or failing while maybe the other partner has a view of others that they are always out to get them.
    • One partner freely trusts while another says trust must be earned. 
    • Finally, one of you may be a chaser in conflict and one of you may be a defender and this what we will talk about today. 
  • Let’s start by talking about this chaser/defender dynamic and that common appearance in relationship.  Studies show that about 80% of relationship have one person who is a chaser and one person who is a defender.  Probably 10% of the time a relationship has 2 chasers and the other 10% have 2 defenders. 
  • What is a Chaser?  A chaser in conflict is generally the person who bring up issues or problems in a relationship much more often.  They see the rooms aren’t clean, their partner doesn’t spend enough time with them, or maybe they state their partner does not help with the kids enough. Now maybe these issues are present but what make a chaser a chaser is that they will freely bring issues up.  I once heard a chaser could be referred to as “Mr. or Mrs.  Blameypants.” 
  • What is a Defender?  A defender is the person in the relationship that spends their time deflecting, shutting down, minimizing, or withdrawing from conflict.  A defender can be seen as the one who does not care, doesn’t appear to believe that their partner matters.  Another way I like to describe the Defender is that they are the “Dodgeball Artist.” 
  • So what is generally going on below the surface for a chaser?  Well like we said a moment ago on the surface the Chaser appears to be critical, blaming, and sometimes like an attorney looking for clarity and answers.  However below the surface they are looking for connection and engagement.  They are attempting to bring their partner closer. 
  • What is going on below the surface for a defender?  A defender while giving the appearance they don’t care, just wants peace.  When conflict happens they feel uneasy, anxious and overwhelmed so they may attempt to shut down the conflict as soon as possible. 
  • The methods a chaser and a defender are simply ways they have each learned to keep the relationship feeling safe.  But as you can see usually the opposite happens when each goes into their sort of default methods of operation.
  • This can create several cycles of conflict that can ultimately make the couple feel disengaged.  They include:
    • Blamer/Defender which is exactly what it sounds like.
    • Attack/Attack:  This one happens when a Defender rises up and may begin to counterblame thus escalating the dialogue. 
    • Withdraw/Withdraw:  This cycle occurs because the blamer finally gives up in trying to reach for the Defender.  Worst case is that they could disengage from the relationship completely. 
    • Flip of Blamer/Defender:  This cycle can occur when the Chaser gives up completely and the Defender begins the pursuit to save the relationship. 
  • So what to do and how to combat these roles and cycles:
    • First become aware of whether you are a Chaser or a Defender
    • Understand the moves you make that actually push your partner to move too strongly toward you or too strongly away from you. 
    • If you are Chaser, you goal is to SOFTEN your pursuit.  This might mean watching your harshness, tone or frequency of blaming
    • If you are a Defender your goal is to REENGAGE by hanging in there when you hear your partner making a request.  Trying to hear the request behind anxious pursuit. 
    • Give your cycles nicknames and call them out when you see them happen.  Often this can feel less intense that calling out your partner for something that is bothersome to you. 
  • The bottomline is that you will have a default way of operating and when you get stressed it will tend to come out.  It takes time to work to reduce your tendancies.  And additionally conflict is going to happen and you will never fully rid yourself of these cycles but the goal is to reduce the frequency and severity.
  • Take it little by little and don’t beat yourself or each up for playing these roles or getting into these cycles but look at the cycle as the bad guy and sometimes it can make it easier to correct. .          


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As always remember that marriage is not something you have, it is something you do.  Talk to you next week unless you are binge listening in the future in which case I will talk to you in about a minute!  Take care.