The Difference between Offensive Players and Defensive Players in Relationships

BY: - 14 Nov '12 | Marriage

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From personal and professional experiences, I have come to understand that relationships are only as successful as the players who establish and participate in them. I have also come to understand that the lack of understanding of the differences between offensive players and defensive players in relationships can cause and/or contribute to all out warfare and unhappiness in a relationship.

Relationships typically consist of 2 players who either take on one role or in some cases two roles. However, regardless of the nature or number of roles individuals play in their relationships, usually the goal of both players is to feel safe and to be happy. This is where things get complicated and tricky. Depending on the individuals’ past relationship experiences, their ability to feel safe and be happy will look totally different. Research has shown that an  individuals’ past experiences and coping styles often influence the kind of player they become. For example, individuals who have experienced relationship hardship and have unsuccessfully resolved it are more likely to become defensive players. On the other hand, individuals who have experienced relationship hardship and have successfully resolved it are more likely to become offensive players.

Understanding the kind of player you are and learning to identify the kind of player with whom you desire to have a relationship with is critical to your relationship prosperity and happiness. Each player may have different means or ways that influence how he or she may achieve his or her goal of feeling safe and being happy. Some players enter relationships with the ability to play both offense and defense. However, some individuals enter relationships and only know how to play defense. With this in mind, it is imperative that you learn the difference between offensive players and defensive players in relationships. 

Offensive Players 

Offensive players enter relationships with an “us mentality” and look for opportunities to build up and support their significant other. They strive to advance their relationships  by participating in activities that will stimulate personal and interpersonal growth. Offensive players are more likely to engage in behavior that is best suited for the relationship and will place just as much emphasis on the needs of the relationship as their own. Offensive players are prevention orientated and look to develop plans in order to minimize drama. They make things happen. Just like quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, they try to anticipate what will happen and respond accordingly with the intent to advance.

Team first is their mode of operation. This can occur in the form of praise, encouragement and support. They cheer when they are capable of helping themselves and their partners advance. Their primary focus is to build up and mobilize their partners. From a relationship standpoint, offensive players are typically open-minded, trusting, optimistic and proactive.

Defensive Players 

Defensive players enter relationships with a “me mentality” and look for opportunities to identify and exploit weaknesses in their significant other. They defend themselves by blocking or avoiding interactions or situations that cause them to feel out of control or uncomfortable. Unfortunately, defensive players are more likely to engage in behavior that is best suited for them and will put their needs before the needs of the relationship. However, they will occasionally engage in maneuvers that will benefit the relationship. Defensive players are reactionary orientated and look to adjust to drama as oppose to preventing it. They sit back and wait. Just like defensive backs, safeties and outside linebackers, they try to anticipate what will happen and respond accordingly with the intent to stop advancement.

One up is their mode of operation. This can occur in the form of belittling, over talking and manipulation. They cheer when they are capable of preventing their partner from scoring or advancing. Their primary focus is to breakdown or immobilize their partners. From a relationship standpoint, defensive players are closed-minded, non-trusting, guarded and reactive.

Know the Difference 

Be mindful that both offensive and defensive players engage in behavior to accomplish the same goal: To feel safe and be happy. Offensive players strive to achieve safety and happiness by engaging in proactive and assertive behavior that will advance their relationship. In contrast, defensive players strive to achieve safety and happiness by engaging in reactionary and aggressive behavior that block advancement in their relationship.

If you desire to have a healthy and prosperous relationship, you must learn how to distinguish between the two kinds of players. I encourage you to view your relationship as a game to be won. Let me be clear, I did not say play games. Knowing what you want and selecting the right player is critical to your relationship happiness. Before you enter into a relationship, I want you to think about and answer the following two questions: 1) Do you want to have a relationship with a defensive player who will sit back and hinder advancement or with an offensive player who will be proactive and facilitate advancement?; and 2) What kind of player are you?

Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham is a renowned psychotherapist, motivational speaker, author and activist who provide individual and marital therapy to military soldiers and their families assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of R.E.A.L. Horizons Consulting Service, LLC located in Silver Spring, Maryland. To learn more about Dr. Dwayne Buckingham visit his website at You can follow Dr. Buckingham on Twitter @DrDBuckingham.

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BMWK Staff wrote 1259 articles on this blog.

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3 WordPress comments on “The Difference between Offensive Players and Defensive Players in Relationships

  1. Niambi

    Great post! I would say that I am a offensive player and my partner is a defensive player. We have issues now because its always about his needs and wants and not what’s best for the greater good of the relationship. I’m a giver and he’s a taker. It’s hard dealing with this and I try to remain the same as a giver and not let him change me but my needs are not being met and the relationship as a whole is suffering.


    WOW, this really hit me. I identify with this article very much as I’m the defensive player and my husband is the offensive player. I recognize that being the defensive player has placed alot of strain and unhappiness within my marriage and upon my husband. I understand my faults to the point that I have wanted out of the marriage because I don’t know how to be an offensive player due to my past relationships. I don’t want to continue being a defensive player but don’t know how to move forward and be an offensive one in the marriage. I’m completely lost but keeping hope & faith that I can work on myself for the better. This article has touched me the most because I fully understand.

  3. Danielle

    Sorry, but this isn’t especially good at all. All this says is: “There are good and bad people in relationships; which one are you?” What good is it to be able to distinguish between two types of players if they aren’t being taught to work together? The football analogy doesn’t work well here – BOTH sides need to be playing well to win games, but this article only talks about why being a defensive player is negative (hinders advancement, displays aggressive behavior). How is this supposed to help anyone?

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9 Things I Learned While My Husband Was Away

BY: - 15 Nov '12 | Marriage

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The day before Hurricane Sandy was scheduled to hit the East Coast, my husband left for what was supposed to be a two day business trip.  But, ended up being…well…9 days. It was bad enough that he had to leave!  But what made it even worse was that it coincided with what was rumored to be the worst storm to hit the East Coast in quite some time.

Call me a wimp…. but I don’t like storms. Actually, I detest them.  And, I especially don’t like being home alone with the kids during one. It took everything I had to not sneak myself and the kids into his luggage. But alas, I had to put on my brave face for the kids. Thank God our area wasn’t affected by the storm — no loss of power or flooding. I’d like to think that He heard my cries … I mean, prayers (*wink*).

To say it was a challenge to keep up with a schedule for a 1, 3, & 5-year-old would be a gross understatement. So when my husband walked through that door on day 9, a familiar Destiny’s Child song came to mind (*queue “Survivor” music*).

But there is always a lesson (or two…or 9) to be learned with any challenge, so here are a few of mine:

1. Thank God for Steve Jobs (RIP) and the invention of FaceTime!

There was something about being able to see my husband’s face when I talked to him that made me feel like he really wasn’t far away. There was a different kind of connection that made me feel like we were teenagers again.

2. I’m one lucky mom.

Even though they can be a bit of a handful, they are just as much a bunch of goofballs and they make me laugh myself silly. If I had to pick kids to get stranded with, I would definitely pick my own.

3. I’m an even luckier wife.

I hear so many stories of people that are married but might as well be single when it comes to parenting. Call me spoiled, but my husband is very hands-on with the kids, so I definitely feel it when he’s not around.

4. I’m not a supermom or superwoman…just a mom in charge (*wink*).

If I didn’t have the support of my family and friends, I might have crumbled under pressure. I know there are millions of single moms out there that do it on their own every day. So while I’m flattered to have been given these titles, I just felt like I was doing what was in my job description. When your co-worker calls out sick, you just have to step up to the plate and get the work done.

5. The kids are not any less messy, loud or disobedient when daddy is gone.

Nope, they have no sympathy for mommy. In fact, I think they took advantage of the situation.

6. The laundry will pile up and so will the dishes…but it’s ok.

I’m definitely not a neat freak. But I do get a bit…um…stressed when there is chaos and things get out of place. So I learned that I could either stay up all night cleaning and doing laundry, or get some sleep so I could try to keep up with the kids. Final score: Sleep = 2; Laundry = 0.

7. Learning to say “no” is that much easier.

When you’re a one woman show, you definitely learn how to pick and choose where to exert your energy. So picking dinner at home over a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party is a no brainer.

8. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Not that I doubted this before, but I surely believe it even more now.  And, God knows that my mental state depended on my husband being by my side for this journey of parenthood.

9. Husband & wife make a great team.

I learned that even though I managed to keep the house together and keep the kids fed, my husband and I make one awesome team. I can’t imagine going at it on my own, and am so thankful that I don’t have to! At least until the next trip anyway…


BMWK – Sometimes it takes a short separation from your spouse to appreciate just how much they mean to you and just how blessed you are to have a partner in marriage.  Take some time to reflect on your marriage today and then let us know why you appreciate your spouse.


About the author

Christine St. Vil wrote 153 articles on this blog.

Christine St.Vil is co-author of the Whose Shoes Are Your Wearing: 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be. A happy wife to an amazing hubby of 8 years, and homeschooling mother of three, she teaches moms how to FLY (First Love Yourself). She uses her corporate background to work with women who are ready to start a new business, accelerate their career growth & design a life they love. She's on a mission to help moms to battle the mom guilt epidemic, so they can begin to put themselves first on their never-ending list of priorities.


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