Whether your partner is in the right or the wrong, defending them to others may sound like a standard relationship expectation, but for some, it can be easier said than done. Tom Schwartz has a longstanding history of avoiding conflict, which used to be a point of contention when he was dating his (now) wife, Katie. In the latest episode of Vanderpump Rules, he finally broke the cycle when he confronted James Kennedy after hearing about the rude comments he made regarding Katie’s weight. James' girlfriend, Raquel, found herself in a similar situation (needing to defend her partner) after she was confronted by those who were offended by his comments. While Schwartz and Raquel are on the opposite ends of this matter, it begs the question: Should partners always be expected to defend or stand up for their partner?
Personal Space spoke to Alejandra Siroka, founder of Language Alchemy, a communication consulting and coaching firm based in San Francisco, to find out how partners should handle these types of scenarios. Siroka coaches individuals, couples, and groups who are struggling to “overcome limiting habits and express themselves authentically,” so they can thrive in relationships.
Typically, Siroka recommends that one “should not intervene in their partner’s friend drama,” however, “everything depends on the context.” Since Schwartz’s wife, Katie, had been mad in the past when he did not stand up for her, it was a big step in their relationship that he did. He explained in Sunday’s episode that he’s “not good at confronting people,” which is why he typically avoided doing it previously.
Siroka explained that from Katie’s point of view “if the husband doesn’t side with his wife, she might feel unsupported, unseen, abandoned, or betrayed.” Feeling a “lack of support or a sense of betrayal from a spouse” can inflict harm on the relationship. Therefore, Schwartz confronting James and standing up for Katie was the best way he could have handled that to make sure she felt supported and loved.
In Raquel’s case, she wasn't there when James made the hurtful comments toward Katie, but she still defended him when presented with the facts. Whether or not a partner was present for the fight, Siroka recommended always taking your “partner’s side in the sense of being a loving, supportive ally.” This doesn't mean agreeing with the partner’s actions when they are objectively wrong, since support can take many forms. She explained that “being able to point out when a partner’s words or deeds are not in alignment with their values” is a good way of standing up for them in a way that is respectful to both parties.
Raquel appeared to use this technique when she explained to the group that the comments James makes when he is drunk does not reflect who he really is or how he treats women, specifically her. She also had a similar conversation with James when she discussed his actions, but managed to do it in a supportive way despite being disappointed in his drunken behavior and not approving of his actions.
In both these cases, Schwartz and Raquel rose to the occasion of supporting their partners, but if you are in a situation where you don't feel supported, it is OK to confront them. Siroka explained, “When your partner doesn’t stand up for you, it is your responsibility to let them know how this affects you and what your expectations are.” Most couples depend on their partners to stand up for them if they are “being treated disrespectfully.” This type of conversation definitely helped Schwartz overcome his previous habit of avoiding conflict and strengthened his relationship with Katie.
Whether your partner is in the right or the wrong, defending their character and values especially if they feel disrespected or judged unfairly is always the right decision. At the end of the day, when we love someone deeply, "we have a natural desire to protect them.”
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