Devil’s Advocate: When a Man Doesn’t Stick up for you

A wise, emotionally intelligent person knows when to offer an alternative Devil’s Advocate viewpoint, when to shut their mouth, when someone is “venting” and when someone just wants them to act as a mirror to assure they are justified in feeling the way they feel.

His name was Matthew. He was my ex’s friend.

Maybe the reason my ex is now my ex is because he never defended me against people like Matthew.

My ex and I kind of had this thing going where we were each other’s cheerleader. We would work out together and when we started feeling “fat” one or the other of us would encourage the other one to get up off the couch and get active. It worked well. For years we inspired each other.

So when my ex-husband fell into a funk and I noticed it, I made a post on Facebook with a great fitness article which really inspired me.

“Come on, babe!” I encouraged, “Let’s get going! We can do this!”

Enter Matthew, stage left.

Matthew, who was just a casual friend of my husband’s, took what I said the wrong way and went on a tirade about how much of a bitch I was. In Matthew’s opinion, I was telling my husband he was fat (I hadn’t said those words, at all). He then took it further, with a rant about how women ruined everything for men from the beginning of time.
Matthew was probably projecting his own insecurities, but yes, it was epic insanity.

In anticipation, I waited for my ex to defend me against Matthew’s attack. Instead, he laughed at his comments and said nothing. Then went on to talk with him like he hadn’t just called his wife a bitch.

Men, for the love of God, I don’t care who it is – Your dad, your brother, your mother, your sister, the mailman – If someone calls your wife a name like that, you’d better be defending your wife.

When I told him I was disappointed he didn’t defend me, he asked me what I had done to provoke Matthew.

Fighting words. I’d done exactly nothing and told him this.

“Oh. Guess he’s just being a jerk.”

That was the end of it, as far as he was concerned. I was still furious. The whole conversation between Matthew and myself was right there on Facebook and he blew it off as if it were my fault or like I had deserved his friend’s treatment somehow.

It was one of many times where he didn’t stick up for me. I can’t imagine ever letting one of my friends disrespect him that way. No way would I stand for someone talking to him the way his friend did to me while saying absolutely nothing. Years of this kind of behavior ended up being one of many things that did our marriage in.

Playing devil’s advocate can tell your spouse that their opinions and feelings do not matter. It minimalizes and trivializes problems. When one person in a relationship does this to the other, it can cause irreparable harm.

Even after this relationship was over, it was experienced in another relationship. As someone fairly level-headed, I thought, “What if he’s right? What if I do overreact? What if I am not giving the benefit of the doubt enough?”

And so I’d be more patient, flexible, more understanding…and get hurt over and over again. I’d take blatant insults from others repeatedly because the voice in my head told me “It’s probably your fault…Maybe you are overreacting.” Until I realized, my feelings were completely valid! I had every right to be pissed off when someone disrespected me.

There are reasons why people play Devil’s Advocate. Some are part of their personalities, some are well-intentioned; Others are more insidious.

Playing Advocate for the Devil’s Advocate

When someone plays devil’s advocate, there are several reasons. It’s not always a bad thing when done from a place of concern and reason. On a bigger scale, society needs Devil’s Advocates. They keep thinking from all going one direction. They break up sheep mentality. They keep us intellectually fit and mentally stable. Are they annoying? Yes. But you must examine intentions. When you’re in a relationship, things get trickier.

A wise, emotionally intelligent person knows when to offer an alternative Devil’s Advocate viewpoint, when to shut their mouth, when someone is “venting” and when someone just wants them to act as a mirror to assure them they are justified in feeling the way they feel.

Some people who are fantastic Devil’s Advocates in the arena of public thought may end up not making the best relationship partners unless they learn to turn off their advocacy within the boundaries of their most cherished relationships.

There are several different kinds of Devil’s Advocates and some are better in relationships than others. Some are wise enough to know when to “turn it off”.

So why do some continue to bring their passion for advocating for the Devil into the relationship?

  1.  They are simply trying to provide an alternative viewpoint to be sure you are thinking of things from all angles

    They want to be sure you’ve thought of everything. Really. The friend who just stabbed you in the back you are telling them about – Do you really want to cut off ten years of friendship over one fight? They are trying to provide an objective voice of reason…because they are reasonable people.

    However, this can be highly insulting if you are one of those people who think things into oblivion until your very brain cells are exhausted. Chances are, you already know in the back of your mind what you are going to do about a situation. What you really wanted was to hear the person you love most in the world say was something like, “Damn, that sucks. You are absolutely right.” to validate the way you are feeling, “Yes, I’d be hurt, too.”

    Instead, they question every feeling you have. The truth is, your Devil’s Advocate probably means well if, in every other regard, they show their love for you on a consistent basis and you have no other reason to question the way they feel about you. Their ability to see all sides of a situation is what they are proud of about themselves and it’s possible they don’t realize the pain they cause.

  2. This is their personality.

    They are difficult people. They like to stir the pot. They like the drama of giving a “Did you ever think about that?” response and then sitting back, smirking, arms folded to watch your brain scramble to defense. They are bullies of an insidious nature who throw acid on your every thought or idea and then claim, “I was just offering a different viewpoint/giving a different solution/providing some food for thought/trying to help, etc.”

    If they are smirking while listening to your problems or laughing about them while giving sarcastic responses, chances are this is what you are dealing with – Someone who derives pleasure from being a pain in the ass, or who doesn’t know when to be serious. For five seconds.

    They can’t stand attaching labels to themselves because they like to be able to make fun of everything without giving anyone else some perceived weakness to latch on to. They may be politically moderate. They won’t confine themselves to a genre of music. They will dress “boring”. They won’t reveal much personal detail about themselves. They are a moving target. Chances are, they became this way after being picked on a lot themselves. So they figure a vague life without being committed to any idea is the way to escape criticism while criticizing everyone else from their swiftly-moving cloud. They have found refuge in playing Devil’s Advocate to take the focus off their own insecurities.

  3. They truly don’t care about your problems and are trying to shut you up

    You are annoying them. They don’t have the patience to deal with you and your problems. They don’t want to listen. They’re not even trying to play pot-stirring games with you. They just want to drop a bomb on you in the form of making you feel stupid so you will stop…talking.

    They will typically be more abrupt and point out one of your faults to take validation away from your feelings by using how you are imperfect against you.

    “Oh yeah? So some woman at the grocery store asked if you are pregnant? Like you don’t see how someone might say that?” (staring at your gut)

    “Alexandra asked someone else to photograph her wedding? Well, let’s face it – You’re not a very good photographer.”

    These are the typical responses of a Sociopath. Things as such might be completely true, but there are people on this earth who have not learned the fine art of diplomatic response, kindness and protecting the fragile sense of self of others. There are friends who are honest with you and then there are those who fire off statements, such as above, without thought or care to the impact those words might have on others. These people aren’t just “Devil’s Advocates”, they are the Devil, himself.

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Are you the Devil’s Advocate?

Maybe you have seen your advocacy ruin relationships with people you cared about.

Assuming it’s not that you don’t really care about the person or the psychological well-being of the person you are advocating against, maybe it really is just your personality to be this way as a form of protection. Maybe you can’t stand to have any discussion without exploring all sides in your quest for truth and knowledge.

If Devil’s Advocacy makes you feel protected, maybe it’s because people make you feel stupid every day. People don’t take you seriously. So why should you take them seriously? You can find the flaw in every situation and you’re not afraid to say it. You believe yourself to have a relationship with the truth – But you are ignorant of feelings and emotion.

It’s foreign to you why anyone would disclose so much personal information or leave themselves wide open and vulnerable by bleeding out their problems to someone else’s listening ear. When in a relationship with one of these people – You don’t get it. Instead of accepting that this is the way some people are, you try to change them to be more like you. You try to encourage them to be cold towards these issues…like you. This survival technique works for you, so why won’t they stop being stupid and learn it?

With every devil’s advocate comes a bit of arrogance. It’s arrogant to demand all people handle problems the way you do. Some people need to talk their problems out. Some need to let out an emotion and have someone echo back, “I hear you”. Just because you don’t does not mean the world will adjust to suit you. You don’t need to talk about problems and that’s great…or possibly not. Because even advocates sometimes eventually end up needing to see therapists.

You’ve probably been looking at emotive people as “weak”, “fragile”, or a burden without really seeing them for the gifts they are. While you believe you are on a quest for Truth via advocating for the devil, these people give you truth every day in the form of genuine expression.

Only a wise Devil’s Advocate will recognize this and begin to appreciate the color an empathic, emotive person who discusses their day at work, who talks about their plans, who tells you about their problems brings to the black and white of a fully advocated world.

Dear Devil’s Advocate – You seek truth and they are giving it to you. In return for their gift of beautifully emoted truth, it is you that may need to do the adjusting to give them back what they need – An affirmation of the world as they see it, the pain they are feeling, or their reasoning behind the decisions they make daily.

Okay, all This is Great, but Where is my White Knight?

Okay, establishing that not all devil’s advocacy is a bad thing, the part that is more worrisome than anything – The lack of defense from the partner of a Devil’s Advocate.

The people who spurned you, your partner cavorts with. The ones who stabbed you in the back, they still show kindness to. Their advocacy has made them seek the truth, but acting on it in reality is another matter.

First things first – Please examine the reason your partner did not stick up for you. Were you out of line? Did you take something too far? Or were you making a reasonable attempt to stand up for yourself? If you swear you are acting reasonably, there is no way to mince words – A devil’s advocate must realize the line where his/her advocacy ends and their relationship begins. Failing to recognize this will spell an end to even the best of relationships.

When someone insults your partner and you defend them, your penchant for advocating for the devil has become more important than your relationship. Beyond initially questioning, continuing to defend someone who has wronged your partner or failing to stand up for your partner is sheer cowardice. This shows you choose your reputation or friendship with other people over your relationship with your spouse or partner.

Maybe you feel your partner is overly sensitive and allowing petty disagreements to continually come between the two of you and good friendships — And this may be true.

Why do you feel your partner is being paranoid? Why do you feel they are exaggerating? Why do you feel the problem is theirs and not the other party’s? Could it be because you spend more time with your partner and have seen their faults? Is it possible that if you spent a large amount of time with the other party you might see that their viewpoints are more illogical than those of your partner?

In the end, you owe it to the one you love to take them at their word. If you doubt their word that much to the point you more often than not feel they are over-exaggerating every slight that comes their way, it’s possible the relationship is not for you.

And if you are the one who feels unheard or are being made to feel crazy, illogical, paranoid or consistently in the wrong even during times most people are agreeing you are right; Likewise, it may be time to think about your choice of mate.

Sick Of Others Telling You Who You Are? Read This

Sometimes, as a kind soul, you live your whole life with your mind open allowing others to stuff whatever they want in there because you TRUST people…

You trust them to be honest and kind. Sometimes, they are even in a role in your life where you should be able to trust them like a mother, father, close friend, sibling, a teacher, etc…but you can’t because they say horrible things when you need encouragement.

“You’re just not that smart…”

Ouch. But things this devastating and even worse have been said after revealing a goal to people like this. They quickly let you know whatever you tell them you are striving for is out of your reach. Laughable, even.

But what they are saying actually tells you more about them and how they see you rather than anything about yourself. Their words are not your truth. Their words are to protect their own egos by attempting to hold you down. You’re telling them you may stray from the mold they are used to seeing you in. They are not comfortable with that.

They’ll invade your space, cross your boundaries and then label YOU as “selfish”.
“You’re NOTHING without a college degree.”
“But…uh, you’re not that attractive?”
“You’re too OLD.”
“What happened to your diet?” (looking you up and down)

woman wearing pink top
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They want you to fail so badly, you may actually start to become what they always wanted you to be. You give up on your dreams. You allow their words to sink in. You believe it. And it crushes you.

Who would we have become had we not had our heads stuffed full of others’ projections?

Who could we still become?

What if we could open our minds like a treasure chest and pull out all the negative crap others have told us about ourselves?

What if we could wipe off the residue of their negativity off our self perception and be the amazing person we were created to be?

If you notice, two types of people become raging successes – Sociopaths who hurt everyone, do not care about anyone and are ruthless in their pursuits; Or intelligent people who clean out their trunks, put a lock on them and never let the words of anyone inside.

The words “Trust no one” sound so cold, but with time you begin to understand.

Trust those who respect who you are and are not determined to paint you into a role they want you to play while casting characters in their own life.

Trust the ones who see the good in you and make it a point to tell you.

Trust the ones who say, “Wow! That’s so cool!” and mean it when you tell them about your plans.

Trust the ones who give you helpful suggestions and smart solutions.

Trust the ones who want to see you succeed and don’t feel your success is a threat to their own.

Trust the ones who realize there is room at the top for many and have learned the fine art of sitting on their own jealousy to help and support you because they know you would do the same for them.

Trust those who want to share in your happiness and celebrate with you.

Whenever you have big dreams, you are inevitably going to come across those who tell you to “Be realistic” and roll their eyes at you either openly or behind your back. These are the kinds of people who never break through the limits of their own life.

You may be tempted to waste your time bestowing extra love on these types of people because “they need it the most”, but people determined to hurt you are not worth the effort to try loving them out of it. It doesn’t work and it further drags you down in your mission. They need to realize the detriment of their negativity on their own terms.

Let them go and like a helium balloon, you will rise.

woman holding a smiley balloon
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When you threaten the reality of others, you are always going to experience blowback.

“Sarah. Sarah? Sarah wants to start her own company? Don’t make me laugh! Sarah isn’t that smart. Sarah isn’t that capable. NO way Sarah could do that. She can’t even bake a casserole right. Sarah is just a stay-at-home mom. Sarah is headed for disaster.”

If you’re Sarah, this would probably be enough to do you in. One negative person can fill our minds with self doubts.

“That balloon is about to fly towards better things, better tie a rock to its string!”

But what if, unlike what they are asserting, your head is not full of air? You have a business plan, have done your legwork and your business idea makes great sense. If you are Sarah – Honey, I hope you shove that rock up your detractor’s butt and go for what you believe in.

Learn to separate legitimate criticisms from jealous idiocy. If a detractor says something to you, give what they brought up twenty-four hours of research and sleep on it. Examine the validity of their criticism. If it’s valid, find your way around it. It’s an obstacle. Not a roadblock. Then move on.

Another thing you must learn – A venture does not equal “I want to be a rich and famous gazillionaire” and you need to remind haters of this.

They might immediately say, “Sarah wants to be rich and famous! Hahahaha!”

However, smart people know, it’s not always about wealth and fame. It’s about the measure of your own happiness, doing what makes you happy and what is best for you and your family.

It is sometimes hard for people who are money-motivated, themselves, to realize money is not always the “End All, Be All” to all people. Some people have supportive spouses who are content enough with their own jobs that they tell their partner to pursue something which makes them deliriously happy – Because they love them. Because it makes them happy to see the person they are with ridiculously happy.

Some people are born to help others and might make this their dream in life. This doesn’t always bring in a massive paycheck, but it brings spiritual, emotional fulfillment that brings them peace.

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In a culture driven by greed, wealth, beauty, etc., so many have a difficult time realizing some people do things for reasons outside of the shallow boundaries of narcissism.

Realize all the things people are going to throw at you come from their own projections. Every projection they cast at you is rooted in their own insecurity.

Maybe they don’t feel smart enough to see beyond the shallow.

Maybe they feel like they are too old and “missed their time”.

Maybe they were never brave enough to take the steps you’ve taken.

Today, open your treasure chest – The storage trunk of your mind. Let’s pull out those horrible things said to you. Write them down on paper if you want. Burn them.

Yes, they might still remain in your memory, but put the power of those words on paper and burn it. Burn the effect those words have had over you for so long.

burning words
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Maybe you don’t have your goal in mind. Maybe you don’t have your ultimate dream, yet, because those words others put in your mind have embedded so deeply that you don’t even know who you are anymore.

Relax. It’s okay. It’s happened to many of us…and sometimes those projections are so strong, it can take half our lives to discard them and figure out who we are.

You begin by discarding all those negative words and projections.

Every horrible thing ever said needs pulled from the storage trunk of your mind and burned. When you’ve gotten rid of all the negativity, look at the residue left behind. The residue is the cloudiness of separating your perceptions from others.

Do you really think these horrible things about yourself or your goal? Or was that something someone else put in your mind? If it’s yours, keep it. If it’s other people’s crap? Discard it.

What you will be left with is yourself. The purest version of you. An empty trunk waiting to be filled. Only this time, fill your trunk with what you choose to put in it and not that which others choose for you. Choose treasures, not junk.

This is your life, darling. Yours.

And today is the first day of the rest of it. You don’t have to die and be reborn to start over. Let the old self others created for you die. They never existed, anyway.

No more junk in your trunk. Only love.

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