How To Stop Being Defensive In A Relationship (13 Vital Tips)

Most couples desire to have effective communication because it makes the exchange of feelings and expectations easier. However, many relationships lack this key element because of individual differences, including cultural and family backgrounds. 

When you feel like you speak and act appropriately and nobody can tell you otherwise, it will create friction between you and your man. If he thinks he can make decisions for you all the time and you disagree, tempers will spark. 

When both parties believe they are the real deal and anyone should be ecstatic to have them in their lives, egos will explode, difficult conversations will occur and the couples will start exhibiting defensive behaviors. Even when the problem is with just one of the couples, defensiveness from one party has a way of infecting the other person.

Nobody wants to be a punching bag for another person’s emotional damage, so they will react defensively too. If you have been acting defensively to everything your partner does or says, both of you will always have problems. 

Are you tired of picking fights with your partner and want to learn how to communicate effectively without a quarrel? Is your relationship on the brink of a breakup because you and your man can’t seem to stop bickering? The following strategies might help you correct your situation. 

13 Tips To Stop Being Defensive In A Relationship 

1. Try to understand why you’re being defensive

People don’t just become defensive out of the blues. Defensiveness is a reaction to a buildup of negative emotions, thoughts, and actions. When being defensive has become a part of you, you’ll always be ready to counter what the other speaker is saying. 

Knowing why you’re being defensive might help you limit when, and how much you become defensive. If it is a learned behavior from your past, you can take deliberate steps to unlearn them and cultivate new habits to promote less aggressive means of communication. 

If it is because of the way he speaks to you, let him know his words are responsible for why you’re acting out of sorts. Keeping quiet or pretending that your defensiveness isn’t a problem will only compound your issues.

While you and your partner will have your differences, you must find a common ground where you agree on certain matters. The sooner you address the elephant in the room, the better for both of you.

2. Stop arguing and start listening more

Be it in low-stakes situations or during life-changing conversations, avoid defensive communication. Yes, you want to feel heard, but you have to listen for that to happen. The reason why neither of you is communicating properly is that one person is trying to talk over the other.

Relationships, where communication happens only through arguments, will not last, and if it does, is not healthy. As such, you need to hear what your partner is saying to know what he needs. If you continue to hold on to your own defensiveness, he will never speak freely with you. Instead, he will tell you what you need to hear to ensure peace.

3. Accept responsibility for your actions and mistakes 

One of the ways you express defensiveness is by making excuses for your actions. People who get defensive usually like to be right all the time, so they come up with ways to wiggle out of every situation. Instead of defending yourself even when you’re wrong, start taking responsibility for your words, actions, and mistakes. 

Nobody will think less of you for making mistakes because that’s what humans do. People who behave defensively often respond badly and tend to shoot themselves in the foot even when they are right. 

For example, if your partner calls you and mentions groceries, you might jump to the conclusion that he wanted to berate you for not buying everything both of you need. In reality, he probably wanted to thank you for buying a product he’s been trying to find for a while.

So, if you aren’t patient to hear him out, you go on the defense and turn a good intention into an unpleasant moment

4. Stop bringing up his past errors to win an argument

Defensiveness could be in the form of using your partner’s past mistakes as an instrument to hurt him in the middle of conversations. Romantic relationships aren’t without their challenging moments, but trying to respond to a hot situation by attacking your partner won’t make things better.

When you do this, your partner can also get defensive and pull the same trick on you. You can address a difficult conversation without slipping into a defensive mode by leaving past errors in the past. Discuss your issues with current facts like adults and no one will get unnecessarily hurt.

5. Try not to belittle his feelings

try not to belittle his feelings

It is wrong of you to make your partner feel small in your bid to feel good about yourself. Using words such as “you could have done better”, and “your mates are doing this…” will only bring your man down. If you’ve always practiced harmful defensiveness in your relationship, you need to stop before it destroys things further. 

Rather than get defensive, recognize and acknowledge your man’s strengths. When you draw your strength from focusing on his weakness, you’ll never get the best out of him. 

Mindless criticism can do a lot of damage to someone’s self-confidence. You will be equally unhappy if you are the source of your man's angst and anxiety. 

6. Avoid using gaslighting methods on him

Another way you might have been manifesting defensiveness is by gaslighting your partner. You’re gaslighting him when you say horrible things to him and make him doubt how much he cares about you because he was kind to another woman. 

It is wrong of you to follow through with the silent treatment because he doesn’t deserve it in that kind of situation. If you’ve been telling yourself that this is not a defense strategy, you’ve been lying to yourself. 

It is normal to feel jealous, but you can express your displeasure without exhibiting this off-putting defensive behavior. If you don’t adjust your reactions in certain situations, you might lose him.

7. Always think twice before you start speaking or acting defensively

Sometimes, you might be justified when feeling defensive because your partner has done something to hurt you. However, your defensive behavior will only complicate things because sincerity and communication will be lost in the heat of arguments.

You can avoid responding the defensive way by taking deep breaths to calm yourself down in a potentially explosive situation. 

Even when you’re feeling hurt, you will be calmer by the time you take the fourth deep breath. This crucial bit of self-control will help you get your partner’s point without argument or anyone getting hurt emotionally. 

8. Allow yourself to be held accountable for your actions

When you manage to stop making excuses, the next thing is to stop pushing the blame on other people except yourself. Rather than blame other people for your deeds, own up to them. You're being defensive when you look for ways to share blame that you should fully accept.

One of the effective ways to manage defensiveness is to personalize your statements instead of using plural terms that attach the other person to the action. For instance, acknowledge your part in an action or express your feelings by using the pronoun ‘I' instead of ‘you’. 

You can say “I know I can be a handful sometimes, but I‘d appreciate it if you’re more patient with me”. This form of communication can easily diffuse a tense atmosphere.

9. Seek professional help if childhood trauma is your trigger

One of the things that can trigger defensive behavior is past traumas that make you feel threatened in the present. A confrontation with things resembling the ghosts from your past can make you feel hurt or angry. 

This fear of having a repetition of the experience can make you exhibit a defensive reaction. Seeking the help of a therapist can help you quiet your fear and bring out the best version of yourself. 

Your therapist can recommend the best methods of coping with your defensive actions in a shorter time than you would by trying to get over it yourself. 

10. Try to live a balanced life

try to live a balanced life

Being defensive could be an effect of stress, lack of rest, or even a mental health issue. If you aren’t sure of why you display defensiveness most of the time, practice intentional observation. What you need to stop being defensive might be getting more sleep, exercising more, eating certain foods, or taking supplements 

When you have a better understanding of your daily routine, you will know what is contributing to your short temper and adjust accordingly. 

11. Work on your self-esteem

Defensiveness can be a result of low self-esteem too. If you are always concerned about what people think of you without having any unshakable belief in yourself, you’ll always try to defend yourself. 

If you feel attacked, it is okay to initiate self-defense. If you’re feeling insecure because of how people have treated you in the past, it’s understandable that your first response is to be defensive. 

However, don’t wait till you’re confronted before you speak your mind. Instead of waiting for others to speak or act first, be assertive and proactive. That way, your actions aren’t dictated by other people and you won’t need to defend yourself. 

You should also invest in books, courses, and coaching that guarantee your self-improvement. Such learning grounds allow you to apply what has worked for other people in your shoes.

12. Practice honesty to avoid constant lying

The default response of a liar is defensiveness. As such, lying can lead you to become defensive. No matter how difficult, it is usually better to tell the truth upfront, especially if the consequence of the situation will affect your partner. 

If your partner knows you so well, he’ll know when you’re lying and will be eager to get to the second layer of your lie. When he confronts you with the facts he has, you will most likely become defensive.

13. Accept constructive criticism occasionally

Feeling criticized isn’t the best feeling in the world but you shouldn’t act defensive every time you perceive criticism in your partner’s voice. Sometimes, his heart is in the right place, he just couldn’t find a better way to correct you. 

If your own behavior to his constructive criticism is understanding and acceptance, his comment or action won’t lead to defensiveness.

FAQs

What causes defensive behavior?

You might act defensively when you don’t want to be blamed for your errors. Even though you know that you’re wrong, you look for ways to justify yourself, so you turn to defensiveness.

Is it bad to be defensive in a relationship?

Defensiveness has its advantages, so you can’t rule it out completely. When your partner is trying to put you on the defensive, it is your right to defend yourself with irrefutable facts. This way, you don’t lose face and he knows he can’t use that trick on you again.

Why do I get defensive so easily?

Sometimes, you do this easily because you’re unaware of your worth. If you build your self-confidence to the level of not needing anyone to boost your esteem, you will stop your defensiveness.

How do I stop being defensive and argumentative?

Always gather accurate information, hear what your partner has to say, then state your needs and feelings respectfully. You mostly defend yourself unnecessarily when you’re dishonest or can’t defend the facts you have at hand.

How do you talk to a defensive partner?

Firstly, don’t go on the defense either. Secondly, let him speak his mind without interruption, then you can say your piece.

In Conclusion

Defensiveness is a coping mechanism, but it mostly puts you in survival mode. If you want to be in charge of your life, thoughts, actions, and relationships, you need to keep a lid on your defensive attitude.

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