Better Communication for Couples (Part 1): What to Do When Your Partner Gets Defensive

There are a number of things going on when your partner gets defensive. You can always send them to a therapist! Of course, that might not be the best first step! Try this first: he or she may feel threatened or hurt by what you’ve said. They feel the need to explain their actions because they feel that there’s been an accusation, and they feel it’s unjust or unfair.

A less common reason to be defensive is when he or she may be hiding something out of fear of telling you about it. They’re afraid you’ll be angry so they may defend their response in an attempt to avoid further conflict. They’re not necessarily lying about something but instead delaying when they tell you about it.

When your partner is defensive, they’re often reacting out of fear. You can help, as a partner, ease their concerns with the way you communicate with them. How you speak can be just as important as what you say.

Acknowledge the Feelings That Have Come Up

It’s important to express yourself in your relationship. Your partner wants to feel heard. Let them voice a complaint or defend their decision without speaking. When they’re done, say, “I’m sorry that you feel that way. It wasn’t my intention to upset you. I just thought you’d like to know how I was feeling.”

They don’t want to upset you which is often why they’ve become defensive in the first place. Acknowledging their feelings, letting them have their say, and apologizing for upsetting them is the easiest way to make them feel at ease. It allows them to be human, change their behavior, and move on without further issues coming up.

Get to the Heart of the Matter So Resolution Takes Place Quickly

It’s not what you say that causes conflict. It’s often how you say it that does. Learning to be a better communicator takes time and practice. After a while, however, it’ll come naturally to you. Preventing defensiveness allows you to get to the heart of the matter so that resolution takes place quickly.