Are you tired of arguing with a defensive partner that disallows fruitful and open communication? It’s time to see why they react so defensively and how to properly communicate with your defensive partner to improve communication and the relationship.
Are you having difficulty communicating with your partner due to their defensive behaviors? Having a defensive partner can prove to be straining and difficult in a relationship, as it disallows the opportunity for clear, open, and honest communication. There isn’t a connective line tethering between you and your romantic partner at all times. When a discussion topic involves constructive criticism, that line is cut, removing any chance for growth and a promise of a deeper, intimate connection between the two of you.
When defensive behaviors are not addressed or approached with constructive healing in mind, it can result in a toxic relationship or communication system between partners. One partner does not feel heard or understood because the defensive partner does not allow for this partner to express themselves and share their opinions. The other partner does not allow for self-growth or a line of communication with their partner, withdrawing and cutting off the line of connection between them and their partner. It can result in many aggressive, toxic, and poisonous arguments and behaviors that can drastically and negatively affect the relationship.
Continue reading to get a better idea of why a partner might be defensive and how to effectively communicate with a defensive partner to disallow arguments and shifts in topics.
A Guide To Communicating With A Defensive Partner
Communicating with a defensive partner can feel impossible when you’re not feeling heard by your partner. Some steps can encourage a defensive partner to “hear” what you’re saying and expressing to allow for an opportunity for healthy communication.
If speaking about an upsetting past event, try to be as factual as possible by quoting both parties’ words. Be specific. Don’t generalize or make your interpretations, as this can encourage the defensiveness in your partner to rise and eliminate the opportunity for a healthy and productive conversation.
Talk About You
When discussing with your defensive partner, use statements that include “I.” For example, “I was feeling hurt and misunderstood.” It outlines your experience, not theirs. Defensive partners tend to focus on what they experienced rather than setting themselves in their partner’s shoes.
Do not stray away from the matter at hand. Focus the conversation on what is non-negotiable, “____ is not okay.”
Don’t React To Their Defensiveness.
Do not blow for blow with their reactive anger and defensiveness. Mirroring anger and frustration will not provide for an effective conversation and, if anything, can escalate each other’s emotions to arguing and harsh words, or sometimes, actions.
Staying calm when feeling attacked in a conversation is difficult for more people than none. Reacting to their defensive anger will only take away from the conversation’s purpose while allowing them to claim innocence and blame you for the argument.
Keep On Repeating Yourself Until They Get The Message
Often, a conversation can stray away from the topic at hand. The same is for conversations with a defensive partner. They will pull the conversation around so that it’s about what you did, have done, or always do wrong. When this happens, state the words you started the conversation with, “I was hurt when _ ____.”
As the defensive partner attempts to stray the conversation away, repeat the statement, “I was hurt when ____.” Do this until the topic is finally addressed and situated, instead of shifted and brushed to the side.
It is more likely that they will send “arrows” and “attacks” at you through the conversation. Under no circumstances should you take the bait and fall into the trap of a cycle of miscommunication and lack of growth. That means you should not be defensive when they “attack” you in the conversation. Repeat your statement to return to the topic until you express what needs to be said, finally addressing the conversation.
Put Your Hand Up
When there’s a moment where they cop a tone with you, unacceptably speak to you, or cycle off into a tangent that is unrelated to the topic at hand, put your hand up in the universal signal to stop.
Using calm and gentle words, not angry and reactive words, express that needs to stop, “Please don’t speak to me like that.” and so forth. This action of placing the hand up, as a signal to stop or halt, separates you and them. It includes a message that words sometimes cannot—stop.
Get Out Of The Conversation
It can be a statement enough when the conversation proves futile and unproductive. Get up and leave the room and the conversation.
Share Your Experience Of Their Defensiveness With Them
Do this when the time is right and there’s a moment of closeness with your partner. It doesn’t mean you should bring up their defensiveness and how it affects your relationship, and so on. That will only lead to a battle that no one wants.
In that moment of closeness with your partner, effectively express your desire to be close and more intimate with them. You desire a relationship where the two of you can share honestly and openly without being battered down. Express what has been working, what hasn’t, what you can work on, and what has been going great.
Inform your defensive partner that you still care for them, even in moments of anger or upset. You love them and respect them greatly.
The Story Behind Defensive Behavior
Defensive behavior, on its whole, is simply the act of protecting oneself. Many times defensive behavior can be impulsive or body-wired to protect oneself from attacks. Still, it can be caused by past traumas or being raised in a dysfunctional family. Either way, we’re here to learn the story behind defensive behavior. Continue reading below for some possible reasons why your partner is often irrationally defensive.
As stated above, defensive behavior can be incredibly impulsive. Defensiveness is reactive and impulsive, an automatic response to a trigger or situation that sometimes does or doesn’t call for it. Whether it be a conversation or a situation, this defensive reaction pulls a person’s imaginary shield up with weapons pointed in opposition, allowing none to trespass.
Any Relationship Can Be Defensive
Just like anyone can be defensive, any relationship can also prove to include defensiveness.
Whether it be between father and son, co-workers, friends, or romantic partners, there can be defensive behaviors or reactions. Many times this is due to either a lack of communication or miscommunication. Moments of defensiveness are growth opportunities.
Though a defensive response can be natural or expected in any relationship, understanding that basking in that defensiveness disallows for opportunities of growth and healing in relationships. Some situations call for letting hurts due to miscommunications or otherwise, go. That can be hard to do, but it is necessary to receive healing and growth in all manners of relationships.
Honesty Does Not Equate To Defensiveness
Being honest and open with your partner does not equate to being defensive. Reread that and soak it in.
Your romantic partner forgets that you made plans to meet up for lunch. Understandably, you’d be upset! At this point, it would be beneficial to contact your partner (not in a moment of upset or intense emotion) and inform them, “I am upset because we made plans to have lunch together today, and you didn’t show.”
Doublecheck whether your partner is being defensive or honestly expressing their hurts that they have not have brought up in discussion previously.
They Believe Conflict Means Progress
From arguing to reconnecting, the cycle of conflict can be incredibly frustrating but necessary to create an opportunity for an influx of growth in a relationship. Conflict is expected in any relationship—familiar, romantic, or platonic. It’s how that conflict is approached and discussed that can allow for repair and reconnection between those included in the conflict.
In times of conflict with a defensive partner, allow each other to address complaints one at a time. More often than not, a defensive partner may be carrying unspoken hurts they have received from you, hence the rising when you bring up how they’ve hurt you. Why should they allow you to attack them when they’ve brushed so much hurt aside? That’s how that line of thinking may go with a person inclined to more defensive behaviors and reactions.
Some People Are More Prone To Defensive Behavior
A wide range of factors can induce defensive behavior, like being raised in a dysfunctional family where the defensive partner needed to protect themselves (emotionally or otherwise), or maybe their nervous system is the root of it all.
Interestingly enough, some people are more likely to incite defensive behaviors because they have a nervous system that is more prone to sensory stimulation and therefore can be overstimulated, which can cause reactive behaviors. People that are more likely to be overstimulated due to a nervous system that responds with intense and frequent reactions to stimulation are more likely to be referred to as “thin-skinned” or “overly sensitive.”
A Dysfunctional Family
Being raised in a dysfunctional family can significantly cause defensive behavior. From childhood to teenagers to adults, having parents who either shamed, punished, or mistreated their child frequently, are more likely to have an understandable desire to be defensive as a form of self-protection.
Defensive behavior can also be reactionary to seeing others’ body language, emotions, or expressions, that signal emotion like anger or upset. It can cause an immediate need to self-protect, resulting in defensive behaviors.
Hard Pills To Swallow For Those With Defensive Behavior
For those with a tendency to have or react with defensive behavior, acknowledge that defensive behavior is necessary to move on and grow from it. Receiving criticisms can be difficult to swallow as the urge to “protect” and raise those shields itches to come to fruition. If your partner is trying to express a hurt you’ve caused that is causing you to become defensive, try your best to explain to them why it’s making you feel defensive.
The simplest things can cause defensive behavior, and altering expressing criticism can make a huge difference! Sometimes it’s the way a partner words a criticism. Maybe it’s because the defensive partner feels that their partner does not love them anymore or sees them differently due to the failures or hurts they’ve caused. There is a deeper meaning at the root of defensive behavior. Allowing healing through expressing emotions honestly and communication effectively can allow for incredible growth from that defensive behavior.
The Brain Is Wired To Be Defensive
The brain desires connection with others. At the start of a relationship, or L.O.V.E.—wink, wink!—there is a refreshing and rejuvenating rush of excitement that is activated in the brain whenever we meet or think of our new partner. A reward system is activated in the brain whenever our new romantic partner is involved. It is to as the “honeymoon phase.”
This phase doesn’t, for most anyways, last as a more sustainable connection is created between you and your romantic partner. At this time, when one’s instincts to protect or become “defensive” kick in, as a defensive individual or partner, you should tap into that instinct to “connect” with your partner. It allows for an opportunity for openness, honesty, and growth between you and your partner.
Withdrawal Isn’t As Effective As You May Believe.
A form of isolation, withdrawing from the prospect of being hurt by your partner as a form of self-protection only proceeds to incite more issues and trouble.
Withdrawal from a partner creates a disconnect and removes vulnerability between two partners that are intimate, open, and savor a growing deep connection between each other. Isolating oneself from the prospect of vulnerability with another person, and possibly being hurt, does not allow for growth. It does allow for a deeper connection with your romantic partner because you sever that connection with your withdrawal methods of defensive behavior.
Reaching out can be scary and risky, but allowing for openness, vulnerability, and honesty with your romantic partner on an equal scale escalates growth, connection, intimacy, and needed results for a happy, healthy relationship.
Criticism Is Necessary For Everyone, Including You
Every person needs to be able to receive criticism. Though many people’s harshest critic is themselves, that doesn’t exempt them from receiving it from other people like their romantic partner, friend, or family member.
In receiving criticism, settle down and repress the need to react defensively. There’s no need for a counterargument if there is a healthy communication attempt between two people. It’s not a time to have a sit-down drag-out session. It’s time to reflex on behaviors that may be upsetting or hurtful to your romantic partner. It is an opportunity for growth, allowing your partner to express themselves.
Do Not Allow For Resentment To Grow And Fester
When a defensive partner does not allow for effective and healthy communication, toxic emotions like resentment can begin to fester. Communication and vulnerability are necessary.
Being in a relationship with a defensive partner can be strenuous and cause tension in the relationship. As the relationship continues, it may seem pointless to try to continue dating them or to attempt to fix the issue of their defensive behavior. This informative article explains that there can be improvements in a partner’s defensive behavior by learning why they may be more likely to express defensiveness as a form of self-protection and how to communicate with a defensive partner for more effective communication.
It’s not impossible to improve a relationship with a defensive partner. Yes, there are times when you should terminate some relationships due to toxicity and abusive behaviors. Still, other times defensive behaviors are simply an impulsive reaction due to issues from their past. Encouraging them to be vulnerable with you or talking to a therapist to address these past issues that have resulted in defensive behavior can be drastic improvements in the relationship.