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Why Does my partner get defensive

Updated on March 20, 2014

Defense is the first sign of Guilt!

Children often respond defensively; "why did you drink all the juice?" "It wasn't me and you always blame me for something that I didn't do."

There could be nothing worse in a relationship then having to curb what you need to say, or feel as though you are having to "walk on eggshells" to prevent someone from becoming defensive.

A relationship with good communication and partners that are able to say what they need to say is important and it is also a healthy route to a solid union.

Defense has its place and there are times where we need to defend ourselves for the right reasons. Someone could insult your boyfriend, husband or wife and it would automatically get you to be defensive.

Other reasons for a defensive response is guilt. You might notice that your husband has given a girl the eye and when you let him know that you have seen him, he becomes defensive and it ends up in an argument or a sulk fest for the next few days.

A person that is always on the defense in every conversation usually has underlying issues which might have caused them to react this way; past experiences or low self esteem could be the cause of a defensive partner.

Stress can also cause someone to overreact or become defensive and finding a way to converse safely and in a way that will keep them from blowing will not make a difference unless you find the source of the problem.

People who are not guilty will usually laugh it off or let you know in a nice way that you are being a little over emotional but keep a look out for those that are defensive when asked a question as they might be guilty of what you suspect.

Approach and communication will make no difference when someone is guilty of something and their natural reaction will be to get on the defensive.




Defensive partners can be toxic in a relationship
Defensive partners can be toxic in a relationship

Why does my partner get defensive?

There are a number of factors and reasons why a partner would get defensive.

It could be stress related, low self esteem, guilt or the way in which you say something.

Saying something or discussing a situation in a negative way, will always get someone wanting to defend themselves but usually if it is not correct information they will laugh it off instead of getting defensive.

So why does your partner get defensive?

Think about what he is going through at the moment, is he/she stuck in a rut?

Could there be a huge amount of stress and has not told you about it?

Has he always been defensive?

What was it that made him defensive? Something you said, they way in which you said it?

Could it be the truth and he is embarrassed or angry that he has been caught out?

Defensive partners are not great partners to have as there will not be a solution to problems only escalating issues which could lead to a break up or rage.

Although many say that being defensive is healthy there is doubt as you can not resolve issues with a defensive partner who is not willing to listen or take the blame for something that has hurt you.

Humiliation, embarrassment and low self esteem are reasons why your partner gets defensive.

People get defensive because they do not want to experience feelings of discomfort and as a protective measure they respond defensively.

Rapid breathing and an increase in the pulse rate as well as restlessness can be detected when someone begins to get defensive.

Most partners get defensive when they have been caught out with something by you bringing it to their attention. Examples of defense would be;

You catch your partner smiling at another woman and you tell him that you saw him do it.

He will get defensive because you have caught him in the act and he does not know how to react and ends up being defensive with the result causing you to feel as though you are a jealous or crazy partner.

There is no way to alter the situation because most women do not mind if there partner looks at another girl or perhaps reciprocates a look with a smile, as long as it doesn't make them look like a fool and he doesn't let go of your hand to walk with her.

The way that you approach the situation wouldn't matter if he is guilty of something that you have seen or noticed because it is his natural instinct to deny or defend.

Guilt is the most popular form of defense and if your partner has done something that you are now aware of, his reaction will be to get defensive.

A partnership with a defensive partner can lead to many arguments and unresolved issues, which could go on for days and leave you feeling guilty and hurt.

Defensive partners could come from a background where they had little or no control over situations or their lives and their history is what has made them defensive.

Defense is not a bad thing but it can lead to controlling a person's life without them realising that it does.

As children it can work but when you become an adult it could have terrible effects on a relationship as defense could lead to a clouding in reality where they do not have defense but defense has them, causing havoc and bad relationships.


Defensive behaviour can lead to arguments in a relationship Photo taken from therapyformarrriage
Defensive behaviour can lead to arguments in a relationship Photo taken from therapyformarrriage

How to cope with a defensive partner

It is easier for someone to get defensive rather than identify their feelings that they do not want to feel.

Become familiar with the way in which your partner reacts when he becomes defensive.

Does he get sarcastic, angry, tense or insulting?

Are there signs to show that he is getting defensive or does he turn the tables and play the "blame game" with you?

Many partners get defensive and then give you the silent treatment or tell you to get lost in an angry rage. You need to identify what triggers the defense mechanism and you also need to figure out why your partner is always on the defensive.

Past or historical situations could be the cause of him being defensive and unless it can be worked out emotionally, your relationship will never be a healthy one.

Speaking to your partner calmly is very important as you do not want to trigger defense mode but you do need to let them know that something is bothering you and you should be able to communicate your feelings with your partner without having to be afraid to speak out.

A great way to establish why he gets defensive is to write down the instances or events that trigger him off. Study his actions and reactions before you speak to him about it.

Once you have found out how and why he gets defensive, you can then approach him and let him know what has been happening and how you can resolve it.

Learn to be less defensive
Learn to be less defensive

Steps to become less defensive

Once you have established that there is a problem with being defensive all the time you need to take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge that things need to change.

Letting your partner or family know that it is something that you are going to be working on will help them to support you when you find yourself getting hot sweats.

Should you feel that you are getting defensive, ask your partner to stop talking or step back in order for you to deal with your emotions.

This will help your relationship to grow stronger too.

Should you feel as though you are going to let loose on someone, walk away, take a breath and find something to do to release your anguish so that you do not lash out.

A great way to keep yourself calm is to go for a walk or swim and yoga or meditation will help too.

Keep your negative thoughts to a minimum and try to control what goes on inside your head. Always try to stay positive or turn your negative thinking into positive and learn to laugh it off.

When listening to your partner take a deep breath before you open your mouth to speak and think about what you are going to say first. Consider that what he/she has said might be true and you need to think before you hurt someone that you love.

Observe what it is that you do to make you defensive and try to avoid those actions.

Should you be defensive due to something that happened to you in the past, then you have got to work on it and perhaps speaks to someone close about what it was that made you lose control so that your defense does not own you or your mind.

It is good to let go and sometimes normal to get defensive but you need to establish why and what makes you defensive. Should you feel as though you are going to open your mouth and be hurtful, then you have got to walk away from the situation.

Low self esteem can also be the cause of becoming defensive and if you feel as though you are not good, smart or sexy enough then you need to begin to focus on the assets that you have and take a course in confidence.

Don't think that you can fix this overnight because it has taken years for you to acknowledge that there is an issue. You have probably had many failed relationships with partners, friends and even colleagues, so a speedy fix is not going to help.

Take your time and learn from your mistakes.

Get defensive for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

If you have been caught out with something then just take it in your stride, admit to it and walk away instead of lashing out and hurting someone that is already hurt.

defensive behaviour can destroy friendships and work relationships
defensive behaviour can destroy friendships and work relationships

Do you get defensive and how do you react?

See results

Defense and moving forward

People who get defensive very quickly and for the slightest little thing can hurt others and isolate themselves from society.

Peers, partners and colleagues might want to avoid someone who is always on the defense because they fear that anything that might be said will have to be done delicately.

For most this is just too much pressure and instead of having to walk on "egg shells" they would rather avoid talking to you.

Partners who have been in a relationship with someone that is continuously on the defensive, will not be enjoying their relationship and would rather bottle up their feelings or opinions than to let you know what is going on. This unfortunately causes a gap in communication and a rift in a relationship, which will lead to unhappy and lonely times where in most cases, the partner will find someone else that they can speak to.

Listening, learning and trying to resolve your defensive issues is a process and if it is something that is triggered off in a relationship, then you need to communicate with your partner if you would like things to go better and last longer.

For many it is insecurities, low self esteem and ego issues that lead them to be defensive all the time but this is not the end of the world and it can be mended.

Others are caught out doing something that they shouldn't and instead of dealing with the feelings that they have, would rather get defensive as they do not know how to manage otherwise.

This can also be mended and it takes a lot of work but to admit to doing something wrong is a lot better than denying and getting defensive.

The truth is easier on everyone and if it is that you have been caught then just face the music and move forward.

Should you be a person that was not in control of a situation when you were a child then you have naturally developed a coping mechanism which could be defense that you have brought into your adult life.

This is not healthy and will lead to many sad moments and disastrous relationships in your life if you do not work on the issues from your childhood.

Nobody is in control all the time and it is okay to defend yourself sometimes but think before you act and understand that your coping mechanism might be hurting the ones that you love and care for.


Defensive behaviour can lead to problems in a relationship
Defensive behaviour can lead to problems in a relationship

How defensive behaviour effects your partner

For those that don't realise that they are always defensive you need to understand that those around you are effected by it and that they are probably learning to shut off from their emotions by holding in their feelings and communication.

Most partners are too afraid to let you know that something is bothering them and this will lead to an unhealthy and unhappy relationship which will eventually end.

Women need to speak and let you know how they feel about a certain situation or event that has made them feel uncomfortable and if they cannot talk to you without you getting defensive, then they will either talk to someone else or keep it in until they explode.

Sarcasm and making your friends or partners feel stupid or humiliated can lead them to build a wall so thick that you will never be able to have a proper communication system with them.

If your wife approaches you because something that you have done has been brought to her attention and you are guilty then defense is not the way to handle the situation. She might be crazy or mistaken but by letting her know that in a calm manner could save you both from heart ache and endless arguments.

Defensive partners can make their spouse or friends feel anxious and uncomfortable, afraid to speak and often humiliated which is very unpleasant to feel in a public place. They will eventually want to avoid going anywhere with you and will drift apart until you can deal with your own issues.


Defensive Behaviour

Defense is the first sign of guilt. If you have been caught out admit to it and move forward.

Sarcasm, laughing or getting angry are all forms of defense.

Childhood or past history can lead to an adult becoming defensive.

Acknowledge that you are defensive and work on treating it as a problem.

Defensive behaviour can lead to partners feeling hurt and afraid to communicate.

Relationships that have defensive partners do not work out.

What men say about defensive behaviour

Many men do not realise that they get defensive when they are approached by something that their partner or friends have said.

They feel that women ask them stupid questions and sometimes over react about absolutely nothing with an attack instead of genuine criticism.

Most men said that they were caught looking at something on their computers and when their wives found out they got embarrassed and had no idea how to react as they felt that they couldn't admit to it, getting defensive instead and blaming their wives for sneaking around their computers.

For men that are defensive, their answers about why they respond that way was a quick way to get away from an uncomfortable situation.

When asked if they noticed that their partner was upset or in tears, they said that they did not understand why they would be crying, when it was them that started the problem.


Playing the blame game was easier than admitting to doing something that was sneaky, to avoid the humiliation of being caught out.


Defense Mechanisms

Marriage and defensive partners

Defensive behaviour in a marriage can lead to a very unhappy relationship and the need to always be right and challenge your partner can get tiresome and draining.

Marriage is a two way street and communication should be strong and open for your relationship to survive and weather the storms.

Mocking your partner or belittling them in public or in front of your kids is contemptuous and degrading for your partner. It does not gain you any respect and your children will lose their respect for both you and your partner.

The need to be right and always in control of every situation is not necessary and you have to let go at some stage in order to feel free in your marriage.

Should there be situations where you or your partner have done something to upset each other, then defense is not the answer and will not solve the problems.

You have got to find the source of your defense and allow your partner to have the freedom of speech so that your relationship can be strong and intimate.

Defense in a marriage is uncomfortable for the entire family and what could be settled in a single conversation or with an apology could be continue on for days by using defense mechanisms.

Concentrating on what causes you to get defensive is a must so that you can live a happy, healthy and peaceful married life.

By being defensive your partner is left to feel shut out, alone and insignificant. They will be too frightened to approach you about anything and will end up having to solve problems on their own or find a friend that will listen and make them feel important.


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    • Tashaonthetown profile image
      Author

      Natasha Pelati 3 years ago from South Africa

      haha! marriage with defensive behavioural issues or any issues that have not been dealt with can have an adverse effect on the partnership.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hmm this is so true sometimes one partner can become defensive this leads to argumentative moments. Marriages in this way tend to go downhill. Your points made ares o helpful and informative gets me thinking if I am defensive or not.

    • Tashaonthetown profile image
      Author

      Natasha Pelati 3 years ago from South Africa

      I agree that you need to have a mate that has the same temperament or someone that you understand and that understands you. Having to walk on egg shells does mean that you are with the wrong person as in a normal and healthy relationship, you know how to speak to your partner and are able to say whatever you want to.

      Thanks for your input and very good comments!!

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 years ago

      Oftentimes I think people become defensive when they feel they're being "attacked". Some people also do not like to be "questioned" or put on the spot as if they have to answer/explain to a "superior" or parent their reasoning.

      Generally speaking it comes down to the (tone) a person uses when initiating the conversation. If there is any hint of anger or frustration most people will choose to fight fire with fire rather than state they were "wrong". Not many adults want to be put in a parent/child scenario with their mate.

      One of the keys to having a successful relationship with anyone is understanding their personality and motivations. You can't treat everyone the same way and expect the same results. There is no "on size fits all" approach to getting people to cooperate with your wishes. Having an "edit button" or tailoring your approach is a "strategic" move on your part to get what you want. Managers and even kids learn this early on with their parents.

      You only have to walk on eggshells if you have chosen the wrong mate for yourself. Ideally you want someone who either has a similar temperament as you or the two of you compliment each other's temperament with (acceptance and understanding).

      There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships: we either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. One man's opinion! :-)

    • Tashaonthetown profile image
      Author

      Natasha Pelati 3 years ago from South Africa

      Yes immaturity can be a big part of being defensive and as you get older you get wiser! There are a number of people that are sarcastic by nature and that does not mean that they are defensive but in most cases certain emotional experiences can cause someone to act a certain way to become defensive. Thanks for the input and feedback!

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting read Natasha. In my opinion immaturity plays a significant role in being defensive as well. Accepting responsibility & being accountable for your actions is a part of maturing. I'm sarcastic by nature, regardless of the situation, so I don't really feel that's a sign of defensive behavior. Thumbs up on your hub.