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Relationships are not easy. We are constantly bombarded with ideas and pictures of perfect relationships online and in movies, but the truth is that no relationship is perfect, and they all take work and dedication.
If your partner gets defensive when you tell him how you feel it could mean he lacks emotional maturity, has a hard time being vulnerable, or simply thinks you’re attacking or blaming him for your feelings. It can be incredibly draining if he always gets defensive when you try and express your feelings.
You are only one part of the relationship, which means that you only have so much say and control in how things work. You might be great at listening to how your partner feels and working through his emotions together, but he might not be as open to this as you.
“He gets defensive when I tell him how I feel” – if this is something that you have been thinking throughout your relationship, and feel like something needs to change, then you might need some help on how to handle this, and what you can do to actually express your feelings to him.
To help you feel heard, and for you to encourage your partner to listen to how you feel, here is how you can handle the situation, and how to get them to understand how you are feeling.
Why Does My Partner Get Defensive When I Talk About My Feelings?
You have probably found yourself wondering why your partner gets defensive, and if it is something you have caused.
All of us have a certain level of defensiveness, it is how we were built to survive. We want to shield ourselves from harm, even if there is no harm present.
Some people have a harder time letting their guard down, especially when it means that they become vulnerable, as would be the case of your partner listening to how you feel.
Your partner might not want to accept the fact that you are not happy, and they might not be willing to accept that they have some role to play in your emotions. Sometimes for them, it feels easier to shut down the conversation and just elude it all together.
While this might solve the issue in the short term, it definitely won’t solve deeper relationship problems further down the line.
In order to deal with the situation of your partner getting defensive when you tell him how you feel, you need to try to understand why he might act this way, and how you could get around his defensiveness to truly make him listen to your feelings.
How To Handle It Defensive Behavior
Your partner being defensive when you approach him with your feelings is likely not going to go away on its own, so you are going to have to handle it a certain way.
Here are some tips on how to handle it going forward, to ensure that you can both communicate openly and honestly.
Point Out Defensiveness
One of the best things you can do is to stop your partner in their tracks and point out their defensive behavior when you are approaching them on how you feel.
They might not even realize that they are being defensive when approached with a sensitive topic, and without being aware of this, might never be able to work on changing their behavior.
This could be slightly confrontational in the moment, but if you think that your partner would benefit from knowing that they are behaving unacceptably, then pointing out their behavior can be really beneficial to working on your communication going forward.
When calling them out, do so calmly and in a non-accusatory manner. Yelling ‘Why are you like this?!” won’t do much for your relationship. (It actually will do more damage than you can imagine)
Let them know how they are being defensive and how it is affecting you feeling like you cannot talk to them.
Remember to use words like ‘I feel‘ instead of accusatory words such as ‘You always do xyz.” It’s a cliche because it works and it’s a healthy way to communicate with your partner.
Many people feel that attending therapy shows a failed or failing relationship, but this is simply not true.
Acknowledging the need for therapy shows a willingness from both parties to work on the relationship, and to find coping skills that will make the relationship last.
A therapist can give both you and your partner some tools to use in situations where you feel like you cannot be open and honest.
They can point out negative and toxic behavior, and give you alternative actions to use. For many couples, therapy has really helped build communication and honesty.
It can be difficult to be patient when you feel like your partner is shutting you down every time you approach them with your feelings, but sometimes it can be exactly what is needed to work through these issues.
After pointing out his defensiveness, it will take time for your partner to change his reactions, as these are natural to each of us. Patience can help get him through his natural reactions, and help him instead react in a way that is healthy for the relationship.
Instead of lashing out at him when he does become defensive, gently remind him that you are trying to let him know how you feel, and calmly talk through your feelings and your emotions, instead of becoming heated and upset, which would only fuel the fire.
Tell Him How His Behavior Affects You
Your partner might have no idea how his defensiveness hurts you, and how it might make you feel. He might think that by being defensive when you approach him with your feelings, and by brushing it off, the problem goes away.
It is so important to let him know how it hurts you, and ultimately your relationship when you cannot tell him how you feel.
This might trigger something in him to actually listen openly next time, and not immediately shut you down.
Some people need a little more help in understanding how their behavior affects others, so try your best to let him know how his behavior affects you.
Take Time Apart
There is no point in trying to talk to someone who continues to shut you down and be defensive. If nothing else is working and they still display this behavior, it could be time to spend some time apart.
This could be a symptom of something more serious being wrong in the relationship, and big issues take time to work through.
It is also a good idea to take a step back in the moment if he is becoming defensive and you feel as though the conversation is going to go nowhere, and that it might turn into a bigger argument. No issues are ever solved over shouting, and it is best to take some time apart and instead talk to each other when you are both calm again.
Time apart might be what he needs to see how he is upsetting you, and it gives him time to consider the things you would have said.
How To Express Your Feelings When Your Partner Always Gets Defensive
It can be so easy in the moment to become frustrated and to get into an argument with your partner when they become defensive with you. This really is not the way to solve anything, especially when there are so many emotions involved.
It is important to have a way of expressing your feelings to your partner, even if they always become defensive. Here are some ways on how you can do so:
- Talk to your partner about how you feel in a way that does not insinuate you are blaming them. Make sure to only approach them about your feelings when you are not upset, as this could easily lead to raised voices and words you might regret later. Instead of using accusatory language such as “you never hold my hand anymore”, use passive language such as “I miss holding your hand”. This lets them know the issue without passing on blame.
- You should approach your partner and ask them how they would like to talk about your feelings. This seems a bit silly, but they could offer up some really helpful advice that could avoid arguments going forward. They might prefer for you both to talk about how you feel and things you would like to change when out for a walk, or anything that makes it a more comfortable environment to avoid arguments.
- Always watch your body language. You might be calm and gentle with your words, but your body language could be telling a very different story. Make sure to feel and seem relaxed, as to not strike up any negative emotions.
- Do not choose to approach your partner with your feelings if you can see they are stressed or tired. Choose a time where you can both talk openly and honestly, without any additional stressful factors.
Dealing With A Defensive Partner
Your partner will work to change their defensive reactions if they want to make the relationship work. Defensive behavior can be so natural to some and can take some real time and effort to change.
Be open with your partner on how their defensive behavior affects you and how it makes you feel, and look for ways together that you can better communicate going forward.
You need to be able to approach your partner with your feelings and any issues you have, and if they simply will not change their defensive behavior, it might be time to reconsider things.
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