You are in a steady, committed relationship. Your partner makes you genuinely happy and you have stood the test of time. There’s not much you’d change, but there is that one thing…
Whenever he does something that upsets you and whenever there’s something you need to discuss, he gets overly defensive, crosses his arms, and cannot take any constructive criticism.
There is no talking to him when he does something wrong, and you don’t know how to get through to him.
People who get this defensive when confronted with their actions usually feel like a complete failure if they’ve done something wrong, and admitting it makes them severely uncomfortable.
So instead of being able to listen to you and talk like a normal person, they resort to the silent treatment and/or accusing you of constantly picking on them.
Unfortunately, you can’t change how a person acts and reacts to your words, but you CAN change how you approach the conversation with them.
So here are some clever tricks designed to help you talk to your overly defensive partner and find a peaceful way to communicate.
1. Steer clear of the “blame language”
Refrain from using phrases like “You did this…” or “You didn’t listen to me, again…” and don’t use words such as “always” or ”never”.
This leaves your partner no choice but to feel blamed and singled out. Those are very critical and immediately force a person to take a defensive stand.
Instead of that, try telling them how YOU feel, and how their actions have affected you.
Do not point fingers but rather make it clear that you feel a certain way and you wish that wasn’t the case.
That might make your partner re-evaluate his actions and let down his guard.
2. Start the conversation on a positive note
It is important that, before you accuse them of something, you let them know how much they mean to you and that you don’t want to lose them.
You can say “I am only telling you this because I deeply care about you and want this to last.”
Make your partner feel like this is coming from a positive place and that all you are trying to do is find a solution so that you can heal and move forward from this.
They don’t need to keep hearing about how they messed up, it will only make them close off even more.
Be kind and remain hopeful for a resolution, while letting them know how much you appreciate their effort to get better.
3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and take your portion of the responsibility
In an effort to get your partner to break down his walls and open up to you, start by doing it yourself.
Share a vulnerable part of yourself and show him that you’re no stranger to messing up.
And if there is any portion of this that’s your fault – own up to it.
This will make your partner see that he is in a safe place that is guilt-free and he will start relaxing and becoming more prone to a healthy discussion.
He needs to feel safe and not judged, which will help in the process of overcoming his defensive stance.
4. Don’t diminish their right to feel a certain way
Never try to take away a person’s right to feel how they’re feeling. Everybody’s entitled to their emotions.
Just because it’s not ideal for you, doesn’t make them invalid. So let your man know that you respect his feelings and are in no way trying to diminish them.
But at the same time, explain how it is affecting your relationship and make him see that you have emotions, too.
They are clearly not integrating, so your only goal is to find middle ground, while being respectful of each other and letting your emotions come to the surface.
5. Ask them meaningful questions
You want to get to the bottom of this situation, and the best way to do it is by asking sincere questions that will help establish how it got this far.
Deep down, your partner might feel rejected, sad, and incompetent, so this is really important in order to make them feel heard!
If there is anything you may have done to cause this, ask them politely. Let them know you are sorry if you inadvertently caused them to react this way and you wish to make it better.
Ask them how they are feeling and how you can help alleviate their concerns.
But you have to be genuine and actually care. Otherwise, they’re not going to believe you.
6. No matter what happens – don’t lose your cool
Your partner might start listing 100 reasons why he’s right and you’re wrong or he might start blaming you for the whole thing.
But the whole point is to keep your cool and never lose your temper with him.
Understand that he does not actually mean all that – he just doesn’t know how to deal with blame and is therefore resorting to hostility.
Keep calm and take deep breaths. Once he sees you have managed to remain cool while he was not on his best behaviour, he might start slowing down as well.
Your intention to resolve this will be clear to him and it will force him to face your silence unless he lowers his voice.
But remember, you can do all the right things and say just what he needs to hear, and it still might not be enough.
And that is not on you. It has nothing to do with your approach and everything to do with the person.
If he doesn’t want to change, there isn’t much you can do anymore.
You have to face the fact that sometimes, it just won’t be enough.
And in those times, you just need to step away, take a deep breath, and think about what you want and the best way to get to that place.