‘Why are you always so defensive?!’ Jane exclaimed.
They’ve been together for four years and her partner Mark’s defensiveness only got worse.
Maybe you’re like Jane, feeling frustrated, irritated, and stuck:
- My husband gets defensive when I tell him how I feel
- I can’t talk to him without him getting angry
You’re also wondering:
- Why does my husband get defensive?
- How do I deal with a defensive husband?
The good news is that we can lead you to the answers you’ve been looking for. In fact, there are practical steps you can take to turn this situation around. And you want to turn it around becuse conflict behavior like defenisveness is a predictor for divorce as this study found.
We get it, it’s exhausting to be stuck in such an emotional roller-coaster. Especially if you fight everyday. What can you do? Read on to find out how you can deal with this defensive behavior from your partner.
But before we get started, let’s look at what defensiveness even is.
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What Is Defensiveness?
Here’s a good definition by lexico:
- The quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.
‘their supporters have reacted with defensiveness and hostility to the disclosure’
- Behaviour intended to defend or protect.
We would add that someone becomes defensive when they perceive a threat. Whether there’s an actual one or not doesn’t matter. Your husband might be defensive around a topic and you just don’t understand why.
The true answer to the question is this: the topic looks very different to him than you. He perceives a threat in what you’re saying or doing. It’s his perception that informs his reaction. Now that we have a clear understanding of what defensiveness is, let’s identify it.
Most of the time defensiveness is spotted by people before they can put their finger on it. This can be through a change of:
- Body language
- Eye contact
- How the persons phrases things
If you start to become on edge and feel like your husband is suddenly defending/attacking you, he might really be defensive. But be aware that your perception could also be wrong.
Here are more signs that your husband is defensive:
- Overwhelming you with information to prove his point.
- Becoming short and snappy.
- Becoming argumentative and needing to be right.
- Wanting to have the last word.
- Over explaining himself when you simply made a statement.
- Denying what you’re saying.
- Avoiding the topic altogether.
- Turning the topic around on you.
- Attacking you.
- Making fun of the situation in a way that leads away from the topic or trivializes it.
- Mocking you for overreacting.
- Becoming very argumentative.
- Saying they just can’t do anything about it because ‘it’s just who I am.’
These are just a few of the signs that he might be defensive. Please be aware that this isn’t a diagnostic tool and that you might believe he is defensive when he isn’t.
Defensive Behavior Examples
To make it more concrete about how defensive behavior looks like here are some examples:
Her: ‘The light in our bedroom was on.’
Him: ‘I wasn’t even in the bedroom. I don’t leave the light on. Why do you always think it’s me?’
Why is it a defensive behavior?
Because he’s reacting to a neutral statement with an overflow of explanations and ends it with a statement of ‘you always…’. That kind of statement is often an attack.
Her: ‘Why did you come home late last night?’
Him: ‘You have no right to question me. You’re always late yourself.’
Why is it a defensive response?
She’s asking a neutral question but he turns it around on her telling her she’s always late too.
Her: ‘Could you please talk nicely to me when you disagree with something?’
Him: ‘Yes, I’ll treat my little girl with velvet gloves.’
Him: ‘I just can’t help it. I was born with a bad temper, I can’t change anything about it. It’s just who I am.’
Why is this a defensive response?
He’s downplaying her request of wanting to be treated nicely and mocks her. In the second option, he uses his temper as something he can’t change which gives him card blanche to do whatever he wants.
Now that we’ve cleared up what defensiveness is and how it manifests in conversations, it’s time to look at why your husband gets defensive.
Why does my husband get defensive?
Growing up, I was scolded for the tiniest things. Unfortunately I internalized this, believing up into adulthood that I’m a complete ‘mess-up’.
Even when Jachym and I made great strides in our relationship, I’d often get defensive and push back. Whenever Jachym sat me down to have a relationship ‘talk’, I’d freak out. Like a knee-jerk reaction, I’d get defensive and guarded.
It didn’t matter if he had positive feedback or constructive criticism, I was ready for a fight. It was tough on Jachym. He might have the best intentions, yet I took things the wrong way.
When you’re not the one getting defensive, you might not understand why your spouse gets defensive. You might think that there’s something wrong or that they’re hiding something.
We know how tough it is when you don’t know why it’s happening or how to resolve it. That’s why we’ll be breaking the solution down for you so you get the clarity that you need.
Why does my husband get defensive?
As this paper suggests, we get defensive when we perceive that we have a flaw but are in denial of it. We’re sensitive to this perceived flaw and get defensive when we feel that someone attacks it. Hence, we get defensive when our partner points things out that touch this sore spot.
Now that you know why your husband gets defensive let’s lok what you can do about it. Don’t worry we got your back. Let’s do it together.
Imagine knowing exactly what to do to bring your relationship to a better place. No more confusion, hurt and compulsive reactions. You have more control of the situation than you think.
Would you like to know nine effective ways to address the defensive behavior of your husband? Read on to find out.
When your partner gets defensive you’ll have your own reaction to it. You either get defensive yourself or you become more aggressive in your communication. Either way, the conversation is going to crash and burn. If you’d like to know how to communicate better in your relationship, we’ve prepared an article for you here.
To avoid such a disaster, examine your own reaction.
- How do I feel when my husband gets defensive?
- How do I react when he gets defensive?
- What do I say when he becomes defensive?
If you can defuse your own reaction, you have a higher chance to guide the conversation towards a fruitful direction.
A simple way to diffuse your reaction is to notice it. When you do, breathe, pause, and don’t engage it any further. Relax your body. Stay with the sensations in your body. This will help you stay present rather than lash out at your partner.
Defensiveness comes from us believing we have to protect ourselves.– Jachym Jerie
2. Check Your Communication Style – How to Talk to a Defensive Husband
How are you addressing your husband? Are you using any of the four horsemen of the apocalypse that John Gottman has defined? They’re destructive for a relationship if they aren’t addressed. What are they?
Check whether you’re criticizing your husband personally.
‘You’re just unreliable.’
‘You’re so inconsiderate. You never think of me!’
Whenever you make your spouse’s behavior about his character and find fault in it, he’ll feel attacked.
Check whether you use contempt:
‘Why did I marry you? You can’t even provide for our family. You’re so useless. No wonder you’re being pushed around by your boss, just look at how pathetic you are.’
When you’re used to this kind of communication, it’s really not a nice place to be in. If you’re often speaking with resentment or anger with one another, check out our article about unmet expectations in marriage. A lot of contempt and resentment comes from having unmet needs.
In our The Cherished Wife Program we help women speak with their man in a way that helps them:
- Build a stronger marriage
- Create a stronger connection
- Nurture the love in the relationship
We know how disastrous negative communication patterns can be for a relationship because we’ve done them all. That’s why we show you how you can replace them and bring back the love and passion! Reserve your spot here now.
If your communication is improved, and yet your spouse still reacts defensively, read on to find out what else you can do.
Yes. It’d be wonderful if your spouse would just stop being defensive. However, they most likely won’t unless you help them out. Consider this:
It’s never pleasant to feel under attack. Whether there is an attack or not doesn’t matter because his experience is of him being attacked.
Your husband isn’t enjoying his defensive behavior either. His body and mind is experiencing stress when he gets defensive, which is why he tries to protect himself.
The more you get that his defensiveness is a distress signal, the more likely you can help your spouse out. Don’t forget, you’re a team. Work through this together even though it hasn’t been pleasant so far.
Just because you’ve felt hurt by your partner, doesn’t mean that you can’t heal and resolve this current issue. The more you bond together with empathy and understanding, the more successfully you can find a resolution. So put the misunderstandings aside and get perspective on the bigger picture again.
‘You always get defensive. How are we ever supposed to talk this out? You just don’t listen and blame me instead.’
Why does this not work?
You’re reverting back to criticism. It’ll make your husband even more defensive, or even lead to him shutting you out (stonewalling).
Him: ‘Why are you blaming me for this? Don’t you see that I have other things to do? All you can do is nag me.’
Her: ‘I’m sorry I didn’t want to make you feel stressed out. I know you have a lot of things to do.’
Him: ‘Exactly, then why are you pushing me to clean the car?’
Her: ‘I didn’t want you to feel pushed or stressed out at all. I’m sorry if I came across this way. How did I communicate with you that you felt this way?’
Why does this work?
- She’s keeping her cool.
- She’s diffusing the situation and ignoring his defensiveness.
- She’s trying to understand what’s happening for him.
We hope you understand that this isn’t an easy task if you’re riled up yourself. Which is why you need to take care of your own reactions first.
In The Cherished Wife Program, we give you the tools to start rewiring your brain towards more compassion, love, and understanding. We go even further and show you how a simple mindset shift can create deep emotional peace for you. All your relationship problems can be a thing of the past if you get the right help at the right time.
Note that we aren’t advocating to have your boundaries violated. You have every right to be clear about what you don’t tolerate in a behavior. But this kind of conversation is better suited for another time: when one or both partners aren’t triggered and feeling defensive.
Remember? When someone gets defensive they’re in distress.
It’s important to show them that you have no malicious intention. Your spouse might not get it at first that you’re not trying to harm them. They’re ready to defend themselves. If you put more oil on the fire by being aggressive, he’ll be pushed even further into the corner. One communication tool that can do wonders is to simply listen.
Your partner might be blaming you, but don’t forget that what they’re going through is really unpleasant. Since you do love and care for your spouse, tap into that emotion.
When you feel threatened, your body will react to it. This means that your spouse might not see your good intentions at first if they’re already fired up. In this case, it’s vital to stay calm and assertive. Show them through your love that you’re not there to hurt them.
Be patient with your partner as it may take them a few rounds to actually get what you’re trying to say.
Instead of feeling like you’re the victim, take the lead.– Natasha Koo
We all make mistakes. It’s normal.
But it’s important to acknowledge those mistakes. If you’ve used criticism against your husband, apologize for it. The situation can quickly diffuse when someone simply owns their mistake.
It communicates to your partner that you’re a team and that you respect them. I know that apologizing isn’t always fun. But it’ll bring you closer as a couple, and do wonders for your relationship.
Jachym and I do this all the time. Yes, that’s right! We mess up and then apologize to each other regularly. You might first think that this is a flaw, but think again. By immediately addressing something that you know wasn’t right, you’re setting things straight quickly and efficiently.
Instead of getting angry for days or holding negative emotions against the other person or having the same fight over and over again, we are resolving the issue and connecting back to love. The goal isn’t to avoid or eradicate any conflict or problems in the relationship.
The skill that we are teaching you is to be able to face any issue in the future and always be able to heal, love and feel deeply connected again. Taking ownership and apologizing without your ego getting in the way is just one step towards an exceptional relationship.
No worries, we got your back. In The Cherished Wife Program we break down how you can acquire this skill so that you can face any issue in the future and always be able to heal, love and feel deeply connected again. Taking ownership and apologizing without your ego getting in the way is just one step towards an Exceptional Relationship. Start your journey today and apply here to become a Cherished Wife today.
8. Take a Break
Sometimes both of you lose sight of each other. You see the other person as the villain and you’re at each other’s throats. Whenever you feel yourself getting emotional and know that it will only escalate, call for a break.
Make sure you have ample time to calm down (at least 20 minutes). Remember your body releases all kinds of chemicals when it perceives a threat, even if that threat is not physical. Therefore, it makes sense to allow your body to calm down so that you can go back into the conversation with a clear mind.
Know yourself and know each other. When you aren’t at your best to resolve the defensiveness, then pick it up at a better time.
Remember that you always have options and so many choices are available to you. Don’t force yourself to make your relationship better. With our tips, you can go about it smartly.
9. Agree to Stop this Behavior
Yes, it’s great to have all those other tools we’ve given you. However, it’s even better to have your spouse on board to stop this negative behavior. Have a conversation with him to see what you can do together to address this behavior.
The solution can be as simple as being ok to have your partner call out the defensive behavior when it occurs. The calling out doesn’t mean belittling or criticising the other person. Identifying and naming it brings awareness to the pattern.
Defensiveness is an impulse, the more you become aware of it happening, the more you can work through it together. It’s another way to help each other to stop this pattern.
We’re emotional creatures, so at one point or another, this defensive response is expected to happen in a relationship.
Don’t beat yourself or your partner up about it. What matters the most isn’t the problems that you’re facing at the moment, but what you’ll do about it.
Good news! By now, you’ve learned the different reasons why your husband might get defensive. We’ve also given you nine ways to address defensive behavior. If you don’t know where to start, do this today:
Review the nine approaches above and mark down what resonates with you. Most likely, a few will stand out to you. Trust your instincts and commit to one of them this week.
For example, you might focus on being more understanding as your husband acts defensively. This gives you plenty of time to reflect and notice what you’re doing, how you can bring more understanding to the situation and also how your partner reacts when you do.
Repeat and commit to another approach the following week and you’ll make some incredible progress.
Remember, you’re not powerless in this situation. You have every tool at your disposal. What you choose to do next will either help your marriage or keep it stay the same.
Face your fears and take action.
Apply the tools and make a difference.
FAQ – What Should I Do?
This section looks at your specific questions in various scenarios. Because we don’t know your exact circumstances, we had to make a lot of assumptions. What we share may or may not be applicable to you. Regardless of your specific situation, there’s a recurring theme because it’s fundamental to all defensive behavior.
The FAQ supplements the 9 effective ways of dealing with a defensive husband or wife that we covered above. You’ll improve your relationship if you apply what you learn so far, but the FAQ can still help to clarify some things.
Your husband is most likely getting defensive because:
- He feels like you’re blaming him for his feelings.
- You want him to fix it and he doesn’t know how to.
- He has some other story spinning in his head about what it means that you feel this way.
No matter what you’re telling your spouse. If they’re getting defensive, they’re reacting to their own projection and interpretation of what you said.
To address the issue, it’s best to bring it up separately when you don’t feel like you need his support. Why? Because he’ll most likely get defensive and you’re in a much better place to have a fruitful conversation when you’re not lost in your own emotions.
In The Cherished Wife Program we show you exactly how you can hold these kinds of conversations so that you come out of it feeling:
- Stronger as a couple
- More connected
- More loved and understood
- Heard and seen
If that’s something you’re interested in head over here to put in your application.
My Husband Can’t Handle Criticism!
Do you handle criticism well? Most people don’t. Why’s that?
Because criticism is telling us that a certain behavior or character trait isn’t good. This isn’t an issue. But because we’re identifying ourselves with our behaviors and our personality, we believe that the other person’s attacking us.
If you want to be able to give your husband feedback, we recommend that you observe yourself first.
- Make sure that your communication isn’t threatening (check the section ‘how to deal with a defensive husband’)
- How do you handle your own defensive response that allows you to have a good conversation despite the response?
- Develop some compassion for your husband. It’s not fun to get defensive.
I Can’t Talk to My Husband Without Him Getting Angry!
First off, please look at your life and see whether your statement is true. No one gets angry all the time. When you generalize like that, you don’t allow yourself to see what does work in your relationship.
You want to stay away from the topics that trigger anger and work on your friendship first. The stronger your foundation is as a couple, the easier it’ll be to handle difficult behavior like anger.
Please be aware that we’re not recommending to avoid addressing the anger. We’re suggesting to ease off of the topics, and reintroduce them later on. Also, as we have discussed in the section ‘how to deal with a defensive husband’ how you need to investigate your own reaction.
Is Defensiveness a Sign of Stress?
Stress could be a factor that plays into becoming defensive. Especially when your spouse isn’t usually defensive, but now he is. He could have a lot on his plate at the moment. If that’s the case, see what you can do to help him relax.
But at the heart of defensiveness lies insecurity and our potential to make meaning out of anything. I can get defensive when Natasha asks to me to do some extra things for her. Why?
Because in my mind I’m seeing all the extra work and how much of a hassle it’ll be. Am I responding to her request? No. I am responding to my internal movie I made up in that moment.
Is Defensiveness a Sign of Depression?
Just like with stress, defensiveness can arise when people get depressed. But it’s not any standard sign that you’d use to diagnose someone with depression. If you suspect your spouse is suffering from depression, we recommend that he’ll see a licensed psychologist.
Why Does My Husband Get So Defensive About His Family?
Because many people can feel torn between their family and their significant other. They feel like they should be loyal to their family but at the same time know that you’re also important. They don’t want to ruin the relationship with their family and often feel protective over them.
If you talk about his family, or you suggest something about how to handle them, he’ll be filtering what you say with defensive listening. Meaning, he’ll be already on guard and won’t actually be able to properly process what you’re saying. How do you work around that?
You want to really listen to him and hear what his fears are around this topic. This is what will allow you to start looking at the issue together rather than being enemies.
My Husband Is Defensive About His Mother?
Just like with the family, your husband feels obliged towards his mom. At the same time, he also values you. That can put him into an awkward situation where he feels like he has to choose between his mom and you.
When you communicate with him, he might feel like you’re trying to force his hand. What’s the solution?
Like with the other examples, what’s vital is to look at yourself and your reactions. Do you feel like there’s a power struggle between you and your mother-in-law for your husband’s attention? If so you want to address that first.
Next, you need to get away from the idea that you possess your husband and that he needs to give you something. Instead, you want to start to see what you can give to him.
Ask yourself: How can I serve my husband? That one question can change the entire dynamic.
Because you’re joining him. Any power struggle will stop because you’re giving yourself to the relationship and your husband rather than trying to get from him.
We help women like you in The Cherished Wife Program to make this transition.
We help you see the strong and powerful man you once fell in love with. That in turn brings out the best in your man. It really is a magical transformation you get to experience in your man when you stop trying to control him.
Instead of pushing further away, you’ll feel more:
- Close to him
Isn’t that why we’re in a relationship in the first place? Are you ready for the next step in your relationship?
My Husband Is Defensive About a Female Co-worker
If I were to use my magical mind-reading abilities, I’d say that you believe that there’s something up with this female co-worker and your husband. If you don’t believe it, asking questions to your husband about this co-worker might give him the impression that you believe something’s up.
It doesn’t matter how it is, what you do have to realize is that attraction outside of marriage is natural and normal. Rather than hiding this fact, you’re better off talking to your husband about it. If you believe that he’s the only one who might experience attraction to someone else, you’re dead wrong.
Either one of you can find themselves drawn to another person. It’s important that you’re both clear about that and that you communicate how you’d like to handle this when it arises. Naturally, it can often spur jealousy and a feeling of ‘not good enough’ for the other partner.
That’s why we keep emphasizing that you need to learn to confront your own reactions and emotions. Without doing that, your relationship won’t go beyond your sensitive spots.
Husband Is Defensive After He Had an Affair
Yes, because he might feel guilty and bad about what he’s done. Most likely you and he haven’t processed the event properly, which leads to reactions like defensiveness or passive-aggressiveness showing up.
If you find that, you’re better off to bring up the topic so both of you can find a resolution. Sometimes doing this by yourself is really hard and a third party like a therapist counsellor or coach is necessary.
Some people believe they shouldn’t bring up the past. We partially agree. But if your way of interacting with each other and your emotional well-being isn’t back to normal, you need address the past to heal from it.
Husband Defensive About Money
Money is a fascinating subject. Why?
Because money itself is completely and utterly neutral. However, we all have different associations with it. Some think money is evil. Others believe that money is happiness. Neither one of these are true. Money has no inherent quality that makes it evil or good.
Your husband has his own set of beliefs around money and so do you. Often this leads to conflict within the relationship. When your husband believes that you are either overspending or being too protective about your money, it can lead to defensiveness. Why?
Because a conversation around this topic could mean that he has to give up on how he does things. And as we have shown before, we wrap our identities into our behaviors and personalities.
To take care of the issue of money, do some basic household budgeting. You can have a shared account and a separate account. The separate account can be used to do whatever you want with it. That way many issues around money are taken care of.
Why Is He so Defensive About His Ex?
As with the other issues, your spouse has a story around:
- His ex
- What it means about him
- What she means to him
- How you might take it
- How you could see it
Do you see how many layers there can be to this? When you bring up a topic, you’re not bringing up something that’s neutral in his mind. He has all kinds of thoughts around it. His defensiveness is a sign that one of these layers is interlaced with his identity and he feels threatened.
Could it mean that he still has some feelings for his ex? Yes, it could. AND so many times it really doesn’t mean anything besides what I’ve outlined above.
When you join our The Cherished Wife Program, we’ll show you how you can become irresistible to your husband so that you don’t have to worry about any other woman.
Why Is My Husband Defensive About Everything?
He isn’t. If you ask him whether he’d like a beer, he probably won’t be defensive. To generalize a statement like this, simply makes it harder for you to actually see what’s happening.
If your husband has become more defensive over the years, it could very well be that the way you’re communicating is overly critical. If you’re not sure, take this quiz here.
You want to hold your husband in high esteem. If you have a very negative image of him, he’ll be affected by it. You really can transform your husband when you start treating him like the great man you once met. I know this can be hard at the beginning.
In The Cherished Wife Program we provide guided meditations to naturally tap into the raw essence of what used to attract you to each other.
Why Does My Husband Get so Defensive When I Ask Questions?
Your husband might have had a certain upbringing where he was expected to know all the answers. If he didn’t, it reflected badly on him. If you ask him questions, he’s brought back into the past where he has to know the answer.
Again, it’s what’s happening in his mind, not necessarily what you’re doing. A great way of addressing this kind of defensiveness is to help your husband get a better self-image. If he can see that you value and respect him, it can do a lot for his self-esteem.
Someone with higher self-esteem is less likely to be defensive.
How Do You Calm Down a Defensive Partner?
By not freaking out yourself. Stay calm, listen, and clarify. It can take a few rounds until he’ll hear you. But it’s worth it because you’re showing him that what you’re doing isn’t a threat. If you get lost in your emotions, you’ll likely end up fighting with each other.
When you see that he’s getting very defensive, just say: I need a moment to breathe, I’d really appreciate it if we could do it together. That will allow you to have a moment together to calm down.
How Do You Fix Defensive Behavior?
By bringing it to the light of your love and compassion. Defensiveness needs a feeling of attack. When he repeatedly sees that you’re not attacking, he’s defenses eventually collapse.
How to Respond to a Defensive Person
Here’s what not to do:
‘You’re so defensive!’
Because he’ll for sure take it as an attack. Instead, you want to listen deeper. Your spouse is always communicating with you. Often it’s clumsy, but within the complaining and the defensiveness, there’s a message. Can you hear it?
It takes courage and patience to stay with your spouse and deeply feel what’s happening for them. Allow yourself to go there because he most likely is scared.
30 Minutes To Less Defensiveness
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