How To Be Less Defensive In A Relationship? – 10 Tips

Are you having trouble with being too defensive in your relationship? Do you want to know how to be less defensive in a relationship? Defensiveness can have a negative effect on relationships and communication. There are strategies that can help people become less defensive in their relationships.

In this blog, we will provide helpful tips and advice to address defensiveness as well as understanding its root cause. With the guidance provided here today, you can begin to make positive changes toward creating healthier relationships! So if you’re ready to take a journey into reducing defensiveness, start reading now!

Understanding Defensiveness in Relationships

Defensiveness in relationships is an important factor to consider when looking at the causes, behaviors, and effects of responding defensively.

Causes of defensiveness in relationships

Defensiveness in relationships is a common problem and can easily become destructive if it’s not managed or addressed. Common causes of defensiveness include low self-esteem, fear of rejection, feelings of guilt or shame, lack of accountability, shifting blame onto another person, making excuses for one’s behavior, and rationalizing away criticism or suggestions for change.

Oftentimes defensiveness is an unconscious attempt to protect oneself from perceived criticism or attacks; however, this reaction usually serves only to escalate conflict rather than provide understanding between partners.

In addition to emotional triggers such as feelings of inadequacy or insecurity reinforcing defensive reactions, the impact on relationships can be extreme due to reduced trust and communication abilities over time.

Examples may include heightened suspicion caused by defensive aggression when someone reacts negatively towards suggestions from their partner by becoming hostile and aggressive when they should be taking responsibility for their actions instead.

a man hiding his face

Effects of defensiveness on relationships

Defensiveness in relationships can be a major roadblock to having an authentic, meaningful connection. It’s often rooted in fear and insecurity, causing one to feel threatened or attacked instead of viewed.

Defensiveness manifests itself in many ways, from denying responsibility for one’s actions to placing the blame on someone else. This behavior is not only destructive but it also creates emotional barriers between two people and makes genuine communication impossible.

When defensive measures are taken it becomes harder to receive negative feedback without harshly judging oneself or lashing out at the person who said something deemed upsetting—leading to further conflict and making any attempt at resolution much more difficult than needed.

Common defensive behaviors

  1. Making excuses: Blaming external circumstances rather than taking responsibility for your actions.
  2. Rationalizing behavior: Justifying negative behaviors or criticism in an attempt to avoid taking ownership of responsibility.
  3. Shifting blame: Pointing fingers at others or making up stories to cover up one’s mistakes instead of apologizing.
  4. Stonewalling: Shutting down from any communication and refusing to engage when faced with conflict which can cause further tension and misunderstanding.
  5. Depression-denying: Denying the presence of depression, anxiety, sadness, or fear in order to mask feelings of vulnerability which may lead our partner to feel unheard and ignored.
  6. Criticism avoidance: Refusing to acknowledge any faults, weaknesses, or flaws in an attempt to deflect criticism and maintain a false sense of security.
  7. Anger displacement: Taking out anger on unrelated persons or events as a way of avoiding confrontation with your partner despite initially directed towards them (e.g., getting angry with the waiter even though you are really mad at your partner).
  8. Disrespecting boundaries: Neglecting other person’s wishes and preferences in favor of one’s desires which can lead to resentment down the line if not properly addressed

Strategies for Overcoming Defensiveness

This section will focus on various steps a couple can take to reduce defensiveness in their relationship including practicing active listening and empathy, reflecting on personal triggers and reactions, communicating openly and honestly, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and more.

Practicing active listening and empathy

Active listening and empathy are essential tools for creating meaningful connections in relationships, fostering healthy communication, and breaking the cycle of defensiveness. Oftentimes when people feel defensive they up their walls from talking openly or hearing out your perspective.

This can leave both parties feeling disconnected, unheard, and even resentful. Practicing active listening is essential to making sure you truly understand each other, as well as coming together to tackle problems without getting defensive or aggressive with one another.

When practicing active listening it’s important to give your partner your full attention—put away all distractions like phones and look them in the eye while checking in regularly about their words/feelings/opinions; using a notepad (mental or otherwise) to document what is being said can also be helpful during a particularly passionate exchange of ideas! 

Additionally expressing empathy towards someone who might be locked into either fear or anger cycles will help keep the dialogue open between you two which leads ultimately to a positive resolution much faster than getting caught within a situation of arguments where going back and forth becomes an endless battle rather than a constructive conversation that fosters understanding and potential solutions.

Reflecting on personal triggers and reactions

Managing personal triggers is an essential step in overcoming defensiveness in relationships. By understanding the underlying issues that lead to defensive behavior, individuals can start to build awareness of what sets them off and how they respond in certain situations.

Self-awareness helps identify personal triggers – such as feeling threatened or being judged – so that when confronted with those feelings, individuals can more actively work on responding differently rather than defaulting into a defensive mode.

Common triggers could include emotional pressure, fear of failure, criticism from a partner, or any other kind of feeling that one perceives as negative or hurtful.

Taking the time to reflect on these triggers allows couples to gain insight into their reactions and anticipate potential outcomes before tensions escalate further. Self-reflection also involves looking at one’s own emotions and why they are feeling particular ways; this encourages better communication instead of assuming bad intent from your partner’s words or actions.

a girl sleeping

Communicating openly and honestly

Open and honest communication is essential to navigating relationship dynamics successfully. It allows for a better understanding of one another’s feelings, perspectives, and needs. Through this process, partners can learn to trust each other and build deep connections that last long.

Open communication also helps both people in a relationship become more emotionally vulnerable with each other which further strengthens the bond between them. This includes taking responsibility for one’s actions, reflecting on personal motives or triggers that result in defensive behavior as well recognizing how it affects the partner.

Active listening encourages empathy which plays a huge part in strengthening the mutual connection between couple members while having constructive conversations around difficult topics like struggles in relationships etc.

Taking responsibility for one’s actions

When couples can recognize their responsibility in a conflict, by the simple act of taking ownership of one’s role, it can transform relationships into closer and more intimate partnerships.

Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions is key to building trust and avoiding defensiveness in relationships. By owning up to mistakes or flaws, couples can effectively communicate with each other without pointing any fingers; defensiveness only serves as an obstacle within communication.

Examples of this could be including apologizing if you have acted defensively or admitting your role when things do not go according to plan. Additionally, reflecting on how you may be contributing negatively opens up doors for constructive criticism that allows growth and development instead of bottling feelings internally or projecting them onto another person.

Why do I feel so defensive in my relationship?

Defensiveness can arise in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. It’s a natural coping response to an attack – real or perceived – and is often rooted in past experiences and trauma that leave us feeling vulnerable.

Defensiveness manifests itself as a barrier of protection from further pain, often resulting in defensive behavior such as blocking communication, lashing out with insults, making excuses for bad behaviors, and shifting blame onto others instead of taking accountability and rationalizing faults into positives.

All these defensive behaviors come from a place of insecurity, fear the other person may be right about something, or anxiousness over being judged by them. To effectively address defensiveness within relationships requires individuals to identify their underlying triggers and learn how to better respond to them without slipping back into defensiveness.

This means facing uncomfortable thoughts head-on whilst learning effective communication strategies such as active listening; understanding another’s perspective; expressing yourself calmly yet clearly; empathizing with your partner’s feelings; accepting feedback constructively and not getting hostile whenever there is disagreement.

a man being defensive of his actions

Why am I so defensive and sensitive?

When it comes to relationships, some individuals may find themselves being defensive or overly sensitive. This can be the result of a variety of underlying causes, including emotional trauma, mental health issues such as low self-esteem and insecurity, personality traits, and past experiences.

Defensiveness in relationships is often triggered when someone feels they have been criticized or attacked by their partner. It can lead to feelings of insecurity, fear, and anger which can manifest themselves in actions such as arguing defensively, lashing out at your partner, or shutting down completely.

While on its surface defensiveness appears to be protective behavior intended to keep people safe from perceived attacks or threats; however this kind of output rarely achieves its desired results as it reduces communication between partners and can create further tension within the relationship.

To overcome defensiveness and sensitivity one must take responsibility for their reactions while also understanding what triggers them so that they are better able to react effectively rather than defensively in challenging times with their relationship.

Practicing active listening skills and expressing empathy towards your partner’s concerns can also help couples address any potential miscommunications more constructively without becoming defensive unnecessarily.

What is the root cause of defensiveness?

The root cause of defensiveness is typically psychosocial, rather than biological or chemical. People often become defensive when they feel threatened, either by a situation or by someone else.

This behavior is then used as a coping mechanism to protect oneself from criticism or negativity and make them feel safe. Defensiveness can include everything from blaming others, making excuses for one’s mistakes, becoming overly sensitive and getting angry quickly, to rationalizing their behaviors away.

For instance, if one’s partner accuses something that they have done wrong- instead of owning up to it-they might deflect the blame onto their partner or makeup excuses for why it happened.

These types of actions demonstrate an unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions which leads to further damaging patterns in communication since both parties never really address the issue at hand.

Why do I get so defensive so easily?

Defensiveness is a common response in relationships when one or both partners feel hurt, threatened, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Defensiveness is often a sign that someone perceives an attack and it serves as an attempt to protect themselves from experiencing more emotional pain.

In addition to being defensive as a reaction to unpleasant circumstances, people may also become defensive due to their self-esteem issues and insecurity. Often times individuals with low self-worth may respond in a manner that conveys they are interrogating the other person’s intentions rather than openly talking about the issue at hand.

To overcome defensiveness couples should focus on understanding each other better by practicing active listening and empathy while communicating openly and honestly with each other recognizing their core values and responding differently depending on the situation.


The key to reducing defensiveness in relationships is to practice healthy communication habits. This includes active listening, finding common ground, assuming good intentions from the other person, reflecting on personal triggers and reactions, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and communicating openly and honestly.

Practicing emotional intelligence helps develop trust and understanding within a relationship which can ultimately create greater connection. Being less defensive has many benefits including increased respect between partners as well as an increase in unconditional acceptance.

Overcoming defensiveness takes commitment but it leads to stronger relationships with healthier dynamics for both parties involved.


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