Managing Defensiveness in Relationships

Couple fighting

How to Effectively Manage Defensiveness in Relationships

Defensiveness is a common issue that can arise in relationships, and it can have a significant impact on the quality of communication and connection between partners. In this article, we will explore some additional tips and strategies for dealing with defensiveness and improving your relationship.

The Impact of Defensiveness on Relationships

As mentioned in the Communication Killer: Defensiveness article, defensiveness can create a cycle of negative interactions between partners that can escalate conflicts and erode trust over time. This can lead to feelings of frustration, hurt, and resentment, and may even lead to the breakdown of the relationship.

To prevent this negative cycle from taking hold, it is important to be aware of the impact that defensiveness can have on your relationship. By recognizing the signs of defensiveness and being proactive in addressing them, you can prevent small conflicts from turning into larger issues.

Tips for Communicating Effectively with a Defensive Partner

If you find yourself dealing with a defensive partner, there are a number of communication strategies you can use to defuse defensiveness and promote a more productive conversation.

  • Active listening is one such technique. By actively listening to your partner’s concerns and feelings without judgment or defensiveness, you can show them that you value their perspective and are willing to work together to find a solution.
  • Reframing is another useful technique for communicating with a defensive partner. By rephrasing their words in a non-judgmental way, you can help them feel heard and understood, while also promoting more positive and constructive dialogue.
  • Validation is also an important tool for dealing with defensiveness. By acknowledging your partner’s feelings and concerns, you can help them feel more secure and less defensive, creating a more positive atmosphere for communication and problem-solving.

Addressing Underlying Emotions

It is also important to recognize and address the underlying emotions that can drive defensiveness, such as fear, insecurity, or shame. By taking the time to understand and validate these emotions, you can help your partner feel more secure and less threatened, reducing the likelihood of defensiveness and promoting a more positive relationship.

External Factors and Defensiveness

Finally, it is important to consider the role that external factors, such as stress or past experiences, can play in triggering defensiveness. By identifying and addressing these factors proactively, partners can reduce the likelihood of defensiveness in the first place and create a more harmonious relationship.


Defensiveness can be a challenging issue to deal with in relationships, but by being proactive and using effective communication strategies, it is possible to create a more positive and supportive relationship. By taking the time to understand and address the underlying emotions and external factors that can trigger defensiveness, partners can build stronger connections and work together to overcome any challenges that arise.

*updated July 10, 2023

To learn more about red flags to look out for and how to fix them, please visit my Couples Counseling page.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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