6 Proven Strategies to Overcome Defensiveness in Your Relationship


Understanding Defensiveness in Romantic Relationships

Defensiveness is a common issue in romantic relationships, and it can be detrimental to the health of the partnership. It is crucial to identify the signs of defensiveness and understand how it can negatively impact communication.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness refers to the protective attitude people sometimes put up when they feel criticized. They might become argumentative, shut down, or deflect the blame elsewhere instead of taking responsibility. This behavior can cause considerable harm to your relationship, especially when it becomes habitual.

Causes of Defensiveness

Several behavioral situations can cause defensiveness, such as:

  • Dogmatism
  • Controlling behavior
  • Superiority
  • Withholding information
  • Critical behavior
  • No accountability

For instance, if your partner is constantly bossing you around and being domineering in decision-making, you might react defensively as a way of asserting your independence. If you’re in a relationship with someone who never takes responsibility for their mistakes, you might find yourself becoming defensive when they accuse or criticize you.

Consequences of Defensiveness

One of the most significant consequences of defensiveness is a win-or-lose mindset.

Partners who are always defensive typically view any communication as a competition, and the goal is to outdo the other person. Instead of taking time to listen and comprehend, they focus on winning the argument, resulting in a communication breakdown.

Defensiveness can also jeopardize the chances of a successful relationship if left unaddressed.

Overcoming Defensiveness

If you want to have a healthy and thriving relationship, it is essential to learn how to overcome defensiveness.

Strategies to Overcome Defensiveness

  1. Using “I” Statements

    Instead of blaming your partner, focus on how their behavior makes you feel by using “I” statements. This way, you help them understand your perspective without making them feel like they’re under attack.

  2. Pursuing a Growth-Oriented Mindset

    Understand that criticism and feedback are not always negative. Instead, try to view them as an opportunity for self-improvement and remember that your partner’s intentions are likely good.

  3. Perceiving Criticism in a Positive Light

    Be open to constructive criticism and understand that your partner is trying to help you grow. When your partner gives feedback, don’t get defensive. Instead, take it as a learning opportunity.

  4. Remembering Core Values

    Reflect on your personal values, which will help you maintain a healthy self-esteem and confidence. Knowing who you are will help you better understand your partner’s perspective.

  5. Buying Time for Yourself in Critical Moments

    When you find yourself getting defensive, take a deep breath and give yourself some time to calm down. This allows you to rationalize your thoughts and respond maturely.

  6. 12-Step Strategy to Tackle Defensiveness

    This strategy involves acknowledging your defensiveness, communicating openly with your partner, apologizing, not retaliating with counter-criticism, and fostering gratitude towards your partner.


Defensiveness can be detrimental to a romantic relationship, and it requires patience and effort to overcome. By using the strategies mentioned above, you can improve your communication and build a healthy and thriving relationship with your partner.

Remember, nobody’s perfect, and growth is an ongoing process. So, stay positive and keep striving to become a better partner each day.

In conclusion, defensiveness can cause significant harm to a romantic relationship and communication breakdowns. To overcome defensiveness, individuals can use strategies such as adopting a growth mindset, using “I” statements, perceiving criticism positively, reflecting on core values, buying time for oneself, and employing the 12-step strategy.

By practicing these strategies and maintaining a positive attitude, individuals can ultimately improve their communication skills and cultivate a healthier and enduring romantic relationship. With effort and patience, we can all learn to overcome defensiveness and enjoy a happy, long-lasting partnership.

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