How to deal with a partner who gets defensive in conflicts

Communication is key to resolutions!

16 February, 2024
How to deal with a partner who gets defensive in conflicts

Conflicts are an inevitable part of any relationship, but how one deals with conflict can make a big difference. When a partner consistently responds in a defensive manner during conflicts, it can become difficult to talk things out, let alone find a solution. And while dealing with a defensive partner requires patience, empathy, and understanding, it need not be a constant challenge. 

Here are a few ways to deal with a partner who is costantly defensive in conflicts.

Don’t just hear, listen...

During conflicts, it's crucial to actively listen to your partner without interrupting them or trying to formulate your response while they speak. It’s important to let them know that you understand their point of view (even if you might not agree with them) and make them feel validated.

Use “I” statements

When expressing your grievances, use "I" statements to convey your thoughts and feelings without blaming or accusing your partner. For example, instead of saying, "You never listen to me," try saying, "I feel unheard when we have a disagreement." This gives them insight into your feelings and encourages them to respond without feeling attacked or defensive.

Take breaks if necessary

When things get too heated, take a break. Now we don't mean the kind of break that Ross and Rachel (Friends) took (or didn't take)! In this case, it's the kind of break where both partners take some time to cool off and revisit the discussion with a clearer mind. What may work for you is to agree on a signal or phrase that indicates the need for a timeout, allowing both partners to cool off and collect their thoughts before resuming the conversation.

It’s always your relationship vs. the problem

Shift the focus of your discussions from blaming each other to finding solutions that address the root cause of your conflict. And always remember that it’s never you vs. your partner. By working together as a team, you can effectively come up with a solution.

If required, seek professional help

Taking couples therapy does not mean your relationship is the problem; it just means both partners are willing to fix the problem in order to make the relationship work. A trained professional can help you gain valuable insights, learn effective communication strategies, and engage in productive discussions to help you navigate conflicts more smoothly within your relationship.

Remember, effective conflict resolution is a journey that requires consistent effort and mutual respect; it’s okay to not get it right the first time!

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