He Gets Defensive When I Tell Him How I Feel [21] Tricks To Ease The Situation (2024)

Your loved one is stonewalling you and shutting himself down. You feel powerless to do anything about it.

It seems like you’re walking on eggshells around him and it’s really ruining your mental health.

Relationships are not easy. The truth is that no relationship is perfect. They all take work and dedication. Keep reading for 21 tricks to ease the situation.

Let’s dive right into it.

He Gets Defensive When I Tell Him How I Feel
Photo by Ilse Stokking on Unsplash

1. Root Cause

The first step to solving that defensive barrier your man has put between you is to find the main cause of his defensive behavior. Conclude what triggers it and you’ll be able to fix it.

2. Impulse

Defensiveness could be his impulsive nature. It’s a way to keep his guard up with words to protect his position or defend what he did.

Your partner might be acting out of impulse and is unaware of how this makes you feel and makes him seem.

If he can’t admit to a mistake he made or listen to your feelings without making it solely about him, something’s wrong. Don’t ignore defensive behavior, try to talk to him about it.

3. Lack Of Emotional Control

As much as defensiveness is impulsive, it can be controlled. A little defensive behavior at the beginning of the relationship is normal, but after a while, walls should be broken down and not kept up.

If he still has defensive behavior every time an important conversation comes up, then it’s probably a pattern he’s used to which he just can’t control. 

4. Vulnerability

Believe it or not, many men fear emotionally-driven conversations that leave them open to their vulnerabilities.

However, real vulnerability is allowing someone to see your flaws and not being afraid to be at your lowest around them. Your man being overly guarded at the slightest says a lot about his behavior, and that’s not healthy for the relationship in the long run. 

5. Communication

Healthy communication is the key to solving a situation like this. Poor communication skills could cause your partner’s defensive behavior.

He may feel like he needs to talk and clear the air because of how things are being presented. If your partner doesn’t realize he’s overly defensive when he is, try to talk to him about it.

6. Unaware Of His Behavior

It’s likely he’s not aware of his defensive response. If that’s the case, help him understand how much it affects you.

If you feel he’s being overly guarded in a way that’s not helping you guys talk effectively, let him know. Do this without accusations or he could feel attacked.

7. Blame

The way you talk to him about his defensive behavior matters. Let him down easy, use a soft tone, and make him feel comfortable enough to communicate openly. 

When telling someone how you feel, especially when it’s about what they did wrong, start on a positive note. It’s the best way to communicate without sounding like you’re accusing him.

8. Trauma

The defensive behavior of your partner could be as a result of a traumatic experience, either from childhood or a past relationship.

If as a child his parents were rash with punishment and quick to shame him when he made a mistake, it’s not weird that in the slightest situation he protects himself.

Your partner may be traumatized by those memories and the moments you’re upset about something he might feel you would shame him as well. 

9. In Denial

He may not believe you understand him. Do more than tell him. Show your defensive partner you’re on his side. Repeat to him exactly what he’s saying to be sure you do understand.

Speak calmly while explaining his behavior won’t help communication in the relationship. 

10. Handling Criticism

It’s possible your partner doesn’t know how to handle criticism well. He could be interpreting criticism as accusations when talking about his behavior or something he said.

Feeling safe about accepting criticism is the first step to correcting the situation.

11. Low Self Esteem

Men with low self esteem are usually emotionally closed off and it could take a long time for them to open up. 

They simply don’t believe they’re worthy of being loved due to their imperfections and flaws. 

Overcome this by showing him you’re imperfect too and demonstrating how to embrace those imperfections rather than allow them to undermine your self-confidence. 

It may be difficult to understand his traumas, but it’s the best way to help him conquer his fear. 

12. Defensiveness Doesn’t Mean Rejection

It may mean so many things, but in most cases, a man behaves defensively when he doesn’t feel ready to talk about his feelings.

13. Be Understanding

Show understanding to your man, especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship. It’s particularly difficult to make a long-distance relationship work with a defensive partner.

Show him that even though you don’t always understand his reasons for some of his actions, you’ll always support him.

14. Don’t Judge

Be less judgemental and more patient if you want to break down the walls in your relationship.

Even when you don’t understand him, don’t judge him.

In a more serious relationship, when you overcome all of this and you manage to get your man to open up, you’ll be glad you didn’t give up on him.

15. Don’t Let Anger Drive You ​

His behavior will most assuredly piss you off very often, but try to control yourself in those situations.

You might say some things in those angry outbursts and tantrums that you’ll probably regret later.

16. Pull Back

Think about keeping a healthy relationship with yourself and how this could be damaging it and also hurting your mental health.

Pull back for a little while. Have a wellness day, do something that usually calms you, or hang out with your best friends. That can be the best therapy for relationship advice.

17. Warn Him

Emphasize the bad consequences his defensive behavior has for your relationship. Let him know you’re worried it’s damaging your relationship to the point it won’t be easily repairable.

Let him know if you’ve been thinking about a breakup because you just can’t put up with it anymore. That could make him change his behavior, if he loves you and wants a successful relationship.

18. Lay Down Your Weapons

This is not a war, and your relationship is surely not a battlefield. You simply need to know when to pull back if you’re feeling frustrated and give your loved one some space.

Don’t create any drama about it. The thing your partner needs the most right now is understanding and quiet time.

19. Neutralize The Threat

Once you find out the root cause of his behavior, work on neutralizing it. So, what does this exactly mean?

For example, if your man is behaving defensively because of scars from a past relationship that still hurts and haunts him, you can help him heal from it and prove to him that you would never do something like that to him.

He Gets Defensive
Photo by Ilse Stokking on Unsplash

20. When He’s Ready

Never force anything, especially when it comes to romantic relationships and expressing feelings. Leave him to start talking once he feels completely ready he’ll reach that step.

If he has stayed with you after you have confessed you love him, that means he loves you, too, but isn’t ready to say it or doesn’t know how to say it.

If things were the other way around, if he doesn’t feel the same for you, he would leave after your confession.

Sometimes, men just need a little bit more time to accept their feelings and say them out loud.

21. Couples Therapy

Many people feel that attending therapy shows a failing relationship, but this is simply not true. Couples therapy could save your relationship.

Now, you just have to talk your man into it and find the best couples counseling. I’m sure you’ll both benefit from it and your relationship will start blooming again.

What Does It Mean When A Man Gets Defensive?

Here’s a good definition of defensiveness:

  • 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

When you feel he becomes “defensive when I tell him something”, it’s because he perceives a threat. Whether there’s an actual threat 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 to you. He perceives a threat in what you’re saying or doing.

It’s his perception that informs his reaction. 

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
  • Tonality
  • Eye contact
  • How the persons phrases things

Does Defensiveness Mean Guilt?

We are all wired to protect ourselves, and this can lead to defensive behavior. People get defensive for many different reasons.

As you’ve learned, he gets defensive as a result of feeling:

  • Ashamed
  • Hurt
  • Guilty
  • Attacked

Someone being accused of certain behavior they didn’t do would definitely make them defensive. They would feel insulted on so many different levels.

If a person is feeling this way, responding with further criticism is likely to end only in stonewalling or an argument. Instead, show empathy and concern for the situation that the other person is experiencing.

Read for Ways How To Tell If A Guy Is Confused About His Feelings.

Why Does He Get So Defensive When I Ask Questions?

If you confront him with anger and accusations, he will react as anyone would: defensively. No one likes to fall short, and even constructive criticism can sting if there are emotional scars.

If you do it with a pointed finger, you will never get the results you want. It won’t be pleasant no matter how you do it, but if you’re gentle, you’re less likely to lose an appendage.

People also get defensive if you’re constantly on their case about something. Voicing your concerns and working through problems in a healthy way makes sense for a vulnerable man. However, if you have issues with your guy all the time, he’ll feel threatened and eventually stop listening.

If neither of these applies to you, if you feel like you are fair and kind when you approach him with complaints, then how he reacts is on him.

When you get right down to it, we can’t really make someone feel a certain way unless they choose it. We can push them toward a reaction, but how they feel is ultimately up to them.

What To Say When He Gets Defensive?

Whether these responses are innate or a part of narcissistic behavior, defensive behaviors are not character flaws—they’re simply human responses. That said, defensiveness can cause a lot of trouble – and it can be overcome.

Below are some tips for dealing with defensive feelings in your partner:

  • Talk about issues in a non-blaming way when you’re not upset. For example, most criticisms disguise a desire, so try to speak about what you want rather than what’s wrong.

You might say, “I miss hearing about your day,” not “You never tell me what’s going on at work anymore.”

  • When you’re not in the middle of an argument, ask your partner how they would prefer to handle criticism.
  • Understand the message you’re giving with your own body language. You may feel neutral, but your nonverbal communication can suggest you’re blaming.

Here are more Proven Strategies How To Communicate With An Avoidant.

How Do You Talk To Someone Who Interprets Everything As An Attack?

You may think you know why he’s upset, but if you keep finding “he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel”, you have no idea or understanding of the thinking that created it.

If you find yourself feeling, he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel, here are some tips for effectively managing your guy’s anger outbursts and defusing their defensiveness in the moment.

1. Notice Behaviors

Take notice of what is happening with your man in the moment.

Be an observer and ask yourself these questions: 

  • What are they doing with their hands?
  • Is their voice increasing in volume?
  • Are they beginning to turn red?
  • What’s happening with their eyes?

2. Remain Calm

If you match his emotional intensity during the conversation, the only way his emotional state will go is up leaving you with regret.

Stay calm in the moment and take a deep breath when the heat gets turned up. This enables you to think and reason.

3. Use A Reflecting Statement

A reflecting statement allows your partner to see himself through your eyes. It also signals his brain that you’re making an attempt to understand him.

A reflecting statement decreases his emotional reaction.  Some examples are:

  • “I can see you’re upset” (emotion)
  • “I heard you say,’“Oh great! Now what?’” (words)
  • “I noticed you didn’t say anything in our meeting (actions).” 

Validate them with reflections.

4. Follow With A Question

After making a reflecting statement ask for the meaning hidden behind their emotion.

For example, try saying, “I can see you’re upset. What is going on?” Whether you’re reflecting emotion, feelings, words, or actions, search for deeper meaning.

5. Ask Questions

When an emotional person has enough presence of mind to answer your questions, the thinking required physiologically moves them out of the emotional center of the brain and into the logical functioning regions of the brain.

The more questions you ask and the more questions they answer, the greater the likelihood that their emotional intensity will diminish. Ask questions to restore rationality.

6. Do Something Physical

If your partner’s still acting defensively, try climbing a few flights of stairs or going for a walk to find a quiet place.

Doing something physical changes the brain’s circuitry from supporting the emotional state to physiological demands placed on the brain by the person’s physical movement.

7. Get Him To Tell His Story

If he feels comfortable enough to answer questions about what’s happening, he may tell you his story. Listen closely and identify what he wanted or expected and didn’t get. 

If you’re in doubt about what he wanted or what violated his expectations, ask him.  

8. Identify What He Values

Ask him what’s important to him and why. His response to “why” will tell you what it is.

For example, he might respond with, “I wanted to make sure I met your deadline because you promised the client it would be done on time.”

Once you think you’ve understood, summarize it to demonstrate your willingness to clarify.

9. Excuse Yourself

If all the above doesn’t work, he may be too emotional to calmly talk. His brain may be flooded with a number of chemicals that prepare him for fight or flight.

This could take up to 48 hours for the effects of these chemicals to wear off. Don’t make this about you. Excuse yourself and leave. Come back to it when emotions have subsided.

10. Apologize

If you realize your behavior was taken negatively, apologize. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to create offense. Own your part and apologize for your behavior.

He Laughs When I Get Angry

Nervous laughter happens for a number of reasons. Some research suggests that your body uses this sort of mechanism to regulate emotion.

Other research has found that nervous laughter may be a defense mechanism against emotions that may make us feel weak or vulnerable. Either way, it’s pretty weird to experience.

People laugh when they need to project dignity and control during times of stress and anxiety. In these situations, people usually laugh in a subconscious attempt to reduce stress and calm down, however, it often works to their disadvantage.

Husband Gets Mad When I Tell Him He Hurt My Feelings

Most men don’t do well with blame and or telling them how they feel. If you find “he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel”, then in turn, you get mad, maybe you could reassess your tactics.

Starting a conversation with negative emotions will only create hurt feelings. That behavior affects all the bad consequences you find yourself in.

You’re hurting herself more by lowering yourself to his level and saying something you’ll regret afterward. If you acknowledge his anger is hurtful, then your anger is hurtful too.

If you acknowledge anger displays a lack of humanity on his part, then it displays a lack of humanity on yours as well.

It may not be that he’s an emotionally unavailable man or has an aversion to feelings that block him, but rather it’s the way they’re expressed.

Here are 3 ways to start a conversation with a defensive person:

  1. Calmly state your intentions up-front. For particularly sensitive topics that you’re almost 

sure will generate a defensive response, it can be helpful to just anticipate it.

  1. Avoid leading with an accusation. 
  2. Steer clear of “always,” “never,” and “you” statements.
  3. Refrain from telling him how he feels, like, “you don’t care about me”.
When I Tell Him How I Feel
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

My Husband Misinterprets Everything I Say

When you find that “he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel”, there are ways to address defensive behavior. 

Talking to our significant other, we’re just as ineffective at conveying our intention as when speaking to strangers, but we have a much higher expectation that our partner will understand.

We figure the person we live with knows us well enough to get our point without having all the necessary information.

Learning a bit about human nature and the steps you can take to defuse defensiveness in others goes a long way to improving the quality of your conversations. Here are some examples.

  1. What you want: His attention

What you say: “You never listen to me.”

What he hears: You never listen to me.

What’s happening: Absolutes — always, never, every, all — don’t work because they give the other person the opportunity to point out any exceptions. (“Not true. I listened to you just last week!”)

Leave out details not important to the story. When there’s too much information there to even make the connections, a guy can lose interest.

What to know for next time:

  • Say, ‘I really need you to listen.’
  • Be mindful of the timing. You may want to go over your car-insurance policy and he wants to watch a game.

Forcing an unwanted discussion leaves you both frustrated. The better approach: “At some point this weekend let’s go over our car insurance. When’s a good time for you to do that?”

  • If you suspect he’s tuning out mid-conversation, try a gracious check-in such as “Have I lost you?” This serves as a gentle, non-accusatory reminder that you’d like him to pay attention.
  1. What you want: To cuddle with no strings attached

What you say: “Want to come to bed with me and cuddle?”

What he hears: Get naked. We’re doin’ it!

What’s happening: If in you’re relationship the guy makes the first move 98 percent of the time, your partner may be wishfully thinking this is your way of initiating sex. 

What to know for next time: Acknowledge what’s going on in his mind while still

stating your needs clearly and firmly, urges Dr. Bradley: “I’m not rejecting you, but tonight 

I really do just want to cuddle.”

He may be disappointed, but he’s likely to respect your needs when you take the direct 


More on CLEAR Signs He Caught Feelings for You.

Husband Takes Everything As Criticism

According to relationship experts, the problem often comes from within the romantic relationship when defensiveness crops up. 

In other words, if it may be tempting to say, “he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel”, you might want to have a peek at yourself.

1. The First Thing Is Look At Why

Look at the last defensive conversation both you and he had and write it down as it happened. Leave your emotions out of it and see if you can find where he gets defensive.

If you have a partner that takes everything personally, it can be helpful to get a third party, like a counselor, or even a trusted friend or advocate involved.

2. Control Your Reactions

Ask questions in a calm manner to help your guy recognize the origin or deeper emotional level of the defensiveness.

You could say something like, ‘What did you hear that made you respond the way you did? What was the most upsetting part to you?’ Calmly helping the person to dig deeper is about all you can do.

3. Check Yourself

What are your own feelings during the conversation? Are you coming at him in a critical way or broaching issues with a harsh tone? If you are, the natural response is to be defensive to protect from an attack, which is what it feels like.

Instead, start with an understanding statement that let’s him know you’re considering where he may be at. Then let him know your request with kindness.

4. If It’s Hysterical, It’s Historical

If he’s super defensive, this is usually the culmination of previous relationship problems.

The best thing is to talk to him to understand what he’s thinking and feeling, and why. He might have a previous relationship that really hurt him, and some of those old patterns are still sticking out in his mind.

5. Above All, Don’t Accuse

Start with communicating in a way that doesn’t leave him defensive, and that means not accusing. When possible, take ownership. “I” statements (“I feel,” “I am”) are useful here.

6. Get A Good Therapist

His behavior affects your marriage if the anger and arguments leave you heart broken. Marriage counseling can help release those feelings. You might find you’re contributing to the problem.

It’s possible you were attracted to this person to help yourself work out some issues that keep you from emotional intimacy. 

7. Let Him Speak

Do you give your partner a chance to communicate? Don’t rush if you want to help your partner open up.

Give him plenty of time to put the words together and get them out. Though you might feel impatient, relationships do better when you go slow.

Look here for Best Relationship Advice When Fighting.

When He Gets Defensive

It’s not easy to break deep habits by force of will. It takes time for new patterns to form. If you try your best for a while and still can’t talk without fighting, a skilled couples’ therapist can create a safe space. 

This can allow both of you to gently look at the hurt behind your walls and defenses.

You and your partner can create new connections for healing that will continue long after your work in therapy is done.

Relationships can be hard, and doubly so when defensive behavior makes it impossible to discuss issues. 

Whether you decide to make some changes at home or seek the help of a therapist in dealing with this issue, it’s important to take action and realize that defensiveness is not a permanent, immutable condition.

It’s a learned behavior that can be unlearned with work, commitment, and support.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.