Defensiveness is a behavior that may come as a response to perceived criticism, creating a tough combination. When one partner uses criticism, the other may use defensiveness. And then the conversation does not lead anywhere toward a solution. While it’s normal to feel a little defensive when you’re stressed out, it’s not a productive response to your partner’s concerns.
Experts at Mind Body Green list several examples of what defensiveness might look like. This includes overexplaining to avoid responsibility, playing the victim card, starting to criticize you back, or using “but” statements like “I know I left a mess, but can’t we just worry about it tomorrow?”
When you become defensive, your partner might feel like their needs are not being heard. Instead of utilizing defensiveness, you can accept responsibility and try to understand your partner’s perspective. Here’s an example: One partner asks, “Did you get a chance to go to the store like I asked?” A defensive partner might respond with, “You know I was so busy today. Why couldn’t you just do it?” This is not a helpful response and may only escalate things into an argument. Instead, a healthier reply would be, “I’m sorry, I totally didn’t get a chance. Is it okay if I go tomorrow?”