“Why does my partner get defensive when I ask questions?” If this applies to you, then you are not alone. A lot of married couples have gone through similar situations and it can leave you feeling frustrated and irritated. In some cases, you are stuck and have no idea how to deal with the situation.
Defensiveness is a behavior wherein one of the spouses is anxious about facing criticism or they tend to be overly protective of themselves. Most husbands or wives who are defensive do so in response to a threat (whether there is an actual one or it’s something based on their perception alone). The threat is in what you say or do towards him or her. This perception informs their reaction and how they behave towards you.
The one at the receiving end of this behavior is at a loss on what to do. So, how exactly do you handle such a situation?
Spouse Gets Defensive When I Ask Questions: What to Do?
First thing’s first, make sure that your spouse exhibits the signs of being defensive. They are the following:
They snap easily when asked a question
They over-explain things just to prove a point
They deny everything
They turn the topic on you
They become highly argumentative
They always want to have the last word
They avoid talking to you altogether
There are two main areas to address moving forward: 1) identify the cause for your spouse to start acting defensively, and 2) find ways to deal with this defensive behavior. You will learn more about the second one in detail below.
Before you react negatively towards this type of behavior from your spouse, try to understand where they are coming from. Is there something you have done that might have triggered this behavior? Try to approach the situation in an objective manner so that you can pinpoint the exact reason for them being defensive rather than assume the worst – such as they are hiding something from you or they are cheating, etc.
11 Ways to Deal with Defensive Behavior in Your Spouse
Dealing with a spouse’s defensive behavior is not easy. Take note of these tips to help you approach the situation in a much better way and avoid causing more conflict in your marriage.
1. Foster a Safe Place for a Conversation
When you decide to talk to your spouse about their defensive behavior, choose an environment that makes them feel safe to talk about it. If people feel safe, they find it easier to open up. If they are not keen to talk about it yet, don’t force the issue with them, as nothing good will come out of it.
2. Watch Your Own Reaction
It’s frustrating when your spouse gets defensive when you ask questions. However, you are not helping the situation when you react too aggressively. By diffusing your own reaction, you have a better shot at having a more fruitful conversation about the situation.
Don’t let anger take you over; stop and breathe first before engaging in a conversation with them. This will prevent you from lashing out at your spouse as an emotional response.
3. Don’t Pull Away
It is tempting to pull away from your spouse and just give up when you are frustrated by their behavior. Avoid the temptation to give up on your relationship altogether.
It’s acceptable to take a break to recharge mentally and emotionally. This allows you to come back in a better mental state of mind to discuss things in a more productive manner.
4. Keep an Open Mind
Be open to what your spouse has to say when you confront them about their defensive behavior. Try your best to put yourself in their shoes. By understanding their perspective, you will be able to handle the situation in a fair and just manner.
5. Don’t Let Criticism Take Over
It is easy to be critical when your husband or wife is being defensive. But the moment you do that, it can erode the relationship. No one likes living in a home where they are being constantly criticized.
6. Focus on Conflict Resolution, Not Debate
When you agree to discuss your spouse’s defensive behavior, focus on conflict resolution. Do not use this as an opportunity to point fingers at them or attempt to “win” the conversation. No one wins if you go into debate mode. Remember, as a married couple you are on the same side here. No one should win or lose.
7. Stay Calm Yet Assertive
Your body will be affected when you feel stressed. This is why it is easy to get overwhelmed by your emotions when your spouse gets defensive towards you. The best thing you can do is stay calm. Instead of playing victim to the situation, use this as an opportunity to take the lead. Gain control of where you want the conversation to go so you can get the response you seek.
8. Don’t Leave Anything Unfinished
Avoidance will do your marriage no good. If you feel frustrated or annoyed by the situation, don’t stop trying. The longer you avoid conflict, the more it builds up over time. There is a belief in people’s mind that conflict should be painful. However, it does not have to be. Conflict can sometimes be a vessel for growing your relationship, if you know how to manage it properly.
9. Disagree Wisely
Even when you are married, it does not mean that you agree on all things. You can definitely have differing opinions and that is completely fine. Even when you do not agree, make sure to disagree wisely and handle the conversation constructively.
If there is something about your spouse’s behavior that you want to change, suggest ways that they can make it better without putting them down or making them feel worse about themselves.
10. Discuss Problems as They Arise
As mentioned earlier, you won’t be able to resolve conflicts if you avoid them. If your husband or wife is being defensive, let them know. Do not wait until it starts becoming a habit for them before you do something about it.
11. Agree to Stop This Behavior
The simplest way to deal with this kind of behavior is to be upfront with your husband or wife about it. If they exhibit defensive behavior, point it out to them. Let them know if they are being defensive so they can be aware and make the necessary changes in the way they communicate and respond to you.
Naming and identifying the pattern to their behavior won’t solve it immediately. However, it is one step towards working it out together.