“He gets defensive when I tell him how I feel. I just can’t put up with it anymore.”
I’ve been there, so I understand how frustrating it can be to have a boyfriend you can’t share your feelings with.
Over time, it becomes almost impossible to have an adult conversation about what you want because you’re afraid that his defensive behavior might kick in again.
As a result, your relationship takes a turn for the worse and you feel like you’re walking on eggshells whenever you express an opinion. You even consider breaking up, despite loving him with all your heart.
I’ve been in this situation before and I get how confused you are right now. I know that whenever you open your mouth to say something, he goes on the defensive and shuts you down completely.
For instance, he might say to you “I’m done talking about this,” “I’m always doing my best to make you happy!” or “You’re forever complaining to me about this!”
And after he ignores or denies your opinion, you’re left by yourself. Your only desire was for your emotions to be acknowledged, but instead, he ignored them.
And it hurts, especially because this is the person you consider to be your best friend and life partner.
What is defensiveness in a relationship?
Does your partner put up walls around himself and retaliate against you, without any provocation? If yes, then you can say that you have a defensive partner.
The first stage is putting up a barrier, also known as stonewalling, which by itself, is considered to be defensive behavior.
In those situations, your partner shuts down and doesn’t let you in emotionally. Perhaps he requests that you give him some space so that he can think about your relationship.
Shortly after, the second stage kicks in. This is usually characterized by verbal attacks from your partner where he tries to justify himself by getting even with you.
But believe it or not, all men get defensive in the same ways. There will be times you won’t be able to talk without arguing with him.
So, if you’re wondering what causes his defensive behavior, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find your answer as well as ways to cope with it.
Why does he get defensive when I tell him how I feel?
1. He was badly hurt in the past
Perhaps your man has emotional scars from his past lovers that have caused him to put up walls around him to prevent it from happening again.
If you’ve already had the talk about your exes, then you’ll be able to tell if this is true or not.
You, as his girlfriend, need to help him overcome his struggles and deal with the emotional baggage from the past.
It’ll take a long time before he fully heals and you can’t expect him to change overnight. Take a deep breath and arm yourself with lots of patience because you’ll have to work through this together.
Don’t forget to show him that you care about him, and that your intentions and emotions are honest and real. Create an environment in which he’ll feel safe and be able to express himself without being afraid of getting hurt again.
Basically, you’ll need to prove to him that you’re nothing like his ex-girlfriends and that what happened to him in his past relationships won’t happen with you.
2. He’s a vulnerable man
If you’re dealing with the “He gets defensive when I tell him how I feel” issue, the reason may be that he’s simply a vulnerable man.
Defensiveness is his way of coping with hurt feelings. And he’s built up walls between you and him as some sort of protection in case someone might try doing it again.
He may even doubt that you’re being serious about him. He fears getting his heart broken and that fear is forcing him to push you away.
A man like that obviously has trust issues.
As as we all know, it’s challenging to navigate through a relationship where there’s no trust. That’s why you’ve got to convince him that you aren’t going anywhere.
3. It’s his natural reaction
Most men are rather afraid of love and commitment and in order to guard themselves, they get defensive and become emotionally unavailable.
That’s especially true if you caught him off guard when expressing your love for him.
Even if he feels the same way, he might not be able to acknowledge and accept his emotions. He’s making a conscious decision to defend himself against love because he knows it leads to a more serious relationship and he’s probably not ready for that yet.
I understand that being defensive is a bad thing, but don’t make any sudden decisions or break up with him on the spot. By giving him space and time, he’ll see that you’re being serious and sooner or later, he’ll ask to talk about what happened.
4. He has poor communication skills
Does your partner get defensive every time you tell him how you feel? If yes, then he may be lacking communication skills and not know how to express himself properly.
It’s a well-known fact that healthy communication is vital for a successful relationship, but not everyone develops their communication skills correctly.
His emotions for you are valid and he probably loves you, but he simply doesn’t know how to voice them.
My advice to you is to stay with your partner and work on improving your communication together. Your duty is to get him to open up to you and talk with each other more effectively.
Maybe he’ll declare his love for you through his actions and body language. After all, he could be a man of action who believes that words don’t mean anything if you don’t back them up with deeds.
5. He has low self-esteem
Another reason your man gets all defensive whenever you tell him how you feel is that he struggles with low self-esteem. These men are usually emotionally closed off and it takes a long time before they open up to someone.
They simply don’t believe they’re worthy of being loved due to their imperfections and flaws.
The way you can overcome this obstacle is by showing him that you’re imperfect too and demonstrating how to embrace those imperfections rather than allow them to undermine your self-confidence.
Furthermore, a man with poor self-esteem seeks constant approval and validation from his partner.
Maybe it’s tough for you to understand his traumas, but you’ll have to find a way to do it since it’s the best way you can help him conquer his fear.
6. It’s a red flag that he doesn’t love you
Some women may see their man’s defensiveness as a red flag that he doesn’t love them anymore. If this is something that’s been bothering you for a long time, then you might be wondering whether or not he’s serious about you.
He probably cares about you a lot, and the only reason he’s being so defensive is that he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.
On the other hand, he can’t be honest about his own feelings because he needs some more time to process them before he admits them to you.
It might mean that he’s slowly falling in love with you, but his commitment issues are preventing him from expressing them. You’ll need to just be patient and wait for him to open up to you.
You’re quite in a tough place if the reason your man gets defensive is that he’s an emotionally unavailable guy.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to overcome his defensive behavior, but you’ll both have to work very hard and be persistent in your goal.
Truthfully, these types of men never want to speak about their emotions, as they see it as a sign of weakness. They probably learned from a young age that men don’t show any feelings and instead keep everything bottled up inside.
Staying by his side and helping him to open up to you will be your greatest challenge. After all, whenever you talk about your own feelings, he’s uncomfortable listening to you because he doesn’t know how to respond.
You’ll never reach the level of emotional intimacy that is required for a healthy relationship.
8. Maybe you’re the problem
You learned by now that some men are scared witless when the topic of emotions comes up. But the truth is you can’t expect to build a successful emotional connection immediately after you start dating.
Maybe the reason he built a defensive barrier in the first place is you and no one else. This doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to connect with him on a deeper emotional level, but the fact is that men require more time to do so.
Having an open and honest conversation about it is the first step toward fixing your problem. Sit down with him and tell him what’s bothering you.
Don’t just send him a text or message over social media saying how he needs to open up more and expect him to listen to you. A face-to-face conversation is your only way through this messy situation.
But before any of this, take some time to get to know each other better. Don’t force him to talk about anything he doesn’t want to. Keep a cool head and listen to what he has to say.
9. He doesn’t want to hurt you
It could be that your man thinks you’re rushing things and would rather slow down before taking it to the next level.
He probably has feelings for you, but he isn’t sure that he loves you just yet. That’s why he gets defensive because he doesn’t want to lie to you.
By giving him time to sort out his feelings, you’re showing him that you’re adjusting to his pace and sooner or later he’ll reach out to you.
Usually, women aren’t patient enough and ruin their chances of having a healthy romantic relationship. But you have to wait and let your partner admit his feelings first.
10. He needs more time to process both his and your feelings
We all know that men aren’t that great at verbalizing their emotions. Usually, they require more space and time before they connect with their loved ones on a deeper emotional level.
The best relationship advice I can give you is to leave him alone for a bit and wait for him to reach out to you first.
Maybe you were a bit pushy, trying to force him to confess his feelings, and he didn’t know how to respond. If that’s the case, then some quiet time will actually do him good as he’ll realize he has real feelings for you.
11. You’re dealing with a narcissist
The other day, I went on a morning run with my friend and was talking with her about how I’m having issues with my boyfriend, and how he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel.
She suggested that he might be a narcissist in disguise.
She told me that I should look for other signs that may reveal whether or not he’s a manipulator.
But even though she said that, I couldn’t just let go of him. I would never do that to the person I love.
That’s why I openly talked to my boyfriend and pointed out how his narcissistic behavior was destroying every relationship in his life.
And if you can relate to this, then that’s exactly what your next step should be.
You don’t need to walk out on the person who means a lot to you. Your man can change if he loves you enough. Just stay by his side and support him in any way you can.
What should I do if he gets defensive when I tell him how I feel?
1. Be understanding
I know that you’re frustrated with your man’s defensive responses, but you need to show him that you understand him, and even more so if you’re in a long-distance relationship.
By proving to him that you’re not going anywhere no matter what, he’ll realize that he doesn’t have to worry whether or not your intentions are genuine.
Even if it’s difficult for you to understand the reasons for his defensiveness, you need to support him. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave him the first time an issue arises.
Facing problems and solving them together can only strengthen your bond.
2. Choose your words wisely
I know, his defensive behavior is enough to raise your blood pressure and upset you. However, you need to control yourself in those situations and keep it cool.
Choose your words wisely. Don’t say anything in those anger outbursts and tantrums that you may regret afterward.
Whenever he gets defensive about something, pull back and give him some space. Don’t make any sudden decisions based on your current emotions because it can affect not only your mental health, but your relationship too.
Step back and take a deep breath. Go out with your friends and do things that calm you down.
The best therapy is to nurture the relationship you have with yourself. Only then will you find the strength to deal with his defensive behavior.
3. Slow down
If he gets defensive when you tell him how I feel, then you might be moving too fast and need to slow down a bit.
Perhaps he got scared because you confessed your feelings to him too soon and he had to get defensive in order to protect his emotions.
Just admit to him that it all went too quickly and that you should take your time to get to know each other better before moving to the next level.
One of the worst mistakes that you can make is to think that his defensiveness means that he’s rejecting you.
4. Confront him about the issue
Most problems that you face in a relationship can be solved through honest and open communication. It’s understandable that his defensiveness is bothering you, so there’s no need to keep it to yourself.
Tell me that you need to talk to him and ask him plain and simple why he’s being so defensive toward you.
If his feelings for you are genuine, then he won’t keep you in the dark anymore or allow you to suffer because of his behavior.
Keep in mind that your goal here is to find a way that can help him overcome this issue.
5. Stop talking about it all the time
Love is a wonderful and unique emotion that occurs naturally and cannot be forced in any way. He has to feel it before he confesses it to you.
Nagging about it all the time and about the little things won’t do you any good. Be understanding if you recognize that he’s carrying some emotional baggage from his past relationships.
Help him deal by being gentle and patiently waiting for him to come to you first and talk about his emotions.
Wait for the right moment and sooner or later he’ll open up to you. If you don’t stop nagging about it, then your man will at some point grow tired of your behavior and leave you for good.
6. Warn him that his defensive behavior is ruining your relationship
When you do finally get the chance to talk to him about his defensiveness, use the opportunity and emphasize all the bad consequences it has on your romantic relationship.
Be honest and don’t hold anything back. Tell him that you’re scared that his defensive responses may ruin your relationship.
If you’ve been thinking about breaking up with him, then you should tell him that also. If he loves you, then he’ll realize how big of an impact his behavior has on you and start changing it to keep you in his life.
7. Don’t judge him
Being less judgemental and more understanding is the key to solving this issue. I get it, your partner is giving you a hard time and hurting your feelings.
And even though you’re unable to understand him in a moment like this, that doesn’t give you the right to judge him. Sooner or later, he’ll overcome all of this, but it’s important that you’re there for him whenever he needs you.
8. Listen to him when he feels ready to open up to you
Forcing him to talk about his feelings even though he doesn’t want to can only make the situation worse. Back away and give him some space so he can process his emotions first by himself.
If he decided to stay by your side even after you confessed your love for him, that means he loves you too, but doesn’t know how to express it.
If he wasn’t interested in you, then he would immediately leave you after your confession.
Give him a bit more time and you’ll see how his walls come tumbling down.
9. Couples counseling may help
Sometimes when you’re dealing with the “He gets defensive when I tell him how I feel” issue, the only way you can solve it is by going to couples therapy or marriage counseling if you are married.
I know this is the last thing that you want to hear, but if you warned him that his defensive behavior is ruining your relationship and he still doesn’t get it, then this is your only option.
I’m sure you’ll both benefit from it and reignite the spark you felt at the beginning of your relationship.
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