Have you ever had to deal with a defensive spouse? It can be a huge problem in a marriage, and it can be hard to come up with strategies to deal with it. What should you do when your husband gets defensive when you ask questions?
It’s common for people to get defensive when their partner asks them questions, but it can lead to problems in a marriage. According to marriage counselor, Laura Schlessinger, “Defensiveness is a major problem in relationships. When you get defensive, you shut down and there’s no good communication between you two.”
Ever heard of the bombardier beetle? They are mostly found in warm climates like Africa, Australia, and Asia, although they have been found in parts of the United States.
This amazing creature has a built-in defense mechanism that makes it quite unique. When it feels threatened, it sprays a hot chemical from its rear that renders enemies defenseless. Scientists found that the spray is released in rapid-fire rounds of 500 per second. What makes this beetle so amazing is it can actually aim the spray in any direction.
The video below shows the Bombardier Beetle escape one of its common enemies, the toad.
Why is this significant? How does it relate to marriage?
When you’re in a relationship, it’s natural to ask questions and discuss your partner’s answers with them. You may be curious to know what they did during the day, or how they feel about a recent situation, or even what they ate for dinner. But, what happens when these questions make your partner defensive?
What happens when they resemble the Bombardier Beetle? When one partner constantly gets defensive over little things, they tend to spew poison toward their spouse.
What Does It Mean When My Husband Gets Defensive?
First, you need to realize everyone gets defensive at times. It is a natural impulse when we feel threatened or challenged.
Second, there are many reasons people get defensive. I’ve boiled it down to three major causes:
- Narcissism (He’s a jerk)
Let’s explore these in some detail.
1. He is a narcissist and a jerk.
Narcissists have a sense of entitlement, manipulation, and they don’t care about the feelings of others. It doesn’t matter what you say to them, they are going to take it negatively.
If your spouse is a jerk, you might be in for a battle. Most narcissists don’t change. Even though that sounds like bad news, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
4 Ways to Deal with a Defensive Spouse Who is a Jerk:
- Don’t argue with him.
- Don’t make it personal.
- Don’t try to “get through to him”.
- Be respectful of your spouse, even if he is being a jerk.
2. He Has Fear Of Exposure
He is hiding something and is afraid it will come to light. He gets defensive because your questions make him feel exposed.
If your spouse is reacting out of fear, it’s important to understand why. There may be legitimate (non-toxic) reasons he is afraid. If this is the case, here are four things you can do.
4 Ways to Deal with a Defensive Spouse Who is Afraid:
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Focus on the present. Don’t bring up the past.
- Show empathy, but don’t get sucked into it.
- Repeat what he says back to him and then ask “Why?” or “Help me understand ..”
3. It Is A Reaction Reflex
He could be responding to you this way because you come across wrong. He interprets your questions as an inquisition. He will feel attacked.
This is where you have to ask yourself some tough questions.
1) Are you being too sensitive.
2) Are you only thinking about what you want, or are you sensitive to him? Can you put yourself in his shoes?
3) Do you question him in front of others? (If you do this, he’s going to get defensive.)
4) Does he believe you really want to hear what he has to say?
5) Are you asking the right questions? (Yes, there are wrong questions)
6) Do you come across as a control freak.
7) Have you considered he might be going through something that causes him to feel irritated.
If your husband is responding defensively because he is in reaction mode, here are a few things you can do.
4 Ways to Deal with a Defensive Spouse Who Has a Reaction Reflex:
- Accept that you are probably coming across wrong.
- Don’t use interrogative language! “You never listen to me!” isn’t going to go over too well. Instead, use language like, “I feel like I’m not being heard when I talk to you.”
- Be curious instead of accusatory. “I feel like you don’t have much respect for me. Can you help me understand why you think that way?”
- Give him time to respond. Don’t interrupt him!
What Triggers Defensiveness in People?
What triggers some people to get defensive? If you know what triggers it in your spouse, you can avoid making similar statements.
Here are a few possibilities:
1) He is having a bad day.
2) You asked him a question that triggered an issue he was dealing with (childhood, work, etc.)
3) He doesn’t feel respected by you.
4) He feels rushed and pressured.
5) You assume he should be able to read your mind.
6) He feels like he is being forced to do something.
7) He is exhausted.
8) He feels like you are not listening.
9) Your tone of voice sounds accusatory.
10) You are asking the wrong questions.
Triggers are usually situational, but once you discuss them with your spouse, you may find out that there is a deeper root cause.
How Do I Approach My Husband When He Is Defensive?
Your approach is important when dealing with someone who is defensive.
Please note: This does not imply you should walk on egg-shells around your spouse. In fact, that can often create more conflict. Neither one of you are victims; you are partners.
How you approach someone, however, is important. These tips will help you send the right message to your spouse.
1. Be Honest.
Let your spouse know how their behavior affects you.
This might feel more confrontational than you are comfortable with. If he is getting defensive, you can say something like, “I know I’ve asked a lot of questions and I know you have things to do. Can we talk about it later?”
Avoid getting angry or emotional when talking to your spouse.
When you are confused, tell him that you are using “I” messages so that he doesn’t feel attacked by you and then communicate what the problem is in an honest way without adding fuel to the fire.
2. Avoid Accusation
If you don’t want him to get defensive, avoid saying things like, “You never listen to me.” Instead, stick with the facts and say something like, “I feel frustrated when you make plans with your friends without checking with me first.”
3. Don’t Rush It
Be careful not to rush him when he is getting defensive. He might not understand you if you do. Sometimes, it is helpful to take a break and come back later.
4. Be Gentle
When you approach him, do so in a gentle way and remember that you are on the same team. Your spouse doesn’t want to fight with you either. You’re trying to find your way back to the place where you feel safe and respected again.
5. Your Actions Are A Mirror Of His Behavior.
When you feel unappreciated, it can be helpful to examine your own actions to see if they are speaking louder than your words. Pay attention to how you are reacting and talk about it with your husband.When you feel unappreciated, it can be helpful to examine your own actions to see if they are speaking louder than your words. Pay attention to how you are reacting and talk about it with your husband. Click To Tweet
6. Listen to Your Husband
Your husband needs you at his back as he struggles through life. He needs you to listen and be supportive; don’t expect him to make all the changes that need to be made right away. Be patient while he learns to be more respectful of you.
7. Keep The Door Of Communication Open
If you are feeling frustrated, talk about it with your husband in a kind way. Be willing to listen to his point of view and point out how you feel like he is taking you for granted. For example, “You never give me flowers anymore.”
8. Keep In Mind That You Are A Team
Both of you are working together to accomplish the same goal: a life that is happier and more fulfilling for both of you.
Final Thoughts on Dealing With A Husband Who Gets Defensive When You Ask Questions
Defensiveness can destroy a marriage. When you have a husband that gets defensive when you ask questions can make you feel alone and disconnected.
The best thing you can do if you are facing a situation where your husband is unnecessarily withdrawing from you, building up walls, and expressing defensive behavior, is to be patient. It’s scary and frustrating to feel as though he doesn’t love you anymore and doesn’t want to be around you. It may feel like you are being attacked by the Bombardier Beetle.
It’s important to not retaliate by spewing your own poison.
So start by having patience with this. Then start taking steps to let him know that you are willing to work on things with him, one step at a time. If your husband is reluctant to come out of his shell, then you may have to go in first and be the one who reaches out to him.
If he has been angry or distant toward you for quite some time, it’s possible that he feels like he doesn’t want to risk getting hurt again, or feels hopeless that anything positive will ever happen in his life.
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