Why Guys Get Defensive When You Tell Them How You Feel

You’re like a balloon about to burst when you’re around him because you want to tell him how you feel. You’re done with sending him subtle hints (they really feel like they don’t work) or waiting around for him to express himself. You woman up, express your feelings to him, or confront him on a relationship issue and he reacts poorly. So why do guys get defensive when you express how you feel? Before you freak out, here’s what could be going on with him.

  1. He’s not emotionally comfortable. He might really like you and want to build a relationship with you but he just isn’t used to expressing himself. He might’ve been raised in a family that wasn’t open about their feelings, or perhaps his lack of emotional expression is a result of insecurity. He might be getting defensive because he doesn’t know how to deal.
  2. He thinks you’re a drama queen. You’re on a date when you tell him that he just doesn’t text you enough to make you feel that he cares. Boom. Seconds later, you’re both having a fight. He’s getting mad, and he’s acting like a baby if we’re totally honest with each other, but what’s the reason for it? He might be feeling like you’re creating drama. He might also feel hurt that you’re not seeing how much he does care. The thing is, though, that while he might just have different texting habits to you or different ways of showing he cares, you need to be clear about what you need in order to feel happy and secure in the relationship.
  3. He thinks you’re attacking him. This might make you shake your head, but it’s really a misunderstanding. He might think that when you tell him how much you love spending time with him, you’re hinting that he doesn’t make you a priority. He might think that when you say that you want a relationship, you’re attacking him for not defining your relationship – or taking his time to make it clear what he wants. He might think that when you tell him that you feel upset when he doesn’t call when he says he will, you’re criticizing him. It’s good to be clear about what you’re saying and not saying to avoid crossed lines.
  4. He thinks you’re making your emotions his problem. You tell him that you’re tired of just “hanging out” and want to know what he wants, or you want to know when he’ll let you know if he’s keen on being your plus one to an event, and he shuts down or gives you one-word answers. While you’re expressing your feelings, he’s becoming a block of ice that you just can’t communicate with! He might think that you’re making your emotions his problem, like something he has to sort out, and this upsets him. It’s good to tell him that you don’t need him to fix your emotions but mention what you do need, such as a guy who actually fills you in on what’s going on in their minds.
  5. He feels cornered. Maybe telling him how you feel makes him feel trapped. He’s forced to listen to what you have to say and he can’t hit the escape button. So, to deal with those feelings, he becomes defensive. Just a thought: you might wanna check how you’re confronting him about stuff so that you don’t make him feel like you’re interrogating him. If you lay into him, he’s not going to take it. He’ll become defensive so that you back off. You can’t force someone to talk or express themselves if they’re not going to. That said, if you’re not being hectic with him then you have to wonder if he’s saying he feels cornered because of his own issues, such as that he lacks emotional maturity to discuss heavy topics.
  6. He thinks you’re accusing him of something. If you question him about where he was the other night when he told you he went to the gym, he might become defensive because he thinks you’re accusing him of lying or cheating on you. This could cause him to become defensive in the future because he expects that you’re going to be pointing the finger at him again. So, when you tell him you want to chat to him about something, he’ll immediately shut down in preparation for what’s coming.
  7. He’s closing himself off from you. If you’re kind and mindful of his feelings whenever you need to talk to him about stuff in order to move your relationship forward, but he still becomes defensive, you’re going to be wondering WTF? The issue is clearly with him. He might be closing himself off emotionally because he doesn’t see the relationship progressing to anything more serious. It’s convenient for him to shut down because then he doesn’t have to explore issues and nothing gets resolved. You can’t have a serious relationship without working through tough issues, and he knows this.
  8. He’s against conflict. While healthy arguing is important in a relationship to strengthen it, the guy you’re seeing might try to avoid it at all costs. This could cause him to become defensive or shut down whenever you try to work through issues. It’s a problem because it can cause a fight – you’re chasing him to be heard and he’s running away faster than ever. To prevent the situation from boiling over, try to remain calm when he starts to behave defensively so that he can see you’re not trying to put him on the spot or drag him into the verbal boxing ring.
  9. He’s blaming you. This is a more sinister type of defensiveness that could crop up in your boyfriend. Whenever you try to chat to him about your feelings, he makes it seem like you’re the problem. He lashes out and blames you for feeling the way you do, or for doubting him if you’re confronting him about something. This is not something you should put up with because it’s his way of breaking you down.
  10. He’s shutting you down. While it’s bad enough for him to shut himself off when you try to engage with him on a topic, it’s even worse if he shuts you down. You express what you feel and he tells you to stop feeling that, or to stop going round and round in circles, or to stop being so dramatic or “too emotional”. He doesn’t realize that you’re probably feeling so fraught with emotion or bringing up the same old issues because he’s never open to actually discussing them! Again, this is on him.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.