I think you should talk about your communication issues and come up with a plan on how you would like to fix them together. I can tell you what we have done in these situations because we have dealt with reforming communication issues in our relationship in order to facilitate better discussions/problem solving.
MY BF gets really defensive too. I actually have different issues…being passive aggressive lol.
We talk a lot when we have issues. BF is introverted and talking exhausts him, but I laid it out to him that I would much rather thoroughly discuss every issue than have things fester and build up over time. I have an ex who would refuse to discuss things with me and would blow up at me every 2 weeks as a result. I learned from that relationship that it’s better to discuss things than not.
If we have discussed everything ad nauseum and I’m going in circles, BF will tell me he thinks we’ve covered everything and we’ll review our conclusions and be done. I’m very organized about how I approach these problems. We come up with a list of things to discuss together. I am usually the discussion leader so I try to bring up topics impartially, listen to his point of view, and also bring up my point of view (but not more than his POV…there is a balance there).
When we have a conflict, we try to always talk about it as soon we have calmed down. We don’t let it get to the point that we haven’t talked for a few days. I generally want to resolve things ASAP naturally, but that is not always possible if it’s a late night argument. If it’s late at night and we need to sleep, we table the discussion until the next day (and make it a high priority). I usually end up being unable to sleep when it’s late at night and a discussion has been tabled, so I write down my feelings/talking points instead of fuming about it and through that process I am able to calm down enough to sleep.
We have also talked about how we feel about communication issues. For example, I have told him that the way I interpret his defensiveness is as implying “The problem isn’t me (BF), it’s you (GF)” and then that makes me upset, embarrassed, and feeling like I want to refuse to talk. He has admitted that my passive aggressiveness does something similar to him.
For us, there are several factors that have been important in dealing with defensiveness. Firstly, an open mind–my boyfriend admits that he gets defensive, just like I admit that I get passive aggressive (we all have our vices). Secondly, the discussions we have had are so important to our relationship–talking about the defensiveness (or any other issue) from both of our perspectives has been important to coming to a conclusions. Regarding the communication flaws, we know we have certain flawed tendencies and we are okay discussing the specifics of what happened from both of our perspectives and how to improve this in the future.
We not only talk about the things we disagreed on in the specific argument, but also how we are going to make our communication better in the future and whether we can do anything specific to help that. For example, my BF told me that he thought it would be a good idea if I used the phrase “BF, I am not attacking you right now” when he gets defensive (because he feels attacked), and that works to help him recognize that my intention is not to hurt him. We also came up with a phrase for when one of us is refusing to communicate (I do this when I am being passive aggressive), because that kind of behavior really makes our communication less effective. The phrase for that is: “We really should talk–do you want to talk now or later?” If we need a break from the discussion to de-escalate tension, we try to say something like “Wait, I need to calm down” or “Let’s take a break for a few minutes” because that is much clearer communication letting the other person know that one of us needs to clear their head for a bit. If we need to table the discussion we try to say “Hey sweetie, is it okay if we table this for now? If there’s something that needs to be discussed right at this moment, we can get to it, but it’s really late and I think we will be better rested/able to discuss this tomorrow.”
Now, don’t get me wrong…we are NOT perfect. Change is slow, but we are committed to changing our communication for the better in order to improve our relationship. We are still working on implementing these things perfectly 2 yr into our relationship, lol–no one is perfect, I know. Making something into a habit takes a long while, but I felt like actually agreeing to these things with BF made me more likely to remember the fact that we had agreed to them and also BF’s POV next time an argument came up. I also noticed that my BF was better about remembering these things too after we had discussed things and agreed to a plan of action for next time. We also evaluate how we were doing on these communication things during our discussions and it is okay to say that we hadn’t made any progress and then either make changes to what we had agreed to or simply try to do better next time. So I do think that for us the discussion about communication issues have been important and great for our relationship.
I hope maybe something in this might be helpful to you, but I know not everything works for everyone. This plan might be intense for some couples, but there are still main ideas that someone who feels this is too intense could use to make it less intense.
Good luck OP and I hope you are able to talk about and resolve your communication issues!