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If You Are Tired Of Being Called Defensive, Work On These 5 Strategies To Save Your Relationship

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How To Communicate Effectively In A Relationship & Stop Being Defensive

Have you ever said any of these defensive statements to your partner, causing a rift in your communication and your relationship?

"You are so stubborn!"

"Whenever there is a problem you always blame me!"

"I've never been able to pursue my career it's always your career first!"

"I just can't stand to look at you!"

If your answer is "yes," then, unfortunately, you are not alone in needing to learn how to communicate effectively — without threatening your relationship.

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Also known as one of The Four Horsemen of relationships (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, according to The Gottman Institute), defensive behavior is ruining your relationship.

The four horsemen are the biggest predictor of divorce in a relationship and they also aren't good for the children, if you have any.

Communication is important in a relationship, but learning how to communicate effectively matters so much. Sometimes, your words are not only defensive but also your tone and body language.

Remember, when it comes to effective communication in healthy relationships, it's not what you say but how you say it.

Here are 5 strategies to help stop your defensive behavior and change your communication skills for the better.

1. Complain without blame

When you start a conflict discussion with your partner by using "you" statements and blaming your partner for the problems in the relationship, this will put them on the defense.

Try rephrasing your words by using "I" statements. Start the conversation by stating how you feel and then stating what you need.

For example, "I feel annoyed when you don't help out around the house. I need you to help with the dishes at night." This helps set a more positive tone for the conversation.

2. Give thanks and appreciation

This is one of those small things that will make a big difference. Let your partner know when you are thankful. Be specific: "Thank you for listening to me last night, I know you had a lot to do."

Let your partner know you appreciate them. This is another time where it helps to be specific: "I appreciate your sense of humor and that you try to cheer me up when I am feeling down."

This is really something you can never do enough in a relationship.

RELATED: 17 Ways To Fight Less & Communicate Sanely In Your Marriage

3. Take a break

You don't have to solve your problems right away. Gottman's research found that 69 percent of problems in a relationship aren't solvable. This means you need to build a culture of understanding in your relationship.

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Agree to take at least a 20-minute break during a conflict discussion. During this time, you don't think about your partner or what you are upset about. Agree to come back and talk about your disagreements respectfully.

4. Stop comparing your relationship to others

This is something we have all done at one time or another. No relationship is perfect. Strive for your relationship to be good enough.

It's easy in our culture to expect perfection. In reality, no one has it.

5. Think fondly of your partner while they are away

It's easy to get carried away with your thoughts and think of all the bad times in your relationship. Think about why you married your partner. Out of all the people out there, why did you choose your partner?

After being in a relationship for a while it's easy to focus on the negative. Think of five things that you love about your partner and stay focused on those thoughts for the day.

Yes, it's time you took a look at how you communicate. Choose your words with one another and change the dialogue you use towards one another.

After a while, this will feel like the natural way to communicate with your partner not only will you be in a healthy relationship, you will start enjoying one another's company again.

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Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a practice in San Mateo, CA who has been trained to use The Gottman Method for Couples. For more information please go to, Lessons for Love.

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This article was originally published at Lessons for Love. Reprinted with permission from the author.