It's Not About The Onions... And Other Defensive Responses


Recently, I expressed to my husband that I didn't like red onions in our omelettes. They had been showing up almost regularly. Personally, I love a good white onion or the soft flavouring of a shallot, the perfect mix between an onion and garlic. I digress.

My partner, Greg, appeared to receive the information well, acknowledged my dislike for a certain type of onion, and we continued on with our morning.

Or so I thought.

A few minutes later as we chatted about our day and the plans to come, I was met with his defensiveness on what seemed like a reasonable ask from my end.

What's the deal, I thought.

I applied an important skill that I teach all of my clients: When we are activated, let's park the conversation and come back to it at another time.

By doing this, it allowed me time to think about what happened and to get curious about my own feelings about the situation.

When we returned to talk about what happened, Greg confessed: He was upset about the red onion comment.


This actually led to a great conversation that I think we can all learn from.

Do you hold in your feelings and needs only for them to boil over at different times?

Is it fair or reasonable to your partner (or to you) to then get defensive when something else is being shared?

In my experience that morning, I felt blindsided without understanding what was going on for my husband. Had I known that my red onion comment was hurtful in that moment, I could have easily owned it and moved forward.

Here's the thing. It's not about the red onion. Greg was able to later share his feelings of not being appreciated and that he needed me to acknowledge what he was doing (instead of pointing out the negative that I didn't like).

Do you know the negative cycle that keeps you and your partner stuck? Click here to take my free quiz to find out more.

Let's find a way through this:

- If something hurts, label it immediately inside of you. Let it sit for a bit to see if it's worth discussing. If you decide that it's not, agree to let truly let it go.

- Get curious about your internal experience. What is this triggering for you? I teach you how to identify your triggers and change these patterns inside Be Connected, so you and your partner can feel like a team again.

- If you feel safe in your relationship to say so, let your partner know when there are jabs or stings. This doesn't have to be a big blow-up. You might say, "I think you're trying to tell me something important. In this moment, it feels like a jab. Can you try again?"

- Avoid becoming defensive to one-up your partner. View each response as separate. Otherwise, it's confusing for them. If there is a bigger issue at hand, talk about the bigger issue at a different time.

- Be aware of HOW you fight. If you're feeling defensive, acknowledge what your partner says and ask for time to think about what they are saying.

- On the receiving end of defensiveness? Try asking your partner, "hmm... what's going on here?" If they aren't able to label it, spend some time pondering what is happening in their world.

Remember, responding defensively because you are upset about something that happened in a previous communication is not a fair playing ground. You are responsible to tell your partner when you are upset about something, not to use it at a backlash at another time. Please know that I understand why defensiveness shows up.

Remember, you always have a choice about how you are going to respond, moment to moment.