Even the best communication regarding some issue with which your partner is unhappy, can cause you to become defensive. Why is that? If you are being the best partner you can be, wouldn't you want to know what distresses your partner so you can try to address it and alleviate any pain that she/he might be experiencinng.
Unfortunately, the human brain does not work that way. Any criticism or unhappiness is first experienced as an attack on our being. The reptilian part of our brain warns us that we have to protect ourselves and that instinctual message is sent before the neo-cortex part of our brain can remind us that this is not an attack on our life but simply our partner wanting some help for her/his distress.
What we can do about this automatic response that usually is the beginning of an unsatisfying arguement?
1) Use the age old suggestion of counting to 10 before responding. This allows you to get your neo-cortex in gear and remind yourself that this person with whom you are about to go to war, is our partner whom you were loving just moments ago and not your mortal enemy.
2) Ask yourself why i am getting so upset about my partner's opinion or wishes. I do not have to do anything about what she/he is saying at this moment. I can take sometime to think about it. If it is a criticism or request for change, this does not mean that he/she no longer love you or will never love you agian
3) Is there any truth to what your partner is saying. Take some time to take an honest look at what you might be doing to contribute to the issue that is being raised. This is very difficult but can be accomplished with practice.
4) Think about your own insecurity and your need for other's approval in order to feel okay. Is this what is fueling your defensiveness.
5) Does your sensitivity to criticism come in part from too many negative messages from your parents or early caregivers or teachers?
6) Consider that your partner is only one person in the world and her/his opinion or displeasure may be also caused by some stresses other than your behavior of which he/she may not be aware and your willingness to listen may be all that is needed.