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10 signs someone is deflecting in a relationship (and what to do about it)

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Do you feel like you are being constantly manipulated by your partner?

You can’t seem to get through to them no matter how hard you try. The issues you have always get twisted around.

Here are 10 strong signs someone is deflecting in a relationship, and what to do about it.

What is deflection in a relationship?

Deflection happens when someone tries to avoid responsibility for their actions and feelings by placing the blame on someone else. In this case, they’re trying to shift blame away from themselves. It’s often used as a way of avoiding confrontation or conflict.

How does deflection work?

When people use deflection, they may appear to be open and honest at first, but then they start to make excuses or blame others for things that have happened. They’ll say something like: “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Or “It wasn’t my fault.”

Why does deflection happen?

Sometimes, people who are feeling vulnerable will resort to using deflection because they don’t want to deal with the truth. They might not want to admit that they’ve done wrong, or that they’re responsible for causing problems.

In essence, deflection is a defense mechanism that people adopt so that they can preserve the image they have of themselves.

How do you know if someone is deflecting?

1) They project their feelings and thoughts onto you

Projection is one common form of deflection.

Because they can’t deal with their own feelings, they bury them. But buried emotions have a habit of spilling out.

When they do, your partner might project what they are feeling onto you.

The classic example is the partner that feels guilt over their own infidelity and deflects suspicion by projecting this onto their partner.

They accuse their other half of being unfaithful. They always think that their partner is up to no good. They are insecure.

You may notice that all the things your partner feels bad about or disapproves of about themselves are shifted onto you.

For example, if your partner is insecure about the way they look or has body issues, rather than deal with them, they criticize your weight or looks to try to make themselves feel better.

3) Gaslighting

In extreme cases when your partner is deflecting onto you, you make even feel like it becomes gaslighting.

Gaslighting is where someone makes you feel crazy or paranoid. They tell you that you’re imagining things, or that you’re making too much of them.

But there’s nothing imaginary about what your partner is doing. You’re seeing exactly what is going on.

Yet their way of handling things is to try to make you question your perceptions.

If they can get you to think twice about the reality of things, it takes the spotlight (and the heat) off them.

Classic examples of gaslighting in a relationship are:

  • Blatantly lying to you, but refusing to admit it.
  • Trying to minimize how you feel and suggesting you are blowing things out of proportion.
  • Rewriting the facts and implying it didn’t happen as it did.
  • Trying to discredit you and suggest your perception of things can’t be trusted.

3) Playing the victim

Another common type of deflection is playing the victim.

This is when someone uses manipulation tactics to make the other person wrong. You may feel like no matter what happens in your relationship, it is always your fault. Any issues you two have are never down to them.

Even if it is you who is trying to raise a problem with something your partner has done, they’ll still twist it so that it comes back on you. They can’t admit fault and so your partner is likely to deny any wrongdoing.

For instance, they’ll say things like: “You’re so overly sensitive!” Or “That was totally unfair.”

Or they’ll complain about something that happened to them, and then turn around and blame you for it.

A person who deflects blame will play the role of the helpless victim in your relationship so that you become the target of their anger.

You may end up taking on the responsibility for whatever they’re upset about. So instead of dealing with their own issues, they lash out at you. And they use you as a scapegoat.

4) They blame circumstances

If it’s not your fault, then it’s likely to be someone or something else that is to blame for their actions.

If they did something wrong, rather than admit it’s on them, they go looking for other excuses.

People who deflect in a relationship find it very difficult to take responsibility for themselves. They can’t handle the self-reflection that would require.

So they have a list of excuses on hand to fall back on.

They cheated because they were drunk. They haven’t been paying you attention because they’re busy with work. They were out all night partying because their friend needed cheering up.

It could be anything. But instead of looking closer to home, they prefer to blame the circumstances for the situation they find themselves in.

5) They can’t understand where you are coming from

Partners who deflect often lack the empathy to see where you are coming from.

You may feel like they have very little awareness of what it’s like to be in your shoes.

When you share your feelings, it can even appear that they don’t seem to care. They just want to hear themselves talk. They may quickly get annoyed at you.

They don’t really listen to what you have to say. Instead, they talk over you, interrupt you, and argue with you.

They might try to change the subject whenever you bring up a topic that makes them uncomfortable.

They may also tell you that you are being unreasonable by bringing up certain subjects. Or claim that you are oversensitive.

You’ve tried talking to them about these things before, but nothing seems to help. So you give up.

Because you know that they won’t ever truly understand how you feel. It feels like you are talking to a brick wall.

6) They struggle to say sorry

We all make mistakes, and saying sorry is a way we own up to them and try to make amends.

If your partner doesn’t ever apologize it’s a sign they aren’t capable of seeing when they’ve messed up.

You may think that they should apologize for doing something wrong. But they won’t.

They will only do so when they realize that they made a mistake. But the problem is that this means that they need to acknowledge their wrongdoing first. Then, they need to express remorse. But they never seem to get there.

Perhaps they will occasionally reluctantly offer a halfhearted apology if it’s demanded of them, but you know it’s not sincere.

Deep down they can’t accept that they are ever to blame.

7) You keep going around in circles

If you notice that you keep getting into arguments over the same things time after time, it could be that you’re dealing with someone who uses deflection in a relationship.

Deflecting in an argument is common as it’s often when we feel most threatened and in need of a defense mechanism.

Perhaps you feel like you are always raising the same problems, but they never take your feedback on board, and so you just keep going around in a circle but never resolving your issues.

When we deflect things, we don’t get to the root of the problem. We miss the opportunity to grow and correct behavior.

But that means your partner will most likely keep repeating their actions, rather than change.

And that most likely means you keep having the exact same fights over and over again.

8) It’s always tit for tat

If you try to make them see when they are wrong, they retaliate and find something you have done wrong to throw back in your face.

It doesn’t even need to be something recent or relevant that they use as ammunition.

If you highlight something they did wrong, they might quickly snap back at you with:

“Well you’re no angel either, remember when you…”Or “You’re a fine one to talk, don’t forget that…”

This shows that they are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Instead, they are quick to deflect by pointing out every single thing you’ve ever done wrong.

9) They’re in denial

One of the most infuriating things about dealing with a partner who deflects is often making them see this.

It’s part of the defense mechanism to deny their actions so that they don’t have to hold themselves accountable.

They most likely will struggle to admit or acknowledge they have any problem at all.

So you’ll find yourself trying to convince them that there is even an issue. You probably feel like no matter how you approach the subject, they won’t listen.

10) They tell you what you want to hear

Another form of subtle deflection is appeasing your partner, just to get them to drop something.

You may get the impression that even though they are saying nice things, they’re just saying what they think you want to hear.

It’s a way to manipulate you and avoid conflict.

For example, if they have behaved badly and you try to call them out, they may something like:

“You know I’d never intentionally do anything to hurt you”.

Rather than being a sign of guilt or remorse, it’s a way of getting them off the hook.

How to argue with someone who deflects

1) Use “I feel” sentences

Deflection is most likely to appear as a defense mechanism whenever someone feels attacked.

That means, the less threatened the other person feels in a discussion, the less likely deflection is to rear its ugly head.

To try to stop your partner from feeling attacked when you raise an issue with them, be sure to use “I feel” statements rather than “You do X, Y., Z” type of comments (which feel more accusatory).

Research into conflict management found it’s useful to create a safe feeling environment when we are disputing things with someone.

The study specifically suggests that using “I” statements can help to do this.

Open-ended questions might be another way to help lead you towards resolution, rather than get stuck in a dead-end argument.

When you ask open-ended questions, you allow your partner to explain themselves without having to defend themselves first.

This gives them space to respond to whatever you say, instead of simply shutting you down.

It also helps you understand where they are coming from, so you can work together on finding solutions.

Being mindful of your language can encourage your partner to take part in the discussion, rather than shut it down through deflection.

2) Keep calm

It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel like your partner is not hearing you and failing to take responsibility.

But try to remember that the more you lose your cool, the more their walls are also likely to come up.

Try to keep calm and rational, and make sure you stick to facts and evidence.

Remember that you need to be able to prove your point before you expect your partner to accept it.

Especially when they are unable to see clearly, it’s even more important that you make sure things don’t escalate by keeping your head.

3) Try to observe patterns in their behavior

If you notice that your partner has started to deflect, look for patterns in their behaviors.

Are they doing this consistently?

Is it happening when you talk about certain topics?

What triggers the behavior?

This could give you clues as to why they are behaving defensively.

Whilst that won’t automatically solve things, it can help you to get a better understanding of your partner so you know how to handle things in a constructive way.

4) Focus on the facts

Focus on the facts, rather than emotions.

It’s not easy to keep emotions out of conflict, especially when our nearest and dearest are involved.

If your partner has a habit of deflecting, then you may need to clarify your point, have concrete examples to hand, and be very specific about what you are talking about.

This way it is harder to worm their way out of things.

The more you focus on facts you will avoid unhelpful generalizations. Try to stick to your point rather than going off on a tangent.

5) Give them time to reflect

In the heat of the moment when defenses are high, it can be challenging for them to see what they are doing.

Sometimes it is better to offer your partner some space and time to think about what you said.

Let them cool down before you continue the conversation.

You can often find yourself repeating the same points over and over again if you don’t give your partner time to process.

Give them time to consider what you’re saying, and let them come back to you later once they have had time to reflect.

Hopefully, they will be able to better see your side of things after doing so.

6) Heal your own wounds

When you’re dealing with a partner who deflects, it’s easy to become frustrated and even feel helpless. You may even be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on love.

I want to suggest doing something different.

It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.

As Rudá explains in this mind-blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way because we’re not taught how to love ourselves first.

So, if you want to solve issues in your relationship, I’d recommend starting with yourself first and taking Rudá’s incredible advice.

Here’s a link to the free video one again.

7) Be sure you are also taking responsibility

Whenever we ask a partner to do something, we should always check in to make sure we are doing the same.

We are all capable of deflecting within a relationship from time to time. It’s only fair that you hold yourself up to the same scrutiny.

Be sure to hold your hands up to your mistakes, say sorry when your partner is owed an apology, and be prepared to reflect on your own part in any conflict.

As they say, it often takes two to tango. No one is 100% wrong and the other 100% right.

Having the maturity and wisdom for self-awareness is not only a gift to your partner, but also to yourself.

8) Don’t let them get away with it

Deflection within a relationship can be frustrating and destructive. Don’t allow them to get away with it.

If you catch them doing it, you need to be able to point it out.

If your attempts to be a team and work through your problems together are always met with hostility, defensiveness, and deflection — you may question if you can continue on like this.

Learning how to effectively communicate is critical to the survival of any relationship.

If they consistently refuse to take responsibility in your relationship, you may decide you have no choice other than to walk away.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get started.

Written by Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey.

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