Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce in Australia.
Effective communication is key to a strong and healthy relationship. It allows us to understand ourselves and our partner, build emotional intimacy, and better navigate disagreements.
When communication breaks down, it can result in conflict, misunderstandings, and emotional distance.
We explore some common examples of poor communication and offer advice to improve the communication in your relationship here.
Refusing to communicate
A partner might avoid talking about certain topics or talking altogether due to feeling emotionally overwhelmed. They might withdraw and shut down, or even lash out at their partner when they try to discuss an issue, saying things such as:
- “I’m not talking about this.”
- “I don’t have to listen to this.”
- “I’m not in the mood to argue.”
Avoiding communication can create a lack of intimacy and emotional distance in the relationship. It can also leave issues unresolved and lead to resentment.
The silent treatment, cold shoulder, or stonewalling is a refusal to communicate with someone verbally or electronically, often to hint you’re unhappy or as a form of punishment.
For example, say your partner comes home late after a night out. You’re upset they didn’t respond to your texts and were out later than they’d planned. Instead of voicing these concerns, you ignore your partner and walk away when they offer a hug.
The silent treatment is a common tactic among people who aren’t comfortable communicating their needs or who avoid conflict in their relationships.
Not only can the silent treatment damage the connection and trust within your relationship, but it can also be a form of emotional abuse.
Instead of directly addressing an issue, you might use passive-aggressive behaviour to indicate you’re unhappy. This might include sarcasm, name-calling, mockery, or ridicule. It can include nonverbal cues such as heavy sighing, groaning, eye-rolling, stomping, or slamming doors.
For example, in a scenario where your partner forgot to take the bin out (again), with healthy communication, you would approach them and say something like:
“I understand you’ve been busy with work, but could you please remember to take the bin out? I’d really appreciate it.”
In a passive-aggressive interaction, you would avoid directly raising your concerns and instead say something like:
“I guess I’ll just take the bin out myself since everyone else is too lazy!”
This behaviour tells your partner you’re upset without seeking an opportunity to connect and find a solution.
Interrupting and talking over each other
It’s hard to understand each other’s perspective if you’re constantly interrupting and/or talking over each other.
Conversations – and even disagreements – are an opportunity to learn more about your partner and their inner world. If you’re not listening to your partner with the intent to understand them, but simply with the intent to reply, you’re not going to have a productive conversation.
You’re also likely to feel unheard, misunderstood, and frustrated.
Blaming and criticisms
Approaching disagreements with language that blames, shames, or belittles your partner doesn’t create a safe space for a respectful conversation. In fact, it can leave your partner feeling attacked and defensive.
If you’re looking to resolve concerns, it’s always best to approach the situation in a calm manner and take responsibility for your feelings rather than point the finger.
For example, instead of:
“You’re always on your phone. You never pay attention to me.”
You might try:
“I feel like we’re missing out on quality time when you’re on your phone. I’d really like to spend more time talking after work.”
This takes away the blame and focuses on the issue and a solution instead.
How to communicate better
The good news is healthy communication skills can be learnt.
We have a selection of helpful articles with advice to improve communication and increase connection in your relationship:
- How to Be a Good Listener
- 5 Things to Avoid When Arguing with Your Partner
- How to Have a Difficult Conversation
- How to Set Boundaries in Relationships
- Silent Love: When You and Your Partner Have Nothing to Talk About
- How to Fight Fair in a Relationship
If you need some extra help working through issues in your relationship, speaking to a professional counsellor can help. We offer counselling for individuals and couples.
You can call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or to learn more about our counselling services here.