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7 Communication Issues Damaging Your Relationship


If you're in a long-term relationship, you're probably no stranger to conflict. Of course, it's normal for couples to have arguments. But if your arguments are becoming more frequent, you likely have some communication issues that need to be addressed.

Becoming a better communicator is critical in keeping a healthy relationship. The secret? It often means breaking long-standing bad habits.

Communication is a skill like any other—the more you practice, the better you get at it. And the truth is that most of us need a lot of practice. So let's look at some of the most common communication issues in relationships—and how to solve them.

1. Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Have you ever been upset with your partner and decided that it's just not worth it to put your feelings out in the open? When you keep your mouth shut, you may be avoiding conflict in the moment -- but you might be inadvertently building feelings of resentment. Moreover, you probably have a valid reason to feel the way you do, and when you choose to communicate about a problem, you choose to solve it.

What to Do Instead

Take a moment to think about the feelings coming up before communicating those feelings to your partner. It helps to start with an "I feel" statement to avoid the blame game.

2. Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind

When you're in a long-term relationship, you might feel like your partner should have an innate sense of how you feel in any given situation. So you create a set of expectations for your partner – but you probably don't communicate those expectations. And when your partner fails to meet those expectations, it feels like a major slight.

What to Do Instead

In many situations, your partner probably could anticipate your feelings. But most of us aren't great at being empathetic 100% of the time – no matter how much we love our partner. So instead of expecting them to read your mind, express yourself freely – and diplomatically. You might start to notice that the more you open up to your partner, the better they'll get at reading your mind!

3. Snapping At Your Partner

If you tend to "snap" at your partner, there's a good chance you picked up that bad habit long before you met your partner. The tendency to snap often stems from the communication skills you learned as a kid, and it can wreak havoc on your relationship if you don't learn healthier communication skills.

What to Do Instead

Your instinct to bite someone's head off is often more about how you're feeling in the moment than what the other person has said or done. So when you feel agitated, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that it's okay to feel that way. Then, get into a problem-solving mindset. Talk to your partner about why you're upset and work with them to address the issue.

4. Not Really Listening

Be honest – how often do you put your feelings aside and try to understand where your partner is coming from? It's one of the most challenging things to do in conflict, especially when dealing with a problem of an emotional nature.

But if you can't empathize with your partner, your communication issues will always eat at your relationship. When it comes to communication, listening is the most crucial part. Once more, a little louder – listening is the most important part of communication.

What to Do Instead

If you're in the middle of a heated conversation, take a few moments to cool down. Then, take turns explaining your perspective to each other. When your partner is speaking, resist the urge to talk. Instead, put your energy into putting yourself in your partner's shoes. Finding ways to relate to one another will help you work through your feelings – and you'll become closer as a result.

5. The Silent Treatment

There's never a good reason to give your partner the silent treatment. Passive aggression has no place in healthy communication, and using a lack of communication as a weapon is a double-whammy of relationship toxicity. You'll have to use words to sort things out -- no matter what your partner has said or done.

What to Do Instead

If you're giving your partner the cold shoulder, be honest with yourself about your intentions and how you envision the ideal outcome. On the other hand, if you need a few moments to collect yourself, let your partner know that you need to sort through your feelings and calm down. Either way, keep the lines of communication open.

6. Avoiding Conflict

Conflict avoidance can take many forms, from swallowing your feelings to changing the subject. Some people go out of their way to avoid having difficult conversations. But whatever emotions you're suppressing are bound to come back in one form or another.

If you're naturally conflict-avoidant, it's possible that you developed that trait when you were growing up. Maybe you don't have the language to express yourself adequately, or perhaps you're worried about causing a rift in your relationship.

What to Do Instead

Whatever the issue is, it might be worth speaking to a therapist about why open communication is difficult for you. They can help you learn how to express your feelings and give you the communication tools to process conflict productively. That way, when an issue arises in your marriage, you can confront the issue directly with your partner.

7. Rehashing Past Arguments

Do you ever bring up the past when you're arguing with your partner? If you find yourself running through a mental "rap sheet" when you're in the middle of a conflict, check yourself – did you bring those issues up when they arose? And if so, did you resolve them? If you're invoking problems from the past, you might just be building a case for yourself rather than trying to resolve the issue at hand.

What to Do Instead

Always communicate about issues as they come up. And when you've kissed and made up, consider that issue off the table in future arguments. But if you didn't say anything at the time, it's not fair to pull your partner up on that "offense" later.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to communicate effectively and solve problems with your partner is a lifelong endeavor, and often we have to unlearn the bad habits we picked up when we were younger and less self-aware. Always tell your partner how you're feeling, and be honest with yourself about where you may have erred. No matter the issue, keep love and respect front and center as you navigate conflict. Working with your partner is the key to healthier communication habits.

But healthy communication is always easier said than done. If you and your partner struggle to find peaceful resolutions to the issues in your marriage or relationship, a couples therapist can help.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Great Lakes Counseling today. Together, we'll help you learn how to express yourself effectively so you can resolve your differences and strengthen your relationship.

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