August 30, 2019 |Gideon Hanekom

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Let’s be honest also – creating and sustaining a happy, healthy, and intimate love relationship can be challenging at times. And one of the most common marriage problems often at the heart of many couples’ struggling love life is communication problems.

One of the biggest problems that couples face is communication.

In my work with couples one-on-one as a relationship coach, I see this all the time.

Whenever couples apply to work with me, the issue of communication problems come up almost 90 to 95% of the time.

It’s probably higher than it.

Whether it is a lack of communication, miscommunication or poor communication skills; one way or the other, there’s a problem with communicating.

Now, in my work with couples with common marriage problems, I have shifted in my understanding around the place that communication problems have in the bigger picture compared to before.

I now see communication problems as a symptom of a much deeper underlying problem rather than the cause of marital problems.

That much deeper underlying problem is what we call a lack of connection.

Whenever a strong bond or connection starts unravelling between two people, everything else becomes a much bigger problem.

Including communication.

I haven’t met many couples with a very strong and genuine bond that struggle with communication.

Even when one partner isn’t overly talkative.

The strong love connection makes up for the lack of other relationship-related skills.

But when the love connection unravels, the lack of other relationship skills, such as effective communication, become highlighted.

According to Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist in Ottawa and author of several books, “The most critical thing we’ve learned in the last 35 years of developmental psychology, social psychology, and lab’s work is that the secret to loving relationships and maintaining them over time, to falling in love again and again, is emotional responsiveness.”

“In a word, responsiveness is all about giving a cue and having the other person respond,” she explains. In love, the $99 million question is, ‘Are you there for me?’ It is not only a matter of ‘Are you my friend and would you assist me with my chores?’ It’s a matter of emotional synchronisation and being in the moment.”

Johnson continues, “Every relationship has disagreements; what makes couples unhappy is when they experience an emotional detachment.”

Effective communication within the context of a love relationship or marriage is essentially a skill that requires much practice.

Especially if you are adept at hiding your feelings or unable to express clearly what you mean.

Consequently, many times a root cause of the communication problem lies in interpretation.

In other words, you misunderstand what the other person is saying and then spend too much time arguing a point your partner never intended.

The rule of thumb is that with any conversation, it’s important to take the time and energy to understand what your partner means to say.

We call this “listening to understand” versus “listening to reply.”

There is a big difference between the two.

At the end of the day, you obviously want your partner to understand what you mean, so it’s critical to also understand what THEY mean.

But that requires and demands a different approach to communication.

It’s not just about expressing yourself but also understanding what is being expressed by your partner.

Therefore, communication can often be painful, especially when your partner doesn’t react or act the way that you expected, anticipated or appreciate.

For example, when they react by disagreeing with you, it creates the perfect environment for potential conflict.

And we know that with conflict comes anger, hurt feelings and the need for compromise in order to move forward.

So, working really hard to understand first before seeking to be understood is crucial for effective communication and repairing marriage problems.

Another common cause of communication problems is the issue of always being “right.”

The problem with THAT is that no one person is always right.

At times, you’ll be right and at other times your partner will be.

And because that is true, it’s important that you both are willing to admit when you are wrong and let it go.

Because if one of you is always “right,” the other partner will eventually withdraw and you’ll lose the emotional connection that’s so important in a marriage.

No one wants to be married to a know-it-all, infallible, perfect human being.

I mean, it would be nice to be all those things, but that’s not life.

Another thing I’ve picked up is that some couples just get really good at fighting.

And if you catch yourself having the same fights, arguments and conversations over and over again, it is highly likely that you have fallen into that type of rut.

Which isn’t good nor healthy.

It’s a bit like doing a dance that you’re both familiar with.

It’s painful, yes, but you both know the steps so well that you just can’t seem to help yourself.

Ultimately, if you want to overcome any common marriage problems like communication problems, one (or both) of you will have to step out of the vicious cycle and try something new.

Because there will be no new result with no new action.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you will keep getting the same result.

In fact, I would argue, worse results as time goes on.

communication problems

All of which brings us to a question: 

In the context of communication problems, what can you do to improve your situation?

How can you improve communication problems?

Regardless of what marriage problems you’re dealing with, chances are you can do with increased levels of TRUST.

In any relationship, trust is the foundation.

Without trust, even a deep abiding love can’t keep two people together.

It is key.

Moreover, trust is built on strong bonds of communication over time.

Especially in a long-distance relationship or when you spend long periods of time apart, communication becomes even more important.

It’s the only “glue” you have that holds everything together during those times of separation.

And, in order to improve your ability to communicate well, you need to keep a few important factors in mind.

Here are 7 important factors to keep in mind when you are communicating

1. Listen more than you talk.

We were born with two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.

This is an important skill whether with your girlfriend, boss or family members.

The more you listen, the more you know, and the more information you have to contribute to the conversation.

And sometimes the only thing the other person wants is to vent.

In fact, women love to vent by talking about it as it decreases their stress levels.

So when you let them vent while you listen attentively, you become their hero.

2. Don’t Criticize.

Criticism is painful when you get it and painful for the other person when they receive it.

Men especially are very vulnerable to criticism, otherwise called “shaming.”

This is why women need to learn how they tend to shame the men in their lives, and how that affects their feelings, behaviour, and motivation.

Instead, stick to using the technique in #5 below.

3. Don’t become defensive.

If your lover is criticizing you, don’t become defensive.

But also realise that criticizing your partner might also lead to defensiveness.

And once our walls of defence come up, an argument is imminent.

Rather take the time you need to process what’s being said before responding.

Only then revisit the conversation.

You can make an appointment no more than 12 hours later to finish the conversation so your partner knows the conversation will be finished and you have time to calm down.

4. Stay calm.

Let’s say that again. STAY CALM.

Whenever you reach emotional overwhelm it becomes increasingly difficult (read: impossible) to have a fruitful and effective conversation that takes things forward.

Once our fight-flight response has been triggered, it’s better to take time out to calm and cool down before reinitiating the conversion.

5. Use “I” messages.

If you have something you want to share then be sure to use “I” messages.

In other words, don’t say, “You are so insensitive.”

Instead, “I feel bad when I don’t hear from you for the whole day and don’t get to see you at all before going to bed. I feel really unloved and alone when that happens.”

Keep the messages to “I” which takes the criticism away from your partner and they are better able to stay calm and talk about it.

You’re also increasing your chances of creating strategies to resolve the issue(s).

6. Don’t Stonewall.

If something comes up that needs to be discussed then don’t stonewall.

That means to withdraw or shut down.

If you can’t talk about it immediately, then it’s time to step away for a bit and schedule another time to finish the conversation.

Just make sure you’re both clear on what’s happening.

Also, don’t make the time greater than 12 hours before coming back to the table.

7. Look for a win/win solution before you compromise.

Don’t try to win the conversation.

Instead, look for a win/win solution so that your marriage can end up being the true winner.

It might not be a compromise, because in a compromise both of you are giving up something.

Instead, look for a solution you both enjoy.

If that won’t work then compromise.

Last thoughts …

One of the most common marriage problems often at the heart of many couples’ struggling love life is communication problems.

But communication problems CAN be overcome when you understand a couple of key principles.

Principles like committing to building a deep connection with your spouse AND sustaining it.

Or understanding that listening more than you talk is always better than talking without listening or without thinking.

Just start somewhere to make sure that communication doesn’t become the thing that intensifies your marriage problems but rather resolves them.

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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