Relationship advice on communication: The 6 most common communication issues in relationships

by Gideon
November 28, 2021

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This post discusses relationship advice on communication, and specifically, the six most frequently occurring communication problems in relationships and how psychologists recommend resolving them.

Numerous relationships face communication difficulties, and when these problems occur, many couples feel frustrated or dejected.

Now, I appreciate that good couple communication is not always simple, but it sure is important for the survival and growth of any relationship.

So, the question becomes, “what are the most prevalent communication challenges in relationships, and what is the greatest communication advice?”

Well, in this post, we’ll examine the six most prevalent communication problems in relationships and the strategies psychologists recommend for resolving them.

Relationship advice on communication

The following are six frequent communication challenges and causes of lack of communication in a relationship:

  1. Repetition
  2. Misunderstanding
  3. Disagreement
  4. Argument
  5. Delayed response
  6. Silence

Some Psychologists recommend that you handle them in the following order:

  1. Be aware of and address repetition.
  2. Avoid misunderstanding.
  3. Address disagreement as directly as possible.
  4. Seek to change an argument, if possible.
  5. Don’t ignore a delayed response.
  6. Pay attention to the pattern of silence.

Here’s how it works…

Psychologists recommend beginning with the most prevalent concerns or issues when addressing them.

These communication difficulties tend to be exacerbated in long-term relationships, where couples have spent considerable time being acquainted with one another’s patterns and habits.

Consequently, long-term couples frequently develop the habit of not communicating fully or openly out of convenience or fear of upsetting the status quo (which has been in place for a long time).

As a result, to address that, psychologists feel that individuals should strive to enhance their communication skills because avoidance is never a good strategy for long term success in a relationship.

According to some experts, when two individuals disagree about something in unhealthy and unproductive ways, the quality of their relationship deteriorates.

The more one partner disagrees with the other, the more dysfunctional the relationship becomes.

A possible explanation for this finding is that when two people dispute, they are less interested in learning about the perspectives of the other.

If they communicated effectively, they would ascertain the other person’s beliefs or needs and would not necessarily need to disagree in order to move forward.

In other words, when people disagree, they frequently stop discussing what’s important to them and why, and instead fall victim to personal insults and defensiveness, which ironically leads to even more causes for both.

However, some conflict is also viewed as constructive and beneficial in supportive relationships, but conflict in unsupportive relationships tends to be viewed as destructive and negative.

Now, helpful relationship advice on communication is the notion that the purpose of a disagreement is to settle it, not to further fuel the deterioration of a relationship.

Disagreements and conflict are natural parts of any relationship, but they can also be beneficial, providing an opportunity to broaden our perspective and strengthen the connection between individuals rather than tearing it apart…if we approach it right.

This is where awareness of language and communication is beneficial since everything “communicates” from the topic of conflict to silence as a response.

When we start paying attention to how someone communicates rather than just what they’re communicating about or what words they’re using, we may far more easily affect the path of a conversation or conflict.

relationship advice on communication

Language and communication in interpersonal and work relationships can be examined through the lens of four distinct modes of knowing:

  • formal vs. informal,
  • rational vs. emotive,
  • abstract vs. tangible, and
  • general vs. specific.

These disparities are commonly referred to as “experience analogies,” and the oil and water comparison is usually used to illustrate them.

Experience analogies are prevalent in a variety of fields, including psychology, anthropology, sociology, and management studies.

When communicating with another person, it is critical to understand the disparities in their perspectives and the ways in which they conceptualise information, and thus, the world around them.

As a result, when people communicate, they frequently engage in a “language game,” and the receiver of information is likely to do the same.

I discuss the process of encoding and decoding in communication at length in this post.

For instance, when someone says “I’m worried,” the other person may perceive this as a request for aid or support in understanding and solving the issue at hand, without that actually being the case.

When your wife shares a concern with you, as a man, you may fall into this trap.

However, if the speaker (your wife) is not expecting that response (i.e., your attempt to fix the issue), but rather another response (e.g., a supportive gesture like a hug), this can result in a misunderstanding and an escalation of conflict.

Learning how to navigate these disparities in understanding or perspective is a vital part of how to fix communication in a relationship.

But what if a couple is at a point where communication is lacking more than present?

What is helpful advice for a lack of communication in your relationship?

What to Do If a Relationship Is Lacking Communication

Communication is a critical component of any relationship and the importance of communication in relationships should not be overlooked.

It is critical that you and your partner talk since you both want to ensure that you are happy and feel capable of making a commitment to a future together.

The reality is that when you are not receiving what you desire in a relationship, it can become tough to appreciate the positive aspects of the relationship and things start unravelling.

So what do you do if your relationship is lacking communication, let alone good communication?

Well, even though the aim is always to get talking again, there are several techniques to enhance communication in a relationship when it’s lacking.

The first step is to determine how you can (Re)connect with your spouse.

But this can be a much easier said than done proposition because when you reach a point in your relationship where you don’t like being around each other, finding the motivation to spend time together can be daunting.

However, if communication is lacking, reconnecting by starting to do fun and meaningful things together will always be good because you’re rediscovering why you got together in the first place.

The idea is that once a healthier connection is being established, communication will start flowing from that more naturally.

relationship advice on communication

However, reaching out to someone you’re in constant conflict with can be difficult if you are afraid of being judged or making things worse.

But someone will have to take the first step.

You either step up or you need to start considering stepping out, but you cannot remain on the fence hoping things will improve on their own.

How To Fix Lack of Communication In A Relationship: Establishing A Foundation Of Intimacy

In a world that is becoming increasingly technologically oriented, it can be difficult to develop genuine, emotional relationships with those around you.

The truth is that successful communication does not necessarily result from always being “on,” but rather from being authentic and transparent with the person with whom you are communicating, which needs a close relationship with one another.

According to her PhD dissertation, Hanna Yoo points out that study evidence abounds proving that couple intimacy is a significant contributing factor in positive relationship outcomes.

Partners who experience high degrees of intimacy tend to be highly fulfilled and maintain long-term, stable relationships.

Conversely, lack of intimacy is one of the reasons behind poor levels of relationship satisfaction and relationship breakdown.

But, what exactly is “intimacy” in this context?

Yoo writes that the term “intimacy” can be roughly described as individuals’ subjective perceptions of closeness and connectedness with their love partners, which result from couple relationship processes that comprise self-disclosure, reciprocal trust and validation, empathy, and acceptance.

Additionally, some experts argue that healthy levels of intimacy in a relationship improve effective communication in a couple’s relationship, but not necessarily the other way round with better communication strategies not enhancing levels of connection.

When people are emotionally disconnected, Dr Stosny claims, the application of communication techniques causes them to feel controlled, and not just because the most popular ones are obviously unnatural, better suited for use in a therapy office than in the living room, kitchen, or bathroom.

When communication strategies are employed, there is virtually always a hidden goal at work (e.g., getting your partner to do something or stop doing something, expressing yourself and be heard, or justifying your negative feelings).

He contends that problems in romantic relationships do not develop because people are too dim-witted to figure out common-sense communication techniques such as “listen more carefully” and “talk politely.”

People in romantic relationships don’t actually have communication problems, despite the fact that their dissatisfaction and unhappiness may cause them to believe so.

It is more accurate to state that lovers in stressful and unhappy relationships have connection problems.

Communication in love relationships is a function of emotional connection.

In situations where individuals feel connected, they communicate well; in situations where people feel disconnected, they communicate poorly, independent of their choice of words or communication tactics.

Dr Steven Stosny

Following this logic, we can therefore say that generating high levels of intimacy with our partners should be the real goal as it is the key to improve communication and, as a result, boost our relationship satisfaction and consequent passion.

But what is the connection between a couple’s intimacy levels and passion in their relationship?

According to research by Bülent Aykutoğlu and Ahmet Uysal, there seem to be correlations between changes in intimacy and passion.

In their research, they studied the connection between intimacy and passion by assessing if increases in intimacy generate passion.

Additionally, they investigated whether there are relationship impacts on changes in intimacy and passion.

75 couples completed a 14-day diary study. Using residualized intimacy change scores, dyadic multilevel analyses revealed that both actors’ and partners’ intimacy change positively influenced the actor’s passion.

However, investigations revealed that residualized passion change ratings predicted intimacy positively.

While these data provide empirical support for the intimacy change hypothesis, they also show that it is impossible to determine whether intimacy increment creates passion or passion increment generates intimacy.

Several studies suggest that intimacy and passion are favourably related but the causal direction of this relationship is not evident.

Some research demonstrates that intimacy predicts passion, but others suggest that passion predicts intimacy.

Nonetheless, there appears to be a beneficial effect of intimacy in a relationship on communication between partners, which may be quantified through three distinct elements: trust, empathy, and proximity (closeness, companionship).

When these three elements improve, intimacy, communication and relationship satisfaction seem to improve as well.

Knowing what the other partner is thinking, saying, and doing can help you determine whether or not you can trust them.

Empathy can be tested by knowing whether our partners have our best interests at heart.

Closeness can be determined by who is spending the most time with whom and how involved they are in the relationship.

Oftentimes, the traditional married relationship might be regarded as an unequal power relationship, impairing intimacy and consequently communication.

Thus, in order for a relationship to work, couples must learn to negotiate the numerous roles that each individual plays in a marriage.

Both partners must understand how to increase their attractiveness to one another and preserve a healthy sense of self-worth throughout the marriage.

This requires them to have the ability to win their partner’s trust, which will enable them to feel secure in their relationship.

Occasionally, if a couple is dissatisfied with the level of closeness in their relationship, they might take steps to raise it, as a couple’s level of connection is critical for communication improvement.

They can accomplish this by becoming closer to one another in order to provide themselves and their spouse with a sense of security.

They will, for example, look for ways to support one another in order to do this.

Partners in relationships may be receptive to understanding each other’s needs.

They may also be willing to set aside time for one another’s companionship.

At the end of the day, each couple will have to develop their own methods for establishing and maintaining intimacy in their relationship, as overall relationship success appears to be dependent on it.

Learning how to communicate your needs to each other as a couple is a powerful and critical way to do this.

Communicate Your needs

Again, one of the worst things we can do for the health of a relationship, according to Dr Stosny, is to pretend that we understand how to make intimate relationships work.

It is an illusion created by the “Toddler brain” — the limbic section responsible for feelings and impulses, which is fully myelinated by the age of three.

In the Child’s brain, we are more prone to give what we want rather than what our partners want.

In reality, none of us could possibly understand how to make contemporary intimate relationships function.

Biology has not adequately prepared us for the unique difficulties associated with love in our continuously changing culture.

Old social roles and conventions have almost completely disintegrated as a result of tradition’s utter obsolescence.

And popular psychology offers little more than clichés, oversimplified and inconsistent advice, or “communication strategies” that are so strange that you’ll end up despising one another for not using them regularly.

The most loving thing you can say to your lover, according to Dr Stosny, is “Teach me how to love you, and I will teach you how to love me.”

In other words, communicate precisely what you need or how you wish to be loved.

The following is a straightforward formula to follow that will almost certainly improve your relationship:

A good question to ask is, “What can I do to make you feel more loved?”

Make a note of the response. (For instance, occasionally surprise me with flowers.)

In the event that your partner responds with anything you can do, tell them: “This will make it easier for me to do what will make you feel love.” (For instance, express your happiness with the flowers when I give them.)

Make a list of the things your partner would like you to do to make him or her feel loved, as well as what your partner can do to assist you in accomplishing those tasks.

Inform your partner that “you make me feel cherished when you…” (For instance, greet me with a hug when I get home.) Also ask, “what can I do to make this easier for you?

Create a response for your spouse. (For instance, express gratitude when you hug me.)

Make a list of the things you’d like your spouse to do to make you feel loved and what you can do to help him/her do so.

Once this is accomplished, Dr Stosny believes that the best chance of achieving the relationship you both desire is for each of you to make a personal commitment to change, regardless of whether you believe your spouse is changing.

This will allow you to recover from slip-ups while establishing new habits.

In short, as a couple, stop assuming what your partner wants and initiate a conversation to learn exactly what you want and need from one another, regardless of how banal or silly it may sound.

Set aside your ego and be receptive to your partner’s needs, desires, and expectations rather than relying on your own opinions or beliefs.

This is an excellent method to begin increasing your levels of intimacy and connection, which will improve your communication and relationship.

Couples with communication problems can absolutely change that but the best relationship advice on communication is that it’s not about communication at all.

Instead, as a couple, concentrate on building a solid relationship free of communication issues by actually understanding one another and offering each other what you truly desire and need – not what your Child’s brain thinks the other needs.

Last Thoughts

This post looked at the most common communication challenges couples have and presented some relationship advice on communication that can assist.

Of that, developing a foundation of intimacy and connection as a couple is the most helpful place to start, as all healthy relationships with excellent communication are built on the foundation of a strong connection between partners in a relationship.

What are some more things you’ve noticed that help or hinder successful communication in your relationship or marriage?

Leave your comments below.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He completed a graduate diploma in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over sixteen years and is the father of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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