What is the foundation of a healthy relationship? Love, honesty, trust, loyalty, respect, understanding – different people may have different takes on what makes a relationship robust. However, one crucial element for cementing the foundation of a relationship that often gets overlooked is good communication. Signs of bad communication in a relationship are like termites – they will eat your relationship from within, rendering it hollow.
Signs of bad communication in a relationship don’t always look like a full-blown fight. Sometimes saying “Why did you not do what I asked you to do?” or treating your partner with dead silence can also speak volumes. Most marriages and relationships are strengthened by good communication and begin to crumble because couples forget how to talk to each other.
If you are struggling with inefficient communication in a relationship, we are here to help you. We have compiled a list of signs of bad communication in a relationship with the help of Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling.
What Causes Poor Communication In Relationships?
There are innumerable reasons behind a lack of communication in a relationship. These do not knock at the front door but slowly make their way into your home. Before you know it, there is irreparable damage in the finely woven fabric of your relationship.
Shazia says, “Lack of emotional awareness is the root cause of poor communication in a relationship. If a person can appropriately manage his or her emotions, they can also communicate them better, thus building healthy relationships.”
For the sake of better perspective, let’s explore some more reasons for lack of communication in a relationship that you might not see coming:
1. Life gets in the way
This is perhaps the most common reason for lack of communication in a relationship, and it can certainly become an issue when a relationship has been going on for a while or has settled into a pattern. Conflicting work schedules, external job stressors, or even another tough relationship with a manager, team, or family member might have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional connection with your partner.
Most people begin to internalize stress, or worse, begin to channelize them toward their partners. The lines between professional and personal life become hazy and instead of being your better half or someone to share your burden with, the significant other is reduced to just an additional detail in your life.
Bad communication in a long-distance relationship also originates from this point. The two partners become so busy leading their individual lives and coping with the challenges that effective communication gets sidelined.
2. Lack of trust
Like we said in the beginning, trust is the foundation of a relationship. However, the slow and steady descent of faith, honesty, and transparency eventually leads to cracks in the foundation, which manifests in the form of signs of bad communication in a relationship.
Lack of trust can have several underlying causes. From financial infidelity to abusive behavior, there are a plethora of reasons why couples stop trusting each other. Often, it could be something as plain as prolonged, chronic dishonesty.
For example, a girlfriend asks her boyfriend about his weekend plans and he lies and says he has to go to a family dinner. In reality, he wants to watch a football match with his gang. When the girlfriend finds out the truth, if not all, a percentage of her trust in him will be shattered.
If this continues for some time, she will stop trusting him at all, leading to a host of other problems festering in the relationship. These boyfriend communication issues eventually lead to the disintegration of the intimate relationship.
Related Reading: 11 Ways To Improve Communication In Relationships
3. Shock or trauma
Another common reason for lack of communication in a relationship is trauma or shock experienced by either partner. A traumatic incident in our lives may frequently alter our personalities, so it’s no surprise that it might alter how you interact with your spouse or significant other.
For example, losing a job might feel like a massive blow to your self-esteem, and pride may hinder you from sharing your true feelings with a loved one. Similarly, in the aftermath of bereavement or an unexpected loss, you may lack the emotional articulacy to be fully open with your spouse about how you truly feel.
9 Signs Of Bad Communication In a Relationship
Picture this: You come back home after a long day of work and find your wife is waiting to have dinner with you. She asks you how your day went and goes on to tell you about hers. In your overworked state of mind, you snap at her and refuse to eat dinner. Both of you go to bed angry and hungry. Sounds familiar? This is a sign of bad communication in a relationship.
Instead of snapping at her, the ideal way is to communicate that you are tired and would like to unwind for a while. However, sometimes we forget that even our partner cannot read our minds. Expressing what you feel in a structured manner is important for healthy communication. It seems futile in the face of life events but communication is the key to maintaining the relationship.
Many couples in a long-distance relationship experience serious communication issues. The distance, the emotional turmoil, and the longing for physical intimacy leads to aggression, which then leads to miscommunication. Bad communication in a long-distance relationship can easily be tackled by developing a healthy system of communicating. Here are some more signs of bad communication in a relationship that you might have missed:
1. Passive-aggressive behavior
If there is a lot of passive-aggressive communication in a relationship, it is one of the tell-tale signals to watch out for. Frequent silent treatments, jokes that are actual thoughts, condescending retorts, shifting blame, and ranting over small things are all signs of bad communication.
If your partner resorts to passive-aggressive behavior for every question you ask them, it could mean you are dating a bad communicator. If every “What’s wrong babe?” is met with a “Nothing, I’m fine!” (when they are not fine), it is a sign of bad communication in a relationship.
Communications issues such as these are far too common in long-distance relationships. In such a scenario, it is vital to understand that when you can’t be near someone, communication is the only thread holding your relationship together. Taunting your partner if they forget to call you is not the right approach. Instead, utilize the time that you have to tackle bad communication in a long-distance relationship by letting your partner know exactly what you feel.
2. Lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship
A major reason for lack of communication in a relationship is the absence of emotional intimacy between the couple. The level of emotional closeness you have with your partner is directly proportional to how safe you feel discussing your ideas with them.
It’s self-evident that being mute about your sentiments can jeopardize the stability of your relationship. Bad communication in a relationship also means not providing your partner a safe space to express their emotions. Keeping silent can be a natural reaction to being disregarded, neglected, or taunted in the past.
“Emotional intimacy is just as important as physical intimacy in a relationship. Understanding the processing of the emotions and appropriately expressing them helps strengthen a relationship,” says Shazia.
3. Interrupting in a conversation
Is there anything more irritating than attempting to conduct a discussion with someone who keeps interrupting you in the middle of your thoughts? Couples should be able to have conversations where both partners have an opportunity to express themselves and be heard. Being continuously interrupted is a red flag you should and not ignore and is also one of the signs of bad communication in a relationship.
If you are wondering how to communicate in a relationship with a man or a woman, the answer is very simple. Hearing and being heard is the best approach to give your relationship a chance. Instead of attempting to read your partner’s mind, taking time out to hear them is a better way of improving bad communication in a relationship
“Active listening helps in understanding the feelings of the other person and when a person feels heard in a relationship, it gives them a comfort zone to share more,” adds Shazia.
Related Reading: 9 Things To Do When Every Conversation Turns Into An Argument
4. Silent treatment
One of the most frequent boyfriend communication issues faced by women is the silent treatment. There is nothing worse than icing out your partner and ignoring their thoughts and feelings. You know you are dating a bad communicator when he/she does not respond to you in an argument and instead decides to be silent.
According to Shazia, “Silent treatment is rooted in avoidance behavior or trying to escape from a situation, which is not good for any relationship. Discussing and sorting it out is always better.”
It is a fundamental concept – no communication, no relationship. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. Taking time out to gather your thoughts is a different case than completely ignoring the concern your partner has raised. If you give your partner the silent treatment, then stop immediately, especially in a long-distance relationship. There is nothing worse than being ignored by someone you love
How will your partner read your face or understand your emotions from a distance? Don’t leave them wondering what is wrong because it leads to overthinking and chaos. The silent treatment is one of the worst signs of bad communication in a relationship and must be avoided by both partners.
5. Increased resentment
Let’s imagine this scenario: You come home after a long day of work. Your partner is no help in house chores or cooking dinner. You express your unhappiness but nothing seems to change. Resentment grows up beneath the surface, burning and ticking like a time bomb.
Bad communication in a relationship leads to bubbling resentment in the mind of your partner. You may try to communicate with your partner, but if you are met with disappointment every single time and feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, then your concerns will grow silent and breed in the form of resentment in a relationship.
You know you are dating a bad communicator or are one yourself if either one of you cannot be mindful of the other’s concerns and you start feeling a sense of dislike toward each other.
In most relationships, signs of bad communication begin to show when couples focus on being right rather than being happy. Shazia says, “One partner may become judgmental about the other and begin to focus on what is right or wrong but things are not always black and white. Sometimes we need to give space in a relationship and try to understand the situation rather than focusing on right or wrong.”
When the focus of every debate is on who is more correct, it means there is bad communication in a relationship. As a result, couples continue to go about in circles when they should be focusing on establishing common ground. They may get into a nasty brawl over a trivia question or a shared experience, losing sight of the bigger picture. There is a constant power struggle between the couple to prove who is better than the other.
Couples who have been together for a long period are more likely to have this issue. However, if you’re having communication problems right now, chances are they started a long time ago and have only become worse over time.
7. Being aggressive
Being in a relationship means you want to be in a loving environment where you can feel safe. However, things can get ugly when one or both partners resort to aggressive behavior. It is not only bad communication in a relationship, it is also extremely toxic. Raising your voice or shouting to prove a point is not the right way to approach a relationship and definitely qualifies as one of the signs of bad communication in a relationship. Aggressive behavior should not be tolerated. An abusive husband is an example of what aggressive behavior can lead to if you do not stop it now
Shazia gives an insight, “A person who is not emotionally aware tends to behave aggressively to prove their point because they don’t know how to express themselves in a fit of anger or aggression. This is a sign of an emotionally weak person.”
Women often tend to have this problem in a relationship. They don’t know how to communicate in a relationship with a man because the latter resorts to aggressive behavior. If every time you try to talk to your partner and they end up being angry, throwing things, or shouting at you, it is a sign you are dating a bad communicator.
Related Reading: 15 Tips That Keep A Relationship Strong And Happy
8. Inability to reach mutual goals
Relationships are about having fun and setting new goals together. You won’t be able to set a joint goal if you can’t communicate well with your partner. You’ll want one thing, while they will want something else. If you can’t debate these topics properly and maturely, a rift will inevitably develop.
“Acceptance and understanding each other is the key. When two people accept each other as they are, it becomes easy to set mutual goals and achieve them,” says Shazia.
9. Projecting emotional state on the partner
In relationships, projection — the psychological tendency of projecting your neuroses and fears onto someone else and misinterpreting their behavior as reinforcing those difficulties — is frequent. After all, we see the world through the prism of our own emotions, so things can easily become skewed. The trick, though, is working on self-awareness to notice when you or your spouse is projecting and being willing to talk about it.
Shazia advises, “Empathy can help here. If you try to see the other person’s point of view or perception and try to understand, it will make a difference. Lack of empathy makes it difficult for people and they tend to put their fears and apprehensions on others.”
Every couple has its share of ups and downs. After all, life is nothing if not a never-ending rollercoaster ride. However, bad communication in a relationship can make it difficult to enjoy the ride. So, if you are noticing signs of bad communication in a relationship, take steps together toward eliminating them. Your partner is the one you should be able to talk to about everything and enjoy good conversations with.
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