Communication Breakdown – A Couple’s Common Challenge

Here are the steps to take to improve your communication.

There are many issues couples might experience in their relationships, there can be betrayal, difference in values, mismatched libido, however among the most common is communication difficulties.

If we don’t communicate well or if we struggle to manage our conflicts effectively, we tend to become withdrawn, grow more resentful, or disengage. Sometimes every time we attempt to communicate, we somehow end up arguing.  If this issue is not resolved and communication is not improved, it is difficult to imagine that the satisfaction in the relationship can be achieved at a level that meets the needs of both parties. Unfortunately, if poor communication skills are not address, many couples end up unhappy or  separate.

So if you don’t want to separate or live unhappily, where do you start? There are several formulas offered by specialists in relationship counselling to help couples to get back on track, and to start relating better. I will provide you with the one we find particularly helpful in resolving ongoing communication challenges experienced by couples. First of all, it is important that both parties take responsibility for their roles in conversation, both the speaker and listener have to adjust their attitudes and their behaviours during their conversations.

Be mindful of the barriers that might be in the way of effective communication. Firstly, make sure that when you start a conversation your partner is ready and willing to listen, and they are not on their way to work or just had a stressful meeting with their boss. Check in when is a good time to have a conversation with them. Secondly, always be focused on the issue and don’t make your loved one feel that they are the issue in the relationship. Stay away from blaming, belittling, criticising and attacking. Stay focused on the issue you are trying to resolve, and don’t try to mind read and tell your partner about their intentions. Stay away from saying “I know you did it just to annoy me!” This is not going to be helpful.

So once your partner is ready and you are sitting down to have a conversation, follow this structure.  Do you know that  our online course Relationships Rebuilding for Couples – Bringing back Trust to your Relationship  has helped many couples learn how to improve  communication,  heal old wounds,  learn to compromise and to avoid gridlocks in communication. It is important to learn new strategies in communications and conflict management when we experience heightened conflict and stress. You can have a better relationship by investing a little bit of your time in improving interactions with your partner.

Competent communicator – discussing issues effectively

Speaker :

Listener :


·         Check your readiness:  that you are ready to engage with your partner, focus on the issue at hand. 

·         Be specific: Be specific in your description of the situation: “Today when I saw you do it I felt underappreciated because I spent a lot of time organising and cleaning, when you walked in without taking your shoes off I felt upset, I felt that my efforts are not valued.”

·         Express the positives:

Express the positives even if you can only see the negative in the situation, highlight what you partner does constructively and positively (e.g., “I can see and appreciate that you are trying to help me. I have noticed that you are waking up earlier to …”

·         Assert the negatives:

Directly say what you dislike without attacking the partner, stay with the issue. “Please take your work shoes off when you enter the house. It makes me feel valued when you do it, It makes me feel that you value the time I spent cleaning the house”.

·         Talk about the feelings:

“I feel hurt and disrespected when xxx happens”.

·         Offer options for solutions, brainstorm ideas, make sure that your partner understood what you said, why what you said was important to you and that you will be able to move forward in a positive way to improve your communication and address the issues as they arise.

·         Allow time to process: Let your partner process what you said, they might be surprised by what you said and need some time before they can commit to changing their behaviour or communication, or they might struggle to make an adjustment. Remember that you need to help your partner to understand you and then focus on managing of the issues that you discuss.


·         Check your readiness:

Look at your partner, put mobile phone away, be present, turn off TV.

·         Encourage your partner to talk:

Show that you understand, paraphrase feelings, summarise, check if you understand correctly.

“I can see it from your perspective, I just want to understand it better, is it because the floor got dirty or is it as well about something else. 

·         Don’t be defensive show ownership: Recognise and take responsibility for something what you believe you could do better next time. You might not be responsible for the whole

·         Ask open- ended questions seek further understanding:

“What you said makes me feel uncomfortable, but I want to understand it better…”

·         Validate and acknowledge the feelings:

“Thank you for sharing your feeling, I never knew it bothers you as much as you never made a big deal out of it”.


·         Give them time to express themselves:

Don’t interrupt and let your partner speak. You will have your chance to speak.

·         Make sure that you understood what your partner said and that there is nothing else what your partner needs. 

·         Make realistic promises or continue discussion after taking a break.

If you cannot make a promise and feel that you need to discuss the issue again in order to brainstorm alternative solutions – you need approach your partner and express to your partner what you need.