Communication Problems? 5 Reasons Couples Stop Talking & How to Fix it

Misunderstandings and disagreements are inevitable and there is no shortage of potential communication problems. Studies show they are a primary reason couples agree to seek out marriage counseling. Some communication issues are painfully obvious, for example:

  • The silent treatment

  • Mockery or contempt

  • Defensiveness

  • Invalidating feelings

  • Non-stop criticism

These are the types of serious concerns and patterns that threaten relationships. Even an outsider could recognize their existence. But communication can be a very subtle art. Hence, existing or looming problems aren’t always easy to identify. Since unexamined issues can fester and deepen, let’s take a closer look now.

5 Reasons Couples Stop Talking & How to Fix It

1. Interpreting everything through our own eyes.

Let’s consider a common dynamic: interrupting. Endless studies have found men to be far more likely to interrupt than women. The female partner might interpret such behavior like this: “He doesn’t respect what I’m saying.” The male partner, most likely, isn’t even aware of his rude habit. Instead of interpreting, she could ask: “Why do you interrupt me so often?” This approach forces him to acknowledge his habit and creates room for a productive discussion.

2. Going for the win.

A relationship is not a competition. Arguing is not a contest with a declared winner and defeated loser. The compassionate and fruitful viewpoint is to see an argument as a challenge you tackle together. Both of you can learn and grow and yes, win! A major component of introducing this concept is making sure emotions do not rule the day.

3. Going for an unproductive compromise.

Compromises can be both necessary and wonderful. This doesn’t mean they are always the optimal goal. Compromises are great when they are mutually productive and satisfying. They teach us to be introspective and to find healthy solutions. But what happens if a compromise is no better than a lose-lose? If neither partner gets what they want, the arguments will return. One way to look at this is a blending of needs and perspectives. Your way + My way = Our way.

4. Language choices.

The beauty of addressing this issue is that it also forces couples to learn patience. Practicing mindful language usually means taking your time. It involves thinking before you speak. It requires us to ponder the outcome of our words (and tone). Sentences that begin with “you” sound like accusations. “You hurt me.” “You didn’t help.” Furthermore, using words like “always” and “never” leaves no room for discussion. “You always do this to me.” “You never help.” Such language feels final and impossible to challenge. As mentioned above in #1, imagine instead if you asked questions. Asking your partner why they said or did what they said or did is the beginning of a conversation. Reminder: Do not let emotions rule the day.

5. Settling for a stalemate.

Many couples are ashamed of any incompatibility and choose to ignore it. Others grow weary of disagreements and avoid certain topics, at their own peril. But communication problems between partners are a common and sometimes valuable aspect of relationship growth. But remember, you can also ask for help. Marriage counseling is a popular and proven avenue to better communication. If both you and your partner are committed to each other and to improvement, there is no need to settle for a life of communication problems.

Communication within a romantic relationship is almost like its own language. But it’s a language with many dialects. The challenge for each of us is to not only become fluent as a communicator but also to remain open to new communication vocabulary.


To find out more about how couples therapy can improve communication between you and your partner contact our intake team at the Center for Mindful Psychotherapy: call us at (415) 766-0276; or email us at intakes@mindfulcenter.org.