Love Doctor's Blog

Most Relationships Fail Because of Poor Communication

Poor Communication Can Indicate a Disregard for your Partner’s Feelings or Issues Which Need to be Solved. Let’s Talk About It. 

It’s always interesting to see the flaws in someone else’s relationships which they are unaware of. I won’t tell my friends the reason they have such dramatic breakups is that they throw themselves into relationships and forget about their friends, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going to happen. Wedding planners, staff and photographers are full of stories like this: they knew a marriage was doomed when the groom took no interest in planning the big day, or the bride cried for three hours and then got ragingly drunk. Perhaps these are obvious examples. The professionals, though, are people who study relationships over their careers and come back with facts. Perhaps the results are unsurprising, because they tell us that poor communication destroys relationships.

Making things better

Intimacy does involve spending quality time with another person’s genitals, but there’s more to it than just sexuality. Being emotionally open with your partner is as important, as platonic affection, shared values and many other things. It’s not always easy to do, though, so sometimes couples will need to see a therapist for some counselling to clear up communication issues. If you can’t solve these problems, it’s easy to become unhappy and experience negative feelings about your relationship. 



What are the experts saying? 

In his book explaining the findings from years of studying relationships, Dr John Gottman describes the four most problematic types of communication. His sample group included 40,000 couples. Here are the things to watch out for: contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling. Now, we must remember that nobody is perfect and we will all occasionally do these things, but make sure that it’s not a habit because it can destroy relationships. Gottman went on to elaborate on his identified list.


All of us have weaknesses, and knowing what ours and our partners’ are can be really useful. However, when one person acts superior to another, this is unkind and introduces an unhealthy relationship dynamic. For example, I might know that I am a better cook than my partner. There are three options. One – play to strengths. I’ll cook, and he can clean. Two – improve weak points. I can try to teach him, he can take cooking classes, or we can find new recipes. Three – mock him. Laugh at his meals, then blame him for never trying. The first two options are fine, but the last one is contemptuous and will undermine his confidence, making him feel dependent and unhappy in the relationship. 


Criticism itself isn’t the worst thing, but a little goes a long way. As with contempt, it’s easy to see someone’s flaws as you spend time with them, especially after the honeymoon period ends. Acknowledging that neither you nor your partner is perfect seems pretty healthy to me, but excessively putting someone down is unnecessary and unkind. 


This is a pretty understandable reaction to criticism and therefore needs to be adjusted. If you feel like your partner is attacking everything you say or do, then standing up for yourself is a good idea. However, if you’re constantly being criticised, then consider if you actually want to be in this relationship. On the other hand, if your partner mentions that you have a weakness and wants to work with you to solve the issue (such as the cooking example from earlier), then immediately shutting down or trying to counter-attack is not a good look




Sometimes we need a break from conversations, especially challenging ones. This can either involve communicating this clearly (“I need to take a moment, can we come back to this subject later”) or simply refusing to engage. The latter is an example of stonewalling, which can take the form of ignoring a partner, acting busy, or giving someone the silent treatment. It’s dismissive, rude and manipulative because the idea is that either you’ll give in and apologise just to end this treatment, or the issue will be completely ignored. 


Poor communication causes relationships to fail. When this is mixed with disappointment, critiques or manipulation, perhaps that’s for the best. It’s better to be single than entwined with someone who treats you poorly and makes you feel lonely. There are, of course, times when a relationship has a rough patch and can be improved, but contempt and stonewalling don’t suggest that things will get better, and instead suggest that some form of emotional abuse is about to occur. 

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