Premarital Counseling in Palo Alto

Couples in Conflict – Why Your Communication Skills May Be a Problem

As naturally unrestrained creatures, we humans need efficient communication like a plant needs water.

When we’re unable to break that barrier, we become frustrated, depressed and angry.

What should be done to solve this issue?

Confronting the Cause of Poor Communication

According to a survey, poor communication is the number one reason why most couples split up. But it should be noted that in these cases, poor communication isn’t just about stonewalling the other person.

Poor communication can mean showing defensiveness in normal conversations, showing contempt, ignoring your partner, not paying attention during times of distress, criticizing them, etc.

By not exercising conversation, couples not only make things worse for themselves, they make their partners feel like their efforts and love is not worth it. That can have an adverse impact in the long run for both parties.

The Language of Communication

Effective interpersonal communication depends on various factors.

For example, saying words and directives like you should, you must, you need etc. makes a direct statement that often passes as judgment on the other person.

In truth, if your partner needed or wanted to do something, they would have. While you mean well, they won’t take it as a well-meant comment. They’d consider it as judgment for their lack of action, and that makes them defensive. Using the word you specially brings up resentment.

There are always more effective ways to give an opinion without being too direct with your statement.

Negative Effects of Miscommunication

Making a universal statement that generalizes your partner’s behavior or personality makes them feel that perhaps, they’re not as unique (or special to you) as they should’ve been. And when paired with a directive, this makes your statement all the more judgmental.

Make generalized statements like:

You always do this…

You never do anything I tell you to…

You’re such a slob…

You’re so lazy!

You’re messing everything again

Consider the opposite scenario. As an adult, if someone were to say these statements to you, it would make you feel belittled. In addition, if you pair each of these statements with the direct insult, this makes the other person feel as though all their hard work is ineffective.

Learn to separate the situation from the person you’re addressing. Sure, they may have committed a fault. Don’t let that one fault diminish all their past days. Separate the issue and focus on that, rather than the person themselves.

An ineffective sentence would be: You’re so messy, you never clean anything up!

An effective sentence would be: I noticed that you didn’t do the laundry this week.”

What’s the Solution?

As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I’ve worked with many couples dealing with relationship issues, only because one or both are unable to communicate effectively and openly.

We must understand that even if your relationship is suffering, it doesn’t have to. You still have the chance to improve through proper communication.


Consult with a reliable relationship counselor, be willing to work for the person you love and try your best to improve your connection.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a lifelong quest of the wise.”

Shannon L. Adler

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