Why Is It Hard To Communicate In A Relationship?

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Sure, you speak the same language.

But what makes communication so difficult with your partner? Few people know the common obstacles to clear and natural communication. That’s why we’ll be breaking them down and giving you practical solutions to these challenges in this article.

Why is it hard to communicate in a relationship?

Here are the main reasons:

  • Neither you nor your partner are pure receivers
  • Emotions distort your perceptions 
  • Most people had bad role models
  • People want to talk but don’t want to listen

Once you have a solid grasp on these points, communication won’t be so difficult. Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand it yet. By the end of this article, you’ll have a much clearer grasp on how to communicate in your relationship and the simple steps that you can take today.

Ready to end the miscommunication and frustrating conversations that only force you and your partner? Change is possible so let’s get started.

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You’re Not a Pure Receiver

What are the basic ingredients of communication?

If you were a machine, communication would be easy. You’d craft the message perfectly, send it with precision and receive it with equal accuracy. 

But the thing is… You aren’t a machine.

Since we’re human, we’ll make mistakes. Plus, there’s a lot going on in the world and in our life. Communicating isn’t our sole purpose and activity.

A well-crafted message to your partner can still get lost because you might:

  • Talk too quietly
  • Be distracted and not finish your sentence
  • Think you said something but didn’t
  • Say the right words in the wrong tone or with the wrong body language
  • Believe what you said is clear, not realizing you left out important information

No wonder communication in a relationship can be hard, right?

But there’s more.

When you receive a message from someone, you’re not going to hear it clean and clearly. 

We make meaning out of what we hear all the time. Just to be able to hear what’s being said, your brain has to do a lot of data processing.

On top of that: 

  • We add things that haven’t been said. 
  • We miss parts because we get distracted by our thoughts or something else.
  • We misinterpret what has been said.
  • We forget what we just heard.

Whether we’re sending or receiving a message, a lot can go wrong on either side.

With so many obstacles in the way, you might be wondering how we can ever get anything right. Don’t worry, there’s actually a way to improve communication. We’ll show you how in the next section.

What Can You Do to Make Communication Less Hard?


Isn’t it good to know that there’s nothing wrong with you or your partner?
It’s helpful to know that there are many obstacles in the way of communication. How do you work with it all though?

Here’s how to ensure that your communication is more effective:

  • Check in with your partner whether what you heard is what they meant.
  • Check in with your partner to understand what they heard from your message.
  • Be present in the conversation (no phones, or other distractions). 
  • If there’s something important to remember, write it down.

The most important factor is your ability to listen and stay present. So many people check out during a conversation. It’s a surprise there aren’t more misunderstandings. Want to know how you can be more present? Meditation can do wonders and it’s worthwhile to check it out.

Put these things into practice and there’ll be less misunderstandings between you and your spouse. But there’s something else that makes communication in a relationship so difficult. Can you guess what it is?

Emotions Distort Your Perception

Emotions are beautiful. 

They’re what makes life so rich. However, they’re also massive stumbling blocks. 

Take this example:

Her: ‘Oh no, I forgot to lock the door.’

Him: ‘How could you? Now we have to turn around. Why are you always so careless? We’ll be late again and who knows if we even get into the show anymore. Seriously this is so annoying.’

Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? Do you see how a simple event has spiraled out of control? The emotions run high and he is saying things he’ll probably regret later on. We created and article where we show you how you can communicate without fighting. 

When we’re emotional, we can be convinced of our point of view. We can believe in the moment that the way we see a behavior or a person IS how they actually are or act (at least in our minds).

If that were true, we’d never have revelations when we reflect upon our past behavior. We’ll never feel regret or remorse because how we see the world is constantly the same. 

A mentor of mine once said: ‘Whenever I get frustrated, I’d know that someone’s being an idiot. I’d find the culprit very quickly.’

What’s actually going on?

  1. An emotion (frustration) comes up.
  2. He feels the need to find an outside source (find a scapegoat) for it .
  3. He then blames that person for his feelings.

Isn’t that what we learn through TV shows and movies?

‘The problem is her! You’re making me feel this way! If only you would change!’

That’s a lot of drama isn’t it?

My mentor then goes on and says:

‘I later realized that my emotions were only an indicator for my internally created reality. All my idiot detector did was warn me that I was going in the wrong direction.’

His emotions weren’t telling him about:

  • The other person
  • The situation
  • Himself

His emotions were informing him about one thing only:

  • His internally created reality.
  • How he’s making meaning of that situation.

How does this apply for you and your communication? This is the key takeaway:

Emotions surface because of what’s happening within you.

Remember the example of the couple arguing about the unlocked door? The emotions aren’t an objective gadge for someone forgetting to lock the door. That event is actually neutral. That’s how lost we can get with our internally generated reality and story.

Once you start disentangling yourself from a web of blame, powerlessness, and defensiveness you’ll see the situation much more clearly. That’s what transforms communication that feels impossible and difficult to one that’s pleasant and easy.

What Can You Do?


Ready to get rid of the confusion and simplify the communication in your relationship?

Here are some practical things to implement:

  1. Notice throughout the day when you start blaming your emotions on your partner or an event.
  2. Stop. Don’t entertain these thoughts any further. See them for what they really are: a story.
  3. Feel the emotions fully and be present with them. That’ll stop you from lashing out at your spouse in the moment.

Learning to work with your emotions is absolutely crucial in a relationship. So much anger, blame, and resentment build up in a relationship due to an inability to process emotions properly. When we don’t know how to process them, at some point, we just start ignoring our spouse.

Why aren’t we more capable of dealing with our emotions and really communicating what we want?  It goes back all the way to when you were a child.

Why Is It Hard to Communicate in Relationships? Bad Role Models

 

Your mom and dad model how you interact with a romantic partner. You’re constantly immersed in this environment for years. For most of us, our parents haven’t had a great way of dealing with each other or their emotions. Is it any wonder that you don’t have the best communication skills? 

For example, my parents never learned to solve conflicts. They would argue about the same things for their entire marriage. Who wants to be stuck with the same unresolved problems for decades? Not me!

But if that’s who we are surrounded by growing up, what other choice do we have? Is it all to blame on our parents? No. They didn’t know any better themselves. They learned this way of relating from their parents. It gets passed down from generation to generation.

The wonderful thing is that you can and have the opportunity to stop it right now. That’s why what we’re about to share with you is so so important.

Old Coping Mechanisms


This section would be incomplete if we didn’t mention that your own experiences shape your way of communicating as well.
If you learned as a child that throwing a temper tantrum gets you what you want, you keep that behavior. 

As an adult, your spouse will be impacted by this old pattern because you’re not a four year old anymore. You’re now in a relationship with someone else and it’s not about getting your way anymore.

Instead, it’s about the relationship flourishing. This means to go from ‘me’ and ‘I’ to ‘us.’

Because your old coping mechanisms were about you, how to get what you want, how to protect yourself, they aren’t suitable for a relationship. 

It takes time to look at those old coping mechanisms and unwind them. But it’s possible and very rewarding!

For example, I used to have trouble communicating what I really needed. I grew up in a household where independence was highly praised. So I got used to not depending on anyone but myself.

But after I realized how it was an old pattern and that it harmed my relationship, I committed to change. By letting myself be more vulnerable and actually communicating my needs, Natasha can actually take care of the things that are important for me now.

I was able to undo my past coping mechanism and it helped us grow closer. Our relationship and communication became much more rewarding for both of us. 

How to unwind those old coping mechanisms is a topic that goes beyond the scope of today’s article. But it’s a major element that we work on with our clients.

 People Want to Talk


‘I’ll listen to you without interruptions.’

I put that out as an experiment on my facebook profile. 

I scheduled ten calls with people to just give them a listening ear. Through this experiment, I found out that people…

  • Love to be listened to. It’s healing.
  • Can talk for 40 minutes or longer without any interruptions.
  • Are starved for proper attention.
  • Are often uncomfortable with silence.

When two people come together and both want to talk, no one will truly listen. You’ll just be interrupted the whole time. How do you expect this kind of communication will go? 

Let’s address what you can do to shift your conversations from not listening to each other to being fully present. This simple yet fundamental shift is needed for healthy communication that creates more respect for you and your partner.

What Can You Do About It?

Schedule time in for you and your partner where you can just talk: no advice and no interrupting. Give each of you 15 minutes to talk. If you don’t have anything else to say or you still have time, stay quiet and keep eye contact.

Sounds nice right? It’s actually a very intimate exercise that brings deep connection.

Here’s why it’s good for you:

You stop thinking about what to say next.

That allows you to become present to what your partner is sharing. Then the communication becomes about connection. That’s what it’s always about anyways. However, we miss it when we’re stuck in our heads.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you or your partner. Communication feels hard because of the natural obstacles that are in the way.

Now you have an overview of the common obstacles in communication:

  • Faulty send-message-receive 
  • Emotions distorting your prescription
  • Having poor role models growing up
  • The habit of speaking but not really listening

The wonderful thing is that there are simple steps that you can take to approach these difficulties. Just in this article, you have a toolkit full of practical steps to overcome these challenges.

What should you do now? To get you started, just take one exercise and do it today.

Through dedication and consistent practice, you’ll soon see your communication shift from difficult to deeply clear and rewarding. It’s all up to the next actions that you take. You won’t have to ask yourself anymore why communication is hard in relationships. You now know how to make it easier. 

So what are you waiting for? Pick an exercise and get started now. If you’re interested in further advice on how to improve your communication with your spouse, check out this two-part article.

Patterns can change.

Relationships can heal.

Love can grow.

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