Trying to communicate effectively with your partner is a noble cause. Still, many couples end up having avoidable relationship problems even when their hearts are in the right place. These communication mistakes in relationships are easy to fall into, and can destroy your connection with your partner if you aren’t careful. Luckily, relationship experts have learned to identify them.
Of all the issues you may have in a relationship, messing up communication is one of the most serious. “When you can’t communicate with your partner, you are opening the door to misunderstandings and creating distance,” board-certified psychiatrist and dating and relationship coach Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. “When you can express yourself to your partner in a constructive way, it often brings you closer together. You’re not likely to feel understood if you can’t tell your partner how you feel.” But if these problems start to get in the way, they can really break your connection down.
“Relationship mistakes are common with couples and aren’t necessarily fatal, but chronic problems communicating can take a serious toll on your relationship,” Dr. Edelman says. In a long-term relationship, communication will never not be something you have to deal with. “A relationship by its very nature is about communication, because it involves two people trying to go through life united socially, and in many cases, financially and legally,” David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert with Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “For this to work at any level, good communication is essential.” So it’s best not to let these problems get in your way.
Here are 12 communication mistakes that can break down the connection in your relationship, according to experts.
Yelling And Screaming
If you’re in it for the long haul with someone, you’re probably going to end up raising your voice sometimes. But if this becomes a habit between the two of you, you might be creating more problems than you can solve.
“I always joke with my clients that the percentage of people who think screaming works as communication is about 100 percent, whereas the percentage of people who have ever changed from being screamed at is 0,” David Bennett says. “Screaming and yelling don’t work, and only serve to provoke an even stronger emotional reaction from both partners during an argument.” Yelling at your partner will focus their brain on defensiveness. So turn the tables towards calm discussion. If you’re always yelling, you’re likely just not communicating well.
Apologizing Too Much
Apologizing after every argument or conflict may seem like a safe bet, but it can actually become quite an issue in your relationship. “While the opposite is a communication mistake too (never apologizing), some people apologize for everything,” Bennett says. “This can create serious boundary issues if you are always the one apologizing, even if you didn’t really do anything wrong. Many people will apologize simply to get their partner off their backs, or to stop being screamed at. However, this ultimately communicates to your partner that they can act horribly to you and you’ll be the one who apologizes.” This kind of behavior will also keep things from being entirely truthful in the relationship. So if you find yourself tending towards over-apology, take note.
The Silent Treatment
While it may seem obvious that an adult relationship shouldn’t involve the same communication techniques you used on the playground in third grade, relationship experts want you to know how dangerous the silent treatment really is.
“It may seem like a good idea at the time, to withdraw from a discussion and just simply stop engaging your partner, whether to ‘punish’ them or simply just get away,” Bennett says. “However, research shows using this ‘treatment’ is hardly therapeutic, and negatively impacts relationships.” So talk to your partner, even when it’s hard. It’s worth it to avoid any serious issues down the line.
Speaking In Absolutes
This specific communication issue is one of the most commonly-referenced among experts. So avoid saying things like “you always” or “you never” to your partner at all costs. “Speaking in superlatives is always a nonstarter,” love and life coach Veronica Grant tells Bustle. “Rarely is anything absolutely true … And when one person is feeling attacked, it’s impossible to have an actual conversation.” To avoid this, even when you’re upset, you can use “I” statements and give concrete examples.
Dr. Edelman suggests focusing on the feelings you’re experiencing, rather than the things you think your partner is doing wrong. “You might say, ‘You never help around the house’ or ‘You’re always telling me what to do,’” Dr. Edelman says, “… [Instead say] I feel alone with all the housework around here. I’d really appreciate it if it felt more like we were partners in getting things done.” This way, you can avoid sabotaging your relationship by making sure no one feels attacked.
“Shoulds” And “Shouldn’ts”
Even though you really might feel that your partner is behaving or reacting improperly, it’s vital that you never tell them how to feel. You wouldn’t want someone to do the same to you.
“Any communication around invalidating your partner’s feelings is also a non-starter,” Grant says. “People’s perceptions of what did or didn’t happen or intentions can be debatable. But how actions (or lack thereof) affect someone’s emotions are never debatable. In fact, I’d argue that a relationship where this is a consistent pattern of invalidating a partner’s feelings is definitely manipulative, and potentially emotionally abusive.” So don’t jump to these sorts of statements, even when you’re the most upset. This way things can stay less aggressive, and more loving — as much as possible, at least.
It’s natural to expect certain behavior from your loved one, but making assumptions and then sharing them can become really detrimental. “Assumptions are the death of any relationship,” Grant says, “… In a relationship, it’s vital to understand that your rules or expectations in a relationship aren’t universal and need to be communicated to your partner. It can help each partner get what they want [or] need from the relationship and can create an incredibly fulfilling, satisfying relationship.” This means proactively talking about relationship boundaries and expectations before they become a problem. You won’t have to assume anything if everything has already been discussed.