What To Do When Communication Breaks Down In Your Relationship

Communicating effectively in relationships requires understanding two distinct concepts.
  • The first is that emotions are fundamentally unfair. It doesn't matter how right you are if being right makes your partner miserable. 
  • The second is that injecting judgment (even if warranted) into the conversation will just lead to your partner becoming defensive.
Yikes. These aren't comfortable facts to deal with, because they sideline our objectivity in favor of something murkier. It sidelines our indignation and sense of "being right" which might seem unfair. But unfair or not, fostering an environment of open communication is worth the price even if it makes us grit our teeth in the short-term.

So, if communication in your relationship has broken down, the first thing to do is level the playing field.

It means accepting on the surface that no matter how unfair, ridiculous or flat-out wrong your boyfriend's message is, it is nevertheless important to him and consequently the relationship.

Again, emotions aren't fair. They aren't always logical either. And what may seem self-evident to you might be interpreted differently by him. This discrepancy is often the root cause of poor communication.

Five Communication Tips

Getting communication right should be a long term goal. It takes practice, and can should never be taken for granted (remember that even in strong, committed relationships both you and your partner are constantly changing over time).

Here are five good habits to get into right away:
  1. Don't avoid confrontation. You need to be a little selfish. Wouldn't you want the truth out of your partner as well no matter how it sounded?
  2. Tell your partner how you feel and let them deal with it. Don't lay the blame at their feet immediately. It will only cloud the discussion and lead to blame games.
  3. Choose an appropriate setting. Preferably one that is open and calm. If you fear retaliation or anger, why not start the discussion in a public place?
  4. If the discussion centers around whether or not you should break up, and especially if the conversation is intense, that at least you both still care enough not to just walk away. 
  5. Arguing is a healthy relationship tool. It is the way to reconcile the natural differences that occur as two people grow in different directions. There is no way around this divergence, the only thing can do is sit down now and then and take stock of what changes have taken place and what can be done about finding a middle ground. 

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Communication isn't just verbal. One of the most neglected aspects of relationship management is being aware of what our body language is saying about us

Image we come hope and find out partner lost in thought, sitting on the couch cradling a photo of a recently deceased parent. 

Now ask yourself which of these scenarios is most communicative.
  • Asking whether all is well and heading to the kitchen.
  • Sitting next to them without saying a word.
Clearly, sometimes just being present speaks far louder than a well-articulated, but effectively meaningless, sentence.

A lot of the time we may not be aware of what our body language is saying about us. It may be interpreted as close off, when all we are is cold (arms crossed). Whether we like it or not, we are constantly giving off signals. Being aware of what our body is saying can go a long way towards improving relationship communication

Leading By Example

It goes without saying that none of this is going to magically happen overnight. The good news is that you can control every aspect of your communication, and often just by leading by example, your partner will follow your lead. 

It may be uncomfortable to do, and certainly requires strength, but remember you are doing this for yourself. Because the truth may hurt, but it is clean. Pain is inevitable, but the suffering associated with forever living in the grey area (which is what poor communication leads to) is optional.