Why Communication Is Crucial in a Relationship

Updated November 10, 2018
Couple communicating with each other

You've heard it many times, but do you really know why communication is important? Communication and trust are the two key ingredients in a healthy relationship. Without both, your relationship is likely to fail.

Understanding Communication

There are two types of communication - verbal and nonverbal. Each one is just as important as the other. The two should work together to relay information. When people don't use their voice to tell someone what they are thinking or feeling, their actions can do it instead. Sometimes both communications work together to emphasize an important message; however, this is only the case if someone is willing to foster open communications with his/her partner.

Why Communication Is Important in a Relationship

People who don't communicate are not sharing a part of themselves with others. They hold onto their feelings and thoughts for many different reasons. Two reasons people in relationships fail to communicate are fear of rejection and concern they will do or say something to upset their partner. While the latter sentiment is noteworthy, not telling your partner what you need keeps the relationship from changing and growing. Growth in a relationship is crucial if you want it to be long-lived and satisfying.

Avoiding Misunderstandings

Another reason why communication is important is that misunderstandings often occur between people. Each partner may perceive situations differently, which can create resentment and other hurt feelings. Without communication, couples may become upset with one another without even knowing why or how it started. Positive communication can lead to clear expectations and greater empathy for one another's feelings.

Setting Expectations

When a couple plainly states what their expectations are, it's difficult for them to disregard those expectations since it's been discussed. No one can say, "How was I supposed to know you don't like when I message other women online?" if the other person made it clear that the expectation is that women aren't messaged online. When expectations are set and agreed upon, there's no question as to what's acceptable and how the other person feels as a result.

Knowing Each Other

Couples who don't communicate can fall into an unfortunate pattern of simply existing with one another and never really knowing each other very well. A relationship can't get profoundly deep if communication isn't open and frequent.

Examples of How Lack of Communication Affects Relationships

Many times, a conflict has a surface cause that points to other, deeper issues that should be addressed.

Sample Misunderstanding #1

Your partner calls and tells you he is going to be home late from work. You already have dinner set on the table, but you tell him that you'll put a plate in the oven for him. You let it go without telling him how disappointed you are. Unfortunately, he does it again a couple days later, and then again in a few more days. You choose not to tell him that you would appreciate a call earlier in the day so that you don't plan to cook dinner for him. Instead, you grow even more upset and stop talking to him. He has no idea what your problem is and gets angry because you aren't telling him why you're upset. Soon, the two of you are bickering over every little thing and forgetting the root of your frustrations. These frustrations continue to grow, and you end up breaking up because you can't get along.

Modified Sample Misunderstanding #1

Open and honest communication can make all the difference. Suppose in the above scenario, you approach your partner and tell him, "I understand that the day can get away from you, but I need earlier notice when you're going to be late. I look forward to eating dinner with you all day and take care to make you a good meal; when you come home late without letting me know earlier your meal's soggy by the time you get to it. If you let me know earlier in the day that you'll be late I can start preparing dinner later so we can eat together and your food won't be cold when you get home." This honest communication attempts to solve the problem without throwing blame around and makes your feelings clear.

Sample Misunderstanding #2

You know that your partner is busy, but you ask if she can do you a favor. She says she will, and you give her instructions. A few days later, you discover she didn't do what she promised. You get upset because you thought you could count on her. You hate to bring it up because you know she's really busy and probably just forgot. Instead, you keep your anger inside and get snappy with her or refuse to do anything for her when she needs you. She doesn't understand why you are upset and begins to react to the way you are behaving. She's fed up with the way you are treating her, and she breaks up with you.

Modified Sample Misunderstanding #2

A simple, "Hey babe, did you do that thing I asked you to do?" is the best way to approach this situation. If it leads to an argument, it's either because she feels as though you're expecting too much of her or because you feel as if she's not trustworthy to do what she says she will. If the discussion devolves into an argument, look at what the real issue is here because it's likely not about the asked favor at all. Don't allow a surface misunderstanding to distract you both from the real issue - instead, talk it through and come out stronger because of it.

The Uncommunicative Couple

Assistance Therapy

It's one thing when one person in a relationship doesn't communicate, but when the couple doesn't, it signals the end of the relationship may be near. Many times, when couples stop telling each other their wants and needs, they may have already given up on one another. They lack the motivation to work on resolving issues and may be waiting for someone to say, "It's time to break up."

Fear of Communicating

Another time a couple may not communicate is when they both feel that if they talk about the relationship, it will only make it worse. This type of couple probably still loves one another, but they may not know how to approach difficult topics without hurting the relationship. Without discussing problems -- or even neutral thoughts and feelings -- couples begin to lose their connection. Your interest in your partner most likely grew out of talking about things that you both loved to discuss. Once you don't have that any longer, you may lose interest.

Improving Your Relationship With Communication

Communication leads to sharing and bonding. Remaining close to your partner by sharing thoughts and feelings will help you get through challenging times when life tries to pull you apart.

Talk About Talking

If it's your partner who has a difficult time opening up, discuss this lack of communication with him/her. Be comforting and sincere when you say that you are open to discussing any issues, thoughts or feelings he/she has. Don't belittle your partner or make him/her regret opening up to you when he/she feels comfortable, because that could make your partner stop trusting you and cease communication.

Professional Help

If you and your partner have issues with communication, it may be best to seek counseling. If either of you is unable to open up and discuss the things that are bothering you, then it may be beneficial to have a third party help you focus on issues and work through them. This will remove the fear that each of you has and give you a safe environment to overcome the obstacles in your relationship. In addition, a counselor will be able to teach you both effective communication skills so you can continue to work on your relationship for many years to come.

A Strong Relationship

Couples should be able to rely on each other to talk about fears, dreams, and simple, everyday things. It's not only good for each individul, but better for the couple as a team to be able to openly voice concerns without fear of a blow-out argument stemming from miscommunication. The better the communication, the better the foundation of a relationship.

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Why Communication Is Crucial in a Relationship