9 Communication Behaviours That Risk Breaking Your Relationship

27 Oct

The pandemic has taken its toll on even the strongest, most resilient relationships. I explore nine harmful communication habits to look out for in your relationship—whether they come from your partner or you yourself.


Communication habits in relationships has certainly been in the spotlight lately. The pandemic has taken its toll on even the strongest, most resilient relationships. And even as we’ve scrambled to find creative ways of managing stress and anxiety, it’s been all but inevitable that the dynamic with our spouse will have taken a hit.

With spending so much more time at home has come friction and petty disagreements. But even when these negative interactions spiral into something more pernicious and the relationship sours, it can be hard to look at things objectively. So today we delve into nine harmful communication habits to look out for in your relationship—whether they come from your partner or you yourself.

1. Bringing up the past

If one of you is constantly trying to score cheap points by dredging up past indiscretions in the relationship, you should probably take a step back to consider why. Using mistakes as ammunition is never a healthy behaviour. Your partner’s not perfect—and neither are you. If you find yourself having these arguments constantly, or racking your brains for a different angle to hit your partner below the belt, it’s worth wondering whether this relationship is really heading in the right direction after all.

2. Keeping score

Keeping a tally of every time your partner upsets or annoys you can actually lead to you feeling more indignant, as you look for ways to add to their ever-growing list of mistakes. This in turn can lead to greater resentment, even while our partner is oblivious to any such ill feeling—until we suddenly let it loose in a bout of anger. Not only is this confusing for our partner and seemingly disproportionate, but it’s also unlikely to be conducive to any form of resolution. Communicating in this stop–start and arbitrarily vicious manner can do real and sometimes irreversible damage to the relationship.

3. Lying

Telling mistruths is one of the most surefire ways to rapidly destroy a relationship from within. Sometimes we might tell a white lie or withhold information to save our partner’s feelings. But trust is at the core of every healthy partnership, so if lying becomes habitual, one day you may find you’ve gone one mistruth too far, and the relationship has been harmed irreparably.

4. Using abusive language

Name calling has no place in a healthy relationship. We all say things we regret in the heat of the moment, but if abusive language is becoming commonplace in the relationship, it’s a red flag, and there’s clearly an egregious absence of respect.

5. Demanding our partner be a mind reader

It’s easy to forget that you can sometimes just state overtly what you need. Rather than smouldering with resentment that your partner doesn’t automatically know what you want, it’s almost always better for you, them, and the relationship as a whole to just tell them what’s missing. Expecting them to always know how to make you feel better isn’t just unfair and realistic, but also deeply unfulfilling in the long run.

6. Talking over one another

Active listening is a legitimate skill, and a hard one at that. It takes practice, empathy, and a genuine interest in your partner’s wellbeing to be a valuable listener. This is usually easier at the start of a relationship, when you’re still learning about each other and there’s something of a mystery and allure. But when you’ve been together a long time, it can be easy to fall into the habit of not listening as attentively as you used to, because you just assume you know your partner and what they’re going to say next. But interrupting in this situation is disrespectful, and signals that their thoughts simply aren’t worth your time. This is anathema to the cultivation of a happy, long-lasting relationship.

7. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is when you shut someone out by way of punishment, and refuse to communicate. It’s also known as the silent treatment. If it goes on long enough, this angry, pregnant silence can be just as damaging to the relationship as an outburst of rage. Taking some time for yourself in a relationship is normal, and often necessary for recalibrating your thoughts and regrouping—but if you’re totally blocking out your spouse and doing so on a regular basis, it’s only ever going to end one way.

8. Generalising

Generalising often goes hand in hand with blame: “You always do this”; “You never do that”. This isn’t helpful. Instead, you should endeavour to get back to the root of the issue—and be specific: “It hurts me when you look at your phone when I’m talking to you” rather than “You never listen to me.” By being particular rather than generalising, you improve communication within the relationship, and in turn help both of you feel more confident in being open about what you need.

9. Intellectualising emotions

Sometimes it’s easier in the moment to treat our emotions rationally rather than truly express them in a way that feels natural. This may even stem from equating emotional vulnerability with weakness. Chronic intellectualisation can be interpreted by our partner as coldness or a lack of care.

There’s always more we can do to improve our communication skills

Everyone has a unique way of communicating, and idiosyncratic wants and needs when it comes to how their partner communicates with them. Adapting to one another’s communication styles is part of being in a loving relationship. And when negative communication becomes problematic, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on why you got together in the first place—and whether what you have is worth preserving. And if you need a little extra support with that thought process, we can help.

The Vida Consultancy is an elite, multi-award-winning international dating agency—but our matchmakers are also renowned relationship specialists in their own right. Get in touch today, and we can help you find a way to work through that difficult conversation with your partner—and ultimately address any negative communication behaviours that have pervaded your relationship.

by Rachel Vida MacLynn

Founder & CEO

Rachel Vida MacLynn is reputed as being a world-leading matchmaking and dating expert. Registered as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, Rachel advocates a professional matchmaking approach based on psychological principles and professional consultation.More by this author

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