Researchers Say This Is The Reason Most Relationships Fail

Many aspects of dating and relationships have evolved over the years to adapt to the needs and trends of the modern lifestyle. This includes changes in societal expectations, social norms, values, and individual preferences. While the relationship patterns observed today detour from the traditional relationship milestones and dynamics of the past, almost every relationship across time and space, at the least, shares a single commonality: communication.


Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life, or so the saying goes. In most cases, this trite adage holds true. In fact, poor communication is one of the main culprits behind rocky or failed relationships, according to psychologist Dr. Jessica Griffin and sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, per CNBC. When there is a lack of healthy and effective communication between two partners, this inevitably leads to some form of miscommunication that can chip away at a solid foundation over time. "People ignore uncomfortable communication, thinking that it will pass without being addressed, but this sort of denial rarely works," psychotherapist Kate Deibler explains to Well+Good. "This type of thinking and subsequent inaction can lead to years of avoiding issues that are ultimately hurting the relationship."


Ultimately, consistent and productive communication is a major green flag to look for in a relationship. Healthy communication with your significant other will strengthen the bond and help you sustain the relationship.

Bottling up your feelings can hurt a relationship

Whether you're in a long-term, committed partnership or three months into a fledgling relationship, bottling up your negative thoughts and feelings can seriously impact you and your partner. Keeping your feelings to yourself instead of communicating serious anxieties or concerns about your relationship is a sign of poor communication, especially if it encourages misunderstandings and conflict as time goes on. For instance, if an individual struggles to navigate a relationship when their partner has trust issues, failing to communicate their frustrations can lead to resentment and bitterness. Of course, this goes both ways if the other partner fails to express their reasoning or basis for mistrust.


As such, withholding feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness from your partner can be counterproductive to improving or supporting a healthy relationship. It's important to share these feelings with your partner and let them know if certain actions or behaviors upset you.

Miscommunication exacerbates conflict

When anger, resentment, and constant miscommunication are left unchecked, they can completely dismantle a relationship. Many believe brushing off minor concerns or arguments is the best solution, but this is not always true. "Difficult conversations can be intimidating and triggering, as many of us were not taught how to have them productively or at all," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Smedley reveals to Essence. She adds, "Difficult conversations, when done fruitfully and with love, can lead to better intimacy, relationship health, overall happiness, and investments in the future in the event children are involved, as it role models emotional resilience and love even when tough."


What's more, during an exclusive interview with Glam earlier this year, licensed counselor Jeff Guenther revealed that repetitive arguments are one of the top relationship issues that often can't be fixed. Without effective communication, tension persists, leading to further conflict and mutual resentment. As these conflicts remain unresolved — with future arguments only fueling the fire — this breeds bitterness, contempt, and emotional exhaustion. Essentially, this produces an unhealthy cycle of unmet needs and can be challenging to address without external mediation, such as counseling.

Flight, fight, and freeze responses

The common signs of poor communication skills often involve one or both partners shutting down (freeze), fleeing (flight), or becoming overly defensive and angry (fight). These three behavioral responses to stress and conflict are different types of observed communication styles, and they each require different methods of approach. For instance, attempting to communicate with a partner who shuts down while discussing an issue can be frustrating and ineffective. ​​"Stonewalling is when, during an argument or disagreement, someone begins to shut down, withdraw from the conversation, and build a wall between themselves and the other person," trauma-informed psychotherapist Ludine Pierre, LPCC, shares with MindBodyGreen. In this case, sex therapist Michelle Herzog believes the best thing to do is walk away and give your partner a timeout: "This is a great opportunity for you to walk away and collect yourself before coming back to your partner," she says (via MindBodyGreen).


On the other hand, for someone who becomes defensive while arguing and instinctively gears up for a fight, it helps to take a step back to calm down and process your emotions before talking through the issue with your partner. That way, you can reign in your emotions and think more clearly. Alternatively, some individuals feel the compulsive need to escape the situation whenever their partner raises a concern by ending the conversation, leaving the environment, or even terminating the relationship. In this case, learning to recognize and address this behavioral pattern will help someone who tends to flee at the first signs of conflict.

Lack of mutual understanding

Miscommunication, or a lack of communication altogether, affects the potential for reciprocated understanding and compassion. Communication is one of the building blocks of any relationship, and it helps you establish a healthy degree of trust and empathy that you can fall back on as everyday squabbles and arguments arise. "The goal for communication should be understanding, not agreeing. Most couples think they're supposed to get to agreement, which can cause so many problems," relationship therapist Vanessa Marin tells Well+Good.


Therefore, building respect and understanding can improve communication in your relationship by helping you understand where the other person is coming from in an argument. This helps in situations where you and your partner don't necessarily see eye to eye, which is more than likely to occur when you're in a relationship. As such, simple ways to improve communication and acquire mutual understanding include learning how to express yourself candidly, asking thoughtful questions, and listening attentively to your partner's concerns.

Intimacy and vulnerability are essential

Communication and intimacy fall hand in hand. If you no longer connect to your partner on an emotional level due to a consistent lack of honest and vulnerable communication, this could be a sign that it's time to end your relationship. Intimacy between partners involves a mutual give-and-take wherein a couple reveals information about their lives to deepen the bond. This is referred to as self-disclosure and consists of the memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings shared between two individuals.


"Communication is important because it fosters trust and connection," clinical psychologist Shelley Sommerfeldt tells Healthline. "In order to have an open, honest, and vulnerable relationship with our partner, we must be able to freely communicate in a healthy manner." Without healthy communication, there is less opportunity to create a sense of open intimacy between you and your significant other, thereby losing out on the chance to build a deeper connection.

Despite how it may seem at first, communicating with your partner doesn't have to be difficult. For instance, using non-aggressive "I' statements, asking open-ended questions, and prioritizing time for vulnerable conversations are examples of how a struggling couple can repair their relationship. Adopting changes to your communication style requires effort, so it's up to you to decide if the relationship is worth putting in the work. That said, you should always strive to maintain effective communication within a partnership, as it will help you weather the storm and remain strong during inevitable bumps and hurdles.