What Causes Lack of Communication in Marriage? (12 Eye-Opening Reasons)

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If your relationship is suffering from a lack of communication, you need to understand how you got there so you can fix it and prevent it from happening again.

Here’s a summary of the key reasons lack of communication happens:

  • Not knowing the techniques of healthy communication
  • Losing trust and emotional intimacy
  • Spending more time arguing and less time connecting
  • Making assumptions about your partner
  • Keeping secrets
  • Unresolved conflict

If the lack of communication is serious and you’re worried you’ll lose your marriage over it, it’s time to shift to a relationship-centered approach with your spouse.

You can start using therapist-approved techniques that will strengthen the “we” in your marriage now in Dr. Lee Baucom’s best-selling Save The Marriage Program.

Click the link above now, or keep reading to discover what’s behind lack of communication in a marriage.

What causes lack of communication in marriage?

If you want to prevent communication issues, you have to know where they come from.

Here are the common sources.

1. Not realizing what unhealthy and healthy communication look like

couple ignoring each other with a quote about married couples not recognizing communication problems until they have them

Many couples don’t recognize communication issues until there’s a complete communication breakdown.

One person may think everything is fine because you don’t argue that often—but they don’t realize how much you’re both holding in.

Or, someone may believe that fighting is “healthy” and needs to happen to release tension or stoke passion in a relationship.

One thing is for sure—not knowing what good communication looks like will almost certainly ensure that you don’t have the tools to do it.

Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage

2. Having poor communication before marriage

Was communication between you and your partner bad before you ever got married?

If so, chances are, it followed you into your married life.

Marriage doesn’t solve communication problems.

In fact, saying “I do” before you fix your communication problems can make them worse due to added pressures from anything from buying a home together to building a family.

And because you’ve tied your futures and your fates together, there’s a lot more riding on your communication.

3. Lack of emotional intimacy

If you’re emotional connection is weakening, so too will your communication.

Couples who don’t feel lovey-dovey toward each other anymore tend to spend less time together and share fewer details of their personal lives.

This creates a feedback loop where the less open and chatty couples are, the weaker their emotional connection gets.

4. Unresolved conflict

couple sitting on a bed feeling bad with a quote about resentment leading to lack of communication

Lingering resentment about issues that don’t get resolved can negatively impact your communication.

You may not want to talk to your spouse about relationship problems because you’re tired of getting burned.

Or you may feel like the burden is on your spouse to come to you because they’re the one at fault.

Whatever the case may be, having unresolved conflict makes people feel more guarded and defensive in a relationship, which certainly doesn’t foster communication and understanding.

5. Your parents had marriage communication problems

Did you grow up in a household where your parents or caretakers were always yelling at each other?

Or maybe they preferred to give others the silent treatment to punish them or passively-aggressively get their point across.

If so, you may have been conditioned to communicate with your partner the same way.

So think about the communication styles of whoever raised you—and your spouse.

If you see a pattern there, it may be time to work on it.

6. Not making time to talk

Mistakenly, many couples believe that communication is something that just happens spontaneously when it needs to.

But the reality is, not setting aside time to talk with your spouse can create serious gaps in your communication and understanding of each other’s point of view.

7. Not laughing together

If you want to talk about the hard stuff in your marriage, you have to be able to laugh, too.

Comic relief is a huge motivator when it comes to hashing out the nitty-gritty details of complex problems in relationships.

When couples can find humor even in some of the darker things, it can help them process emotions and make talking about them feel less heavy and taboo.

On the flip side, when you lose the ability to laugh and lighten the mood, small problems can start to grow bigger in the dark.

Read Also: Why Do Men Change After Marriage?

8. Lack of trust

Trust is vital for communication in a healthy relationship.

If you don’t trust your partner, you’re more likely to speak to them harshly and critically.

Lack of trust also causes strain and paranoia between partners.

You may not share information with them because you’re trying to catch them in a lie.

You may always assume the worst and cut yourself off from honest and open communication to protect yourself.

Whether it’s warranted or you have trouble trusting, lack of trust will certainly damage communication and the relationship.

9. Assuming

close up of a man drinking coffee while his wife is on a tablet with a quote about making assumptions hurting communication

At some point, couples naturally start to feel like they know their partners better than anyone else, which can make them feel closer.

But the unintended side effect can sometimes be that they develop belief systems about how their partners think and behave.

If you’ve been with your partner for a long time, you might make assumptions about what they’d do in a given situation, or how they feel.

Sometimes you’re right, but the fact remains that you may unintentionally stop your partner from sharing their thoughts.

If we assume we don’t need to ask and discuss, we shut down the possibility for learning.

This can even affect goal-setting and planning for a future both parties really want, but are afraid to talk about.

10. Keeping things from your spouse

If one person is lying, cheating or doing things behind their partner’s back, they are bound to become more tight-lipped.

This is because they’re trying to cover their tracks so they can continue their behavior, or because they really want to be perceived in a good light by their spouse.

Some people struggle with problems like alcoholism and gambling and don’t want their partners to judge them or worry.

So they don’t talk about it, and it gets worse.

11. Not listening

If you and your partner are not listening to each other, then you’re not likely to talk to one another about important things.

There’s no use in bringing something up when you know your partner isn’t going to hear it.

Furthermore, feeling unheard will contribute to disconnection and make someone feel lonely and misunderstood.

12. Stress

man holding forehead over paperwork with a quote about stress causing lack of communication in marriage

Stress causes us to get wrapped up in our own problems.

When we feel under pressure at work or we’re exhausted from staying up all night with a sick child, we get short fuses with our spouses and communication tends to break down easily.

Stress comes and goes and may not indicate a chronic communication problem.

But if you do have chronic stress issues, you may want to look at how they’re affecting your relationship.

Signs of poor communication in marriage

  • Frequent misunderstandings: If you can’t ever seem to get on the same page, you may have a communication problem with your partner.
  • You get hot under the collar easily: When fights escalate at the drop of a hat, couples are typically defensive or more focused on being right than on communicating.
  • Body language: Past research has estimated that about 55% of communication is body language. For example, not looking at your spouse and turning your body away when they’re talking can signal lack of engagement and interest.
  • Fighting about the same things all the time: Circular and never-ending arguments indicate that things are getting lost in translation due to lack of communication.
  • Silent treatment: Silent treatment, stonewalling and giving the cold shoulder are tools people use to punish their partners, not reach an understanding.
  • Blaming: Blame makes people defensive and shut down because you’re not listening, and you’re not using empathy.
  • Believing you can’t talk to your partner: Not talking to your partner may deny them a chance to empathize, connect and support you.
  • Lack of physical intimacy: Physical intimacy usually requires trust and emotional connection in a relationship, which are eroded by lack of communication.
  • You invalidate each other’s feelings: Using phrases like “You’re too sensitive” or “That’s not what happened” invalidates your partner’s emotions and encourages them to keep things to themselves.
  • Your partner wants to go to couples counseling: When your partner mentions marriage therapy, often they feel that getting a neutral third party to listen and translate their complaints to you is the only way to change things.
  • Having a lot of pent-up feelings: Quite simply, having a build-up of suppressed emotions shows there’s not enough communication going on. If there were, you would be able to get things off your chest and release those emotions.

How do I fix communication problems in my marriage?

No matter how bad communication is in your relationship, you can turn it around by making some simple changes in your day-to-day routine and interactions.

Below are key ways to improve communication.

Practice active listening

If you want to foster good communication skills and nurture your partner’s feelings, practice active listening by:

  • Giving your partner your full and undivided attention (no looking at phones or TVs)
  • Making sure your body language shows you’re interested
  • Listening to them speak with the intention of learning and understanding their point of view
  • Putting in your own words what you think you hear them saying (mirroring back)
  • Asking follow-up questions
  • Remaining nonjudgmental and open-minded even if you disagree

Setting aside a regular time to talk

couple smiling at each other with a quote about making time to talk with your spouse

Making time to talk doesn’t just mean after a fight.

It means dedicating one-on-one time to check in with each other even when things are going great in your relationship.

This build trust and openness and gives you an opportunity to share things like:

  • How you feel about your marriage lately
  • What you feel good about in your relationship
  • What you want to fix or change in your relationship
  • How you can better support each other

…And so on.

Remember—therapeutic communication isn’t just to fix problems. It’s also to make sure they don’t arise in the first place.

Enlist professional help if you need it

Some couples may need a therapist to help them sort out their communication challenges and teach them better methods of relating to each other.

There are also marriage therapist-created programs like Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage you can do on your own to improve communication and fortify your relationship.

Whatever you choose, you may find that investing in an expert resource builds your confidence and gives your marriage an upward trajectory.

Express curiosity about your partner

No matter how long you’ve been together, you don’t necessarily know everything about your partner.

Showing interest in their thoughts and ideas and being curious like you were in the dating days can be a fun, low-pressure way of getting your partner to open up.

They may also become more curious about you, giving you more opportunities to express yourself.

Keeping an approach of curiosity can also break the pattern of assuming things about your partner and revive the spark if that’s been fading.

Watch your tone (and your words)

There are times when we end up speaking more aggressively than we intended to.

Watching the tone of voice that we use and making sure our language is polite and not blaming or critical is important to guide conversation in a constructive direction.

Use “I” statements

Saying things like “You always say that” or “You don’t listen to me” isn’t as effective as using “I” statements.

This is because saying “you” feels like pointing a finger.

Try “I feel like we go around in circles when…” or “I feel unheard when…” to keep the focus on your feelings and avoid putting your partner on the defensive.

Work on handling conflict gracefully

couple smiling and hugging on a couch with a quote about finding a resolution to arguments to improve communication

Never leave a disagreement hanging without a resolution.

Compromise is usually the key, but the idea is that you both get closure at the end of an argument or clash of needs and desires.

Be sure to repeat back what you hear your partner saying when they agree to a compromise so there are no misunderstandings to fuel future arguments.

Practice vulnerable communication

Instead of holding it all inside or giving your partner the silent treatment, practice the art of vulnerable communication.

It can be scary to open yourself up, but when you do so, you will be able to break down walls and forge a closer bond with your spouse.

And you will also make a safe space for them to do the same.

If you want to try vulnerable communication, the first step is to love yourself first. Know you are valid and deserve to have your thoughts and emotions expressed.

Vulnerability is all about wearing your heart on your sleeve and taking that emotional leap to talk about your feelings authentically and truthfully.

Final thoughts

Marital communication issues are caused by lots of factors from low emotional intimacy to lack of trust.

Communication issues are not uncommon, but they’re also not unbeatable.

If you want to improve communication, start using any or all of these techniques:

  • Active listening
  • Regular check-ins
  • Staying curious about your partner
  • Watching your tone and language
  • Using “I” statements
  • Finding a reliable resource to help you communicate better
  • Prioritizing conflict resolution
  • Vulnerable communication

FAQ

What percentage of divorce is due to lack of communication?

A survey of mental health professionals found that poor communication problems were the most common culprits leading to divorce by a whopping 65%.

The moral of the story: Don’t ignore lack of communication in your marriage!

It could literally save it.

Can a marriage survive lack of communication?

You can find marriages that survive all kinds of unresolved issues, but at what cost?

And, as mentioned above, lack of communication is one of the best guarantees that a marriage will end in divorce.

What are the signs of a failing marriage?

Signs of a failing marriage include:

  • Feeling bad all the time around your spouse
  • Feeling like you have nothing left to give to your marriage
  • No communication
  • Lack of respect for each other
  • Dreaming of divorce 
  • Death of intimacy
  • Constant arguments or lack of arguments due to apathy

Effects of lack of communication in a relationship

No communication means no emotional closeness, trust and understanding—all necessary for a happy, healthy relationship.

It means worsening conflicts from misunderstandings, assumptions and pent-up feelings.

If you want to bullet-proof your marriage and communicate in healthy, constructive ways, check out Dr. Lee Baucom’s practical techniques in Save The Marriage.

Marlene Davis is an experienced blogger with a focus on interpersonal relationships. Her dream is to help improve people's lives and relationships through sharing of practical knowledge and evidence-based practices.