Learning to Communicate in a Relationship

Photo of a married couple sitting on a couch with their arms crossed, frustrated from learning how to communicate in their relationship.
Trying to communicate effectively in a relationship can feel like learning to breathe underwater — no matter what you try, it doesn't work.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

How Different Perspectives Can Foster Division

A Non Sequitur cartoon by Wiley Miller pictures a couple in bed. The wife has put down the book she’s been reading and said something to her husband. Here’s what he heard: “Time for the annual review of how you make my life a living nightmare.”

All she actually said, though, is, “Sweetie, let’s talk about us.”

Why do some spouses — especially some husbands — seem to view communication as a form of torture?

Betsy is wondering about that. She’s hurt that her husband, Carl, seems to have lost interest in her. She interprets his lack of communication as evidence that he doesn’t love her. This puts her in a panic; she becomes needy and controlling, trying to force Carl to “talk about the problem.” This creates more pressure for Carl, who retreats further.

Carl is overwhelmed by Betsy’s need for conversation. It feels like a void that could never be filled. This is decreasing his desire to be intimate with her; he’s finding excuses to avoid even spending time together. He’d rather hang out with friends who are less demanding.


Hear real-life stories and examples from authors Greg and Erin Smalley of how busyness, routine and exhaustion almost doomed their marriage. Learn to recognize how gentle neglect and silent routines are the "little foxes" and how you and your spouse can catch them before drifting apart.

Is Your Spouse a Different Person Now?

When the person you married seems to change into someone else — as Betsy thinks Carl has — it’s normal to feel disappointed and even hurt. She knows that part of this change is to be expected after settling into the day-to-day of married life, but she longs for that other guy—the before marriage one who couldn’t seem to stop talking nor get enough of her. She was so excited back then, and believed it would go on forever. Now she feels duped.

Maybe you do, too. Maybe you fear your uncommunicative spouse isn’t interested in you, isn’t excited about you, or doesn’t love you anymore. You might doubt that you married the right person—or feel inadequate, insecure, and desperate for attention.

When that happened to Betsy, she changed, too. Now Carl finds himself wondering what happened to the self-assured, strong woman he first fell in love with. He misses her.

Carl doesn’t realize it, but Betsy has always had an unusual need for attention and communication. That’s because she had a very stoic father whom she was never able to please. It’s good to examine whether your need to talk is reasonable or the result of a troubled upbringing.

Learning How Your Spouse Communicates Is Key in Your Relationship

Most couples need help to discuss their needs in a productive way. Having different attitudes toward talking doesn’t mean there is something wrong with either spouse, that anyone was deceived, or that the marriage is hopeless.

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