10 Signs Your Relationship Is Lacking Healthy Communication Habits

The past should stay in the past.

by Laken Howard
Originally Published: 
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If you want a relationship to last long-term, it’s pretty much mandatory that you and your partner figure out a healthy communication style. Everyone has a different way of communicating, so it’s not always easy to get on the same page — but lack of communication in a relationship can take a serious toll. How couples talk to each other during arguments can make or break a relationship, and if you and your partner get stuck in a cycle of poor communication, it’s difficult for the partnership to survive when the going (inevitably) gets tough.

“If you don’t feel listened to, respected for your thoughts/opinions, even when you disagree, and comfortable speaking your mind — these are signs your relationship will not work out,” Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator, tells Bustle. “If your relationship communication is characterized by misunderstandings driven by difficulty expressing feelings and hearing what a partner has to say — these can be worked on if both people are truly motivated to make these better.”

What Does Healthy Communication Look Like?

Every couple will have their own communication style based on what works best for them, but even though communication might look different from couple to couple, there are still certain basic tenants of good communication that all healthy couples share. “Healthy communication in a relationship includes equal expression of values, needs, wants, and desires,” Tamara Hill, licensed and nationally certified mental health therapist, tells Bustle. “It also includes honesty and boundaries. Without these things, relationships are likely to fold.”

Even if things seem easy-breezy in the beginning of the relationship, that doesn't mean bad communication habits can't pop up down the road, so it’s important to keep your eyes open to how your partner communicates during both good and bad times. “There is a strong possibility that once novelty and the romantic phase of the relationship wears off that the individual will fall back into their comfortable patterns of communication,” Hill says. “If that ‘comfortable pattern of communication’ is the silent treatment, passive-aggressive behaviors, ignoring you, minimizing things, projecting, or denying things, the possibility of this person getting better in their communication is slim.”

What Are Signs Of Poor Communication In A Relationship?

It’s always possible that you just need to have a serious conversation with your partner to get on the same page about how you communicate and resolve arguments. As long as both of you are willing to work on achieving healthy communication (as individuals and as a couple), there's no reason to assume your relationship is doomed. However, if there’s a lack of communication that either you or your partner is unwilling to work on, that’s when it becomes dicey for the future of your relationship. Here are ten communication habits that could be signs your relationship won't last long-term.


They Rely Solely On Texting To Communicate

There’s nothing wrong with having a ~textual~ relationship with the person you’re dating, but a partner who’s reluctant (or downright refuses) to call you on the phone — whether it’s to confirm your dinner plans or just see how you’re doing — might be someone who’s only willing to put in the bare minimum. In other words, if your boo insists on text-only convos, it’s time for a check-in.

“If your partner heavily relies on texting and avoids phone calls or even talking face-to-face, this may indicate a red flag,” relationship expert Lori Bizzoco tells Bustle. “Texting can be quick and easy to do with little effort. Not to mention, texting can be a quick escape to avoid having to reply immediately. It could be their way of keeping their distance from you.”


They Lie To You

If you want a healthy relationship, you have to establish trust with your partner — but that can be difficult if you notice that your partner has a habit of being dishonest, no matter how big or small the lie.

“Any time your partner is not honest with you is a red flag,” Bizzoco says. “Even if it’s a small white lie, it can indicate that they may not always be straight up with you. This can lead you to start questioning what else they could lie about in the future.”


They Won't Talk About Problems Openly

For a relationship to withstand all the difficulties and problems that arise, couples have to be able to talk openly about their feelings and concerns, and feel comfortable asking for what they need in the relationship. If your partner isn’t opening up to you, or you feel you can’t be open with them, that could be a sign that they aren't the right partner for you long-term.

“If you feel as if your partner isn’t being open with you, it could predict the challenge of solving disagreements with one another,” Bizzoco says. “Having problems and fights in a relationship is inevitable. But not being able to openly talk with one another in order to solve issues won't allow you and your partner to get close and understand each other.”


They Interrupt You Often

Is there anything more annoying than trying to have a conversation with someone who won’t stop cutting you off mid-sentence? Couples should be able to have conversations where both partners are given the chance to speak their thoughts and be heard, and it’s a red flag if you're constantly being interrupted.

“[Interrupting] demonstrates an impatience and disinterest — and basically minimizes their partner's need to be heard,” Coleman says. “Over time, it’s a huge turn-off that couples often raise in counseling as an issue.”


They Give You The Silent Treatment

It’s OK to need space from your partner sometimes, but giving someone the silent treatment is never acceptable.

“[It’s a red flag if] your partner goes MIA and punishes you with silence,” Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, tells Bustle. “This passive-aggressive action is filled with hostility, [and it’s both] hurtful and infuriating to the receiving partner.”


They Get Defensive During Arguments

When you’re in the middle of a heated argument, it can be hard to communicate without getting defensive — but that kind of “communication” isn't healthy and will only create more problems instead of solving them.

According to Coleman, “This kind of scenario breaks down into shouting matches, hurtful words being hurled at one another, accusations that are off-base, and silence. If this continues, good will is eroded and intimacy destroyed.”


They Reply With One-Word Answers

Not everyone is super chatty, and that’s OK, but if your partner only communicates with one-word replies when you ask a question, that can get old really quick.

“If you’re getting frustrated that you’re only getting one word, or few word, answers (whether on text or in person) early on in a relationship, the engagement isn’t going to magically improve over time,” David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. “This is a red flag that communication isn't your partner’s strong suit.”


They Expect You To Read Their Mind

In a relationship, if something is bothering you, the only way to fix it is to actually tell your partner about your feelings, and then work on a solution together. Someone who expects you to read their mind and magically resolve any issues they’re having is not a healthy partner.

“[Expecting mind-reading] means the person acts unhappy until others guess what they want,” Walfish says. “This controlling behavior locks the other person out and raises their anxiety [because they feel] like a failure for not guessing correctly.”


They Project Their Emotional State Onto You

Projection — the psychological habit of putting your neuroses and insecurities onto someone else, so you misinterpret their behavior as perpetuating those very issues — isn’t uncommon in relationships. After all, we view the world through the lens of our own emotions, so it’s easy for things to get distorted. But, the key is “working on the self-awareness” to recognize when you or your partner are projecting, and being willing to talk through it, says dating and relationships coach. Clara Artschwager.

“For there to be good communication, we have to be conscious enough to catch ourselves when we’re projecting,” explains Artschwager. Or in other words, it’s about being able to admit to yourself that “this is how I’m feeling emotionally, and it may lead me to think my partner is thinking or feeling XYZ. But, I wont know [if that’s true] until I ask them,” she says. If your partner projects on you and doesn’t develop self-awareness of their habit, that can be destructive to the relationship.


They Always Bring Up The Past During Arguments

If you’re together for long enough, every couple will have moments in their past that cause tension or hurt when they're brought back up. However, healthy partners don’t hold grudges. The past is the past, and any problems you worked through are ancient history. It’s a red flag if your partner throws all your past mistakes and arguments in your face every time you argue in the present.

“When dealing with conflicts, stick to the topic,” Walfish says. “Don’t throw in your saved up laundry list of all the things your partner did in the past that angered and disappointed you. Nothing will get resolved!”

If you want your relationship to go the distance, both you and your partner have to be open-minded and willing to work on improving your communication, and the first step is acknowledging and trying to break any bad habits that prevent you from communicating in a healthy way. Once you and your partner are on the same page about how to communicate effectively, there's no relationship obstacle you won't be able to tackle together.


Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator

Tamara Hill, licensed and nationally certified mental health therapist

Lori Bizzoco, relationship expert

Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist

David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert

Clara Artschwager, dating and relationships coach

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