How Healthy Communication is the Key to a Happy Relationship
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How Healthy Communication is the Key to a Happy Relationship


Most couples have been told at least once that healthy communication is essential to having a happy, successful relationship.


But what does it take to have health communication? What does effective communication look like? And how do you know whether or not you have good communication?


Outlined below are answers to these and other pressing couples’ communication questions.






What Is Healthy Communication in a Relationship?


There’s no one set definition of what healthy communication in a marriage or relationship looks like. However, many experts agree that good communication typically includes the following:

  • Open dialogue: Both partners should feel comfortable sharing their concerns, hopes, fears, and goals
  • Trust: Both partners should feel safe and comfortable with each other and not fear being ridiculed or harmed physically, verbally, or emotionally
  • Active listening: The American Psychological Association defines active listening as listening closely and asking questions. Doing this as needed to gain clarity and understand the depth of the other person’s emotions
  • Interdependence: Interdependence in relationships, according to the journal Frontiers in Psychology, means that both partners can rely on one another for support while also maintaining their identities as unique individuals
  • Curiosity: Each partner has a sense of curiosity and genuine interest in the other



Common Communication Mistakes


Even the most well-intentioned couples can make mistakes when it comes to their communication. The following are some of the most common communication mistakes that, over time, can lead to a dysfunctional relationship:

  • Ignoring uncomfortable conversations and hoping problems will just go away or “work themselves out”
  • One partner expecting the other to read their mind and know what they need without them clearly stating it
  • Arguing to be “right” rather than trying to understand where the other partner is coming from
  • Using harsh language or mocking the other person when they open up about their feelings



What Is the Gottman Method?


The Gottman Method is a specific approach to couples counseling. It was created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman in the 1980s and has since become a popular option for couples therapists throughout the world.



The Gottman Method starts with a thorough assessment of a couple’s relationships, followed by the implementation of science-backed interventions. The goals of the Gottman Method include:

  • Eliminating conflicting forms of verbal communication
  • Increasing couples’ intimacy, respect, and affection for one another
  • Removing barriers that create stagnation in a relationship
  • Increasing empathy and understanding within the relationship


Communication and sex

The 4 Worst Communication Patterns in a Couple?


According to the principles of the Gottman Method, 4 primary communication patterns can signal trouble in a relationship. They’re sometimes referred to as the “Four Horsemen” and are as follows:





If one person in a relationship is feeling attacked and unfairly accused of something. It’s natural for them to want to defend themselves until their partner backs down. However, this defensiveness can go too far.


What happens when defensiveness involves making so many excuses that the person avoids taking any responsibility or trying to understand their partner’s point of view?


It can create a barrier and leave problems unresolved. This, in turn, can cause conflict to escalate and relationship problems to get worse.





In the context of relationships and communication, criticism involves one partner attacking the other’s character or personality. A partner might do this rather than addressing specific behaviors that they want to change.


When they receive this criticism, the other partner will likely feel rejected or hurt. They may also get defensive as a result, which typically prevents both partners from getting to experience the kind of changes and positive dialogue they’re hoping for.





Stonewalling is a version of the “silent treatment” and is one of the most damaging communication patterns a couple can engage in. It occurs when one partner feels emotionally overwhelmed, to the point that they withdraw from interaction, shut down, and stop responding altogether.


It’s important to note that there’s a difference between stonewalling and taking a break to calm down. When one partner stonewalls the other, they often don’t explain why they’re leaving or when they intend to return. They leave the problem unsolved indefinitely and simply extricate themselves from the situation.





Contempt involves showing blatant disrespect for a partner. It’s passive-aggressive and often occurs when one partner feels a sense of moral superiority over the other.


If a person has a lot of contempt for their partner, they may be sarcastic, call names, or mock them. All of this, in turn, can cause that person to feel worthless, unloved, and unmotivated to work on the relationship.



What Does a Lack of Communication Do to a Relationship?


If a couple doesn’t have a solid way to communicate and express themselves, it’s hard for that partnership to last and thrive.


Poor communication drives a wedge between partners and makes it difficult for them to trust one another and feel safe in the relationship. It also threatens the integrity of the relationship itself and can lead to divorce.


After all, if two people cannot speak openly to one another without fear of contempt, criticism, defensiveness, or stonewalling, why should their partnership continue?

Couples considering divorce or breakup may be interested in Discernment Counseling.



How Do You Rebuild Communication in a Relationship?


The good news is that poor communication doesn’t have to signal the end of a relationship. If both partners are willing to put forth the effort to change the way they communicate, they may be able to salvage the relationship.


One of the most effective ways to rebuild communication is to work with a couples therapist. If communication has broken down to the point that one or both partners are considering divorce, a professional and objective third party can play a pivotal role.


Everyone’s experience with counseling will be different, of course. However, according to a report from the Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy, couples counseling has a success rate of about 70 percent.



Can a Relationship Work Without Good Communication?


The answer to this question depends on how a couple defines “work.” Can two people stay married or in a relationship without communicating? Technically, yes.

The chances of both parties thriving and feeling satisfied with that relationship are slim-to-none, though. For couples who want to get the most out of their partnership, healthy communication is essential.




Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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