How to Communicate Well and Avoid Hurt Feelings in Your Relationship

Here's how to know if your feelings are being dismissed.

couple talking at cafe
Getty Images

We all get angry at our S.O. every now and again. However, anger should never result in passive-aggressive behavior or verbal abuse. The same goes for the opposite—refusing to speak can hurt both you and your partner and can be a symptom of deeper issues in the relationship. 

Poor communication about one's feelings can be just as abusive as using words to humiliate or put that person down. For example, an abuser who dismisses feelings via the silent treatment is using psychological invalidation to minimize their partner and instill self-doubt.

How do you know if your feelings are being dismissed? Read on to learn more about the impact a lack of communication can have on you and your relationship, and the steps you can take to fix it.

You're Receiving The Silent Treatment

If you express feelings that your partner isn't happy with, they may respond by not responding. Of course, their message is clear, but by saying nothing, they make you do all the work of figuring it out.

"The silent treatment functions to keep the receiver in suspense of what will happen, and unsure of what they did wrong and how bad it is," explains Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist. "It is a way of controlling the other person as a precursor to abuse."

If this is a frequent tactic for expressing distaste or disappointment, the one on the receiving end may stop expressing themself entirely, which will exponentially exacerbate the problems in the relationship. Both people may begin to feel like their worth is in a backslide.

If this happens to you, you may have noticed the relationship between being listened to with respect and not feeling heard. But the only way to be certain how someone feels is for them to tell you, and when they engage in the silent treatment, there is no way to fully understand what they are thinking. 

Your Partner Takes No Action Toward Change

Your partner may acknowledge your feelings, but do nothing to change the situation. While they may be a great listener and communicator, they might also fail to take the steps needed to solve your shared problems. Assuming that they do speak to you about certain issues (in other words, they are not giving you the silent treatment), their actions (or lack thereof) may contradict their words—especially when you get the impression that they're committed to changing.

Verbal commitments are only as reliable as the person who makes them. When communication in a relationship is shaky, the trust between partners may erode.

Your Partner Is Patronizing About Your Feelings

Have you ever sat down and spilled your heart to your spouse, only to have him or her tell you that you are being silly? When your partner dismissing your feelings outright, it's common for you to feel insecure and start hiding your feelings. In terms of power in the relationship, you become the child and your spouse becomes the parent. 

Verbal abuse can be hard to identify and respond to. Unlike physical abuse that leaves scars for others to see, verbal abuse leaves emotional scars. Although those scars are hidden, they are just as devastating.

How to Communicate Better

First and foremost, identify whether you're in an emotionally abuse relationship—that will determine whether it's worth salvaging or you need to break it off for your own-wellbeing (and take your own steps to heal and learn). If it seems as if the lack of communication is just the result of a rut in your relationship, below are some ways to rejuvenate your

If you (or someone you know) are suffering any type of abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. 

Related Stories