The #1 reason for relationship breakdown

Do you know the #1 reasons that relationship breakdown and end in divorce.

I'm sure you can guess it - it's communication! Or rather, lack of effective communication.

We can all communicate. We can all speak and make other people understand what we are saying, at least on a word by word level. So why is communication identified as the #1 reason for relationship breakdown? What aren't we getting?

We may take courses to give us skills in how to communicate better but that doesn’t seem to work. We may even go to counselling and develop strategies so we can talk to our partners, but that doesn’t seem to work. Why not?

Let me put your mind at rest: you do know how to communicate. "Yeah, thanks for that…", you might say, "So why are my partner and I still having so much trouble?"

It has to do with mental processes that lead to our inability to effectively communicate. We need to deal with 3 mental processes that inhibit our ability to communicate effectively. These are:

  1. Perceptions
  2. Expectations and
  3. Needs Filters

We'll look at each one of these processes in more detail, but it is critical to understand that, with a little self-awareness and reflection, we are able to more effectively communicate with a whole range of people, not just our significant others.


Perception is a complex mental process that is unique to each individual and gives meaning to our lives. No individual’s perception is the same, and it can't be readily explained to another, it simply is what it is. Perception is an unconscious process involving sensory and cognitive functions.

Perception involves getting, interpreting and selecting information, which is then organised into meaningful information and is dependent on our needs, beliefs, values and expectations.

If, over time, we have developed faulty beliefs and values left over from our childhood, this will affect what we need and expect from our partner.


When we get into relationships we enter them with certain expectations: that is, there are some things we want, consciously or otherwise, from our partner. Or we have a certain view of how a relationship should be, often based on the family we came from.

What often happens is that we do not communicate these expectations to our partner - or even that we do not understand our own expectations clearly enough to be able to do so. We expect that they will share our expectations or otherwise be able to intuit what we expect. But we aren't mind readers!

At first, we put up with unmet expectations, but over time they can become a real problem for us. We start accusing, pointing the finger and wondering why our partner "just doesn’t get it". Reflecting on our own expectations and negotiating them with our partner can clear the channels.

Needs Filters

What is a need? We have a lot of physical needs like air, water, food, shelter, as well as higher needs like safety and support and self-actualisation. There are some needs, however, that are harmful when we expect others to fulfill them, rather than being able to be self-sufficient.

These are all the criticisms from our Critical Inner Voice (W8, Weight): "I’m not worth loving", "I’m not good enough", "I’m a failure". When we expect our partner to meet these needs, our 'needs filter' comes down and interferes with communication. We are selectively listening for how our partner fulfills our needs, rather than genuinely communicating. We miss what our partner is really saying, then get angry and frustrated when we are not feeling valued or loved because our partner is not telling you what you want to hear.

To really communicate on a connected level, these three processes - perceptions, expectations and needs filters - must be dealt with.

Take the time to reflect and ask yourself:

  • What are my perceptions?
  • What am I expecting from my partner and my relationship?
  • Do I have needs that I am expecting my partner to fulfil?
  • Deal with these and your communication will be more communicative: honest words to be heard and understood.

If you and your partner are struggling to communicate effectively, call Sue on 0439 294 532 for your FREE 15 minute consultation.

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