10 Common Causes Of Misunderstandings In Relationships

Understand the most common causes of misunderstandings so you can fix them.

man and woman looking at each other confused over misunderstandings in their relationship Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

Many arguments between couples stem from simple misunderstandings based on different communication styles.

For example, women often want to vent, and a man will often misinterpret this by thinking he's meant to find a solution. Likewise, women sometimes misinterpret what it means when a man says nothing at all.

Often, men need to work through a problem in silence, and women can misread this to mean he simply does not want to talk to her.


A better understanding of how men and women think and speak can help us have higher-functioning relationships.

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We asked three YourTango Experts to share some of the most common causes of misunderstandings in relationships between men and women, and what they can do to fix them.


10 Common Causes of Misunderstandings in Relationships and What to Do About Each

1. Men are more likely to ask, whereas women are more likely to hint.

Men are socialized to make direct requests, while women are socialized to put others' needs above their own. How does this play out in relationships? Women often expect men to read their minds and know what they want without actually telling them.

What to do about it:

If women can ease into asking for what they want instead of leaving their guy to guess, they'll get much more of it with no mind-reading necessary.

2. Women are usually more interested in the details.

She says, "Do you remember that sweater I wore on our second date?"


He hears her say, "If you cared, you'd remember!"

What to do about it:

Women often have an amazing memory for details, and they're usually more sentimental than men. They should keep in mind that men don't remember details as well because of differences in how they process information, not because they don't care.

3. Men and women often have different understandings of listening vs. solving.

When a woman has a problem, a man typically offers solutions. Often, she's simply looking for understanding and validation. And a woman tends to give men what she'd want: a shoulder to cry on, which is often the last thing he wants.

What to do about it:

As a rule of thumb, men should offer women compassion first and then help, and women should offer men help first and then compassion.


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4. Men tend to compartmentalize. Women tend to think "big picture."

Women and men don't think the same way — maybe you've noticed. Men compartmentalize, mentally and emotionally separating work, relationships, and everything else. Women think of the "big picture," connecting all the aspects of their lives.

What to do about it:

For women, when he seamlessly switches gears from your serious conversation to the football game, remind yourself that it's not that he doesn't care about the conversation.

For men, it's good to remember that her brooding over things and bringing up the past doesn't mean she's trying to nag. It's just the way her mind works — connecting one event to another.


— Dr. Amy Johnson

5. Women often say too much, and men often say too little.

When a woman feels stressed, she wants and needs to vent. In fact, she often will verbally recall every single horrific detail about her job, her overwhelming schedule, and her family. She often uses dramatic words or phrases: "He always does this!", "We never do this!", or "How could you/she/they do this?!"

When a woman reacts like this, it's best to remember that it's just like a valve on the pressure cooker.

However, when a man is feeling stressed, he often stops talking altogether for a period of time. He just wants to chill out with the TV or computer or hang out alone in the garage/basement/man cave to forget his problems.


A woman's natural instinct is to ask him probing questions to find out what she did wrong or why he doesn't want to spend time with her.

What to do about it:

Men, now is not the time to get defensive, but to help her release that steam a little bit at a time by responding with empathy and questions that further encourage her to talk it out. Once she feels her emotions have been heard and understood, then she immediately starts to feel better.

Women, now is not the time to feel rejected, but to give him the space he needs to relax on his own. It's best to focus on things you can do to make yourself feel good in the meantime, so when he does ascend back into the light, you'll be feeling happy and excited to spend time with him.


— Dr. John Gray

6. Women often like reassurance, and men may not understand why.

He thinks, "I'm committed to her, she knows I love her."

She thinks, "What has he done to show me he loves me today?"

What to do about it:

It is not necessary to reassure her that he loves her every hour, but a man shouldn't assume that a gesture of love he made last month is still fresh in her mind today. He should continue to do the nice little things he did while he was pursuing her.

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7. Women sometimes forget that men are emotional, too.

Women don't tend to think of men as emotional. But the truth is that most men can be sensitive and have deep emotions; they're just not always comfortable showing them.


What to do about it:

A woman should never assume that her man doesn't feel things like hurt or rejection. He feels more than you know. But don't assume you know how he feels.

The best practice is to ask while avoiding overly emotive phrases like, "Did that hurt your feelings?" Instead try, "Did it bother you when that happened?"

8. Women may think they aren't being heard when in truth they just didn't consider the timing.

She says, "You never listen to me."

He thinks, "She talks all the time, and all I do is listen."

What to do about it:

All he really has to do is give some verbal cues to indicate he is paying attention such as, "Really, I didn't realize that." He can also ask questions about the content of what she is saying to let her know that he's listening.


It's also OK to tell her when he is focused on something else, "Honey, I really want to hear what you are saying, can this wait until I finish this page?"

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9. They may have different ideas of what a "date night" means.

He says, "I'm wiped out, let's just stay in and relax."


She thinks, "He'd rather stare at the TV than be with with me."

What to do about it:

It's helpful for women to remember that sometimes their man just wants to be with them and relax and they don't have to do anything or even interact a lot. It's okay to just be together.

10. Women may worry about being needy, but men do value being needed.

She says, "I'm capable of doing that myself."

He hears, "She doesn't want my help."

What to do about it:

This can be confusing but most women, no matter how strong and capable, still love to be "taken care of" by their men, in one way or another. Women are taking care of others all the time. Tell her that you know she can do it herself but that you love to do things for her so she can take it easy.


— Ellen Hartson, LISW

RELATED: How To Make A Man Feel Needed (Without Being Needy)

Dr. John Gray is a leading relationship experts whose books, including Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, have sold over 50 million copies in 50 different languages in 150 different countries. He helps men and women better understand and respect their differences in both personal and professional relationships.

Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist whose passion is helping people recognize and change unwanted patterns.

Ellen Hartson, LISW, is a relationship expert with over 30 years of experience helping individuals and couples achieve greater levels of happiness and intimacy in their relationships.