What Is an Impasse in Your Relationship?

Open communication can help couples work through an impasse.
... Gary Houlder/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It’s common for many couples to reach an impasse at some point in the relationship. It inevitably happens when you both are holding on to your beliefs and refusing to budge or compromise. An impasse can seem like a road block at the time, as if there is no way to recover, come to an agreement or move forward together; however, the breakdown in communication, if handled properly, can help the two of you learn how to work together while still owning and standing by your core values.

1 From a Molehill to a Mountain

When you and your partner disagree, it can easily escalate from a small issue to an explosive argument if you are not careful. Small irritations, often deriving from miscommunication, can lead couples to an impasse that seems much more emotional than it needs to be, according to Jane Collinwood in the PsychCentral article “Agreeing to Disagree: Overcoming Communication Conundrums in Relationships.” When communication is blocked, it can be even more difficult to communicate your true feelings or even actively listen to your partner’s thoughts and rationale. Verbal attacks and uncomfortable moments of silence can further irritate the two of you, and ultimately you reach an impasse, where it seems you will never reach an agreement.

2 The State of an Impasse

If you have reached an impasse, it’s likely the two of you have engaged in common barriers of communication. If the disagreement includes threatening behavior, overly critical comments, boredom, distractions and bossiness, the opportunity to reach an agreement is complicated. Communication breakdowns can be a leading cause of an impasse. If you refuse to listen to your partner’s thoughts or feel as if you are not being heard, unpleasant and uncomfortable interactions will continue to thrive. In addition, confusion and anger about why a conflict even originated can cause couples to mask their true feelings of concern, disappointment and sadness, according to psychotherapist Marty Babits in his "Psychology Today" article “Resolving an Impasse.”

3 Working Past the Impasse

As you find yourself reaching an impasse, it’s important to contain your emotions to keep the interaction healthy and civil. Instead of lashing out and pointing blame at each other, make an effort to use “I” statements to own your emotions. Telling your significant other, “I feel disappointed about this decision” is much more effective and cordial than “You made the wrong decision.” The more you can keep the conversation calm, the easier it will be to come to a compromise with your partner and reduce the urge to indulge in defensive behavior.

4 Improving Your Communication

An impasse in a conversation or relationship often stems from lack of or miscommunication. Take precautions to avoid a future impasse by improving the communication with your partner. Make time for your partner each day to converse and discuss issues you have been avoiding. When you make the time to talk rationally, an argument can be avoided. While working to improve your communication, remember to also nurture your relationship so the two of you feel respected, loved and supported. Impromptu date nights, daily walks and cuddles on the couch can prompt a sense of nurturing and encourage open communication so an impasse does not develop.

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.