In relationships, it can often feel like things are so complicated, they are never going to work out. But what makes relationships so damn complex?

A relationship consists of two people that have emotional, physical and sexual needs. Both partners try to have some or most of their needs met within their romantic relationship.

Both persons are also willing to do what they can to make their partner happy.

Two people with needs and a willingness to fulfil them? It shouldn’t be too difficult of a problem to solve right?

Unfortunately no, as you know It’s more complicated than that.

Emotions Makes Relationships Complicated

Whether you are aware of them or not, you’re carrying a lot of unprocessed emotions around on a daily basis.

More than you might like to think.

It’s something I refer to as ‘emotional backlog’. When we go through events in our lives there are many things that happen, that trigger emotional responses.

Unfortunately, we’re not often in a situation that permits us to freely express ourselves at that given moment and time. So what do we do then?

We repress our emotions and store them for later processing.

This is where the complication starts. We swallow it and put it into backlog, waiting for a better moment to deal with it. But in my experience, that moment often never comes.

It’s hard to find time or a safe space to process your emotions.

We’re busy. Like really busy! There’s always something happening in our lives. The next thing is already taking off, before the previous has even landed.

So our emotional needs are often neglected.

The greater issue here, is that we might live our lives this way. So when we get into a romantic relationship, we’re already carrying a big emotional backlog.

There are many things we’d like to talk about.

All at once, if you please.

You want to express and process all of those emotions. You want to feel heard, understood and validated and there’s so much to get through!

Of course you do, that’s how we process our worlds and emotions, we talk about them!

But so does your partner.

So multiply that emotional backlog times two, which as you can imagine, makes the relationship more complicated.

You both have unprocessed emotion that you’re eager to figure out. But you’re both trying to do so, at the same time. So neither of you can truly listen.

Not Listening Makes Relationships Complicated

Given that there is so much you’re both eager to share, you might find yourselves talking over each other a lot.

Karolina and I used to fight about not feeling heard or understood for the longest time.

This was because we were both so busy trying to get the other to listen!

The moment you start talking, your partner is already formulating an answer in their heads. Or they might immediately drift off into thinking about something that’s preoccupying them.

You might even notice their eyes glaze over while you’re talking to them.

So once you’ve said your part, ask your partner if they might summarise what you just said to them.

You’ll be lucky if they can reflect 20% back to you.

Why? Because they were preoccupied with their own thoughts and emotions and things they wanted to say.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care! It’s that they’ve probably got just as much going on as you do. Their plate is so full, they have little room for anything else.

This is absurdly common and obviously makes relationships that much more complicated!

How could they not be, when you’re both only understanding a fraction of what the other is saying!

Frustration much?

Communicating About Communication Is The Solution

Your focus needs to shift from talking about your emotional backlog to talking about your ability to listen and to find ways of being heard!

In other words communicate about why it’s so difficult to communicate and why you or your partner seem to have a hard time listening.
Try not to judge them for not listening, it’ll only shut them down. Be curious and ask questions, figure it out together!

You’ll never be a perfect listener, there’s always more to learn. I used to have the hardest time admitting I didn’t listen enough, but Karolina kept tell me she didn’t feel heard!

So even if you’re “doing the listening thing” it doesn’t mean you’re actively listening or that your partner feels understood.

What matters are the results, don’t just tick boxes. You’re doing it right, once your partner show signs of being heard. This is an ongoing process. So practice and keep at it!


The more you communicate about your communication difficulties, the more you’ll both be able to listen. In turn, you’ll have more space to talk about your emotional backlogs.

So keep your focus on why it’s so hard to communicate and what you can do to make it easier!

You’ll be surprised what might vulnerable stories might come up.

Keep talking about it. It’ll continue to clarify and over time this will make your relationship less complicated.

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What are your thoughts on what make relationships so complicated? Did you find helpful solutions? Let us know in the comments below.


Gabriel Brenner