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Barriers to Active Listening in Romantic Relationships March 18, 2009

The following is a hypothetical relationship to illustrate the various barriers to active listening which may lead to misunderstandings and unhappiness. The problems mentioned below were not referenced from any particular source and any resemblance to real life situation is purely coincidental.


Neo is a very typical undergraduate in Matrix University of Computing Technology (MUCT).


Neo the Undergraduate

Neo the Undergraduate

His main objective in university is to get good academic grades and he does participate in too many school events. In his freshman year, he met Trinity in Matrix Hall of Residence where both of them were staying in. They got to know each other during the hall bash after Trinity picked him up with a weird pick-up line saying “I know what you have been searching for, I am Trinity”.

Trinity the Hot Babe

Trinity the Hot Babe

Neo had always thought that Trinity was a guy but seeing that she is hot and sexy, he decided to go after her and finally they got together. A few months into the relationship, Neo starts to see things differently.

New Perception

New Perception

He realises that this relationship is far from his ideals but he decides that Trinity is a good-natured girl and he loves her, particularly more when she says nothing at all. His friend Morpheus,

Morpheus Offers Help

Morpheus Offers Help

whom is teaching effective communication in MUCT, shared with him about active listening and he decides to compile a list of problems pertaining to communication and seek his friends’ suggestions. The following is the list he compiled.

Physiological Barrier


 Environmental Barrier

When Neo is out with Trinity, he finds that most of the time Trinity is always wearing sunglasses and either talking on the phone or constantly looking at the surroundings. As a result conversations are always lacking eye-contact and often one-sided. He begins to wonder if he is too boring. However, when he is out with his own friends, people would always pay attention to him and comment that he is always doing crazy things. As such, he cannot understand why Trinity does not enjoy talking to him and gets frustrated.

When Neo and Trinity are not together and he has to look for her, he would call her on her mobile phone but she rarely picks up the call. He has spoken to her about this issue and Trinity would apologise, explaining that she did not hear the phone ring. However Neo argues that since she is always on the phone her friends, she should know when he calls her. She would always explain that she was busy with something or she really did not hear the phone ring. Neo decides not to argue anymore and just keep the dissatisfaction to himself. As a result, he is always in a bad mood and vents his frustrations at Trinity.

Emotional Barrier

Trinity is always telling Neo that even though he is The One, she is feeling insecure because he has many girls constantly surrounding him. Neo would always assure her his social circle consists of both guys and girls. However, Trinity is always bothered by the fact that he has many female friends and very sensitive when he interacts with them. He is very tired of her constant questioning and decided to just ignore her.

Socio-cultural Barrier

Trinity, as the name suggests, is a Christian. Neo, on the contrary, believes that this world is not real but a computer program created to keep the human race under Artificial Intelligence’s control.

The Human Race Under Control

Neo's Idea of The True World

Trinity thinks Neo is crazy and he should go to her church. Her constant persuasion makes Neo very frustrated and his attempts to reason with her always fall onto deaf ear. As such, they always quarrel whenever Trinity brings up the issue of beliefs.

Mental Barrier

Neo has been studying hard and managed to get a cumulative aggregate point (CAP) of 5.1. He believes his way of studying and doing things is very efficient and effective and thinks Trinity should follow suit too. When he thinks she is doing things in an inefficient manner, he would always try to suggest his method. When Trinity would not oblige, he would often get angry and think that Trinity is not smart enough to understand him.

After compiling the list, Neo realises that he has a very bad temper as he finds himself constantly getting angry over minute details. However, he also thinks that Trinity should listen to him some times when he tries to reason with her. Recently, Trinity has resorted to slapping, kicking, punching, stabbing and

One of Trinity's Way to Solve Problems

One of Trinity's Way to Solve Problems

shooting to get him to listen to her instead. Fortunately, he is able to dodge all her attacks so far.

Neo Dodges Attacks

Neo Dodges Attacks

However, frustrated that he cannot solve the problems himself, he decides to put up this blog post and seek his friends’ help hoping that Trinity would not see this.

As all of you can see, Neo is in a very bad spot. On one hand, he loves Trinity but on the other hand, they are facing many communication barriers and Trinity is turning abusive. Please do take a while to think of possible solutions for my poor fictional character. Thank you.


One Response to “Barriers to Active Listening in Romantic Relationships”

  1. wonker Says:

    Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

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