Psychologist Interview With Joe (Relationship Counselling Sydney)

Psychologist Interview With Joe (Relationship Counselling Sydney)

relationship counselling sydney

Joe is one of our experienced and caring relationship psychologists in Sydney, Wollongong. He provides relationship counselling Sydney.

For more information on Joe, or to view his psychologist profile, click here.


  1. What has made you interested in helping couples with their relationships?
    As a psychologist and a family therapist I have found that we can at times underestimate the importance of healthy and fulfilling relationships and the impact that they have on our mental and physical wellbeing.  I was initially trained as a psychologist to treat individuals and not couples in therapy but most of what affects individuals occurs in the context of relationships and family. Working as a relationship counsellor provides a holistic process and the opportunity to resolve issues using a whole system approach. Relationship counselling Sydney.


  1. What do you find are the most common relationships problems that you see in couples coming in to see you?
    By far the most common problem in couples seeking counselling is to assist with managing and learning to minimise conflict and arguments. It is common for many couples to have conflict or arguments but when this becomes a chronic a negative interaction pattern can become entrenched. It can be helpful for couples to have professional therapy to learn to recognise and change these entrenched patterns of behaviour. Relationship counselling Sydney.


  1. What are the most common problems for women in relationships?
    Frequently women report that they are not being heard by their partner. By this I mean that they are not being understood and cannot get their message across in a way that can facilitate communication.  Another related area of concern commonly reported by women is that their partner does not understand that their expression of emotion is normal and even healthy. Men sometimes do not know how to respond this and tend to either try to fix the issue or disengage as they may, for example, feel powerless to affect or change the concerns raised.


  1. What are the most common problems for men in relationships?
    I have found that many men feel that their partner has misinterpreted their intentions. They may not be able to express their feelings and intentions well. They may express anger or that they withdraw emotionally in response to feelings of helplessness which many people find extremely uncomfortable to sit with.  A significant number of men may find it difficult to express their feelings and this can lead to a sense of emotional disconnection in their relationship.


  1. What would you like couple clients to know about the couple counselling process before they come in?
    I would like them to know that the counselling process is a process. There will be an opportunity to explore in detail the issues and patterns which have affected the relationship and the issues which are concerning each individual. It is important to be clear that while the therapist has had specific training in relationships and providing therapy to couples, the therapist’s role is to guide and encourage insight, not to give advice or take the side of either party in the relationship.  The alliance with the couple is a therapeutic and cooperative relationship and which proceeds in accordance with the priorities and needs of the individual couple involved. I would like couples contemplating therapy to understand that while therapy can be challenging it does not need to be feared or the need to seek therapy viewed as a failure.  Therapy is an opportunity to have a fair and equal opportunity to express their perspective in an atmosphere of non judgment.


  1. If you had one word of advice for couples with children, what would it be?
    Teamwork. Relationship counselling Sydney.


  1. What advice would you give to couples trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair?
    This is always a very difficult process to work through for couples. At the time many couples feel that there seems little hope that they can go on to rebuild their relationship. However I have found when couples are motivated to work through the issues and work on the rebuilding many can go forward in their relationship with a better understanding of the specific vulnerabilities and strengths in their partnership. Working through this process requires a lot of time, and a great deal of commitment from both partners. With this couples can go on to experience a stronger and more connected relationship.


  1. What, for you, are the most important things that couples need to remember if they want their relationship to thrive, instead of just survive?
    Healthy and fulfilling relationships do not just happen.  As a couple we each need to nurture, provide positive input and regard for our partner.  No couple relationship is perfect but when we are mindful and proactive about what we value in a relationship, and we are also mindful and proactive about what our partner values then we are well on the way to a satisfying and emotionally emotional connected partnership. We cannot take for granted our relationship.


  1. What proportion of your couple clients manage, with your help, to successfully recreate a happy relationship from the difficult one that they came in with?
    I have found that sometimes couples can manage to work through and change unhealthy habits and negativity in the relationship very quickly eliminated once they become aware it.  For couples that are motivated and prepared to change their behaviour and also do the work at home the majority will benefit and learn to identify the triggers and factors that caused the issues in the first place. Once couples learn to work through the process of change and begin to connect again the success rate is very high. However at times couples come to the decision that they do not wish to continue in the relationship, or one partner is not motivated to continue the relationship. In this instance therapy can also be utilised to assist in managing conflict and agree on how to manage separation.


  1. What do you find is the most satisfying and fulfilling part of this work that you do?
    The most fulfilling aspect of relationship counselling is that you have made a positive difference in terms of couple’s interactions. The most satisfying outcome for me would when a couple do not need to attend anymore as they have made the necessary changes in their relationship and are now connecting well. They can identify and communicate with each other about potential issues and resolve them on their own. I particular find it fulfilling when the improved relationship leads to improvement in the lives of the couple and their children.  I work very hard to support couples and where there are children involved to explore with them the impacts on the larger family system to assist them shift in a positive direction.


  1. What are 3 qualities that your friends and family would describe you as having?
    I asked my wife to answer this one, she identified loyal, caring, and determined.


  1. What are 3 strengths that you have as a Psychologist?
    – Practical experience and specific post graduate training in the field of relationship and family counselling.
    – The ability to develop rapport and help couples feel comfortable with the therapy process.
    – Insight and empathy.


  1. How many years experience do you have practicing/helping clients?
    I have been practicing for over 25 years. I have been employed in the past in the Department of Human Services as a Team Leader for a specialist Behavioural Intervention Team. Early in my career I have worked with families in crisis in my role as a Psychologist for Human Services in Victoria. I have been in Private Practice for over 10 years and have worked with individuals, couples and families.


If you would like to make a booking with Joe or any other of our psychologists, you are welcome to fill out an enquiry form here, or call our friendly receptionists on 1300 830 552.





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What man doesn’t dread “Honey, we need to talk”?

At our recent Hart In-house conference, David Wexler talked to us about what he called Male Relationship Dread”.

Here’s some of the kind of fears that can be stirred up in a man when his female partner wants to bring up an issue:

 “Nothing good is going to come out of this…”

“There’s not enough structure in here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do..”

“She is so much better than me at this…”

“I don’t trust myself not to get aggressive…”

“I’m feeling a lot of blankness right now…”

“I’m really trying hard to be the man you want me to be. I’m just freaked out that I might fail at this. That’s why I shut down.”

 So, why is it more difficult for men to talk about relationship issues?

It can come down to the Man Code that is instilled in many boys and men culturally from many sources from as early as primary school.

The Man Code includes some of the following:

  • Winning
  • Having emotional control
  • Risk taking
  • Dominance of the situation
  • Being a playboy
  • Self Reliance
  • Disdain for homosexuality

And there is much shaming of boys and men if they don’t comply with these “Male norms”

Shame is huge in men’s culture. And this almost phobic reaction to being shamed is why men can be supersensitive to criticism.

Hence a man’s negative reaction to his wife bringing up a problem in which he will probably feature in.

Its’ so easy for a man to misread and take personally what she is trying to say, and it’s even more difficult when you don’t have enough words for your feelings to know who to express them clearly.

The Broken Mirror

relationship difficulties for men

David uses the term “Broken Mirror’ to describe what happens to a man when his partner brings up a problem that he is featured in.

We all want and need validation that we’re a good person, and most of the time we can get this good mirror validation from our partner. But men can mistake the flood of good feelings that comes from his partner with the promise that her good mirror will always shine.

But inevitably of course, this is not always going to be the case.  Sometimes she will have a problem and want to talk about and resolve it. This is the situation when, for a man, the mirror breaks, shattering his positive sense of self, and then what comes naturally, is to get angry and blame the mirror (his wife).

So much of what goes wrong in relationships has to do with men’s experience of this broken mirror. A man can therefore take a mildly negative problem that is brought up by his wife, and without knowing he’s doing it, turn it into something catastrophic.

What can help?

The best antidote to this for a man is to understand that your partner is not deliberately trying to break your mirror and make you feel bad.

It’s not actually all about you at all. It is not an act of disrespect at all.

It is that she has her own reasons for bringing up an issue, and she is acting from her own independent centre of initiative. Bringing yourself around to understanding this can really help you not take it so personally and react in this way.

We at the Hart Centre can help assist you if you are having problems with your communication. For relationship counselling in Sydney and all other capital and large regional cities in Australia please contact us.





See all of our Relationship Counselling Melbourne locations.

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Infertility and how it affects your Relationship

Most close relationships will go through phases of highs and lows in terms of attraction and enthusiasm. In a close relationship it is not uncommon for there to be periods where one or other partner may feel that the relationship is not as close as it used to be or that they are not getting the support that they previously experienced.
Infertility can have a profound affect on a couple’s relationship.

This will be unique and differ from couple to couple. While some couples find their relationship is strengthened through their mutual focus on the infertility crisis many others find that the constant stress and disappointment can be overwhelming.

For some couples it can be a time of closeness in that each partner works with the other to try and make sense of the situation and lend support to the other. For other couples it can be a time when they feel very alone and each partner is in their own world.

If the cause of the infertility is known one partner may feel guilty and responsible or feel that the other partner is blaming them. If the cause is unknown it can be enormously frustrating for both parties. Couples often have a difference of attitude to treatment with one partner wanting to pursue all options and the other may want to stop treatment at an earlier time to the other.

Unprepared for the emotional upheaval

Most couples are unprepared for the emotional upheaval of infertility and the subsequent treatment. The layers of problem are inclusive but by no means exclusive of financial pressure (it is a costly process), professional will I miss the chance of promotion and many women are reluctant to change jobs in case they are stressed during treatment and if successful they will need the maternity benefits of their current job.

There is emotional stress as to decisions around length and type of treatment and what to do if treatment fails. Infertile couples often have difficulty and stress engaging with friends and family who have children

Coping with infertility can be a different experience for men and women. As most treatment for infertility is done with women they often bear the most strain physically and emotionally.

How Women feel about Infertility

Individual women will have different experiences of infertility according to their physical, emotional and mental makeup.

Some women may feel angry and frustrated at not being able to have children and others might feel guilty or to blame if they have previously had terminations or postponed conception to pursue their career.

Some women find it very difficult to be around children and resent other pregnant women. Women sometimes say things like “everywhere I go other women seem to be pregnant without even trying” and “I find it very difficult to know what to reply when family friends and work colleagues keep asking when we are going to have children”.

Some women feel like their body has let them down or is “broken” in some way. Infertility is a sign to some women that they are not fulfilling their role as a female to reproduce which can lead to a sense of being less sexually attractive or valuable as a female.

Medical treatment for infertility can increase a women’s sense of a life put on hold as they wait for the next phase of treatment. Their feelings go through a range of emotions and it is often described as an emotional roller coaster of hope on the up part and despair on the down part when their period arrives.

A female is often programmed and expected as part of societal demands to reproduce so the failure to do so can for some women increase feelings of inadequacy and despair. Their role as a female has been thwarted and they can feel useless As one women put it “of what use am I if I cannot reproduce and be a mother”.

How Men feel about Infertility

Men can feel that they are left out of the loop as the focus of treatment is mostly on the women. If the infertility is due to a sperm dysfunction some men can feel like they are less than a man. Some men equate fertility with virility and a low sperm count can make them feel impotent and even lead to physical impotency.

If a couple proceeds with donor insemination in order for them to conceive this can exacerbate feelings of sexual inadequacy for the man.

How Infertility and Relationship difficulty Impacts your Sex life

Treatment for infertility can impact on a couple’s sex life. Sex can become a functional routine thing with the goal being to have a baby and can lead to a lack of spontaneous sex for enjoyment.

Most couples find the procedure very intrusive with many personal questions about the most intimate aspects of their relationship. The timing of intercourse to coincide with ovulation is exacting and makes sex as a command performance which can put strain on a man’s sense of potency and virility. A woman often feels like a baby making machine and that there has to be a purpose to the love making.

Frequently both partners will find that their libido is affected and that sex has become a chore. If the couple is required to proceed to donor insemination the having to produce a sample on cue for the man can lead to enormous strain on the relationship and even to bouts of impotency or premature ejaculation for the man, and possible vaginal dryness for the woman.

Communication and Infertility

Men and women rarely communicate feelings and thoughts around fertility in the same way.

Females will usually be able and willing to discuss and ruminate about the various difficulties around treatment. Men frequently will keep feelings under control and give the message to their partner that they can’t or wont discuss the issues. Men might be perceived as emotionally distant and less likely to express their emotions outwardly despite their deep concern and commitment to their partner.

Women frequently will have an outlet and need to talk about their experience with their partner or family and friends. It is not uncommon however for men’s male friends to show little understanding.

If a couple are infertile due to sperm dysfunction they might feel they need to keep this secret from their family and friends. Often females will come to counselling at this time without their partners as they need to express feelings and get support as they are not free to turn to their friends and family. It is not unusual for a female to be quite protective of her partner at this time and feel that she needs to deal with her emotions of anger and frustration on her own so as not to further burden him with feelings of shame and inadequacy.

Some Positive Strategies

Although infertility is a potential source of strain many couples also experience a closeness around fertility treatment. Frequently couples feel they can work as a team in their focus on treatment resulting in feelings of confidence that their relationship can withstand any future crisis it might encounter.

A central principle for tackling and coping with infertility is to make the relationship the number one priority. Couples need to remember the reasons why they got together in the beginning. Any relationship needs time and nurturance. One example is the importance of both partners being informed about the process of the fertility treatment.

It is necessary and important that partners remain supportive and wherever possible attend medical appointments and treatments together. Couples can keep each other informed and discuss which events and functions they feel able to attend and which they prefer to abstain from. This will differ from couple to couple and for individuals for example, baby showers, birthdays and mothers day can be very stressful for some couples.

Communication is key to any successful relationship and especially when the couple are experiencing a life stressor such as infertility. Most couples find discussions about infertility emotionally and physically draining. Therefore, it is equally important to remain respectful of each others coping styles and limit each conversation to 20-30 minutes.

During this conversation it is important that it takes place at a time when you both have enough emotional resources and that there are not other stressors competing for your attention such as trying to get to work, watching TV or taking telephone calls. At this time it is helpful to not blame or label but to use I messages to the partner. The process goes like this, when you do A in situation B I feel C. For example, when you do not accompany me for my fertility treatment I feel scared and alone. At this time it is important to avoid “you always” and “you never”. Keep your statement focused on the immediate event.

Sexually it is important to keep connected to the love in your life. Enhance your intimate life by giving each other massages taking baths together, watching erotic movies. Try and schedule romantic evenings away from the time of ovulation. Change the time and settings that you normally make love. Increase the amount of physical affection outside the bedroom. Take time out as a couple to have fun.

It is important that you remain mindful of the reason why you were attracted to your spouse initially. What were the reasons that made you decide that he or she was “the one” that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?

It is useful to ask yourself the question if you knew that the future with this person would not include children would you still want to be with them. Think and engage in the activities that made you enjoy each others company. Try and find the humour in the situation.

Take time out for yourself as an individual in whatever gives you meaning and pleasure and find a hobby and interest that you can engage in together.

Turn for support to family friends.

Counselling is a valuable means by which you can develop coping mechanisms and decision making skills. Sometimes one needs a third party to provide a safe space where partners can express feelings, thoughts and concerns. It is an environment where couples can feel supported in their emotional and stressful journey through infertility.

Beverley, one of our Sydney Relationship Psychologists, specialises in helping you manage your relationship while navigating infertility. She has had many years of experience in this field and brings her empathy, knowledge and skills to help you manage this often difficult time of your life. She also offers Skype session for those located anywhere is Australia.

Infertility and Relationship difficulty





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Have you given up having Rich relationships at home to have a richer business?


Mark rang my office wanting an urgent appointment. He could not hide his devastation. He was absolutely stunned.

His wife, Christine, of 12 years, had just dropped the bombshell that morning that she had had enough, and was leaving.

He was beside himself.

How had it got so bad? He could remember her complaining a few times about him never being home, or being grouchy when he was home, but he had no idea she was this unhappy.

Now he was panicking. He was about to lose his wife, his family, half his assets, and many of his friends all in one foul swoop…..and he hadn’t seen it coming.

5 years ago, Mark had started his own Finance Business, and was now doing very well, and was very proud of it. The business, though, had gobbled up his time, to the tune of 12 hour days and 6 days a week ever since he started.

relationship problems

To begin with Christine had been supportive of these long hours, but over the last couple of years she had begun to feel it was coming at an enormous cost – to their relationship and their family life.

For the last 6 months, they had not even had one night together to talk, no more romance than a peck on the cheek at bedtime, and, not surprisingly, their sex life had evaporated into thin air.

Charlotte, their daughter kept asking when dad would come to the playground with her, and Shaun, their 10 year old, spent his entire time in front of the X box.

Christine was absolutely sick of doing it on her own at home, and was feeling completely unimportant in Mark’s life. She had brought this up a number of times with him, but he had largely dismissed her conversations as a bit of complaining that didn’t mean much in the bigger picture.


There is a story like this for many business owners with families. This is one of the most common problem that clients present to me in my Relationship counselling practice.

Juggling the needs of your business and your family and relationship is no easy task, but if you don’t get the balance right, there can be devastating consequences.

And many men, with their eye on the “Business ball” don’t understand what is needed in their relationships and home life, to be there for their family. It is so easy to take your relationship, and your family for granted, and not realize that they too need time and nurturing, if you want rich and rewarding relationships with both your wife and your children.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I give you the 6 Essential keys to keeping your relationship rich at home, alongside building a richer business.

Warm regards

Have you lost yourself in your relationship?

Why is it that droves of smart, competent, savvy, successful women right across the world, are still waking up to find that they have lost or diminished themselves in their relationship yet again?

Having counselled many thousands of women in their relationships and individually over the last 12 years as a Psychologist, one of the most striking patterns I have discovered is how little women, truly love and honor themselves, and it particularly shows up in their relationships.

Many women neither know of, nor believe in, their own true power.

Even with a generation of women’s liberation, there are many secret places where women still do not feel and act on their true and authentic power.

Are you one of the many women who, although successful in many ways in their lives, have not found your full female power yet, and particularly in your closest relationships?

The explanations for this seem to lie in both the biological differences between the sexes, and as well, your personality type and tendencies.

Women’s biology

Biologically, both the female brain and the effects of estrogen in their system means that women are built primarily for connection and social harmony, and that is what drives a female to do from birth.

Without being conscious of it at all, maintaining the social approval of others, and the relationship at all costs is the goal, if you are “wired” and “marinated” as a girl.

For men, it’s a very different story. The flow of Testosterone, combined with their brain makeup, leads them to want to be potent and affect the world, and value personal strength, protection, providing and sexual prowess.

So, in summary and in general, women put their relationship needs first, their personal needs second; and men put their own needs first, and their relationship needs second.

Or alternatively, women tend to over-function in their togetherness and emotional closeness, and under-function in their independent, individual self.

Men, on the other hand, tend towards over-functioning on their individual self, and under-functioning in their togetherness and emotional closeness.

To have a happy life with a fabulous relationship, we need BOTH in equal measures.

If you are a woman, who has lost a lot of yourself in your relationship, then the solution is learning how and where this has happened, and how you can become more true to yourself and go for what you love, first and foremost.

There are 2 steps in the empowerment process.

relationship empowerment marriage counselling

Step 1. Discover just what you have given up for love.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What do you do for love, that you wouldn’t do otherwise?
  • How have you shrunk, or squashed yourself in your relationship? (like as soon as you think of something you would like or love, you just cancel it in your own mind)
  • Where are you feeling contracted in your life, and does it relate to your being in your relationship?
  • Have you lost the feeling of your own potential? What parts of yourself have you not yet experienced or explored, or lost?
  • What aspects of your relationship drain you and your energy?
  • Where have you defined yourself as your partner defines you?
  • Where have you behaved in ways because you sought your partner’s approval?

relationship empowerment

Step 2. Start tapping into your Inner Authentic Power

  1. First stop what’s not been working
  2. Start with you by designing your life from the inside out.
  3. Use your anger and resentment as your Wake-up Call
  4. Saying No and meaning it.
  5. Being assertive with power and ease.
  6. Finding the hero in him
  7. Finding your Goddess energy, and showing your man the difference between love making and sex.


It’s women who create life. Women who inspire. 
Women who can bring out the hero in every ordinary man.
Women who understand the language of ecstasy.
Ah, what a privilege it is to be a woman” (Regina Thomashauer)
If you need help with empowering yourself in your relationship, we have Individual and  Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all other capital cities and large regional areas of Australia. Call us now for an appointment or you can use our Search box to the right of this page to find our Psychologist closest to you

Is your relationship safe? Defining your bottom line.

Relationships are hard work.

Despite our fairy tales any one who has been around for a while knows that they are not always easy.

They are challenging, they require us to adjust, dig deep, become better people, forgive, support and nurture.

This difficult aspect of relationships is a big part of why they are actually so good for us. However not all relationships are good for us, some don’t allow us to grow but require us to diminish ourselves.

Should I stay or should I go?

It is worth considering some basic principles that are useful to keep in mind when grappling with difficult relationships and dealing with the most basic of all relationship questions – should I stay or should I go?

We can approach this question in a number of different ways but at its heart the question is: “is this worth it?” Translation: Will I be better off staying in this relationship or will I be better off leaving?

Often we don’t know how to assess whether we will be better off in or out.

narcissistc partner

Sometimes we know we will be better off out of the relationship but we don’t feel strong enough to leave, or we are afraid of leaving. If we really believe that we would be better off out but we don’t want to leave out of  fear or lack of self confidence it is important to know that help is available. Some of these sources of help will be listed below.

You don’t have the right to leave?

One of the most common obstacles to leaving (even when you have decided that you would be better off out of the relationship) is the belief that you don’t have the right to leave.

It is important to know that you do have the right to leave. This is a free country and every individual has the right to decide whether to be in a relationship. The relationship does not, and can not, exist without the consent,  that is the free choice of both parties.

One party might want the relationship but unless the other party also chooses the relationship there is no relationship.

Relationships are a choice you can make

This way of looking at things is helpful because it makes it plain that the relationship is a matter of choice. You choose to be in a relationship with a certain person and every moment you stay with that person you are choosing to be in the relationship. It is important to actually feel this choice and to get in touch with the choice aspect of the relationship.

Sometimes we try to fool ourselves and believe we are “stuck” in a relationship in the same way as if we were shipwrecked and stuck on a dessert island.  Why would we do this?

Relationship counselling for problems

Why do we feel we are stuck here?

One of the most common reasons is that we don’t want to admit that although there are lots of things about the person and the relationship that we don’t like we figure that even a broken down relationship is better than no relationship at all.

So it comes back to our choice – we are choosing to be in the relationship – but now we don’t want to admit that it is our choice – we like to think we are stuck in the relationship or being held in the relationship against our will.

This way we can complain about our partner, feel bad about the relationship and ourselves but also don’t have to face the prospect of being alone.

Some people stay in destructive relationships because of this fear of being alone.

Even though they know that they are loosing more and more self esteem and that they are unhappy they believe that the prospect of being alone would be so terrible it is better to stay in the prison they know as their relationship.

Just as a smoker develops an intimate relationship with cigarettes and believes he/she couldn’t survive without them, a person in a destructive relationship often comes to believe that things would be so terrible if they were to be alone it is better to put up with a life sentence of an unhappy relationship.

No one else can make you stay in or leave a relationship  – that choice has to be yours. If you feel stuck in a destructive relationship and want to get out but don’t feel strong enough please be aware that there are many people willing and able to help you.

relationship problems

Is there violence in your relationship?

A healthy relationship can be defined in a number of ways but it must fundamentally be a safe relationship – you should feel safe in a relationship you choose.

A relationship that involves violence is unhealthy.

Violence is an extreme form of coercion or control.  When one party tries to take the choice away from the other person by using emotional or physical abuse they are being violent and they are violating the first rule of all relationships – it is a matter of choice.

We are not living in a country where anyone has the right to take this choice away from you. But we are living in a country where many people will try and take this choice away from you. This is because they have developed the belief that they can do this and maybe even that it is right to do this.

Mostly people get these wrong ideas from the families they grew up in – maybe they watched their mother or father abuse and control their partner and so they think this is OK – or even normal  – and they try to get away with it in their relationship.

It is important to take a stand against this violence.

Everyone has a choice and everyone has their rights. Many have experienced some form of physical domestic violence. Many more have experienced the non-physical forms of domestic violence – attempts to control or coerce through verbal, emotional and psychological abuse.

Develop a “radar” for any signs that your partner is trying to dominate or control you or coerce you – for example with emotional blackmail.

When are attempts at control more common?

Attempts to control or coerce are most likely to come out at the time when a women chooses to exercise her rights and leave a relationship.

It is important that if you feel like you are with someone who could get violent that you have a safety plan – that means a carefully worked out plan to get away from where the violent man will be and where he knows you will be.

If you are planning to leave a relationship and there is any suggestion or possibility of physical force being an issue – plan your move carefully,  get to a safe place somewhere he doesn’t know about and break the news over the phone or with a letter – this gives him time to absorb the message and calm down.

Don’t be fooled into putting yourself at risk for any reason.

Our Relationship Psychologists at the Hart Centre can also assist you in determining your best path of action.

controlling relationships

We have relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all capital and large regional cities across Australia. Please call us now.

What is Narcissism and what is Narcissistic behaviour?

An integral part of a healthy relationship is a sense of equality and consideration and empathy for each other. In fact no relationship can feel rewarding and supportive if either partner is mostly self absorbed.

It was once joked that “a Narcissist is someone who after taking the trash out gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house”.

If you have ever felt that  your partner feels superior to others, or more entitled to things than others, then this may mean that he or she may have more than their fair share of Narcissistic tendencies. Perhaps he/she finds a host of ways to devalue you or ignore you, or perhaps  try to control you?

Or perhaps, if you are honest with yourself, it might be you who has many of these characteristics?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, it will feel like a very one-sided relationship. 

Narcissism is considered a spectrum Disorder, which means that there are degrees of manifestation of the characteristics, so a person could have a couple of Narcissistic traits, which is considered fairly normal, or have many and be considered to have a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSMV, or sit anywhere in between.

To discover where you or your partner sit in relation to these characteristics, here are the 9 Essential Characteristics of the Narcissistic Spectrum.


 The 9 Characteristics of Narcissism

  1. An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self importance that isn’t supported by reality. He/she believes that his/her priorities, interests, opinions and beliefs are better than or more important than others and as a result, they feel entitled to dominate and control those around them. He/she can even seem quite modest in public about these views, but usually at home these are evident.
  2. A preoccupation with fantasies of extraordinary success, power, beauty or love. He/she lives more in a fantasy world of their own making than in reality of both successes and recognised failures.
  3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people. He/she sees himself/herself as more special than others, whether it be more accomplished, more feeling, more giving, more ethical, more long suffering, more insightful, etc.
  4. An intense need for admiration. When in conversation, he/she can’t listen attentively and will bring the conversation back around to him/her. Often partners of a Narcissist will refer to the one thing they have in common with their Narcissist partner is that they both love him/her.
  5. A delusional sense of entitlement. He/she feels that rules, regulations and normal standards don’t apply to them, and also may find hard work, working toward a goal, illness and injury difficult to cope with, as they believe themselves to be above these kind of common things.
  6. A tendency to exploit others without guilt and remorse. He/she is a “user” who may manipulate situations such that others end up doing all the work (and the Narcissist often gets the glory), or may end up losing their money. He/she will also promise things that they never deliver on.
  7. An absence of meaningful empathy for others. This is almost a universal trait with all Narcissists. He/she is so caught up in their own grandiose fantasy life that they pay no real attention to others in any genuine way. In the courting stage, he/she will use “fake empathy”, but beyond this stage, partners of Narcissists feel completely unsupported and not understood.
  8. A tendency to be envious or to assume that he/she is the object of others envy. He/she will be very envious if others close by have more than him/her, and will usually express this as contempt, distain and belittling towards them.
  9. An arrogant attitude. He/she will often be judgemental and condescending toward anyone who they feel is not up to their high standards and will regularly “put down” others to bolsternarcissism their own self esteem.

Now that you know the overall characteristics of Narcissism, here is a list of the many specific and subtle characteristics. The more you find in your partner (or yourself) the closer they (or you) are to a Narcissistic Personality Disorder end of the spectrum, which means the more difficult (or impossible) they will be to live with, or to maintain a healthy relationship with.

Research has shown that approximately 75% of those with Narcissistic traits are male and 25% are female.


How Can I tell if my partner is Narcissistic?

Our 100 point Narcissist Profile:

1. One minute he/she appears loving and appreciative, the next minute he/she is putting you down, punishing youor giving you the silent treatment.

2. He/she feels entitled to special or preferential treatment because of who he/she is.

3. He/she lacks humility and will avoid admitting that he/she is wrong or to blame for anything.

4. You get the sense that he/she is always trying to gain the upper hand with you and others.

5. He/she always talks of himself/herself in glowing grandiose terms.

6. He/she never admits his/her problems or insecurities.

7. He/she says words with such conviction, but you get the strange feeling that they don’t represent the real orwhole truth or are a distortion of the truth.

8. It’s hard to feel completely relaxed and good in his/her presence.

9. He/she seems very agitated and angry when you are happy of your own accord, unless he/she has been the source of your happiness.

10. He/she often feels misunderstood by others.

11. He/she appears wonderful to outsiders but is often very mean at home to you and the children. (street angel/home devil)

12. He/she doesn’t seem to have any real presence or depth to him/her.

13. He/she is most happy and delightful when you are admiring or adoring him/her.

14. He/she is not honest or truthful. He/she will bend the truth to suit his/her own ends.

15. He/she doesn’t understand you well at all.

16. He/she has no real empathy or compassion for you when you are distressed, or for any of your feelings.

17. You are starting to question your own truth and reality as you are being told how bad or wrong you are with such authority.

18. You are starting to believe hi/hers criticisms that you are no good as a person.

19. You notice that when you are away from him/her and with other people you feel so much better, happier and can have fun and relax.

20. He/she tells you untruths that torment you.

21. You find yourself in discussions that are so twisted that it feels like you are losing your mind

22. You often find you are trying to justify yourself and explain what you think reasonable people alreadyknow.

23. He/she says cruel, uncaring and dismissive things without any empathy for the hurt he/she is causing

24. He/she makes agreements that he/she doesn’t keep, and then does not acknowledge ever making them.

25. You often feel he/she wants it all his/her own way, and is not really interested in finding a win-win solution.

26. You often feel that he/she is against you, and that you are being cast as the enemy.

27. He/she doesn’t take any of your expressed needs into account

28. You are blamed by him/her for problems.

29. He/she undervalues contributions you have made, and overvalues his own.

30. He/she never or rarely apologises for anything he/she has done.

31. He/she is not accountable for his/her actions on many occasions.

32. He/she will rubbish and blame you to others, behind your back.

33. He/she will regularly bring in allies (family and friends) to back up his/her view that you are to blame.

34. He/she will pathologise you to others, family and friends saying that you are not psychologically stable.

35. He/she will use sensitive information you have disclosed to him/her when you were vulnerable and trusting ofhim/her as a weapon against you.

36. He/she doesn’t follow through on promises.

37. He/she has no tolerance for even the slightest criticism, or even constructive advice.

38.  When you need help, he/she gets depressed, angry or abusive.

39. His/her behaviour vacillates between very delightful and very mean and nasty.

40. To gleam praise from others he/she will appear helpful and generous.

41. You often get the sense that his/her criticisms of you are exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself.

42. He/she doesn’t seem to know or care how his/her behaviour hurts others.

43. No matter how much you do for him/her, it never seems enough to make him/her contented or happy.

44. He/she often refuses to play by the rules.

45. He/she is intensely jealous when there is no justification.

46. He/she is a pathological liar, and does not like to be pinned down.

47. He/she overestimates who he/she is and what he/she has achieved in his life in the past.

48. He/she is often erratic and unpredictable.

49. He/she tries to limit your contact with and enjoyment of others.

50. He/she doesn’t like it when people other than him/her are receiving attention and praise.

51. He/she is extremely defensive when confronted or questioned and will often attack.

52. He/she uses guilt and manipulation to try to influence you.

53. He/she has little or no sense of conscience.

54. He/she believes he/she knows what you are thinking and feeling, and will inform you what that is.

55. He/she often interrupts you when you are talking, changing the subject.

56. He/she will inform you that the matter is resolved without you feeling it is for you.

57. He/she will refuse to discuss a problem you have brought up.

58. He/she doesn’t sustain many close friendships.

59. He/she cannot work co-operatively or in teams.

60. You have noticed that he/she exploits other people

61. He/she doesn’t admit he/she may have a problem, or ask for help. He/she is above treatment.

62. He/she avoids any real intimacy with you.

63. You don’t get the sense that he/she has a genuine commitment to your welfare.

64. When you act with independence and autonomy, he/she is not happy, and tries to stifle this.

65. He/she rages when you disagree with him/her.

66. After he/she has tortured or belittled you, he/she will act with empathy to soothe you.

67. He/she never talks with you, he/she talks at you or lectures you.

68. You usually feel he/she is emotionally absent, and never fully there.

69. He/she cannot delay gratification. He/she believes himself/herself to be deserving, and doesn’t want to put the time intopersisting.

70. He/she tells you in subtle or not so subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong or that your feelingsare wrong.

71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of toupset him/her.

72. You often feel that issues don’t get fully resolved so that you can feel happy and relieved.

73. You frequently feel confused, sad, frustrated or outraged because you can’t get him/her to understand yourintentions.

74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks yousaid and what you heard him/her say.

75. He/she rarely wants to share his/her thoughts or plans with you.

76. He/she often denies things that you know he/she did or said.

77.  He/she seems to take the opposite view from you on many things you mention, but the way he/she says it, your view is wrong and his/hers is right.

78. You often feel unseen or unheard, and sometimes wonder if he/she perceives you as a separate person.

79. He/she is either angry or has no idea what you are talking about when you try to discuss an issue with him/her.

80. You feel abused or negated by him/her, but he/she insists how much he/she loves you.

81. When you try to communicate how you feel about something, you feel no empathy from him/her, or he/she negates your feelings.

82. He/she often frightens you with rage to silence you.

83. You often feel no empathy from him/her when you are describing how you feel about something..

84. He/she often manipulates you by ignoring you or withholding affection.

85. You feel diminished by the time he/she finishes his/her conversation with you.

86. He/she always needs to be one up or right.

87. He/she attempts to define you  eg  ”You’re only doing that for attention”.

88. He/she blames, accuses, judges or criticises you.

89. He/she counters, blocks or diverts your conversation.

90. He/she confabulates, ie makes up something negative about you and speaks it as if it is the truth.

91. He/she often is well behaved in public, but abusive in private.

92. He/she will not ask for what he/she wants, so that you can negotiate fairly.

93. He/she will not respond at all to your requests, or will respond with frustration, or will only seem to respond but not follow through.

94. Your attempts to enhance the relationship, improve communication, and find some happiness all lead to difficulties.

95. Whenever you try to explain that you are not thinking what he/she is saying you are thinking or doing, he/shewill not hear or understand, or negates you in some way.

96. He/she behaves well towards you when you are of one mind with him/her, but the trouble starts when you express either different views from him/her or your own feelings.

97. He/she can’t have fun banter with you. The only way he/she has fun with people is if he is having fun at another’s expense.

98. The way he/she treats you has deteriorated radically since you became more settled  together (move in together, got married, started having children)

99. You feel like you are doing all the work in your relationship.

100. You feel energetically drained when with him/her, and energised when not with him/her.



How partners feel when they are attempting to have a relationship with a Narcissist.

In a way that you often can’t exactly identify clearly you can feel:

Very disappointed and disillusioned about who he/she seems to be now, compared with who he/she was in the beginning stages of the relationship

 Relationship counselling sydney Narcissist

Confused because of the lies and half truths he/she continually feeds you

Hurt and shell shocked because of the myriad of ways he/she belittles, criticises and blames you

The relationship feels unrewarding because it never feels that he/she is really there, and it is not possible to share any real intimacy with him/her

Unhappy because he/she always tries to undermine the happiness you create for yourself

Untrusting of yourself because you don’t know what to trust anymore, wanting a real and happy relationship but always feeling that it is not available to you

Intensely frustrating when he/she can’t be reasonable or honour agreements or work with you for a win-win solution

Utter perplexity at how he/she can be so sweet and nice one minute, and so mean and callous the next

Despair at the dawning realisation that he/she doesn’t really care about you or how you feel


How did you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist?

narcissistc partner

You may be wondering why anyone would be masochistic enough to ever get themselves into a relationship with such a person; one that leaves you feeling so dreadful?

But the truth is that things start off very differently. The narcissist is an absolute perfect delight right from the first day you start dating: wining, dining and gifts, nothing is too much trouble for him/her; your every whim is his/her desire; he/she is truly the perfect and charming partner.

Finding yourself in a “whirlwind romance”, he/she will appear to be all you have ever wanted in a partner and in a relationship, so much so that it all seems almost “too good to be true”, which of course it is.

At this stage you are his/her “prey”, and he/she is an expert at contriving his/her behaviour to impress you, and being sensitive to what you are wanting, until he/she has snared you. He/she has you in his/her sights as his/her next source of Narcissistic supply, so all his/her energies, shows of love, affection and fake empathy are committed to lure you.

The transition:

However this “impress the socks off” stage doesn’t last, and once he/she now feels secure in the relationship (this happens most commonly at the 3 major transitions: when you move in together, when you get married, or when you start having children) there is now no longer a need for making an effort.

Without realizing it, you are now owned by him/her; you have crossed over into his/her self definition boundary. With this transition comes the expectation that you now are an extension of him/her.

This dumbfounding change can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace, but change it does.

The “Bubble”:

One man described that for him it felt like he and his wife were in a big bubble that he had created as his reality. His wife had freedom, and all was happy, as long as she stayed in the bubble. “There was room to move about so the illusion of freedom seemed real to her. But when she expressed an idea of her own, or any feelings, it was like she was stepping out of his bubble and stepping into her own. But he did not want her out there. He feared being alone with himself. He feared being with his feelings. So he tried to pull her back into his bubble, or worse, injure her so she could never leave, or worse yet, disorient her so she can never find her way out.” Whatever control measure or verbal abuse it took, getting her back inside the bubble where he could feel safe again was his primary objective.

The Narcissist usually feels a great and strong love for his/her partner, but this is in essence a control connection rather than real love. There is no regard for his/her individuality, no empathy or understanding, and usually an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he/she shows any signs of separateness.

This leaves you feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that you have been so invaded or negated, every time you express your individuality.

All the while he/she denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on you.


What happens in a Narcissist’s mind, and how did he/she become a Narcissist?

Narcissism is based on an inflated “false self”, which has developed as a result of a developmental arrest in childhood. As a child, he/she withdrew inwards and resorted to grandiose fantasies of being superior, special, perfectly loved, self sufficient and self important.

 marriage counselling sydney narcissist

This was to cover the vulnerability, self doubt and worthlessness that was at his/her core.

To keep his grandiose “false self” alive in his mind and his fears of abandonment at bay, he/she is in constant search for sources of narcissistic supply, an abundant “fan club”, which will supply him/her with positive attention, adulation and appreciation, and if that is not possible, fear from others will suffice.

The more damage he/she sustained in childhood, the larger the grandiosity and the more severe the Narcissism, and the more donations are desperately needed from others to keep propping up the fantasy self. Emotional pain dominates his/her internal landscape. He/she may project arrogance and charisma, but underneath he/she feels unworthy.

It is a constant and exhausting endeavour as he/she continually seeks to manipulate others to give him/her the required fix. He/she will do anything to get it, and won’t let people’s feelings or the truth get in the way.

To keep this all going internally, he/she uses a combination of 6 defense mechanisms

1. Splitting is the first one. This means he/she fails to regard anyone, including himself/herself, as a composite of good and bad. Instead, he/she sees everyone as either “all good” or “all bad”. He/she, of course is “all good”, and you as the partner begin by being “all good” which has him/her idealising you, and internalising you to support his/her grandiosity, but as soon as you fail to do this, you become “all bad” and he/she immediately devalues you, with the resulting punishment in various forms metered out to you.

2.  Dissociation & altered perception. Narcissists often recall things very differently from healthy people, or fail to recall things at all if they don’t resonate with his/her superiority.

3.  Rationalisation is the assertion that a flaw doesn’t exist, or if it does, it isn’t the Narcissists. (“There is nothing wrong with me.  I never have problems”) These rationalisations can be very convoluted and obscure, as they often fly in the face of observable facts.

4. Projection is the curious strategy whereby the Narcissist is subconsciously aware of what he/she is in fact doing himself, but  projects it onto you, with the result that you then get blamed for exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself, and he/she casts himself/herself as the blameless victim.

5. Denial is simply the assertion that something is not so, when ordinary observation or common sense confirms that it is in fact true. Anything that doesn’t reinforce his/her grandiose image will be denied. The Emperor has no clothes and he can’t be told.

6. Blame shifting is what happens when the Narcissist insists there is nothing possibly wrong with him/her, so all the blame must be attributed to you or everyone else in the world.


How did you become a willing victim? Why you?

relationship trouble sydney relationship counselling

If you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist, at some stage you might wonder why you?  What does this say about you, your tolerance for pain and your sanity?

It is true that there is a particular kind of person that finds themself with a Narcissist, at least often well beyond the first indication that there is an underlying nastiness in him.

The kind of person who seems to unwittingly attract a Narcissist is someone who has what I call a “Sacrificial Self”, (which has also been referred to as Co-dependent or compliant or a deflated false self). This means you may have a tendency to unnecessarily attribute blame to yourself in situations when you haven’t done anything wrong.

In Transactional Analysis terms, a Narcissist’s underlying Life position is I’m Ok, You’re Not OK, whereas  a Sacrificial’s underlying Life Position is I’m Not OK, You’re OK.


How Can I tell if I am a Sacrificial Self?

Here again, it is important to understand that there are varying degrees of this kind of Self, as there are with a Narcissistic self.

A Sacrificial person is characterised by:

1. A deflated False self

2. Your feelings are often numbed, and you are not always aware of them in the moment

3. You experience a lack of awareness of your own needs.

4. You also are not good at knowing what your real wants are.

5. You often feel guilt and shame for not being able to meet people’s needs

6. Your loved ones withdrawing their love, or threatening to withdraw it, triggers a lot of anxiety in you

7. You are often not truly in touch with your own deeper truth

8. You can often prefer to live in a fantasy where you believe your partner truly loves you, even though much of the evidence can show you the contrary

9. You have experienced poor self esteem over your life

10. You are not always able to see where your boundaries should and shouldn’t be

11. You are not often able to assertively stand up to those you love

12. You can at times feel a vague sense of depression and emptiness

13. You can lack a sense of a healthy entitlement in your relationships

14. You can often feel frustrated and dissatisfied with your life

15. There are times when you feel your life has no meaning

16. You have an underlying belief that I must sacrifice myself to survive in a relationship

17. In a relationship, you may be responsive and reactive to your partner, rather than proactive

18. You excessively blame yourself in your relationship

19. You often have the underlying sense that if something is going right for you at the moment, it probably won’t last.

20. You tend to take more than your fair share of responsibility in a relationship, to make it better and improve it.

Interestingly and importantly, a Sacrificial’s profile is less defended that the Narcissist, and less destructive to others, and therefore closer to achieving a healthy relationship, if you can gain true insight into what is happening and what is going wrong in your relationships and be able to develop a stronger identity and boundaries.

If this is you, during your childhood, as you were developing your real self and identity as an individual, your mother or father may have been challenged by your emerging separate self. It often happens that she or her was a Narcissist. So whenever you expressed your real feelings, needs or wants, you were abandoned, criticised or blamed. Often, your relationship with your parent was set up so that you took responsibility for meeting your parents’ needs, rather than she/he meeting your needs.

So you learned that in order to survive and experience any form of love and attention, you had to abandon yourself and “toe the line”.

As a result your individual identity may have been severely compromised.


You may not have had the opportunity to:

– Develop your own deep truth and reality

– Form healthy boundaries to keep out unwanted and unhealthy influences

– Feel your real feelings

– Be aware of your needs and wants

– Have permission to explore your desires and creativity

This often leads to an underlying depression, frustration and dissatisfaction which feeds the belief “In order to have love, I have to avoid self activation” and “I am not entitled to genuine love and also my own full self expression”.

When not in a relationship, you may feel empty, as you have not been given the experience of growing your real identity, (which is a composite of your truth, feelings, needs, wants, desires, passions and boundaries)

So, when in a relationship you may cling  and try very hard, minimise your feelings, needs and wants, as well as hold yourself back from being assertive in what you want, and even believe what your partner is saying over what you may think is the your truth, and  trust him over yourself.

In addition to these personal characteristics, there are other reasons why you can get caught up and remain in a Narcissist’s web.


Why have I allowed this kind of controlling behaviour into my life?

Here are some of the reasons why you may have allowed this type of controlling behaviour in to your relationship.

 marriage counselling sydney narcissist

1. You assume that there is good will, that your partner really does want to understand you, and when he/she she doesn’t, it is because you haven’t been able to explain it fully enough. (In fact a Narcissist is trying to control, not understand you at all, despite their protestations to the contrary)

2. The Narcissist usually expresses great love for you, and also shows love in other ways with gifts and kind things, so it seems inconceivable that he/she would also be trying to devalue your thoughts and feelings.

3. These controlling events usually happen in private, and as well, there is usually a complete denial of any wrong doing by the Narcissist, so your suspicions are never validated by anyone else, so you can feel your going crazy, or perhaps over reacting.

4. The Narcissist can very often turn it around and project it onto you, so you are then blamed for something he/she is actually doing. You can start questioning your sanity.

5.Frequent assaults over time can tend to normalise these acts in your mind, and you can begin to question yourself.

6. The Narcissist has usually been so lovable up until the transition, that it is very difficult to rationalise such a change in him/her.

7. You can believe your partner is rational, and has often made a wrong assumption about you, and when you explain it to him/her, then he/she will understand. (However you find that no matter how much you attempt to explain your view, they never understand. This is because they are not there to understand, they are there to distort your view.)

8.You have not been aware of such a thing as Narcissism, verbal abuse and controlling measures, and though even though you have felt hurt and frustrated and confused, you haven’t understood what has been going on.

9. You can think your feelings are wrong.

10. Your partner can be good at times and not at others, adding to the confusion.

11. The abuse can be subtle, with the control increasing gradually over time, so you gradually adapt to it.

12. You can sometime be so stunned or thrown off balance to be able to think clearly about what has just happened.

What can you do if you are living with a Narcissist?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, in his mind, you are an extension of him/her and he/she must always win, so his/her eruptions of temper and ego and devaluations and guilt are sharp and designed to cut you to the core, leaving you wounded.

So, in an overall sense, you will experience problems with his/her lack of honesty, humility and empathy for your feelings.

narcissim marriage counselling

Also, he/she will have difficulties with intimacy with you. Honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings and desires with each other makes the Narcissist very scared and vulnerable, so he/she will avoid it.

He/she is unable to relate to other people other than in terms of his own inflated self image and his unrealistic projections of himself/herself onto others, so as his/her partner you are expected to provide adulation and perfect responsiveness. When you fail to do this, you can expect to be devalued, by raging, blaming or the silent treatment.

These rapid vacillations between absolutely overvaluing (and idealising) you, and then completely devaluing you make a healthy relationship almost impossible to sustain.

The best advice is to be aware of and recognise what is happening and stand up for yourself on each occasion. How effective this strategy will be will dependent on your commitment to not back down, and his/her degree of Narcissism.

Most partners find that standing up for themselves in the relationship is fraught with difficulties, as often the Narcissist will double and treble his/her defensive responses when you start to do so, in order for you to retreat to the way you were, so realistically, most partners find that the support of a good counsellor/Psychologist who understands these challenges is usually needed.


Can your relationship be helped?

If both you and your partner are committed to make your relationship a healthy and happy one, then I believe this is worth working on.

Finding a Psychologist who is familiar and experienced with these conditions is important as Narcissism can be notoriously difficult to pick up in a few sessions if the Psychologist is not trained in this. (Education on Narcissism is taught in Psychology courses but does not fully explain the widespread occurrence of this condition, and also the full ramifications of this, particularly to the partner.

We at the Hart Centre are committed to ongoing education and training in these areas and in supporting you in managing yourself and your relationships.)

The success of relationship and marriage counselling depends on many factors, but is largely due to the commitment of both partners to see their patterns and contributions, and be willing to change. Your partner’s ability to do this will depend on his level of Narcissism.

You will often not know how willing you and your partner are to do this until you attempt to do so.  You will be able to see for yourselves over 3 to 6 sessions what real effort each of you are putting in to see the problems, own your contributions and make changes.

If, after reading the information here, you feel you are definitely living with a Narcissist, I suggest you come to the first session (or book a Skype session) on your own.

If you feel your first choice is to work on your relationship, then we can then follow this first session with a session with your partner individually, then commence couples sessions with both of you.


Plan B

I also suggest that there is a Plan B in place, so that after an agreed on number of couples sessions, if you feel you are not achieving the changes and results you want, then you continue coming to sessions on your own to look at your options and be supported in doing your own work of rebuilding your Identity, boundaries and possibly new life.


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and more – either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Find your nearest Psychologist from the Search box on the right hand side of this page.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Individual Empowerment help for you as a Partner

 relationship counselling sydney empowerment

You may choose to come for individual sessions on your own, if you prefer to continue to stay in the relationship and also work on your own self empowerment and assertiveness in your sessions with the Psychologist. If your partner’s degree of Narcissism is not severe and he/she is more benevolent, this can be worthwhile and helpful to develop your capacity to find your own strength and hold your ground with him/her.

If his/her degree of Narcissism is more severe and you would like help in breaking away from him/her, then we can assist and support you in doing so also. It can be a profound act of self love to accept who he/she is and to step away for your own well being.

As you leave a Narcissist, most partners go through the 5 phases of grief: Denial, rage, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.

Without the support of a helping knowledgeable Professional, many  partners  find it  very difficult to get past the denial stage, or repeatedly go back to their partner (in the bargaining stage), or can become stuck in rage against their partner.

Additionally, it is very easy to unwittingly “attract” another Narcissist into your life in your next relationship if you haven’t been able to look at your own patterns of why you have attracted, accommodated and tolerated this kind of behaviour.

Therefore it is important to understand, process and learn from this painful experience, so that you are rewarded with a stronger sense of self, compassion for yourself, and are able to move on to a mutually beneficial  real loving relationship in the future.

Personal Empowerment/ Recovery Program:

Our Personal Empowerment/ Recovery program involves 12 steps:

1. Insight and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of what has been happening in your relationships.

2. Uncover and express your feelings and have these feelings and experiences validated by someone who understands what you have been experiencing.

 3. Process these emotions and recognise these patterns from past relationships, including your parents, in order to clear them from your subconscious patterns.

4. Discovering your genuine needs and wants as an individual and in a relationship.

5. Be aware of your feelings and manage your emotional self on a daily basis.

6. Learn to build healthy boundaries with others, where you care for but don’t take on emotional responsibility for anyone other than yourself.

7. Rediscover your own intuition and trust it again, rather than your partner’s negative views of you.

8. Encouragement to believe in yourself again and recognise your magnificence.

9. Recognising and managing the desire to go back to the unhealthy Narcissist.

10. Help redesign your life from the inside out, trusting in yourself and who you really are.

11. Find the Gift in this relationship for you. How have you grown in yourself as a result of these experiences?

12. Moving onto a new equal relationship ensuring a healthy love. Narcissist screening test, and learn the ability to recognise the difference between real love and fake or controlling love.

 relationship counselling sydney empowerment

This Individual Program is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins. This program will take from 2 to 6 sessions, depending on your needs and circumstances.

Cost: Prices range for $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Why can it be so difficult to leave a Narcissist?

Anyone who has left a relationship with a Narcissist knows that it can be a very challenging process. Here are a few reasons why this kind of breaking up presents extra difficulties over and above leaving an ordinary relationship:

It is difficult to understand what has happened and who he/she really is. Without the inside knowledge of what Narcissism is, it is almost impossible to understand why there appears to be 2 completely different people inside him/her, how he/she can have changed so dramatically, why he/she is so nice at times and then so nasty at others, and what causes that change. Also he/she has talked about love and higher values in the beginning, but his/her real behaviour has mostly reflected selfishness and self interest.

You can keep waiting for the initial person you fell in love with to re-emerge. He/she did such an effective job of his “Sales Presentation” to you in the courting phase, seeming to be all you could have wanted in a partner, and he/she was so believable, that you just want that version of him/her to re-appear again, so you can have the relationship you thought you were going to have and have committed to, and just be able to continue with that.

But, unfortunately, the initial version of him/her that you fell in love with, is NOT REAL. The feelings, passion and intensity he/she first showered you with were all part of his/her sales presentation. This version of him/her will not come back, because there is no substance to it. It is not real. It was the lure to get you in. He/she will only use it again if he/she decides he/she wants to re-lure you back in.

It may feel unfinished in that there seemed to be so much promise that hasn’t really happened yet. He/she may well have promised you the world, and you have been left with crumbs. He/she is very capable of a great seduction and pretence when courting you, but not at all interested, nor is he/she capable, of being a real partner in any real way, with empathy and compromise from each other.

You may feel if only he/she understood how hurt you have been then it would change him/her. It can be difficult to accept that he/she really doesn’t care about how hurt you are as a result of his/her behaviour. He/she may have pretended to care initially, so you want to believe that he/she does really, but in reality he/she doesn’t, and it can be difficult to accept that you have given your love and commitment to someone who just doesn’t care how hurt you are feeling.

marriage counselling sydney emotional withdrawal

You can take on some of the blame your partner has thrown at you,(and continues to project onto you) and blame yourself. By the time you have decided to leave, you will have experienced your share of put downs, belittling, judgements and criticisms, both subtle and very obvious. While these constitute his/her projections of his/her own characteristics only, it is difficult not to take on some of them, particularly when he/she has repeatedly blamed you. This may leave you thinking that some of this has actually been your fault and perhaps if you tried harder, you could make it work.

Please know that while you have participated in this dance with the Narcissist, you have NOT contributed in the way you are blaming yourself. In fact you have probably tried too hard in the relationship already, and not seen that he/she has not been willing to take responsibility for his/her part in it. It is now time to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness.

There is no closure with the Narcissist. He/she will not be interested in acknowledging his/her part in the relationship ending, so you will not be able to have any shared closure with him/her. He/she may, more likely, be projecting and blaming you for everything, while keeping himself/herself squeaky clean in his/her fantasy world. He/she may also want to involve others close by, sharing his/her fantasy version of how wonderful he/she has been and how badly you have. He/she may even pathologize you to keep his/her grandiose version of himself/herself inflated.

Remind yourself that in actuality, he/she is covering his/her terror and worthlessness with a fantasy based on rationalisations and lies, and that you know in your own truth what efforts you have made.

narcissism problems marriage counselling

It may be difficult to understand why he/she doesn’t really try to work on the relationship. To be willing to work on your relationship, you need to be honest and accountable, two things a true narcissist can’t tolerate. In reality, he/she doesn’t see he/she has a problem and doesn’t want the relationship to be any different from what it is. He/she has created the fantasy this way, and he/she wants it to stay this way as it is serving his/her narcissistic needs. This is usually more important than any relationship to him/her.

You may question just what in the relationship was real at all. It can be extremely mindbogglingly painful to realise that you have been taken in by a clever conman/woman and have trusted this person when he/she was far from trust worthy, and for as long as you have. Also, that his/her motives have not been to love you, as stated, but simply to gain his/her Narcissistic supply from you, a mere source for him/her.

It takes time, processing, deep soul searching, and usually assistance from an therapist experienced in Narcissism to come to the full realisation of the reality of the relationship you have been living in, and to be able to fully heal, have closure and move on to a healthier relationship. 


Can the Narcissist be helped?

Narcissists are usually extremely satisfied with themselves, therefore it follows that they see no reason to come for counselling or help when they ‘do not need any’. The fact that they are causing huge problems for others around them does not tend to enter their consciousness.

Here again, it really depends on how severe their narcissism is. The more defended a Narcissist, the less likely he/she will see himself with a problem, and the less likely he/she will stick to therapy.

A severe Narcissist will usually only admit to a problem when he/she has been abandoned, and feels destitute and devastated, when he/she feels he/she doesn’t want to feel any more of this pain.

Even when he/she does attend therapy, either as couples counselling or on his/her own, there can be a lack of follow through and continuation beyond a few initial sessions, and his/her behaviour can revert easily.

Having said that, therapy is really the only way a Narcissist has to help himself/herself lose his/her over inflated Grandiose self, his/her underlying anxiety and develop a true self with the resulting contentment and happiness that this delivers.

This needs to be initiated (and acknowledged)by the Narcissist and I believe is worth trying, even if results are mixed.

Julie Hart – Psychologist


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins.

Please check our Search box on the right hand side of the page for our Psychologist nearest you.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


If you require help in your relationship from one of our expert psychologists, we offer:

Relationship counselling Melbourne

Relationship counselling Sydney

Relationship counselling other locations 


Please check out these fantastic resources from Jenny Mawter on Narcissism.

These first are her most recent ones:

What have I brought with me from my childhood?

How we are in our relationships now, relates largely to our family experiences as a child.

Most of us were loved less than perfectly as a child because our parents didn’t know any better, but were, for the most part, doing the best they knew how.

As a result, though, we haven’t learnt how to truly love, value and honor ourselves in many ways.

As a child

When we were little, we depended on our parents to make life safe for us. When they failed to do so in any way, we unconsciously felt that we weren’t worthy of their love: that we were unlovable in some way, that it must be our fault.

So, over our lives, each one of us has a Life Theme, a significant psychological issue which we are working out in this life.

Your theme is created when a powerful emotional chord is struck in your childhood, and then reinforced every time similar events happen later, that carry the same emotional charge, over and over again in your life.

No matter what your Life Theme is, it will profoundly affect how you feel about yourself, your sense of your own value and your capacity to love, both yourself and others.

The 6 broad categories of Life Themes:
  1. Neglect
  2. Abandonment
  3. Abuse
  4. Rejection
  5. Deprivation
  6. Emotional Suffocation

In childhood, this was the reason you believed you didn’t deserve to be loved, and as an adult, it has become the basis for your inability to love yourself, and therefore those around you, in a healthy way.

childhood problems in relationship relationship counselling sydney

So, over your life, you attract into your life, people who help you play out this theme, therefore confirming the theme by doing to yourself over and over again, exactly the thing that was done to you as a child.

To truly get to the bottom of why you keep repeating the same relationship patterns, you need to explore the following questions:

  • What is your Life Theme?
  • When did I experience it as a child?
  • When did I recreate it again in other relationships?
  • What are my unconscious expectations or thoughts?

Further to this, you then start adjusting your behaviours in response to that theme.

Our responses to our Life Themes

There are two ways that you can do that and many of us use both of these in different ways:

1. Overcompensation / over-functioning / grandiose/ superior behaviour

2. Giving up on yourself / under-functioning / feeling a victim / feeling worthless

childhood issues relationship counselling in sydney

Here again, it is very helpful to look at where in both your life and your relationship, you are behaving in these ways:

  • Where am I overcompensating in my life and my relationship?
  • Where am I under-functioning because I don’t feel worthy?

You may need some professional help with discovering all the ways that you have been doing this. Often we can’t see all our patterns by ourselves.

Having done this, the next step is to look directly at how these are specifically affecting how we engage in our relationships.

If you would like help in this process, we have Psychologists in Sydney, and all capital cities and large regional cities across Australia. Please give us a call or you can find the Psychologist who is right for you from searching on the right hand bar. We would love to help you, as relationships are our passion.

Why relationships go wrong

Relationships can be the most rewarding and most frustrating areas of our lives.

Very few of us have been shown how to have a good relationship. It is not surprising, then, that sooner or later problems surface.

Even though your intentions are good, you often lack the knowledge and insight into what has happened and how you have got into such a stuck place.

If you have been experiencing difficulties in your relationship for some time, and trying what you know to improve things, it can be easy to begin to feel hopeless, and helpless.

While most people find it easy to see how their partner is contributing to the problems, it’s not so easy to see how you are.

Most of us begin a relationship hoping that all our emotional needs will be met by our partner. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. That’s our natural narcissism.

This is inevitably followed by disappointment, as we discover this is not and will not be the case. Our relationship shows us through pain what we need to develop in ourselves first and foremost before we can truly love our partner.

From my study of Relationships over many years, I have discovered that there seem to be 4 key factors that form the core of why our relationships can go awry

1. Your relationship with yourself.
sydney marriage counselling for healthy relationships

Interestingly, your relationship with your partner has more to do with your relationship with yourself than anything else. That doesn’t mean how self centred or selfish you are. It refers to your level of self esteem, solid sense of self, or differentiation.

How do you know if you have a good relationship with yourself, or are psychologically mature?

  • You have a clear and solid sense of yourself (you change your beliefs from within, not by coercion)
  • You are responsible for yourself, your life, and your emotions (you are not a victim)
  • You know your boundaries and you don’t let your partner violate them and control you in any way
  • You are aware of, and let go of, any controlling, manipulating or coercion of your partner.
  • You let go of expecting your partner to meet all your emotional needs ( your narcissism)
  • You know what you need and can take care of your own needs
  • You know what you want in your relationship.
  • You know what you will and won’t tolerate in your relationship.
  • You hold dear and take a stand for what you want
  • You are aware of your emotions and take responsibility for them
  • You don’t argue or over-react.
  • You are willing to tolerate discomfort for growth

The better the relationship you can develop with yourself, the more you can love your partner, and the more passionate and desiring you are of him/her. This is desire out of fullness, rather than out of need. 

And in your relationship:

  • You love and respect your partner as different from you
  • You openly share how you think and feel (even if he/she doesn’t validate you)
  • You listen and want to understand your partner
  • You want to share your life with your partner
  • You see your partner for who he/she is.
  • You desire your partner sexually out of fullness, rather than need
  • You feel free to be yourself with your partner

relationship counselling sydney for happy relationships

Most people have not developed a good relationship with themselves.

The more insecure you are in yourself, the more you are going to want to either control your partner (which naturally causes conflict), or let your partner control you (which causes resentment, or “getting back”).

This is the single biggest factor in relationship, intimacy and sexual problems.

So a large part of making your relationship happy, vibrant and intimate is being able to recognize either when you are being controlling, (and decide to let go of that behaviour), or when you are  allowing yourself to be controlled against your wishes, (and decide to stand up for yourself).

A most common occasion that we exert control over our partner is in our communication. You might like to check, which of the following ways has your communication been controlling lately?

  • Pressure to change – tell partner that he/she is wrong/how to behave or my way is the right way
  • Attacks, put downs, criticisms
  • Annihilate, unsettle, undermine, deliberately confuse
  • Frighten with displays of anger and rage
  • Blame and complain
  • Ask for something and expect to get
  • Manipulate through guilt
  • Rescue, fix, sooth
  • Judge
  • Be dismissive
  • Give with strings attached
  • Be arrogant and contemptuous
  • Be pushy
  • Use threats

Or the more subtle ones:

  • Withdraw
  • Shut down
  • Reject
  • Be precious, over-react
  • Be stubborn
  • Procrastinate

To have the best relationship you can have with yourself, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I prepared to stop my controlling ways?
  • What ways am I being controlled by my partner? Is he/she prepared to stop them?
  • How do I “get my partner back” for his/her controlling me?
  • To what extent am I looking after my own needs?
  • What would I like to be different in our relationship?
  • Am I closing down sexually? If so, why?

2. Your Personality Type

personality differences relationship counselling sydney

Understanding your personality type in more depth can give you a huge insight into how you are contributing to the problems you are experiencing.

I have found the Enneagram with its 9 types offers both a brief and in-depth insight into your strengths and also your limitations. Also, how you are either trying to control your partner, or allowing yourself to be controlled, as well as a personal growth path for overcoming your limitations, and reaching your fullest potential as an individual. You can also start to understand your partner in a whole new way.

To learn more about each of the 9 personality types, check out the free article “How do I contribute to our problems”

If you’d like to understand more about both your personality and your partner’s and how they interact, and how you can bring out the best in each other, we have designed some special sessions either in-house or by phone of Skype.

3. Knowing and managing your emotions and Communication.

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All poor communication is created because very few people really know what’s going on inside them emotionally.

This lack of awareness unwittingly leads you to acting out defensive patterns on your partner and others. So it can be hugely helpful to become more aware of, and manage well, your emotions, sharing them with your partner when appropriate.

We have developed a simple process which can have you managing your inner states and communicating well with your partner with just a little practice.

Give us a ring and make an appointment if you would like help with your communication. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists across Australia. One near you.


4. The Masculine/Feminine difference.

masculine feminine differences in marriage

It’s the subject of more jokes than any other topic. It is true that, in many ways, the male and female brain are wired differently, and we can be thankful of that because the magnetic attraction you feel for each other gives your relationship juice and vibrancy, along with bringing a breadth to your relationship.

Actually, we all have some masculine and feminine in us, but most people find that, in essence, they are predominately one or the other.

Here are some of the differences:

The Masculine: The Feminine
Pushes and guides Invites and attracts
Has direction in the world Is at home in life, love & sensual  pleasure
Protects and provides Nurtures
Under stress, can become detached Under stress, can become more emotional
Gives less when he receives more Gives more when she receives less
Won’t let the score become uneven Will give more than she gets
Contracted awareness : focus on self Expansive awareness : responsive to others
Blames others first Blames themselves first
Needs time to mull over thoughts Needs a listening ear to share feelings
Will punish if criticized Will induce guilt
Withdraws, grumbles and shuts down when stressed Becomes overwhelmed, over-reacts and exhausted when stressed
Needs appreciation, trust and acceptance Needs respect, care and understanding

An essential part of making your relationship work well is to honour, value and understand the inherent differences and gifts we each can bring to the relationship, rather than judge and devalue them.

It is a smart man who appreciates the beauty, love and rich emotional life his wife brings into his life, and a wise woman who appreciates the strength, direction and protection her man so willingly gives her.


Why put in the effort in your relationship?

Through your continued efforts in working through your relationship problems and conflicts, you grow your own psychological maturity.

If both of you can do this, you can develop a relationship with your partner of true equality, mutual respect, equal energy exchange and input, and equal willingness to grow, where renewed romance, intimacy and playful sexuality abound.

Couples who have achieved this kind of relationship overwhelmingly feel that it was well worth the ride to get there.

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The fact that you have taken the time to understand and address your relationship issues, and along with a willingness to try new things, means that you have a high chance of successfully re-creating your relationship anew, and often one that is better than you have ever had before.

It is our privilege to help you in your process.

If you would like help in assessing your relationship and what might be causing your relationship difficulties, please call us or check search our psychologists from the right hand bar. Relationships are our specialty and we would love to help you.

Julie Hart

Love and Trust: the absolute essential ingredients of relationships

Have you thought about what is the key missing ingredient for you in your relationship when you are feeling very distressed about your relationship?

From the many thousands of couples I have counselled, I have found that beneath their specific problem in their relationship, it is that they feel that their partner doesn’t love them, can’t be trusted, or isn’t there for them.

And then, over time, the emotional injuries they sustain from a lack of trust & love build a huge gulf of emotional distance between them, leading to an eventual betrayal or the gradual loss of love.

For Happy Couplesrelationship romantic couple

Happy couples, however, who experience love and trust between each other, describe the concept of “trust” as something that  creates safety, security, and openness for both of them.

Trust and love makes their relationship safe, that makes it possible for them to be vulnerable with each other, and thereby deepen their love beyond the first passionate infatuations and illusions of courtship.

As love and trust matures, these couples feel their relationship ripens to a sense of mutual nurturance and moral responsibility for building a life together.

For them, love and trust are intertwined and grows together into a lasting relationship where friendship and intimacy blossoms.  Partners accept each other despite perpetual personality issues, and romance and sexual intimacy is possible because of it.

The BIG LOVE questions

The Big Love & Trust Questions are:


-Do you really care about me/Do I really matter to you?

-Am I valued and accepted by you?

-Do you care as much about me as you do about yourself?

-Can I count on you to put me first over others in your life?


-Can I count on you to be who you say you are?

-Can I count on you to follow through on your promises?

-Can I count on you to be there for me when I need you?

LOVE and TRUST are the Bedrock Foundation of a Healthy Loving relationship.

If you are feeling these are missing ingredients in your relationship, we can help.

Both Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Cost: $155  ($175 for after hours sessions)

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)