The Single Most Important Ingredient in Your Relationship

The Single Most Important Ingredient in Your Relationship

Do you really feel heard by your partner? Is your partner really there for you?

Sincere, genuine listening to understand and empathise is the key to a lasting, loving and satisfying relationship.

If you only focus on one thing, make it listening; – but I’m talking real and sincere listening – not the pretend listening that many of us offer up. You know what I mean: you’ve got the look on your face that says I am listening; you might even nod occasionally, but your mind is a million miles away.

Or perhaps you’re a “Listen to respond” type, where you listen enough to gather evidence for your rebuttal – so you can use your partners thoughts almost as ammunition against them?

Our relationships are built on a foundation of love and trust. We all want to know that our partner genuinely cares about us, so that when we express ourselves, we are important enough to them that they take the time and energy to understand what we want to share.

That feeling that our partner “gets us” impacts us deep to our core. This feeling of being understood creates more deposits in our love bank than most other things our partner can do. Trust blossoms when we feel heard and understood.

In my 25 years as a Relationship Psychologist, every couple I have seen who are struggling with their relationship have underlying problems listening to each other.

So, what are the 5 essentials of genuine listening?

  1. Care enough to be curious about your partner – enter their world

Firstly, it is the intention to park your own thoughts and feelings for a moment, and to travel over to the other person’s world with a curiosity for what they are thinking and feeling.

It is essential that you put aside your own thoughts and feelings, so you can as much as possible inhabit the world of your partner, just for a few minutes. As they are talking, imagine being them, imagine how you would be feeling living in their shoes; What would you be worried about, sad about, happy about?


  1. Reflect back to them what you have heard and understood

Once they have finished telling you what is important to them, tell them a quick summary of what you have heard them say. This may sound contrived and unnecessary if you have never done it, but it makes a huge difference to whether your partner feels you “get them” or at least are trying to get them. They will let you know if you have fully got them, or if there is something you don’t quite understand.


  1. Ask if there is any more

Here again, it makes a huge impact to your partner for you to ask what else might be on their mind. By doing this, you are showing that they matter to you and you are not just brushing them off. Often when we are asked that, we will feel we have been given permission to give more explanation, which might help you understand the background of what is currently going on for them. Listen to what else in on their mind, and reflect back what you have heard, all the while keeping your own thoughts and feelings on the side.


  1. Speak your truth

Now that you have fully heard your partner, you have your opportunity to speak about what has been happening for you, or your view on this topic or situation.

Now you will have your partner’s full attention.

I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference it makes for you to be fully heard too, if you have listened fully to your partner first.

So many couples get stuck in a mutual withholding dance when it comes to listening. “Well if you’re not going to listen to me, you needn’t think I’m going to listen to you!!!!” ending up with NO listening, instead of both listening.

So speak now, and have your partner listen with the same care and attention you used with them, and reflect back to you what they have heard you say, making sure you clarify anything that needs clarifying, in the same way you did for them.


  1. Discuss both views and come to a resolution

Now that you have both listened to both views or thoughts and feelings on the situation, discuss from an equal and respectful place what might be some solutions to the issue. Sometimes there is no solution needed; just being listened to and feeling heard is all that is required.

If a solution is needed, and you can’t come up with one immediately, agree to take a day or so to consider everything, and come back to talking again soon about it. Often new creative possibilities can emerge once you both are aware of both of your views, and you have some time to reflect on solutions.

There will always be differences of opinions, thoughts and feelings between a couple, but how you manage these is crucial to your long-term happiness and satisfaction in your relationship. Take the time and care to fully listen, and you will be richly rewarded.

Psychologist Interview with Chris (Online Marriage Counselling)

chris online counsellingChristine offers online counselling through Skype or Zoom. She is a registered psychologist with 14 years of diverse experience in private practice as well as psychology consulting to the private sector in Australia, USA and UK. Christine is an associate member of the Australian Psychological Society.

To read more about Chris or view her psychologist profile, click here.  Online Marriage counselling.


  1. What has made you interested in helping couples with their relationships?

To be in true connection with another, where we can feel secure, loved, bonded, valued, respected and as though we have a companion and ‘fellow adventurer’ through all that life has on offer, is so beautiful. I know from my own background and family history, that I have carried some beliefs, ways of being and self-perceptions that have not always led to having rich and meaningful connection in a partner relationship. Having explored and ‘trial tested’ on myself a wide-range of strategies (from wide and varied sources and perspectives) to heal my own blocks to being in a healthy union, I feel so blessed to be able to share what I personally have had work for me, with others who may be desiring to create and maintain a loving relationship with their partner, family members and so on.

  1. What are the most common relationships problems that you see in couples coming to you?

As I reflect on this question, after seeing couples over the past 13 years, there are some clear and consistent challenges that couples often want to move beyond. They include:

  • Not feeling seen, heard, valued or respected by their partner
  • How to communicate lovingly and in a way that meets the needs of each other
  • How to work through conflicts that may arise so both people can have their needs met
  • How to keep the love and ‘spark’ alive once kiddos are part of the equation
  • How to make the couple relationship a priority when life is so busy, and life seems so full of routine
  • How to keep intimacy and sex-life awesome
  • Navigating a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) lifestyle if one person works away from home
  • How to work together as a couple with challenging family members (e.g. in-laws, own parents, ex-partners who may be a co-parent, step-kids)
  • How to survive an affair
  • Anger issues
  • How to support a partner with depression, anxiety, high-stress etcetera
  • How to transition from being partners to parents
  • How to stay connected when have different parenting styles


  1. What would you like clients to know about the couple counselling process before they come in?
  • Both parties need to be genuinely committed to the common goal of having the relationship succeed
  • New ways of thinking and behaving takes time, effort, and consistency – there are no ‘one-hit-wonders’ and both parties in the couple need to make the effort required for sustainable change to happen
  • Transparency, vulnerability, honesty, and being able to have the hard conversations in sessions (and back in daily life), so both people genuinely understand each other’s perspective is vital
  • Understanding that a range of tools and strategies may be needed for long-term success – there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ process
  • All sessions with me are needs-based to each couple I work with
  • I will ask you to explore, try-out, play with, and adapt the tools and skills we go through in sessions at home – you will need to have a felt-sense that they work for you, in your unique circumstances
  • If there is love between a couple – ANY challenge can be overcome!


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



  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?
  • Being present for each other on a daily basis is important
  • Be willing to have conversations that may be difficult – where you say what is real for you whilst being respectful to yourself and your partner
  • Genuinely listen to each other without being defensive or judgemental
  • Do not let things fester
  • Take accountability for what you contribute to the relationship when it is going great and going poorly
  • Commit to recognising there is history in your relationship and then focus on what factors will lead to health moving forward
  • Both parties need to be constantly investing time, energy, presence, love, kindness, quality communication, honesty and vulnerability
  • Be mutually supportive of one another
  • ‘Choose’ each other every day – invest time in identifying what you love and appreciate about each other


  1. List 5 qualities that your friends and family would describe you as having.
  • Genuine
  • I call it as I see it
  • Intuitive
  • Problem-solver
  • Respectful


  1. List 5 strengths that you have as a Psychologist.
  • I tend to see what lies under the surface that can be difficult for the client when they are ‘in it’
  • Non-judgemental
  • Present
  • Adaptable and flexible in co-creating strategies (with the client) and solutions that are based on the needs of each client’s unique needs
  • I never ask a client to try tools and strategies that I have not rigorously trialled on myself


  1. How many years’ experience do you have practicing/helping clients?

I have been a registered psychologist since 2004

Online Marriage counselling.

If you would like to make a booking with Chris 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.

Overwhelmed? Here are the steps to take to get help

Overwhelmed by hurt, disappointment and worry? Going through difficulties in your relationship can be agonisingly painful, and even more so because of the contrast it gives us from when we were so in love and everything felt so wonderful, safe, and positive. And as well, it often has an upsetting contagion effect on so many other areas of our lives.

There’s not a person alive who hasn’t suffered through relationship troubles. They are part of being human, but we now have ways to make the understanding and recovery of these so much faster.

This is our specialty at the Hart Centre – helping you move from devastation to relationship happiness with some added insight so that you reduce the chance of this particular kind of problem happening again.

So here is the simplest process you might want to follow:

Step 1 Phone us on 1300 830 552 or send us an enquiry email

You will speak to our caring receptionists Libby, Caroline or Michele about how we can help. Usually an in-person counselling appointment with one of our trained relationship psychologists near you will be your best bet, and they can help you choose the best one for you by asking you a few questions and then setting you up with an appointment as soon as possible. Occasionally a Skype appointment may be better for you, if you can’t get to an in-person appointment.


Step 2 Confirming all the details

We’ll then send you a confirmation email with your appointment time, address and directions if you need them; So let your partner know these details too.


Step 3 Get your head together (optional)

If, individually, you have the time and energy before your appointment, it can be helpful to go over in your mind what are the major problems for you, so you can get clearer about the priorities to talk about with your psychologist. He/she will be keen to have each of you talk about the particular problems you are experiencing.

If you don’t have the time or can’t get your head together enough to do this step, don’t worry as your Psychologist can help you get clear about all the things going on in your mind.


Step 4 Go to your First appointment

It can be comforting to know that your Psychologist is very experienced in relationship difficulties and you will find him/her very caring about you and your unique situation.

He /she will want to really hear from each of you. We are trained listeners, so we don’t take sides and we won’t make judgements. By the end of the session he/she will be able to give you an insight and summary of what your problems are and get you started with some specific strategies for how to improve things.

We also make sure to keep a positive approach to help counteract the negativity that often is created when relationship problems are present. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it may take 6 to 8 sessions for most couples to completely overcome their problems, but you will start by understanding what’s been going on, and feel better and better as you make the changes over the following weeks.


Step 5 Book your next appointments

Make sure you keep up the momentum of positive change by putting time into each making the necessary changes. You’ll find that if both of you put in the effort, amazing improvements will happen the fastest.

We know the art and science of how to create awesome relationships, and we look forward to helping you get started in turning yours around and back into a positive direction.

Psychologist Interview with Peter (Marriage Counselling Adelaide)

Peter’s passion is Relationship and Marriage Counselling in his Adelaide clinic. Peter’s services are available in his own dedicated, personal, and homely counselling consulting room, or by Skype or telephone. Expert relationship counselling Adelaide.

To read more about Peter or view his psychologist profile, click here.  Marriage counselling Adelaide.


  1. What has made you interested in helping couples with their relationships?

Relationships make people happy. Happy people are sociable. Good relationships raise the potential for very happy couples. Relationships with our partner helps define our lives, along with our other relationships with our colleagues, children, parents, close friends. When relationships are glowing, so are we. We can make relationships glow, because we can decide the terms of our relationships. Improving our relationship with one person increases our potential to improve other relationships. Counselling for relationships helps people become happier.


  1. What do you find are the most common relationships problems that you see in couples coming in to see you?

I see five categories of relationship problems:

(1) when a relationship isn’t working, it may be that one or both people is not feeling secure. Someone is not safe being who they are. Living through positive values and beliefs helps people transcend problems and allows relationships to flourish;

(2) People need to be mentally, emotionally, and physically fit to make relationships work. Energy is important. It encourages thinking and reduces impulsivity, making assumptions, and increases and maintains effort. Self-regulation and managing energy are powerful forces for healthy relationships;

(3) A relationship is a system. It has many interconnecting parts, a Kabbalah of interacting aspects of relational life which create a unique culture built of knowledge, experience, and creativity, which fills all members with confidence. Relationships are about activity, decision-making, problem solving, building trust, and weeding out toxicity. Conceiving a relationship as a system develops patience and tolerance, and helps people make the right call at difficult moments;

(4) Adaptability. Over time in a relationship people play many parts from friend, through lover, to partner, husband/wife, mother/father, maybe business partner, aged parent, ex-husband/wife and so on. These mental, emotional, and behavioural shifts require different ways of meeting our needs and wants and meeting our intentions and expectations while remaining authentic and allowing new versions of the people in the relationship to develop;

(5) Making choices rather than falling into habits. We always have choices, and making choices creates personal power and control, and also develops responsibility. We are responsible for our relationships.


  1. What are the most common problems for women and men individually in relationships?

Relationships prosper when the above factors start to operate freely. Problems in these five areas affect men and women equally, but sometimes differently, in relationships, and I find it a useful template for seeking out the nature of problems. Marriage counselling Adelaide services.


  1. What would you like couple clients to know about the couple counselling process before they come in?

People will be given support and practical guidance to develop confidence and skills to develop their relationship their own way and deal with relational stress, so they find the pathway they are looking for to take them from their present sate to the one they desire.


  1. What has been the couple you remember who has made the biggest turnaround, from being in severe trouble to transforming their relationship into a happy loving one?

A couple who separated on the birth of their child, because the father did not want a child, and believed he was talked into having the child, who later in the year re-united and the husband became a very loving and happy father and husband with a very contented and loving wife in a great relationship, and who are now contemplating a second child together.


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

Happy parents = happy children — refer to Q1


  1. What advice would you give to couples trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair?

Respect and accept the pain of the faithful partner to help rebuild trust, be open and disclosive to reduce distress in this partner and in the relationship, acknowledge the pain of your faithful partner to open the gateway for healing, take responsibility, avoid defensiveness, and both partners should expect setbacks and painful feelings, should maintain boundaries and avoid anything that creates risk, and he non-faithful partner must close off the affair, while both should e mindful of meaning about what happened and live in the present, and realise there will be pain on both sides so both people need to face fears, grief, losses, and need to examine the personal decision making in the relationship, as per Q2.


  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?

The information in Q2 is relevant here. Couples need to be relationship ready, with their mind, brain, body system in the right place, and know that coming together as a couple requires skills and learning each can acquire, so it becomes important for couples to take up the tools, techniques, and strategies to create and build lasting relationships. Relationships incur trouble spots and

disagreements, which means also acquiring the means to deal with them, which refers to all aspects of effective communication, understanding, and appreciation. Finally, if you find yourself in a rut, throw away the shovels. If you keep on doing what you have always done, you will dig deeper and get what you’ve always had. Change, and some new beginnings are called for.


  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?

It depends how success is judged. Some relationships end in counselling, and sometimes only one walks away happy, sometimes both have sense of happiness and relief. Occasionally, one person is attempting to use the counselling process against another, and find when they cannot do this, they exit the process. Often the other person stays! At times, a person can uncover the nature of the personality of the other, and change the way they process through counselling with greater empowerment. At other times couples work systematically through problems to happiness.


  1. What do you find is the most satisfying and fulfilling part of this work that you do?

The new beginnings people create. Personal power, growth of personality, growth in knowledge and skills, and development of creativity is like money in the bank for couples. It can be saved and spent wisely and becomes useful and enriching, optimising the relationship. New insights can be created and the relational Kabbalah enriched. Seeing couples using their growth and energy to make changes can be personally satisfying. Seeing life together through new and different eyes, seeing people create new and significant options for themselves, watching couples grow and work towards their dream, while developing resilience, relapse prevention, and preparing for difficulties, all as part of core competencies, is satisfying and fulfilling, as you see what they have achieved.


  1. List 3 qualities that your friends and family would describe you as having.

My Wife tells me I have good interpersonal skills, and I express myself well, and I am intuitive, warm, and accepting, empathic, and focused on the client, encouraging them to do the work. I will leave it at that.


  1. List 3 strengths that you have as a Psychologist.

It is said I am helpful, mindful, effective, and that I reduce distress and promote good mental health while encouraging prevention through the work I do. It is for others to say.


  1. How many years’ experience do you have practicing/helping clients?

The APS sent me a 20 year membership award at the start of last year. The two years before that 20 years commenced I worked in a community health centre. The five years prior to that I worked as a Lecturer in Psychology, following a stint as a student counsellor. Marriage counselling Adelaide.


Marriage counselling adelaide.

If you would like to make a booking with Peter 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.

Connection Rituals To Help Keep The Spark In Your Relationship

Shared rituals both large and small play an incredibly important part in each partner’s sense that the relationship is safe and supportive. They also give the relationship a sense of continuity, along with a regular sense of connection that stays intact even in the face of the busy-ness of everyday life. They also give both partners something to look forward to.

Anything can be a connection ritual as long as it’s important to both of you: A particular kind of exercise, a favorite TV show, even a household chore done together — the most important thing about having rituals is that they’re important to both of you.

Following are some rituals, both informal and formal, that I invite you to discuss with each other.

Are any of these worth adopting? Being aware of (and guarding) your connection rituals is a powerful ingredient in sustaining a good relationship.


Normal Life Rituals


Regularly eat at least one meal a day together, with cell phones and TV turned off, in order to easily talk with each other or with the family.

When leaving the house:

Always find your partner and give him or her a kiss, making sure you know at least one thing he or she will be doing while you’re away.

When arriving home:

Always make sure to find your partner and give him or her a long and loving kiss. Do this before you do anything else.

Talk time each night:

This is a high-priority ritual: Make sure to spend time every evening sitting and talking to one another about your day, sharing what you’re thinking and feeling, and catching up on family news. It can be helpful to meet in the same place.


It’s important to spend at least a few minutes cuddling and kissing in bed. If one of you goes to bed earlier than the other, do this then.

Date Nights:

Especially if you have children, it’s crucial for the two of you to schedule (and protect) a regular Date Night — preferably once a week, but at a minimum once every two or three weeks. It allows you to escape your everyday responsibilities and create romantic and special “couple time” together. Date Nights don’t have to be expensive — a picnic on a blanket under the moonlight costs no more than a meal at home. Take turns organizing these.

Weekends away:

A regular romantic weekend, even if it’s once every few months, is a powerful, relaxing connection ritual. Again, it need not be expensive; take turns planning them.


Special Circumstance Rituals

When one of you is sick:

For most couples, how their partner cares for them when they’re sick or feeling vulnerable is important. Are you someone who likes a lot of attention, or do you prefer being left alone? Talking through this in advance allows you to best provide for each other when the time comes.


A promotion, a milestone, a personal goal: When one of you has achieved success, how do you celebrate it? Do you create a culture of praise for and with each other and your family?

Bad luck, failures, or exhaustion:

How do you support one another when one of you is stressed out, exhausted, or experiencing failure? Do you acknowledge his or her difficulty? Does the other step up and carry more of the load? (There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.) How do each of you prefer to be supported in tough times?


Do you have an agreement and a divided workload for entertaining visitors? Who cooks? Who cleans? What do you do together? How often do you entertain? How late does it go? Do you clean up at night or in the morning? Do you wait for each other to go to bed, or not? What do each of your prefer?

Keeping in touch with friends and family:

Do you have particular rituals around staying in touch with friends and family? Who contacts whom? How long between catch-ups? Do you do the same routine each time or change it up?

Making love:

With the daily schedules of life (and particularly with children), making time to make love can be difficult, particularly if you believe sex and lovemaking should be spontaneous. Research has shown that you’ll have a better sex life if you make love regularly, so it can be a good idea to plan a “sex date” together at least one night a week. For many couples, this can often coincide with Date Night; for others, late afternoon on the weekend might be a better time.


How do you take vacations as a couple? Who comes up with the idea? Who organizes the details? Do you always travel together, or do you sometimes go places alone? Do the two of you prefer active or relaxing holidays, or some of both? Is it okay to work on vacation? Do each of you have time to “do your own thing”?

Birthdays and anniversaries:

How do you celebrate these important events? For the two of you as a couple, what’s the norm (and the budget) for of gift-giving, going out, and trips away? Are there particularly special ones to acknowledge? Would you like these celebrations to be different in any way?

Letter for a Partner Doubtful About Relationship Counselling

Hi there,

For some people, the thought of having to discuss their relationship problems with someone other than their partner is akin to having all your teeth pulled. Sometimes it’s even hard to talk with your partner about the difficulties between you, let alone a stranger. Your relationship is a private affair, right? And anyway, it’s not easy to understand what’s going on, both in your head, in your partner’s head or in the in-between.

However, our relationship with our partner is arguably the most important thing in our lives and actually forms the foundation of the rest of our life. Most of us build our whole life, family, home, friends and holidays around our relationship.

And the crazy thing is that despite how central our relationship is to our life, for most people no-one has actually taught us how to have a good one! Most of us are either doing what we’ve seen modelled by our parents, or quite the opposite as we don’t want to be like them.

So when our relationship starts to go wrong, due to ignorance on our part (we don’t know what we’re doing that’s causing it to deteriorate) we can be grabbing in the dark to find out how to improve things.

And with 25 years of experience in helping people with their relationship difficulties, unfortunately I also know that the longer you leave your relationship difficulties usually the worse they get.

So being proactive tends to be the best approach.

When you have problems with your car, house, physical health, finances and legal matters you see a trained and experienced professional to help assist you in fixing the problem.

We find some people have hesitations about relationship counselling because they think we will take one person’s side over another. It is important to note that our number 1 goal is to be fair, equal and considerate of both people.

What we do as trained and experienced relationship Psychologists is help you identify the exact unique problem, or combination of problems that you and your partner are having, and then we help educate you on how to change these patterns so that you can get back to having the great relationship you started with in the first place and deserve to have from here on in.

And as a couple when you are both on board with these, and working together on them, often it doesn’t take long to start feeling a whole lot better and more loving towards each other, with the spark coming back again too.

If you are wondering what we do in your session, firstly we take your confidentiality very seriously. In our sessions, we take time to really listen to each of you without taking sides or making any judgements, and from there we give you insight into what patterns you may be inadvertently playing out, and then the specific skills you both need over the next few sessions.

It’s important for us to always work toward win/win solutions as that is what is needed for any of us to have a happy, healthy relationship. We are also there to help, if you have any difficulties along the way. It’s both a very caring and efficient process.

So I’d like to urge you to consider giving us a try. We know how to create awesome relationships and we can help you create one too. That’s our mission.

What Happens in a Counselling Session?

If you have never been to a counselling session before, it can be a little daunting, so it might help to know that, at the Hart Centre, we have 93% of our clients tell us that their counselling experience with us has been a very helpful one for their relationship.

So, once you have made the appointment and before you come in for your first session, we suggest you take a little time individually to think about what, in your own experience, are the main issues for you. You can write them in your phone, on a note and just keep them in your head.

When you come in, your Psychologist will be looking to build a connection and rapport with both of you and will want to listen to how each of you have been feeling about your experiences in your relationship.

We are trained to be empathic and our first job is to understand the views and experience of each of you.


She or he will also ask you what you would like the outcome to be. Most people want their relationship to be better, but there are some people who don’t want to continue their relationship, and others who aren’t sure.

After each of you have had some time to share what you problems and experiences are, and towards the end of the first session, your Psychologist will summarise how each of you are feeling, and also give you further insight into what might be the underlying dynamics or patterns that you may not have been able to see.

She or he will also suggest a plan on how the therapy should go, giving you some initial suggestions on how to get started.

The following sessions are then about resolving your issues in proactive ways, giving you strategies and tools that you will practice at home, and hearing from you the next session about how they are going for you, and what is needed next for you.

We do work with the most important issues for you first and keep a balanced approach so each of you feels you are being heard and your issues attended to.

We also take a very positive approach as this is important in countering the negativity that has usually built up in your relationship before you come, and we celebrate your gains in your relationship happiness as we go along.

Many of our couples are surprised to find that through our counselling process with them, they actually develop an even better relationship than they have ever had before.

If you feel you have quite a large number of issues in your relationship, we suggest you book a separate session for each of you first, before your joint session, to give you both time to share your issues and perspectives.

We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you on your journey back to love and relationship happiness.


We have locations across Australia. If you’d like to speak with an experienced relationship psychologist, please contact us or request a call back using our enquiry form.

How helpful can relationship counselling really be?

At the Hart Centre we ask our clients to give us feedback on how helpful their sessions have been for them.

As of 2nd September 2016, 94% of our respondents have told us that their counselling has been helpful and worthwhile for them and their relationship.

Here’s some other things couples have told us that they have found they liked about their sessions with our Psychologists:

  • They appreciate being able to get clear about, and speak about what has been bothering them, in an environment that is listening and caring and non judgmental.
  • They also find it very helpful to get insight and a fuller understanding about the dynamics that are operating in their relationship that they weren’t aware of.
  • They like having the opportunity to communicate in a healthier manner, and to better understand where their partner is coming from.
  • They appreciate finally being able to resolve long standing issues that they didn’t know how to resolve.
  • They like coming to someone who won’t not let the power balance get out of hand.
  • They find it helpful to be held accountable for making positive changes to the relationship.
  • They like being able to learn new things about how to make their relationship good, and to create hope for having an even better relationship than they have ever had before.
  • They appreciate having the opportunity to learn new relationship skills that they have never had the opportunity to learn before.
  • They love the renewed feelings of love they now feel for their partner that they thought were lost forever.


There are occasions where each partner of a couple comes to counselling with differing wants from the process, for example, one partner may want to work on the relationship and the other wants to leave it.

On these occasions, we do our best to honour both needs while also exploring what deeper needs there may be, and encouraging partners to explore all possibilities before ending the relationship.
So there is real hope for improvements in your relationship if you can just take the first step. We will help you explore the full potential of your relationship, beyond what you have known to date, no matter how difficult it might seem at the moment.

To book an appointment or make an enquiry, click here.

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.