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.





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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.




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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.




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How Much Can You Trust Your Partner? (Trust and Loyalty = Counting on Each Other)

In a relationship, trust is based on two distinct aspects:

Your own personal integrity as a person, and being there emotionally for your partner.

For each one of us, personal integrity is based on our willingness to do the right thing even when no one is watching. Are you this kind of person? Can you rely on yourself to come through in this way?

For couples, trust is about coming through for your partner. It’s something you both need to be able to count on: that in that moment your partner feels he (or she) most needs you, you’ll be there. Every time. And that your partner will be there for you in your moment of pain or crisis.

John Gottman’s recent research has shown without a shadow of a doubt that when relationships become distressed, the central missing ingredient is the ability to build and maintain this trust with one another. On this issue, there’s really no compromise. As human beings in relationship with others, trust is the most fundamental need we have — to know that when we’re in trouble, hurting, or having difficulties, that our partner will respond empathetically. That we’re not alone.

Many unhappy couples feel their partners simply can’t be counted on to “be there” for them in these essential moments. Emotional injuries from a lack of trust over time create a deep, wide gulf of emotional distance between them. This leads to eventual betrayal or the quiet dying of their love.


Trust Builds a Bond

On the other hand, for happier relationships where trust between the two is present or has built up over time, its emotional presence creates safety, security, and openness for both partners. It deepens their love beyond its first passionate infatuations. As years roll by and love matures, trust ripens to a sense of mutual nurturance and moral responsibility for building a life together. In healthy relationships, love and trust are intertwined, growing together to form a lasting and powerful bond.


What are the exact ingredients of trust between a couple?

Here they are, couched in questions so that each of you can ask yourself of each other, discuss, and see whether there are any elements you might need to work on.


1. The Trustworthiness of My Partner as a Person:


Can I count on you to be a truthful person?

Are you as you appear to be?

Do you keep promises you make, and follow through on what you say you’ll do?

Are you transparent as a person?

Are you secretive? Do you hide aspects of your life from me?

Are you a good person who treats other people kindly?

Do you show goodwill towards others?


2. Your Couple Trust and Loyalty:


Can I count on you to be there for me when I really need it?*

(*This is an incredibly important question. If the answer is NEVER or OCCASIONALLY, stop and discuss it together until you are clear what you need to change to make this happen.)

Do I come first in comparison to others or to your goals?

Do others (or other things) take priority over me?

Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?

Can I trust you to choose my interests over those of your parents?

Can I trust you to care more about our relationship than about just yourself?

Can I trust you to be home when you say you will be?

Can I trust you to be motivated to earn money and create wealth for our family?

Can I trust you not to follow up on other sexual interests you might have?

Can I trust you to keep me as your closest friend?




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When Was The Last Time You Had a Date Night?

Couples who’ve been together for a long time can start to take their relationship for granted — staying together even as both partners work less and less to maintain their intimate connection as lovers.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Most of us want more closeness, excitement, and variety, but few of us take proactive steps to maintain or improve our love life with our partners.

And while some men have been conditioned not to be romantic, almost all women yearn for it, and will often feel far more open sexually if their partner still flatters them with some romance. For them, it’s how their man demonstrates to her how she is special to him. Whether yours is a traditional male/female or a same-sex partnership, keep an eye on how these traditional differences can play themselves out.

One excellent way to re-spark the connection and develop a lifetime romance is to prioritize a weekly “Date Night” that finds the two of you enjoying being together, without the usual trappings of children, family, electronic distractions, or talk of work. Date Nights are simply fun time spent together, the way it used to be when you first met.

If not weekly, Date Nights should happen at least once every two weeks. Put it on your calendar and take turns planning the night. You need not spend a lot of money; besides dinner and movies, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Indoor picnic: Set up a picnic dinner on a rug on the floor with candles.
  • Surprise your partner with a pair of tickets to an interesting place or event
  • Sign up for dancing or another class together

If possible, start this week by planning and executing your first Date Night.


Suggested add-on for your Date night: The Art of Gentle Lighting…and a Foot Massage

You will need either a pair of pillar candles or a half-dozen tea lights. Place them on the bedside table or around the bedroom. Gentle candlelight works best, as it provides just enough soft light to see each other and into each other’s eyes without any glare.

In the gentle candlelight of the bedroom, take turns massaging each other’s feet. Attending to your partner’s feet makes them feel loved and cared for. Start with general overall light squeezes, using your whole hand with a gentle grasp. Then begin to work each area of your partner’s foot, paying particular attention to the arch and ball of the foot. Finish off with light gentle overall touch, and move to the next foot.

If you’re the massager, you don’t have to be an expert. Just move slowly and be intentional If you’re the massagee, make sure to relax into the pleasurable receiving of the massage. Give your partner clear and gentle feedback as to what feels good. Doing so will help them build their repertoire of what you enjoy.




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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?





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Psychologist Interview with Noga (Relationship Counselling Sydney)

relationship counselling sydneyNoga is a Psychologist with 25 years experience. She enjoys working with couples and families on relationship issues to improve skills in communication, problem solving and conflict resolution. Noga provides relationship and marriage counselling Sydney, Crows Nest.

To read more about Noga or view her psychologist profile, click here. Relationship counselling Sydney.


  1. What has made you interested in helping couples with their relationships?
    In my 25 years as a Psychologist, I’ve learnt there are many different ways to “do relationships”. Generally, a strong long-lasting relationship enables two individuals to become “more than two”. That is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Good relationships empower individuals to grow, expand, improve and achieve. Good relationships are healing and make healthier and happier individuals. Over the years, I’ve researched, studied and gathered a large reservoir of relationship stories and I feel well-equipped to help individuals and couples create their own blue-print for a successful, long-lasting relationship. Relationship counselling Sydney.
  1. What are the most common relationships problems that you see in couples coming in to see you?
    Most relationship problems stem from communication breakdown. Often, it’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. Fortunately, good communication is a skill – which can be acquired through simple tools and techniques. Unfortunately, many couples seek therapy when there’s a crisis, which creates urgency and desperateness and makes it difficult to focus on communication skills as the basis for problem-solving. However, when couples learn healthy communication skills through counselling – their problem-solving ability improves and big perpetual problems become small and less-frequent.
    Another common problem is the busy-ness of life in the 21st century. Pressures to succeed in careers and relationships create multiple, conflicting demands on individuals. The resulting high prevalence of individual mental health issues often affects relationships (including children and whole families). A non-judgemental counselling process can improve understanding and provide tools to support and deal with these issues.
    Lastly: Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO drives people to seek newer, bigger, better lives. They may “trade-up” (or down?) or sacrifice their relationship for a successful career or an off-shore post. It seems we’re all driven to DO more, rather than BE more. But good relationships are about BEING not about DOING. Counselling can provide a space to discuss and challenge priorities, and agree to make changes.
  1. What are the most common problems for women in relationships?
    Women often struggle with work-life balance, especially professional and working mothers as well as those planning to start a family. They are often tired and at times, resentful about sacrificing brilliant careers and big dreams to become carers and home makers. This often breeds resentment towards male-partners who may be higher-earning, controlling financial decisions and less involved in mundane day-to-day household chores. While good relationships enable two individuals to become “more”, some relationships enable one to be “more” while the other feels “less”. Less achieving, less successful, less fulfilled, less confident. Unfortunately, this is often the woman. Which is why many women wish they had… a wife!
  1. What are the most common problems for men in relationships?
    Men often feel pressure to succeed and if there’s a family – pressure to provide. They work hard, sometimes long hours, and often come home to a woman who expects them to share home/family-chores. Men who work in male-dominated industries, become accustomed to communicating in short, directive style. They may vent frustration/ anger using language which is common in male-circles but inappropriate at home. They often have trouble winding-down after a hard-days-work and at times need a drink (or two…) which sometimes leads to a dependency. Men are less inclined than women to discuss emotional issues. They tend to bottle-up and put on a brave face. This explains the prevalence of depression and anxiety in men. Many men have a difficulty talking to a counsellor, although those able to confront their reservations and open-up benefit enormously through saving their relationships, and themselves.
  1. What would you like couples to know about the couple counselling process before they come in?
    Don’t leave it until it’s too late! Often couples attempt counselling as the last resort before a break up. This creates a crisis intervention mode, desperation and pressure to rescue, which makes it very difficult for everyone. In most cases there are early signs, possibly a long-history of problems. There is no shame in seeking help. A few counselling sessions to discuss a “small issue” can prevent big, expensive interventions later on. Another point: a fruitful counselling process must stay away from the blame-game. Don’t blame your partner. Accept responsibility for your share in the problems, challenge yourself where did YOU go wrong and what can YOU change/ improve. In most cases, both sides are at fault.
  1. If you had one word of advice for couples with children, what would it be?
    This too shall pass… Raising children is stressful and often creates conflict for a couple. This is due to parents being so emotionally-invested in their children. However, life is very busy and time passes quickly. Enjoy the children while they’re here. Sooner or later, they’ll leave the nest. My son has just left home for an interstate university. Overnight, I went from a busy HSC mum to being a part-empty-nester (I have another high-school boy at home but I now know he also won’t stay home forever). I’m partly liberated and excited about new opportunities on the horizon, and partly terrified of the empty-nest stage. Sounds familiar? Anyone? The moral of the story: enjoy each day for the joy it brings and trust yourself and your partner (perhaps with the help of a counsellor) to be able to overcome new challenges. Lastly, I’ve counselled many children over the years and I still do. They suffer enormous distress when their parents are in conflict. It’s best to keep parental conflicts away from the children. Relationship counselling Sydney.
  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?
    A friend of mine, in his 60th birthday speech, thanked his wife of 38 years. He said he never knows who he’ll find in bed the next morning. Wife being an artist, a creative-type, energetic and temperamental at times, unpredictable… It’s the surprise element (good surprises please!), the adventure, the ability to reinvent, regenerate and energise each other. Being able to create, and respond to CHANGE. This is the breath of air, the oxygen that makes a relationship thrive.
    However, a thriving relationship must also survive. What makes a relationship survive?
    Commitment: “for better for worse… in sickness in health…” That’s the “contract”, the bones of the relationship. The more challenges a couple can endure, the stronger the bond between them. How do you know you will survive life’s trials? You don’t. But if you’re committed to each other, then you’re in it together. Come what may. Communication: it is the key to ANY good relationship. Luckily, communication can be a learnt and improved. There are fairly simple rules to good communication and I often teach couples how to apply these and improve their ability to problem-solve. Communication is the blood in the veins of the relationship. It keeps it alive.
    CCC: Commitment and Communication – to survive, Change – to thrive. A good relationship needs all 3Cs.
  1. What do you find is the most satisfying and fulfilling part of this work that you do?
    I love helping people and I feel privileged to do this for a job. When relationships improve, individuals are happier and able to perform better, create and achieve. This is the most rewarding aspect of my work!!!


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How To Quit Porn

When you decide to quit porn, it is usually because you have made an active decision to have something better in your life; a deeper relationship with your partner, a sense of personal integrity and a desire to be respected by your family and the community.

The decision to quit porn is a positive life affirming milestone in a person’s life. It represents a new level of self-responsibility and maturity.

But, it is not an easy process and does require commitment and professional help, as it is almost impossible to change and maintain the changes over time on your own.

With the help of a Psychologist, there are 9 stages or strategies that are essential to your quitting the porn habit:

  1. Acknowledging how porn has caused you problems
  2. Identifying what matters to you most
  3. Facing your fears
  4. Taking responsibility for your own recovery.
  5. Creating a porn free environment
  6. Resolving underlying wounds and unresolved issues
  7. Establish support and accountability
  8. Taking care of your physical and emotional health
  9. Start healing your sexuality and rebuild your sexual relationship with your partner






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How Do I Know If I’m With a Narcissist?

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, rather than the 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 bolster 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 you or 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 or whole 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 his/her 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 already know.

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 pathologize 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 of him/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 into persisting.

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

71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of to upset 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 your intentions.

74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks you said 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/she will 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

– 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


Continue discovering about Narcissism by checking out our other videos:

Why am I with a Narcissist?

What happens in a Narcissists mind?

What can I do if I am with a Narcissist?


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Are You Living With a Steamroller?

Why do some people become controlling?

In order to be the unique person who we are, we need to access 4 internal parts of us. They are:

1. Our feelings

2. Our sensations, like hearing, touch, sight and movement, and our preferences.

3. Our intuition

4. Our thinking

The first 3 of these are very much from our direct experience. But our thinking is from a secondary source.

Many of us are not connected to our feelings, sensations and intuitions, because we were taught, often by parents or authority figures, to negate them or not to trust them. eg “Don’t be a cry baby. You’re not even hurt” or “Don’t tell me you like that!”

Because of this we can grow up not having an intact personal world that we can depend on, and instead we can rely almost entirely on our thinking. This particularly happens in the male culture where many boys are taught to be tough and deny their feelings, senses and gut feelings.

When you have had your personal reality denied, you need to think up an identity according to what you think you should be. But unfortunately these identities tend not to be grounded in your inner world.

So having made yourself up from the outside in, it is easy to imagine that you can also make others up, as well, and this then can become quite a controlling way that you interact with others.

If there is a control connection, this person will want to define the other person. They will have trouble hearing and seeing the real person, and therefore, they will struggle with empathy or any real understanding for the other person. They, in actual fact, fail to grasp that the other person is actually a separate person with their own reality.

But it doesn’t look like that to start with….

During the initial stage of a new relationship, where both partners are wanting to impress each other, the more controlling person can contrive their behaviour to impress and charm, being careful to make sure they mirror the desires of their new partner.

Then comes the transition…

However this “impress your socks off” stage doesn’t tend to last.

Once the controlling partner 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 far less need for approval.

Without realizing it, the partner has crossed over into the controller’s self definition boundary. With this transition can come the expectation that the partner is now an extension of him or her, and of One Mind with him or her.

This can be a dumbfounding change for the partner, as it can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace; but the change does happen.

The “Bubble”

Patricia Evans in her book “Controlling People” describes a man who 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, he needed to get her back inside the bubble where he felt safe again.

The controlling person does usually feel a great and strong love for his or her partner, but this is not what we consider real love. It is more of a control connection.

In reality, there is usually very little regard for his or her individuality, an absence of empathy or understanding, and often an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he or she shows any signs of separateness.

This usually leaves the partner feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that they have been so invaded or negated, every time she or he expresses her or his individuality.

All the while the controlling partner denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on the partner.

When your partner defines you, you can’t feel connected to them, and along with this disconnection comes no sense of real partnership or real love. It’s only when he or she begins to asks about you that you can begin to feel the connection.

The healthiest relationships are those where there is no controlling, simply acceptance of each other and negotiation between each of you for what you need and want.

However, in reality, many people tend to attempt to control their partner in some way. The degree of control is what really counts. You may be happy to allow your partner some control in areas that aren’t really important to you and maybe important to them. You may even be able to joke about it, and it can certainly add to a lively relationship where those things are part of your shared jokes.

But it you are feeling that you are often being negated, not heard, discredited, blamed for things that are not true, or blamed for things that you know is actually more true of your partner, then your relationship is not functioning in a healthy way, and you will be suffering personally.

Controllers fear intimacy because intimacy requires hearing and seeing each other for who you are.

This kind of intimacy stops the control connection.

There are graduated degrees of controlling, and the more extreme, the more difficult it is to improve your relationship.

For those of you who are wondering how similar this sounds to Narcissism, there is a huge overlap between the two.





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