Core relationship needs are needs in a relationship, which are not negotiable. It is essential to know what they are because unfulfilled needs can become deal-breakers. If your partner cannot fulfil these core relationship needs, then it is likely that your relationship won’t last or at the very best will be a shadow of what it could be.

The Second Horseman is CONTEMPT
Contempt is the actions that convey the sense to another that they are worthless or beneath our consideration. It shows up when we make statements that come from a position of us being morally superior.

The First Horseman is CRITICISM
It’s important here that when we talk about criticism that we differentiate between a complaint and criticism. A complaint targets behaviour, but criticism is an attack launched at who the person is.

Most of us would like life to be fun and enjoyable. But in the pursuit of fun and enjoyment, several responsibilities come into our lives such as work, family, and day to day activities that we need to do to live.

Life as we know it is constantly changing. No longer is work confined to traditional daytime hours. The ability to be in contact constantly with work and the world in general due to the proliferation of phones/mobile computing devices means that there are continuous demands for your attention.

We understand that many people have the following questions when it comes to communicating with their partner.
Why can’t my partner understand where I am coming from?
Why do we disagree on so many things?
Why can’t they see common sense?

The killers lurking in your relationship disguise themselves as something far less dangerous than they actually are. As a result, we often misunderstand their power until it is almost too late.



The Fourth Horseman is STONEWALLING

Stonewalling occurs when someone completely withdraws from a conflict discussion and no longer responds to their partner. 

It usually happens when you’re feeling inundated or emotionally overwhelmed, so your reaction is to shut down, stop talking, and disengage.

When couples stonewall, they’re under a lot of emotional pressure. This pressure increases heart rates, releases stress hormones into the bloodstream, and can even trigger a fight-or-flight response.

In one of the Gottman Institutes studies, they interrupted couples after 15 minutes of an argument and told them they needed to adjust the equipment. They asked the couples not to talk about their issue, but just to read magazines for half an hour.

When they started talking again, their heart rates were significantly lower, and their interaction was more positive and productive.

During that half-hour, each partner, without even knowing it, physiologically soothed themselves by reading and avoiding discussion. They calmed down, and once they felt calm, they were able to return to the discussion respectfully and rationally.

The remedy to stonewalling is to practise physiological self-soothing, and the first step of self-soothing is to stop the conflicting discussion and call a timeout:

For Example

“Look, we’ve been through this over and over again. I’m tired of reminding you—”

Remedy:“Honey, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need to take a break. Can you give me twenty minutes and then we can talk?”

Failing to take a break will lead to you stonewalling or bottling up your emotions, or you end up exploding at your partner. Either way, it is going pear-shaped.

When you take a break

· Make it for at least 20 minutes. It takes that long before your body calms down.

· Make sure that you make a definite time to come back together to discuss things; otherwise, your partner will believe that you have put a resolution on the “never-never plan”.

· During this time you must avoid thoughts of righteous indignation such as “I don’t have to take this anymore” and innocent victimhood such as “Why is he always picking on me?”.

· Spend your time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music, reading, or exercising.

Communication is the backbone of any relationship. As relationship specialists, StartPoint Counselling has helped many couples remove the toxicity in their communication and rebuild their relationships.

Call us now on 07 3458 1725, and we can equip you to change your relationship into one that you will want to be part of.

Couples Counselling

The Third Horseman is DEFENSIVENESS

Defensiveness is a self-protection mechanism which comes out in the form of moral outrage or evoking a sense of victimhood in an attempt to fend off a perceived attack.

People often become defensive when they believe they are being criticized (First Horseman of Toxic Communication). Defensiveness is a way to push the problem away but it never helps to solve the issue at hand.

Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying that the problem isn’t me, it’s you. At times this blame extends to other people, the family we grew up in or the world in general. however, the problem is not resolved, and the conflict escalates further, which paves the way for other horsemen, such as criticism and contempt, to enter into the argument.

The remedy is to accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict.

For Example

“Did you call your parents to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”

Defensiveness: “I was just too busy today. You know how busy my schedule is! Why didn’t you just do it?”

Remedy: “Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be too busy. Let me call them right now.”

By taking responsibility for part of the conflict, “I forgot”, this partner prevents the conflict from escalating by admitting their role in the situation.

Communication is the backbone of any relationship. As relationship specialists, StartPoint Counselling has helped many couples remove the toxicity in their communication and rebuild their relationships.

Call us now on 07 3458 1725, and we can equip you to change your relationship into one that you will want to be part of.

Not happyWhen I’m having a conversation with somebody, there is one significant thing that gets in the way if I’m not careful. Because I experience life looking from the inside out, I am aware of everything that I think, everything that I feel and everything that I see.

I am a product of my environment which consists of the family I grew up in, everything that’s happened to me in life, and what sense I made of that as far as creating my belief systems. I also have some emotional triggers that exist because of things that previously happened in my life. These emotional triggers are what we refer to as the buttons that people press that set us off.

Now, because I have experienced myself all my life, I tend to regard how I function, how I think, and how I see things as normal. When exposed to something over a long period, we naturally believe that it’s normal. The problem happens that while I think that I am normal, I also associated another word with that. The word that I associate with it is the word “right”. I am normal, and I am right. This tendency to believe that if we are normal, we are also right, is taken to the extreme with those who claim to be normal and “morally right” and then push their morals and values onto others.

So in a conversation, a problem can occur when I am interacting with somebody and putting across how I feel and what I think about the topic. If I consider that I am normal, I will tend to try to shut down people who disagree with me because if I’m normal and right, then the other person is abnormal and wrong. And so, I will tend to try to convince them by making lots of statements, and probably increasing the volume with which I am speaking to get the point across.

If I’m in that state of mind, then there are several things that I am not doing. What I am not doing is listening, trying to understand by asking the other person questions, or being open to a different point of view about something. In a relationship, this type of interaction has quite devastating consequences.

The key word in relationships is understanding. I firstly need to understand myself as a person in terms of how I think, what drives me and what are my passions. I then need to understand my partner in the same way. Armed with the understanding or myself and my partner the question that I need to answer is “how if we have these differences do, we function as a couple?” As tricky as that question seems, there is an answer. It is one of the most common issues that I need to deal with when I’m working with couples.

Believing that we are normal and therefore right is a common tendency amongst human beings for the reasons that I gave earlier in this article. I can suffer from it myself if I am not mindful of my tendency to do this. The best way that I find to stay mindful of this tendency is to say to myself, “I’m not normal, but rather I am abnormal”. If I come from this angle, I realise that I need to take the time to understand people that I interact with, because they’re not going to be like me.

The Art of Painless Communication is an ebook I wrote to help couples and individuals to dramatically decrease the likelihood of ending up in an argument when communicating. Learn how to share information in a way that promotes understanding and reduces conflict. Get your copy here.

© Tracey Janke – StartPoint Counselling 2019

wants, desiresNobody does anything in this life without starting with expectations about how it should work. From the moment that we get up in the morning until we go to bed, we are constantly having expectations about our day.

We expect that we can get to work without having an accident, we have expectations about traffic conditions, expectations about how much work we can get done in the day and so on. Despite having expectations, most of the time we don’t consciously think about them. Even if we do consciously think about our expectations, they are usually not well defined.

Many people have expectations along the lines of I expect to have more money. Unfortunately, without clearly defining what that looks like, it is more like a wish than an expectation and represents the tip of the expectation iceberg with the bulk of it undefined.

When our expectations are not met, even if they are not well defined, we quickly lose our happiness and look for someone to blame. To look at the money example again, even though I do not have a clearly defined idea about what more money means, I get upset because I haven’t got enough money and I can’t afford things. Often we hear the disappointment of broken expectations in the statement “I expected so much more”.

Expectations hold immense power. If we can clearly define them and work towards them, then they have the power to drive us to achieve and create. If they are not clearly defined, then we cannot work towards them, causing great discontent with our situation. This discontent has the potential to drive us to walk away from things and to walk away from people.

Understanding and being clear about your expectations is paramount to success in your relationship.

Most of the time our expectations in relationships are unspoken, or we are not fully clear about what they are. Unmet expectations quickly give rise to feelings of incompatibility in a relationship. For instance, a common expectation in a relationship is “If I need the support of my partner because I’m going through difficult times then I expect that they will listen to me, try to understand and support me”. Many times, however, this doesn’t happen. We try to get support from our partners but they don’t listen, listen and don’t understand and don’t try to understand, or they shut us down. As a result of this unmet expectation, resentment starts to creep into the relationship. Repeat this a few times and add in some other unmet expectations, and quickly the feeling of incompatibility and resentment rises.

On the other hand, if you take the time to examine what your expectations in a relationship, take the time to sit with your partner and share those and gain an understanding of what is important to each of you, then those expectations will help you to strengthen the relationship. Shared expectations allow each partner to be clear on what the other is wanting. When each partner meets the expectations of their partner, it shows commitment, empathy and understanding. These are building blocks in a relationship.

Take the time to work out clearly what your expectations are in your relationship. Try to write down at least five of them. Don’t just stop with generic things like I want to be happy. Take the time to define what makes you happy. Now share these expectations with your partner. What of these expectations are achievable easily and what may require some compromise? Have the discussion.

If you take the time to put an effort into your relationship, then the improvement in the relationship will come back to you as a reward. It’s a boomerang effect.

Defining expectations is a fundamental part of the work that I do in restoring and enhancing relationships. If you want to know how I can help you in your situation, call me on 07 3458 1725.

© Tracey Janke – StartPoint Counselling 2019

Communication ProblemsIdentifying what it is that you are looking for in your relationship is a good first step because most people don’t do this. While they don’t clearly define their expectations, on some level, they’re aware that they’re not getting something met in the relationship. This is what I call unspoken expectations. By making a list of what you want in your current relationship those unspoken expectations are brought to the surface.

We must communicate our needs and wants to our partner for them to be aware of what we want. Often in a relationship, we feel that our partner should somehow magically know what we want and what we need. We are different and individual beings, who think differently and see and react to things in a different manner. Thinking that somehow our partners can work out what we want, and need leads to disappointment.

Clear communication is the first step in getting your wants and needs across to your partner. Unfortunately, we tend to communicate our wants and needs by saying things like “I need you to support me better, and you don’t.” We state our need, but then we attack our partner. It is like saying I need ……..and is your fault I don’t have……..

The first reason why you don’t have what you want and need is that you don’t ask and the second reason is that if you do ask, you ask in a way that repels your partner instead of engaging them.

The best approach to a conversation where you are explaining to another person what it is you need is to stick to using ”I” language. When we use this type of language, we are saying I need…… and when I don’t have it I feel……. You own the need, and you own the way you feel when the need is not met. Conclude by asking your partner if you both can talk about how your need can be met in the relationship without dramatically compromising them. Now, remember this works both ways. Your partner can do the same when speaking with you.

Communication in this way at least gets across your wants and needs in the relationship in a way which is least likely to cause a negative reaction. Any movement towards meeting your partner’s needs makes them happier, and that happiness feeds back into your relationship.

© Tracey Janke – StartPoint Counselling 2018