How to break away from unhealthy argument patterns

Have you ever experienced or watched the type of argument where person A brings up a small issue to person B and 10 minutes later it becomes a full-blown, out of proportion, life or death (of the relationship) situation?

Well, it’s unhealthy and stressful because it adds unnecessary tension. It can be avoided. It’s a pattern/habit and so it can be broken and we can learn instead to argue healthily. It sounds difficult but I know that it’s possible because lots of couples manage arguments without the relationship breaking down.

Usually there is an underlying cause that has been sitting unresolved for days, months, even years. Whenever a pattern is triggered (yes, there’s always a trigger in a pattern), the couple ‘dances’ from point to point, more like punch to punch in a boxing match, if you can imagine that. This escalates the argument, stoking the fire with past resentment, mixing in past betrayal, or past misdemeanour until the argument is not about that small insignificant issue they began the argument with any more.

Here are the steps to change the pattern:

1. Recognise that you’re in a pattern.

2. Make a commitment to change something.

3. Listen to your partner’s perspective first.

4. Check that you’ve understood their point.

5. Always speak from the “I” position.

6. State your intention.

7. If you’re already triggered, recognise that and step away, take time out.

8. When you’re both calm enough and not tired, preoccupied, or hungry, then approach your partner again with your intention.

9. Speak clearly what you need to get across.

10. Check that the other person understood what you said.

11. Agree on the next action, if there is one, or if you can’t agree about anything, agree to disagree.

Some don’ts:

Don’t blame or criticise the other person.

Don’t use the words “You never…” or “You always…”.

Don’t bring up the past.

If you try these, and want to share how it goes, leave a comment below.

New perspective on a setback

“You’d rather change the outside world than do the inner work of altering your response to it.”

Blaming, complaining, comparing, judging, criticising others is usually much easier than reflecting, introspecting and analysing our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours and then correcting our responses and actions. I believe we do this because it’s harder to admit and acknowledge to ourselves and then to change our familiar patterns. 

Also it’s easier to think we can influence, control or otherwise change people, it somehow seems more enjoyable and controllable.

For me the opposite is true, in the end. I start off looking outwards and try to change the external before turning inward. After much resistance and drama, I start inwardly reflecting, in other words introspecting.

If I can open my heart, be still and listen to my higher self, I find that the answers come like downloads and they don’t feel so intense or resistant. The wisdom I receive are usually simple. I felt hurt, so I said mean things, instead of being compassionate to myself; I wanted to be heard so I shouted, instead of asking; I was controlling because I was projecting my loss of control, instead of sitting with the discomfort, etc.

In the end all we want as human beings is to connect with each other and have meaningful conversations, and each of us need to ask ourselves “Would this action make me feel closer to or more distant from the other?”

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

Digital Detox

Why I believe digital detox is a good practice for connection with people we love.

When a device is on and is showing you something entertaining, we cannot help ourselves but glance at it. It’s pulling us in with all the bright colours and feeding our fear of missing out if we ignore the latest news. Because the power of a screen is so great and we are instantly tempted to have a look, it becomes a battle of wills to keep our hands off our devices.

I think it’s a good idea to switch the phone or tablet off altogether for an extended amount of time, whether that’s for an hour, a day or a weekend. Try a digital detox and see how this affects you and your family’s moods, time, concentration, etc.

I believe that the quality of conversations and relationships in general are being degraded by the distraction of those devices. If we want to have a meaningful conversation with a loved one, we would fare better if we put away our phones so that we can focus on each other. This is especially true for when we talk to children. They notice when we, the adults, are not paying attention to them, which after many occasions, might impact their self-esteem and how they value themselves. Then they might start copying us and do the same when they are on their phones/tablets. They need to learn to engage in conversation but only us, the adults, can teach them how by example. Let’s all put our phones down and listen to our loved ones.

What happens after an affair?

These are a few things I’ve learned about affairs that might help you to understand the process of therapy after an affair.

I have worked with a number of cases where one partner has wandered off with a stranger. I’ve noticed that there are two types of couples when it comes to affairs.

One type is where the betrayed partner blames the transgressed partner for breaking their heart and their trust, is very angry, bitter, humiliated and hurt by the act that they cannot move to a space of reflection, forgiveness or empathy. This type of couple almost always split up after an affair.

The other type is where they both reflect on why it happened, both are sorry for having a part in it happening, accept that it was a hiccup in the relationship, try and work out a way to move forward because they both realise they still love each other. This type of couple usually work on staying together.

My thoughts on this are that affairs always happen for a reason. The reason might be harsh and give you a-slap-across-the-face-kind of feeling but is usually a clear message that something has to change in the relationship. Whether that’s pointing out to the husband that he works too much, ignoring his wife, or that she sidelines her husband by spending more time with their children or friends, or perhaps he’s emotionally hurt because she has been harshly critical of him for years, there is always an underlying cause for someone to seek comfort, love, sex and attention elsewhere.

Clients often say about the affair “I loved the way he (the other man) paid compliments in my appearance, it made me feel like myself again.” or “The other woman was so loving and understanding and I didn’t realise I was craving that!” This tells me that in their current relationship, there were crucial elements missing and in seeking to have these needs met, they went looking for it elsewhere. Maybe they have tried to ask their partner first but were rebuffed or ignored. Sometimes they don’t ask for their needs to be met and so in that instance, I work with them to express their needs, because nobody can read their mind, you have to ask and make it explicit.

Sometimes it is pure lust that attracts someone to a stranger, in that case you might think there’s no underlying cause, but if a guy had a healthy passionate sex life with his partner, why would he want to and look around to have sex with someone else? I guess he could be looking for ‘different’ rather than ‘more’ sex. Out of these people who lust after the ‘other man’ or ‘other woman’, a small percentage would be considered to have love addiction or sex addiction. They would have an obsession with being loved constantly by another person or with having sex. Often this indicates that they are co-dependent. These couples need specialist help from a sex/love addiction therapist.

The two types of couples above have illustrated to me that I need to work in different ways with the topic of affairs. With the first type, I would help them to verbalise their hurt, sadness and anger, then validate those strong feelings and needs. I’d listen to both parties and de-escalate the blame. If there’s too much raw emotion, they won’t be able to accept that there was a reason for their partner wandering off.

With the second type of couples, I can also do the same as for the first type but then expand the work into what caused one partner to seek attention elsewhere. Often they realise that, for example, they were both ignoring the problem of not spending enough quality time together. If they display a willingness to change the current set-up, the work becomes very rich and this conversation becomes a turning point in the relationship. Some couples have said their intimacy has increased since working through the affair issue, because they realised they were so close to losing each other and realised how much love they still felt for each other.

Five books all couples should read

One: The 5 Love Languages by Dr Gary Chapman.  I recommend this if you want to find out about his proven approach to showing and receiving love which will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner. There are exercises  in the book to find out what your primary and secondary languages are.

Two: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. I recommend this if you’d like to think outside the box about desire and intimacy, she will challenge you to view relationships in a completely different way.

Three: Getting the Love you Want by Dr Harville Hendrix. I recommend this if you would like to create a loving, supportive and revitalised partnership. There are exercises in the book that you can try with your partner or with a couple therapist.

Four:  Hold me Tight by Dr Sue Johnson. I recommend this if you want to learn how to diffuse conflicts, create a safe emotional connection, and strengthen bonds between you and your partner.

Five: Passionate Marriage by Dr David Schnarch. I recommend this if you want to know how to keep passion alive and reach the height of sexual and emotional fulfilment.

Re-kindling romance

According to Harville Hendrix, in his book, “Getting the love you want” (Hendrix, 1993), by telling each other what you want your partner to do for you, you can re-establish a sense of comfort and safety in your partner and your relationship by tapping into the old brain which has a memory of being nurtured. This connects the past feeling with the current experience.  For example, you can ask for flowers once in a while, ask them to cook you your favourite meal, give you a shoulder massage, surprise you with a theatre tickets, pay a compliment on your appearance etc. Commit to giving them freely as “gifts”. Don’t keep tabs on who has given what to whom and when. Give because you know they like it and you care about them. The partner who is receiving must receive graciously, don’t judge or criticise yourself, your partner or what you get. Give everyday and see how different you both feel at the end of the week.



Top tips for intimacy

2 May 2017

These are some of the tips I hear from couples that have worked at their long term relationship that contribute to a sense of closeness and intimacy. Previously they’ve grown distant and felt detached from their partners but by adopting these tips, they’ve closed the gap and created intimacy and contentment in their relationships. Relationships need maintenance and hard work to thrive. Here’s an easy guide on how to get started.

Tip 1:  Schedule “couple time” once a week. And actually talk and listen to each other. No distractions: no phones, no TV, no kids or pets.  Some couples prefer to be at home in the evening, others prefer to go out for a Sunday coffee in a local cafe or going for a walk.

Tip 2: Keep in contact throughout the week. Text, call, email to keep each other up to date with activities and events that concern both of you and your family. I hear this a lot, most people don’t like feeling caught out on a daily/weekly basis, especially when they’re already busy.

Tip 3: Find a fun hobby. When you are having fun together, that’s when you remember what it was like when you first met. If you don’t share a hobby, try something new, like salsa dancing, a cookery course, play tennis, pottery or learn a new language. It’s not all about work to pay the bills.

Tip 4: Eat together at least once a week. When you’re both busy, your schedules might not align and you might miss each other and your news. If you make it a habit to sit down and enjoy a meal together, it’s likely to add to a sense of closeness.

Tip 5: Date night. Plan a date night once a month. So many couples say they like the idea of date nights but hardly ever carry through on their plans and wishes. By spending quality time together when you’re both relaxed, it’s bound to increase closeness and intimacy, and a sense of togetherness.

What I learned from Deepak Chopra’s book “Self Power”


16 September 2016

What I learned from Deepak Chopra’s book “Self Power”

Self Power – a path to the true self, has taught me these very important life lessons that I can practice on a daily basis.

Maturity – developing into an independent adult by taking responsibility for yourself; standing up for moral values; playing your part in keeping society together, beginning with the basic unit of society, your family; treating others with respect; behaving fairly and working towards justice in every situation; learning the value of restraint and self-possession.

Purpose – finding a reason to be here by doing at least one thing that is selfless; reading poetry, inspirational prose that makes you feel uplifted; sharing your ideals; expressing your purpose of being here; aiming to inspire with modesty; helping your children find their purpose; and acting from your highest values.

Vision – adopting a world view to live by; looking beyond everyday events to their higher meaning; questioning your habits of consumption; leaving time to be with yourself; putting your values to the test by trusting int he universe to take care of you; appreciating the present moment; seeing others around you as reflections of your inner reality; reading deeply into scriptures and literature that express you vision.

“Second attention” – seeing with the eyes of the soul, from this level a person transcends the physical world, following intuition and insight; accepting that the soul is the basis of the self; seeking their source in the timeless; aspiring to higher states of consciousness and trusting in invisible forces that connect us with the cosmos. Listening to the quietest part of yourself; trusting that its messages are true; learning to centre yourself; don’t make decisions when you’re not centred; bonding with people from the soul; seeking silent communion with yourself and your surroundings; spending time in the natural world, soaking up its beauty; seeing past the mask of personality that people wear in public; expressing your truth as simply as possible.

Transcendence – going beyond the restless mind and the five senses by staying centred; when carried away by a strong emotion or impulse, taking a moment to come back to yourself; not giving in to anxiety of others; in every situation where you feel confused, asking “what is my role here?”.

Liberation – becoming free of the “reality illusion” by seeing beyond your limited situation; dwelling on those moments when you feel free, exhilarated, unbounded; seeking love as your birthright, along with bliss and creativity; dedicating yourself to exploring the unknown.

Global teachers

Japan 2015 0422 October 2015

Today’s topic is how and what I learn from ‘global’ teachers.

I have always been an avid reader and ever since I discovered there was a genre called ‘self-help’ and ‘self-development’ section in bookshops and libraries, I’ve been browsing those kinds of books more intently than any other kind. I tried unsuccessfully to ‘quit’ reading those books a few times, thinking it was ridiculous that I keep gravitating towards them, surely I’m all sorted by now – I’m a counsellor for goodness sake! Of course this self-development work is never done, never finished. We keep developing ourselves, keep changing, keep continuing to better ourselves, progress, improve, elevate, grow, strive, etc etc… I read a book called “Who will cry when you die?” by Robin Sharma a few weeks ago and in it, Robin talks about having all his heroes on his bookshelf to give him wise words when needed, and I realised I’m not the only person who keeps referring back to global teachers, dead and alive, in times of need for encouragement, direction, wisdom, clarity. It seems other people do this too, I’m not so odd.

So what I do is I read books written by great teachers and write notes on the lessons I learned from them, and keep them safe in my journal and refer back to them whenever I need an input. These are the recent and old books, websites, and blogs that I like, it’s not an exhaustive list as I haven’t written down all the books I like in one place:

Who will cry when you die? by Robin Sharma – read about life lessons.

A road less travelled by M. Scott Peck – read about love and other life lessons.

Mindfulness meditation by Mark Williams – learned to meditate the mindful way.

The five love languages by Gary Chapman – learned what my love languages are

so I can communicate better with my loved ones.

Daring greatly by Brene Brown – learned how to harness my courage in the face of fear.

The gift of therapy by Irvin Yalom – the many lessons to be learned during therapy.

Journal to the self by Kathleen Adams – how to journal.

Desire Map by Danielle Laporte – learned to identify my desires so that I can create goals with soul.

Money a love story by Kate Northrup – money advice for creating abundance.

Gabrielle Bernstein – guidance from a spiritual teacher.

Marie Forleo – for creating a business with a heart.

Kris Carr – for great nutritional advice.

I hope to read many more wise words by world’s teachers and also home to develop myself as I grow older so that I can be in a position to pass on my wisdom and insights to younger generations.


Warm & safe space to explore your authentic self