Repair, grow and sustain your relationship. Learn the secrets, principles and strategies for healthy, happy, rewarding and lasting relationships.

July 27, 2020
Let's talk. From the earliest years, we have a built-in need to communicate.

Let’s Talk: conversation during isolation

Conversation during isolation in Covid-19 In social isolation and physical distancing, conversation creates connectedness and intimacy.  But often conversations are “transactional”, meaning they are about the […]
June 23, 2020
Relationship Doctor - How to kill a relationship

How to Kill a Relationship

Here’s how to kill a relationship in four easy steps By Joe Kort For MediaNews Group Mar 16, 2020 How to kill a relationship? Freezing out […]
November 4, 2019
Money-talk is important fo couples, as shown by these stacks of gold coins.

Money-talk: yours, mine and ours

There are so many different attitudes and values associated with money. In my previous Insight, “Soul and Money” you learned of some of the mysterious psychological […]
November 4, 2019

We just had a few drinks and…

When I see a couple for therapy and they begin a sentence with “We just had a few drinks and…” I know that what comes next […]
July 22, 2019
Attachment style is built on our experiences as a child. This lonely child could well become and adult who feels abandoned.

Attachment style and your relationship

There is an intimate connection between attachment style and your style of relationship. Attachment style is about how you learned to love and trust as a […]
July 7, 2019
The four personality types are all perfectly normal ways of functioning and perceiving the world. They are present from birth and modified by environment and experience.

Understand personality to solve communication difficulties!

Having trouble understanding yourself? Having trouble understanding others? Understanding personality can solve many communication difficulties. Much misunderstanding between people is because we imagine that all people […]
June 23, 2019

Who is lying? Truth in relationship.

Robert Feldman in his book, “The Liar in your Life”, authored a famous study that found strangers lie to each other about three times in the […]
June 9, 2019
Contempt, however subtle, kills conversation and intimacy.

Why contempt kills relationship

Nothing kills a relationship as quickly as contempt. Contempt leads to the failure of any relationship; partners, parents, children, colleagues. John Gottman, in his extensive research into the causes […]
February 15, 2019
Discover how to choose a compatible partner.

How to choose a compatibl​​​e partner

Prof Jordan Peterson says, “Don’t make the mistake of getting into a stupid relationship in the first place.” So, how to avoid those mistakes, and how […]
February 8, 2019
Domestic violence is not only physical.

Domestic violence is not only physical

In this Insight, I focus on domestic violence between a couple. With self-isolation and lockdown for covid-a9, is it inevitable though regrettable, that domestic violence increases.  […]
December 4, 2018
Fatigue wears down the whole family, and makes everyone less resilient to stress

Is fatigue the enemy of your relationship?

When couples consult with me, I look to understand the cause of their relationship stress. Sometimes, there really isn't a lot that needs changing - except their perpetual fatigue. Fatigue has devastating results for your relationship.
November 24, 2018
Confront the issue, or forgive and forget? Are you sweeping your conflicts under the carpet?

Confront the issue or forgive and forget?

When I hear a couple trying to shout each other down, or shut each other down, the fundamental issue is that neither is feeling heard. The often unspoken plea is, “Just hear me out”.
November 16, 2018
Are you going to spend your Christmas holidays stressing, or enjoying your partner and family?

Surviving the holidays without stress

Christmas holidays are destabilizing, because of the loss of routine and structure of ordinary life. The freedom of the holidays might feel good, but familiar comforts are not available. The gym is closed, and the cleaner is on holidays. Your favourite trades-people are on a long break, often for a whole month, so your usual acts of commerce, which provide both structure and interaction with others, are not available. Apart from not being able to toss off a few DIYs, you feel at a loss. Mental health issues are at a peak during the holiday season, and loss of routine and structure is one of the main reasons. The other is the unrealistic expectations around what feelings you are going to have, of love and family warmth.
September 29, 2018
Keeping sex alive. Do you think sex should "just happen" or do you plan and prepare?

Keeping sex alive

Finally we get right to the heart of the sexual aspect of your relationship. How you keep sex alive will depend on your own individuality, as well as the individuality of your partner. And of course, how you combine that individuality. The next few Insights will focus on sexuality, so we will cover the subject fairly thoroughly. In this Insight you will be invited into self-inquiry. Self-knowledge is crucial for every aspect of relationship, and especially your sexuality.
September 22, 2018
Trust is built over time. Trust involves your own ability to trust, and to discover the trustworthiness of your partner.

How to build trust as a couple?

In another Insight, "How many serious ruptures" I summarised the basis for building trust as a couple.   Firstly, you consistently turn towards opportunities to connect with your partner. Secondly, you acknowledge and talk about any feelings of unhappiness with your partner. And thirdly, you consistently see your partner in a favourable light.  That is, you cultivate a benevolent perspective, where you interpret your partner kindly. Here in this Insight I give much more detail about how trust is gradually and consistently built over time. (Trust can also be eroded over time, but that is not the perspective I am taking here.)
September 15, 2018
To create agreed or shared meaning as a couple you will share memories, experiences and ritiuals around special events such as anniversaries.

Creating agreed meaning as a couple

When two people get together as a couple, they bring two completely different ideas of what things mean. Sorting out these meanings takes time. The differences […]
September 12, 2018
How many serious ruptures does it take before your relationship is beyond repair?

What causes relationship failure?

Couples often ask how many serious ruptures does it take before their relationship is beyond repair. In other words, when is it time to give up? Clearly they are in despair. The answer to this is not straight forward, and here is an analogy to demonstrate the complexities of such a situation.

Say you have a garden, with a patch of lawn/turf that gets a lot of traffic. (This is the vulnerable part of your relationship.) The kids take a shortcut on the way to the front door.  You take a shortcut on the way to the car.  The dog has a favourite circuit of the yard, which includes that particular patch of grass. The habits of life create a lot of wear-and-tear for that patch.
August 10, 2018
a realtaionip ios like a garden. You start with an idea of how it should look, but then you adjust to the specifics of this particular garden - the soil, the climate, and the plants that will actually grow there, rather than the ones you want.

Make your relationship garden thrive!

Your relationship is like your garden! What does it take to make your relationship or garden thrive? If you compare your relationship with others and aspire […]
July 14, 2018
The language of commerce conveys information, but not feeling value or connectedness. Although business in the past conveyed both.

Communication! The language of commerce vs the language of connection.

You use two different kinds of language: the language of commerce problem-solves, gives statistics, formulates policies and gets the plumbing fixed. But it doesn't grow intimacy with your partner. You need the language of connection to carry the heavy and precious cargo of meaning, empathy, feeling and self-revelation.
June 26, 2018
Having your head in the clouds and day-dreaming is a natural and necessary part of coming up with new ideas and the decision-making process.

Decision-making in relationships

It took me decades to work out the root cause of many miscommunications based on decision-making for a couple. When you are going through the decision-making process for yourself this does confusion does not arise. So it can be puzzling that something that is perfectly easy on your own becomes loaded with difficulty with your loved one. It’s about differences in decision-making styles. When you progress through decision-making stages very quickly, you might imagine that your partner is at the promise/commitment stage, when they are really still verbalising daydreams. You can check: “Is that a promise or a day dream?” Or head off any confusion by clarifying, “This is just a daydream. No promises.”
June 21, 2018
The broken parts of our relationship can become the strongest when we repair them with respect, courage and kindness.

Repair the cracks with gold

Making good repairs, and celebrating them, is what brings the gold, a substance of high value, into your relationship. Also, making repairs with gold makes your relationship unique.  Furthermore, your relationship is more valuable than it was before the rupture and repair. Like kintsugi, making these fine repairs is an art, a craft and a skill.
June 15, 2018
Biding for time saves us from knee-jerk reactions and enables us to go from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex.

Biding for time

Biding for time is a very useful tool in relationships. When used wisely, biding for time contributes to good communication. Biding for time is a conscious strategy that you employ intentionally. Biding for time is not procrastination, which is usually unconscious,and rarely employed wisely. Biding for time is not avoidance either.  Nor is it "turning away" as described by the Gottman's in response to "bids for connection with your partner."
June 7, 2018
Relationship Insights. one partner over-functions, the other under-functions

Do you over-function or under-function in relationship?

Are you over-functioning or under-functioning in your relationships? Such fundamental imbalance leads to resentment on both sides, with couples accusing each other of being bossy or being passive-aggressive, respectively. One partner needs to step forward, and the other partner needs to step back. Discover how!
June 2, 2018
Show compassion for all - especially your partner.

Approach suffering with compassion

Imagine that someone has fallen into a deep pit.  Out of empathy, you jump into the pit too -  you are right in there with them.  You feel a heavy responsibility. You could even find being empathetic very troublesome.   On the other hand, if you were acting from compassion, you would see the person in the pit and reach out to them, encouraging and settling them - from outside of the pit.  You would be in the position to get assistance and make decisions from the  safety that you yourself occupy. Thus you feel kinder and more eager to help. Maybe you are wary of showing compassion, because you worry that you will be drawn into something that you can't get out of. Being drawn into the empathy-pit is indeed something you do not want to do.  On the other hand,  compassion serves you both well.
May 3, 2018
Make sure you and your partner understand what expectations you each have around parenting.

Conflict over parenting? Are your styles different?

Why talk about parenting styles? Understanding your parenting style will increase trust between you and your partner, and avoid potential conflict in relationships. While you might have decided not to have children, have you found yourself with step-children? And nieces and nephews? Or grandchildren? The issue of parenting styles still arises. Parenting styles can be distilled into three attitudes: authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. Take the questionnaire to discover your style. This information can then provide a platform for useful discussion with your partner about your similarities and differences as parents. Then, ideally, you can decide on how you parent, rather than just stumble along.
April 28, 2018
strong silent type

You are the strong silent type, and now she wants you to talk?!

She married you because you are the strong silent type, and now she wants you to talk?!  Why is it that being strong and silent isn't enough? How did you learn that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness - for a man? But a sign of strength for a woman? Do you take for granted that women can speak, weep and express feelings? But that a man stands there, stoic and silent? No matter what his grief, shame or disappointment?
April 18, 2018
Sometimes you do not have to go very deep to get answers. Other times we go deep into the most complex of situations.

How deep do you go for answers to relationship problems?

We all have the capacity to learn and to heal. But sometimes we need a catalyst to activate that healing. Sometimes we need only a small catalyst, and at other times we need a cataclysmic catalyst. This applies for the body, and it applies to our psychology. The need for a catalyst also applies to our relationships.
April 15, 2018
Tennis anyone? Keeping the communication ball in play.

Tennis, anyone? Keep the communication ball in play

The aim of tennis is to keep the ball in play; an exciting rally only happens when both players keep the ball in play. So, it takes both players to create a good rally. In relationships, you need to keep the communication ball in play. The ball is the substance of the relationship, which must be kept in play by both parties, with both giving something. What if one player was really slack, and just dribbled the ball? No rally. As a result, the other could not show his brilliance! This is the kind of communication to aim for! So how do you keep the ball in play in your relationships? How do you pay attention to the other and to your own play? How do you keep the energy of the relationship in motion?
April 2, 2018
Here are your questions and answers about the relationship doctor. Help is here for couples of all ages.

Questions answered in Relationship Insights

Q: What questions are answered in Relationship Insights? Are all issues in relationship fixable? A: The Gottman’s claim that only 30% of problems in a relationship […]
March 21, 2018
These relationships Insights are suited to the full range of human expression.

Intended readership of Relationship Insights

Intended readership - anyone in a committed relationship, or hoping to turn their relationship into a commitment. No gender bias -  the full rainbow. Though dealing with serious issues, each Insight can be read in 10 mins, and actioned immediately. The language is conversational and the examples given are contemporary. 
March 11, 2018
Good relationships are good for our health and happiness on all levels. Keep your relationships tuned up!

Good relationships are good for your health

Build good relationships through skilful relationship advice. Learn the secrets, principles and strategies that enable you to build healthy, happy, rewarding and lasting relationships. Set healthy boundaries and treat each other respectfully even when you disagree. Learn to love, and to love better.
March 3, 2018
Do you ned distraction to stop a fight/ Try tic tacs!

When distraction stops a fight

Distraction during an argument can halt a regrettable escalation. We settle, regroup, and get the prefrontal cortex to run the show. An Uber driver in Melbourne has the console between the back seats filled with Tic Tac containers. When a couple are arguing during the drive, he says, “Open the console!” Laughter. Wow! It takes real presence of mind to know when you or your partner need a distraction during a fight. Learn to know when you are flipping your lid. Learn to employ a soothing and calming behaviour rather than escalate that fight.
February 21, 2018
Follow a process to make changes in yourself and in your relationship.

Want to change, but don’t know how? Here are the steps.

This website is all about change. Because you are here I acknowledge that you want to change - in yourself, and in your relationship. The Insights from the Relationship Doctor are instruments of change. Knowing the 6 stages of change can help you make change. From pre-contemplation, to contemplation, through determination to action, then winding back to relapse, finally arriving at commitment and maintenance. Maintenance is the evidence of your commitment. Knowing the stages of change prepares you for setbacks. Maintenance is when the commitment sticks. Maintenance is the boring bit where you actually show up day after day, achieving what you set out to do. It is a new habit. You have won your change!
January 28, 2018
If you are an introvert you might overlook extraverted values.

Tunnel vision? Look wider! Renew your appreciation.

Some everyday examples of how you filter your awareness happen like this. You've never noticed pregnant women before, but now that you are pregnant, you see so many pregnant women down the street!  Or you get a new car and lo and behold you can't believe how many of that model you see on the road. Things which you now value and relate to were invisible before. Learn how your Reticular Activating System work in relationships. You can train your brain!
December 25, 2017
Picking up the dropped stitches of life enable us to make repairs before the whole thing unravels.

Pick up the “dropped stitches” of relationship

Making repairs, going back to tend to the dropped stitches/opportunities, is ALWAYS worthwhile, although it is harder the further back in the work they are. The sooner you spot the dropped stitches, the more accurately you name them, the earlier both you and your partner pick up the stitch, the sooner your relationship will be back knitting up a storm. It is truly disappointing when I have to spend a lot of time going back over my work to find the problem and correct it. But pretending nothing is wrong will not make the dropped stitch go away.  Denial never works.  Sooner or later the flaw in your relationship will show up.  Not only that, it will get bigger over time if it is not corrected.
December 19, 2017
Relationship Insights. Conflict is the number one complaint for couples. Learn how to negotiate conflict here!

Managing conflict with your partner

Conflict is like exercise, and both conflict and exercise lead to growth. Too much conflict and you and the relationship will be hobbling along, disabled by the conflict.  Not enough and you will stagnate. Just enough, and you will be growing, or at your "growth edge." A well-managed exercise programme is like well-managed relationship conflict.  You will grow, and be better able to act when further exercise (or conflict) demands are on you.
July 29, 2017
Courageous conversations with your partner.

Courageous Conversations with your Partner

I often do a much more extended version of Courageous Conversations when I work with couples, when the issues are much more deep-seated or complex. In my example in this post I’ve set the scene for approaching conflict with a friend, acquaintance or service provider rather than an intimate partner. Often it is easier to learn how to front up with a courageous conversation with someone you know less well. Then you can proceed with your partner in confidence that you have a process that will help you get to the difficult issues.
June 10, 2017
When you cuddles you pet, you and the pet are both flooded with oxytocin, the calming, bonding hormone.

Hugs and Kisses: the oxytocin connection

Oxytocin calms you, and counteracts your stress hormones.  Oxytocin is the mysterious glue that brings you and your partner together in the first place, and keeps you together. The more oxytocin you and your partner have, the stronger your bond. Not only that, but oxytocin is a continually renewable resource!