“I need closure!”

“Need for closure” first coined by the social psychologist Arie Kurglanski in the 1990s refers to a framework for decision-making that allows us to resolve ambiguity, obtain clarity and achieve serenity. Obtaining closure means knowing why something ended, and no longer feeling any emotional distress associated with the event. This is oftentimes not something that can be easily achieved during a relationship break-down. Within the period of that phone call, dreaded conversation or the split-second of reading a sent text (or even being ghosted!), your world could metaphorically fall apart, and your mind begins searching for reasons as to why and how this even happened.

The need for closure can be explained by several cognitive phenomena. Firstly, a relationship breakdown results in cognitive dissonance – that is, the sharp contrast between what you thought you knew (e.g., loving relationship, being a ‘significant other’) to the sudden reality of your new single status. The disparity between both realities is oftentimes very jarring which leads to the search for answers and meaning. Our tolerance or intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity is a second cognitive factor at play as we try to make sense of what has just happen, why did the relationship end, and there is the need to understand if the relationship was truly significant or special, and for ourselves to be validated. Individuals who report a greater need for order and predictability usually report more emotional distress than those more comfortable with ambiguity and the sense of not-knowing.

Relationship dissolution results in a chasm where our lives as we knew it once stood, and we often feel bereft. Yet this makes perfect sense when we think of how much of our lives were previously entwined with that of a significant loved one – your sense of self, your friendship groups, maybe you were close to each other’s family, or were perhaps cohabiting or planning the rest of your lives together when that relationship bombshell goes off. Our self-concept takes a real hit when the relationship ends, especially if there had been self-expansion or a sense of growth as the result of being in a relationship with someone else. The loss of sense of self can result in a sense of loss of control, and achieving that closure becomes the way to feel more in control.

In trying to achieve closure, it can be useful to ask ourselves:

What did this relationship mean to me, and therefore what does the end of the relationship signify, and to grieve for that.

The dissolution of any relationship, no matter how welcomed, is tinged with sadness due to the loss of an attachment relationship. Giving yourself time to grieve and not judging yourself for that is important for recovering from a relationship break-up. Take your time to heal from those losses.

Acknowledging that the dissolution of a relationship is never one party’s fault – rather it is a combination of you, me, and the dynamics that take place between us and with our environments.

Research has shown that negative beliefs about the self and cognitions reflecting self-blame were the strongest correlates of break-up related emotional distress. Recognising that it is not “all my fault” allows us to begin to repair that self-narrative and rebuild our self-identity, even though it can be hard especially when it was the other party who broke it off first.

Look for patterns in my relationship history and reflect if these patterns might be getting in the way of finding sustainable love, and learn from those experiences

Oftentimes the lack of closure results in us wanting to make things different, to figure out why the relationship ended, and blaming ourselves paradoxically gives us that. Looking for these patterns in a more wholistic manner can be an alternative for repairing that cognitive dissonance and can help us not only begin to make sense of the relationship dissolution, but also to begin to feel more in control, and therefore in a position wherein we can begin to make a difference for ourselves and to plan our lives, rather than to figure out what it was that we may have done.

Finally, find purpose in the pain.

Research has indicated that when people adopt ‘redemptive appraisals’ or positive appraisals to negative situations, they reported reduced emotional distress. However, this effect was cumulative and occurs over time. Hence, while it is essential to give ourselves time, it is just as important that we reappraise the situations and reappraise ourselves, and to make meaning of what happened in the way that makes sense and allows us to begin to see that silver lining.

Fortunately, research has also shown that we get better at choosing partners with age.

Written by:
Daphne Goh

Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling


Boelen, P., & Reijntjes, A. H. A. (2013). Negative cognitions in emotional problems following romantic relationship break-ups. Stress and Health, 25(1), 11-19. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1219

Harman, J. J. (2013, October 21). “I need closure!” Why it is not possible to get it. Luvze.  https://www.luvze.com/i-need-closure-why-it-is-not-possible-to-get-it/

Lewandowski, G. W. Jr., Aron, A., Bassis, S., & Kunak, J. (2006). Losing a self-expanding relationship: Implications for the self-concept. Personal Relationships, 13, 317-331.

Ramsden, P. (2018, October 9). The psychology of closure – and why some need it more than others. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-closure-and-why-some-need-it-more-than-others-104159

Slotter, E. B., & Ward, D. E. (2014). Finding the silver lining: The relative roles of cognitive appraisals in individuals’ emotional distress after the end of a romantic relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,32(6), 737-756. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407514546978

Shall we talk about sexual intimacy?

First of all, this entry is not meant to judge whether you do or don’t talk about sexual intimacy. This entry is written to motivate you to reflect on yourself regarding this topic.

Why do you like or not like to talk about sexual intimacy?

Most people don’t talk openly about sexual intimacy with friends, family or even their partners. Even though research shows that people would like to express their sexual preferences. Some of the reasons can be:

* It feels too vulnerable to open up about these desires, needs, feelings or maybe people are scared to feel rejected.

* Don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or create an argument.

* Maybe we’ll realise we both want something different.

* We haven’t learnt to talk about sexual intimacy in our upbringing or our culture.

* Someone could find it difficult to express what he/she wants/likes/needs.

* Learned that it is something you don’t talk about and should come naturally.

Is it something that we shouldn’t talk about and should come naturally?

Can we know exactly what someone wants or needs or feels or likes or expects if we have never spoken to the other person about it? In a lot of relationships we think we know this exactly, but research shows that a lot of the time we don’t know.

How can we know what someone’s favorite color is, or their favorite food is, or their favorite drink is? We know this because we communicate about our feelings, wishes, thoughts, needs, desires.

Talking about sexual intimacy is something we can learn to do. We can give it a try and open up to your partner about your sexual preferences and pleasures. When we give it a try; talk in a respectful manner to create a safe environment, be curious, also talk about what you like, give each other compliments, if you want something different try to formulate that as a wish or something you like instead of being critical. Say what you would like (desire/wish) instead of what you miss (blame). Talk with the “I”- message (desire/wish), not with the “you”-message (blaming). Plan in time if it is a difficult conversation.

Written by:
Flo Westendorp

Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate

MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
SACAC Counselling

Making a Habit of Connection

What can I say about forming habits? The idea that what we do over and over again will create a change in our life, for better or worse. While we know this to be true with respect to organizing our calendars, exercising or learning a new skill, can we apply that same mindset to deepening our relationships?

As we know, good and bad habits are both formed by repeating the same behavior over time with practice. Many times when I am working with couples or families, I am their final stop before divorce court or complete disengagement in the family.  I begin work with them after years of repetitive negative interactions and behaviors towards one another, habits if you will. And interestingly, they will often come in with a litany of things that have been tried and failed.  One question I have recently been following-up with has been, “for how long did you try…surprising your spouse, making time to talk about what you appreciate about one another, asking them about their day…(fill in the blank).”

When disenchantment with relationships set in, instead of being in a relationship where we allow ourselves to be influenced by our unintentional habits, what if we consciously create habits that allow us to connect and feel closer to our spouse, our child, even our boss or co-workers? Could it change how we view our relationships, how connected and happy we feel in our relationships? 

According to Shawn Achor, Author of the Happiness advantage, the answer is yes.  In his Tedx Talk: The Happy secret to better work,  he explains, “it is not necessarily reality that shapes us but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.  If we change the lens, we change the outcome…Ninety percent of your happiness is predicted by how your brain views the world.” He goes on to talk about how if you make one positive 2-minute change for 21 consecutive days, your brain actually works more positively.

While a 2-minute change in how you relate or changing a habit doesn’t sound like much, it can be a simple step to enhancing your positive feelings in your relationships. This idea is shared by  Author James, in his book, Atomic Habits: tiny changes, remarkable results, he explains, “the difference a tiny improvement over time is astounding…success is the product of daily habits-not once in a lifetime transformations.” A 1% improvement isn’t much initially but with consistency and time, you will see big changes and feel more connected. A 1% investment in positive connection habits compound over time (just like money in the bank); you will be able to see marked improvements with just a little effort.  So when deciding between the extravagant getaway and the daily note to say what you like about your relationship, perhaps the daily note will be a better way to impact your relationships than the grand gesture. 

When we begin to make changes, it is important to stick with the habit.  So many times we are seeing no change, we give up or revert back to old patterns of thinking and relating.  Progress, while it is slow and steady, is often unseen. Mr. Clear describes this phenomenon as “the plateau of latent potential.” He explains this by using the example of the formation of bamboo; “Bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.” It is important to keep at something to see change, we can’t expect that deepening connection is going to be an overnight process when it has usually taken years to lose it. 

Remember, connection is a habit. It doesn’t always come easily and life can get in our way, negativity can develop into resentments.  But when this happens, we have to stop and think about how we might be able to positively influence our relationships. How might we build the types of relationships that feel supportive, connected and strong? We have to work at it. We have to dedicate ourselves to the process of being better, by being committed to small change, by being consistent with that change and being patient enough to reap the long-term gains. If we do this, perhaps we can spend more time enjoying one another and less time trying to triage our relationships after the negativity is all that we can see.  

Ted Talks: The Happy Secret to Better work https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work
Clear, J (2018) Atomic Habits: Tiny changes remarkable results. London: Penguin Random House UK publishers

Written by:
Kimberly Fisel
Marriage and Family Therapist

Cultivating Joy In Our Relationships

As we around the world have to get used to an ever-changing landscape of daily life, one aspect of what comes sharply into focus in how relationships tend to need some readjustment.  For most of us, we have settled into routines in our relationships; that could be with our partners, spouses, children, friends and anyone else that we love.  With any relationship, at any time, it is easy to take it for granted and expend less energy on maintaining connection.  This is oftentimes not even an issue, until something happens.  Something like a pandemic, betrayal, loss of life or even just minor inconveniences.  We forget to add a component of intention into our relationships and this causes them to suffer, we get irritated with our spouses when they are working from home, our children don’t pick up their socks or toys during times when they are on school holidays.  Little annoyances can turn into big feuds and hurt feelings and resentments become the norm.

During times like these, finding joy is not just a good idea it is essential; especially in our close relationships.  And to find joy, you have to cultivate it, tend to it and ensure that joy and subsequently love, grow.  We can reconnect with one another and ourselves by taking small steps daily to develop this greater sense of joy. 

Be kind and thoughtful:  Instead of an inward focus on ourselves, being able to focus our attention outward and acknowledge our loved ones helps to make us feel more connected to them.A simple “thank you” or checking in with someone is a simple way to be both kind and thoughtful.

Let go of blame: In our close relationships, we often will become frustrated with our spouses, our children, our parents even our friends when they fall short of our expectations.  Sometimes we want to find fault with others to alleviate our own sense of frustration and anger.  Blame is anger, accountability encourages acceptance and connection.  So when feeling like you want to blame a loved one for something, stop and think about what you are feeling, share that.  This will create connection and allow for more authentic connection in your relationships. 

 Practice Gratitude: During times when we are stuck together in close quarters, have been devastated by loss or are simply mustering every last bit of patience in our day, it can be helpful to take a pause and be thankful for our loved ones.  Even when we are hurt or challenged by their actions, finding gratitude for having them in your life can shift the perspective so that a little clarity can enter.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
Counsellor & Collaborative Family Practitioner
MS Soc (Counselling

Show you care. Apologize!

Inevitably, people make mistakes, it is what makes us human. Either those mistakes are done willingly or unwillingly, they damage our relationships and hurt the people we care about: our friends, family, spouses, children or colleagues. If we want to keep a healthy relationship, apologizing is the only way to repair and heal what has been damaged. It is a way to show care and foster respect and affection. It is a necessary step toward validating feelings, promoting forgiveness, and restoring balance and trust in a relationship. However, it is not always easy to apologize and to apologize effectively.

To formulate an effective apology, there are four essential parts: 

1: acknowledgment of the offense (recognize your responsibility and express your empathy);

2: an explanation of what went wrong; 

3: expressions of remorse; 

4: offer of reparation and commitment to improving. 

Apologizing requires honesty, humility, generosity, and courage. The offended party can recognize that and reward you with forgiveness and reconciliation. However, a lack of ownership, blame or excuses, and lack of appropriate reparation could lead to resentment, grudges or even desire for vengeance.

These four steps increase the chance of forgiveness because they satisfy the psychological needs of the offended person. They help to restore their sense of dignity, validating that they are not deserving of the harm caused and that they are not to blame. It gives them a chance to express their feelings and contribute to a sense of justice. Finally, it can also provide reinsurance that they are safe from further harm, making them more likely to trust you again. 

We are never too young to learn the importance of taking care of our relationships. Teaching children the ways to repair when they have hurt people helps them develop humility, empathy and a sense of responsibility that will help them foster healthy relationships throughout their lives. 

Link to start the discussion with children and help them practice:

Evidence that this 4 steps apology works:

Lewicki, R. J., Polin, B., & Lount, R. B. (2016). An exploration of the structure of effective apologiesNegotiation and Conflict Management Research, 9(2), 177-196. 

To read more on the subject:

Written by:
Lucie Ramet

Clinical Psychologist

The “small things, often” grow your bank account of love

If love were enough, probably all couples would be happy. The simple truth is that relationships take work and, yes, the ‘little things’ add up. One awesome piece of knowledge from the Gottmans is referred to as doing “small things, often.” Gottmans’ years of study proved that the ‘little things’ build trust and intimacy in a relationship and according to a new study by researchers at Penn State University, you don’t need grand gestures to show your partner love. In fact, small gestures, such as hugging, holding hands, and regular acts of kindness (non-romantic gestures) all top the list of how most Americans reported feeling loved and appreciated. The study also found that behavioral actions, rather than purely verbal expressions, triggered more consensus as indicators of love.

The Gottman’s demonstrated that in lasting relationships, there is a culture of appreciation that is maintained using small moments to connect with your partner. These small things aren’t grand gestures demonstrated on Valentine’s Day, buying a piece of jewelry or surprising your partner with an Anniversary trip—although it is certainly great if partners are good at doing that too. The problem is that over time, big gestures tend to get spaced farther and farther apart, because life inevitably changes. Life happens, it just does.

These “powerful small things” can change the everyday moments you share with your spouse; day in and day out, between wrestling toddlers into car seats or arguing over who’s going to do the dishes. These “powerful small things”, that often are not romantic, are rituals of connection, that when done often, help couples avoid falling into too deep of a hole of disconnection—so when things get ugly, spouses still have those many moments that can remind each other that they are in this together.

A good metaphor for this concept is to think of your relationship as an emotional bank account. Like any bank account, you need to make deposits to have it grow. If you make too many withdrawals, the bank account will eventually close. This doesn’t mean keep score, this means focus on making more positive contributions to the relationship rather than withdrawals. If the account is always withering low, it can take just one thing to push your partner over the edge.

https://www.gottman.com/ https://news.psu.edu/story/491253/2017/11/06/research/love-actually-americans-agree-what-makes-peop le-feel-love https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-one-thing-any-couple-can-do-for-better-connection-and-intimacy/ https://gulfsidecounseling.com/2020/02/18/small-things-often/ https://www.lessonsforlove.com/

Written By:
Laura Spalvieri
Counsellor, Psychotherapist & Transactional Analyst

SACAC Counselling

Emotional Hunger is not Love. How To Tell If Someone Is In Love With You — Or If They’re Just Emotionally Dependent.

“How can we tell whether a partner is in love with us or they’re just emotionally dependent? What red flags should we look for?”

There are numerous red flags to look for and often it is easy to fall prey to these praiseful and flattering behaviors. In order to see them, though, we must have done our inner work and successfully have learned how to deeply value and love yourself. The following are some warning signs to be on the lookout for, but definitely this is not a comprehensive list.

● A person that comes on very strong at the beginning of the relationship, wanting to spend a disproportionate amount of time with you.
● Doesn’t respect your limits and rules, such as boundaries on how often you see each other or how often you text or talk on the phone.
● Tries to monopolize your time.
● Can be very charming but doesn’t listen well to you and isn’t tuned in to your feelings.
● May try to make you feel that your feelings or your position is wrong.
● Sexually demanding and attaches their worth to having sex. Needs sex to feel validated.
● Gets angry, withdrawn, or pouty when you don’t do what they want you to do. Not open to learning from relationship conflict.
● You feel their energy that is pulling on you to take responsibility for their feelings. You sense an emptiness in them, like a black hole that pulls on you to fill it up.
● Has an abusive background and has not healed from their past.
● Has abandoned their children.
● Participates in addictions that are unacceptable to you like smoking, drinking, drugs, addictive eating, gambling, TV, and so on.
● They are not truthful, you catch them lie or withholding the truth.
● Has few friends.
● Talks about him-/herself and others in fault-finding ways.
● Is possessive and jealous. Gets upset when you do your own thing.
● Has few interests and hobbies.

Emotional hunger is not love. Basically, emotional hunger is “a feeling of a strong emotional need that is usually brought about by deprivation in childhood”. When a person grows up without love or affection as a child, that manifests itself as a strong need for emotional closeness as an adult. To get this need met, a deprived person may latch onto a romantic partner or even their child. The result is an emotionally draining relationship where the victim is constantly having their emotional energy drained by the deprived person. Emotional hunger can look like love and is often mistaken for it, but it has the opposite effect on the person it is directed toward. Love nurtures, while emotional hunger drains the others and leaves them empty.

Many children grow up in an environment in which they are focused on by a parent, and there are no boundaries. They feel confused, because their parent appears to be “there for them,” but the parent’s focus and intrusion left them insecure and untrusting. Many adults experience romantic relationships in which they feel nothing they do is enough, and that they continually fail to satisfy the needs of their partner. Many people have a parent or partner who they’d describe as overbearing, intrusive, smothering, overprotective, or possessive. Often, these behaviors are the result of the person expressing or experiencing emotional hunger as opposed to real love.

People often mistake emotional hunger for love, because it involves longing and intensity, and, especially at the beginning, it can look the same. A person may seem highly attentive or affectionate to their partner or child, which seems positive. However, emotional hunger differs from love in that the child or other person in the relationship does not feel nurtured as they would by love, but instead, feels drained of vital energy. A child may cling to the parent, because they’re not experiencing a real sense of security or connection. The partner may feel a constant pressure to make their significant other feel good or whole.

It’s not the responsibility of the other person to make us happy. It’s our own job and responsibility to do the emotional work needed to fill us emotionally and work through all of our past emotional and relationship traumas.


Written by:
Laura Spalvieri

SACAC Counselling

What does Assertive Communication look and sound like?

Often, we’re encouraged to “Be better at your communication” or “why are you being so passive-aggressive”. The reality is that from a very young age most often we’re taught to look at the ways we shouldn’t say/do something as opposed to what we should. The same may be said for communication styles.

So What does Assertive Communication look and sound like?
One of my favourite assertive communication workbooks The Assertiveness Workbook – How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships, speaks to five categories to most communication styles, including passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive communication.

These five categories include,

  1. Behaviour: This includes making honest, clear and direct statements of my immediate needs to others, while still allowing others to have or hold their own views,
  2. Non-verbal: Take notice of a calm, relaxed body that feels casual and at ease. Notice how you make frequent eye contact – but of course, let’s not glare, 
  3. Beliefs: Assertive communication allows you to recognise both you own and others needs are of equal importance,
  4. Emotion: When expressing yourself you feel positive in your interaction, your self-esteem rises as opposed to feeling rejected, afraid, angry or misunderstood,
  5. Goal: is to respect both yourself and others when communicating – expressing yourself rather than having to win the conversation or feel compelled to “control” the interaction.

Now by all means being aware and mindful of these five elements may not simply bring about assertive communication – however with practice and noticing any of these elements while you talk with others notice how your interactions may change over time. We should of course also factor in others who may have other communication patterns and its effects on us. Furthermore environmental triggers such as stressors, anger and frustration that often accompanies strained communication also play a role.

Now that we’ve reviewed five ways of understanding what assertive communication looks like, here are a few tips and examples of assertiveness skills.

  1. Express your ideas and emotions calmly – this may need a pause or a break in a heated conversation – while using “I” statements such as “I feel”, “I would like” and “I think”. By taking responsibility for your emotions and ideas we normalise and express ourselves clearly.
  2. Be respectful – not only to others but yourself as well – by showing our respect we acknowledge the importance of what we’re all saying and thinking.
  3. Say “No” when you need to – feeling guilty is normal when saying no – however saying yes all the time isn’t making anyone happy either. When we say no more often than not the receiving party could understand your point of view better – providing more opportunities to express your needs.
  4. Check-in with yourself – plan, or review briefly some of the things you’d like to say – this may include knowing your needs and finding the words to express them.

 By engaging in these five traits and four assertive communication techniques when engaging your next conversation, check-in and see if you’re noticing how you’re communicating – get feedback from a trusted partner or friend, and with more frequent and mindful practice assertiveness can become apart of not only your social skills repertoire, but could lead towards mental wellness .

More resources

  • The Assertiveness Workbook How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships by Randy J. Patterson, PhD.
  • Communication techniques by Woody Schuldt on therapistaid.com

Written by:
Alex Koen
Specialist Wellness Counsellor (ASCHP)
B.A. Psy. Soc. (UP), B.A.Counselling Psy. (Hons) (UNISA)
Cert. Counselling, Cert. Art Therapy (HELIOS), Cert. Play Therapy (CPTT)

SACAC Counselling

The Art of Conflict Resolution

Conflict is neither good nor bad.  How we handle a conflict, however, can determine whether the outcomes of the conflict are either constructive or destructive.  A well managed conflict can actually bring people closer together.  That said, an ineffectively handled conflict can severely damage relationships, not to mention leave important issues unresolved, which can have significant impacts upon various areas of a person’s life.  In fact, the renowned Psychiatrist Alfred Adler taught that difficulty with constructive cooperation with others is the major reason that people fail in the 5 Basic Life Tasks of Work, Love, Friendship, Belonging and Spirituality.  Helping people resolve conflicts cooperatively and constructively, therefore, is central to enabling them to become fulfilled and successful.  Toward this end, here are some guidelines and skills which can support constructive resolution of conflicts across a variety of situations.  I am outlining them as steps but they can be applied more flexibly in natural speech once one understands and internalizes the guiding principles behind the approach.  Furthermore, it is quite common for people to benefit from some coaching and facilitation when first replacing well established patterns of reacting to conflicts in destructive or avoidant ways.  Individual, family, and/or couples counseling can be used to help people master the art of conflict resolution.  The suggested steps are as follows:

1) Strike While The Metal is Cold.  We have all heard the phrase “Strike while the metal is hot”, which means don’t wait to act.  This may be true for metal work but the opposite is true in handling conflicts constructively.  Rather than reacting emotionally, good conflict resolution requires letting one’s primitive emotions, such as anger and fear, to settle so that the capacity for effective strategic choices can guide actions and speech.  Therefore it is better to delay responding and take time to calm down.  One example might be to ask to sleep on it or even to think about things.  Teaching our children to take a time out and go to their rooms when upset is another way this principle is followed.  Techniques such as meditation, journaling, calming affirmations, physical exercise, talking to a supportive friend and many others can be used.  The guiding principle is to cool down strong emotions.

2) Begin With Communicating Respect and Appreciation.  When it is time to talk about the difficulty rather than starting off on a hostile or aggressive note, begin by purposefully letting the other person know what you value about them and your relationship.  Then directly explain that this is why you want to work out a solution to whatever the conflict is.  This will set the stage for the discussion to proceed constructively rather than destructively.  It is important that what one communicates in this step be honest and not simply manipulation.  If it isn’t sincere this will likely increase defensiveness.

3) Outline The Facts Without Emotionally Laden Language.  After making clear reasons for sincerely wanting to resolve the conflict then clearly states the nature of the conflict without harsh terms, put downs, or blaming language.  A good way to begin is “I have noticed that ….” After making clear reasons for sincerely wanting to resolve the conflict then clearly states the nature of the conflict without harsh terms, put downs, or blaming language.  A good way to begin is “I have noticed that ….”

4) Clarify Both Sides Through Assertive Statements and Reflective Summary.  Having expressed positive motivation, non-emotionally outlined the facts of the conflict, now it is time to clarify the feelings and needs of both parties.  This can be done through clarifying feelings and needs in assertive statements.  A good assertive statement has three parts.  It goes like this: “I feel _____, when you _____.  What I need is ______”.   After expressing a clear assertive statement ask the other person what their side of is.  Once they finish try to say back to them a statement that includes those 3 parts and see if you understand them.  If not ask for more details until you can accurately capture their side like this: “Let me see if I have this straight: You feel ____, when I _____.  What you need is _____.  Is that right?”

5) Make Offers Not Demands.  Nobody likes to be told what to do so instead of trying to make the other person do what one wants, a more cooperative approach is to make a series of offers aimed at trying to meet the need clarified in step 4.  After each offer ask the other person if there is anything he/she could do to meet the need you expressed.  For each thing they offer try to offer another thing until you hopefully reach a good agreement.  A good agreement has 3 parts:. It should be fair, realistic, and specific.   If the agreement lacks any of these qualities try to revise so it has all 3.  Then the last step is…

6) Follow up.  A little time later, perhaps a week or so, approach the other person.  Begin by telling them you are glad the two of you were able to resolve the conflict.  Then tell them how you perceive things are going and ask how they think it is working.  If anything is identified as not meeting the needs of either party repeat the steps to come up with a revised and improved agreement.

Hopefully outlining this approach to mastering the art of conflict resolution will help people caught in non constructive patterns of communicating such that they can better find success and fulfillment in important areas of life.  If you would like further assistance in learning these skills please contact me at david@sacac.sg, or contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Written by:
Dr. David Shapiro
Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin

M.A. Teachers College – Columbia University
B.A. The University of California at Santa Cruz
SACAC Counselling

Conflict in Relationships: Small Flares to Larger Fires

In today’s jam-packed life, couples often avoid small conflicts until they precipitate into the proverbial tinderbox. Disagreements that are seemingly mundane and innocuous ranging from disagreements about the helper to what school to send one’s kids to can all snowball into much larger issues, if not addressed appropriately. As per research conducted by the Gottman Institute, the average couple waits 6 years before seeking help, often until it’s too late.

While these smaller conflicts may themselves be the catalyst or the precipitator, as the case may be, the underlying mechanisms at play are often more severe. Over time in the relationship, as these disagreements continue to be brushed under the carpet, they breed resentment and can lead to significantly detrimental patterns in communication including high levels of criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and even points of contempt towards one another.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution or quick-fix, the root of it comes down to how the couple manages conflict, especially early in the relationship. Contrary to popular belief, the first step is to not avoid conflict. One should be cognizant to respond to their partner’s needs to discuss matters of importance to them and acknowledge that there may be differing viewpoints. While in the discussion, avoid devolving into criticism. Instead approach the matter with respect, positivity, and an aim to find a solution, and steer clear of assigning blame. In the argument, leave room for repair, and post the disagreement, work towards healing as soon as possible. Finally, if one starts to notice turbulence in the relationship, the Mantra is to seek help early.

Written by:
Sukriti Drabu

Psychologist & Counsellor

SACAC Counselling