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Trust: Creating a Flexible, Non-binary Model

When I was in high school, I was a Theatre Arts Nerd. We had a Drama teacher in my first year who gave us a trust exercise: we paired up with one partner facing away from the other, and then we leaned back with our eyes closed until we toppled, to be caught by our partner. Reverse and repeat a few times, until the teacher said, “Great! Now that you all trust each other, we can begin!” I distinctly remember thinking, “Wait, what? I trust my partner to catch me while the teacher’s looking, but I wouldn’t trust ANY of them to catch me if we did the same thing outside on the yard after school, say; I wouldn’t trust [X] with my locker combination. And I *certainly* wouldn’t trust [Y] alone with my cat.”

I didn’t know it then, but that was my first introduction to the idea that trust is not best viewed as a binary state. Fast forward 30+ years, and now, based on ongoing client work, I’m starting to come to new conclusions about the problems I’m seeing when we (culturally and relationally) view trust as ONLY a binary state in which trust either exists, or it does not, where it has been earned and granted, or it has not.

It’s my experience that a lot of people around me seem to treat trust as a “one and done” kind of arrangement: once you have earned my trust, you have it till you lose it. But too often I encounter vast differences in how people define “trust”, so I’ve come to treat it as “umbrella terminology”, or a word that encompasses many different meanings and interpretations to different people, and which can be broken out of absolutist thinking to apply to smaller concepts: it becomes less of a question of “do I trust you or not”, and more a case of recognizing that there are things that I trust in you (or trust you to do), and things I do not.

When clients come into the office and say, “I don’t trust my partner”, my first question is always seeking clarity: “Don’t trust them to what?” There’s usually a laundry list of complaints from an aggrieved partner, so the counterbalance is always to ask, “Is there anything about your partner that you do trust, especially as a positive engagement or encouragement?” (so the litany of complaints doesn’t get reworded and repeated). At that point, we can reframe the conversation so that it’s not an absolute, all-encompassing lack of trust, but rather specific areas that need work. We’re not trying to fix a massive problem, but rather something smaller, more specific.

Recently, a number of client conversations drove home for me that trust really isn’t best viewed as a “grant once till it breaks” scenario; that’s too big, and honestly impossible for a partner to hold our trust on all fronts all the time without ever once disappointing us. Instead, like acts of faith and grace, I’m coming to see trust as something that works best when approached as an active, conscious, daily practice. “Today, I CHOOSE to trust [X]. In this moment, I choose to trust [X] to do [Y].” I’ve watched, over and over, as people struggle with the notion that trust must be an all-encompassing, binary state where it’s either on or off, and if trust has been compromised in one area, then the corollary belief is that there is NO TRUST anywhere in the relationship, period. It’s just all broken. As one might imagine, that’s a hard thing to manage within a relationship, viewed on that kind of absolute scale. Also, the pressure between partners to trust absolutely when one partner might not have have the capacity to do so for any number of reasons, is a pressure that becomes toxic and corrosive in a hurry (as much because of the pressure itself, even if implied rather than explicit, as because of the request to trust, specifically).

It’s a part of the Mythology of Love that “trusting someone with your whole head and heart” is how love *should* work. I think many of us want to trust that way, or believe that we *should* because that’s what all the romance novels and movies tell us is right and true. Ergo, failing to engage with absolute trust somehow becomes a subliminal, internalized message of failure on our part in relationship. The more I do this work (as a client as well as a therapist), however, the more I realize how much of our own selves we simply can’t see, so how can we trust someone else to hold what we ourselves don’t always know is there? How can we ask for, let alone trust, someone’s informed consent to try to hold parts of us that they maybe can’t see or understand, either?

But when we can break the idea of “trust” down to smaller, more manageable pieces of identifiable and articulated expectations, and we can break the process of trusting down to conscious and deliberate daily practice of choice, I’m seeing amazing shifts in how people connect to the idea of “trust” when reframed this way. It reduces the pressure to embrace trust as an absolute state when, because of personal anxieties or insecurities and vulnerabilities, trust may be a difficult thing to engage on ANY level. It’s proving to be much easier to get to an acceptance of a more nuanced *state* or process of trusting once we break out a more nuanced definition or suite of definitions, for the word itself.

A friend of mine wrote, “I’ve tried to work with building trust through a series of small risks and commitments. You commit to do a thing, you do it, that increases my trust that when you commit to do some other thing you will. The more times there is risk and success, the more trust builds, the greater the variety of risks and success, the more deep and varied the trust.” I think a lot of people work this way, though even in this model, I see people still practicing it in a binary fashion: trust builds in a linear manner, but failure at a task up the chain compromises or destroys all of the trust built to that point, rather than establishing trust for an array of individual tasks of qualities. My ex and I, for example, found there were all kinds of things I trusted him to do, but “I trust you to tell me what I’ve asked to be informed about in a timely manner” was often not one of them, nor was “I trust you to respect my needs around time management and communication thereof”. (And in reverse, sometimes there wasn’t a lot of trust directed to me around “I trust you to match actions congruent to the labels you have assigned people/places/situations/etc.”, so the contextualized trust challenges went both ways. Therapists are often imperfect humans too.)

I’m going to have to do more pondering on this, but remodeling “trust” as a persistent and flexible decision process rather than a rigid binary state is getting a surprising amount of traction with clients, so clearly there’s something there. Developing better tools for implementing this kind of conceptual shift on a value that is so deep in the core of many individuals and their relationships remains a work in progress, so stay tuned for updates!

Karen Grierson, MTS, RP

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Post originally appeared on Karen’s blog.


Consent in Relationships: The Unacknowledged Country


One good thing about being a therapist with one foot in traditional monogamous culture, and one in the poly community (and one in the BDSM community+) is that I have an opportunity to bring some interesting perspectives from one culture to another. Often these are concepts that we’d think *SHOULD* be obvious across the entire relationship spectrum, but you’d be amazed at how often this isn’t the case at all. One of the biggest places where I am persistently surprised by the lack of awareness is understanding the importance of consent within relationships. We are increasing societal awareness around consent and sex as we battle back against rape culture and certain types of gendered entitlement or toxic behaviours, and the poly and BDSM communities claim themselves to be positively steeped in consent awareness. I often discover that even within seemingly healthy relationships, however, the idea of “consent” — what it means, what it looks like, how it functions in monogamous relationships — is something that has eluded a lot of conscious consideration until someone directly brings it into focus (like, say, a therapist).

For example, some couples come into counselling with issues around dealing with a partner’s “negativity”, citing how one partner comes home from work every day and just immediately begins to unload a laundry list of all the unpleasantness of the day on the other partner, who may or may not be in a place themselves to receive that unloaded crap, and who may or may not know how to block or deflect it. My first question to couples outlining that kind of behavioural pattern is almost invariably to the unloading partner: “Do you have your partner’s consent to unload on them like that?”

Almost as invariably, what I get in response is a blank look, and the tentative question, “What do you mean, do I have their *consent*?”

“I mean, do you have their permission to dump all of your bad day on them? Have they consented to receive that load of toxic goo on their heads? Have you checked in to see if they’re ready and willing to receive? Or are you just making an assumption, or worse, just dumping without even considering whether or not they’re ready and willing to receive?”

Unwanted interactions are unwanted interactions, whether we’re talking about sharing negativity or emotional overwhelm, or sexual pressure, or even just assumptions. While some degree of these will always be unavoidable in relationship, there is a point at which we need to step back and check in with our partners about our interactions. Often we build up a tolerance to irritations over time, but sometimes relationships end abruptly (and often as a surprise to at least one partner) because we lose tolerance for the slow “death by a thousand cuts” of our unaddressed frustrations and distresses. A lot of these strains are the result of behaviours that push past our boundaries, behaviours we have not consented to receive, but we don’t know how to stop.

Maybe we don’t know how to stop them because we just don’t know how to say no to intimate partners. Maybe we don’t know how simply because we’ve never had someone model healthy boundary defense to us. Or maybe we just assume that putting up with the annoying shit our partners do (and yes, this really does often go both ways) is simply an implicit expectation of being in relationship; we feel that it’s our job as an intimate partner to tolerate or allow unwelcome behaviours to persist. This is implicit consent, when we don’t explicitly say, “Yes, this I expressly permit”, but rather we simply say nothing against unwanted actions. This is the root of the cliche, “Silence equals consent” – implicit consent and assumptions that silence implies consent are a surprising part of apparently-healthy, “normal” monogamous relationship dynamics. It’s also, perhaps unsurprisingly, still a heavily gender-biased dynamic in which women yield against presumptive behaviour more commonly than men, as least in terms of the perspective gained from couples coming into counselling. Out in the real world, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it’s maybe more balanced than that. But in therapy, we’re still fighting the feminist battle of teaching women how to say “no”, how to stand up for their own limits, and how to feel safe in enacting or withdrawing consent in their relationships as an active process. Boundary violations, and implicit consent violations in specific, are some of the major contributors to sick systems in relationships.

I do believe consent works best as an active process, rather than a one-and-done, binary state where the assumption is either “all consent for everything is granted” or “no consent for anything is granted” (I may have written about trust in that sense; if not, I’ll add it to the floating list of “future blog topics”). But we don’t tend to think consciously of consent at all in the grander workings of a relationship, let’s break down some of the simple places where consent becomes a key factor in our interactions:

Do I have my partner’s consent to engage in affectionate physical contact or sexual interaction whenever *I* want? How do I know that belief/assumption to be true? Have I checked in with that belief/assumption lately?
Do I assume that belief/assumption to be constantly applicable? How will I determine if there are times when perhaps consent has been withdrawn?

Do I have my partner’s consent to engage in verbal offloads about topics that are of intense interest to me but perhaps not to them? How do I know that belief/assumption to be true? Have I checked in with that belief/assumption lately?
Do I assume that belief/assumption to be constantly applicable? How will I determine if there are times when perhaps consent has been withdrawn?

Do I have my partner’s consent to assume a particular distribution of emotional labour (or any kind of labour, really)? How do I know that belief/assumption to be true? Have I checked in with that belief/assumption lately?
Do I assume that belief/assumption to be constantly applicable? How will I determine if there are times when perhaps consent has been withdrawn?

These are just three common areas where consent and assumptions about permission tend to get couples into trouble. We often come into relationship with assumptions about how relationships will work, and when we’re lucky, we find partners who assumptions more or less jive with our own. We don’t always think to check in explicitly bout what’s allowed and under what circumstance, and what is not; or if we do, we might do it conscientiously at the outset of new relationships, when NRE opens all horizons to exploration, but once we settle into relational routine, we frequently forget to go back and actively monitor those initial agreements and the assumptions we build atop them. (Confession time: I’m as guilty of that as the next person; it’s one reason why I keep my own therapist on retainer… and speed dial.)

So when couples come into the office looking at improving their communications, some of the primary foundational pieces we have to look at are the implicit assumptions about consent, and how those boundaries are expressed initially and defended thereafter. Are they even articulated at all? As consent boundaries, are they deliberately presented as permeable or impermeable? Perhaps more importantly, in practice are the consent boundaries viewed and respected by both partners as permeable or impermeable? Trust me when I say, it’s a terribly common issue for one partner to say, “This is a hard limit, NONE SHALL PASS!”, but in practice, under pressure (implicit or explicit) from the other partner allows that boundary to erode, shift, and become permeable to the point of relative non-existence. A lot of resentment that builds between over time partners can often be traced to places where these kinds of consent boundaries have been compromised somehow.

So, how do we learn to recognize consent boundaries in monogamous relationships, and how do we learn to defend them once we recognize they’re even a thing? That’s where a relationship therapist can come in handy, especially one who will blog about these aspects in coming weeks 🙂 Stay tuned!


+ — I know, that makes it sound like I’m a three-legged therapist, which I am most decidedly not; I just dance like one.

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Karen Grierson, MTS, RP

Originally posted on Karen’s blog

Photo: Couple by Sole Treadmill

How To Keep Things Spicy When You’re A Bit Vanilla


With all of the hype surrounding the release of 50 Shades Darker, I’m betting that there are many couples wondering if it is time to break out the floggers and paddles and ditch the stale sex routine. Floggers and paddles can be great if that’s your thing, but some people just aren’t that adventurous. And the great news is that you don’t have to be! There are many other ways to heat things up with your partner this Valentines Day.

Here are a few suggestions to help you mix things up in the bedroom:

  1. Change things up! Simple as that. Little differences can make big differences. If you typically have sex in the evening when it’s dark, try having sex in the morning when your whole room is lit up. Do you have time for a lunch quickie? No one says that sex has to be an all night marathon! Lunch dates are the perfect excuse to meet with each other. And hey, you get to go back to the office with a big smile on your face! Lucky you!


  1. Change positions. Do you find yourself describing sex as vanilla, robotic or routine? Maybe it’s time to try out the positions you’ve always been curious about. No one says it has to be Kama Sutra level fun, but is there a favourite position you have that you haven’t done in a while or one that you’ve been eager to try? Go for it!


  1. Change places. Is the bedroom really the only place to have sex? Definitely not. What about the bathroom, a table, a counter top, a couch, or the office desk? Play with different textures too, like on top of a super soft blanket or under the shower.


  1. Focus on your senses. Which is the most erotic for you? Do you like the way your partner tastes or that one perfume or body wash they use? Do you like to play music or burn certain candles? Do you like it when your partner whispers in your ear, moans out loud or touches you a certain way? Try to connect with the sense that excites you the most.


  1. Flirt with each other throughout the day. Send those sexy text messages and pictures. If you tend to be on the shy side, this is a great way to get your partner in the mood long before you get to see them.


  1. Surprise your partner. Wear that sexy lingerie you have been eyeing in the shop window, or make the experience all about your partner for one night. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything too dramatic – little surprises can be great surprises!


  1. What about focusing on foreplay and enjoying every part of your partner’s body? Foreplay and passionate make out sessions can be hot and feel different for anyone whose sexual script usually skips. SLOW DOWN! Show each other how much you love each other’s bodies through different ways of kissing, licking, touching and feeling one another.


  1. If you are usually reluctant to talk about your fantasies, why not use Valentines Day as the perfect excuse to share with each other some of the sexy thoughts you’ve been keeping to yourself. Talking to each other about your fantasies can be very erotic!


  1. You don’t need to bring in sex toys if that’s not your thing. But if it is something you are curious about then take some time to research what kinds of toys you would like to try, and discuss it with your partner. Shopping for them together can be the first step in setting up a pretty exciting and new experience for both of you.


  1. Lastly, just have a good time with whatever you do! Be silly, laugh, and have fun being adventurous in your own unique ways.


Happy Valentines Day lovers!

Lindsay Kenna

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Rethinking Rejection


“Rejection sucks” you say. Or at least, you think it’s you who says it. But the fact is that the voice in your head worrying about the “no” you got from The One You Yearn For isn’t really you – it’s your ego, the part of you that hates being denied. Let’s put our egos aside and try to find a healthier perspective, shall we? Because when you’re feeling down-and-out after someone alters the movie script ending you had in your head, at best you’re not seeing things clearly and at worst you’re letting someone else smother your self-esteem. It’s time to change the way you think about rejection.

First of all, let’s look at what rejection really is.

You’ve got something built up in your head about what you want from a relationship. The problem is that everyone else does too, including the person that you want to want you. So the #1 cause of rejection is just a dissonance in stories – theirs is different from yours, and they’re simply honoring that. It has nothing to do with you, really. It boils down to an incompatibility of mutual goals, and they happened to notice that before you did.


Second, try to realize that what’s going on in your head is a fictional account of how you wish things were. The fact is that even if your beloved said “yes” and committed to you, things would not likely turn out the way you’ve been imagining. Trying to force chemistry certainly won’t work in your favour either. Accepting that the scenario you long for is more imagination than reality will help you find the power to move on. So try it! Because the sooner you re-imagine your life, the sooner you can find someone whose inner movie will match yours.

And finally…

Why are you even longing for someone who’s not responding to you? You deserve better, so I think you need a new mantra. And I’ve got just the one for you: “I don’t want to be with anybody who doesn’t want to be with me.”

Repeat this until it becomes second nature to you. Chasing someone who’s constantly going the other way is doing nothing but leading you off of your own track toward happiness. Stand in your power, in the certainty that the one who’s right for you is the one who clearly sees how you’ll make a great addition to their life, and whose inner movie feels more magical once you enter the picture.


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Chantal Heide is a Human Relations expert with a successful practice helping clients learn how to find and keep a “magical” loving relationship. She is a public speaker, workshop leader, private coach, writer, and frequent media contributor. Find her on 570 News and Huffington Post Canada.


Your Couples Counselling Questions Answered!

People are often intimidated by the idea of attending couples therapy – they worry about the emotions that will be stirred up, things that might be said, or the possibility of a negative outcome. These are normal fears to have when considering therapy, or even going into your first session. Below are some common questions people typically ask about couples counselling. Hopefully my answers can remove some of the stigma, and help you to understand what the process is like!

What are some common issues that couples seek counselling for?

Common issues that couples seek counselling for include, but are not limited to, communication breakdown, to learn how to express emotions effectively, conflict resolution, intimacy issues or feelings of disconnect, to reconcile differences in parenting styles, and to rebuild trust following infidelity. Sometimes couples will come to counselling to try and sort out whether or not they want to stay together, or to work on ending the relationship in an amicable and healthy manner.

How do you decide as a couple that it is time to seek the help of a counsellor?

For couples therapy to be effective both partners need to be engaged in the therapeutic process. They have to want to put in the time and effort to make changes to their behaviour or ways of thinking. If one person really isn’t interested in making those adjustments, it’s hard for the therapist to help them participate in sessions, and they are less likely to take what they’ve learned into consideration when they leave our offices. Couples therapy might be right for you if there is an issue you would like to work on, and you both feel open to introspection and change.

How can we prepare for couples counselling?

Before you give counselling a try, sit down and have a conversation with your partner about your expectations – what you want from the relationship, from each other and from a therapist. Then do your research to find a therapist that fits with what you are looking for. Social workers, psychologists or marriage and family therapists will often have their profiles online for you to look at before meeting them. You can also take advantage of free consultations (if offered) before deciding on the best therapist for you.

What can we expect from the first session?

Once you have found the right match for you, your first session will focus on the counsellor getting to know you as a couple. You will likely be asked general questions about your relationship – how you met, what attracted you to each other, when you began to notice things had changed or when your difficulties began, and what you are hoping to get from counselling. Some counsellors will schedule individual sessions with each of you next. This gives them a chance to get to know each of you a bit better, as well as what is going on for you specifically. After that, the counselling sessions will continue with both partners.

What is the role of the therapist in sessions?

Recognizing that you need help navigating your relationship can be difficult for many people, but couples therapy is a great place for partners to come and discuss their issues with someone who is a neutral participant and can help make sense of what’s going on. You can expect your counsellor to help you sort out the issues you are having, discuss where they are stemming from, and help guide you both to achieve your goals – whatever those may be. Your therapist may guide the conversation, make suggestions, and even present alternate perspectives, but the real work is up to you!

How will we know when we are ready to end our sessions?

There is no formula for deciding when you are ready to stop seeing your therapist. You may decide that the two of you have learned enough to try working through it yourselves, just checking back in occasionally if you need it. Your therapist might tell you she thinks you are ready to stop, or you might decide that you are done with couples sessions but would like to continue with individual therapy. Your relationship, like any, will continue to grow and change over the years, and sometimes you may find it more difficult to adapt than others. You will not always need a therapist to help guide you, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you do!

Lindsay Kenna, MSW, BSW, RSW

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Just Say No

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others for help – reaching out when we need assistance, big or small, is an important skill for individuals to learn.  However, there is a flipside to this equation. While we should acknowledge the importance of asking for help, we must also learn how to say no occasionally. The very idea of saying no when others ask for something is difficult for a lot of people. In my experience, people avoid saying no because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, let anyone down, or disappoint anyone.

But does that “anyone” include yourself? It should.

What must be established is a careful balance between helping other people out and taking care of ourselves. If we could all pay attention to what we need first, and take care of ourselves a little more (what is typically and inappropriately called being selfish), we would be a lot happier and have a lot more energy to share with others.

So practice saying no.

It doesn’t have to be harsh, and you are welcome to explain why you feel you need to say no. But you also don’t owe it to anyone else to explain why and how you are taking care of yourself. Just because someone you love asks you for help does not mean that you are in any way obliged to help them, especially if it will place you in some sort of discomfort or distress. It also does not mean that you are telling them they will never receive help from you in the future – being selective about when and how you help is not the same as leaving them to fend for themselves.

Start with saying no to small things, like super sizing your fries, or going out for a drink with a colleague. Then move into no’s that can be more difficult to handle, like continuing to take on extra projects at work or paying for a family member’s phone bill. People may get upset because they are not used to you saying no, but new dynamics within your relationships will eventually normalize, and if you can feel a little less resentment towards someone close to you, the relationship will be much better off.


Heather Anderson, M.ED., C. Psych

Communicating with Your Partner

It’s likely a familiar situation for most of us – we stand there, looking at our partner, anger and frustration building, and we think, what I need from you right now is obvious, so why aren’t you getting it?  Falling into this logical trap happens to the best of us; we assume that because we have made certain judgments or connections in our own heads, the same must have happened for our partners.  After all, they are supposed to know us best, right?

Assuming that your partner should just know what you are thinking is dangerous and unhelpful. Not only will it cause unnecessary fights, but it will not get you any closer to receiving whatever it is that you need from them, be it support, encouragement, or an important conversation.  The only way to ensure that either of you have your needs met in a healthy and productive way is to learn how to effectively communicate with one another.


Tips for effective communication:

  1. Clarify expectations by being clear on the topic of conversation and what the intent or goal of the conversation is.
  2. Remember to listen non-judgmentally, if possible, and without interjecting your point of view.
  3. Be willing to be wrong and remember to discuss and agree upon next steps.


Why make your partner guess?

Try letting your partner know which goal you are pursuing in a conversation. This will help your partner understand what you are looking to achieve when you engage them in conversation, and what kinds of responses might be helpful. Such goals might be:

  1. Create intimacy.
  2. Request feedback, support or comfort.
  3. Tell a story, share an experience.
  4. Solve a problem.
  5. Make a decision.


If you notice that you still have trouble communicating at times, try asking yourself: For each goal, what specific behaviors or statements do I want to receive from my partner? What will help me know that my communication is being received? Share with your partner how you would like them to respond to you for each of the above goals.

And remember, effective communication takes patience, practice, and dedication.  Allow yourselves the space and time to learn these new strategies and incorporate them into your relationship, along with any strategies of your own that you have found effective in the past.


Kelly McDonnell-Arnold MA MBA RSW

This material is adapted from Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch.


Relationships can be extremely difficult, sometimes never more so than when they are ending. But what about the relationships that do not offer a typical, messy ending? Ghosting is when someone you care about, a close friend or someone that you have a romantic connection with, disappears from your life by discontinuing contact. Not only has a relationship that you put time and effort into ended – maybe with someone that you were excited about or possibly loved – but it has ended without explanation. In an age of primarily digital, commitment-free modes of communication, ghosting is a popular phenomenon. The ghoster begins to limit communication, cancel plans, and ignore messages until it becomes apparent to the ghosted that their friend or partner is no longer interested in the relationship.

Ending a relationship is difficult, and requires a significant amount of courage if it is to be done honestly and respectfully. However, the lack of face-to-face contact between people in many modern relationships weakens the sense of the other as a person who possesses a full range of emotions and the capacity to feel deeply – they are reduced to the text that appears on our screens. If someone has become desensitized to the fact that the person they are ghosting has real feelings that will be affected by the choices they make, it becomes much easier to avoid the mucky breakup part and simply move on. Feelings of guilt may come much later or not at all, but more immediately the ghoster is likely to experience a sense of relief. In such cases, those who choose to ghost their way out of a relationship either do not believe that the relationship is serious enough to warrant a discussion, or are more concerned with their own comfort than giving another what they deserve.

Of course, ghosting may also happen in cases where individuals have been in a committed and serious relationship for a significant period of time. In such cases, the lack of respect on the part of the ghoster is more than desensitization or laziness, but signals a real lack of respect for the person with whom they had a relationship. In such cases it is possible that the ghosted was led to believe the relationship was much more important to the ghoster than it actually was, or perhaps the ghoster has some deep-seated issues with relationships that cause them to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Whatever the reason, being ghosted usually feels awful.

There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing emotional pain after being ghosted:

  • Ghosting gives us no clues about how to respond to the situation. When someone breaks up with you, you may feel hurt or used or angry, but at the very least you know that you must begin to move on and live without the relationship. When someone disappears it can be difficult to figure out how to carry on – do you wait for them to resurface? Do you seek them out or do you let them fade away? Are they not messaging you by choice or has there been some sort of accident that is preventing them from contacting you? You can’t possibly know, and so the difficult work of moving on is delayed and confused – without any cues from them, it can be difficult to tell how to respond and regulate your own emotions.
  • When we are ghosted, we are more likely to blame ourselves for the dissolution of the relationship. Rather than looking for signs in the relationship or in the behavior of the other that something was wrong, we look to ourselves. If they could just disappear like that it means we weren’t funny, attractive, smart enough to captivate them. Rejection often has a negative impact on our self-esteem, this is nothing new, but when it seems that the other was so completely uninvested or uninterested that they could just walk away, our esteem takes an even greater hit. We feel disposable.
  • Their silences forces silence upon us in turn. They rob us not only of an explanation but also of the option to voice our concerns, frustration, hurt, and anger. We become powerless to ask questions that will allow us to understand and move forward. It is the ultimate silent treatment. Even if you can technically still send them messages, the silence on their end will more likely leave you feeling hopeless and desperate rather than satisfied and vindicated.


When you have been ghosted, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you – sometimes people will not be interested in you, and that is a matter of preference rather than a flaw of yours. The flaw rests with their inability to deal with the discomfort that accompanies ending relationships, and more than anything else it shows that they were not ready for a healthy adult relationship. It can be difficult when our hopes for a relationship prove to be unfounded, but don’t let someone else’s selfish behaviour determine your openness to new people and new relationships. Communicate your needs and desires, keep an open-mind, and recognize that not everyone is ready or mature enough for sincere commitment. If you continue to move forward and treat others with the dignity and respect that they deserve, eventually you will attract someone who will reciprocate.


Ariel Benwell


Love Languages


It’s not uncommon for couples who come into my office to express concern that they have lost connection with their partner. They no longer experience the same feelings of love that were present in the beginning of their relationship.

Over time relationships change, but with conscious effort and awareness we can learn to change with them. A relationship doesn’t have to fizzle simply because it has moved on from the initial infatuation into a stable relationship. You and your partner are different, and each of you feels/experiences love and connection differently. Becoming aware of how you differ can allow you to hit the target rather than miss the mark.

Gary Chapman has developed a simple strategy to tune into your partner and figure out how they prefer to experience love. He determined that people can feel love in 5 different ways: Touch, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, and Acts of Service. While this may seem self-explanatory, it is often difficult to differentiate between what we most need and what our partner needs.

Below are some examples of each:

Touch – a quick touch on the arm when you walk by, putting your arm around your partner
Quality Time – going for a walk together, discussing your day over a meal with no distractions
Words of Affirmation – verbally acknowledging that your partner looks nice, thanking them for something they have done
Gifts – picking up a book they have had their eye on, bringing home their favourite dessert
Act of Service – cleaning something you know bothers them, raking the leaves outside

Here is a link to the love languages test, which will help you narrow down your preferences: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ 

For more information, Gary Chapman’s ‘The 5 Love Languages’ is available anywhere books are sold. Enjoy!


Heather Anderson

Three Processes for Effective Communication

Communication is an art form. The act of bridging the gap between two beings with different experiences, thoughts, and beliefs in order to express an idea or convey an emotion, to share an experience, or to solve a common problem requires a significant amount of effort and skill. And like most art forms, while some seem to have a natural ability, the truth is that everyone can learn the skills necessary to the task. If communication does not come naturally to you, we have compiled a few processes that you can implement into your personal relationships in order to make yourself a more successful communicator.

The three effective processes that support communication between people are: mirroring, validation, and empathy.

Mirroring is the process of accurately reflecting back the content of a message from one party to the other. The most common form of mirroring is paraphrasing. A paraphrase is a statement in your own words of what the message the speaker sent means to you.

Mirroring indicates to the speaker that you are willing to set aside your own thoughts and feelings for the moment in an attempt to understand them from their point of view. Any response made prior to mirroring is merely an interpretation of what has been said, and often contains a misunderstanding.

The intention in mirroring is to allow each person an opportunity to send his or her message and for it to be paraphrased until it is clear that the message has been understood and received accurately.

Validation is a communication to the speaker that the information being received and mirrored makes sense. It indicates that you can see the information from their point of view and can accept that it has validity—it is true for the speaker. Validation is a temporary suspension of your own point of view, which allows another’s experience to have its own reality.

To validate someone else’s message does not mean that you necessarily agree with his/her point of view or that it reflects your subjective experience. It merely recognizes the fact that in every situation, no objective view is truly possible. In any communication between two people there are always at least two points of view, and every report of an experience is an interpretation that serves as “truth” for each person.

The process of mirroring combined with validation increases trust and closeness in personal relationships.

Empathy is the process by which the listener reflects or imagines the feelings the speaker is experiencing regarding the situation being discussed. In this deep level of communication, you attempt to recognize, explore, and on some level experience the emotions the speaker is sending. Empathy allows both people to transcend, perhaps for a moment, their separateness and to experience a genuine “meeting.” Such an experience has potential for tremendous healing.

An example of using the 3 processes in effective dialogue might go something like this:

“So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that if I don’t look at you when you are talking to me, you think that I am disinterested in what you are saying. I can understand that, it makes sense to me. I can imagine that you would feel rejected and angry. That must be a terrible feeling.”

This material is adapted from Imago Therapy techniques developed by Harville Hendricks, available in his books Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find.

By Kelly McDonnell-Arnold


Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, MA, MBA, RSW

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