"What makes people happy, healthier and live longer is having good and close relationships."


Most couples fall into the same negative argument pattern or dance without actually realising it. They are then trapped by this dance and with its repetition it can do significant damage to the relationship. These conflict patterns can vary but there are some standout dance routines.

Some examples are:

  • Let’s find the bad guy
  • You are not listening to me
  • You are not giving me the response I want
  • I can’t seem to please you anymore. I’m useless so I give up

The main underlying cause is that the partner’s emotional needs have been repeatedly unmet. If these negative dances continue too long and are intense, emotional disconnection and distance usually results. This can jeopardise a relationship.

Here are six tips to avoid and address these dances:

  1. Don’t assume you know what is true. Check out what is going on for your partner and really listen to him or her. Try to understand their perspective of the problem.
  2. Don’t tell your partner not to get upset. Instead really try to understand and validate how he or she is feeling.
  3. Don’t justify, defend or minimise what your partner is upset about. Take their complaint seriously.
  4. Don’t try to fix the problem by being logical, intellectual or problem solving. That is not helpful. Instead show your connection and compassion by expressing regret, understanding and support.
  5. Don’t tell your partner you will never repeat the offending behaviour again. Instead, say you will try hard not to do it again. Perhaps even ask for patience and assistance. An agreed-on signal from your partner to stop you in your tracks might be a cooperative way to stop the unwanted behaviour.
  6. Realise when your partner is showing some anger or frustration, it is often because he or she feels disconnected, rejected or emotionally abandoned by you. Give them some space to voice their disappointment. Then apologise and reassure them that you care for them and did not intend to hurt him or her.

Inspired by Dr Sue Johnson Emotion Focussed Couple Therapist Expert and Esther Perrel International Therapist Expert, TED speaker on Modern Love