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Rebuilding Trust and Communication

Having helped hundreds of couples over the years, I’ve witnessed miscommunication and blocks between couples – sabotaging the trust and communication.

Interestingly it’s often over small things, like chores and other ‘nit-picking’ topics.

Are You Picking Up What They're Putting Down?

Are you missing your partners ‘bid for connection’? What are they really trying to say? How can you respond better and turn toward your partner instead of away.

"You know I'm gluten free - You never listen! You don't even know me anymore..."

How to Improve Connection and Rebuild Trust

Here’s what you can do to prevent roadblocks in your relationship.

You may be aware of the Four Horsemen and how damaging they can be to your relationship (e.g. defensiveness and criticism).

With the four horseman present there are misunderstandings, escalating conflict and eroding trust.

If your relationship isn’t going so well, you or your partner may not recognise when the other is trying to make a bid for connection, because they have slipped into four horsemen mode.

Typical signs include becoming defensive and blaming, rather than asking clearly for what they need of the other partner.

This often causes negative reactions, while the ‘hidden plea’ goes missing!

Instead, a defensive wall is building up between you as each try to protect themselves from the barrage of blame.

Sound familiar?

Let’s hear it in a story for example…

Peta says to her husband, Richard, in frustration,

“Did it ever occur to you to take the bins out?”

Richard doesn’t hear Peta’s bid (i.e.:  ‘Please can you take the bins out ‘)

No, instead, he hears, criticism, the first horseman.  So it’s no surprise that he responds with defensiveness, putting another layer up on the wall – saying something like:

“Well, when you do ever mow the lawn?”

From here, the argument escalates…

Sound familiar?

What if, instead, Richard responds by saying:

“Yep, you’re right.  Sorry”  and then proceeded to put the bins out?

I wonder how many brownie points he would score? I’d hazard a guess enough to put a sheepish smile on Peta’s face!

Peta would probably then realise she had begun the conversation with a harsh start up and it was uncalled for.

Similarly, you could reverse the roles and the chores with something else that is bothersome. For example:

“Get off your bloody phone! You’re always on your phone”


 “Please put your phone down so we can sit, hold hands and enjoy the movie together”


“Please put your phone down and give me a hug. Let’s talk about our day…” etc. etc.

Your partner’s plea vs their tone

If you focus on your partner’s plea, rather than their tonality, you have an opportunity to respond, positively.  For example: “Good point.  I’ll be right there”.

Your homework for today

So, before you reply defensively or criticise your partner, pause for a moment and search for the underlying bid….

Ask yourself, “What is it they need?…”

“What are they really trying to say?

If you are feeling frustrated and on-edge about something, instead of blurting out a ‘harsh startup’ pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What is it I’m really trying to be clear about it here?”

“What is it I need now?”

And then state what you need instead.

Take a breath.

Start gently and ask gently, or kindly tell your partner what it is you need.

What if my bid still gets turned away?

If your soft startup goes unheard or your bid gets turned away, your partner may be wrapped up in the four horsemen.

If you find the four horsemen present, such as defensiveness or criticism you can politely say to them something like:

“I want to respond to you positively, can you please tell me what you need right now from me?”

If entering into conversations with defensiveness or criticism has become a habit for you and/or your partner and the negativity is quickly spiraling out of control, then you need to address communication in your relationship as a priority.

Failing to make a change will prolong and create further miscommunication and conflict.

The simple answer is to both get familiar with using the soft start up. In it’s basic form the soft startup has four steps…

4 Step Soft Startup

Repair Your Relationships with Jacqui Hogan

The soft startup is one of many Gottman therapeutic strategies I use in session to help couples turn their relationship around.

Practice the soft startup in session and get your relationship back on track. Book a discovery session to get started.

It’s easy! Make a call or fire off an enquiry using the form below.


 Jacqueline Hogan.

With thanks to the Gottman Institue.

Jacqueline Hogan Couples Counsellor - Mornington Peninsula & Melbourne
Jacqui Hogan - Couples Counsellor, BASW, Dip PsyC, Gottman Level 3, RLT Level 3

Call Jacqui now for a free short chat and arrange a time for your 90 minute discovery session.

Your discovery session is a welcome relief. Feel heard. Be empowered and understand – there is hope.

Not a good time to talk? Get in touch using the form below.

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