My intention with this article is to bring to the light of day the process that is born between, in this case, two individuals who clearly have a lot of love for one another, yet don't know anymore how to share it and simply end up on a path of mutual recrimination, often, or perhaps mostly, accompanied by phrases that offer an analysis of the wrongness of the other party; sentences that usually start with: “you did”, “you said”, “you should”, “you shouldn't”, “the problem with you”, “you hurt me”, “you are not listening to me” and so many more that there is little point in mentioning them all.

When we go down this path, we hope that the other person will finally be ready to hear us, and that they will simply quieten down and open their ears.

The problem with this approach is that it obtains the exact opposite of what we would like: the person that we so badly want to connect with, shuts down because they hear judgment and/or criticism.

So, what is one to do?

If we express it as above, we risk losing the interlocutor yet, if we stay quiet, we go nowhere either.

Let me then share with you the experience of Mr. A and Ms. B, who came to us because: “We have created a routine set of responses, a pattern if you will, to one another, and we see that we have grown apart. Each one of us is busy with his/her life, and we don't actually communicate. We live under the same roof, yet that seems, unfortunately, to be it. We lost the ability to have fun together, to do things that connect us intimately, to enjoy each other”

It didn't take us long to see that the real issue this couple had was the use of language and mental images of one another. They both believed that the other person was doing or saying certain things that were detracting from each other's lives; specifically, she believed that he was not sharing enough verbally about his intentions; he, on the other hand, believed that many of her behaviors were “nosy and stifling”.

It is no wonder that such dialogues, that imply wrongness of the other party, separate us humans, instead of bringing us closer.

Within the space of a few sentences, we realized what was going on. Thanks to the understanding that all humans share the same basic needs, we were able to help them see that A had a strong need for sharing and togetherness and that B had a strong need for autonomy and space, as well as sharing and togetherness.

As we moved along through the days of our workshop, it became clearer and clearer to both of them that the dialogue that they had had so far was no longer a viable possibility. Equally, it became clearer to them, with a little help from us, that they actually shared most of the same needs or, put differently and with more detail, that they both had several needs that were different, yet, on the other hand, that they had some needs whose commonality between the two of them was particularly strong: for closeness, independence, togetherness, autonomy and sharing.

So, now, you could ask me: “this is all very well, yet how does this understanding of my needs help me come closer to the person/people that I no longer manage to have a constructive dialogue with?”

Let's continue and stay for a little while on the importance of understanding, and identifying our needs.

As I said before, all of us share the same basic human needs and these needs are never mutually exclusive. A few examples of needs could be: the need for sexual expression, for nutrition, for sharing, for growth, for (personal) space and the list goes on much further.

If we manage to connect to these needs within ourselves, we can see that all that we do and say in our daily experience, is geared towards fulfilling these needs.

The only problem in this picture?

Most of us are unaware of the fact that our doing and saying things are here to fulfill those needs; a clear case of putting the cart before the horse. We go find jobs we don't like -we fulfill our need for financial safety while at the same time we ignore our need for harmony and playfulness-, we get into relationships that are clearly not for us -we fulfill our need for sharing and sexual expression while at the same time we ignore our need for closeness and sharing-, we drink fluids that we don't really like yet we are with a group -we fulfill our need for sharing while we ignore our need for physical well-being-, we have, basically, a relationship with ourselves, and relationships with others in which we no longer know how to reach one another.

The solution?

Well, there is obviously never only one answer, yet, my/our take on it is that if we manage to connect at the level of those basic human needs, the shift to connection can be pretty rapid.

In the case of Ms. A and Mr. B there was a major breakthrough already on the first afternoon of the workshop; Mr B was, for the first time in years, able to hear what Ms. A needed; this breakthrough was possible because both were willing to drop their usual accusatory dialogue, and to try to listen to each other's basic human needs in a loving and emphatic way, as opposed to the “you this” and “you that” dialogue they had come to create between themselves..

Their desire to reconnect so as to be able to fulfill their needs for peace and harmony led to this major breakthrough. When we reach these points, which I/we like to refer to as shifts, we already start from a new point of personal consciousness in the approach to one another.

In fact Mr. A and Ms. B, that same evening, after the daily workshop-session, had a situation that triggered a lot of pain in them both. However, as they had examined and reconsidered their dialogue for the better part of the afternoon, they were able to hear each other in a completely new way.

Instead of accusing each other of some wrongdoing, they tried to identify each other's needs and, although they still lacked the proficiency to do so fully while falling into some old traps, they were, in their own words: “clearly on a different path, literally looking at each other with different eyes, with a dialogue that was much more loving than the day before”.

A path that was connecting, instead of alienating and disconnecting.

As the workshop progressed, we were, all together, able to look at some of the “mistakes” that they were making.

In every situation where there was disconnection, A and B had difficulty identifying their own needs and difficulty listening to their partner.

When we gave them some pointers in the direction of their needs, they were, almost immediately, able to reconnect at the most intimate level.

This is the first in a series of articles on the subject. Have you got any questions on your intimate relationship? Send us an e-mail

Warmly, Jerry Zondervan and Gordana Stankovic

Author's Bio: 

Jerry Zondervan (1967-) HDSS, counselor, is an internationally known author, Skype/distance-counselor (spec. healthy relationships) and speaker in the area of self-development and self-growth.

for workshops:

Gordana Stankoviċ is a qualified counsellor and life coach. Her counselling and coaching approach is an integration of humanistic counselling, otherwise known as person-centred counselling, and the model of Nonviolent Communication, a process developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, which offers practical and powerful skills for compassionate giving, receiving and helping, to create deep, meaningful connections and relationships, and transforming conflicts into peaceful dialogue.