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  • Marriage Breakdown
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Zahava Recovery Update – Day 11

Zahava has made it through two procedures in the last two days. Today the important surgery was for her to have a tracheostomy so she can breath without the use of the ventilator, which has been in her throat since she entered hospital. She can breath on her own, but there are concerns about her being able to clear secretions, so she will have to be slowly and carefully weened off support.

In terms of response, she has shown indication that she can hear me and phil and the nurses/doctors and has communicated mostly with her left foot. We hope now with the procedures out of the way she will show continued response in other areas of her body.

The doctors have told us that she will eventually be moved out of the intensive care ward and into the stroke specialist general ward, but not until they are clear the tracheostomy breathing is stable.

As always myself and Phil are with her every day and go in and hold her hand and talk to her. She rests when she can, but the nurses and doctors do have to continue to observe her, so it is difficult for her to get uninterrupted sleep.

Thanks again to everyone who has come to the hospital to visit us, called, sent through text messages, emails, facebook messages, twittered and left comments on this blog. We appreciate all the support and well wishes and continue to need your prayers to help mum improve to a point where she can return to a life of some quality after this challenging time.

I’l have more updates as I can.

Yaro and on behalf of Phil.

Zahava Stroke Update – Day 6

Once again we spent the day in hospital with my mother. At the moment her body is showing signs of recovery, however what we really need to see is signs of recovery from the stroke, which so far have been minimal.

The good news is her heart rate is looking more regular and she breathes on her own. Her movement is minimal however, and we don’t know exactly how conscious she exactly is.

Our main focus now is being with her every day, holding her hand and seeing if her mind will repair. It could take a long time, so patience is the main ingredient (plus all of your wonderful prayers and love – thank you!).

I will report again later in the week as I can.

Thank you,

Yaro and on behalf of Phil.

Update On Zahava Hospital Recovery

Zahava is still in a stable condition at the hospital and is showing a mild increase in response to our voices (me and Phil, her partner).

At this stage tests are still being done to ascertain what has caused the stroke and ongoing assessment of how responsive she is. At the moment we hope and pray she shows continued improvement and responds in greater capacity to the point where she becomes fully conscious.

We still require as much of your prayers and love as possible as we look for improvement to her condition. We may have only begun a very long recovery period, so please keep the support coming, we all appreciate it, especially Zahava (knowing that she is cared for by so many people would comfort her a lot, so please share a thought for her every day).

I will update you with more news as I can.

Thank you,

Yaro Starak

Update On Zahava’s Condition

As many of you know Zahava had a stroke two days ago. Many of her friends, colleagues and students have asked for updates on her condition, which I will attempt to provide for you via this website.

Today is June 9th and Zahava is in a stable condition in the intensive care unit. She is not communicating with people as a result of the stroke and is monitored 24/7 to see if she becomes more responsive.

The stroke specialist advised that what we need right now is patience to see how she recovers. It is possible she will be able to walk and talk again, which is what we are praying for.

In terms of how you can help, the ward she is in cannot take any flowers or gifts, so I ask only that you please keep my mother in your prayers and focus only on positive thoughts about her recovering and becoming 100% healed.

Thanks for your support and love,

Yaro her son, and on behalf of Phil, her partner.

What To Do If Your Partner Succumbs To Shopping Binges

Worried partner writes….. “My partner and I are both hard workers and have decided to save our money to buy a house before having children. However every time I check our savings there are more withdrawals and our nest egg is slowly vanishing. My partner readily concedes that they are the source of these withdrawals, as they sometimes “borrow” a little money whenever they go shopping. They defend them self by pointing out that they do not shop that often and are not a chronic spender, but are only occasionally subject to spending binges which may blow the budget. They easily rationalise every purchase as being valid and purposeful.

Admittedly they are not an every day, ‘mad’ spender, but if these binges don’t stop we may never be able to purchase our home, and I don’t know how I would feel about that!” Continue reading →

How A Toothpick In My Foot Taught Me A Lesson

A month ago I stepped on a sharp pointed tooth pick which went between my toes and awkwardly sat in my foot until I yelled at my partner in a slightly hysterical voice, that he should do something about it. The hero that he is, he quickly came to my rescue and with one swift pull he removed the toothpick without leaving any evidence of its presence in my foot. For three days all seemed normal. I had no pain, maybe just a twinge reminding me that a toothpick had protruded from my foot for a moment- but otherwise nothing. But on the fourth day I woke up to a different foot. It was swollen and getting bigger by the minute. Where the toothpick had rested there was a volcano of ugly blue and black. It looked evil!

With two visits to the doctor I was put on an antibiotic that slowly began to reduce the infection. It was the threat of going to the hospital however that did the trick. My body kicked into healing mode and I was on the way to recovery.

I can hear you asking yourself what is the point of my relating this not too pretty story. Yes I went through an unpleasant experience, but recovered from it and all is well once again. So unless there is some sort of moral to this story why should anyone continue reading? Well although this incident did not lead me to enlightenment it did leave me with an insight that I would like to share.

As a counsellor specialising in relationships I work daily with couples helping them amongst other things to identify their negative thoughts about each other and their partnership, and change them. These thoughts are born out of fears, jealousies, hatreds and other vulnerabilities that were either brought into the relationship at the start, as unfinished business, or have crept in as the relationship has experienced unresolved problems.

In counselling sessions partners learn how to identify their vulnerabilities, address the thoughts that accompany them, remove negativities and replace them with more compassionate statements. This may be a hard process but the rewards are worth it.

Counsellors too recognise the need to identify their vulnerabilities and implement strategies to eradicate their negative thinking patterns. This is one reason that counsellors constantly partake in Professional and Personal Development activities. And as a result of all the work we do we like to think that we are making progress with our own personal growth just like our clients.

But counsellors are human and also experience set backs in their personal development. If we don’t practice what we preach and continue to hold on to our own fears, jealousies and negative thought patterns we make ourselves vulnerable to both personal and relationship stress. And like our clients we are most likely not aware of what we are doing as we simply get swept up into a vortex of dysfunctional thinking.

And now the connection between my accident and the above discussion. Shortly before I stepped on the toothpick I was faced with a situation which instantly stirred up some unfinished business I had around my relationships. Until then my thoughts had been pleasant and my interactions were comfortable. I had not been pestered by negative thinking. But obviously there were still some issues that needed to be addressed as I was soon overwhelmed with disruptive thoughts that had the potential to negatively impact on my relationships.

When not engaged otherwise I was absorbed by my thoughts and became totally unaware of my environment. So unaware that I stepped on a toothpick. The experience was horrible but it woke me out of my negative stupor and forced me to look at how I was harming myself through holding on to my dysfunctional thoughts.

And so while my foot healed I took steps to heal my mind. In the same way I work with my clients I challenged my thinking, pragmatically explored any benefits my thoughts offered and came to the conclusion that my thoughts could hold me back from having the relationships I wanted and from living the life I desired. It was time for a change.

I am pretty sure that not too many people have stepped on tooth picks while they were caught up in their unhealthy thinking. But there is a good chance that some have tripped over furniture, bumped their heads, dropped important objects and have been totally unaware of the harm they were causing themselves and their relationships by getting lost in a web of negative thinking.

Sometimes a bump or fall or a toothpick in your foot is just an accident- but sometimes it can be a jolt into awareness necessitating a change on your part.

All this awareness is a gift in itself but my toothpick experience enriched my life even more. Daily as I sat with my foot elevated in a chair I felt an enormous amount of gratitude. I thought about all the horrible things that can happen in life and I was grateful that my experience was not one of them.  And each day as my foot slowly healed I felt both relief and an overwhelming appreciation for my life.

Even though I have shared this personal story through my writing it is not something that I would easily share in a counselling session. My story is just a way of expressing the importance of being aware of what we are thinking and how negative thoughts can impact on both body and mind. It is a story about learning and growing no matter who we are.


How To Use Negotiation Skills To Save Your Relationship

In the last article you witnessed how easy it can be to find yourself in a relationship with someone who is practically a stranger. But you also saw how it was possible to take steps to get to know your self and your partner so as to determine whether or not you both wanted the same things from your relationship.

John and Sue-Anne had taken this journey of discovery and realised that even though they had not been aware of this before, there was plenty of potential in their relationship and they had a good chance of building a life together.

There was just one niggling point: John’s non stop playing of computer games. In the past these games had been a source of companionship and support when life got too hard, and he went into shut-down mode. Now they had become an obstacle impeding his way forward in creating a satisfying relationship.

Depending on individual tastes computer games can be replaced by card playing, snooker, You Tube marathoning or endless browsing on the internet. You may be thinking: “Why is this a problem? Even if you are in a relationship are you not entitled to ‘me time?” And of course the answer to this question is “Yes”.

The problem arises when ‘me time’ evolves to all the time, and you and your partner are not sharing any time together. If eventually one partner is totally consumed by their extra curricular activity the other partner may begin wondering why they are in this relationship.

And this is where we find John and Sue-Anne. They had appraised their relationship and had both decided that they wanted a life together. John too had agreed that he wanted to spend time with Sue-Anne, however he was having difficulty doing so.

Fast action was needed to prevent this ‘niggling’ concern escalating into a relationship breakdown.

Even though they had just recently examined their values, wants and needs another review was in order.

Companionship, fun and friends were not high on John’s list but he did own up that these values did have some influence in his life. For Sue-Anne these values were central to her being and she was glad to note that they did play a role in John’s life.

With this awareness that these values were significant to both parties- although not to the same extent- a common ground was established which now opened the door to negotiation.


Negotiation is not limited to some strange trade union interaction aimed at getting a fair deal for workers. It is a communication skill that should be found in all relationship tool boxes. Couples facing similar issues to that of John and Sue-Anne, and even more serious ones, may be able to find some acceptable solutions by working their way through the negotiation process.

The aim of this process is to help couples state their views and demands in a safe non threatening environment, allow them an opportunity to provide proposals and counterproposals, and encourage them to find a solution that can work for all involved, whether this be through a win/win outcome or through compromise.

Mastering Negotiation

Step 1

Before you begin the arduous task of presenting arguments for your case, you and your partner need to determine what resolution you expect from the negotiation process. In your mind you need to establish what would be your best outcome, what would be an acceptable outcome and what would not be acceptable. As you draw your line in the sand and make your stand, you are ready to sit firm on what you want so as to be able to walk away from the negotiation table satisfied with your results.

Step 2

Before any serious talk can begin it is crucial for you and your partner to establish communication guidelines so you will both feel safe to share your thoughts throughout the negotiation process. Some common basic rules include: avoid judgements, name-calling and threats; do not blame or accuse; stick to the facts and avoid using emotional blackmail; keep your language as positive as possible.

It is important to note that the above rules also pertain to your nonverbal communication as you want your body language to be supportive and friendly as opposed to hostile and threatening. Accusing fingers, rigid body posture and closed facial expressions are not conducive to healthy negotiation.

Step 3

You are now both ready to describe the situation as you see it. At this stage you merely want to objectively without emotion explain what you consider to be the concern. Once you are both clear on this and understand each other’s views on the matter you are now ready to leap into the Talk.

Step 4

At this point you are not as yet looking for solutions to the issue but are allowing each other an opportunity to further express the facts as you see them, and voice your own feelings which may have been suppressed so far.

Each of you is given a chance to communicate how important the matter is to you and how important you think it is to your partner.

The outcome you want is tabled and discussion begins to focus on what can be an acceptable solution and what can’t be.

By this time you and your partner have a good idea as to how you each view the situation and how far you are willing to budge from your position. It is now time to work towards a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

Step 5

With insights gained from the discussion you are now ready to start making suggestions, brainstorming options, and being proactive in introducing change. Proposals are made and are answered by another proposal. Suggestions are voiced and then slightly modified by your partner. You agree to some of you partner’s wishes but submit some of your own demands as well.

Step 6

Although ideally it would be gratifying to end all negotiations with a win/win result (and this does happen), a more realistic resolution may be found in compromise. This means that you and your partner both get some of what you each want but not all. A compromise may require both partners taking turns doing something neither enjoy but is necessary; it may be an agreement to respect and accept each other’s differences; or it may be a tit for tat response in which you do something for me and I do something for you.

What is important is that both partners feel that they have been heard, their interests and desires considered and an acceptable solution has been found.

John and Sue-Anne quite easily moved through the negotiation process. They both agreed that the concern was John’s excessive game playing which resulted in little time being spent as a couple.

In a non threatening manner they were able to clearly communicate their wants, state their case and draw their line in the sand. John had no intention of giving up his computer games and quietly insisted that he wanted to spend the priority of his time playing these games, while conceding some weekend time for couple activities.

Sue-Anne had no desire to stop John’s game playing and clearly accepted his need for winding down and enjoying himself. She however did not want to see herself in second place to computer games, and wanted John to shift his priorities so as to spend the majority of his time with her. Their wants were not really that diverse, but at this stage pegs had been placed in the sand and neither John or Sue-Anne was shifting them.

It was only as John and Sue-Anne began to share their feelings and clarify their position in the Talk stage that hope for a mutually satisfactory solution could be viewed as a realistic possibility. There was room to manoeuvre on how much computer time and couple time would be acceptable to both John and Sue-Anne.

Sue-Anne eventually realised that she was more important to John than his computer games, and began to really accept that John had a greater need for ‘me’ time than she did. She saw that it was up to her to find other ways to fill her time and could not depend on John being a constant companion.

John also became aware of how much he did enjoy his time with Sue-Anne and was happy to give up some of his computer playing to explore different couple activities.

Eventually John and Sue-Anne drew up a time table which outlined what each of them planned to do with their time outside of work. Included in this table was  some couple time and computer time that was acceptable to both of them. The plan was always subject to review.

Although this sounds a bit mechanical such a plan can work as couples relax into their relationship knowing that their needs and concerns are important to their partner.

Ideally it would be wonderful if all relationships avoided disagreements and conflict. However this is not the norm. It is therefore crucial for relationships to be equipped with some negotiation skills that can help them find acceptable solutions to those irritating issues that could become destructive if not resolved.

John and Sue-Anne by using negotiation skills had been able to work through the one issue that threatened their newly established relationship. It had taken hard work and time but their relationship was now on track heading in a positive direction.


How To Save Your Marriage By Creating A Relationship

Consider this situation: John and Sue-Anne are both in their late twenties and have been married for 19 months. As a young couple they have had a lot of fun with their friends spending weekends surfing and most evenings at each other’s places.

Just recently their life has entered a transition as their best friends have become parents and are no longer free to share activities with them. And at the same time their other friends have gone their separate ways for various reasons.

Continue reading →

Maintaining And Re Establishing Trust In Your Relationship: Trust- Part 3

Although there are exceptions most couples would agree that for a relationship to thrive and bring out the best in both partners trust is an essential prerequisite. In the previous two articles on trust we have discussed some strategies that if implemented in the early days of your relationship can help create a respectful and trusting environment that will nurture and support your relationship throughout its lifetime.

In order to be realistic in our overview we also, in the second article, discussed some situations in which trust could be threatened and the stability of your relationship consequently undermined.

Now in this last article you will be exploring not only ways to maintain trust beyond the initial bloom of your relationship, but also actions you can take when there are signs that trust is being eroded and your relationship is at risk.

Continue reading →

The Breakdown Of Trust In Your Relationship- Trust: Part 2

After having overviewed basic steps that can be taken to provide a foundation of trust (Trust: Part 1) in your relationship you will now explore a number of common reasons that trust is broken. Some of these may not be new to you.

I like to believe that the trust established at the start of most relationships can go the distance and survive the natural life of a marriage. And of course this is the case for countless couples. However, as evidenced by relationship breakdowns and divorce statistics many couples are unable to withstand the challenges and obstacles that precipitate the demise of the modern day marriage. The loss of trust is one of these challenges.

Continue reading →