“Before you act … park your anger!”



I have been married for 28 years so I do understand a relationship can be challenging. Disagreements occur but that wasn’t what got my attention.

What has sparked this post is something that happened the other day. I was at Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction in Sydney. I was approaching the lift to go to the car park. A woman was speaking really loudly and at first, I didn’t even pay attention. I then couldn’t help but pay attention as this stranger got louder and louder. She was standing waiting for the lift with her husband and her two gorgeous small girls in their school uniforms screaming at her husband. 

It was the fact she was announcing to everyone around her that in her eyes her husband was an imbecile. She said to her husband in a controlling manner, “You are so stupid, you can’t get anything right. You are hopeless.” As her voice got more vulgar she appeared happier with herself especially that she was berating him in public. Her husband displayed his emotional pain all over his face, with his head down in shame saying nothing. Their two young daughters seemed oblivious to what was going on as if it was just normal behaviour for Mummy to be yelling at Daddy. It was obvious this man was withdrawn totally removed from the conversation. He was avoiding eye contact completely with his wife. This suggested to me it wasn’t the first time this had happened.

The lift arrived and then the other shoppers and myself got into the lift. Inside this closed restrictive space, we became part of a battlefield. She once again started yelling at her husband whilst we all stood silently in disbelief. She was attacking her husband in the cruellest of ways not only in front of their children but in public. For her, it was no longer about winning the argument but making her husband suffer. Her strategy was to get her way by saying bad things about him and then pretend that she was the one with all the integrity.

This scene replayed constantly in my mind for hours after the event. For a moment, I even understood why men run off with other women. He may be just seeking someone “nice.” But I am not suggesting that is a way to solve a relationship problem. It got me thinking about this interview I did a couple of years ago with Rabbi Gourarie. He lectures on a wide range of topics in Sydney, Australia with special emphasis on Personal Growth and Self Development. I think you will find it very interesting what he had to say and the signs that indicate you are in deep toxic trouble.

Rabbi Gourarie explained that all relationships are essential to the human experience and it is what allows a person to really flourish. It helps them actualise their human potential. I then wondered why are some relationships so Moorish but yet so bad for us? To really understand this we need to understand what is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship is one where there is constant conflict and arguments. To understand this term better one needs to understand the definition of “harmony.”

Rabbi Gourarie says, “Think of an orchestra, with different instruments playing, all the sounds are different but when they are played together they are one magnificent sound.” Rabbi Gourarie stresses it is important in relationships for each of us to be different. Individuality is essential. The key is that we harmonise when we are together. Relationships are not about people moulding into one entity. Relationships are about two individuals who come together who retain their individuality but create harmony.

Rabbi Gourarie had these responses to the following questions:

What is the outcome of Toxic Relationships?

The relationship becomes disrespectful, you begin to doubt each other, you argue with each other and it is a downward spiral from there. This can lead to mental and physical abuse and great harm can be done when one party tries to control the other. A healthy relationship builds someone. A toxic relationship can destroy someone. It is not only destructive to the people in the relationship but also to those around the relationship.

What are the tell-tale signs that a person is disrespectful by nature?

Is there balanced talking and listening when you are together? Did the person actually mindfully listen to you when you had a conversation? How interested is the person in what you do, your background and what interests you? These are signs that the person lacks respect in you, it is all about “them.” Their behaviour is just an extension of their greedy selfishness. In respectful relationships, each person is genuinely interested in the other person. Observe how the person relates to other people. For example, in a restaurant, how does the person speak to the waiter. Some people need to take a bite out of others to make themselves look and feel better. This is all about their lack of self-confidence. Respect for other people generally comes from being secure in one’s own skin. People who are confident and have healthy self-esteem make space for others and this is essential for a good relationship. Respect breeds respect.

What is the basis of a healthy relationship?

Most people will say, love. Love is incredibly critical, it is the glue of all relationships, every relationship needs love, the bonding, closeness and building a strong connection. But, love is not the foundation of a healthy relationship there is something that comes before that and that is respect. The definition of respect means to value the other person as an individual and to protect their individuality. To understand that the other person will be inevitably different to you and will have different views and different ways of doing things. Love can very easily become selfish. There is a very fine difference between selfish love and selfless love. The only way to achieve selfless love is if it’s foundation is respect. Love is a very funny emotion, to love someone you need to be present. It is all about “I love” there’s a very strong presence of the individual. The more “you” love the more you feel the love is there. It’s a self-centered emotion to begin with and that’s why it is an emotion that so easily can become selfish.

Why are people scared to enter relationships?

Statistics don’t help when you have so many relationships ending in divorce but there’s more to it. It’s the approach of how you enter relationships. People enter relationships to satisfy their own needs and we live in a very self-centered world, a very “I” world. The result can be that suddenly the relationship doesn’t suit one’s needs and you don’t like this relationship anymore. It’s too much about serving my “own” happiness rather than “our” happiness.

How will I know if he or she is the right one for me?

Wrong question. Obviously, you look for shared values, compatibility and physical attraction. Normal clichéd comments but the real question is not if this relationship is right for me. The right question is… am I right for it? Am I a respectful person? Am I really ready to have a relationship – that’s the question people have to ask themselves. Relationships need work. It’s inevitable you are going to discover things you don’t like and the only way it gets resolved is to talk about things with respect. Appreciate the differences!

Why are relationships so critical to a person’s wellbeing?

A person without relationships is an incomplete person. Relationships help people go beyond themselves. A real relationship allows an individual to expand their opportunities, perspectives and see other people’s views. A good relationship makes a person larger than they are. It gives one the ability to love the world of another. But, in order to do that first, there has to be respect. So when you have respect then love can easily be selfless. You would never do anything to try and control the other person. You will never attempt to swallow the other person into your world. Rather you will respect their world and equally love their world.

Rabbi Gourarie says, “We live in a very pleasure-seeking world but we have forgotten how to give pleasure to each other!” Everything must be a two way street including respect, love and intimacy. His words are full of wisdom but more than anything he is incredibly interesting. He says we need to play less tennis, spend less time being busy and more time just getting to know each other and respecting each other. Commit to the relationship. Be ready to make room for others and sometimes be prepared to leave yourself behind to truly find love.

My two cents worth on this subject and I don’t profess to be an expert in this field. But being together is the Beginning, keeping together is Progress, and continually working together is Success.

On a final note, I once had the pleasure of interviewing Bettina Arndt. When I was younger she was recognised as the Australian sex guru, she told me, “Friendship is a much better basis for a long lasting relationship.” She joked, “What’s between the ears is often more important than what’s between the legs.” I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, in the best relationships, friendship is … love on fire!

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