Confrontation is hard … but it is the quality of the ‘repair process’ that really matters


Last night we had a bust up in our kitchen.  As I was putting a younger child to bed, I could hear our adolescent children arguing over whose turn it was to wash up.  

They are older now, the voices are louder and more powerful.  

Arguing can be both frightening and exhausting to be around.

For me, arguing triggers me back to my childhood.  

In my childhood experience, my father often argued, particularly when someone disagreed with him.

I adored my father so much.  But when there was arguing, I would move from feeling so safe in his big farmer arms, to incredibly frightened.  It was as if this shift, would happen instantaneously, within a hare’s breath.

My mother’s solution was to sit quietly and not fuel the fire.  However for me, it felt like no-one was there to protect me from the power of his fury.

I felt very unsafe and alone.

It felt unbearable.

Learning how to work through differing views is a key skill in life.  

Last night, I was letting the older children argue it out.

I could hear them getting more and more upset with one another.

Their respective points of view, both quite unreasonable.

The increasing volume, the lack of resolution, the absurdity…I am not sure what it was…but I lost my ground.

Again for me, it became unbearable.

I intervened.

Parent error 101.

I should know this by now.

I work as a therapist for goodness sake.  I have been a parent for way too long now.  And I have done years of my own therapy around the impact of childhood trauma.

However at my intervention, this time, one of the teenagers confronted me.

My teenager let me know, the pair of them had nearly worked it out and that they didn’t need my help, that they were ok.

My teenager let me know that I was only making it worse, by intervening.

This time, I could hear their argument, not as heartless fury, but as a plea to let the siblings find their own way in relationship

This time I could acknowledge their words

This time I could step back

I didn’t need to protect them from each other

From their perspective it was not unbearable

They have the skills to work through differing viewpoints

This was theirs not mine

I let them know, I realized I had made an error and that I was leaving the space

When everyone had some time to calm down and re-find their feet ...

I invited further conversation 

We unpacked what had happened between us

We shared how we felt

We acknowledged our weaknesses and our strengths

We acknowledged what we needed to initiate repair in the relationship

We agreed we needed:

  • To have courage to speak
  • To be met in our truth
  • To feel safe enough to do it
  • To have space to calm
  • To be prepared to show up
  • To be prepared to own our stuff
  • To know that underneath all of this is the foundation of deep and unerring love

Learning how to work through differing views is a key skill in life.  

How we initiate repair after a disagreement is where the strength in a relationship is really made.

If there is someone in your life that you really care about, but with whom you struggle in confrontation

In a calm moment, perhaps consider having some conversations around, what you individually need for yourself and from each other, to come back together

More often than not repair will require the majority of the elements listed above

Recognising that each person is unique, ask each other what would enable these elements to be present in your repair process

For example, to find space to calm, some may need some time on their own and for others it may be conversation or physical contact

Considering each other’s needs, develop a plan that you agree to refine

Confrontation is hard yet inevitable in relationship 

But it is the quality of the ‘repair process’ that really matters

What do you do to keep the relationships that are important to you, strong in your life?


Navigating relationships as a family or as a couple can seem impossible at times.  If you are struggling, perhaps consider talking to someone.  

 For family therapy or couples counselling please contact us at 03-9532-4567 /


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(Trained as a relational whole-body focussing oriented therapist, Sarah Sacks is an experienced relationship counsellor, who specialises in working in supporting people through periods of transition.)


Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV