Chapter 3: Impact of the job

When more help is needed

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman identified four problematic communication patterns in couples that can lead to divorce if not addressed.


Judgemental communication usually causes defensiveness. Neither partner feels understood or respected and may take these comments in a deeply personal way. Critical statements rather than specific feedback about behaviours are a common way to derail a relationship.   

DefensivenessThe tendency to strike back, rather than tolerate feedback, can worsen a couple’s interactions and breed a situation where no one takes responsibility for their actions.   

Demonstrated through name calling, mocking and demeaning, disdain is perhaps the behaviour most devastating to a relationship.   


This occurs when one partner shuts down communication by not talking or by leaving the room. Giving someone the “silent treatment” can leave them feeling abandoned and dismissed. At the same time, the so called “stonewaller” is often acting out their own sense of feeling overwhelmed and trying to stay calm. The problem is a counterproductive, mismatched communication pattern where neither person feels supported or realizes the impact of their behaviour on the other.


Finding support

If you feel you’re reaching an impasse in your relationship with the paramedic in your life, seek some form of professional support. Consult a marital or family therapist who is trained to work with the stresses of first responders, health care provides, and shift workers. Some family doctors and spiritual care providers may have training in these areas as well.