We’re Separating .. Help!

Separation and Divorce are tough, whatever the circumstances surrounding them. Sometimes a couple come to the decision to part ways together; more often one person makes the decision, and in some cases the other person has no idea their partner is unhappy in the relationship until the point at which they make the announcement they want to leave.

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Usually, adults are trying to make important practical decisions that will impact their future while also managing the strong emotions that are completely normal when we go through big changes in our lives.

You might be okay with your decision to leave the relationship but be confused because you’re finding the other changes around the separation a challenge. Things like the loss of your home, a dual income, your pets, seeing mutual friends, or the status of being ‘a couple’. And when other factors like affairs and looking after children are added into the mix sometimes it can feel like being on a rollercoaster.

When we go through any change there are stages we have to navigate. In the example above someone may have reached the end stage of Accepting that for them the relationship is over but still be right at the start of processing the other changes. Their ex partner on the other hand could be in Shock and Denial that the couple relationship is at an end, but be further ahead in coming to terms with the more practical aspects of the separation. People need different kinds of support as they go through the different stages, and if you feel you’re stuck in one of these stages it’s a good idea to ask for help.

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When ex partners are at different stages in this Cycle of Change practical negotiations can often get stuck, as one or both people bring their hearts to the table as well as their heads. This is why I hear often that mediation has been tried early on and failed because one or both partners just aren’t in the right place emotionally.

The challenge is to get to a place where although a couple relationship has ended, a productive relationship as exes has begun.

Making decisions around your children

In an ideal world parents will still be able to communicate together to make important decisions for their children. The Parenting Plan created by CafCass is a really useful tool that maps out most of the important choices parents have to make during childhood. Printing one out each and considering what choices you would like for your child can be a great way to prepare in advance for parenting discussions. Particularly consider WHERE those beliefs are coming from:
Is it because I had/didn’t have that?
Is that choice relevant/appropriate to MY child’s situation?
What can I compromise on and where can I give ground?

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Mediation can be a good next option when both parents are willing to negotiate but talking together might still feel tricky. Agreements made in mediation can be court stamped if parents believe this is necessary.

Collaborative Law focusses on working together with specially trained solicitors for a mutually beneficial result, and acknowledges that often people need to work through their normal emotional responses to the separation in order to move forward. It avoids the expense, disruption and emotional distress of going to court.

And never forget that however difficult things may be, the best way to look after your children during any kind of stress and disruption is to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Talk to friends, family and / or a counsellor, get exercise, eat well and rest when you need to. Put limits around the emotional energy you give to the situation.

And never forget to hold HOPE for the future. One day the storm clouds will part and you will see the good work you’ve done paying dividends.

More Resources

Sorting out Separation is part of the Government’s help & support for separated families initiative  . https://www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk/

The Parent Connection . Information about parenting after parting . https://theparentconnection.org.uk/

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If You Want Great Sex with a Woman Read This!

zoey-kneesAs a relationship coach and counsellor I think about sex A LOT. I talk about sex all the time with my clients, my colleagues and also (excruciatingly for some) with random people in my life.

Research shows that couples who are constantly exploring ways to make sex more pleasurable are five times more likely to be happier in their relationship and 12 times
more likely to be sexually satisfied.

I can’t speak for my generation but my sex education in the 1980s was poor: what little information there was came with a large side of shame, and (no wonder) by Year 11 I heard reports of girls being sexually assaulted and girls disappearing from class due to teen pregnancies.

So my sexual education came from family, my sexual partners, peers, books and magazines, as well as A LOT of studying academic research papers since I became a relationship therapist. BTW if you fancy a bit of light relief or a cheeky gift for a loved one I’d recommend Bonk, by Mary Roach, a hilarious look at how awful a lot of sex research has been.

And I read about and saw the ‘pornification’ of culture and I worried about how our kids, with no coherent national sex education strategy, are learning about sex from porn. Girls and boys are being told sex isn’t about mutual communication and trust, but about male pleasure, thrusting and violence. And both sexes are suffering. In my practice I speak with couples where ‘normal’ sex means 5 minutes with the lights off, and with young couples where use of porn from an early age has caused premature ejaculation or porn addiction.

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And then along came OMGYES, a sexual pleasure research website. After hearing about the site I was dying to have a good look and I was lucky enough to be offered a preview.

The team behind the site carried out research with more than 2,000 women, aged 18-95, and created a website where real-life women – not actors – share their stories and demonstrate their techniques. Then, users get the chance to practice through touchable simulations.

Because .. different strokes suit different folks ..

The topic has been so taboo that even scientists hadn’t studied the specific, various ways of touching that feel good for different women. I can actually vouch for how taboo because none of the four people I asked to anonymously comment on the website for this article felt comfortable doing so .. just wow!

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OMGYES is for women and the people who love them (approximately 50% of users are female/male). Women can use the site to explore more ways to touch themselves and guide their partners, while partners are adding new, research-based tools to their toolbox.

Fifty videos are organised in 12 sections (pictured above) and for a one off payment you can access the site as often as you like, watching videos in any order and at your own pace. The site also uses tech to the max, with touchable demos where users can practise what they’ve learned (useful if you don’t have a vulva guys!). I found the site ran a bit slow on my (very old) tablet, but on the laptop it was fine.

I was expection the site to be purely about technique, and it was a pleasant surprise to find sections on ‘Framing‘ and ‘Signalling‘ .. those hugely important bits of sex that happen in our brains and come out of our mouths.

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I’ve been recommending this site to clients and colleagues, in fact I might have become a bit of an OMGYes bore, but beauties like this don’t come along every day. I’d recommend it for single women as well as women in a relationship, and when the time comes I’ll be recommending it to my daughter as part of an ongoing conversation about what she should expect from sexual maturity.

To learn more, visit the website at omgyes or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. And tell me what you thought of OMGYes .. email me or contact me through the website.

Mindful Relationships

I was lucky enough to be asked by the lovely people at The Counsellors’ Cafe to write a piece of my choice and I chose Mindful Relationships, because as a practising Buddhist it’s something that I apply to my relationships and to my work as a relationship therapist.

It was fun writing the piece as it gave me a chance to pull out some useful resources for people from the many I’ve collected over the years on being mindful in relationships mindful parenting and mindful families.

Go take a look and let me know what you thought below, or on the Counsellor’s Cafe comments area.

I’m also very excited to be part of the first Mindful Relationships Summit, an online conference from 17 to 21 May 2017 about  how we can create and sustain mindful relationships and embrace love as a spiritual practice. Some of my favourite speakers on mindfuless and relationships like Susan Piver, Rick Hanson and Dr Kristin Neff will be there.

It’s absolutely free and it would be great if you’d consider joining me.

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Relationships Advent Calendar Day 24 . Find Your Airlock

I’m assuming most people are going to be slap bang in the middle of the last day of holiday preparation today .. last minute cards to drop off, ticking items off your to do list, some will still be at work .. and it’s tricky to move instantly from that ‘doing’ state of mind to the ‘feeling’ one we value at home .. so today take 5 minutes to work out what helps you make that transition, maybe a shower when you get home, a run, a 10 minute sit down with a cup of something calming after the kids are in bed, or a 5 minute stretch ..

When you’ve found your ‘airlock’ don’t forget your sweetie .. instead of passing them the baby as soon as they walk in the door because you’re tired (and covered in dried baby rice) give them a big kiss, and some time to decompress when they get home ..

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Relationships Advent Calendar Day 23 . Make an Inventory

So as we know from the kids’ school show Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census .. and today, because advent is a time for taking stock, I’d like you to start a mental tally chart of the good things in your life, and how many are possible because of the love and support of your partner.

Keep adding whenever you think of one today and watch that list grow .. it feels good to know you’re not dependent or independent of each other .. but inter-dependent, two people who support and appreciate each other.

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Relationships Advent Calendar Day 22 . Give of Yourselves

I’m thinking you’re probably right in the middle of the Christmas whirl right now, school holidays, treats, parties, and all that wrapping ahead of you!! But don’t forget there are other ways to give at Christmas, and couples who are altruistic can often be more satisfied in their couple relationship, plus it’s an opportunity to spend time together, what’s to lose?!

So take some time out of your busy schedule, switch off the TV and talk with your sweetie about how you’d both like to give back in the coming year .. if time’s an issue but you’re cash rich how about setting up a monthly direct debit from your joint account to a charity you decide on together?

Or volunteer as a couple for a project, cleaning up your local beach or park, helping out with the National Trust (you can actually get free membership for being a volunteer) .. the possibilities are endless .. and you get to keep the warm Christmas glow for the whole year!!!

And for those of you yet to meet your sweetie, what a great opportunity to meet like-minded people!

What did you do, let me know in the Comments below, or tweet me!

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Relationships Advent Calendar Day 21 . Turn up the Volume

Nothing brings back memories quite like music .. what’s ‘your’ song, what was playing on your first date? Your wedding? Your first Christmas as a family? For most of us there’s a special feeling associated with these tunes ..

So today your task is to find the song or songs that bring back these special memories and share with your sweetie .. have it playing when they walk in from work, call the local radio station and ask them to do a dedication, email a YouTube clip or post it on their Facebook wall .. or, if you have one, play it on your guitar, piano, kazoo etc the next time you see them ..

What did you do, let me know in the Comments below, or tweet me!

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