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.

8 Ways to Babyproof your Relationship .. after the arrival

The goal is to have a conversation in a way so that you can have another conversation tomorrow . Unknown

babynewsmWhen your baby is born it may feel like it’s your birthday, with lots of attention, gifts and well wishers, but the reality is that looking after a new baby can be hard on your relationship as well as on you individually.

Children are both the best and hardest challenge for a couple, they bring joy and love as well as frustration, anxiety and test parents to their limits. Amidst all this it’s easy to lose track of what brought them here in the first place, your relationship.

Once your baby arrives it’s important to look after yourselves, not just for your own sakes but everyone in the family:

  • Take time out to talk, listen and to have fun together
  • Make time for each of you to be alone, hang out with friends and remember what it’s like to be you, not mum or dad
  • Be flexible, and be prepared to change your approach as your child’s needs develop
  • Be realistic about what you can manage .. Simplify, simplify, simplify!!
  • Avoid being territorial about the baby, share with your partner even if they do things differently to you
  • Be each other’s cheerleaders and point out successes at least once a day
  • Keep an eye on each other to watch for signs of postnatal depression or other indications that you’re finding the adjustment tough
  • Find outside sources of support in your community or online, like mumsnet or http://newdadsnetwork.com to help you through this time

And above all don’t give up, if you feel you need additional help with your relationship contact a specialist relationship counselling organization like Relate or a qualified private relationship counsellor.

With thanks for much of this material to Elizabeth Martyn, whose book Babyshock, is one of a series of books by Relate on maintaining happy and healthy relationships.

babynewWhat do you think? Have you been given any really useful advice about becoming a parent? Are you finding things difficult and would appreciate a confidential place to talk about it?

Get in touch using the form below or using my contact details.

4 Way to Babyproof your relationship .. before the birth

The greatest thing you can do for your children, is love your partner . Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

babybumpsmImagine someone moved in with you, and your partner fell deeply in love with them?

To make things even worse this person screamed every 3 hours day and night, demanded food and took your hard earned money?

Children are both the best and hardest challenge for a couple, they bring joy and love as well as frustration, anxiety and test parents to their limits. Amidst all this it’s easy to lose track of what brought them here in the first place, your relationship.

Whether you chose to become pregnant or not, parenthood is a shared adventure, and it’s a good idea to prepare for it together as much as you can now, while you have the time and energy to devote to it.

  • Take time out to talk about your expectations and assumptions about how things might change in your lives, you may be surprised!
  • Above all practice listening, listen and listen some more!
  • Some things to think and talk about might be: sex, lifestyle, holidays, time together, wider family contact, time for intimacy, how you manage money, work, finding support outside your couple, childcare, any worries about the birth and becoming a parent you might have.
  • What might you have to give up and what do you hope to gain by becoming parents? What are your individual and couple goals and how will having a child affect them in the coming years? What changes can you manage before the birth and what needs to be put off?

If you find talking about these issues difficult you can seek support from a specialist relationship counsellor who will help you, either as a couple or on your own, to prepare for the changes ahead.

With thanks for much of this material to Elizabeth Martyn, whose book Babyshock, is one of a series of books by Relate on maintaining happy and healthy relationships.

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What do you think? Have you been given any really useful advice about becoming a parent? Are you worried about the challenge ahead?

Get in touch using the form below or using my contact details.