Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 7 . Surprise Surprise

It’s good to be shifted out of our routines .. when you first met you’ll have talked and laughed and tried new things together, but once the relationship matures it’s easy to do the same things day to day. Research shows doing new things together stimulates us to feel affection and encourages us to communicate more.

So surprise your sweetie today .. with breakfast in bed, do a chore for them, a surprise gift, a special night out/in ..

Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 6 . Tell All

The number one thing couples ask for when I meet them for the first time is improved communication. What they often mean is how to disagree in a more graceful way, but also when a relationship goes wrong what is missing is a sense of appreciation for each other.

Research shows that 5 positive interactions to every 1 more difficult interaction serve to strengthen our bond and make disagreements easier to manage.

So get into good habits .. Tell your beloved what they did to make you happy today.

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 5 . Get physical ..

Touch is sooo important in feeling connected, holding hands, being close, a hug .. and all too often I hear couples saying they don’t touch in affectionate ways any more because one of them is nervous it might be seen as a bid for sex.

Treat your sweetie to a shoulder rub today, and if this is an issue for your couple make it clear in advance that a shoulder rub MEANS just that, nothing more.

Or ju

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 4 . Get texting

Maybe you text your sweetie all the time, but how many of those messages are about your relationship, especially if you’re managing a family together. Using all the opportunities to communicate our love and appreciation is vital in order to stay connected in the face of multiple responsibilities.

Text your sweetie you miss them today, even if it’s just from the shed!

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 3 . Be Complimentary

It’s lovely to hear something nice about ourselves .. and how much nicer when it’s coming from someone we love. Find a reason to compliment your beloved today, whether it’s how they look, what they do or how they do it.

#adventcalendar #relationships #relate

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 2 . Give thanks

Sharing gratitude is so important in our relationships and it’s such a shame that it so often gets lost in the busyness of our everyday lives. Stop and think how you might feel if someone thanked you for something you do every day at work for example .. now .. does it feel good?

Your challenge is to give your partner the gift of gratitude today .. Thank your sweetie for something they do for you today, or simply for being who they are.

Notice the difference that one small action makes, and consider making gratitude a bigger part of your relationships.

#adventcalendar #relationships #marriage #couples

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5 Principles to a Stronger Relationship

Thanks to David at Select Psychology in Tynemouth who asked me to write a short piece for their website for Valentine’s Day. I thought it was the least I could do in recognition of all the fresly brewed coffee and teapigs green tea he lets me drink there!

I’ve seen many couples for relationship therapy over the years: some have managed to part with a better understanding of why they found it so difficult to sustain a loving relationship, while many leave grateful for the opportunity to deepen their relationship and move to the next level of togetherness as a result of facing difficulties.

I’m a Relate trained therapist, and also a big fan of the Gottman Institute’s work in researching thousands of real couples since the 1970s (https://www.gottman.com/about/research/) as I believe it’s important to base therapy on a sound evidence base. I’m a bit of a relationship geek and actually enjoy reading research papers!

Four of the principles from the Gottmans’ work that I find myself using all the time are included in their book ‘The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work’ and their ‘Sound Relationship House’, both of which can be easily found online.

69% of conflicts go unresolved: not every disagreement has to be worked through and many successful couples never address 69% of these. Make it a rule to consciously choose which conflicts are worth working on together and which are not important.

5:1 ratio: often when couples come to see me they’ve become frustrated because in trying to improve the relationship they’ve got to a point where every interaction is negative. This is an easy trap to fall into because humans naturally focus on problem solving, but research shos that every negative or problem solving statement needs to be balanced by at least five positive ones. I think of it like vaccinating your relationship in advance of the bugs of life!

Love Maps: often when we date we stay up all night talking and finding out about our partner, but when things become more familiar we forget our partner is changing all the time. Making time to find out how their day went, whether their favourite colour has changed, where they would love to go on holiday helps to build a shared foundation for togetherness.

Turning Towards, not against or away: when conflict calls there are two really unhelpful ways to manage things, you can fight, or you can run away. The only successful way of managing differences of perspective in a relationship is to turn towards each other in calm moments and find ways to speak and hear each other respectfully and with empathy.

In addition to these, in ‘Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life’ Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf write about the relationship as being the ‘third body’ that needs to be nourished. I prefer to think of a relationship as a garden that grows between two people. If one (or both) parties neglects the garden then weeds and pests will quickly invade the space and take over, but if both people make space and time to cultivate their shared garden it will flourish and grow as they would wish.

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Armele Philpotts is a relationship and family therapist working at Relate and privately in the North East of England. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Family Therapy

Calling Scottish Couples

I had to blog about Relationships Scotland’s current project: they’re looking for couples to take part in a couple counselling documentary.

The charity say on their website .. “.. we are interested in dispelling myths about relationship counselling and, where appropriate and with permission, telling the real life stories of the couples we support.”

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Relationships Scotland are working with Zodiak Media on a new six part series following couples through the process of relationship counselling.

They plan to look at the very different issues that bring people to couples therapy, with couples across age groups and in different stages of their relationships, with the intention of removing stigma around couple counselling. Hopefully the project will show that therapy is something many couples could consider to improve their relationship before it reaches crisis point.

Both of these goals are hugely important: statistics and my experience suggest that if many couples accessed counselling earlier they would save themselves a lot of money and heartache by looking at making small changes that would make big differences in the quality and trajectory of their relationships. I personally am a strong believer that universal funding for short courses of relationships education and therapy at key stages, like high school, making a commitment, having a baby, moving to an empty nest and retirement would improve wellbeing throughout our nation now and for future generations.

Relationships Scotland’s next step is to find appropriate Scottish couples willing to discuss the opportunity further – they stress that there is absolutely no commitment at this stage.

If you would like an informal chat about taking part please email Ross McCulloch, Head of Communications at Relationships Scotland, ross.mcculloch@relationships-scotland.org.uk or call 0845 119 2020.

I’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for the documentary when it comes out. What do you think, will this project be realistic and / or useful?

Babyproof your Relationship

Becoming parents is a marvellous time for many couples, and for others it can be rough, even leading to relationship breakdown.

birth and baby basics The lovely Janine Rudin over at Birth and Baby Basics asked me to write a couple of articles on preparing your relationship for the birth, as well as ideas on how to manage things afterwards.

Janine is an inspiring antenatal teacher, doula, baby massage instructor and postnatal educator, who’s been providing a unique combination of professional support and services from pregnancy through to life as a young family on Tyneside since 2008.

I’m lucky enough to be a mother, but when my baby arrived it was by no means plain sailing. At times it felt like my husband, new baby and I were in a tiny boat on very stormy seas. We had very little support close by at that time and I suffered from post-natal depression. Eventually my marriage broke down, which at the time was really tough, but gave me the motivation to heal, as well as learn how to help others who might be in a similar position.

Go and take a look at Janine’s fab Birth and Baby Basics website and see what I wrote here .. and here.

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I would love to hear what you think about becoming a parent? Did you struggle? Any tips? Any hopes or worries you’d like to share?

Do get in touch by Commenting below or using my Contact details to speak direct.

Gratitude

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

Something often missing with couples who are experiencing difficulties is gratitude. It’s easy to take for granted all the little things our partners do for us every day and focus on the things they do wrong, the dishes in the sink, the unmended cupboard door .. but what if we take a moment to think about all the things they are doing right?

Since 2000 scientists have been finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
More joy, optimism, and happiness
Feeling less lonely and isolated

Gratitude has two key components: firstly it reminds us that there are gifts and benefits we’re consistently receiving from our partner and those around us.

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, writes “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”

The second part of practising gratitude is to express it, to acknowledge the other people who give us so many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives each day.

November is Gratitude Month, and I will be marking each day of this month by keeping a gratitude journal, noting down something different each day and meditating on it.

To start your gratitude practise, take just a few minutes each day to think of at least one thing you’re grateful to your partner for .. take note, some days this will be easier than others! ;-D

Once you’ve got this down find creative ways to let your partner know how much you appreciate what they do .. a hug and a thank you, or a note left in their lunch box to find at work?

This can also be a good exercise when you’re frustrated with your spouse and about to explode! Take some time out to remember what they do for you, and when you’re ready to face them start off by reminding them how much they do, before letting them know that broken cupboard door is driving you crazy!

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I love to hear what you think about the topics raised in my blog, and how you apply these in your life. Do leave Comments below or get in touch using my Contact details.