School holiday-proof your relationship

do216genres-relationships1200The kids have broken up and we’re heading of on that holiday we’ve been slogging towards since Christmas. We’re looking forward to a rest, being with family and long hot lazy days.

But the reality for most of us is that often we work harder in that last week before a break, the weather will be unpredictable, travel will be problematic, kids will whinge, getting out of our routine is stressful and drinking more alcohol than usual can make us more reactive and more tired and grumpy the next day.

Holidays are great for kids, who grow both physically and emotionally over the long summer holidays, but what about us?

It may be first time you’ve been with your spouse for a while, particularly if you work shifts or on a rota. Take a tip from school teachers, who often take the first week of the holidays to flake out and depressurize. That two week holiday abroad might look restful on the brochure, but how about taking a week at home, with nothing planned, to get to know each other again and destress, before heading out on a shorter adventure?

For those of us who parent with an ex partner the school holidays can feel even more stressful and it’s worth starting to negotiate your child’s schedule as soon as possible. Some parents might have a tried and tested formula for holidays, but remember as your child grows what you agreed for them at three years old might not work at age 13. As kids grow their peers become more important, so taking this into account and building in time to catch up with friends can be really helpful.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, be thoughtful, curious and kind to yourselves, and enjoy this wonderful season.

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It’s your fault!!

2014-02-13 09.28.18 - Copy (1)I was down at the beach last week, the weather’s been so great, and there was a festival or some kind of party going on. I noticed something that stuck with me and I wanted to share it with you.

There’s a food stall that sells amazing barbecue. They also sell alcohol, but as part of their licence you have to buy food in order to order alcohol. So people start buying their cheapest dish, which is a pot of yummy fried potatoes, and then ordering loads of drinks, effectively turning it into a bar type situation.

Now this is out of order, as any British people reading this will appreciate, and could have led to the stall being shut down, but the people buying drinks didn’t put themselves in the shoes of the poor guy running his own small business, they just wanted to drink and party. I would have been pretty peed off if I was him. I would have been tempted to go have a stern word with the party people and get them to accept how rude their behaviour was.

But instead of sending them off with a flea in their ear, or feeling the need to explain to these drunk people how disrespectful they were being, the staff just quietly went to the menu board and removed the potato dish.

It struck me as an elegant way to set a boundary when we can’t trust those around us to overstep the mark. We don’t have to explain, or justify ourselves, when we reinforce a boundary that isn’t being respected, just notice, accept, course correct and carry on.

Birth Trauma Awareness Week 2018

Birth Trauma Awareness Week starts today until July 8 2018.

I have a personal and professional commitment to helping people recognise and manage traumatic birth experiences having been through a traumatic birth.

I often ask my clients about their birthing experiences and have heard their surprise at being asked. A common response is ‘Well you just get on with it don’t you ..’ Partners say ‘Well she went through it, I just watched’. In reality the trauma of emergency intervention or seeing the person you love in peril and feeling powerless to help can stay with you and cause flashbacks, ongoing panic or depression.’

Just talking things through afterwards and in a safe space can be hugely helpful for men and women alike. It’s also worth considering ante natal counselling for future pregnancies.

The Birth Trauma Association says on its website: “Each year, up to 20,000 women and their birth partners go through a traumatic birth experience and suffer the often long-lasting impact this has on their physical and mental health, their ability to bond with their baby and their relationships with their family and friends.

Many women and their partners who have been through birth trauma are left feeling isolated, unable to share their experiences and talk openly about what has happened to them. “

Last year, Birth Trauma Awareness Week brought the subject of postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder out into the open and gained widespread media attention. The Association will be holding Twitter chats each evening from Monday July 2 to Friday July 6 on subjects relating to birth trauma as well as launching new videos of women talking powerfully about their traumatic births.

Other resurces

Unfold Your Wings . Hope, Support and awareness for Birth Trauma and Perinatal PTSD

Sands . We operate throughout the UK, supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby, working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

Taking Stock

I wanted to share with you a great habit that I was taught to carry out at the turn of the year, and which has served me well .. which is reflecting on what happened in the past year and how I handled it.

I love the quiet time in between Christmas and New Year and I made a commitment to myself a while ago to take this time for myself, for quiet enjoyment of the season, the weather, and taking a look back over the past twelve months.

Life has a habit of throwing the unexpected in our way, however well we plot and plan our lives, and often I’ll be surprised at the things that happened that I could never have predicted the year before. Sometimes these are wonderful and sometimes less so: in examining how I responded I find clues to who I am and how I’m showing up in my life and others’

So maybe you’d like to join me. Carve out a little space for yourself in the next few days to ask these questions:

What happened in this past year that I could never have predicted?

How did I respond? Was that helpful to me and those around me?

Who was important to me in the past year?

What one thing would I have liked to be different?

What would I like to do differently in this coming year?

I’d love to hear your thoughts .. do you have any other questions you’ve found useful?

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 1 . Forgive for 5 minutes

Happy December .. and welcome to the first day of this challenge that we’ll be carrying out together in the days leading up to Christmas!!

Today is about preparing the ground for the month ahead. Holding on to hurt from the past can prevent us from enjoying our present .. so today take some time to think about someone who hurt you in the past, breathe deeply and send them forgiveness for 5 straight minutes. #adventcalendar

Forgiveness is a funny thing, ideally it takes remorse and taking responsibility from the person who hurt us as well as the willingness to let go on our side. Sometimes though the other person either won’t, or maybe can’t ask for forgiveness if they’re no longer in our lives .. this exercise isn’t for them, it’s for us to be able to let go of that hurt just a little bit more ..

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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.

Lotus