Pandemic-proof your relationships

“Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace.” – Edward Hays

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Those who know me also know I love a good challenge, and at this time of year I usually post a daily challenge for couples to reconnect and nurture their relationships.

2020 has been a hell of a year though, so I’ve decided to widen this year’s challenge to include all our relationships. Like it or not we exist in relationship to others, at home, locally, nationally and internationally, and when we take time to approach these relationships with intention we can find great healing and joy.

December is a great time to take stock of our relationships, and to make sure loving each other is part of the run up to Christmas. Those of you who read my posts regularly will know I’m a firm believer in the power of small sustained actions to build and sustain loving relationships.

So I invite you to follow my new and improved Relationship Advent Calendar Challenge, a great way to build acts of love into each day from December 1st, as my seasonal gift to you.

So, what’s a “Relationship Advent Calendar?

A lot of advent calendars are about getting, but this one’s all about giving, because in our relationships we give to receive. Every day in December until Christmas, I’ll reveal a new action to build and sustain your relationship with others and your world.

Subscribe to the blog, follow me on Twitter or Facebook and & get 25 acts of love delivered to your inbox each day, starting on December 1!

I’ll be doing all of these right along with you .. I’d love to hear how you get on ..

#adventchallenge #relationships #wellbeing

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Are you excited about this advent project? Get in touch using the Comments box below or my Contacts details to the right of your screen .. happy adventing!

Christmas-proof your relationship

“Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace.” – Edward Hays

xmasdisaster

Tomorrow is the first day of December, and it’s so easy at this very special time of year to get caught up with the chores of Christmas: the cards, the gifts, the cooking .. and put our couple relationship on the back burner until the New Year.

Christmas is a wonderful time, but sometimes the stress can take its toll on our relationships, with many couples seeking counselling from me after the holiday season, when stress, the family, disappointed expectations (and one too many Baileys) have resulted in relationship melt-down.

December is a great time to take stock of our relationships, and to make sure loving each other is part of the run up to Christmas. Those of you who read my posts regularly will know I’m a firm believer in the power of small sustained actions to build and sustain loving relationships.

So for the third year in a row I invite you to follow my new and improved Relationship Advent Calendar Challenge, a great way to build acts of love into each day from December 1st, as my seasonal gift to you.

And if you haven’t met your sweetie yet .. you’re still warmly invited to take part .. use this time to practise the actions I suggest on your friends and family.

So, what’s a “Relationship Advent Calendar?

A lot of advent calendars are about getting, but this one’s all about giving, because in a relationship we give to receive. Every day in December until Christmas, I’ll reveal a new action to build and sustain your couple relationship.

Subscribe to the blog, follow me on Twitter or Facebook and & get 25 acts of love delivered to your inbox each day, starting on December 1!

I’ll be doing all of these right along with you .. I’d love to hear how you get on ..

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Are you excited about this advent project? Get in touch using the Comments box below or my Contacts details to the right of your screen .. happy adventing!

It’s the thingamyjob!!

When I was a kid my big brother was fascinated by how things worked. Through his open bedroom door I’d see the floor covered in bits of radio, and later on he’d fill the garage with bits of cars and motorbike. He needed to see the component parts and how they worked together in order to understand them properly.

I was the reader in the family, nose always in a book, to the point where my sister and mum would joke they had to remove all reading materials if they wanted my full attention.

Recently I’ve been wondering if we were really that different after all. The way I work is very visual, I use questions to work out how things are working and not working for a couple or in a family and I draw it out in a ‘geneogram’ to get a visual representation of what’s going on and what needs to change. It’s called systemic therapy.

One of my amazing teachers once described the idea of systems theory to me in a way that really helped .. she said:

‘Think of a central heating system. It works great, keeps everyone warm until the day it breaks. We don’t assume the whole thing is broken, we track and check to find which bit of the system isn’t working, and once that’s fixed the whole thing starts running properly again.’

So in a way I’m continuing the good work my brother started, staying curious about how things work, and how to make them work better.

How are you continuing family ways of doing things? How are you different and the same to your siblings?

Fighting for your relationship ..

“If peace cannot be maintained with honour, it is no longer peace”

Lord John Russell (1792-1878)

The most common problem that couples report when coming to me for relationship counselling is arguments that they find difficult to successfully resolve. In other words they’re stuck in a pattern and they need some help to  find alternative ways to deal with it. This might seem daunting, but is usually straightforward enough, with both partners’ effort, to quickly resolve.

The second most common problem, and one which has usually been going on longer than the ‘conflict style’ above, is when a couple come to me and say “We never fight; I just don’t love him / her any more”.

The second style can often be more damaging because it becomes invisible .. couples pride themselves on keeping the peace when in actual fact levels of resentment are rising and both partners are compromising their personal integrity in the interests of “the relationship”. The partner who has an affair because ‘my husband / wife doesn’t understand me’ is often guilty of not opening up enough to allow their partner to understand them because of a fear of conflict.

Contrary to what people with both these conflict styles believe, conflict is actually necessary and healthy for two people in a relationship (and of course within families) in order that individuals be able to express their true selves and to be understood, to maintain clear personal boundaries and to enable growth.

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Something to keep in mind is that both of these conflict styles have an effect on children living around these patterns of behaviour. Research by the Gottman Institute suggests that

” .. parents whose conflicts are characterized by mutual hostility often produce children who are unable to wait their turn, tend to disobey or break rules, or expect others to conform to their wishes.”

While couples whose conflict style involve withdrawal can produce children who are shy, depressed, or anxious.

And of course your children will learn and repeat your conflict style in their own relationships.

To put this learning into practice in your relationship ask yourself which conflict style tends to dominate between you?

If it’s the first practise spotting when you feel the temperature rising in your exchanges (faster breathing, tension, heightened temperature) and taking time out, at least 20 minutes, to let your breathing slow to normal and resume the conversation using only “I” statements, eg I believe / think / feel that ..

If you tend to withdraw from conflict practise spotting when this happens. Again take at least 20 minutes time out to work out what your position is on the issue at hand and return to your partner. Find a good time for both of you to discuss it, explain your position briefly, and calmly, thank them for listening, tell them you would love to hear their side and give your partner some time to process before they get back to you. This will avoid their tendency to ‘cave in’ to avoid the anxiety of conflict.

Both these strategies will feel unnatural at first, but with time and practise will become second nature as you experience the benefits of being understood.

Sometimes getting your relationships moving forward needs an outside perspective. If that’s what you need get in touch with a well qualified and experienced relationship coach who should be able to work together with you to achieve your relationship goals.