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?

Getting Ready for Summer?

Like many parents I have mixed feelings about the summer break. On one hand I look forward to family time, but on the other there’s an extra load of managing childcare, managing expectations and making sure everyone HAS LOTS OF FUN!!

Which of course is unrealistic, so when I notice this is happening instead of putting pressure on myself to rush around making everyone happy I’m making an effort to be more mindful about my own self talk, and reaching out to the others in my family to work out what’s possible.

The lovely people at Select Psychology asked me to write a blog post about preparing for the summer holidays, and you can find out what I suggest by having a look at what I wrote for them.

Let’s talk MORE about sex

I was still a little sleepy when I got a call from BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday morning, asking me to talk about the sex survey featured by the BBC on whether Britons are having less sex. Now there’s nothing I enjoy better than being asked to talk about sex on national radio so of course I jumped at being given the opportunity.

Because from the conversations I have with others, either in the therapy room or with friends and family, I see that we are not talking enough about sex. My take on this is if you can’t talk about sex with someone, it’s probably not a good idea to be having a sexual relationship with them.

Sex is communication of course, a wonderful way of talking with our bodies, but it’s not enough, and it’s too easy to miscommunicate, to get our wires crossed.

It made me chuckle when Nicky Campbell admitted to blushing when he was reading out listeners’ texts and tweets about their wonderful sex lives, because I remember clearly sitting in my training with the Relate Institute pushing through that discomfort of asking people about sex. I remember sitting in a counselling room at Relate asking couples the first few times about their sex lives and blushing furiously.

But soon I saw that talking about sex was a relief and a release. Starting to support people in sharing what they wanted and needed from each other in their closest moments, seeing the changes, made me realise that it’s more embarrassing NOT to talk than to talk about our desires, what turns us on, where we like to be touched, how we like to be touched.

If you’re interested the BACP wrote a little summary of the piece here.

So, today, right now , whether you’re single or coupled up .. ask yourself .. what do I want, what do I need from my sex life, and who can I share my thoughts with?

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.


We Don’t Talk Anymore

In the first flush of romance, we share all sorts of information together. In fact, on our first few dates we often talk until the wee small hours of the morning.

Then after the ‘honeymoon’ period we often feel like we’ve shared everything we can. And we start to fool ourselves we know all there is to know about the other person.

This usually leads the glue that holds a relationship together to weaken. To find that bond again it’s important to remain interested:

a) in our partner

b) in life and learning

c) in sharing our life and experiences

When I say that going out on a date once a week is important and that you must go as a couple, no other people, that there is to be no discussion about work or your children, couples often gasp in horror!

They ask ‘but what would we talk about?’

One of the best ways to do this is to ask questions that elicit answers which give you better insight into each other. Questions that make you think deeply about your own and each other’s feelings and values.

These questions are compulsory when you are thinking of entering a relationship – you really do need to find out what the person is REALLY like. They’re also a way to find out how this changes over your time together.

And believe me, it will.

It’s OK to be different – that’s what keeps the interest and excitement there.

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Tackle just a few questions at a time. Explore the answers in depth – answer questions that are triggered by the initial one.

If you’re not in a couple, you can modify these questions to use with your children, family or friends.

Remember, this is a game of exploration – have fun!

Some Rules

Rule 1: You need to both be relaxed and comfortable with this ‘game’

Rule 2: Make sure you have enough time to be patient and really hear the answers

Rule 3: When your partner is speaking, be aware of your breathing – keep it deep and even. The second you become aware of holding your breath, you have stopped listening and are falling into the trap of reacting

Rule 4: No judging! Accept that if the other person is talking about their feelings they are ‘right’ whether you agree or not

Rule 5: When your partner is answering a question, give them time to explore their emotions and thoughts – if it’s not your turn, shut up and keep breathing! You may find this harder if your partner is used to thinking out loud

Rule 6: If you know you tend to ramble, show respect for your partner by practising keeping your focus

Rule 7: Do not use this time as an opportunity to ‘get back at’ your partner

Rule 8: Tell the truth. If you don’t want to answer a question let your partner know you need to think more about the question, and promise to answer it at another time

Rule 9: Once you’ve waited for the other person to finish speaking, look down, nod and count to five before you start to speak

Rule 10: To clarify your understanding you may wish to repeat what they have said in your own words and ask them if that is what they meant

Rule 11: There is no competition in this game, and if you play fair you’ll both win!

Select any question randomly:

If you had a million dollars what would you do?

How important are birthdays and anniversaries to you? Why?

What is romance for you?

Tell me about en exciting moment in your childhood.

How do you define intimacy?

What is your idea of a good sexual relationship?

What do you consider sexy?

What is something you really like about your relationship / your personality / your looks / yourself / your partner / your family / your parents / your children / your job / your best friend

How do you like to non verbally tell your partner you love them?

If there was one thing you could do that would change the quality of your home /work / sex life what would it would be?

What is one feature or aspect of your behaviour or personality you would like to change?

What is acceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour from your partner?

What is the funniest moment together you can remember?

Is there anything you have been wanting to share with me but don’t know how? Is now a good time?

What motivates you to work?

What is your purpose in life?

2 stones on beach

How do you like to give love?

How do you prefer to be shown love?

Do you have goals in your life? What are they?

How is our relationship different now from your courting days? Or the early days of our relationship? Why do you this this is?

Are you a generous person? Why?

What does being ‘thoughtful’ mean to you?

Who have been your greatest teachers in your life?

Is there anyone you need to forgive or make peace with in your life? Who and why?

What is your concept of foreplay?

Is your style to fight, flow or flee in the face of stress?

Are you true to yourself? What does that mean to you?

Tell me about your day?

Tell me five new things you would like to learn before turning forty / fifty / sixty?

What new food would you like to try? Would that be by going out or staying in?

Finally, don’t forget to tell your partner how much he/she means to you and about all the ways their love and presence has enriched your life.