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

adventTomorrow is the start of December, and it’s so easy at this very special time of year to get caught up with the chores of Christmas, making sure everyone in the family is happy: the cards, the gifts, the cooking .. and put our couple relationship on the back burner till the New Year.

Christmas is a wonderful time, but sometimes the stress can take its toll on our relationships, with many couples seeking counselling 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 your relationship, and to make sure loving each other is part of the run up to Christmas. So here’s my Relationship Advent Calendar”, 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?

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

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.

Want to be reminded of a daily act of love this season? Follow the blog, my tweets or Like my Facebook page and they’ll be delivered direct to you each day.

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

The Truth about Internet Dating

This month I invited Carol Stoker from A Friendly Face introduction agency, to share her experiences around internet dating. She founded the agency after spending a few years becoming frustrated with dating through the internet.

For the rest of your life“Internet dating is a massive business, catering for all sectors of the community and there are thousands of profiles out there. Freedom of choice is great, but there are downsides:

Rejection . Are you prepared for responses like “Not in a million years” and “I don’t date old women”? (I didn’t make these up, unfortunately).

Safety . You’re going on ‘blind dates’ every time you meet someone. You may have ‘spoken’ via email for weeks, but who are they really? TELL SOMEONE when and where you are going. DO NOT divulge personal details (eg where you live) until you have seen them a few times and seen some form of ID. I ask all my clients for a recent utility bill.

Photographs . It has been known for someone to use a picture of her better-looking sister as a profile picture (true story). Or more commonly photos are from five years ago. This is the biggest bugbear amongst internet daters I have spoken with.

They’re Married . If this doesn’t bother you then ok. But be aware of this if you’re joining a dating site to meet someone to spend the rest of your life with.

Time-wasters . The people who email for weeks and never meet up; they’re just passing time sitting on their computers. Or the people who reply, night after night, with short answers… “I’m ok, how are you?” “What you been up to?”

Social Isolation . You realise you never make the effort to go out with your friends and family anymore.

Scruffs . Your date turns up looking as though they haven’t bothered about their appearance, even though you have spent the last hour and a half making sure you look your best because he/she might be ‘The One!’

Friends with Benefits . And lastly, the men or women who meet you, charm you, you get on well with, and they announce at the end of the night all they want is a sex buddy!”

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afriendlyfacelogoCarol meets with members of A Friendly Face more than once, to get to know them and the things they value about a relationship.

The agency has members from all parts of the UK including Scotland, and believes that love isn’t necessarily found on your doorstep.

http://www.afriendlyface.co.uk

@CarolFace12

What do you think? Do you agree with Carol? Have you had any disappointing experiences with internet dating? Would you like some coaching in how to date smarter? I’d love to hear from you.

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.

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.

Acceptance ..

I spend a lot of time reading up on the latest relationship research and debates so you don’t have to. One blog post I read recently suggested a couple ‘really gets married’ somewhere around the 5th year after their wedding. So why, I got to wondering, was this?

One answer comes from Harriet Lerner’s wonderful book Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and The Coupled Up, described as “Required reading for anyone hoping to interact successfully with any other human” .. (a great idea for a wedding gift by the way).

Lerner’s Rule #1 (let’s call it the Uber Rule) is Respect Differences!

In the first, hot, part of a relationship we think our partner is perfect in every way, that we are ‘two halves of the same coin’ and other such sayings. But as time goes on this naturally fades, we become more secure in our friendship and start to really show ourselves. Maybe he really likes nothing more than to sit in his tracksuit pants in front of the football, while she is sulking because he used to take her out for dinner on a Saturday night .. and neither understands why things have changed .. and before long a thousand little niggles have convinced each of them ‘this is the wrong person for me’, or “I love him, but I’m not IN LOVE with him”.

Lerner advises that for a loving relationship to flourish we should not:

“.. get too nervous about differences”, or ..

“.. equate closeness with sameness”, and instead “work on staying emotionally close to a partner who thinks and feels differently than you do without needing to convince or otherwise fix [them].”

When couples can accept and celebrate each other as they truly are the marriage really begins. Which is when she can say “Sweetie, I really don’t get football, but I’m happy you’re enjoying the match”, and he says “Honey, put on your best dress, and when the final whistle goes we’re going out on the town”.

Sometimes getting there needs some independent help, a fresh perspective from an outside source. If that’s what you need get in touch with a well qualified and experienced relationship counsellor who should be able to work with you to achieve your relationship goals.

 

Tell, Be With, Give, Do or Cuddle?

I get a number of relationship blogs delivered to my email Inbox every day, and to be honest sometimes I hit delete pretty fast as I go through them. This morning though, one email caught my eye, and my imagination, and I clicked through to Gary Chapman’s website at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ to see what the fuss was about.

I’d recommend taking a look too and doing the free questionnaire to find your preferred love languages, whether you’re trying to save your marriage, preparing to make a commitment or single. This tool would help in all relationships, particularly with your children and teenagers as they grow and develop their own ‘Love Language’ which may be very different to your own.

It’d be nice if our partners magically knew what we need, and sometimes in the early stages of a relationship it seems that’s the case. But in reality knowing yourself in a relationship is vital to being able to clearly ask your partner for what you need and to make your relationship work. This is a great tool to find out what your partner can do that’ll really make you feel special.

And don’t forget them! Send them the questionnaire and talk about the similarities and differences in your ‘Love Languages’, it might be why they get so much out of a quiet night on the sofa for Date Night, while what lights you up is being read poetry.

Have a go and get in touch to let me know how you get on ..