Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

We’re coming to the end of mental health awareness week and it’s been a great chance to raise awareness of mental wellbeing as well as ill-health, which is what people often think of.

I wrote a short piece for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy on how not being able to talk about feelings adversely affects men and boys.


Many men have expressed their surprise at how easy it is to talk in the counselling room, given a skilled listener. All too often we take on board cultural messages about men not needing to be listened to, that they should be able to work things out on their own.

Let’s not give our sons these damaging and isolating messages, listen to them, encourage them to open up, to share with trusted friends and family.

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.