Valentine’s Day – you either love it or you hate it. Years ago as a uni student my boyfriend (now husband) had a job for a few years on Valentine’s Day delivering for a group of local florists. Not surprisingly it’s a florist’s busiest day of the year and they need all the help they can get to keep up. I worked with him as his navigator and runner and the area we were allocated covered a huge industrial estate full of small to medium sized factories and warehouses (navigating was tricky!).
The target of our deliveries were mostly the receptionists and other admin staff (the occasional shop floor mega embarrassed in front of his mates guy), but mostly young women receiving flowers and chocolates and stuffed teddy bears from boyfriends and sometimes secret admirers.
Reactions were priceless – from embarrassed and shy to positively gloating. Regardless each one of these women were touched deeply by the gesture and...
The other day in a session with one of my couples, I admitted that something they were struggling with, my partner and I struggle with often. And she said "wow I thought relationship therapists had it all sorted!
That made me think perhaps other's out there think the same thing...so I am here to smash that bubble and confess that my relationship is not perfect! Ha Ha!
Everyday I work with couple's on strategies: tips and tools and processes to help them make their relationship one they actually want to hang out in. But what often goes unsaid is that just because I know this stuff through my years of training doesn't mean I never have to use it myself - in fact the opposite is true. I have practised this stuff the hard way, just like my clients, in my own relationship.
So here is confession # 1 - I struggle with maintaining a positive perspective sometimes.
I gave up perfectionism years ago but that has not changed the fact that my partner and I sometimes have...
Why is it that family gatherings can bring out the worst in people? Well things can really go downhill when any of what relationship expert, John Gottman’s 4 horsemen show up. The 4 horsemen of the apocalypse: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are behaviours that in relationships spell doom (hence their name!)
The 4 horsemen have no place at holiday dinners so don’t bring them with you. Remember you cannot change other’s behaviour – you are only responsible for yourself. And wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone left their 4 horsemen at home!
Criticism: That throwaway comment about your hair colour or weight or job or anything else for that matter that feels like having a dig is criticism. You may have a family member that feels it’s their duty to point out your flaws so you can (in their mind at least) improve and better yourself.
If you are that family member STOP. Find something that you...
The holiday season is approaching and it can be a hard time of year for some – perhaps facing the first holiday without someone special or going through a personally hard time with something in your life. But even if all is going great right now, wherever you are at, everyone needs what I call a Joy List.
A Joy List is simple. It is a list of a minimum of 10 things that nurture you and bring you joy. And there is only one rule and that is everything on the list you need to be able to do or facilitate for yourself. For example, having someone bring you breakfast in bed might bring you joy but it can’t go on the Joy list because that item would rely on others to succeed. The Joy list must contain things you can pick off and do solely for and with yourself. So, a better item for the list for example would be a walk through a local park – simple.
It is your list so the things on it must be your own instant mood lifters. If you are...
The concept of an emotional bank account has been talked about by many relationship experts. It is the idea that between partners (or actually between anyone who has an emotional relationship such as parent/child etc) there is an account like a bank account you would keep your money in, but it is for all that stuff you can’t actually physically touch – like actions and words. When you do something kind or say something loving you make a deposit in the emotional bank account and when you do something negative like harsh words or cold silences (or even bigger hurts) you make a withdrawal.
Sounds fair enough but here’s the catch – unlike money which is dollar for dollar equal, that is you take a dollar out you only need a dollar to put back in to get back to the same balance. With emotion, research has shown you need a minimum of 5 acts of kindness to counter 1 negative. So you can criticise your partner 20 times a day but you would then...
Conflict, in any relationship, between 2 different people who share the same space is pretty much inevitable. Listening to my teenage daughters this morning “negotiate” the use of the shared electric toothbrush base as they both had minutes to get out the door for their ride to school, I could hear the frustration levels rise as they tried to come to an arrangement that worked for both of them. These are the little things that couples are negotiating daily.
The issue is not whether these little things (or the big things for that matter like kids, sex, chores or in-laws etc…) cause conflict or not – it is whether they can be resolved without hurting each other or the relationship.
Most people when asked would say they don’t like conflict and in fact what conflict does, particularly in our intimate relationships is take us to a place that can feel very unsafe. Because no one really likes feeling unsafe we develop ways of avoiding...
Remember when Gwenyth Paltrow coined the term "conscious uncoupling" for her divorce from Chris Martin?
Looking at marriage in Australia (and very similar in other OECD countries) over the past 20 years according to the ABS:
Things that haven’t changed:
Spring is still the most popular season to tie the knot
75-80% of us live together before marriage
Around 40% divorce rate
Of the marriages that end in divorce, 50% end in separation by the 8th year of marriage
Around 50% of all divorces involve children under 18 years
Things that have:
We are 3 years older at first marriage than we were 20 years ago (27 to 30 for men and 25 to 28 for women)
20 years ago you were more likely to be married by a minister of religion (56%) now 74% of marriages are done by a civil celebrant
We take a year longer to move from separation to divorce from 3 years to 4 years now.
The reality is that as you enter marriage today in Australia, you will be a little older than those...
Some time ago my local radio station polled listeners on the question of who comes first: self, partner or children? A spread of men and women answered and while a couple of people said self, the majority said children and no one that I heard said partner!
So what is the answer to that question? A simple answer for me would be self, partner and then children. But it is not that simple - it is really a case of trying to pick the first among equals. Day to day, in the moment, those with the highest needs tend to get prioritised so it makes sense that most people would say children – they demand our focus and rightly so. It is our job as parents to meet those needs and then teach and empower our children to meet them for themselves so they can grow up. But there are consequences to not also prioritising ourselves and our partner in all of this.
So my rationale for my simple answer is this. Self first is on the basis that if you...
Recently I came across this quote from Oprah Winfrey: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never have enough." The more gratitude and appreciation we can bring into our lives the happier we become. That extends to being grateful for the people we have in our lives. I see gratefulness and appreciation as a habit - something you need to consciously practice every day to become good at it and make it part of the way that you see your life.
To help you develop the gratitude and appreciation habit, I am going to share with you an exercise in Gratitude and Appreciation I have adapted from a book by Joyce and Barry Vissel called The Heart's Wisdom. Joyce and Barry have a beautiful and loving perspective on relationships that shines through in their work and the many books they have written about their own successes and at times struggles in creating a loving...
We develop defences to protect ourselves from all kinds of real and imagined pain that we have experienced over our lives. How impenetrable they are will be related to just how much we have had to defend ourselves in the past. Part of the attraction in the early stages of romantic love is that “falling in love” makes us feel like we don’t need our defences anymore. We feel we have finally found someone with whom we can be totally ourselves and our defences come down. As the relationship moves on, inevitably reality creeps in and our partners reveal themselves to be human after all and with being human comes the capacity to disappoint and cause pain. And the defences come back out again.
Defensiveness is one of John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. The others are criticism, contempt and stonewalling. These Four Horsemen, if present in a relationship are the strongest predictors of relationship demise.
Defensiveness looks different for...