Category Archives: Couples

Is Your Partner Still Friendly With Their Ex?

Worried about your partner’s relationship with his ex?

This happens to a lot of people – their partner is still friendly with his/her ex. Some people are fine with this but others hate it and see it as a threat. What do you think about it?

It’s natural to assume something is going on if your partner is still friends with their ex (or exes) but try to bear in mind that a lot of people find it a perfectly healthy situation, especially as a lot of breakups are filled with drama so staying friendly can be seen as a bit of an achievement.

However, not all such friendships are healthy, especially if some feelings are unresolved and one person hopes there’s a chance that they’ll get back together.

In general (and this might not apply to you and your partner) it’s okay if:

  • Both of them have clear boundaries – for instance, they don’t keep texting one another every day or expect the other one to change plans for them.
  • They share a lot of mutual friends and there’s a good chance that everyone will meet up and some point.
  • Your partner and their ex actually started out as friends anyway – It’s often easier to go back to being friends then.
  • They have children together – being on friendly terms is better for everyone concerned, but particularly for the children.
  • They work together – it’s better if they’re on friendly terms when they’re working and it might be impossible for them to avoid one another in the working environment, besides which, it’s difficult for other colleagues if there’s an ongoing atmosphere.
  • If they broke up years ago and have redefined their relationship so that they can meet up as two people who get on well but have no desire to get back together.

But what if it’s not like that? For instance, it’s not okay if:

  • Your partner turns to their ex if he/she is having a hard time with you. It’s unhealthy and disloyal because turning to their ex can become a habit – one which you probably don’t want to encourage!
  • Their ex is having a hard time letting go or moving on. That’s not healthy for anyone involved.
  • Your partner and their ex don’t include you – in that case, trust your gut instinct and speak up about it. They may say that it’s alright and call you ‘jealous’ or ‘paranoid’, but if you feel that something’s going on behind your back, it’s putting a strain on your own relationship.
  • If their relationship was unhealthy anyway, staying in touch as friends can prove to be quite toxic for everyone concerned.
  • Their ex isn’t happy about the relationship you now have with him/her. Maybe they’ve said nasty things about you and shown a lack of respect, in which case it’s not healthy for your partner to remain in contact.

So, basically, it’s fine for people to be on friendly terms with their ex, but it’s easy to cross the line, so if something is making you feel uncomfortable, speak up and be honest about your feelings. Communication between you and your partner is the key to your relationship becoming stronger and more committed as time goes on.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Starting To Feel Old?

I have just seen a post on Facebook which quotes:

‘The older you get the more you realise that you have no desire for drama, conflict or any kind of intensity. You just want a cosy home, good food on the table and be surrounded by lovely people who make you happy.’

My first reaction was – yes, but is it really that simple? In our western culture it seems that even as we age a lot of us still want a lot more than that. It’s not enough to have a comfortable home, enough food and friends – a lot of us strive to look youthful and catch up on the things we feel we missed out on in our youth. In addition, there is a perception that ageing is depressing because we lose so much, hence the clamour for youth-enhacing potions, treatments and clothes. Image is very important now and many people strive for a more youthful look. Some of the connotations of age are clear in the language we use about older people, in particular women. For instance, the phrase”little old lady” is bandied around and although it’s often said fondly, it also picks up on the fact that because of bone degeneration most of us are smaller in old age than in our youth. By putting older females into the same category, it doesn’t allow for any individualism.

It’s quite possible that the media’s portrayal of ageing has influeced society’s views regarding an ageing population. News items, television, advertising and films often feature stereotypes that emphasise the ‘burdens’ of growing old. Negative language reinforces attitudes to growing older and then by extension to population-ageing. If people repeatedly hear that older people are useless and non-contributing members of society, they may well start to perceive themselves in that way. In addition, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Traditionally, the care of elder members of a family was the responsibility of other younger family members within an extended family environment. However, this is often no longer the case in the UK and increasingly, care is provided by the state or by using the older person’s savings.

According to  research (Cox, Abramson, Devine and Hollon. 2012), the elderly are at risk regarding depression simply because there is a lot of prejudice about ageing. People who held more ageist attitudes when younger, turn these prejudices inward when they become elderly themselves. However, other research carried out by University College London found that on the whole, ageing can be a very positive experience for a lot of us. The interesting facts about this study by Edlira Gjonca were:

  • On the whole, wealth doesn’t affect peoples’ experiences and perceptions of growing older.
  • The future status of their health is a very important concern for most people.
  • Wealthier people are likely to say that old age begins later and middle-age ends later, independent of their gender or age.
  • Most people would like to be younger than their actual age (do we know anyone who thinks otherwise?!).

I think most of us would add to those facts by saying that one of the most important things about ageing is to feel that you’re still needed but most of all, you’re loved – either by family, friends or animals. If we feel loved, we’re blessed and no amount of money can replicate that, whatever our age.

If you feel fearful about ageing or are feeling particularly lonely and isolated taking positive steps to make the most of your life right now, even if it’s particularly restrictive due to Covid-19, may help. Accessing online courses or planning for some treats in the months to come will distract you if the thought of getting older is  getting you down. Counselling might  also help as you can talk about your concerns with someone who’s trained to listen without judgement and work out some coping strategies.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

What do you want to do ?

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“I Feel So Lonely…”

Living through the last few months has highlighted how we live and work as well as throwing up a lot of financial challenges. One thing that has hit a lot of us more than usual is a feeling of loneliness, even more acute than it might have been before Covid-19. Some people choose to be alone and can live very happily without a lot of contact with other people.                                                                                                                                            But loneliness can hit most of us sometimes, whether you’re young and feeling cut-off from your friends, in your middle years and lonely in your relationship, or an older person who’s lost their partner.                                                                                                          Even if you have lots of friends or come from a big family, it’s still possible to feel real loneliness.                                                                                                                                              It can have many different causes and affects all of us in different ways. Certain lifestyles and the stresses of life today can make people socially isolated and more vulnerable to loneliness. It can also have a big impact on your mental health, contributing to anxiety, stress and depression.                                                                                                                     Not feeling part of the world in which you live is part of a vicious circle where you then stop trying to maintain friendships and then feel excluded.                                                         Certain situations might also make you feel lonelier – if you have a relationship break-up or someone close to you dies, you can feel lonely within yourself for a long time. When you’re part of an ethnic group with few community networks or you’re a single parent finding it hard to go out, you can feel lonelier than ever before.                                     People try different ways to avoid this inner loneliness including spending a lot of time socialising and thereby not having time to ponder on it too much, or they develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol to escape these feelings.                                                        So, how can you combat these feeling of loneliness? For some people it’s about making more social contact with other people, either friends or family. If you’re feeling ‘low’ this can take a lot of effort but if you don’t do so then you’re likely to end up more lonely and isolated than ever.

Take small steps at first:

  • go for a short walk in the fresh air and try to say ‘hello’ if you see anyone from your road or who looks familiar to you.
  • text someone in your family, just to see how they are.
  • Now that restrictions are lifting (at the time of writing) if you’re in a group of people, try to make a few comments, even though it seems easier to keep quiet and let everyone else talk.
  • try having a short talk with the cashier when you pay for goods in the shop. Even a little social contact helps a bit!
  • if you have children, maybe you could make conversation with one or two other parents once school re-starts.

Another way of making connections with people is through shared interests, values or experiences. If something interests you, whether that’s walking, watching films or going camping, there will be other people who feel the same. There is usually information about local clubs or groups in the library or you can look online and these groups will hopefully re-start again soon.                                                                                                           If, despite doing your best, you don’t manage to achieve the social contact you’d like, it may be worth learning how to feel more comfortable in your own company. This can be rewarding if you focus on the pleasure it gives you. Having time to reflect and think can be positive.                                                                                                                                          Trying yoga or pilates can help to achieve a peace that frenetic socialising can’t.  Getting a dog or cat is another way to alleviate loneliness, especially as they’re usually pleased to see you when you arrive home! Writing a blog helps to look at how you’re feeling and seeing your thoughts on paper can help you to look at how you might be able to improve things.                                                                                                                                                       You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Can It Ever Be Right To Cut Ties With Your Family?

In my last post, I wrote about feeling cut off from your family but what if you decide that this is actually the right thing for you? It’s a big decision for a lot of people because there are usually past loyalties and history.

In fact, cutting ties with your family is often harder than you might think, not least because we’re conditioned to believe that to end these relationships is somehow wrong. Even when you would never usually choose to have these people in your life, it can feel as if you’re a ‘bad person’ if you decide to stop seeing them. It doesn’t mean that you wish them harm but it’s not good for you as a person to keep in touch.

Here are some reasons that might make you decide to do this:

  • The only contact you have with them is negative and brings you down or makes you feel as if you’re not good enough or haven’t done enough.
  • You’re often ostracised by one or more people in the family, to the point where you find you’re losing sleep over it. There’s often a ringleader in this who influences other family members and in the end you start doubting yourself and wondering if you, in fact, are the problem.
  • When it’s all about the other person and they don’t make any effort to understand you. In fact, they often set you up to fail – and you always will because that’s the game they play.
  • When they indulge in the ‘silent treatment’ as a punishment if you challenge some of their views. That happens when they don’t get their own way and you’re going to know all about it by being frozen out.
  • When the relationship is mostly about them borrowing or needing money from you.
  • If the relationship is based on some sort of abuse: this can be verbal, emotional or physical. If you’re living in constant anxiety and never know how things are going to be, it might be time to let go.
  • If the other person/people ‘gaslight’ you – make comments to other people which are not entirely true but show you in a bad light in some way. Other family members start to believe it because they don’t realise that they too are being manipulated.

Hard though it can be, sometimes it’s necessary to accept that you’re never going to feel loved and supported in the way that you deserve and you will never really gain their approval. Not everyone has good intentions, even if they are members of your family.

Maybe you’ve been in this position yourself – if so, it would be good to hear your comments about how you managed to cut those ties and how you feel now.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

Feeling Cut Off From Your Family?

As a counsellor and psychotherapist, I often used to see clients who felt cut off from, or by, family members. Sometimes, they could come to terms with this but more often there was stress, sometimes depression and even shame. This was particularly the case if there didn’t seem to be any particular reason for the rift.

Here are some of the most likely reasons why one person in a family cuts off from another or why an entire family can seem to ostracise just one member. I’m not suggesting that this is a healthy situation but sometimes understanding dynamics can be helpful:

  • In most families there are dominant members and these people exert their power and control to keep other members in line – a bit like playground disputes where bullies use the same methods of control with their peers.
  • Because of this some family members get exhausted by a relative, feeling that they have put up with some behaviours for far too long. They may feel hopeless about changing the situation and start to interact less and less with that person or people.
  • Some families definitely ‘scapegoat’ one member, using them to blame family issues on when things go wrong. This is along the lines of “you always do this/never do enough/don’t pull your weight” and other less dominant family members jump on this bandwagon too, finding it easier to blame one person than take responsibility for looking at the situation with a clear mind.
  • Rewriting history – if your family know a lot about your younger self and you don’t want to be reminded of that, it sometimes feels better to shut out family members, avoid them and rewrite your story when you meet new people.
  • If you have chosen a partner whom your family don’t like, sometimes it’s easier to avoid your original family and give your loyalty and interest to your partner. Your family will probably resent this, argue with you about it or point out your partner’s flaws and to avoid this you may well end up avoiding your family rather than your partner.
  • Misunderstanding can occur between relatives and if they’re not discussed, the relationships can eventually break down. If someone is concerned that discussions will develop into confrontations, they’ll avoid the situation and the people involved.
  • Some families have a history of cutting off relatives when they’re annoyed or upset with them. With no model of resolution, you learn that cutting off family members is an option and you don’t have a model of how to resolve issues within the family.
  • Money often leads to difficulties within families – a parent who favoured one child where money was concerned or leaves more money in their will to one of their children rather than treat them all equally. In an ideal world, this doesn’t happen but if parents feel that one child did more for them than their other children did, they may also feel that that child deserves more inheritance. There’s no easy answer to this but if you don’t want to see your family disintegrate, you will need to find a way to overcome such perceived injustices.
  • If an elderly parent is ill, some families can handle this well and divide the care between them, but if one child lives a long distance away, it isn’t easy and resentments can set in. This is often when families become disenchanted with one another. It may also be that one sibling doesn’t see the need to take responsibility for the parent and naturally this causes friction.

If you feel cut off from your family, or another family member is no longer in contact, you may feel that you don’t care if that changes or not. However, if it bothers you, it’s almost always worth swallowing your pride, getting in touch, meeting and discussing what’s happened and how it might be better in the future. Avoid extreme words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ – they’re not helpful and won’t achieve a peaceful outcome. If you want to be on better terms (and you may not want to!), take it slowly and try to build up your relationship to be at least friendly, even if you can’t manage loving.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.