Category Archives: Couples

Can You Really ‘Future-Proof’ Your Relationship?

There are no guarantees in any relationship, however long you’ve been together – that probably doesn’t sound very promising, but things happen, sometimes we have to face challenges we’d never even thought about and the future that looked certain can suddenly seem anything but.

Still, there are ways that we can help things along the road to ‘happy ever after’ and you might already be doing some of them:

  • The first, and almost essential one, is to be honest with yourself and work out what you want to discuss with your partner, what are your own goals and ambitions not only for yourself but for both of you as a couple? Really, it’s about communication and not burying your head in the sand if they’re doing something that really stresses you. I’m not talking leaving the top of the toothpaste either – more along the lines of how you’re equal partners, wanting the same things and working together on whatever those goals are.
  • That brings me onto the next part which is understanding how they communicate – everyone has different ways of saying how they feel and also, how they resolve arguments. Some of that is (I think) partly due to our upbringing, how we saw our parents resolve difficulties – if your father flew off the handle and your mother reacted by crying (or vice-versa), but you weren’t around when they seemed to ‘make up’ you’ll not have a great understanding of how that happened. Or maybe one of them sulked for days and then, eventually, things resolved. Whatever you learned from that, it’s good to find your own way with your partner and accept that people don’t always say sorry but show it in other ways, by cooking a nice dinner or taking out the bins when it’s not usually on their ‘to do’ list. Only you know what works best for both of you as a couple and figuring out how you’d like to resolve friction is a good way forward.
  • Make time to check in on one another – things can get very hectic with work, family, sport and friends. So many commitments, but checking in with your partner about how they’re feeling, is a good way of making sure that you’re both happy with the way things are. It’s also a good opportunity to let your partner know what you’re happy about, the things that you enjoy and your all-round appreciation of what you have.
  • Finally, as we become closer in our relationship, it’s easy to believe that your partner has the same feelings and thoughts as you do but don’t make assumptions. People change and understanding differences whilst respecting their opinions go a long way to making sure that things stay good.

So, there’s no absolute guarantee that you can future-proof your relationship, but hopefully you’ll find that the above go a long way to helping your partnership become, and stay, long-term.

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 LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

‘Old Habits Die Hard’

Apparently, the origin of the phrase ‘old habits die hard’ is unknown, but has been in circulation since 1758 when it appeared in an article by Benjamin Franklin. Here ends the history lesson, because we all know what it means, and if you’ve spent the last month try to stick to resolutions and goals, you might be finding some old habits harder to kick than others. So, why is this?

Well, doing too much, too soon, sets us up for failure as you can’t resolve them all at once. So, begin with habits that are easiest to change as this will give you some sense of satisfaction as well as encourage to stick to other goals.

Although we’d like to think that will power alone will be enough, it rarely is (sadly!) but if you can find other ways of dealing with what you’re finding hard to ditch, it could help a lot. For example, if you’re tempted to reach for a glass of wine when stressed, try calling a friend or putting on some relaxing music instead.

Another way to help you through is to set yourself one tiny change each week. If you always find yourself tempted to eat some cake at 4p.m. (a particularly difficult time of day, I find), try to avoid it by always planning a walk at that time or cutting an apple into slices and adding some nuts to the side so that it’s already there when you’re tempted by something more fattening.

Goals are often rather loose too – if you can make them less generalised, that can help. For instance, if losing weight is a goal, try asking yourself how doing so will make you feel and what extra things might you be able to do.

But food, drink and/or cigarettes aren’t the only habits that a lot of people want to change; relationships and their accompanying issues can trigger old habits such as being on your phone all the time, leaving the other person feeling neglected. Maybe they’re doing the same but if you want to change this, it will take a concerted effort. Another habit which is hard to drop is making remarks at your partner’s expense when you’re out. Maybe they laugh outwardly, but inside they feel hurt.

Being passive-aggressive within a relationship is also an easy thing to slide into but try to take a minute to think about what you really want to say instead of going into a sulk or being sarcastic. Criticising your partner’s family is another bad habit, even if what you’re saying is true. Blood ties are often some of the strongest out there and even if your partner agrees with what you’re saying, they might get defensive about their family being attacked.

It’s about spotting your triggers and then trying to avoid them or find healthier substitutes. I know that this isn’t easy but next time you give in to whatever temptation you’re trying to conquer, examine why you gave in……how were you feeling at the time, were you hungry, tired, bored or emotional?

Luckily, you can always learn from any lapses that you might have. Research shows that people who manage to keep to their long-term health goals view their slip-ups look at why that happened and then pick themselves up and start again. Progress isn’t a linear pathway but more a case of trial and error and learning what works for you.

I’m sure that you can think of other ways to stick to your goals – if so, let me know on this page so that other people can see your tips too.

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 LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

How Do You Know If You’re With The Right Person?

We all like to think that we have a good relationship but it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that it’s not always perfect. Does that mean that you’re not right together or that you should split up?

Sometimes, questioning what you have together is normal, even healthy, but what about if you’re having thoughts about someone else too? These sort of questions can consume you if you let them but, rest assured, that they’re pretty normal even if you feel guilty and confused about them at times.

It’s inevitable that we find other people attractive at times but whether you act on it or not is a different thing. Sometimes it’s because we think, subconsciously at least, that the other person outside our relationship might fulfil something that isn’t being fulfilled by our partner. This could be affection, love, sex, talking more or shared interests.

Also, something might have happened recently in your relationship that means you feel a disconnection with your partner. This might be the birth of a baby, a new job or a commitment that means you have less time to spend with one another.

If you’re serious about the relationship that you’re in, give yourself time and then try to address what’s been happening. Sometimes though, we just fancy someone else even though we know that taking it further would be disastrous!

But, if you want to continue with your partner ask yourself if you still have fun together, do you spend as much time with one another as you used to and have you been taking one another for granted. If these are things going through your mind, look at how you might improve things between you.

If the other person is someone that you don’t see all that often, try to avoid running into them when possible, tempting though it might be to be around them. If it’s someone at work, or a neighbour (even a cousin or relative of your partner), it’s worth thinking about the changes you need to make, like not seeing them quite as regularly, or avoiding certain communal areas at work. It’s easier to focus on what you have already, if the other person isn’t around so much.

Does this seem rather contrived? Possibly, but as a counsellor and psychotherapist I saw the misery caused by one partner acting on an impulse and ruining their relationship, if not forever, for many months ahead.

However, thinking about someone else endlessly is a signal that something needs to change, either in you or in your relationship so start talking to your partner, even if you’ve tried this before and things stayed the same. It’s an opportunity to make things better.

At the beginning, falling in love was probably easy – it’s a heady feeling and one that enhances our lives hugely. But we don’t have all the information about that person at the start and as time goes on, our partner’s faults are often all too easy to see. You have to balance what you know about them, positives and negatives, against the life you have and what you want. If that’s moving on together, it might need more work but it doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed by any means. It’s flawed at times, but that’s because we’re all flawed as human beings and every relationship ebbs and flows. Also, lastly, we have a lot more expectations of a partnership now than people appeared to have years ago (some people might refute this!) so it’s hard to get it right all of the time.

What do you think? Let me know if you have any thoughts on this – maybe you’re going through something like this at the moment. Hopefully this blog has helped you sort out some things in your mind.

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 LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

When Someone Close To You Has Mental Health Issues

Going into the New Year, a lot of us feel pretty optimistic about the next twelve months. That’s not the case for everyone though, especially if they’ve suffered with their mental health during the past two years.

If you live with or love someone with mental health issues, it can be hard to know how best to support them. After all, we all like to think that we’re caring and kind (well, I haven’t met many people who admit to being uncaring and unkind!) but sometimes we can really be put to the test.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in the position of wanting to be the best you can where a partner or friend is concerned. If they’re suffering with a health issue, whether it’s mental, emotional or physical, it’s natural to want to help them as much as possible.

Some people are ‘naturals’ in these caring roles, but even then, other people’s health issues can take a toll on our own well-being. If you’ve found yourself in this position, don’t beat yourself up about it. This week, I’m going to write about helping someone with mental health issues following on from my blog on 1 December when I wrote about how physical illness can affect your relationship

If your partner or friend is having a difficult time emotionally, you may have to help them to manage day-to-day tasks that previously they found easy to do themselves. But mental health affects people in different ways, so you have to almost ‘feel’ the situation as you go along.

One of your main roles will be to encourage and support them but also to help them to seek treatment such as medication, if appropriate, counselling and joining a group focussing on what’s going on for them. Don’t let’s underestimate the support of groups – even though a lot of people are reluctant to participate, they often find that the group is a lifeline. As someone who’s trying to help them, it might well be a lifeline for you as well.

You might also need to make phone calls for them – speaking on the phone can be a challenge at the best of times, but if you’re suffering emotionally, even more so.

Another way to encourage them is to build up their confidence about making decisions (when you’re depressed and anxious, it’s hard to have faith in the decisions you make in everyday life) and reinforce every little success that they have.

You may well feel frustrated that you can’t make them happy, or better, but like any physical health condition, you can’t always find a solution so don’t put that pressure on yourself. To help them, you need to stay healthy yourself.

If it’s really hard for them to tell you how they’re feeling on a day-to-day basis, setting up a colour-code might help. This would work by getting, say, four different coloured cards with each one having a meaning that you work out together. For instance, black could mean that they’re feeling particularly vulnerable on that day, red means they’re feeling angry or irritable, yellow means that they can’t talk about it but they do need some company and blue means that though they love you, they need to be alone that day. Whatever the card that they show you means, try to respect their needs.

Over a period of time, you might be able to interpret how they’re feeling without looking at cards but more about their behaviour and expressions on a particular day.

Most of all, as I said earlier, try to be there for them to talk to as much as you can but don’t neglect yourself and other relationships, otherwise you won’t be in a position to support them or anyone else.

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 LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

Dealing With Emotional Abuse

This may surprise you – it did me when I first studied it years ago – but emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse although maybe we don’t always recognise it as such. Perhaps that’s because a lot of it is considered ‘normal’.  It’s not always very dramatic either and is often made up of a series of small incidents occurring over a period of time.

It may not be intentional but anything that insults, humiliates, threatens or controls someone else, is actually emotional abuse.

If this has happened to you, or is still happening, you’ll know that it cuts deep into your very core, often leaving you fearful and feeling undeserving and unloveable. It’s almost as if you’re being punished.

Overcoming it can be very hard but recognising what’s happening is the first step and that happens once you know what to look for. After that it’s important not to think that you must somehow work harder to fix the relationship whether that’s with your partner, a friend or a colleague. There may be elements that you need to work on but you also need to recognise that what’s happening is hurtful and wrong.

Write down the messages that you’re receiving and then think about how you can counter them. For instance, if someone in your family or at work says “you always mess things up”, try to think about the times that actually you made a difference in a positive way by, say, arranging a birthday lunch for that person, taking part in a charity walk or saving up to buy something that you really wanted. These are the times when you didn’t ‘mess things up’ and it’s important to remember them and then find ways to be kind to yourself.

If you can’t communicate with the person making negative claims and tell them how it makes you feel, try to work on how you can be more assertive next time. When you’re alone, try out different techniques such as “When you speak to me like that, it’s very hurtful” and use your new-found skills next time that person, or people, try to put you down. It won’t be easy because changing entrenched habits never is, but whatever you’ve been told about yourself, whatever your age and gender, you are worthy of respect and love – don’t accept anything less!

If you’re finding it hard to be assertive, read about it online and practice responses with a friend who’s willing to help.

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 LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.