Category Archives: Sexuality

“Smooth Seas Don’t Make A Good Sailor”

There’s an African proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.” In other words, it’s the hard knocks in life that soften our rough edges and help to shape us into someone who is resilient.

Whilst I think it’s true that having to deal with difficulties and disappointments often help to shape our characters, surely some people have too much to cope with? Life’s knocks can get us down especially if we have no real support, have to deal with a lot of ill health or cope with several bereavements within a short space of time.

The school of hard knocks isn’t the only way to build up resilience – there are several ways to get through hard times so that we can bounce back and feel happier. I have a lot of empathy for people whose lives have gone downhill with all the negativity that they’ve had to cope with but if you’re reading this in the hope of developing more emotional strength and feel  that you have too much to cope with, try the following  and see how you get on. I’m not saying that you won’t feel overwhelmed at times, but these tips will hopefully diminish those feelings so that you’ll feel happier again:

  • When things go wrong, try thinking “things will eventually get better, even if I can’t see that right now”. Being resilient is partly about realising that it’s unlikely to always be that way, even if you can’t see a way out right now.
  • Find something, however small that you can control – there are loads of things we can’t control and these include big challenges like broken relationships, bereavement or redundancy but by taking small steps in almost any area of life can help us to see a brighter future.
  • Sometimes we undermine our own resilience by thinking “Is this down to me?” rather than realising that sometimes things are out of our control such as when the car breaks down (’I should have made sure it was serviced’) or when we’re late and it’s had a knock-on effect on other things (‘I should have prioritised more; I’m no good at anything’). Give yourself a break emotionally and recognise that if you’ve had a lot of other more serious things to deal with, smaller things like servicing the car can easily get pushed to one side. Try to think about what you can do to stop the problem occurring again.
  • Focus on what’s gone right even if that’s hard – there will be one or two things that have actually been positive, even if other negative things have piled up. I’m not suggesting that if you’ve had a death in your family or are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you shouldn’t let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost, whether that’s a person dear to you or a frightening illness, but even on the darkest days there will be one or two things that have been alright. It could be a kindly neighbour who’s taken in a parcel for you or even cooked you a meal, or that there was a glimmer of sunshine after hours of rain. Even on the worst of days, there will be some little things that were good and they can make a difference.
  • This isn’t about living a life where you pretend things are always fine but more about getting a perspective.
  • Ask other people to help you – when we have problems it’s so easy to feel isolated. Social media ensures that we’re constantly seeing people who apparently have perfect lives, having achieved great things but realistically, however true those stories are, most of us need help at times so don’t be afraid to ask for that if you’re struggling. This doesn’t have to put a burden on the person you’re asking for help – maybe you just need someone to listen or to share their knowledge about something that they know more about than you do.
  • Find something to laugh at – it could be an old episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, but really, anything that floats your boat so that you’re having a laugh, is good; really good.
  • Finally, find a distraction – it often helps to take time out, even if it’s only for a few minutes. One of the best things is exercise if you can motivate yourself to get out there and walk in the fresh air or go to a yoga or meditation class. This can often help us to think more clearly.

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.

Setting Boundaries In Relationships

This sounds easy doesn’t it? But actually, maintaining and reinforcing boundaries in relationships is a hard thing for a lot of people to manage. Part of it is about not being able to say “no” to other people and not wanting to disappoint them. This is even if it’s at the expense of your own energy and time. Sounds familiar? I’ve sometimes found putting down boundaries hard myself so I know it’s easy to get into that role of not respecting yourself enough.

Here are a few things to try:

  • First of all, you need to give yourself permission to set some boundaries, rather than falling in with what someone is asking of you. For instance, if you feel that you should say “yes” to a friend’s requests for help because that’s what being a good friend means, try to work out whether that’s always realistic and necessary. If you’re always the one doing the giving, try to say something like “I can’t fit that in this week, but I might be able to next month”.
  • It’s difficult to set good boundaries until you’re sure of where you stand – everyone has physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Think about what you can accept and sometimes tolerate and what makes you feel uncomfortable and follow those through.
  • Tune into what you want – resentment usually comes about when we feel unappreciated or taken advantage of. Or, it might be that someone is always pushing their own views and values onto you. It’s alright to say “I don’t really agree with that” – there doesn’t need to be an argument about it; you’re entitled to an opinion and just because someone might be more articulate than you, doesn’t necessarily make them right!
  • How people grew up, along with their role within their family, often has a big effect on how you deal with boundaries. If you’re brought up to always focus on the needs of others, it can seem like the norm to always put others first. The main thing is that relationships are reciprocal and that’s a hard balance in some families. If you are in the habit of always putting others first, in the home or at work, there might be surprise or resentment if you stop doing that. People may want to know why you’ve changed and it’s up to you as to how you respond, but honouring your own needs is really important.
  • If someone has a similar communication style to your own, you probably don’t need a direct approach but with people who have a different cultural background or personality, you may need a more direct approach. However, bear in mind that one person’s healthy way of communicating might feel disrespectful to another. Whatever the situation though, it’s alright to have boundaries and make them clear.
  • There are bound to be times when you lapse, but making your own self-care is a priority here. By that I mean, recognising the importance of your own feelings and giving yourself permission to put yourself first sometimes.
  • Finally, establishing boundaries takes time – start with something small that isn’t too threatening and gradually build up to more challenging boundaries. In that way, it won’t feel too overwhelming.

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.

Feeling Anxious About Wearing A Mask?

Hello! This week I thought I’d write a blog about something that’s topical but seems to cause a lot of friction between people who have differing ideas about them – that’s right, I’m talking about masks (and I’m not thinking Halloween here!).

Whether you’ve returned to work in an environment that requires you to wear a mask, you’re in a shop, wearing a mask because of a medical condition, walking down the street or running in the park,  non-verbal communication has become more important than ever before. If you’re feeling lonely or anxious about what’s going on, lack of communication can make things so much worse.

When your expressions are concealed by a mask it’s easy for negative perceptions to be made. So how to communicate effectively and still manage to build up a rapport, whilst keeping yourself and others safe? Here are some ways to improve things:

  • You’ll need to use body language and gestures more than before and maybe you’ve already got into the habit of giving a little wave to people when you meet them for the first time.
  • Try to mirror the behaviour of the person you’re talking to (within reason! – surprisingly, this happens subconsciously to some extent anyway and it helps build rapport between people. Now it’s more important than ever so try practising this at home in front of a mirror so that imitating the body language of the person you’re speaking to comes naturally.
  • Avoid clear masks if you can – they may seem the ideal solution but they tend to fog up and some people find that they make them feel uneasy. However, they’re a good idea if you’re speaking to someone who is deaf.
  • Practice increasing the volume of your voice – no need to shout, but you’re probably aware that masks have a muffling effect so it’s necessary to speak up a bit (obvious but true!).
  • Pause more than usual – that gives people the chance to respond or jump in.
  • Try to make your voice more expressive by conveying emotions like sympathy and excitement – this will show in your eyes which, after all,  Shakespeare said that ‘eyes are the window to the soul’; a phrase which has endured through centuries.

We now know that masks are almost certainly here for the next few months so it will help if you can master the above tips and then, when we can finally show our full faces again, they’ll hopefully help you to communicate in a more positive in the future

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.

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.

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