25 Tips for Couples in Relationships

1. Build a friendship with your spouse, re-connect. Try to remember what drew you both together in the first place.

2. Conflict resolution- try to communicate without blaming, or harsh words. Listen to each others perspectives be open and accept your own part in the dispute.

3. Try to avoid fights by nipping things in the bud as they arise not let them fester and grow bigger. 

4. What to do after a fight- what is your pattern? Do you sulk, give each other the cold shoulder? Apologise and make up, or carry on as if nothing happened after some time apart? Explore what works for your relationship try talking about it when not in argument during a time of calm to decide what techniques work best.

5. Try to connect with your spouse emotionally and physically talk about happy memories and focus on hopes for the future. Show affection in gestures, through small gifts and kind words to one another and commit to fulfilling each others sexually. Share your likes and dislikes- get to know each other properly.

6. Remember men are more visually stimulated and women are more emotionally driven- this is not to say the opposite isn’t also true just bear this in mind. 

7. Reflect on what your actions are saying to your spouse- do they convey a sense of love, warmth, trust, respect? 

8. Learn to communicate effectively and How to listen actively- not just pay lip service. Listen to hear, not to respond.

9. Take into account all of the non-verbal communication going on between you. Body language, facial expression, positive or negative vibes. Address issues as they arise in a sensitive way.

10. Remember how important the role of humour is in a relationship and encourage this, laughing also releases feel good chemicals.

11. Remember the importance of spirituality in your marriage, do you both have the same faith, values, beliefs? Is that a source of conflict or peace in your relationship? Have an open discussion about this if its a problem.

12. Learn new ways to increase peace and cooperation in your marriage, let some things go, pick your battles and remember everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

13. Accept that life is not all mapped out and both of you will have shortcomings and good points so tolerate the bad and celebrate the good. 

14. Continue in Self-development in every area of your life, dont stagnate. People change all the time so keep up with yourself.

15. Establish building strong self-esteem for yourself and your partner- support each others dreams.

16. Learn how to manage your emotions and share feelings so that you dont shut each other out and disconnect.

17. Establish trust and rebuild trust if broken- it takes time so exercise patience, caution and practice honesty.

18. Show and earn respect towards one another.

19. Learn how to cope with common conflicts about money- agree on if you both want a joint account or keep individual accounts to manage household finances. Money is one of the major causes of divorce so focus and discuss this early on in the relationship.

20. Learn to live and love with a higher purpose- ultimately the aim is to remain faithful and build a lasting relationship and family.

21. Bring out the best in your spouse- influence each other in positive ways and show appreciation for each others efforts.

22. Live up to your highest potential individually and together as a couple. Navigate as a team through life’s difficulties, share problem solving tasks.

23. Build your self-esteem and boost each others confidence with kind words, gestures and practical support.

24. Recognise and overcome your shortcomings- support your partner in doing the same. 

25. Improve your attitude and expectations about marriage- be realistic and contribute to the relationship fully. Mind over matter. A positive attitude can take you a long way in appreciating what you do have as opposed to focussing on what you dont.

Stop..Think..Reflect..Act

heart skyDo you ever feel like life is just passing you by, that you are living day to day going through the same routine not really thinking about the past, present or future? Just getting through the daily drudge of life not having time for self reflection or self care, just existing and paying bills. Going to work or looking after the family- whatever it is that you do on a day-to-day basis life just goes on and you are not fully present in mind, body and spirit because things are so hectic. You just race from one task to another trying to fit it all in until life becomes overwhelmingly busy and difficult to keep up with.

Until one day you realise how out of touch you are with yourself and other people. Who are you anyway? What is it that you wanted to achieve in life? Have you ever stopped to think about the quality of your life? Your work/home life balance, your achievements, your ambitions and aspirations. How many people really stop, think and reflect on things like that on a day-to-day basis?

My challenge to you is that you press pause on your life for at least 10 minutes a day, it can be in the morning or in the evening whenever suits you. Just sit and meditate on your life. Think about who you are, who you want to become and what you want in life. Reflect on how you can achieve those things. Techniques like mindfulness or brain storming your thoughts can aid in this. Try to sit in quiet contemplation and really process what’s going on for you at the moment. Ideally this is best done with as minimal distractions as possible and not in the presence of anybody else. Just you, in a private quiet space really focussing can be a powerful way of reconnecting with yourself as a person and can help you to prioritise things in your life. Try this challenge for 30 days until it becomes part of your daily routine. See what impact tuning into yourself for at least 10 minutes a day has on your personal development. Maybe it will help you to re-organise and prioritise the more important things in life. You never know what light bulb moments may be in store for you!

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.

Diary of Mr ‘Anonymous’ in Therapy

Below is the diary of a man we shall refer to as ‘Mr Anonymous’ as he has offered to share with you lovely people his journey through therapy so far, he has given me express permission and signed consent to share this information in the hope that it inspires and encourages others to reach out for therapy if they need it. Mr Anonymous wanted me to share excerpts from his own therapy diary which details a refreshingly honest and open account of the process of change he went through.

Issues I chose to address How I was before Starting Therapy Mid -Therapy Learning Moving Forwards
Talk too much Felt the need to talk a lot- to be noticed, to be the joker, friendly, be seen as likeable and accepted. It was the only way to get noticed as a child by my busy father. Discussed painful challenge from peers about talking too much, airspace, felt my mother haunting me. She always said I talked too much. Brought hurt to surface and I went silent withdrew. Reflected on my childhood and history of relating to others. Worked hard to achieve a balance. Embraced the challenge and balance of speaking, listening and hearing. Feel I don’t talk as much around friends and family. Noticed changing dynamics as a result. Can notice more when I talk less. Feels ok to talk less and have had personal growth from working in this area. Effective in personal, professional and private life. I still like talking but its more measured and less just for the sake of it. Enjoy hearing others speak and learn more from listening. Need to continue working on it.
 

Vulnerable

Heart on sleeve

 

 

 

Too open to the point others were able to easily manipulate, control, and upset me. Too emotionally available to others not keeping anything back for myself. Vulnerable.

 

Didn’t realise I was the one leaving myself open to such hurt in my eagerness to be there for everyone else. I forgot about myself and my needs. I thought by helping others I would feel fulfilled. That was not the case. People took, I gave, nothing left. I started to recognise changing dynamics in relationships with others as I began to hold back a little.

 

I still have a relatively open heart and still fall into the pit of past mistakes but am more aware of it and can sometimes stop myself. I don’t want to change my heart too much but do want to guard it better so have developed some careful defences such as not being so emotionally available and learned to say no to favours.

 

A work in progress, the security guard in charge of my heart is being given new instructions daily, but I still remain open most hours. This suits me fine, it’s when I feel I am being taken advantage of that I pull up my barriers and shut up shop. I distance myself to keep myself safe and am learning to be more assertive to have my needs met. Need to work on not feeling responsible for others all the time.

(Personal History)

 

Self- awareness

 

 

I went about life in a haze of selflessness feeling selfish and guilty if I did anything for myself. Totally convinced I was ok, but secretly knowing things kept going wrong. No matter how much or what I did for others it wasn’t enough, I still got criticised, and beat myself up believing every word they said. Turning the anger inwards on myself.

 

I started to realise how desperately I wanted to feel needed, liked and accepted by others. Like the ‘real me’ wasn’t good enough so I would perform to be liked, always the joker, agony uncle or dependable one. Recognising how much I did for others in comparison to what I got back was eye opening. I started to learn more about the real me and my self- concept.

 

I am still uncovering layers of myself hidden away from my own self. I am more self- aware and recognise when I’m doing things that go against my nature just to be accepted. Knowing and acting on that knowledge is my challenge. Changing behaviours is hard when it’s been a lifetime long thing, subconscious influences abound. I learn more via my relationships in my personal life. It has helped me understand how easily people can misunderstand, assume or prejudge others. I have definitely embraced the congruence with empathy concept.

 

A work in progress, my self- awareness is more acute than it was, but can be improved. Still unpicking the past to make sense of my present. I’m reflecting on the emotional maze of my life so far. I feel hopeful that with this awareness I can change patterns of behaviours, thoughts and relationships to fit me better. This will in turn impact on my relationships as my empathy and understanding of self improves so will my practice with others as I learn more and develop further.

       
Self -care

 

 

There was a time when I thought self -care was sleeping, and eating. It is so much more than that but my understanding and awareness of it was so limited. The concept was alien to me. I never did anything unless it benefitted someone else before me. I felt greedy, guilty and selfish if I did anything for myself, like I wasn’t allowed as it was frowned on in my family. Selflessness was the order of the day.

 

I quickly recognised that self- care was important to staying healthy in every way and it wasn’t just about food and sleep. It was looking after myself emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and spiritually. The whole entity of my being not just two aspects. As I started to look after myself it felt wrong, like I had to hide and do it. I did enjoy the feeling it gave me and ‘me’ days became a monthly activity.

 

I have learned to schedule in me-time and openly enjoy time away from family. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands and is supportive of my quest for fulfilling my life’s potential. I still feel pangs of guilt for leaving the children as they tug on my emotional heart strings moaning they will miss me so I do cave in and buy them gifts to compensate on my return journey- to please them. See how powerful these core processes are!

 

I understand that in order to look after others I have to look after myself first. I feel liberated as I allow myself to spend time and money on myself. To practice safely I need to first and foremost look after myself and give myself the loving conditions. Otherwise I could burn out and do more harm than good to myself and my relationships A work in progress…

 

People Pleasing  

People pleasing has been my core process that’s been the most difficult to change. I wasn’t even aware of it before therapy and felt it was who I was full stop. Never questioned it and thought it was good and healthy. I had limited awareness of my gut instincts and often ignored them not trusting or listening to my self. Internal vs external voices. At this point I listened more to others about what was good for me. I was never the champion voice in all aspects of my life.

 

I realised how much I was influenced by others and how out of touch I was with my own self but continued to make the same mistakes, and pleasing others at my own expense. So knowledge alone didn’t help, in fact the awareness of it frustrated me even more because now even though I knew I felt I was still unable to change. I had a crisis of identity not knowing who I was anymore and looking for myself in others, in work, but not in myself.

I made some tough decisions and stayed true to myself actually tuning into my inner voice, hearing it for the first time clearly over the hubbub of the many external voices telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I questioned my value and worth as a person. Was it enough to be me? I was torn internally with conflict as the process of change began. I fell into darkness emotionally for a few weeks feeling lost. I finally recognised that in all my people pleasing the one person I failed to please was myself.  

Trying to overcome my people pleasing nature is like trying to drink soup with a fork. Frustratingly slow, drip by drip and almost impossible to finish. Yet I am aware that this is my core process and will always be part of me. It’s how I manage it. I need balance in my life and to feel my needs are fulfilled first. Then I can offer others what’s left. I don’t think I will ever fully shake off trying to please others but I can lessen its extent allowing myself more freedom, time, energy and peace. Just trust the process. Avoiding conflict, challenge or sharing my truth to please others is not something I want to do anymore.

         
Defences My ability to mask pain with humour was something I learned early on in life. It worked a treat enabling me to form freindships, escape from reality and perform like an actor acting out a life chosen by me far from reality. Childhood was a difficult time for me and I learned how to cope best I could with conflicting parental role models who had their own emotional baggage. They did their best.

 

 

 

 

I learned fast how easy my defences kicked in when feeling threatened or challenged by others. Magnifying them made me recognise how much my parents impacted on my self- concept and patterns of relating to others. Saying sorry was my mantra I was always in trouble for something or other and this I carried into adulthood. Apologising myself out of existence just in case I had upset someone. It was a defence against others anger, and a protection from being hurt if accepted. Door mat. Social chameleon adapting for others to fit in, joking my life away.

 

Being aware of my defences doesn’t make it any easier to shed them. Only some have outgrown their use. It’s so tiring having to over perform, over achieve and be the joker. I do it less now, but in social situations this still occurs. I have been typecast into people’s memories and when I meet old friends I subconsciously perform again. Only I am aware of it now and try to control it. A meeting with school friends recently was good practice, I tried to be me and less jokey, they didn’t like me any less. They commented how grown up I sounded and liked this new aspect of me.

 

I enjoy joking and being light hearted but for the right reasons and not in order to please others to fit in. My humour is part of me and all I need to continue working on are knowing when, and why I perform. To be myself and have that humour not used as a defence to hide behind but to genuinely express my joy and have fun.

I don’t feel the need to hide my pain as much as I used to. I can show more of my authentic self to others now than before but am slowly progressing. I need to keep myself safe in the process of revealing my truths so everything in due measure. A work in progress this one.

         
 

(Personal challenge)

 

Self -acceptance

 

I thought I was ok. I never really loved myself but felt I liked aspects of myself enough to get by in oblivion to what I was yet to learn about myself. I thought people who loved themselves were narcissists and self- absorbed. Negative labels for a fulfilled fully functioning person. My understanding was skewered by life’s examples to me so far. My culture didn’t allow me to be proud of myself it was frowned upon to think anything good about yourself- my dad taught me that no matter how good you think you are you can always do better- hence the constant over achieving, over performing and seeking perfection, needing to get it right or I won’t be accepted.

 

 

I looked at my self- concept and saw everyone else, not me. I examined my processes and saw it reflected my parents subtle messages to me growing up . I felt sad for the lost little me trapped inside the dilemma of myself. Who was I anyway? What did it mean to be me before, and now the changing me. Was I enough for me, for others? Would this new emerging confused me work in reality? I didn’t want to change too much but did want to reconnect with myself. I was scared and excited, delving into my own depths I found more than I could have expected. I could barely breath like a tsunami of emotions, I had stored for so long hitting me so hard I felt unconscious and conscious at once.

 

I am beginning to get used to not knowing who I am, or who I thought I was. I’m still in a strange place emotionally trying new things and feeling everything with a new vigour. Like seeing and feeling emotions in technicolour for the first time after having black and white for so long. It hurts but feels good at the same time. I feel emotional and connected to my roots more than I have ever felt before. I have tempered my anger, cautioned my inner parent, soothed my inner child, teased my control and liberated my emotional expression.

 

I have yet to fully accept myself and all aspects/ configurations of myself. To fully accept, I have to know myself and I am still learning new things about myself. However what I am learning I am accepting.  Some parts of me remain a challenge. I still struggle with my need to feel in control, to people please all the time, and the pressure I put on myself to get things right and over perform. To be the joker and allow others to hurt me. Lots of personal development and growth yet to work on but I am aware of it and actively exploring them which is much better than living in oblivion.

I Hate My Body…

id-100423960Poor body image is fast becoming an issue across the globe especially with the younger generation. In this modern era of technology, focus on body image and selfies it’s no wonder we can get hung up on how we look or how we are perceived by others. The need to belong, dress well, look good and keep up with fashion trends puts many people under pressure financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically.

Social media, peer pressure and society at large has showcased what is classed as ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ the concern is how unrealistic some of these expectations are and how difficult it can be to achieve the ‘perfect look’. With airbrushed images in magazines and painfully thin catwalk models photographed to model make up, clothing and perfume it’s easy to become obsessed with how we look in comparison.

From researching the topic I have discovered that increasingly men are just as affected by poor body image and the impact is widespread with young men and teenagers feeling inadequate, unattractive and becoming obsessed with going to the gym, following specific diets to boost muscle tone and some resorting to steroid use. All in the name of looking good and feeling socially accepted or attractive.

Low self -esteem and low self-worth resulting out of being unhappy with our appearance can cause many side effects, anxiety and depression naming just two. The thing about hating one’s appearance is that it is not limited to the young, indeed it cuts across all ages, races, and cultures, people experience daily self-shaming thoughts about their appearance. We are often our own worst critics and can be so damaging in our views of ourselves. We all live with an ‘inner critic’ it’s that internal voice that only we can hear telling us how awful we look, or that we are ugly, too fat, stupid or unworthy of love. In order to combat these thoughts and change them from harsh, unkind, cold and critical to warm compassionate, caring and accepting we have to first acknowledge the voice exists, and then recognise how damaging it is to our reality. Then effectively cast out the negative voice replacing it with a more loving voice that appreciates and understands the challenges and struggles you face. Allowing yourself permission to stop, hear and reflect on the inner dialogue ongoing inside can help you to realise just how harmful your own thoughts are and how effectively they attack the core of you.

By taking control of that inner critic by expelling it you create the space needed to practice self -compassion and allow yourself to feel warmth and kindness towards yourself. A technique that can be used and may sound a bit odd- but bear with me here- is to look at yourself in the mirror when alone and say out loud to yourself the opposite of what your critical inner voice is saying. For example “I am attractive” or “I am worthy of love” because the only person saying otherwise is often the enemy within, our inner critic.

Our inner critics didn’t just explode into existence out of nowhere they were created by a series of negative events, thoughts or experiences we may have had growing up, that imprinted on our psyche from childhood into adulthood.  These thoughts become so familiar that we own them even though they harm us and keep us stuck in negative self- hating positions. We struggle with issues of low self-esteem, humiliation, rejection, and disappointment due to experiences we had in childhood. As children we may have internalised the negative emotions from significant adults around us and looked within ourselves rather than finding fault with adults upon whom we were dependent. Thus beginning the cycle of critical inner thoughts.

In general children are quite receptive to what is happening around them and will often blame themselves for things going wrong- some may blame their physical appearance, feeling that if they had been more attractive then they may have received more love and attention. Others may feel if they had behaved better it may have prevented some family tragedy following a bereavement, parental separation or divorce.

Children develop their sense of being by how significant adults around them perceive them, the messages they give “you’re a good girl because you don’t get angry” or “stop wimpering and man up” these voices are internalised and can become debilitating in adulthood. Not only are adults passing on strong messages of how to behave to be accepted but also how they cope in times of strife. Children role model parents and many parents do not realise how their own low self-esteem can be passed on to their sons and daughters. Picture this scene, a parent preparing to go out with friends wears an outift and then exclaims “gosh I look so ugly in this” and then discards it for another looking at themselves with disgust in the mirror- this could be a mother, father, older sibling- the impact is there. Don’t think for a second that any child witnessing this scene is not taking in the messages about poor body image and so it continues down the line in families from generation to generation.

Conquering the enemy within..

  1. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, tell yourself to stop being so mean.
  1. Don’t let the inner critic beat you down emotionally, stand up against it and recognise it for the bully it is.
  1. Know your worth, value and respect yourself, if somebody else said those hurtful things to you- you wouldn’t stand for it- so why allow your own voice the pleasure?
  1. Flip the script, whatever the inner voice says- you externalise and be objective about it. So if the inner voice says “I am so ugly” externalise it by saying “you are so ugly” and allow yourself to hear the words it will highlight how cruel this inner voice can be and how it is an enemy not a true reality.
  1. Write down responses that are more compassionate and accepting of yourself “I am not ugly, I have lovely features”
  1. Never give in to the inner critic- don’t despair or feel defeated by it. If it tells us not to bother changing because we will never succeed then do the opposite- take control of your life and make the changes you want to make you feel stronger and more confident. Just persevere and overcome that negative voice inside. Don’t give it power by listening and acting according to it. It will eventually fade out.
  1. Remember you are not alone in this struggle, just about every person in existence is battling with their own inner critics and waging their own inner wars in battles that you may never come to know about. So be kind, compassionate, and accepting not just to others but first and foremost to yourself.