WHAT IS A TRUE SHARING RELATIONSHIP

I know of couples that have been together for many years and still do not have a shared bank account. So how much do you financially share in a relationship? Well you could have a joint bank account for commonly used goods, like food and holidays. There are definite positive emotional outcomes for couples sharing money and paradoxically a sense of separation when not doing so. It also stops unintended financial bullying. What did that cost???

Ah but what about the risk? Well life is full of risk and without it life is pretty safe and dull. I feel it is important to lessen financial imbalances in a relationship and couples need to work at this so they both feel equal. It is not uncommon for one partner to be better off than the other. What seems important is to share common things so if you move into another’s home for instance, pay reasonable rent. Share, and expect others to share common expenses, and emotionally you will feel more equal, more connected.

Sharing the things that need to be done and organized also makes couples feel equal. If you are both working professionally obviously getting a cleaner in prevents many resentment squabbles over those jobs. Who in your relationship pays the bills, buys food, arranges social events, plans holidays, fixes things, cleans the car and rings mutual friends? If it is only you then equality is not happening.

I know these doing things might seem petty but in the long run the more you share the more your will feel connected emotionally. You might have to challenge your control freak bias but it is important to let the other do more. They might never truly know how much you do anyway. So how do you go about sharing more without having a big row over who does what all the time?

I find having a suggestion jar where couples write down things they want to discuss for later is a good way to start. Having regular times to sit down with a cuppa, or a glass of wine, makes light of these sharing ideas. Having a set time to discuss sharing ideas stops having an argument every time resentment builds up about doing more than the other. Once the suggestion is in the jar a sense of relief takes place where the issue will be sorted out at a later set date.

May I also suggest using “I’ statements when discussing ideas. “I find doing the shopping all the time really boring and would like some help with that.” This is better than saying, “You never ever do the shopping.” The way we organise words is powerful.

Sharing in a relationship results in a sense of equality, self-respect and mutual understanding. Inequalities manifest in emotional separation at a deeper level. So be brave and start sharing more. Using a suggestion jar could launch your relationship into greater adventures and new worlds.

 

 

 

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SEX ADDICTION TREATMENT

Frank wanted his life back. He had been spending hours, sometimes almost all his weekends, in front of his computer, feeling compelled to look at pornographic websites. At our first appointment, he spoke about the importance of ‘getting it out in the open’ and his hope that this might help. Thinking about how things had changed or progressed since our first meeting Frank remembered the feeling of not being in control,

I was feeling very fatalistic, I was trapped in a hole. Every weekend I felt it was something that I had to do or was compelled to do and afterwards you feel so bad about yourself.

Recovering a Sense of Control

Something that comes up quite regularly in my work with people around pornography and sex ‘addiction’ is the idea of trying to ‘control’ the use of pornography. Many therapists and psychologists appear to be in favour of people trying to control themselves by putting boundaries into place around their porn use. However by all reports this just tends to flare up the ‘Addiction’. Frank and I worked together over webcam for a number of months. At our last appointment, I asked him about the benefit in us having this connection over time.

You can only tell a person things, but they have to go through it. I went over in my head what I wanted to say. And a few things you said that opened the blinds. For example, that I didn’t need boundaries when I was younger. I didn’t always have to do stuff like that.

Here Frank was referring to masturbation. During one appointment we had a conversation about the choices he made about masturbation when he was a younger man. There had been times Frank chose to masturbate and times that he decided not to. In other words, even as a teenager, Frank had been capable of making his own decisions about sexual expression. If you take a wild animal and put a cage around it, the first thing the animal will do is to try to break out of the cage. I don’t make people construct rules for their pornography use. This is something they have generally already tried before they come to see me and it has often not worked.

Observing the ‘Porn Addiction’

I often encourage people to step back and just watch the ‘Addiction’ come and go without intervening. In doing so, I am inviting the people who work with me to become co-researchers in the problems in their lives. Of course many people start off by assuming the therapist will be an expert or source of all the answers or even an authority figure. This is how therapists are popularly portrayed but it isn’t generally such a helpful idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while there might be similarities of experience, everyone has a different story as to how they came to be using pornography and why they want to stop. And of course, if there was a manual or technique that worked for everyone, it would be sold at the newsagent!

When Frank started making his own observations about the ‘Addiction’ he began to notice times at which it was more likely to ‘take over’ and times at which it took a back seat. He was also in a position to reflect on how he wanted his life to be. He spoke to me about ‘missing out on a real life’, how the time looking at porn was time that he could be doing his sport training and what his family meant for him. He talked about wanting to get back to having respect for his body. This was something he had valued quite early in life but seemed to have slipped in recent years. At the same time, he started to get a new perspective on masturbation.

I don’t have to be scared that it is going to kill me.

Frank started talking about having used pornography as a kind of conditioning he had done to himself. He had got into a pattern around sex and was relying on that. And this gave us the idea that if he had been conditioned to using porn, perhaps it was just a case of re-conditioning himself, like a motor can be re-conditioned, or an athlete can condition himself. These were metaphors that came from the realms of mechanics and sport, both of which were interests for Frank.

As our webcam counselling appointments continued, Frank shared with me some of the discoveries he had made during his re-conditioning…

I’ve started talking to more people. The interaction with people, having a laugh and joking, it’s so much more…
I don’t see it as a major part of my life, or casting a shadow.

A Step by Step Journey Away from Using Porn

For adults, the experiences of life goes back a long way. But without assistance we don’t always easily recall those times in our lives where we had a sense of ourselves as capable or skilled or in control. Narrative Therapy conversations about pornography use or ‘sex addiction’ can help people recover the sense that they have some authority over their own lives again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BUSY STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

BUSY  STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

I see many clients who report 10 to 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.

 

 

 

 

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

You have been in a relationship for a while however the way you are communicating with each other is not healthy or positive and you know it. And the reason is more than likely the relationship dynamic that has developed. Let me explain.

The dynamic is the mental attitude and behaviour you exhibit towards your partner. Take for example you have developed a mental idea that your partner is basically lazy, never gets around to organizing important matters and if it was not for you the whole financial and social world you live in would collapse.

This now is your established way of thinking about your partner and you organize everything to the point of becoming a control freak. Meanwhile your partner has become so used to you organizing everything they are oblivious to how things get done. This oblivious behaviour now confirms the view that the partner is lazy and hopeless at organizing anything.

Bingo we now have a relationship dynamic that is not healthy or positive for growth. So what can you do to change a non-healthy dynamic? Well first it requires self-reflection and a good honest chat on why the dynamic is not working. The problem is the problem and neither of you is the problem, is a good place to start.

Knowing you are a control freak is one thing you will know about yourself. Getting upset and anxious when things do not work out as you scheduled is a strong sign. This feeling can be exhausting and cause depression or anxiety. What about stepping back and seeing what happens when you don’t over plan things? Spontaneity is a wonderful thing and events happen that are never imagined.

To change the dynamic each partner is going to have to be conscious of changing the mental dynamic and response behaviour daily. That means the control freak does not jump in and find the solution immediately to fix an issue and the other partner takes a more pro-active role in getting things done.

If you both can do this mental change in the relationship dynamic you will witness a reduction of tension, the removal of anxiety, a closeness (lost over time) and a spurt of curiosity for new ways of doing things.

It is always interesting to me to hear the perception of a person who is a control freak, seeing themselves as caring and looking after people rather than controlling. And the person being controlled perceives himself or herself as useless but wanting a bigger voice on what happens in the relationship world.

There are many different types of unhealthy relationship dynamics that develop such as non listening, being defensive, laptop and mobile phone addiction, excessive criticism, etc.

However with understanding and a good tune up, relationships can become healthier and more joyful with a change in the fundamental dynamic. How exciting!

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and also treats anxiety, depression, sexual matters and addictions. Email; gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com M 0411 368 142

 

 

COUPLES AND COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

COUPLES AND COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Communication breakdown is one of the major issues couples say is the problem in their relationship. The love underneath is felt but a distance has been created where there seems little to say to each other and a sense of boredom has crept in. There are many causes of this that can be addressed with curiosity for “what else”.

Being Present

It is impossible to have good communication if either person is not fully present in the relationship. Having secrets is a major barrier to being present.

Mobile Phones & Laptops

We love them. We need them, as they are storage for things that are important in our lives – our second brain. When going out for dinner or just out, especially with him or her, try leaving them at home. At home when they come home close the computer for a while to chat about each other’s days. We know we are addicted to them because without them we feel, well, naked. When you feel that emotion, being without your phone/computer, know that it is your addiction speaking to you. Interesting!

Immersion

There is a lot or research on the negative aspects of immersion in relationships. That is doing everything together all the time. I know it feels safe to be with him or her but in doing so there is deep down compromise going on, with each person not having any new experiences. And without new experiences there is little to talk about. We don’t really have to do everything together. A separate holiday, a night our with separate friends, yoga class, tennis, book club, a movie – are things that can be done separate to your partner and the benefits are many. There is no need to feel threatened if you have trust in your relationship. You will enjoy it after the first felt emotions.

How is Our Relationship Going Chat

Asking and inviting the answer to the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is an excellent thing to do regularly. There are many assumptions made by us individually about our partner’s wellbeing. Inviting the answer to this question allows many things assumed to be discussed. We all want to hear, ‘Great’ but maybe there is a time to talk about sex, finance, domestic duty sharing, time spent with each other, etc.

Love Language

It is very easy to take each other for granted. They always come home, our domestic life is cozy and life is good, safe and predictable. Over time we tend to stop thanking our partners for that cup of tea, forget to organize a restaurant booking, buy theatre tickets, flowers, a card to say ‘I love you’ (or say it), text during the day, call each other by a loving nickname and generally thank them for being there with you.

Being Grateful

I’m sure you have heard about the benefits of sharing what you are grateful for before going to sleep. There you are in fresh sheets, feeling like giggling because you are so happy and cozy next to them and this is the perfect time to reel off 3 things you are grateful for in your life. Doing this is so bonding and it is so simple.

Having a sense of shared curiosity about doing things differently will open up communication between couples. Starting with, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is a great beginning.

 

SURVING AN AFFAIR

AN AFFAIR TO FORGET

You have met the one you love and the first years have been bliss. You have felt validated by being loved and you have extended your love to your partner. Then one day the world changes and you find out they had sex with someone else. You now feel crushed under the fallen debris of deceit and betrayal. How do your survive this shattering discovery and can you still maintain the relationship?

SURVIVING FIRST THOUGHTS

The first reaction is from your mind and it is telling you to walk away, sell any joint property, be on your own and lick your wounds. If you search deeper however your heart might say you still love them and want to talk more about what happened. There is also the physical side of your relationship that has a voice. Your mutual friends, family ties, the dog, the house and a sense of companionship that is still there. Are you really prepared to throw it all away as an act of revenge?

DISCUSS

Maybe it is time to discuss what happened taking a helicopter view rather than a purely emotional one. Maybe you haven’t been communicating lately, maybe you haven’t had sex for ages and no one has been brave enough to talk about it (the brain gets very lazy and de sexes our partners over time) and maybe there are unshared secrets that stopped honest intimacy.

 

There are many choices when infidelity occurs. It can be seen as unforgiveble or as acceptance this was a wake up call. When was the last time the question of, “How are we going do you think?” is asked of the partner. Such a question allows the other to open up emotionally and really talk. Having an honest and open discussion can re-unite a couple by sharing deeper thoughts and vulnerabilities. In doing so secrets that keep couples apart can be revealed and a greater sense of closeness achieved.

MORE TIME TOGETHER?

Maybe you need to: review the whole structure of your relationship like changing work demands so you can spend more time together, plan dates with each other, have weekends away with just the two of you (and the dog), talk about ways to get back in the boat, or the bath, and have sex together (once you get it started the rest will follow) and make time for dreams to aim for (a vegetable patch, travel, spar bath, a dog, new house, etc).

VALUES

Also over time couples develop a different idea of assumed values and attitudes. It is a good idea to see if you and your partner have similar values and attitudes. Are you on the same page today? False assumptions are easily made in long-term interactions. I have developed a values and attitudes survey for couple and if you email me I will send you it to you for free.

HELP

Discovering an infidelity can be heart breaking but there are things a couple can do to move on in the relationship by honest discussion and taking a helicopter view of why it happened. And then plan a future where greater intimacy and closeness can be worked on. Please do try to repair your relationship, as it is harder than you think to find another. Maybe you will both grow through this affair. Take care.

 

Gerry North is a couple and general counsellor treating depression, anxiety, self-esteem building, and addictions.

Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com or www.counsellingworkslondon.uk

SECRETS

KEEPING SECRETS RUINS RELATIONSHIPS

Are you tempted to check his or her phone, email or Facebook account? If you are thinking about doing it, the relationship is already in trouble. You are tempted to do this because you have strong feelings the partner is keeping secrets from you. Is it okay to check your partner’s contact platforms and what will you do with any information you find? Well what do you think, is it okay or not to check up on your partner?

Trust is one of the three most important pillars of a healthy relationship, the other two being sharing life’s personal challenges (our vulnerabilities) and having dreams about the future – for each other and as a couple. If you do look at your partner’s phone it means you have trust issues and looking means you also now have a secret to hold – or not.

Holding secrets is as damaging to the person doing it as it is to the person cheated of the truth. John and Carol have been together for 8 years and their sex life has collapsed. John spends 2 hours and the gym and Carol is suspicious about that. John has been texting people on Tinder but has not met anyone and enjoys the pure fantasy of flirting. John has coffee after the gym with a girl he trains with but doesn’t want to tell Carol, as he knows she will get jealous. He has decided to keep this a secret and feels he is entitled to a private life of some sort. Carol agonizes over whether to go through John’s phone and finally does so, finding a text about meeting someone for coffee after gym. She confronts John who denies anything is going on but Carol is ready to leave the relationship.

So is John entitled to hold some secrets from Carol and is it okay for Carol to go through his phone? We all hold some secrets from the world. We don’t express our personal fears to everyone we meet but on the other hand keeping secrets keeps us apart from the ones we love. You have to be brave to be honest but in doing so respect is shown for the relationship and each other.

What if John had firstly discussed their failing sex life and how it impacts their relationship? What if John had discussed his feelings for wanting some sort of sex fantasy and the need to have different relationships with new people? What if Carol had spoken to John about her feelings of wanting to go through his phone and his suspicions about the 2 hours at the gym?

Getting it all out in the open at the beginning would not have lead to what now is a major threat to their on-going relationship – the keeping of secrets. I ask many couples to check in with each other often with a sit down and asking the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?”

So what do you think, should partners check each other phone or other contact platforms? Do they have a right to?

 

How to Resolve Couple Conflicts

The influence of individual internal conflicts is often forgotten in couple counselling. George has been in a relationship with Helen for 15 years. They have great domestic creature comforts, good friends, holiday a bit and like the company of others but deep down there is something amiss.

Well maybe the main problem is not about them as a couple but more about their own unhealed personal internal conflicts. Helen was lied to in a previous relationship and lacks trust. George deep down feels he is not as capable as others either at work, socially or at making decisions.

George also had an alcoholic father who verbally, and at times, physically abused him. Helen had an over protective mother who was obsessed with the body functions of her children and their cleanliness. These secret and unresolved internal conflicts are at play in their daily couple relationship, without them being fully conscious of it.

We all have different childhood experiences that have made us the way we are as adults. It stands to reason if these personal internal conflicts are not healed, or put to bed, then having them in the background will affect all relationships at a base level – at home, at work and at play.

If you are in a relationship and you consider you have unhealed internal conflicts then maybe it is time to address these first in individual counselling, before seeking couple therapy. You will feel empowered if you can clean your own slate first before negotiating changes in your relationship. In the end the only person we can change is ourselves.

I often find in couple counselling one partner wanting me to take their side to tell the other they are wrong. Couple counselling is not about finding blame but more about negotiating new pathways. To do that partners need to reflect on the value of their own decisions – are they really the right ones all the time?

Personal therapy, to dilute the demons of our mind, can change our behaviour in all aspects in life. It can make us happier at work, socially, with our families and in our lives with our closest life partner.

 

 

Courage to be Imperfect

You have invited your best friends over for dinner, the entrée is wonderful and so is the main but the apple pie was slightly burnt and you consider the whole dinner party an utter failure. Welcome to the world of a perfectionist. You get upset because your partner fails to make the bed in the morning or leaves dirty dishes in the sink some mornings. This is the life of a perfectionist who will in the end worry himself/herself into misery.

Being and knowing you are imperfect will give you a wonderful feeling or release. It is so human to be imperfect. It does not matter about being right all the time. Say, “Stuff It”, and enjoy the serendipity state. Sit back and see what happens to fill the void. Nobody is or ever has been perfect so having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others will only lead to negative thinking, unhappiness and depression.

Perfectionists tend to think others are thinking and reacting negatively towards them when there is no real evidence to support it. Friends are actually getting on with their lives, in their own heads, and they don’t care, or even give it a second thought, that the apple pie was slightly burnt. It fact it made them feel better about their own past cooking mistakes if anything.

It is very hard to live with a perfectionist and they need lots of encouragement to let things go and not to be right all the time. There is good research evidence that an unhappy childhood can cause people to take extreme control over life matters for their own security. This highly developed internal sense of control then carries on into adulthood, never trusting serendipity. To be mentally healthy we need to have a balance of a sense on internal control and enough trust of the outside world to let people and events in.

A perfectionist will feel; they must be seen to be perfect, others should do the right thing, find it difficult to make decisions unless all things are perfect (he/she is not suitable as a partner because he/she snores or is too thin/fat or has pimples) and in order to be accepted I myself must have a perfect body. Wow that’s a lot of things to get right in a world where we constantly struggle in disorganized chaos.

I hate to admit it but I have, in the past, been a bit of a perfectionist but now I realize how unrealistic and counterproductive perfectionism is. So what can you do if you are one or how can you help your partner to just let some things go and stop being one.

Tell them to get out of the house earlier than usual as they tend to take ages to leave, invariably getting to places late or in an extreme rush. Start doing things imperfectly deliberately. Run the vacuum cleaner over 80% of the carpet and leave the rest. Pile unwashed dishes in the sink. Leave the rubbish bin full. Just experience what happens in that void. The world will did not crumble. At first there will be a great sense of unease but move through the unease and release will eventually come. “Stuff it!”

In the long term perfectionism leads to anxiety and depression along with illogical and distorted thinking. Force yourself to not be perfect and consider a world where you are not placing unreasonable demands on yourself and others. Feel that great sense of relief and go out and buy/make a badge which says, “I Have the Courage to Be Imperfect.”

5 Tips For Building a Loving Relationship

How many of us have learned how to build loving relationships? Here are 5 tips for building a loving relationship, especially handy when the love bubble bursts after the first 12 months or so.

 

1. Create a safe environment where you can trust and share openly without being afraid.

Don’t interrupt, even if you need to put your hand over your mouth to stop yourself. Learn to fight fairly. No name calling. Don’t make threats. Apologize when you know you should. If you’re too angry to really listen, stop! Go into another room, take space for yourself, breathe and “calm down.”

Remember: your partner is not the enemy.

 

2. Separate the facts from the feelings.

What beliefs and feelings get triggered in you during conflicts? Ask yourself: Is there something from my past that is influencing how I’m seeing the situation now? The critical question you want to ask: Is this about him or her, or is it really about me? What’s the real truth? Once you’re able to differentiate facts from feelings, you’ll see your partner more clearly and be able to resolve conflicts from clarity.

 

3. Ask questions when you’re unsure or are making assumptions.

All too often, we make up our own stories or interpretations about what our partners’ behavior means. For example: “He doesn’t want to cuddle; he must not really love me anymore.” We can never err on the side of asking too many questions, and then listen to the answers from your whole self — heart, gut, mind and body. Equally important is to hear what’s not being said — the facts and feeling that you sense might be unspoken.

 

4. Make time for your relationship.

No matter who you are or what your work is, you need to nurture your relationship. Make sure you schedule time for the well-being of your relationship. That includes making “playdates” and also taking downtime together. Frequently create a sacred space together by shutting off all things technological and digital. Like a garden, the more you tend to your relationship, the more it will grow.

 

5. Say the “hard things” from love.

Become aware of the hard things that you’re not talking about. Do you need to discuss your sex life? Have a jar that you put in important things to be discussed. How does that feel? No matter what you’re feeling in a situation, channel the energy of your emotions so that you say what you need to say in a constructive manner.

Try one of these every day and before you know it you will develop the skills of building a loving relationship.

Gerry North is a couples and general counsellor. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com