Monthly Archives: August 2020

CAN MARRIAGE COACHING HELP YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AFTER LOCKDOWN?

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Covid Couple - small

For some couples and families the stresses and strains of being stuck at home together because of the covid-19 lockdown are starting to show. Before the lockdown, couples typically spent the bulk of their time apart since one (or both) worked outside of the home. Now the whole household are required to spend all day together.  New research into these dramatic changes in routine commissioned by the leading relationships charity, Relate, has highlighted the impact lockdown measures are having on relationships.

Almost a quarter of the survey’s respondents (23%) said the current circumstances are placing pressure on their relationship with their partner. Approximately one in eight (12%) of those who currently live with their partner agreed that staying at home is making them doubt their relationship.

It’s important to note this is not the case for everyone. The majority of the study’s respondents who have a partner (65%) said they feel supported by them and 43% of respondents who currently live with their partner said their experience of staying at home has bought them closer.  However, for those who are negatively impacted, it can be difficult to know what to do.

As a rule, couples and families are not designed to be in such intense close contact. It can lead to feelings such as resentment, anger, anxiety and frustration which can lead to arguments and negativity.  Pre-lockdown there would be natural times when couples and families would not be together.  We get a lot of pleasure and self worth from these activities and when we are unable to do them, underlying issues can be exaggerated as they are brought into sharp focus. What we were once able to ignore becomes unbearable.

As the negative feelings grow, we can start to expect our partners and children to be mind readers about what we need or want, then if we are disappointed we become critical or withdrawn. These feelings of upset and hurt can lead to a breakdown in the relationship due to the ever decreasing desire to communicate.  It’s only by talking about how you’re feeling, rather than focusing on who or what may be wrong, that healthy communication can start to grow.  This is where the help of a gifted counsellor is invaluable, guiding the conversation and keeping the lines of good communication open.

I believe a good, if tongue in cheek, illustration of this was the popularity of a clip on social media at the start of lockdown when a man is asked “Option A: Would you rather be home with your wife and kids, or option B…” and before option B is explained the man says “B.”  For many, both men and women this is a reality.

All family members need to feel that what they have to say is important and not be dismissed.   We can often make things up in our minds about certain behaviours; misunderstanding them as selfish or designed to hurt. It is only by talking them through without judgement that we can clear up any misunderstandings and remove any negative impact.  It’s inevitable that during this time, even in healthy relationships, disagreements will occur. If things are left to fester, and we stop talking and listening, resentment will build up into a more unmanageable situation.  We can then get stuck in a spiral of negative thinking that if left untreated can prove fatal to our relationships.

In order to counter these negative thoughts, it can help with the direction of a counsellor, to look for balance and be admiring of each other’s qualities. We can sometimes forget the strengths and positive traits of the person we live with. Our counsellor, Nicola Platts, sometimes ask clients to describe what they would look for in a new partner. Quite often they describe the person who is actually right under their nose.

The greatest gift counselling offers is to improve how people listen to each other: this is not a luxury it’s a necessity. For any situation to change we need the ability to ask ourselves better questions and be open to listening to the answer. Questions you could ask are: ‘Where would I like to be in a year or five years?’ or ‘If I woke up tomorrow morning and everything was okay in this relationship, what would have needed to change?’ These questions help to focus on the specifics as opposed to the general idea of wanting it to be better.

If you feel your relationship is going through some tough times or it has already broken down, some guidance from our expert, relationship counsellor Nicola Platts could be invaluable.  Together, with Nicola’s help, you can resolve any hurt and create the relationship of your dreams. Or if the relationship has come to an end, ensure an equitable split for everyone, especially if children are involved.

These matters are intensely private. But if anyone in your team, family or friends are impacted by the issues discussed, you owe it to them not to ignore it. We urge you to encourage them to reach out for help.

Simply contact info@certuscoaching.co.uk for an expert confidential conversation leading to any help that may be required.

 

The Telegraph – Does your marriage need an M.O.T.?

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Rachel and Andy Griffiths after their marriage MOT
Rachel and Andy Griffiths after their marriage MOT CREDIT: SOPHIA SPRING

‘If you’re in it for the long haul, it’s naive to think there won’t be cracks in your relationship from time to time,’ says Rachel Griffiths, who has been married to husband Andy for 20 years. ‘We’re both busy, we have lots of friends and as a result we’re really bad at focusing on our relationship.’It’s a situation many will recognise: two busy parents of teenagers, coming out of the frenzy of the early childhood years but whose lives run in parallel rather than together. For Rachel, 50, a freelance theatre practitioner, and Andy, also 50 and chief executive of a sports charity, this resulted in day-to-day issues getting blown out of proportion.‘I’m quite tidy and can’t relax until things are put away, but Rachel tends to work at our dining-room table and leaves things piled up,’ explains Andy. ‘I’d come back from work trips and the first thing I’d do would be clear up. It all became symbolic, and I started to feel, “If you cared about me, I wouldn’t be coming home to this”.

Determined to get back on track, the couple signed up for an Alt-Date Night course in London run by Devon-based organisation One:Retreat. This involved a day-long session of talks, private discussions and exercises with a relationship coach before going on a date together. ‘Sometimes you just need a different language or lens through which to look at something,’ says Andy.

Rachel and Andy Griffiths on their wedding day in 1998 
Rachel and Andy Griffiths on their wedding day in 1998  CREDIT: COURTESY OF RACHEL AND ANDY GRIFFITHS

Couples’ counselling has come a long way since clergyman Dr Herbert Gray set up the Marriage Guidance Council (now Relate) 80 years ago. Once seen as a last-ditch recourse, it’s no longer uncommon for couples to use counselling to check how their relationship is doing, even when there are no major problems. Hence the rise of so-called ‘Marriage MOT’ courses.

Most courses involve a series of exercises based around one principle: that a healthy marriage requires genuine communication, and acceptance that you might have different but equally valid points of view.It might sound a bit, well, American to the average buttoned-up Brit, but, says Marian O’Connor of Tavistock Relationships, ‘People feel they fell in love and got married and that’s it. But I use the analogy of a garden: you can’t just turn your back on it, you have to keep weeding it, working at it.’

I learnt that we’re just different – it doesn’t mean we’re falling apart

At the same time, we have extremely high expectations of these untended relationships, as Denise Knowles of Relate points out: ‘We expect security, friendship, the feeling of being special, good sex, to feel cherished, respected and loved – all the time.’So maybe it’s telling that the two biggest reasons for couples seeking help from Relate are ‘communication’ and ‘managing conflict’.

Sarah Burns, 48, signed up for a Couple 50+ MOT course in Bristol with her husband Joe, 66, as she felt like they were drifting apart. ‘We weren’t having massive bust-ups,’ she says, ‘but we weren’t finding time for each other.’ The four-week course prompted them to discuss what had changed in their relationship.

‘There were some surprises,’ says Joe. ‘Like the exercise where we had to describe each other in terms of animals. I described Sarah as an octopus, which surprised us both, and she likened me to an ostrich with my head in the sand, which didn’t surprise either of us. But we also talked about things like how we’d dealt with anger and how that affected us.’

Chris and Annie Hunt at their wedding 
in 2015 – a marriage MOT has helped them find resolutions to problems in their relationship 

Chris and Annie Hunt at their wedding in 2015 – a marriage MOT has helped them find resolutions to problems in their relationship  CREDIT: COURTESY OF CHRIS AND ANNIE HUNT

By the end of the sessions, their relationship had changed. ‘One of the things I learnt is that it’s not a personal affront if the other person doesn’t react in exactly the same way as you,’ Sarah says. ‘It doesn’t mean we’re falling apart. We’re just different. We need to respect those differences and be a bit more creative in the way we deal with each other.’ The couple are now planning their first holiday without their children in 22 years. ‘I do think we’re making efforts to stay a lot closer,’ says Joe.

Ammanda Major of Relate says that many of her clients sign up for an MOT around the time of a major life milestone. ‘Sometimes birthdays or anniversaries can suddenly make us start to think, “I’m not very happy”, as can things like the death of a parent or kids moving out.’Retirement is another trigger – and not just because the couple see more of each other. ‘It can be a disappointment if one partner is expecting more sex than the other,’ explains O’Connor. ‘You’ve finally got time for it but bodies have often changed, which can get in the way of enjoying life in and out of bed. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to have sensual enjoyment, but it may be different.’

Many couples find it toe-curlingly embarrassing to discuss issues like this at first, but they soon get used to it. ‘There are some areas I find quite difficult to talk about,’ says Andy Griffiths. ‘But I knew it was important to be there.’Chris Hunt, 54, a construction manager who completed the same One:Retreat course, admits that he was initially reluctant to sign up as he dislikes speaking about his feelings – but agreed after his wife, Annie, also 54, persuaded him. ‘I hadn’t realised some bits would be difficult for her, too,’ he says. Annie adds: ‘Chris doesn’t like me to be uncomfortable talking about things but he learnt that I don’t actually mind being uncomfortable in front of him – it’s worth it to get a resolution.’

However, some marriages reach a rather more serious point before a couple realises that an MOT is needed. Take Tom*, 53, and Georgia*, 54, who were on the verge of separation. ‘He didn’t want to do anything – or at least, not anything with me,’ Georgia says.

‘We’d got well beyond the stage of date nights because even if I could force him out of the door we’d just end up arguing. I’d given up on the idea that we might enjoy each others’ company again and Tom now admits he felt the same.’ It took weeks of digging to remind them what drew them to each other in the first place. ‘It wasn’t easy, but we’ve mapped out a path of how to move forward,’ says Tom. ‘We have something we don’t want to throw away.’Looking back, Rachel and Andy agree that the course was worth it. ‘My Saturdays are quite precious. But deep down I knew it was important,’ says Andy.

So what of the cluttered dining table? ‘Rachel has started to keep it tidier,’ says Andy. ‘And I make an effort not to make it my first point of engagement when I get in. It wouldn’t have worked if we’d just been confrontational.’ Rachel adds: ‘We needed a solution – and now we both think about what makes the other person happy.’

New Marriage and Family Coaching Service

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Marriage counselling crop 72dpi

I am delighted to welcome Nicola Platts to our coaching team.  Nicola is a highly qualified relationships coach with over a decade’s experience of working with Relate.  She specialises in Marriage and Family Coaching.

Nicola will be offering our new Marriage MOT service. Many couples wait for their relationship to breakdown before you ask for help! Our Marriage MOT takes a look under the bonnet of your relationship to diagnose any issues before they become a major, sometimes terminal, problem.  During the 1-hour session, Nicola will take a look at what isn’t working as well as you’d like in your relationship.  She will help you both to identify potential problems early and put strategies in place to deal with them in the future.

For many, the one-off session is all that is needed. For those with more serious challenges, we offer a 5-session intensive program to help you identify and deal with whatever comes up in a powerful way.
 
These matters are intensely private. But if anyone in your team, family or friends is facing increased relationship pressures from personal stress and anxiety you owe it to them not to ignore it. We urge you to encourage them to reach out for help.

Simply contact Nicola at info@certuscoaching.co.uk for an expert, confidential conversation leading to any help that may be required.

For more information Contact me