Archive for Family – Page 2

Moving house can be a positive step for a relationship

Statistics tell us that moving house can be one of the most stressful experiences alongside divorce and bereavement. Certainly at Coupleworks we often see clients who are facing a move into a different area or who may be considering relocating to a different country. This is often where communication breaks down and can be seen as a negative experience. This can raise unresolved issues between a couple at a crucial time of change and interferes with the feelings of joy and connection with starting somewhere new.

Having just been through the experience of moving out of a home shared for 32 years with a partner who has always been very reluctant to move, I appreciate how stressful it can be especially as we only had 4 weeks to do it in, which in our case probably was the best thing, as there wasn’t much time to process anything except start packing!!

I was rather anxious how we would cope knowing that moving house can put a strain on even the most solid of relationships. Here are some of the thoughts I had along the journey:

Moving house can be an incredible rollercoaster. Change can be scary for one and exciting for the other. Home was always comfortable and familiar. Going someplace else is new and very unfamiliar. Despite the stress and tensions, it is surprising how beneficial it can be if treated in the right way and if we take advantage of opportunities open to us. Managed well, far from straining a relationship, it can often strengthen it and breathe new life into it.

Here are a few tips to help reduce anxiety and ensure your move progresses as smoothly as possible.

• Delegation of responsibilities. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Discuss and work out who is going to do what and when and keep check lists.
• Discuss what you need to take with you, what you need to leave, what you need to dispose of and what you may wish to give to charity
• Give yourselves time to talk about the things you might miss about your old home. Remember the happy and sad times spent there, the neighbours, the familiarity, the views. Acknowledging all the losses and expressing sadness is a positive step
• Don’t be afraid to express your fears of the unknown – the what if’s…
Moving from where you know to where you don’t can bring on anxiety for most people. However change can be very exciting and can bring new life to a relationship so go and grab it and make the most of it.

Counsellors at Coupleworks specialise in helping clients resolve any difficulties that might make moving house easier to manage. This can be via face to face, telephone, or if you don’t have time to attend in person through our Skype counselling service. Please do contact us at Coupleworks

Dawn Kaffel

Family Breakdown

Fewer than half of children will celebrate their 16th birthday with their parents still together. Penelope Leach is a research psychologist and well known for her books on early childhood development written in the 1970s. She has recently published a book called ‘Family Breakdown: Helping children hang onto both their parents’. It is written for parents, and professionals involved in supporting those parents, to help to find a way to divorce ‘better’, very much focusing on the perspective of the child.

There has been some controversy surrounding the book even before it was published. In particular she has been criticised by fathers and some psychologists for advocating that children under 3 should be with their primary caregiver at night and not have overnight stays away from them. In practice this means of course that for a high percentage of children this will be their mother. Her evidence for this comes from recent studies and developments in attachment psychology, although some have disputed this particular research. To say that she is against fathers is simplistic: rather she has emphasised the importance of the father’s role in a child’s development. She speaks to the needs of the child to be with their primary caregiver during those early years up to the age of 3, whether that is their mother or father.

All too often, despite the best intentions of parents, each partner will struggle to separate their trauma of separation and divorce from their relationship to the children. In that context therapy can be helpful to process some of the accumulated hurts and resentments to try to prevent these being acted out through the children. This book could be a useful addition to help parents find the dos and don’ts of what might be best for their children in the midst of a difficult and painful process.

An interview with Penelope Leach was broadcast on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 at 10am on Monday 23 June. Listen here

Sarah Fletcher

Fathers and Daughters

Mothers are historically seen as primary role models for daughters, and sometimes the impact of the father’s influence can initially appear to be more shadowy.

Where there is not a ‘present dad’ – then a secondary male can step in. Never underestimate the significance of grandfathers, uncles or good family friends.

The first important man in a small girl’s world will be this male figure. Children will regard themselves as they imagine others regard them. Women begin to find their sense of acceptance and value as a result of these early messages from their fathers.

The first family unit is where we all learn our powers of negotiation. Those who come from conflict averse or overly critical parenting will not easily be able to learn the value of safely expressing their own opinions. The father who is too powerful, or too passive, will not allow a woman a sense of safety when finding her voice with later male relationships.

Learning that her thoughts are valid and worth attention (even if not agreed with) is a good life lesson for any girl and being listened to will mean that she, in turn, will find it easier to listen.

Believing that her opinions count will help a girl to learn how to be assertive. This differs from sounding aggressive, which is more likely to stem from combative behaviour arising from feelings of powerlessness.

Offering safe male attention is one of a fathers best legacies to a daughter. Understanding boundaries and privacy, and avoiding any negative or trite comments about her physical characteristics are essential.

Remember, the parents are the first couple that any child observes. How the father treats the mother is a powerful message. Parents who treat each other well, are companionable and can disagree (even heatedly) but resolve and safely make up will show daughters that this can be their expectation of a fair and respectful relationship in adult life.

Christina Fraser

Negotiating couple pitfalls and minefields.

Pressed buttons can ignite into hurt feelings and painful arguments even with couples that feel in harmony.  Talking about things they know are liable to ‘set them off’, and how they would like to negotiate when this happens can help to avoid instant defensiveness and lack of understanding.

· Where to live and in what type of accommodation?
· Money management.
· Sexual desire, preferences and respect.
· Allowing and respecting difference in taste whether cultural or social.
· Household and daily chores.  Who does what and when?  Does it feel fair?
· Driving and directions.  Who does which or are the roles swapped?
· Time management.  Late/early.  How to negotiate somewhere in the middle to lower the anxiety and stress.
· Going out.  How much or little?
· Sharing friends.  Mutually enjoying some.  Separating out for others without a sense of rejection or threat.
· What does each mean about trust?
· Children.  Different expectations and hopes.  How to deal with the conflicting ideas.
· Pets.  To have or have not?  How to share the care.
· Tidy/Untidy.  Can a point be reached somewhere in the middle to satisfy both.
· Perhaps one of the most difficult to negotiate because it is a relatively new pitfall is Internet and mobile phone usage.  The sense of rejection when friends in cyberspace seem more amusing, interesting and sexy than each other in real time.

These are all areas of possible conflict and misunderstanding which can be conciliated and mediated, bringing the couple closer through a feeling of respect and being borne in mind.

Clare Ireland

Staying in touch with son/daughters ex-partner?

  • Do you think it is ok to stay in touch with a son/daughters ex-partner?

Sadly, this is not a black and White issue and will need careful handling depending on the circumstances.

There will be raw feelings and it is important to acknowledge that it is a loss – depending on the depth and length of the couple relationship it may even feel like a bereavement.

It is important to discuss and respect the boundaries of the son/daughter and be sensitive to their situation.

For the parent it may bring other, complicated issues. Was the partner a surrogate child or a good friend? Try to examine what is your (the parental) loss and separate these feelings.

  • Is it only ok if there are grandchildren involved?

In a mature separation, conflict between parents has to be put aside for the sake of the children who need the parents to communicate respectfully, however angry or upset they may feel.

Continuity is vital, and the loss of supportive grandparents will only heighten children’s sense of insecurity.

Talk about how this may work for the parents, both of whom may need to be involved and be sensitive to their feelings. Impartiality may be very difficult, but this is where the grandchildren’s stability is paramount.

  • What if the son/daughter does not want them to stay in touch?

There are likely to be raw and damaged feelings. Try not to take sides; there is usually one truth, but two perspectives to every situation. There will be the loss of hope that this relationship brought. Parents may need to face their own losses around any cosy fantasies of a future family.

Allow your child to talk about their feelings. Often anger and stubbornness hides fear and sadness.

Only by keeping careful communication open is there any hope of a future, and different link to the ‘lost’ partner

Christina Fraser

Reuniting with Family this Christmas?

Alongside the gifts and good food arrives a big box of expectations – all creating an atmosphere that feels highly-charged and which could be explosive.

What if we do not wish to conform this year? Is it hard to risk disappointing others? Does it feel too challenging to do something different or to not fall into line? What happens to family preconceptions if we change the script?

Are you left feeling bad, anxious and uncomfortable? Do you feel responsible for the reactions of others when they express confusion and disappointment?

Do you end up conforming to the expectations to avoid conflict or tears – but then feel resentful and angry? Do you say ‘Yes’ when you wish to say ‘No’? Are you able to explain to child that they will not receive the presents on the list? Can you tell a parent that you will not be staying as long as they wish? Can you protect separate ‘couple time’ for you and your partner while looking at a mountain of demands?

When everyone gets together for the festive season, unresolved issues from childhood can surface and difficult family dynamics can get replayed. It can be hard to be calm and confident, and still caring, in the face of emotional blackmail. In the face of others trying to make us feel guilty can we remain authentic, be clear about our motivations, and see the bigger picture?

When facing unmanaged hurt, and coping with the induced guilt, we often find ourselves succumbing to a pressure to fall back into old patterns of behaviour. When we stop to think, we realise that our reactions to the current situation are actually rooted in past experiences. We can revert to childhood roles when we feel flooded and overwhelmed with emotion – and lose our competent adult sense of self. Are our reactions those of a rebellious teenager or, even more embarrassingly, a frustrated toddler?

If only we can be clear about our own motivations and intentions, pause a moment, stand back a little, take a deep breath, stay in the moment… Taking an overview, side-stepping the fray, helps us see the wood as well as the tree!

 

Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Addictive behaviours draw in other family members. There will be instinctive reactions in concerned onlookers of anyone with an eating disorder. The Maudsley Hospital in South London have developed a range of descriptive animal metaphors to clearly illustrate the likely responses of carers, and better help them to recognize their natural and typical reactions.

How do you react? There are three basic BEHAVIOURAL types that carers may adopt as a result of the confusion and anxiety they feel.

KANGAROO CARE is the response to a loved one’s seemingly fragile, physical state. It may feel tempting to try to draw them in, to protect them as if in a safe pouch. Kangaroo carers do everything they can to support. They will do anything to try and coax or tempt their loved one, with tenderness and special treats. Sadly, the downside is that it infantalises and can remove the challenge of the difficult return to reality.

RHINOCEROS RESPONSE is the understandable frustration that leads to analyzing, persuading and convincing. This so easily ends in a loss of tolerance and patience and then to arguments – as if trying to charge at, and smash, the disordered behavior.  The negative side is that force brings up all the distorted, eating disordered thinking of counter-agreements as a defense – or it allows the person to feel they could never overcome their situation without assistance

THE DOLPHIN illustrates the most helpful approach. Eating disordered people can feel all at sea, and the condition is their life belt because they feel the world is a stressful and dangerous place. The dolphin sometimes swims ahead leading and guiding the way, sometimes just being encouragingly alongside, nudging from time to time.

The other dimension of the relationship is the EMOTIONAL response, and again animal metaphors can illustrate these.

THE OSTRICH covers the family members who find any kind of challenge or confrontation too tricky. The temptation is to ignore the behaviour or absent themselves completely from the situation. This way they don’t have to admit the seriousness of what is happening.

THE JELLYFISH is engulfed in an intense and transparent emotional response. Sometimes it is just through fear that accompanies misunderstandings or false interpretations. It is only too easy to still hold the historic belief that somehow they have failed as parents or siblings, leading to sensitive or tearful reactions.

ST BERNARD DOG is the emotional ideal. Consistent, reliable and dependable in all circumstances. The St Bernard stays calm even when feeling threatened by the situation. He is warm and nurturing.

Most people will weave in and out of these behaviours – sometimes understandably succumbing to extremes, but it can be helpful to remember that intense emotional reactions are normal when dealing with situations that touch us deeply. Keeping in mind these goals can help when options feel limited.

Christina Fraser

 

Tips for New Parents

While the birth of the Royal baby has brought much attention in the media to the Royal couple, they are of course new parents going through many of the joys and struggles that all new parents experience.  Having a baby is wonderful but getting through the early months can be a testing time for any couple.

  • Sleep deprivation makes you tired, irritable and less tolerant. Be kind to each other. Be realistic about what can be achieved in those first few months.
  • Keep talking to your partner.  Be open about your experiences both the pleasures and the pain.  Don’t be afraid to be honest about any conflicting feelings.
  • Support each other to give your partner some time off.  Try to do something that will revitalise you – whether that is catching up on some sleep, taking some exercise or meeting a friend for coffee or a drink and don’t judge what each other does with their time out.
  • Have clear boundaries with family and friends.  Ask for help when you need it but don’t be afraid to say no when prolonged visiting becomes too much.  Remember you are the parents now, take advice but make your own decisions.
  • Stay connected to your partner.  Create time for yourselves as a couple, time to talk and time to reconnect through sex when that can be resumed.   In the meantime hugs and cuddles are important.
  • Remember no one gets it right all of the time.

To have and to hold

To have and to hold or to have, love and let go, which is the question?

The questions presented are both applicable to either relationships or parents and children.

 To have and to hold is to be avoided if possible in both areas.  To hold a partner is stifling and controlling.  Both sides of a relationship need to branch out into their own interests, friendships and groups in order to fertilise the ongoing partnership and avoid the pitfall of familiarity and boredom.  The outside life can be brought back within in discussion, sharing friendships and attending each other’s groups from time to time.  Trust has to be present in order to achieve this.

 With parents and children it is tempting to hold in subtle ways and not fully let go.  The letting go has to come gently from parents first and though often painful in the process. The adult children will begin to stand alone and form their own identity through learning how to deal with difficult issues and unhappiness. Solving problems will increase self-esteem as they take up the reins of their own adult life.

Living with alcoholism in a family

It is impossible not to be affected in some way if you are living in a family with an alcohol dependent member. The negative effects will touch everyone around a problem drinker.

  •  Living with chaos and unpredictability are the main effects on families, but alcoholism can go unrecognised as relatives and friends make excuses to themselves and others, and bury their fears rather than facing them.
  •  Denial is usually the first defence of an alcoholic, and the distorted thinking around the problem makes it virtually impossible for family members to apply logical strategies to try and help the person concerned. Dependency becomes a shameful and secretive business, and the family may collude with this – hoping the problem will disappear until often only a crisis will force change.
  •  Research shows that for every alcoholic, there are between four and nine people directly impacted by their disease. Those ‘supporting’ a drinker can only look at their own part in all this, which can be enormously painful.  Beginning to look at their own behaviour may be tough, but until other family members start to draw back from their involvement, they can only become embroiled in the situation.
  •  The decision to stop drinking can only ever be made by the person concerned. But by withdrawing and starting to take care of themselves, those around the alcoholic can put the problem squarely back where it belongs. The option to look directly at the core of the situation, however, can only be taken by the one with the dependency.  It’s their decision only and must be driven by their motivation for change.
  •  We cannot change another, but we can change ourselves and how we respond to them. This, in turn, may affect the way they deal with themselves and their drinking.

Christina Fraser

Twins in later life stage.

When an adult twin finds a partner and the other twin is still single how easy is it for the single twin to remain pleased and excited for the other couple?

The sense of being left adrift and alone can be acute and the single twin can find themselves inadvertently or on purpose making asides about the suitability of the outsider.  This in turn can place doubt in the coupled twin and cause a break in the new relationship.

Does this damage the on going twin couple long term?  It seems it is hard but not impossible for either twin to individuate in the way sexual couples need to in order to fertilise the couple and keep the story alive and growing.

The third party needs to be someone, as discussed in the last twin blog, who is comfortable with their sense of self and knows that there will be times when the twins are closer than their twin partner is to them.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons where successful twin coupling outside the twin relationship is with another twin who understands the dynamics.

There are examples of older twins in their last life stage having lost their sexual partner through death, divorce or separation turning back to each other for company and companionship.  This becomes a safety net until such time as one or the other meets a new partner.  The earlier pattern reappears and needs understanding and tolerance from each person in the triangle.

Placement in the Family A useful task in a learning group

First and last children have an identity by the nature of their position.

An only child has an identity because it avoids sibling rivalry but has to face other difficult issues within family life on his/her own.

The middle children however many there are have to form their own identity within the group.  This may be, the joker, the rebel, the sick one, the athlete, the academic, the good girl/boy, the quiet one or the attention seeker.

All these defenses are formed in order to gain special attention from the parents or parent.

When these children become adults many of these learnt behaviour patterns repeat throughout their lives, sometimes making relationships difficult to manage.  An interesting experiment which can be reassuring and helpful in a group is to form sets of same place children who then share their experience of what being that number felt like.

The feeling of being alone becomes a shared one and enables management of difficult issues to feel easier.

Clare Ireland

Five tips for improving your relationship in 2013

We can offer praise in so many situations, but this can so easily disappear in relationships. remember to thank each other for the small things. Make a point of showing appreciation for at least one thing a day.

Find time for each other. The couple relationship will not flourish without attention. Take the time to do things together. If finances are tight and going out is tricky, try and make an evening at home special even if it is just eating at a table and switching off tv, phones and computers for a few hours.

Listen to your partner if they are trying to get a point across. You think you have heard it all a thousand times already, but try and think why this situation always becomes so loaded, and why they feel so strongly. Remember that behind nearly every power struggle is fear. Look out for the deeper issues and find out how these things were sorted in their original family.

Walk and talk. being in a confined space during a difficult discussion can make things feel worse. if there are subjects that need serious thought, try going for a walk. Being outside and together but not looking at each other can help. We are less likely to misread facial expressions and body language.

Finally remember that we can never change another person, and it is tiring and frustrating to try. The only person we can change is ourselves. Try dealing with problems in a different way, and it is almost inevitable that your partner will therefore respond differently.

Reuniting with family this year?

Reuniting with family this year?
Alongside the gifts and good food arrives a big box of expectations – all creating an atmosphere that feels highly-charged and which could be explosive.
What if we do not wish to conform this year? Is it hard to risk disappointing others? Does it feel too challenging to do something different or to not fall into line? What happens to family preconceptions if we change the script?
Are you left feeling bad, anxious and uncomfortable? Do you feel responsible for the reactions of others when they express confusion and disappointment?
Do you end up conforming to the expectations to avoid conflict or tears – but then feel resentful and angry? Do you say ‘Yes’ when you wish to say ‘No’? Are you able to explain to child that they will not receive the presents on the list? Can you tell a parent that you will not be staying as long as they wish? Can you protect separate ‘couple time’ for you and your partner while looking at a mountain of demands?
When everyone gets together for the festive season, unresolved issues from childhood can surface and difficult family dynamics can get replayed. It can be hard to be calm and confident, and still caring, in the face of emotional blackmail. In the face of others trying to make us feel guilty can we remain authentic, be clear about our motivations, and see the bigger picture?
When facing unmanaged hurt, and coping with the induced guilt, we often find ourselves succumbing to a pressure to fall back into old patterns of behaviour. When we stop to think, we realise that our reactions to the current situation are actually rooted in past experiences. We can revert to childhood roles when we feel flooded and overwhelmed with emotion – and lose our competent adult sense of self. Are our reactions those of a rebellious teenager or, even more embarrassingly, a frustrated toddler?
If only we can be clear about our own motivations and intentions, pause a moment, stand back a little, take a deep breath, stay in the moment… Taking an overview, side-stepping the fray, helps us see the wood as well as the tree!

Kathy Rees

A Twin in a relationship with a non twin

With the likelihood that there will be more twins born now and in the future, due in part to Medical Intervention, there are relatively few books on the subject of a twin entering into a lifelong duo with a single birth partner.

With the myriad interactions of couple life, it would be interesting to see if there are shared issues within these types of couplings.

When any couple comes together there are many more people in the couple than is immediately apparent. One may be that each person has a fantasy twin whom they bring to the partnership. A twin also fantasies about a perfect twin in the same way as the non twin.

What does emerge from research already published is that the partner born alone may need to be someone who is able to feel at one with him/self. Someone who is comfortable in the knowledge that their loved other may turn to their twin in times of emotional or physical need. The twin may need to spend more time with their twin than would otherwise be acceptable in a mature sexual couple.

There are people who are seduced by this facility the twin offers and feel at ease with separateness and occasional detachment without feelings of resentment, rejection, abandonment and loss. This way of being can also be found when a twin partners another twin. The other twin understands.

Whether this possibility occurs with all types of twins or just with identical twins has not yet been established. Twins adopted at birth by different families often unconsciously yearn for their partner in the womb even when they have not been told they had one.

In a future blog I shall look at other issues twins may face, which differ from those born alone.

Clare Ireland