Archive for closeness

Pre-marital Counselling

Coupleworks’ counsellors have found that couples, planning a wedding and making a commitment to share their lives together, can really benefit from a time to reflect on their hopes and expectations. It is wonderful to relish the feeling of being known and understood, to revel in shared similarities, and experience being in love with a soulmate, but every couple has to accommodate their differences too.

It may feel scary and challenging but acknowledging, embracing and understanding the differences between each other can lead to a deeper sense of connection. Negotiating different perspectives, viewpoints, and outlooks can be liberating and enriching. Pre-marital counselling contains no suggestion of incompatibility, and is not a matter of letting go of one’s own values, but is a means of increasing the ways partners invest in collective decisions.

The safe environment of the counselling room allows an opportunity for deeper listening and empathy. Checking out with ‘Is this what you mean?’ and ‘Is this what you are saying?’ questions assumptions and avoids the danger of second-guessing and any attempt at mind-reading. An ability to see where the partner is coming from creates a relaxed flexibility in the relationship. There is also the curious paradox that when we accept each other as we are, we allow the possibility of change

Often it is a feeling of being misunderstood that builds frustration or resentment and can create a defensive couple dynamic. However, if it is too cosy the relationship can feel suffocating or too constricting. A fear of opening Pandora’s Box, or a fear of rejection, can then lead to an avoidance of ‘difficult’ issues. If issues feel too risky partners can withdraw. So, opening up takes courage – but can result in closeness, acceptance, and reassurance.

The following questions are not a test. There is no right or wrong. They should be used as a way of encouraging curiosity, and beginning dialogue and discovery.

1. Where was I born and where did I consider ‘home’?
2. What does ‘Home’ mean to me?
3. What were my favourite holidays?
4. What country/place is on my bucket list?
5. When I am old what would I regret if it hasn’t happened?
6. What personal improvements do I want to make in my life?
7. What does money mean to me?
8. What would I consider my ideal job?
9. How do I manage stress and what stresses am I facing right now?
10. How do I self-soothe?
11. Do I want children? Why? When? How many?
12. What does ‘Family’ mean to me?
13. Do I have a secret dream?
14. In which ways am I an extrovert/introvert?
15. What is one of my favourite ways to spend an evening?
16. What type of film/book/TV show do I enjoy?
17. What turns me on sexually?
18. What are some of my most important values/beliefs?
19. What is one of my favourite desserts?
20. How important is tidiness/cleanliness at home?
21. What was one of my best childhood experiences?
22. What do ‘friends’ mean to me?
23. What do ‘presents’ mean to me?
24. What does living in the city/countryside mean to me?

Kathy Rees

Inbox Anxiety – F.O.B.O (fear of being offline)

If we are to believe advertising agencies, the lead-up to Christmas is one glamorous flurry of excitement, parties and glorious food shared with smiling friends and relatives  (dozens of them, and all perfectly dressed and coiffured)
Rooms are styled and presents are heaped. Piles of gorgeous beribboned boxes of hope lie in wait. Children are cheerful and beautifully behaved and families are in full control of their happy lives.
Right then – let’s get real.
The wonderful Paul Simon wisely offered,
“The thought that life could be better, Is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.”
Counselling can often uncover feelings of shame and anxiety, which are amplified at Christmas when people are prone to wonder if others are having a more successful time.
This can so easily lead to a search for rescue through phones and tablets culminating in the infectious syndrome ‘FOBO – Fear Of Being Offline’
Could there be somewhere out there an invitation or message that could lead to a night of fun and frolics? Are others more organised, and worse still, are they more popular?
Research now uncovers a worrying trend showing that we are so linked to our smartphones that we are firmly attached to them constantly through our waking hours and keep them close even when we are asleep.
This leads to problems in couples when the phone starts to feel as if one, or both, partners are having a better relationship with their phone than with their significant other.
In some cases, the phone will be described as a major barrier to closeness. One in ten of us checks emails straight after having sex.
This can fracture real human closeness while we desperately try to keep connected with people and experiences contained in a tablet.
We search constantly to be linked to places, people and sites that could add to self esteem and fuel a sense of importance and acknowledgement.
Holidays such as Christmas take us out of our ordinary routine and our usual habits.
It can also be a time to relish quietness. But for some, the absence of ‘normal’ activity feels frightening.  Being relentlessly busy means always being connected …. But this is a false sense of self.
Let’s accept our real lives. At this time as at every other there will be disappointment and let-downs. Understand this and don’t let commercial and social pressures feed insecurity. Take a digital holiday break. Learn to do without phones and tablets, especially while in the company of others.
That backlit blue light raises Seratonin not compatible with the natural rhythms of our bodies.
Real life might not live up to the fantasy of what else could be out there – but the task is not to allow the need for imaging a better time spoil what is good enough, as especially during these holidays when we can so easily live with a constant state of yearning or disappointment.
Paul Simon finishes here by his thought that
‘Life is what you make of it, so beautiful or so what’


Christina Fraser

Date night

Couple therapy can do a lot at difficult times to help with insights into troubling situations. It offers an unbiased and creative space to clarify confused or tangled feelings and habits.
But it is just 50 minutes a week.
Clients sometimes seem surprised that the real work needs to go on between the sessions.
Life gets busy and, once the heady days of early romance become a fading memory, people often allow life’s distractions to get between them. Subsequently, filling the couple gap with ‘other stuff’ is where distance begins and we start to lose sight of that which was once our firm priority.
Closeness and sex cannot exist in a vacuum, but foreplay is more than just pressing the right buttons under the duvet.
Men need sex to feel close; women need to feel close to want sex, is an old cliché, but applies to many of the couples that come for therapy.
When questioned about their day-to-day life, it’s no surprise that for busy people, sex can sometimes become yet another pressure on an already overlong ‘to do’ list. And subsequently it often gets postponed or forgotten altogether until it isn’t even talked about.
Anxieties at work, tiring family duties and individual worries all play their part in allowing what was once a technicolor vibrant couple intensity to fade into, well, certainly not shades of grey, more a faint monochrome memory.
The couple underpins the family and really needs a boost on a regular basis.
This is where Date Night becomes essential. Self conscious and contrived it might appear, but without prioritising each other it’s so easy to stop feeling special and this path leads to disappointment and often an increasing lack of desire.
Make a plan – if possible go out at least once a week. Not with friends or family, but just as a twosome.
If a meal is too complicated or pricey, then just go for a drink or walk.
The vital thing is to switch off those screens, stop fretting the small stuff  – to talk and to really listen to each other. To feel important again and to remember when it was the two of you against the world.
If Cameron and Obama can manage this with their hectic schedules, then the rest of us should have no problem. Book your Date Night into those busy diaries without delay.

Christina Fraser