Archive for coupleworks

Friendships and health. has read in the last few weeks that friendships are beneficial to mental and physical health.
Coupleworks, formed in 2004 is a non profit making group of skilled therapists who between us have gathered approximately 150 years of couple counselling and one to one therapeutic knowledge. That in itself is remarkable but the significant side effect which we are beginning to learn about is the benefit to our physical and mental health.
We are all women ranging in age, talents and learning. We support each other when one of us has a difficult time and feel good when one of us has something personal to celebrate.
Dr. David Spiegel, head of Psychiatry at Stanford University in California, emphasises that girlfriend time helps women to create more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression. This can create a general feeling of well-being. I think that men also benefit from their friendships but tend to bond in a different way. When men meet they often form relationships around activities and work problems or success. Dr Spiegel believes that spending time with a friend or friends is as important to our overall health as jogging or ‘working out’.
It is said that men need sex to experience intimacy and women need intimacy to experience sex. This shows that either from nature or nurture, men and women even in this enlightened age still need different bonding skills which they seek in a myriad of ways.
In the years of existence, Coupleworks has grown from 6 totally different women, passionate about our profession to something both valuable and of benefit to our health.
These kinds of face to face meetings, where the benefit is now medically recognised, flies in the face of social media connection which is two dimensional and risks anxiety and stress as a side effect. The third dimension, when two or more friends are breathing the same air, may well be an antidote to anxiety and depression. Whichever genders form a couple, the trust between the two helps to enable separating out to meet friends without resentment or fear of rejection. The benefit of this, in turn, fertilises the couple and makes each person more exciting to be with.
Technology has made our lives more convenient and some believe, more connected. Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, however, said: ‘With all our technology we mustn’t overlook the importance of honest, from the heart, human interactions with one another’.
Being in the same space at the same time is productive in so many ways that technology cannot replicate.
Clare Ireland.

Grandparent couples in the 21st century

I am writing this blog with the knowledge I have gained over the years about couples becoming grandparents; mainly in the Western World. As a background to my thinking I am taking for granted that grandparents in certain cultures, religions, social positioning and in geographical areas have always been and still are ‘hands on’. They are expected to be reliable, accepted and respected second parents to their grandchildren. Frequently they are living in a 3 or 4 generation home and their position, until infirmity, is taken for granted.

In the West, families have tended in recent times to wander and to leave their root, out of choice and not always fleeing war zones. They take jobs in other areas, postings abroad, marrying into other cultures, sometimes wealthy enough to travel frequently and more often living in a two generational home either rented or owned. The top generation living elsewhere either in their own accommodation or in a rest home or old peoples’ home.

With all this in mind, my blog for Coupleworks is commenting on the difficulties which can arise for the grandparent couple whom I shall refer to as GCs. I shall look at single grandparenting in another blog because it is different and carries different expectations.

GCs may have a precarious role. Whilst thrilled to be grandparents, the GCs may have only recently experienced their youngest children leaving home. A mixed feeling to begin with, this can quickly become replaced by a whole new adult world opening up. They start to fulfil personal interests, spontaneous travel out of school holiday time perhaps to areas of the world unsuitable for children both in safety and activity needs. They start to regain old friendships neglected during child rearing and have time to make new friends. They can eat healthy food of their choice at times of their choosing. Their hitherto taxi service, no longer required, can sometimes be altered to no car and using other forms of transport.

Once grand parenting begins…how best to play it to suit everyone requires making timetables where both sets of child carers are respected.

In the 21st century, the muddling through as parents is questioned. So many books, diets, allergies, fears about strange people entering the home to care for the children and different forms of child rearing have been thrown at today’s 25-50s parents. The GC’s ‘doing it their way’ is now an anxiety and introduces lack of trust and suspicion into the mix. The wonder, pride and pleasure always present for the GCs is now edged with anxiety in both roles.

I have noticed with clients whom I am now seeing more frequently with this dilemma, the most helpful solution can be firmly laid down ground rules. Rules that can be best put down even before the birth of the first grandchild. If left to ‘fingers crossed’ and chance, surely hidden resentment and unspoken but acted out anger will erupt at unexpected times.

Doing diaries together with respect and understanding is sensible: grandparents often work beyond retirement age and their diaries are as complicated as the parents.

Planning should include:-

Compromise over meal times and content of the meal.

No assumptions made that the GCs will take over in school holidays and half terms.

24 hour- 3 day stints rather than long visits.

Who does what in the kitchen area if the home is shared. Buying, preparation, cooking, serving and washing up to be allotted.

How much housework, bedmaking, washing, ironing if needed, rubbish delivery to the tip etc is expected.

GCs are not expected to do special days unless volunteering. Christmas, Easter, New Year and anniversaries plus all the other culture rest days. These can become minefields. GCs must accept that there may often be another GC couple who may take a different view of their independence and want to be the hosts. Sometimes GCs getting together and sorting this between them can be a help to the childrens’ parents.

Nothing should be assumed. The rules apply as strictly to the GCs as to the parents. GCs may find relegating the control difficult and find it hard to hear, respect and understand the parent’s wishes and their new ways of raising children.

Clare Ireland

Being Yourself.

Being yourself.

Being in a functioning, learning, exploring and interested couple is all part of intimacy. Some of the experience of getting there can feel like a rollercoaster of misunderstanding and helplessness. Having paid for the ride, the couples who learn from it and don’t jump off, can reach a safe and peaceful place when coming into land.

Part of what two people discover from living in close proximity over many years, is that true love comes from balancing their own and each other’s different selves. This ambiguous acceptance allows for the loveable bits and the difficult bits in self and other to create adult and realistic respect, tolerance and understanding.

Counselling and analysis is rooted in trying to establish who the person or people really are and how much they are acting out under an umbrella of other peoples’ selves and voices. Their complex self can become a jigsaw of internalised ‘shoulds’, ‘ought to’ and ‘musts’.

Religion, politics, culture, families, employment and other structures are often the foundation bricks from which a person’s original self and learnt self grows and becomes their thought process.

Extracting blended self from defended self can take a lifetime of gradual awareness. The learning process can take time and trust to establish two whole selves within a couple. More than two people are present in the dialogue. On the first encounter a couple may only see the blended self in the other and that is often a part of the seduction. What follows, however, over the years can be that the original self becomes smothered by the outside persona and the balanced self is incomplete. Therefore the seductive bit at the outset becomes the difficulty which brings people into Coupleworks.

Far from being on the brink of disaster, it can with skillful counselling become the brink of positive change. So the early glimpse becomes the bit which develops into a true, balanced and containing self in each other. Completing the rollercoaster ride takes patience and acceptance of the disappointment of unrealistic expectations at the outset, but the reward is coming into a safe and loving landing.

Clare Ireland

Skype and Face to Face Therapy

Coupleworks therapists use both forms of counselling to help couples and individuals to talk with an objective third person present. The therapist can interpret what they hear into less confrontational dialogue enabling each person to hear what is really being said. From that point they can begin to manage confrontation, resentment, hurt a sense of unfairness, insults, humiliation, guilt, shame and a host of other painful feelings. It also helps to locate the root of those feelings which is often many years before the couple met.
Using Skype or face to face contact is, in part, down to location, time, babysitting costs, work hours, privacy, confidentiality and other day to day reasons. Face to face work, if all those reasons do not present a problem for a couple, is the original tried and tested arena for what is very sensitive work. Skype has been introduced as a way to communicate when some or all of those problems are stopping a couple from seeking help.
Face to face communication of any kind is a social skill which is changing and many people are preferring a less immediate response to difficult emotional issues. Skype is one more way of using technology to work for us in a helpful way.
Over time, since Skype was introduced within the Coupleworks framework, it has been found to have some of its own advantages. Not least that the pauses during a session when a picture becomes pixilated or the sound starts to echo, rather than causing alarm, produces a breathing space to think and rephrase something said in anger or used as a moment to reflect.
There is really no way to compare the two, but to use both or either if it aids and advances the healing process can only be a good thing.

Clare Ireland