Archive for trust

Issues of Anxiety and Control in a Relationship

Couples in a close loving relationship often describe trusting that the partnership is an emotional safe haven. They feel optimistic for the future of the relationship because they hold the belief that their partner is looking out for them, has their well-being at heart and wants the best for them. The relationship feels a refuge from life’s pressures, and a support when facing the vagaries and stresses of the modern day world. They can relax with the understanding they are loved and accepted, they have someone to turn to, and their partner is someone they can lean in on when things are difficult. The couple feel ‘more than’ when together and relish the idea that the ‘whole is greater than the sum of the parts’.

Which is why an affair can have such a devastating impact. The security has been breached and the relationship suddenly feels adrift, shaky and fragile.

However, our individual psychological insecurities can also wreak havoc on a relationship. Extrapolating from past painful experiences we become pessimistic and make negative predictions about the future. We assume that similar situations are bound to happen again.

A man would not get married on his birthday because it would mean that day would always be spoilt after they divorced. A previous girlfriend had let him down badly and he was predicting the end of this one even as he planned the wedding: ‘It’s the kind of thing that always happens to me.’
Childhood hurts can diminish our willingness to trust and so foster a dependency on overt displays of reassurance and expressions of certainty. However, constant requests for minute detail, concrete evidence, and proof of fidelity, can become oppressive and destructive.

The rationale can be that ‘I too felt unwanted when my father had an affair and left my mother. I believe all men to be somewhat untrustworthy and I need to be on the alert so that I’ll not be abandoned and rejected again’.

A woman had become hyper-vigilant and, despite his loving behaviour, was secretly checking her partner’s phone for possible proof of an affair. When he found out he was distressed and angry at what he felt was an attack on his integrity.

Open wounds from a previous relationship can colour the view of a present partner and suspicions about their sincerity, openness and honesty can breed. The joke ‘The figments of my imagination are out to get me’ no longer feels funny, and a runaway imagination becomes a primary source of stress. Fear is a response to the perception of an immediate threat, while anxiety is a response to a possible future threat. Both states mean the brain moves into ‘Fight, Flight, Freeze’ mode and releases high levels of adrenaline and cortisol with tension and agitation manifest in the body.

Attempting to avoid the possibility of more pain and hurt we work hard to keep ourselves safe, expending huge energy on being super-vigilant, well-informed, and in as much control of the situation as possible. To relax and trust feels counter-intuitive: ‘Why would I? It’s a dangerous world.’

And yet, ‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened’ (Mark Twain). We need to beware of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a danger that the compulsion to avoid the imagined catastrophe can become obsessive and addictive and a chronic need for reassurance, being in control, can take hold. The attempt to manage the anxiety then becomes counter-productive when it causes distress and hostility as a partner resists the control and rails against being accused and blamed

Unchecked, anxious responses to uncertainty and states of not-knowing can create poisonous feelings of dread, panic, jealousy and anger. All are toxic to a happy relationship which needs a dynamic of acceptance, trust, contentedness.

You might find it interesting to listen to a (long!) lecture by Martin L Rossman on ‘How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety Into Calmness’ and pay particular attention to the visual imagery exercise at the end.

Kathy Rees

Difficulties with Commitment in your Relationship

January is a month where we were bombarded in the press about the need to make new year resolutions, make changes to our work life balance, loose weight and go to the gym more, eat less sugar and more complex carbohydrates.

In my counselling room recently, I have been aware of how many couples hope and expect 2017 will be the time when their relationship moves forward. However when the subject comes up couples can be faced with very different views on what moving forward means for both of them.

It is clear that making a commitment to a relationship means different things for different people: for some its moving in together, for others its getting engaged, wanting marriage or deciding to have a baby together. For many, these steps come easily and for others making a decision to commit can bring a great deal of distress and disharmony to an otherwise healthy relationship and often results in looking for help from a couples counsellor.

I often encounter couples who appear to present with a really secure and connected relationship and this all goes out the window when one partner wants the relationship to move forward as a natural progression of a committed relationship and the other is in no hurry to change this and is more than happy to stay where they are.

Often discussing moving forward and making a commitment brings happiness and excitement for one and overwhelming anxiety and panic to the other. This is something that affects both men and women.

Some sessions with a Coupleworks counsellor would help partners to look at:

What are some of the causes of Commitment Anxiety?

♣ Fear of intimacy and deep emotional connection
♣ A damaging previous break up or ending of a relationship
♣ A belief this is not the ‘right relationship’
♣ Trust issues
♣ Difficulty with attachment needs being met in childhood
♣ Experience of separation or divorce in parents relationship
♣ Fear of rejection
♣ Negative media exposure on unhappiness of committed relationships
♣ Over focusing on divorce statistics
♣ Fear of loosing independence and being tied down
♣ Not wanting to parent
What are the effects of Commitment issues on a relationship?

♣ Tendency to avoid long- term relationships
♣ Closeness and safety is replaced by distance and avoidance
♣ Risk of developing depression
♣ Loss of confidence in self and partner
♣ Increase in conflict to avoid discussion

Treating commitment issues in couples therapy

An experienced therapist can help identify potential causes of commitment issues in a couple relationship and explore useful ways to work through these issues.

Couples can learn how to understand their fears of commitment, where and how it may have originated and how a rigid way of thinking can be quite paralysing. It opens the way for partners to better discuss fears of making a commitment with each other in a calmer, safer way, and hopefully develops an ability to be more truthful and open about their needs and desires.

Dawn Kaffel

Resilience in the Couple Relationship

Couple therapist Esther Perel writes that ‘we each come out of childhood with a greater need for either separateness or togetherness’ and, as a result, managing our adult relationships is a constant challenge. Very often a close couple relationship is one of our principal sources of emotional sustenance, reassurance and intimacy, but a difference in our levels of need can be disconcerting and frightening. Feelings of abandonment from what seems like a lack of concern can create panic. Feeling engulfed by what seems clingy over-dependence can feel smothering. At the start, balancing is not seen as a problem, but major life-events, stresses, and crises can cause ripples in the smooth surface and a once-stable relationship can suddenly feel unsafe. Each partner’s response to a feeling of disconnection will be individually shaped by past experience, but the differences can cause both a worrying confusion and insecurity: ‘I feel I don’t know you anymore!

Disagreement can flare into destructive conflict and anger. Repetitive, stuck behaviour patterns begin to emerge with downward spirals of protest and defensiveness. The couple can feel helpless and lost and come into counselling fearing their relationship is broken. The concept of the relationship as a safe haven has been challenged and they are wary, reluctant to trust. Suspicion has replaced good will.

Counselling, however, can offer a restorative healing experience. If a couple can be ‘brave-hearted’ and engage with the process of discovery and understanding, they can find the motivation needed to turn a stressful experience into an opportunity for growth. Transformational coping-strategies- such as working to change ‘Automatic Negative Thoughts’ (ANTs) into ‘Positive Alternative Thoughts’ (PATs) – allow for a discovery of powerful emotional resilience.

From the brain’s perspective, it is usually safer to stick to what is familiar, deeply ingrained, how we always react (even though we also know it does not serve us well) rather than risk the vulnerability and uncertainty of doing something different. Change is uncomfortable. So, resilience is a quality that needs to be developed – it is not a fixed character trait.

In order to feel the confidence and safety to strike out for change we need to feel buffered against what we pessimistically see as potential disappointment. Counselling, then, gives the opportunity to set events into the required broader perspective. Optimism is not helpful unless it is realistic – and realism is the ability to assess the situation clearly and challenge negative distortions.

For those traumatised by past relationship wounds, trust can be difficult. However, significant gestures of reassurance and ‘turning towards’ make for a relaxation of tension. Renewed closeness has a soothing reparative effect that goes towards healing hurt. Shifts and accommodations are evident and a recognition of a partner’s love, care and concern allows for significant recovery and hope for the future.

Kathy Rees

Difficulties with Commitment in your Relationship?

January was a month where we were bombarded in the press about the need to make new year resolutions, make changes to our work life balance, loose weight and go to the gym more, eat less sugar and more complex carbohydrates.

In my counselling room recently, I have been aware of how many couples hope and expect 2016 will be the time when their relationship moves forward. However when the subject comes up couples can be faced with very different views on what moving forward means for both of them.

It is clear that making a commitment to a relationship means different things for different people: for some its moving in together, for others its getting engaged, wanting marriage or deciding to have a baby together. For many, these steps come easily and for others making a decision to commit can bring a great deal of distress and disharmony to an otherwise healthy relationship and often results in looking for help from a couples counsellor.

I often encounter couples who appear to present with a really secure and connected relationship and this all goes out the window when one partner wants the relationship to move forward as a natural progression of a committed relationship and the other is in no hurry to change this and is more than happy to stay where they are.

Often discussing moving forward and making a commitment brings happiness and excitement for one and overwhelming anxiety and panic to the other. This is something that affects both men and women.

Some sessions with a Coupleworks counsellor would help partners to look at:

What are some of the causes of Commitment Anxiety?

♣ Fear of intimacy and deep emotional connection
♣ A damaging previous break up or ending of a relationship
♣ A belief this is not the ‘right relationship’
♣ Trust issues
♣ Difficulty with attachment needs being met in childhood
♣ Experience of separation or divorce in parents relationship
♣ Fear of rejection
♣ Negative media exposure on unhappiness of committed relationships
♣ Over focusing on divorce statistics
♣ Fear of loosing independence and being tied down
♣ Not wanting to parent

 
What are the effects of Commitment issues on a relationship?

♣ Tendency to avoid long- term relationships
♣ Closeness and safety is replaced by distance and avoidance

♣ Risk of developing depression
♣ Loss of confidence in self and partner
♣ Increase in conflict to avoid discussion

Treating commitment issues in couples therapy

An experienced therapist can help identify potential causes of commitment issues in a couple relationship and explore useful ways to work through these issues.

Couples can learn how to understand their fears of commitment , where and how it may have originated and how a rigid way of thinking can be quite paralysing. It opens the way for partners to better discuss fears of making a commitment with each other in a calmer, safer way, and hopefully develops an ability to be more truthful and open about their needs and desires.

Dawn Kaffel

Trends from the Sex Survey by the Observer

“The British are losing their sex drive” headlines the Observer newspaper following their recent sex survey. Perhaps a surprising result is that the average British adult has sex only four times a month compared to the figure of seven times a month in the 2008 survey. What’s more a third of the population does not have sex at all in a typical month.

There are, of course, debates about what is happening in our society that is bringing about these changes: the recession and the pressures of it, the continuing changing roles of men and women in relationships, online pornography, the popularity of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, the rising use of digital technology, to name but a few.

Some other interesting results from the survey

• 57% said trust was the most important component of a relationship followed by 26% saying conversation/communication and 2% sex.
• 63% of people are satisfied with their sex lives compared to 76% in 2008.
• 33% considered themselves to have above average prowess as a lover, compared to 55% in 2008.
• More than half of Britons 56% have watched pornography on the Internet occasionally, with 15% admitting to watching regularly.
• 43% of people read or thumbed through ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
• 36% admit to having had sex with a work colleague, a rise from 26% in 2008

You can read the full survey online here

Before the results of the survey were published I and two other therapists were interviewed about what we felt were the key trends going on at the moment. You can read a full account of what we said here

Perhaps the biggest question most people face, whether it is about their sex drive, the size of their penis or their sexual performance is ‘Am I normal?’. At Coupleworks we specialise in working with individuals and couples, helping them to work through some of the difficult relationship and sexual issues that most people face in their lives at some stage.

Sarah Fletcher

Fundamentals for Couple Closeness

Couples come to relationship counselling with a wide range of unresolved issues, and the therapist often has to listen closely to hear the themes behind the words.
In the clamour of unheard grievances, missed opportunities and feelings of neglect, the predominant cry is “we can no longer communicate”
Somehow the ease of sharing has become fractured as time goes on, and couples cease to work as a trusting unit and often become defended individuals.
One subject that can easily become overlooked is money.
How a couple organises their finances can become a rich seam for therapeutic discussion.
Money rather than sex has become the hard-to-tackle conversation for many clients.
Once this becomes an open topic, it can release a torrent of unresolved grievances, with accompanying feelings of dependency and responsibility, plus fears around a perceived lack of transparency.
Trust is the foundation of a couple and usually only discussed in the context of fidelity or loyalty, but trusting the other with feelings of a fair and joint partnership can feel just as important.

Is ‘work’ only rewarded financially?
Do you need or want to know what your partner earns?
Do you need or want joint or separate bank accounts?
Do you sit together regularly and spend time understanding your incomings and outgoings?
Do you take time to plan for your future goals?

Each couple can add their own personal needs to this list, and it is important to retain an open conversation as things will change monetarily in tandem with individual circumstances
Opening up this often tricky topic can begin a process of transparency and sharing that can enhance the trust that most couples so desperately desire.

Christina Fraser

The growth of a couple

The awakening of gardens all over the country can be likened to the growth of a couple and what is needed to constantly care for and fertilise the ongoing story of a relationship.

Like a mother plant, cuttings have to be made, tonic has to be given and weeding around the base needs attending to in order to keep the health and strength of the original root. Sacrifices have to be made to make way for new shoots and changing shapes and ideas.

With a relationship, daily care is needed, new ideas formed and new friendships, hobbies and interests outside and within the couple to enable change and passion to happen without threat to the trust and containment of the two people forming the root couple.

Trusting the other to the extent you trust yourself is an essential part of individuation. Following different interests and incorporating some different groups of friends for each person is like fertilisation and tonic to a plant and couple.

As well as shared ideas, hopes and concerns, outside input is a necessary part of development and change. If a plant is left to soldier on, becoming weaker each year, it will often live a long life but without vibrancy and energy.

Freedom, within trust and interest in the other person’s life on the planet as well as your own, is a wonderful thing if achieved without a sense of abandonment from either side. It brings with it the colour and shape of an interesting garden which changes with time and nurture.

Clare Ireland.

Expectations

Couples naturally come into relationships with predetermined expectations, as well as their own unconscious understanding of how a couple ‘should be’.  This is usually based on what they experienced growing up with their own parents.

If we grew up with parents who did everything together: be it the shopping, household cleaning or making financial decisions, it would make sense that we might expect the same from our relationship.

Difficulties arise when couples are unable to accept that their partner may have different expectations from their own and when they are unable to accept these differences.

Ways of Working with Different Expectations:

1. Ask yourself, what are your expectations from the relationship and from your partner.  Be specific and clear.

2. Enquire where this belief came from, and question whether it is still important in your present relationship or if it’s an old belief system or pattern from the past.

3. Be curious and open about your partner’s expectations and try to accept that they may not be the same as yours.

4. Check in with your body (is your body tensing up?) to see if these differences cause you discomfort?  If so, notice the feelings and accept them.  When we accept our own feelings we can more easily accept our partners.

5. Talk about issues as and when they come up so resentment doesn’t build up.

6. Trust that your partner is NOT trying to injure you, just reacting from his or her own experience.  Trust you are both doing your best and it takes time.   Keep with it.

Shirlee Kay

Adult trust

Trust is often aligned to unease about a possible affair.  But there are many other areas of trust which also cause disappointment, hurt, anger and a sense of unfairness and let down.

How much can you really trust yourself in any unforeseen circumstance however adamant you feel about how you would react to the test.

Rescuing the child in the burning house.

Never tell a lie.

Never flirt outside the couple.

Never steal anything or be economical with the truth.

Never put your partner down in a group.

Never talk down to a child. Never under any circumstance have an affair.The degree you can trust your partner is only equal to the degree you can trust yourself.

Some tips on how to understand each other’s idea of trust in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and the build up of resentment.If you are expecting something from your partner, ask yourself first, ‘Could I or would I do that for them’?

Try to think about the truth in this mindset: ‘I want you to love me unreservedly, care for me, understand me, never put me down, never humiliate me in company, always tolerate my difficult side, make love to me when I feel like it, etc.  But, I am not sure I could do the same for you’.

Talk to each other about what you need from your partner and tell them what you can do for them and what you would find difficult.  Then negotiate.

Sharing these concepts between you during good moments can boost your feelings of safety and trust together and this will aid the resolution following an affair or other serious breaking of trust issues and make way for less feelings of abandonment and loss.

Clare Ireland