Sensual touch: the cornerstone of a great sex life.

Sensual Touch

Sensual touch: the cornerstone of a great sex life.

  • Do you lovingly touch your partner, children, friends or family? Often?
  • Ever wondered why people who recoil from touch seem unhappy or stressed?
  • Or why some cultures, no matter how poor, seem incredibly happy?
sex therapy for sensual touch

The quality of touch in our lives affects our happiness.

While still in the womb, touch is the first of our five senses to develop. Touch is the most important of our five senses. It is the only sense we cannot survive without.

Humans are incredibly adaptable. We can survive blindness, deafness, and the absence of taste or smell. But we cannot survive without touch. Touch is how we give and receive communication. Without it, we would severely burn or injure ourselves, without even knowing.

Our first and most fundamental form of communication.

When we’re born we rapidly adapt to bright light and deafening noise, and breathe air for the first time. Although it’s an overwhelming experience, touch calms us. Our mother’s touch communicates we’re safe. It anchors us in this strange new world. Stress reduction is the very first role touch plays in our lives. Relaxed, caring touch always reduces stress, no matter how old we are.

Touch reduces our Stress levels

Hugs, kisses, holding hands, close body contact, stroking of skin or hair ….. these all reduce our stress levels and bring us back into our body.

Sex is the highest form of touch we experience as adults because it gives us the most skin on skin contact.

When we’re the touched in a way that communicates we are cared for, the ‘feel good’ hormone, oxytocin, is released into our bloodstream. Oxytocin is creates feelings of wellbeing, emotional bonding, orgasm, and birth contractions.

The presence of oxytocin reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. While experiencing any form of pleasure, oxytocin levels rise and stress levels decrease.

We are designed to touch and be touched, to keep us healthy and reduces stress and disease.

The more loving touch we receive, the stronger our orgasms.

Oxytocin triggers orgasmic contractions. During orgasm, the brain and body are awash with feel-good chemicals (including Oxytocin) to increase our receptivity to more pleasure (and more orgasms) and help us bond with our partner.

Our skin is our largest body organ. Receptors in the skin register touch, heat, cold, moisture, pressure, pain and pleasure. Our skin sensitivity depends on the stimulation we receive. The  ‘use it or lose it’ principle applies. Skin cells replace themselves every 4 hours. Less stimulation means less receptors are replaced, making us less receptive to touch.

In an adult man there are approximately 5 million sensory receptors in the skin, all wanting to be touched.

For all of us, touch receptors in the skin reduce in number as we age. At age 3 we have approximately 80 touch receptors per square millimetre of skin. This reduces to 20 per mm2 as a young adult and 4 per mm2 in old age.

This says two things:

  • our need for touch is highest in the first few years of life
  • the less touch we receive, the less touch we are able to give (because the body doesn’t waste energy continuing to create cells which are not used).

The opposite is also true. The more we expose our bodies to pleasure, the more pleasure pathways are created in the brain and nervous system.

Have you ever noticed your skin feels tingly during sex?

There’s a relationship between breathing and touch. During sexual activity, deeper breathing clears carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the blood. You feel this as a tingling of the skin. Consequently, active breathing significantly increases the pleasure we receive from touch.

Women are generally more responsive to touch than men and are much more dependant on touch for erotic arousal, whereas men are generally more visual.

Also, research suggests that relaxed people enjoy more frequent and enjoyable sexual activity. Relaxation allows us to receive more pleasure.

So touch your partner lovingly (without expectations) to improve your relationship and your health. Touch in a way that communicates you care.

sensual touch

Getting Started: The Art of Erotic Touching

Rediscover the art of sensual touch with your partner – to refine your senses and become completely absorbed in what you are doing.

Set aside a night without interruption from children, television and visitors, and take the phone off the hook. Prepare a space in your bedroom or the lounge that you feel at home and comfortable in.

Set the mood with soft sensual music and invite your partner to lie down naked in a cosy nest. You’ll need some long delicate feathers. Make sure the room is warm.

Put your whole awareness into your fingertips and dissolve into your touching. For the receiver, dissolve your whole body in the experience of being touched.

This is not necessarily a prelude to lovemaking (although it can be), because it fulfils the desire for sensual touch independent of sex.

Create a mood of enjoyment rather than excitement, so your partner can relax and focus on the experience of receiving, letting go of any expectation or sexual goal.

Stroke your partner’s body gently with a feather, starting around the chest and moving up to the throat. Expand across the shoulders and down the arms, playing with areas such as the inside hollow of the elbow and between the fingers.

Then move very delicately and slowly from the area of your partner’s heart down their body to their feet, and finish by sweeping up from the heart to the head.

Play with curves, hollows and angles, and include any scarred or damaged areas of skin, giving these areas healing attention.

Touch feels more exquisite when it is lighter, finer, slower and continuous. So, take your time. Treat every part of your partner’s bare skin with loving care and attention, rather than focusing on the usual erogenous zones.

Then allow your fingertips to barely graze your partner’s flesh. Explore the hollows around the shoulders, behind the ears, the inside of the arms and behind the knees. Enjoy your lover’s toes. Other areas to explore are the palms and soles of feet, belly, the inside of the ear, the edge of the little finger, the inside of the thighs, buttocks, and the small of the back and the nipples.

Lastly, use your breathe to caress your lover’s body, blowing about an inch away from the skin.

Then it is time to swap roles and receive from your partner. Both the giving and receiving are important aspects of this process.

If you need further help with your sex life, we have Psychologists and a Sex Therapist in these centres:

To Check which of our Psychologists are closest to you, please use our Find our Psychologist Search box on the right hand side of the page.

Or contact us on 1300 830552



Grewen KM et al (2005) Effects of Partner Support on Resting Oxytocin, Cortisol, Norepinephrine, and Blood Pressure Before and After Warm Partner Contact. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67

Insel TR et al (1998) Oxytocin, vasopressin, and the neuroendocrine basis of pair bond formation. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 449

Kiecolt-Glaser J & Newton T (2001) Marriage and health: his and hers. Psychology Bulletin, 127

Would You Know If You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Name-calling, possessiveness, manipulation – this kind of psychological torture can be subtle, but the scars aren’t.

When Bec, 20, started going out with Chris, life was sweet.  But as time passed, he began to change.  “He started telling me what I should wear, what I should be eating and who I should be friends with”, she says.

At first Bec thought he was just joking, and brushed the criticism aside.  But his controlling nature got worse and Bec eventually stopped talking to friends and her family – because Chris didn’t like them.  “I knew it wasn’t right but I put up with it.  I was afraid what would happen if I broke up with him”.

You might think you know what domestic abuse looks like – the photos of Rihanna’s bruised and battered face are pretty hard to forget – but ask any psychologist and they’ll agree that Bec was the victim of abuse.  Abuse of the emotional kind.

What does emotional abuse look like?

“People experiencing emotional abuse feel trapped”, says psychologist, Angelica Bilibio.  “Often, people don’t realise that they’re in an emotionally abusive relationship because it’s not as tangible as other forms of violence.  But it’s psychological violence, and can be as bad as physical and sexual abuse”.

It’s precisely because this kind of relationship is so subtle, and slow to develop, that it can be difficult to recognise as being toxic.

relationship difficulties

Alarm bells

So what is emotional abuse?  “Common signs include a lack of empathy for the victim; anger; demanding and selfish behaviour; destructive patterns when dealing with conflict; and an emotional climate marked by hot and cold”, says Bilibio.

“The victim feels ‘unseen’ in the relationship, and that they’re constantly walking on eggshells”.

Also, forget the idea that abuse always involves a physical element, adds psychologist, David Indermaur.  “Many perpetrators of domestic violence never actually hit their victim”, he says.

The long-term effects of this kind of abuse include major trust issues, low self-esteem, health problems, depression, anxiety, and a decrease in functioning (think: work and sleep problems).

When love is all too blind

 In unhealthy relationships, it can be difficult to accept that the person you love is hurting you.  Domestic abusers exploit the other person’s affection or dependency for their personal gain.  “They can be very convincing, loving and appreciative”, says Bilibio.

The abuser regularly uses push-and-pull tactics to assert control.  Bec recalls, “Chris would say something really rude, and then if I got offended he would blame himself and apologise profusely.  It was really confusing.  He came from a pretty violent family, so it also frightened me”.

It’s especially hard to see things straight if you’re not that experienced with relationships.  Emma was 18 when she met 24-year-old David.  “It was my first adult relationship”, she says.  “I just thought every guy acted like this”.

David discouraged Emma from seeing her friends, and made negative comments about her weight.  Over time her confidence was so diminished, she no longer knew what was normal.

“Eventually, my parents sat me down.  I began to realise his behaviour was wrong.  When I think about abuse, I think about violence – but emotional abuse is so subtle.  You begin to doubt your inner voice because you’ve become so groomed and manipulated that you can’t see right from wrong”.

emotional abuse

 Danger zone

 When a cycle of dysfunction starts to feel normal, it becomes harder to get out.  It took Cara, now 31, four years to leave her boyfriend, Josh.

“Every day there was a negative comment – ‘you’re fat, you’re ugly, I’m the only one who would possibly want you’”, she recalls.  But the abuse didn’t stop there.  At first it was a few pushes.  Then, when she fell pregnant and opted to have an abortion, Josh punched her in the stomach repeatedly.

It got so bad Cara contemplated suicide.  “It was the darkest moment of my life”, she says.  The violence went on until the day Josh tried to strangle her.  “I thought, ‘Holy sh!t, I’m gonna die, because of this idiot’”.

She finally walked out, but the scars remain.  Over the course of their relationship she’d racked up $150 000 debt on her credit card to support him, put on 60kg, and lost her career in law.  “I’m still undoing the damage from that time now”, Cara admits.

Getting out

 Summoning the courage to leave can be the hardest part.  If you decide to go, tell a friend first.  “Have a safety plan, and deliver the news remotely”, advises Indermaur.  “Research shows that the most dangerous time for a woman is at that particular moment”.

If you’re not sure whether you’re being emotionally abused, consider this:  A relationship should make you feel better than when you’re by yourself”, says Indermaur.  If you don’t feel good around him, talk to a trusted friend or a professional

 How can you be a friend in need?

 Worried that someone you know could be caught in an emotionally abuse relationship?

Gentle, clear intervention and unconditional support is the best way to go.  Be careful not to be too critical about their partner.  “Most women will get their guard up”, says Cara.  “If friends had approached me in a logical way and given me an article on domestic violence, I’d probably have read the characteristics, and gone, ‘Oh my God, that’s me’”.

Indermaur suggests it’s better to listen than to give advice.  “Let the person know what’s normal and what’s not – that kind of clarity is often very helpful”.

If you are experiencing any of these signs of emotional abuse or if you are not sure and would like to talk it over with a professional, we have experienced Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all capital and large regional  cities in Australia. We can help you. Contact us now.

(This is an article written in the July 2013 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine where 2 of our

Sydney Hart Psychologists Angelica Bilibio & David Indermaur were interviewed.)

Too Doormat in relationship

Am I too nice in my relationship? Am I a doormat?

Can anyone be “too nice” and “too much of a pleaser” in a relationship?

If someone is inconsiderate of you, or walks all over you, do you smile politely while quietly seething underneath?

Do you find yourself catering for others needs and even whims even when there is no real reciprocation on their part? (for example Angela and Allan’s romance and relationship was based on lots of give and take. Angela gave – which included back rubs, complements and gifts, and Allan took, without ever thinking to reciprocate in any way)

Why am I a doormat?

Many doormats  rationalize to themselves that they are taking the moral highroad in their relationships, that if they model kind and thoughtful behaviour towards their partner, he or she might also treat them in the same way, but more often than not, this does not result in a more considerate partner, but rather a more self- centred one.

Too often long suffering partners find themselves with people who exploit them mercilessly.

An unbalanced relationship

If you find that in your relationship, you are doing all the giving and your partner is doing all the taking, you are in an unbalanced relationship.

women's loss of self in relationship

It is important to understand why this happens for you.

While your endless tolerance might seem to be coming from a deep and abiding love, in fact it is almost certainly arising from fear.

You tendency not to say anything negative about your relationship, or to speak up about for your own needs and wants, and to just put up with what you are given, is borne of a number of fears. You can be fearful of anger from your partner, fearful of conflict, fearful of losing control, or fearful of emotional abandonment. These fears usually originate in your childhood experiences.

Having this awareness of why  is the first step to doing something constructive about changing your situation.

How can you know if you are a people pleasing Door Mat?

There are 2 red flags to alert you that you are behaving as a Door mat.

1. You notice a tendency among the people around you to become increasingly selfish, exploitative and unfair.

2. You notice a growing disconnection between your own feelings and your actions, directly proportional to how badly you’re being treated. For example even though you continue to tolerate bad and selfish behaviour, you are beginning to feel hurt, resentful or even seething with underlying rage.

Listen to this underlying anger. It is telling you that what you are doing is not good for you; that on a deeper level your psyche is railing against this unfair and unkind treatment.

Often those who are doormats worry that the only alternative to grovelling niceness is aggressive dominance, but this is not the case. There is a middle ground called assertiveness, which is nether passive or aggressive, and it is the only healthy way to behave in a relationship.

The way forward to feeling happy in a healthy relationship involves 4 steps:

counselling for a happy relationship

1. Honestly assess what is happening in your relationship and whether your relationship is balanced and fair or not (whether it be your partner or anyone else in your family, your friends or at work)

2. Express your truth  authentically and firmly to this person.This might be that you are having a problem with his/her behaviour, stating your needs or wants in your relationship, or your views.

3. Hold your ground. Expect that you might receive some negative emotional outburst or reaction, but stay firm and as neutral as possible.

4. Be open to feedback without collapsing or abandoning your own perspective.

5. If your partner can not accept or tolerate your truth or needs or perspective when you have expressed them in a clear and firm manner, then you may wish to consider whether this person really has your best interests at heart, and begin to question your wisdom in continuing this relationship.

Often when you are trying to break the habits of a lifetime, you can need support in doing so. Our Psychologists Australia wide, are trained to help you through these passages and into more healthier and happier ways of being and relationships.

Both Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 60 locations Australia wide, in Sydney and all capital and large regional cities, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
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Lost yourself in Relationship

Have you lost yourself in your relationship?

Why is it that droves of smart, competent, savvy, successful women right across the world, are still waking up to find that they have lost or diminished themselves in their relationship yet again?

Having counselled many thousands of women in their relationships and individually over the last 12 years as a Psychologist, one of the most striking patterns I have discovered is how little women, truly love and honor themselves, and it particularly shows up in their relationships.

Many women neither know of, nor believe in, their own true power.

Even with a generation of women’s liberation, there are many secret places where women still do not feel and act on their true and authentic power.

Are you one of the many women who, although successful in many ways in their lives, have not found your full female power yet, and particularly in your closest relationships?

The explanations for this seem to lie in both the biological differences between the sexes, and as well, your personality type and tendencies.

Women’s biology

Biologically, both the female brain and the effects of estrogen in their system means that women are built primarily for connection and social harmony, and that is what drives a female to do from birth.

Without being conscious of it at all, maintaining the social approval of others, and the relationship at all costs is the goal, if you are “wired” and “marinated” as a girl.

For men, it’s a very different story. The flow of Testosterone, combined with their brain makeup, leads them to want to be potent and affect the world, and value personal strength, protection, providing and sexual prowess.

So, in summary and in general, women put their relationship needs first, their personal needs second; and men put their own needs first, and their relationship needs second.

Or alternatively, women tend to over-function in their togetherness and emotional closeness, and under-function in their independent, individual self.

Men, on the other hand, tend towards over-functioning on their individual self, and under-functioning in their togetherness and emotional closeness.

To have a happy life with a fabulous relationship, we need BOTH in equal measures.

If you are a woman, who has lost a lot of yourself in your relationship, then the solution is learning how and where this has happened, and how you can become more true to yourself and go for what you love, first and foremost.

There are 2 steps in the empowerment process.

relationship empowerment marriage counselling

Step 1. Discover just what you have given up for love.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What do you do for love, that you wouldn’t do otherwise?
  • How have you shrunk, or squashed yourself in your relationship? (like as soon as you think of something you would like or love, you just cancel it in your own mind)
  • Where are you feeling contracted in your life, and does it relate to your being in your relationship?
  • Have you lost the feeling of your own potential? What parts of yourself have you not yet experienced or explored, or lost?
  • What aspects of your relationship drain you and your energy?
  • Where have you defined yourself as your partner defines you?
  • Where have you behaved in ways because you sought your partner’s approval?


Step 2. Start tapping into your Inner Authentic Power

  1. First stop what’s not been working
  2. Start with you by designing your life from the inside out.
  3. Use your anger and resentment as your Wake-up Call
  4. Saying No and meaning it.
  5. Being assertive with power and ease.
  6. Finding the hero in him
  7. Finding your Goddess energy, and showing your man the difference between love making and sex.


It’s women who create life. Women who inspire. 
Women who can bring out the hero in every ordinary man.
Women who understand the language of ecstasy.
Ah, what a privilege it is to be a woman” (Regina Thomashauer)
If you need help with empowering yourself in your relationship, we have Individual and  Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all other capital cities and large regional areas of Australia. Call us now for an appointment or you can use our Search box to the right of this page to find our Psychologist closest to you

Is your relationship safe? Defining your bottom line.

Relationships are hard work.

Despite our fairy tales any one who has been around for a while knows that they are not always easy.

They are challenging, they require us to adjust, dig deep, become better people, forgive, support and nurture.

This difficult aspect of relationships is a big part of why they are actually so good for us. However not all relationships are good for us, some don’t allow us to grow but require us to diminish ourselves.

Should I stay or should I go?

It is worth considering some basic principles that are useful to keep in mind when grappling with difficult relationships and dealing with the most basic of all relationship questions – should I stay or should I go?

We can approach this question in a number of different ways but at its heart the question is: “is this worth it?” Translation: Will I be better off staying in this relationship or will I be better off leaving?

Often we don’t know how to assess whether we will be better off in or out.

narcissistc partner

Sometimes we know we will be better off out of the relationship but we don’t feel strong enough to leave, or we are afraid of leaving. If we really believe that we would be better off out but we don’t want to leave out of  fear or lack of self confidence it is important to know that help is available. Some of these sources of help will be listed below.

You don’t have the right to leave?

One of the most common obstacles to leaving (even when you have decided that you would be better off out of the relationship) is the belief that you don’t have the right to leave.

It is important to know that you do have the right to leave. This is a free country and every individual has the right to decide whether to be in a relationship. The relationship does not, and can not, exist without the consent,  that is the free choice of both parties.

One party might want the relationship but unless the other party also chooses the relationship there is no relationship.

Relationships are a choice you can make

This way of looking at things is helpful because it makes it plain that the relationship is a matter of choice. You choose to be in a relationship with a certain person and every moment you stay with that person you are choosing to be in the relationship. It is important to actually feel this choice and to get in touch with the choice aspect of the relationship.

Sometimes we try to fool ourselves and believe we are “stuck” in a relationship in the same way as if we were shipwrecked and stuck on a dessert island.  Why would we do this?

Relationship counselling for problems

Why do we feel we are stuck here?

One of the most common reasons is that we don’t want to admit that although there are lots of things about the person and the relationship that we don’t like we figure that even a broken down relationship is better than no relationship at all.

So it comes back to our choice – we are choosing to be in the relationship – but now we don’t want to admit that it is our choice – we like to think we are stuck in the relationship or being held in the relationship against our will.

This way we can complain about our partner, feel bad about the relationship and ourselves but also don’t have to face the prospect of being alone.

Some people stay in destructive relationships because of this fear of being alone.

Even though they know that they are loosing more and more self esteem and that they are unhappy they believe that the prospect of being alone would be so terrible it is better to stay in the prison they know as their relationship.

Just as a smoker develops an intimate relationship with cigarettes and believes he/she couldn’t survive without them, a person in a destructive relationship often comes to believe that things would be so terrible if they were to be alone it is better to put up with a life sentence of an unhappy relationship.

No one else can make you stay in or leave a relationship  – that choice has to be yours. If you feel stuck in a destructive relationship and want to get out but don’t feel strong enough please be aware that there are many people willing and able to help you.

relationship problems

Is there violence in your relationship?

A healthy relationship can be defined in a number of ways but it must fundamentally be a safe relationship – you should feel safe in a relationship you choose.

A relationship that involves violence is unhealthy.

Violence is an extreme form of coercion or control.  When one party tries to take the choice away from the other person by using emotional or physical abuse they are being violent and they are violating the first rule of all relationships – it is a matter of choice.

We are not living in a country where anyone has the right to take this choice away from you. But we are living in a country where many people will try and take this choice away from you. This is because they have developed the belief that they can do this and maybe even that it is right to do this.

Mostly people get these wrong ideas from the families they grew up in – maybe they watched their mother or father abuse and control their partner and so they think this is OK – or even normal  – and they try to get away with it in their relationship.

It is important to take a stand against this violence.

Everyone has a choice and everyone has their rights. Many have experienced some form of physical domestic violence. Many more have experienced the non-physical forms of domestic violence – attempts to control or coerce through verbal, emotional and psychological abuse.

Develop a “radar” for any signs that your partner is trying to dominate or control you or coerce you – for example with emotional blackmail.

When are attempts at control more common?

Attempts to control or coerce are most likely to come out at the time when a women chooses to exercise her rights and leave a relationship.

It is important that if you feel like you are with someone who could get violent that you have a safety plan – that means a carefully worked out plan to get away from where the violent man will be and where he knows you will be.

If you are planning to leave a relationship and there is any suggestion or possibility of physical force being an issue – plan your move carefully,  get to a safe place somewhere he doesn’t know about and break the news over the phone or with a letter – this gives him time to absorb the message and calm down.

Don’t be fooled into putting yourself at risk for any reason.

Our Relationship Psychologists at the Hart Centre can also assist you in determining your best path of action.

controlling relationships

We have relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all capital and large regional cities across Australia. Please call us now.

Recovering from an affair

The latest research reveals that 22 – 40% of married men and 11 – 25 % of married women are involved in an affair at any one time.

An affair is seen as a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract for emotional and or sexual exclusivity, and has a very destructive influence on the relationship. Understandably, affairs are one of the leading reasons for divorce.

Why do we have affairs?

marriage counselling for affairs

Studies show that women tend more toward emotional affairs, and are usually more thoughtful and premeditated about starting an affair.

Men, on the other hand, tend to be more opportunistic, often while away from home, and more than 50% of them will do so even though they regard themselves as happy in their marriage.

Secrecy, deception and minimisation abound while an affair is taking place.

Can a relationship or marriage survive an affair?

relationship problems

The short answer is yes, but it takes a lot of work by both partners, particularly the partner who has cheated.

Counselling over at least the medium term is an absolute necessity in order to rebuild the trust and the relationship.

The 5 Essential stages to recovering from an Affair

couples counselling for recovering from an affair

To fully recover from an affair:

  1. The affair must stop. The partner having the extra relationship must have no more contact, in any form if the marriage is to survive and rebuild.
  1. The hurt partner must be given the opportunity to express their varied emotions ( shock, denial, hurt, anger, sadness, turmoil, betrayal, loss of face) while it is important for the affair partner to listen, accept and validate his or her feelings, and also provide reassurance that he or she indeed wants and values this relationship.
  1. The affair partner must take on the responsibility to rebuild the trust by being transparent and accountable. This means comings and goings, be findable at all times and be willing to have phone and emails open to share with his or her partner. This needs to happen for as long as it takes for the partner to feel that the trust has been rebuilt.
  1. Finding meaning. Both partners need to explore why this affair has happened so that it doesn’t reoccur again in the future.
  1. Forgiveness. In order for this to occur, the partner having had the affair needs to feel a very high level of humility, and deep sorrow for what he or she has done, as well as true empathy for the hurt the partner has been put through. In addition, there needs to be a commitment and hope for a better future together. Only then is it possible for the other partner to be able to forgive fully.
  1. Restructuring the relationship. In this stage the couple needs to work actively on fixing the problem and restoring and growing a healthy relationship so that the couple feel complete and whole.

I would urge you not to try and complete this process on your own. Almost all couples need help from a trained counsellor to successfully complete these steps.

In doing so, it is possible to heal and re-establish your relationship to an even healthier level than before, but it will take time and work, by both partners.

If you would like help in working through this process you can use our Search box to the right of this page to find our Psychologist closest to you. We have experienced Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all capital and large regional cities. Call us now for an appointment

relationship counselling

adhd how can we love again

The 5 love languages: how to show your love

Have you ever felt unloved by your partner, because they’re not showing you they love you in the way that is most meaningful for you?

If you’re like many people, often you may not realise that the way you most prefer to be ‘shown’ you’re loved, can be quite different to how your partner shows their love. It all comes down to your ‘love language’.

If you have ever felt your partner doesn’t love you, then it may be because he or she doesn’t have the same love languages as you do.

According to Gary Chapman, there are basically 5 love languages or ways that people express their love.

For most couples, these are different from each other.

When we are in a love relationship, we tend to speak our own primary love language, and we become confused when our spouse does not understand what we are communicating, or doesn’t feel our love.

When we can identify and also learn to speak our partners love language, we have the key to a truly loving relationship.

Often people can determine their own unique love language by reviewing the 5 below and recognising the one or two that are usually most important or meaningful for them. Have a look below and see what stands out for you, and have your partner do the same.

Here are the 5 Love Languages:

couplesc counselling for love languages

1.  Words of affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. According to Dr. Chapman, this language uses words to affirm other people (how meaningful they are to us, how much we love them, how much we appreciate them, etc). For those who prefer the words of affirmation language, hearing “I love you” and other compliments are what they value the most. Words hold real value within this language. Furthermore, negative or insulting comments cut deep — and won’t be easily forgiven.

2.  Quality time

This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.  It also includes empathic conversations, sharing thoughts, feelings and desires in an open uninterrupted environment. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful to these individuals. Being there for them is crucial. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.

3.  Receiving gifts

Giving gifts are a symbol of thinking about your partner, and often are visual gifts of love. Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

4.  Acts of service

Can cleaning up the kitchen really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. These could include cooking a meal, washing dishes, changing the babies nappies, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the car. People who thrive on this language do not deal well with broken promises — or perceived laziness — and have very little tolerance for people who make more work for them.

5.  Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. Physical touch is a powerful vehicle to expressing your love. These include, holding hands, kissing, hugging, cuddling, touching and making love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

How to determine your primary love languages love counselling

There are 3 methods of discovering what your primary Love Language is.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1.  What does my partner do or fail to do that hurts me deeply? If your primary love language is used negatively by your spouse, it will hurt you more deeply than it will someone else, because not only is he neglecting to speak your primary love language, but he is actually using that language as a knife to your heart.
  2. In what way do you regularly express your love for your partner? This is usually what you are wishing your partner would do for you.
  3. What have you most often asked for from your partner? The thing you have most often asked for is likely to be the one that will make you feel most loved.
Once you know your partner’s love languagesrelationship counsleling for 5 love languages

Once you have identified the primary love language for each of you, it is important to give to your partner using their primary love language first and foremost.

Then both of you will feel whole-heartedly loved.

If you need help in discovering your love languages and/or communicating with your partner and ensuring that you both feel loved by each other, phone us for help. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists Australia wide who can assist you create a healthy and happy relationship again.

Both Relationship and Individual Counselling is available  Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Cost: $175 – $195

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)

Rules for a healthy relationship

As we all know, having a happy and healthy relationship is never simple.

Even the best of relationships and marriages will get stuck in too much distance or blame. The natural course of relationships is often downstream, unless you are intentional about paddling against the current.

Relationship Essentials

Here are some of the absolute essentials Harriet Lerner, a very experienced couples Therapist and renowned author on relationship feels is important to pay attention to:

1. Warm Things Up. Make at least two positive comments every day to your partner and speak about the specifics about what you admire (“I loved how funny you were at the party last night”). Make sure that your positive comments exceed critical ones by a healthy margin.

2. Dial down the criticism. Try to let all but the most important issues go by. When you have a criticism, make it in three sentences or less. Remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired.

3. Overcome Your Listening Deficit Disorder. Whole-hearted listening is the greatest gift you can give to your partner. Drop the defensiveness, and listen only to understand, without interrupting, correcting facts, or counter-punching. Save your defense for another conversation.

4. Be self-focused. Connect with friends and family, pursue your own interests, and be of service to others. If your primary energy isn’t directed to living your own life as well as possible, you’ll be over-focused on your partner in a worried or critical way.

5. Apologize. Offer the olive branch. You can say, “I’m sorry for my part of the problem” even if you’re secretly convinced that you’re only 28% to blame.

6. Don’t Demand an Apology. Don’t get into a tug of war about his failure to apologize. An entrenched non-apologizer may use a nonverbal way to try to defuse tension, reconnect after a fight, or show he’s in a new place and wants to move toward you. Accept the olive branch in whatever form it’s offered.

7. Sweat the Small Stuff. When you say you’ll do something, do it! Never assume that your overall contribution to the relationship compensates for failing to do what you have agreed to do, whether it’s picking up your socks or moving the boxes out of the garage by Sunday.

sydney loving relationship counselling

8. Stop the emotional pursuit. Under stress, don’t press. If you pursue a distancer, he or she will distance more. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Focus less on your partner, and more on your own life plan. A distant partner is more likely to move toward you when he or she has breathing room and can see you taking good care of yourself.

9 Say it Shorter! A distant partner may avoid conversation because it feels awful to him or her. Sometimes the culprit is the sheer number of sentences and the intensity in our voice. Slow down your speech, turn down the volume, and lower the intensity.

10. Know your bottom line. Be flexible in changing for your partner 84% of the time, but don’t sacrifice your core values, beliefs and priorities under relationship pressures. Your relationship will spiral downward if you have an “anything goes” policy.

11. Exit a conversation when you are on the receiving end of rude or demeaning treatment. You can say, “I’m giving myself a time out from this conversation. I’m here to listen when you can talk to me calmly and with respect.” Keep your actions congruent with these words.

12. Be a mystery. It’s comfortable and cozy when two people know absolutely everything about each other but we’re more likely to be drawn to a partner who has connections and a passion for life outside the relationship. So take a dance class, skiing lessons, or join a book group with friends. The more passion you show for life outside your marriage, the more zest you’ll find within it.

13. Make rules about technology. Agree on “time-out rules” from anything you’re prohibited from using during takeoff and landing in an airplane. For example, mobile phones off and out of sight during food preparation and eating meals and no answering land lines. No taking calls in the middle of a conversation or when people are visiting.

relationship counsleling for sex in relationships

14. Initiate sex. If you are the distancer in bed, initiate sex once in a while even if you don’t feel like it. A long-term relationship won’t flourish if your partner is someone for whom sex is an enlivening essential force and you’re too unavailable. To decide you won’t be a physical partner because you don’t feel like it is like his (or her) deciding that there will be no more conversation because he’s not a talker. If you have a fair and good partner, there is probably something you can do that wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. (P.S. If you’re the pursuer in bed, back off.)

15. Work on relationships in your first family. Become a good questioner about family history, and observe and change your part in triangles and dysfunctional family patterns. You’ll stand on more solid ground with your partner if you navigate family-of-origin relationships with more creativity and less reactivity.

16. Start Small. Remember that it’s the direction of change that matters, and not the speed of travel. Real change sometimes occurs at glacial speed. Pick two rules from the above and stick with them. Your relationship thanks you in advance!

If you need any help in your relationship please contact us. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists Australia wide who can help you.

(Adapted from MARRIAGE RULES by Harriet Lerner, 2012.)

What is Narcissism and what is Narcissistic behaviour?

It was once joked that “a Narcissist is someone who after taking the trash out gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house”.

If you have ever felt that  your partner feels superior to others, or more entitled to things than others, then this may mean that he or she may have more than their fair share of Narcissistic tendencies. Perhaps he/she finds a host of ways to devalue you or ignore you, or perhaps  try to control you?

Or perhaps, if you are honest with yourself, it might be you who has many of these characteristics?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, it will feel like a very one-sided relationship. 

An integral part of a healthy relationship is a sense of equality and consideration and empathy for each other. In fact no relationship can feel rewarding and supportive if either partner is mostly self absorbed.

Narcissism is considered a spectrum Disorder, which means that there are degrees of manifestation of the characteristics, so a person could have a couple of Narcissistic traits, which is considered fairly normal, or have many and be considered to have a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSMV, or sit anywhere in between.

To discover where you or your partner sit in relation to these characteristics, here are the 9 Essential Characteristics of the Narcissistic Spectrum.


 The 9 Characteristics of Narcissism

  1. An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self importance that isn’t supported by reality. He/she believes that his/her priorities, interests, opinions and beliefs are better than or more important than others and as a result, they feel entitled to dominate and control those around them. He/she can even seem quite modest in public about these views, but usually at home these are evident.
  2. A preoccupation with fantasies of extraordinary success, power, beauty or love. He/she lives more in a fantasy world of their own making than in reality of both successes and recognised failures.
  3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people. He/she sees himself/herself as more special than others, whether it be more accomplished, more feeling, more giving, more ethical, more long suffering, more insightful, etc.
  4. An intense need for admiration. When in conversation, he/she can’t listen attentively and will bring the conversation back around to him/her. Often partners of a Narcissist will refer to the one thing they have in common with their Narcissist partner is that they both love him/her.
  5. A delusional sense of entitlement. He/she feels that rules, regulations and normal standards don’t apply to them, and also may find hard work, working toward a goal, illness and injury difficult to cope with, as they believe themselves to be above these kind of common things.
  6. A tendency to exploit others without guilt and remorse. He/she is a “user” who may manipulate situations such that others end up doing all the work (and the Narcissist often gets the glory), or may end up losing their money. He/she will also promise things that they never deliver on.
  7. An absence of meaningful empathy for others. This is almost a universal trait with all Narcissists. He/she is so caught up in their own grandiose fantasy life that they pay no real attention to others in any genuine way. In the courting stage, he/she will use “fake empathy”, but beyond this stage, partners of Narcissists feel completely unsupported and not understood.
  8. A tendency to be envious or to assume that he/she is the object of others envy. He/she will be very envious if others close by have more than him/her, and will usually express this as contempt, distain and belittling towards them.
  9. An arrogant attitude. He/she will often be judgemental and condescending toward anyone who they feel is not up to their high standards and will regularly “put down” others to bolsternarcissism their own self esteem.

Now that you know the overall characteristics of Narcissism, here is a list of the many specific and subtle characteristics. The more you find in your partner (or yourself) the closer they (or you) are to a Narcissistic Personality Disorder end of the spectrum, which means the more difficult (or impossible) they will be to live with, or to maintain a healthy relationship with.

Research has shown that approximately 75% of those with Narcissistic traits are male and 25% are female.


How Can I tell if my partner is Narcissistic?

Our 100 point Narcissist Profile:

1. One minute he/she appears loving and appreciative, the next minute he/she is putting you down, punishing youor giving you the silent treatment.

2. He/she feels entitled to special or preferential treatment because of who he/she is.

3. He/she lacks humility and will avoid admitting that he/she is wrong or to blame for anything.

4. You get the sense that he/she is always trying to gain the upper hand with you and others.

5. He/she always talks of himself/herself in glowing grandiose terms.

6. He/she never admits his/her problems or insecurities.

7. He/she says words with such conviction, but you get the strange feeling that they don’t represent the real orwhole truth or are a distortion of the truth.

8. It’s hard to feel completely relaxed and good in his/her presence.

9. He/she seems very agitated and angry when you are happy of your own accord, unless he/she has been the source of your happiness.

10. He/she often feels misunderstood by others.

11. He/she appears wonderful to outsiders but is often very mean at home to you and the children. (street angel/home devil)

12. He/she doesn’t seem to have any real presence or depth to him/her.

13. He/she is most happy and delightful when you are admiring or adoring him/her.

14. He/she is not honest or truthful. He/she will bend the truth to suit his/her own ends.

15. He/she doesn’t understand you well at all.

16. He/she has no real empathy or compassion for you when you are distressed, or for any of your feelings.

17. You are starting to question your own truth and reality as you are being told how bad or wrong you are with such authority.

18. You are starting to believe hi/hers criticisms that you are no good as a person.

19. You notice that when you are away from him/her and with other people you feel so much better, happier and can have fun and relax.

20. He/she tells you untruths that torment you.

21. You find yourself in discussions that are so twisted that it feels like you are losing your mind

22. You often find you are trying to justify yourself and explain what you think reasonable people alreadyknow.

23. He/she says cruel, uncaring and dismissive things without any empathy for the hurt he/she is causing

24. He/she makes agreements that he/she doesn’t keep, and then does not acknowledge ever making them.

25. You often feel he/she wants it all his/her own way, and is not really interested in finding a win-win solution.

26. You often feel that he/she is against you, and that you are being cast as the enemy.

27. He/she doesn’t take any of your expressed needs into account

28. You are blamed by him/her for problems.

29. He/she undervalues contributions you have made, and overvalues his own.

30. He/she never or rarely apologises for anything he/she has done.

31. He/she is not accountable for his/her actions on many occasions.

32. He/she will rubbish and blame you to others, behind your back.

33. He/she will regularly bring in allies (family and friends) to back up his/her view that you are to blame.

34. He/she will pathologise you to others, family and friends saying that you are not psychologically stable.

35. He/she will use sensitive information you have disclosed to him/her when you were vulnerable and trusting ofhim/her as a weapon against you.

36. He/she doesn’t follow through on promises.

37. He/she has no tolerance for even the slightest criticism, or even constructive advice.

38.  When you need help, he/she gets depressed, angry or abusive.

39. His/her behaviour vacillates between very delightful and very mean and nasty.

40. To gleam praise from others he/she will appear helpful and generous.

41. You often get the sense that his/her criticisms of you are exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself.

42. He/she doesn’t seem to know or care how his/her behaviour hurts others.

43. No matter how much you do for him/her, it never seems enough to make him/her contented or happy.

44. He/she often refuses to play by the rules.

45. He/she is intensely jealous when there is no justification.

46. He/she is a pathological liar, and does not like to be pinned down.

47. He/she overestimates who he/she is and what he/she has achieved in his life in the past.

48. He/she is often erratic and unpredictable.

49. He/she tries to limit your contact with and enjoyment of others.

50. He/she doesn’t like it when people other than him/her are receiving attention and praise.

51. He/she is extremely defensive when confronted or questioned and will often attack.

52. He/she uses guilt and manipulation to try to influence you.

53. He/she has little or no sense of conscience.

54. He/she believes he/she knows what you are thinking and feeling, and will inform you what that is.

55. He/she often interrupts you when you are talking, changing the subject.

56. He/she will inform you that the matter is resolved without you feeling it is for you.

57. He/she will refuse to discuss a problem you have brought up.

58. He/she doesn’t sustain many close friendships.

59. He/she cannot work co-operatively or in teams.

60. You have noticed that he/she exploits other people

61. He/she doesn’t admit he/she may have a problem, or ask for help. He/she is above treatment.

62. He/she avoids any real intimacy with you.

63. You don’t get the sense that he/she has a genuine commitment to your welfare.

64. When you act with independence and autonomy, he/she is not happy, and tries to stifle this.

65. He/she rages when you disagree with him/her.

66. After he/she has tortured or belittled you, he/she will act with empathy to soothe you.

67. He/she never talks with you, he/she talks at you or lectures you.

68. You usually feel he/she is emotionally absent, and never fully there.

69. He/she cannot delay gratification. He/she believes himself/herself to be deserving, and doesn’t want to put the time intopersisting.

70. He/she tells you in subtle or not so subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong or that your feelingsare wrong.

71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of toupset him/her.

72. You often feel that issues don’t get fully resolved so that you can feel happy and relieved.

73. You frequently feel confused, sad, frustrated or outraged because you can’t get him/her to understand yourintentions.

74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks yousaid and what you heard him/her say.

75. He/she rarely wants to share his/her thoughts or plans with you.

76. He/she often denies things that you know he/she did or said.

77.  He/she seems to take the opposite view from you on many things you mention, but the way he/she says it, your view is wrong and his/hers is right.

78. You often feel unseen or unheard, and sometimes wonder if he/she perceives you as a separate person.

79. He/she is either angry or has no idea what you are talking about when you try to discuss an issue with him/her.

80. You feel abused or negated by him/her, but he/she insists how much he/she loves you.

81. When you try to communicate how you feel about something, you feel no empathy from him/her, or he/she negates your feelings.

82. He/she often frightens you with rage to silence you.

83. You often feel no empathy from him/her when you are describing how you feel about something..

84. He/she often manipulates you by ignoring you or withholding affection.

85. You feel diminished by the time he/she finishes his/her conversation with you.

86. He/she always needs to be one up or right.

87. He/she attempts to define you  eg  ”You’re only doing that for attention”.

88. He/she blames, accuses, judges or criticises you.

89. He/she counters, blocks or diverts your conversation.

90. He/she confabulates, ie makes up something negative about you and speaks it as if it is the truth.

91. He/she often is well behaved in public, but abusive in private.

92. He/she will not ask for what he/she wants, so that you can negotiate fairly.

93. He/she will not respond at all to your requests, or will respond with frustration, or will only seem to respond but not follow through.

94. Your attempts to enhance the relationship, improve communication, and find some happiness all lead to difficulties.

95. Whenever you try to explain that you are not thinking what he/she is saying you are thinking or doing, he/shewill not hear or understand, or negates you in some way.

96. He/she behaves well towards you when you are of one mind with him/her, but the trouble starts when you express either different views from him/her or your own feelings.

97. He/she can’t have fun banter with you. The only way he/she has fun with people is if he is having fun at another’s expense.

98. The way he/she treats you has deteriorated radically since you became more settled  together (move in together, got married, started having children)

99. You feel like you are doing all the work in your relationship.

100. You feel energetically drained when with him/her, and energised when not with him/her.



How partners feel when they are attempting to have a relationship with a Narcissist.

In a way that you often can’t exactly identify clearly you can feel:

Very disappointed and disillusioned about who he/she seems to be now, compared with who he/she was in the beginning stages of the relationship

 Relationship counselling sydney Narcissist

Confused because of the lies and half truths he/she continually feeds you

Hurt and shell shocked because of the myriad of ways he/she belittles, criticises and blames you

The relationship feels unrewarding because it never feels that he/she is really there, and it is not possible to share any real intimacy with him/her

Unhappy because he/she always tries to undermine the happiness you create for yourself

Untrusting of yourself because you don’t know what to trust anymore, wanting a real and happy relationship but always feeling that it is not available to you

Intensely frustrating when he/she can’t be reasonable or honour agreements or work with you for a win-win solution

Utter perplexity at how he/she can be so sweet and nice one minute, and so mean and callous the next

Despair at the dawning realisation that he/she doesn’t really care about you or how you feel


How did you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist?

narcissistc partner

You may be wondering why anyone would be masochistic enough to ever get themselves into a relationship with such a person; one that leaves you feeling so dreadful?

But the truth is that things start off very differently. The narcissist is an absolute perfect delight right from the first day you start dating: wining, dining and gifts, nothing is too much trouble for him/her; your every whim is his/her desire; he/she is truly the perfect and charming partner.

Finding yourself in a “whirlwind romance”, he/she will appear to be all you have ever wanted in a partner and in a relationship, so much so that it all seems almost “too good to be true”, which of course it is.

At this stage you are his/her “prey”, and he/she is an expert at contriving his/her behaviour to impress you, and being sensitive to what you are wanting, until he/she has snared you. He/she has you in his/her sights as his/her next source of Narcissistic supply, so all his/her energies, shows of love, affection and fake empathy are committed to lure you.

The transition:

However this “impress the socks off” stage doesn’t last, and once he/she now feels secure in the relationship (this happens most commonly at the 3 major transitions: when you move in together, when you get married, or when you start having children) there is now no longer a need for making an effort.

Without realizing it, you are now owned by him/her; you have crossed over into his/her self definition boundary. With this transition comes the expectation that you now are an extension of him/her.

This dumbfounding change can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace, but change it does.

The “Bubble”:

One man described that for him it felt like he and his wife were in a big bubble that he had created as his reality. His wife had freedom, and all was happy, as long as she stayed in the bubble. “There was room to move about so the illusion of freedom seemed real to her. But when she expressed an idea of her own, or any feelings, it was like she was stepping out of his bubble and stepping into her own. But he did not want her out there. He feared being alone with himself. He feared being with his feelings. So he tried to pull her back into his bubble, or worse, injure her so she could never leave, or worse yet, disorient her so she can never find her way out.” Whatever control measure or verbal abuse it took, getting her back inside the bubble where he could feel safe again was his primary objective.

The Narcissist usually feels a great and strong love for his/her partner, but this is in essence a control connection rather than real love. There is no regard for his/her individuality, no empathy or understanding, and usually an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he/she shows any signs of separateness.

This leaves you feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that you have been so invaded or negated, every time you express your individuality.

All the while he/she denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on you.


What happens in a Narcissist’s mind, and how did he/she become a Narcissist?

Narcissism is based on an inflated “false self”, which has developed as a result of a developmental arrest in childhood. As a child, he/she withdrew inwards and resorted to grandiose fantasies of being superior, special, perfectly loved, self sufficient and self important.

 marriage counselling sydney narcissist

This was to cover the vulnerability, self doubt and worthlessness that was at his/her core.

To keep his grandiose “false self” alive in his mind and his fears of abandonment at bay, he/she is in constant search for sources of narcissistic supply, an abundant “fan club”, which will supply him/her with positive attention, adulation and appreciation, and if that is not possible, fear from others will suffice.

The more damage he/she sustained in childhood, the larger the grandiosity and the more severe the Narcissism, and the more donations are desperately needed from others to keep propping up the fantasy self. Emotional pain dominates his/her internal landscape. He/she may project arrogance and charisma, but underneath he/she feels unworthy.

It is a constant and exhausting endeavour as he/she continually seeks to manipulate others to give him/her the required fix. He/she will do anything to get it, and won’t let people’s feelings or the truth get in the way.

To keep this all going internally, he/she uses a combination of 6 defense mechanisms

1. Splitting is the first one. This means he/she fails to regard anyone, including himself/herself, as a composite of good and bad. Instead, he/she sees everyone as either “all good” or “all bad”. He/she, of course is “all good”, and you as the partner begin by being “all good” which has him/her idealising you, and internalising you to support his/her grandiosity, but as soon as you fail to do this, you become “all bad” and he/she immediately devalues you, with the resulting punishment in various forms metered out to you.

2.  Dissociation & altered perception. Narcissists often recall things very differently from healthy people, or fail to recall things at all if they don’t resonate with his/her superiority.

3.  Rationalisation is the assertion that a flaw doesn’t exist, or if it does, it isn’t the Narcissists. (“There is nothing wrong with me.  I never have problems”) These rationalisations can be very convoluted and obscure, as they often fly in the face of observable facts.

4. Projection is the curious strategy whereby the Narcissist is subconsciously aware of what he/she is in fact doing himself, but  projects it onto you, with the result that you then get blamed for exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself, and he/she casts himself/herself as the blameless victim.

5. Denial is simply the assertion that something is not so, when ordinary observation or common sense confirms that it is in fact true. Anything that doesn’t reinforce his/her grandiose image will be denied. The Emperor has no clothes and he can’t be told.

6. Blame shifting is what happens when the Narcissist insists there is nothing possibly wrong with him/her, so all the blame must be attributed to you or everyone else in the world.


How did you become a willing victim? Why you?

relationship trouble sydney relationship counselling

If you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist, at some stage you might wonder why you?  What does this say about you, your tolerance for pain and your sanity?

It is true that there is a particular kind of person that finds themself with a Narcissist, at least often well beyond the first indication that there is an underlying nastiness in him.

The kind of person who seems to unwittingly attract a Narcissist is someone who has what I call a “Sacrificial Self”, (which has also been referred to as Co-dependent or compliant or a deflated false self). This means you may have a tendency to unnecessarily attribute blame to yourself in situations when you haven’t done anything wrong.

In Transactional Analysis terms, a Narcissist’s underlying Life position is I’m Ok, You’re Not OK, whereas  a Sacrificial’s underlying Life Position is I’m Not OK, You’re OK.


How Can I tell if I am a Sacrificial Self?

Here again, it is important to understand that there are varying degrees of this kind of Self, as there are with a Narcissistic self.

A Sacrificial person is characterised by:

1. A deflated False self

2. Your feelings are often numbed, and you are not always aware of them in the moment

3. You experience a lack of awareness of your own needs.

4. You also are not good at knowing what your real wants are.

5. You often feel guilt and shame for not being able to meet people’s needs

6. Your loved ones withdrawing their love, or threatening to withdraw it, triggers a lot of anxiety in you

7. You are often not truly in touch with your own deeper truth

8. You can often prefer to live in a fantasy where you believe your partner truly loves you, even though much of the evidence can show you the contrary

9. You have experienced poor self esteem over your life

10. You are not always able to see where your boundaries should and shouldn’t be

11. You are not often able to assertively stand up to those you love

12. You can at times feel a vague sense of depression and emptiness

13. You can lack a sense of a healthy entitlement in your relationships

14. You can often feel frustrated and dissatisfied with your life

15. There are times when you feel your life has no meaning

16. You have an underlying belief that I must sacrifice myself to survive in a relationship

17. In a relationship, you may be responsive and reactive to your partner, rather than proactive

18. You excessively blame yourself in your relationship

19. You often have the underlying sense that if something is going right for you at the moment, it probably won’t last.

20. You tend to take more than your fair share of responsibility in a relationship, to make it better and improve it.

Interestingly and importantly, a Sacrificial’s profile is less defended that the Narcissist, and less destructive to others, and therefore closer to achieving a healthy relationship, if you can gain true insight into what is happening and what is going wrong in your relationships and be able to develop a stronger identity and boundaries.

If this is you, during your childhood, as you were developing your real self and identity as an individual, your mother or father may have been challenged by your emerging separate self. It often happens that she or her was a Narcissist. So whenever you expressed your real feelings, needs or wants, you were abandoned, criticised or blamed. Often, your relationship with your parent was set up so that you took responsibility for meeting your parents’ needs, rather than she/he meeting your needs.

So you learned that in order to survive and experience any form of love and attention, you had to abandon yourself and “toe the line”.

As a result your individual identity may have been severely compromised.


You may not have had the opportunity to:

– Develop your own deep truth and reality

– Form healthy boundaries to keep out unwanted and unhealthy influences

– Feel your real feelings

– Be aware of your needs and wants

– Have permission to explore your desires and creativity

This often leads to an underlying depression, frustration and dissatisfaction which feeds the belief “In order to have love, I have to avoid self activation” and “I am not entitled to genuine love and also my own full self expression”.

When not in a relationship, you may feel empty, as you have not been given the experience of growing your real identity, (which is a composite of your truth, feelings, needs, wants, desires, passions and boundaries)

So, when in a relationship you may cling  and try very hard, minimise your feelings, needs and wants, as well as hold yourself back from being assertive in what you want, and even believe what your partner is saying over what you may think is the your truth, and  trust him over yourself.

In addition to these personal characteristics, there are other reasons why you can get caught up and remain in a Narcissist’s web.


Why have I allowed this kind of controlling behaviour into my life?

Here are some of the reasons why you may have allowed this type of controlling behaviour in to your relationship.

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1. You assume that there is good will, that your partner really does want to understand you, and when he/she she doesn’t, it is because you haven’t been able to explain it fully enough. (In fact a Narcissist is trying to control, not understand you at all, despite their protestations to the contrary)

2. The Narcissist usually expresses great love for you, and also shows love in other ways with gifts and kind things, so it seems inconceivable that he/she would also be trying to devalue your thoughts and feelings.

3. These controlling events usually happen in private, and as well, there is usually a complete denial of any wrong doing by the Narcissist, so your suspicions are never validated by anyone else, so you can feel your going crazy, or perhaps over reacting.

4. The Narcissist can very often turn it around and project it onto you, so you are then blamed for something he/she is actually doing. You can start questioning your sanity.

5.Frequent assaults over time can tend to normalise these acts in your mind, and you can begin to question yourself.

6. The Narcissist has usually been so lovable up until the transition, that it is very difficult to rationalise such a change in him/her.

7. You can believe your partner is rational, and has often made a wrong assumption about you, and when you explain it to him/her, then he/she will understand. (However you find that no matter how much you attempt to explain your view, they never understand. This is because they are not there to understand, they are there to distort your view.)

8.You have not been aware of such a thing as Narcissism, verbal abuse and controlling measures, and though even though you have felt hurt and frustrated and confused, you haven’t understood what has been going on.

9. You can think your feelings are wrong.

10. Your partner can be good at times and not at others, adding to the confusion.

11. The abuse can be subtle, with the control increasing gradually over time, so you gradually adapt to it.

12. You can sometime be so stunned or thrown off balance to be able to think clearly about what has just happened.

What can you do if you are living with a Narcissist?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, in his mind, you are an extension of him/her and he/she must always win, so his/her eruptions of temper and ego and devaluations and guilt are sharp and designed to cut you to the core, leaving you wounded.

So, in an overall sense, you will experience problems with his/her lack of honesty, humility and empathy for your feelings.

narcissim marriage counselling

Also, he/she will have difficulties with intimacy with you. Honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings and desires with each other makes the Narcissist very scared and vulnerable, so he/she will avoid it.

He/she is unable to relate to other people other than in terms of his own inflated self image and his unrealistic projections of himself/herself onto others, so as his/her partner you are expected to provide adulation and perfect responsiveness. When you fail to do this, you can expect to be devalued, by raging, blaming or the silent treatment.

These rapid vacillations between absolutely overvaluing (and idealising) you, and then completely devaluing you make a healthy relationship almost impossible to sustain.

The best advice is to be aware of and recognise what is happening and stand up for yourself on each occasion. How effective this strategy will be will dependent on your commitment to not back down, and his/her degree of Narcissism.

Most partners find that standing up for themselves in the relationship is fraught with difficulties, as often the Narcissist will double and treble his/her defensive responses when you start to do so, in order for you to retreat to the way you were, so realistically, most partners find that the support of a good counsellor/Psychologist who understands these challenges is usually needed.


Can your relationship be helped?

If both you and your partner are committed to make your relationship a healthy and happy one, then I believe this is worth working on.

Finding a Psychologist who is familiar and experienced with these conditions is important as Narcissism can be notoriously difficult to pick up in a few sessions if the Psychologist is not trained in this. (Education on Narcissism is taught in Psychology courses but does not fully explain the widespread occurrence of this condition, and also the full ramifications of this, particularly to the partner.

We at the Hart Centre are committed to ongoing education and training in these areas and in supporting you in managing yourself and your relationships.)

The success of relationship and marriage counselling depends on many factors, but is largely due to the commitment of both partners to see their patterns and contributions, and be willing to change. Your partner’s ability to do this will depend on his level of Narcissism.

You will often not know how willing you and your partner are to do this until you attempt to do so.  You will be able to see for yourselves over 3 to 6 sessions what real effort each of you are putting in to see the problems, own your contributions and make changes.

If, after reading the information here, you feel you are definitely living with a Narcissist, I suggest you come to the first session (or book a Skype session) on your own.

If you feel your first choice is to work on your relationship, then we can then follow this first session with a session with your partner individually, then commence couples sessions with both of you.


Plan B

I also suggest that there is a Plan B in place, so that after an agreed on number of couples sessions, if you feel you are not achieving the changes and results you want, then you continue coming to sessions on your own to look at your options and be supported in doing your own work of rebuilding your Identity, boundaries and possibly new life.


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and more – either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Find your nearest Psychologist from the Search box on the right hand side of this page.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Individual Empowerment help for you as a Partner to a narcissist

 relationship counselling sydney empowerment

You may choose to come for individual sessions on your own, if you prefer to continue to stay in the relationship and also work on your own self empowerment and assertiveness in your sessions with the Psychologist. If your partner’s degree of Narcissism is not severe and he/she is more benevolent, this can be worthwhile and helpful to develop your capacity to find your own strength and hold your ground with him/her.

If his/her degree of Narcissism is more severe and you would like help in breaking away from him/her, then we can assist and support you in doing so also. It can be a profound act of self love to accept who he/she is and to step away for your own well being.

As you leave a Narcissist, most partners go through the 5 phases of grief: Denial, rage, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.

Without the support of a helping knowledgeable Professional, many  partners  find it  very difficult to get past the denial stage, or repeatedly go back to their partner (in the bargaining stage), or can become stuck in rage against their partner.

Additionally, it is very easy to unwittingly “attract” another Narcissist into your life in your next relationship if you haven’t been able to look at your own patterns of why you have attracted, accommodated and tolerated this kind of behaviour.

Therefore it is important to understand, process and learn from this painful experience, so that you are rewarded with a stronger sense of self, compassion for yourself, and are able to move on to a mutually beneficial  real loving relationship in the future.

Personal Empowerment/ Recovery Program:

Our Personal Empowerment/ Recovery program involves 12 steps:

1. Insight and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of what has been happening in your relationships.

2. Uncover and express your feelings and have these feelings and experiences validated by someone who understands what you have been experiencing.

 3. Process these emotions and recognise these patterns from past relationships, including your parents, in order to clear them from your subconscious patterns.

4. Discovering your genuine needs and wants as an individual and in a relationship.

5. Be aware of your feelings and manage your emotional self on a daily basis.

6. Learn to build healthy boundaries with others, where you care for but don’t take on emotional responsibility for anyone other than yourself.

7. Rediscover your own intuition and trust it again, rather than your partner’s negative views of you.

8. Encouragement to believe in yourself again and recognise your magnificence.

9. Recognising and managing the desire to go back to the unhealthy Narcissist.

10. Help redesign your life from the inside out, trusting in yourself and who you really are.

11. Find the Gift in this relationship for you. How have you grown in yourself as a result of these experiences?

12. Moving onto a new equal relationship ensuring a healthy love. Narcissist screening test, and learn the ability to recognise the difference between real love and fake or controlling love.

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This Individual Program is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins. This program will take from 2 to 6 sessions, depending on your needs and circumstances.

Cost: Prices range for $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Why can it be so difficult to leave a Narcissist?

Anyone who has left a relationship with a Narcissist knows that it can be a very challenging process. Here are a few reasons why this kind of breaking up presents extra difficulties over and above leaving an ordinary relationship:

It is difficult to understand what has happened and who he/she really is. Without the inside knowledge of what Narcissism is, it is almost impossible to understand why there appears to be 2 completely different people inside him/her, how he/she can have changed so dramatically, why he/she is so nice at times and then so nasty at others, and what causes that change. Also he/she has talked about love and higher values in the beginning, but his/her real behaviour has mostly reflected selfishness and self interest.

You can keep waiting for the initial person you fell in love with to re-emerge. He/she did such an effective job of his “Sales Presentation” to you in the courting phase, seeming to be all you could have wanted in a partner, and he/she was so believable, that you just want that version of him/her to re-appear again, so you can have the relationship you thought you were going to have and have committed to, and just be able to continue with that.

But, unfortunately, the initial version of him/her that you fell in love with, is NOT REAL. The feelings, passion and intensity he/she first showered you with were all part of his/her sales presentation. This version of him/her will not come back, because there is no substance to it. It is not real. It was the lure to get you in. He/she will only use it again if he/she decides he/she wants to re-lure you back in.

It may feel unfinished in that there seemed to be so much promise that hasn’t really happened yet. He/she may well have promised you the world, and you have been left with crumbs. He/she is very capable of a great seduction and pretence when courting you, but not at all interested, nor is he/she capable, of being a real partner in any real way, with empathy and compromise from each other.

You may feel if only he/she understood how hurt you have been then it would change him/her. It can be difficult to accept that he/she really doesn’t care about how hurt you are as a result of his/her behaviour. He/she may have pretended to care initially, so you want to believe that he/she does really, but in reality he/she doesn’t, and it can be difficult to accept that you have given your love and commitment to someone who just doesn’t care how hurt you are feeling.

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You can take on some of the blame your partner has thrown at you,(and continues to project onto you) and blame yourself. By the time you have decided to leave, you will have experienced your share of put downs, belittling, judgements and criticisms, both subtle and very obvious. While these constitute his/her projections of his/her own characteristics only, it is difficult not to take on some of them, particularly when he/she has repeatedly blamed you. This may leave you thinking that some of this has actually been your fault and perhaps if you tried harder, you could make it work.

Please know that while you have participated in this dance with the Narcissist, you have NOT contributed in the way you are blaming yourself. In fact you have probably tried too hard in the relationship already, and not seen that he/she has not been willing to take responsibility for his/her part in it. It is now time to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness.

There is no closure with the Narcissist. He/she will not be interested in acknowledging his/her part in the relationship ending, so you will not be able to have any shared closure with him/her. He/she may, more likely, be projecting and blaming you for everything, while keeping himself/herself squeaky clean in his/her fantasy world. He/she may also want to involve others close by, sharing his/her fantasy version of how wonderful he/she has been and how badly you have. He/she may even pathologize you to keep his/her grandiose version of himself/herself inflated.

Remind yourself that in actuality, he/she is covering his/her terror and worthlessness with a fantasy based on rationalisations and lies, and that you know in your own truth what efforts you have made.

narcissism problems marriage counselling

It may be difficult to understand why he/she doesn’t really try to work on the relationship. To be willing to work on your relationship, you need to be honest and accountable, two things a true narcissist can’t tolerate. In reality, he/she doesn’t see he/she has a problem and doesn’t want the relationship to be any different from what it is. He/she has created the fantasy this way, and he/she wants it to stay this way as it is serving his/her narcissistic needs. This is usually more important than any relationship to him/her.

You may question just what in the relationship was real at all. It can be extremely mindbogglingly painful to realise that you have been taken in by a clever conman/woman and have trusted this person when he/she was far from trust worthy, and for as long as you have. Also, that his/her motives have not been to love you, as stated, but simply to gain his/her Narcissistic supply from you, a mere source for him/her.

It takes time, processing, deep soul searching, and usually assistance from an therapist experienced in Narcissism to come to the full realisation of the reality of the relationship you have been living in, and to be able to fully heal, have closure and move on to a healthier relationship. 


Can the Narcissist be helped?

Narcissists are usually extremely satisfied with themselves, therefore it follows that they see no reason to come for counselling or help when they ‘do not need any’. The fact that they are causing huge problems for others around them does not tend to enter their consciousness.

Here again, it really depends on how severe their narcissism is. The more defended a Narcissist, the less likely he/she will see himself with a problem, and the less likely he/she will stick to therapy.

A severe Narcissist will usually only admit to a problem when he/she has been abandoned, and feels destitute and devastated, when he/she feels he/she doesn’t want to feel any more of this pain.

Even when he/she does attend therapy, either as couples counselling or on his/her own, there can be a lack of follow through and continuation beyond a few initial sessions, and his/her behaviour can revert easily.

Having said that, therapy is really the only way a Narcissist has to help himself/herself lose his/her over inflated Grandiose self, his/her underlying anxiety and develop a true self with the resulting contentment and happiness that this delivers.

This needs to be initiated (and acknowledged)by the Narcissist and I believe is worth trying, even if results are mixed.

Julie Hart – Psychologist


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins.

Please check our Search box on the right hand side of the page for our Psychologist nearest you.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


If you require help in your relationship from one of our expert psychologists, we offer:

Relationship counselling Melbourne

Relationship counselling Sydney

Relationship counselling other locations 


Please check out these fantastic resources from Jenny Mawter on Narcissism.

These first are her most recent ones:

How to get over a break-up

Breaking up is so very hard to do, even if you are the one who initiates the ending.

It is one of the most emotionally painful times of our lives, and is accompanied by many emotions, and sometimes confusions, as we try to come to terms with the loss of the one we have loved as well as our hopes and dreams for our future, and are suddenly thrust into having to meet all of our needs in other ways.

It seems we are all experts in falling in love but we often don’t know much about what goes on inside a relationship, and even less about how to end one.

We are in relationships not only give and receive love, but for us to complete certain developmental tasks, so if a relationship ends it is important to process this ending in a way that allows for the emotional expressions of all you are feeling, as well as being able to see the meaning in why this relationship has been one you have chosen, and why it has ended.

This is so essential for you to be able to grow as a person, and move on freely to your next, even better relationship.

The 7 Tasks that are needed to work through a break up

There are 7 tasks that are essential to working through this process: I suggest you either do these by writing them out, or call us and we can help you through the process.  

1. Describe your love story

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How you fell in love and how you felt in the beginning

What were your expectations of this relationship?

What was going on in you when you first met?

What was your first clue that didn’t seem right, but which you ignored at the time? There may have been a number of them, but usually as we look back, we will recognise them.

How did this eventually show up in larger ways?

Was there something that just snapped that finally ended it? What was it?

What was the real reason the relationship ended?


2. Express your feelings – Describe all of the 3 levels of feelings until you feel you have expressed all that is inside you.

Level 1. Anger and blame (I’m angry, annoyed that…)

Level 2. Hurt and sadness (I feel hurt that….)

Level 3. Fear and insecurity (I was or am afraid that……)

3. My learnings from this relationship. There will be a reason why you were drawn to this person and reasons why it didn’t work. What do you have to learn from this? What is your developmental task?

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4. My Contributions. Now it is time to take responsibility for how you contributed to it not working.


5. Forgiveness for yourself. None of us are perfect and you are just a human being, and you need to forgive yourself for being just that.

Know that you did the best you knew how. What are you willing to forgive yourself for? 


6. Appreciation. Now it’s time to thank and appreciate what your partner has brought into your life.

The good that was there, as there never is any relationship that was all bad. What do you appreciate about his/her presence in your life for this time?  

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7. Moving On. What do you need next? From all you have learned now, what is your next developmental task, your psychological growing edge? What are the most important qualities you need from a person in your next relationship? These will form what you will look for next time around.

I wish you an even more loving partnership in your next relationship.

Julie Hart

If you would like help in working through this process, please click here. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists Australia wide who can help you with this process. There is one near you.