Shared rituals both large and small play an incredibly important part in each partner’s sense that the relationship is safe and supportive. They also give the relationship a sense of continuity, along with a regular sense of connection that stays intact even in the face of the busy-ness of everyday life. They also give both partners something to look forward to.
Anything can be a connection ritual as long as it’s important to both of you: A particular kind of exercise, a favorite TV show, even a household chore done together — the most important thing about having rituals is that they’re important to both of you.
Following are some rituals, both informal and formal, that I invite you to discuss with each other.
Are any of these worth adopting? Being aware of (and guarding) your connection rituals is a powerful ingredient in sustaining a good relationship.
Normal Life Rituals
Regularly eat at least one meal a day together, with cell phones and TV turned off, in order to easily talk with each other or with the family.
When leaving the house:
Always find your partner and give him or her a kiss, making sure you know at least one thing he or she will be doing while you’re away.
When arriving home:
Always make sure to find your partner and give him or her a long and loving kiss. Do this before you do anything else.
Talk time each night:
This is a high-priority ritual: Make sure to spend time every evening sitting and talking to one another about your day, sharing what you’re thinking and feeling, and catching up on family news. It can be helpful to meet in the same place.
It’s important to spend at least a few minutes cuddling and kissing in bed. If one of you goes to bed earlier than the other, do this then.
Especially if you have children, it’s crucial for the two of you to schedule (and protect) a regular Date Night — preferably once a week, but at a minimum once every two or three weeks. It allows you to escape your everyday responsibilities and create romantic and special “couple time” together. Date Nights don’t have to be expensive — a picnic on a blanket under the moonlight costs no more than a meal at home. Take turns organizing these.
A regular romantic weekend, even if it’s once every few months, is a powerful, relaxing connection ritual. Again, it need not be expensive; take turns planning them.
Special Circumstance Rituals
When one of you is sick:
For most couples, how their partner cares for them when they’re sick or feeling vulnerable is important. Are you someone who likes a lot of attention, or do you prefer being left alone? Talking through this in advance allows you to best provide for each other when the time comes.
A promotion, a milestone, a personal goal: When one of you has achieved success, how do you celebrate it? Do you create a culture of praise for and with each other and your family?
Bad luck, failures, or exhaustion:
How do you support one another when one of you is stressed out, exhausted, or experiencing failure? Do you acknowledge his or her difficulty? Does the other step up and carry more of the load? (There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.) How do each of you prefer to be supported in tough times?
Do you have an agreement and a divided workload for entertaining visitors? Who cooks? Who cleans? What do you do together? How often do you entertain? How late does it go? Do you clean up at night or in the morning? Do you wait for each other to go to bed, or not? What do each of your prefer?
Keeping in touch with friends and family:
Do you have particular rituals around staying in touch with friends and family? Who contacts whom? How long between catch-ups? Do you do the same routine each time or change it up?
With the daily schedules of life (and particularly with children), making time to make love can be difficult, particularly if you believe sex and lovemaking should be spontaneous. Research has shown that you’ll have a better sex life if you make love regularly, so it can be a good idea to plan a “sex date” together at least one night a week. For many couples, this can often coincide with Date Night; for others, late afternoon on the weekend might be a better time.
How do you take vacations as a couple? Who comes up with the idea? Who organizes the details? Do you always travel together, or do you sometimes go places alone? Do the two of you prefer active or relaxing holidays, or some of both? Is it okay to work on vacation? Do each of you have time to “do your own thing”?
Birthdays and anniversaries:
How do you celebrate these important events? For the two of you as a couple, what’s the norm (and the budget) for of gift-giving, going out, and trips away? Are there particularly special ones to acknowledge? Would you like these celebrations to be different in any way?
What has made you interested in helping couples with their relationships? As a psychologist and a family therapist I have found that we can at times underestimate the importance of healthy and fulfilling relationships and the impact that they have on our mental and physical wellbeing. I was initially trained as a psychologist to treat individuals and not couples in therapy but most of what affects individuals occurs in the context of relationships and family. Working as a relationship counsellor provides a holistic process and the opportunity to resolve issues using a whole system approach. Relationship counselling Sydney.
What do you find are the most common relationships problems that you see in couples coming in to see you? By far the most common problem in couples seeking counselling is to assist with managing and learning to minimise conflict and arguments. It is common for many couples to have conflict or arguments but when this becomes a chronic a negative interaction pattern can become entrenched. It can be helpful for couples to have professional therapy to learn to recognise and change these entrenched patterns of behaviour. Relationship counselling Sydney.
What are the most common problems for women in relationships? Frequently women report that they are not being heard by their partner. By this I mean that they are not being understood and cannot get their message across in a way that can facilitate communication. Another related area of concern commonly reported by women is that their partner does not understand that their expression of emotion is normal and even healthy. Men sometimes do not know how to respond this and tend to either try to fix the issue or disengage as they may, for example, feel powerless to affect or change the concerns raised.
What are the most common problems for men in relationships? I have found that many men feel that their partner has misinterpreted their intentions. They may not be able to express their feelings and intentions well. They may express anger or that they withdraw emotionally in response to feelings of helplessness which many people find extremely uncomfortable to sit with. A significant number of men may find it difficult to express their feelings and this can lead to a sense of emotional disconnection in their relationship.
What would you like couple clients to know about the couple counselling process before they come in? I would like them to know that the counselling process is a process. There will be an opportunity to explore in detail the issues and patterns which have affected the relationship and the issues which are concerning each individual. It is important to be clear that while the therapist has had specific training in relationships and providing therapy to couples, the therapist’s role is to guide and encourage insight, not to give advice or take the side of either party in the relationship. The alliance with the couple is a therapeutic and cooperative relationship and which proceeds in accordance with the priorities and needs of the individual couple involved. I would like couples contemplating therapy to understand that while therapy can be challenging it does not need to be feared or the need to seek therapy viewed as a failure. Therapy is an opportunity to have a fair and equal opportunity to express their perspective in an atmosphere of non judgment.
If you had one word of advice for couples with children, what would it be? Teamwork. Relationship counselling Sydney.
What advice would you give to couples trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair? This is always a very difficult process to work through for couples. At the time many couples feel that there seems little hope that they can go on to rebuild their relationship. However I have found when couples are motivated to work through the issues and work on the rebuilding many can go forward in their relationship with a better understanding of the specific vulnerabilities and strengths in their partnership. Working through this process requires a lot of time, and a great deal of commitment from both partners. With this couples can go on to experience a stronger and more connected relationship.
What, for you, are the most important things that couples need to remember if they want their relationship to thrive, instead of just survive? Healthy and fulfilling relationships do not just happen. As a couple we each need to nurture, provide positive input and regard for our partner. No couple relationship is perfect but when we are mindful and proactive about what we value in a relationship, and we are also mindful and proactive about what our partner values then we are well on the way to a satisfying and emotionally emotional connected partnership. We cannot take for granted our relationship.
What proportion of your couple clients manage, with your help, to successfully recreate a happy relationship from the difficult one that they came in with? I have found that sometimes couples can manage to work through and change unhealthy habits and negativity in the relationship very quickly eliminated once they become aware it. For couples that are motivated and prepared to change their behaviour and also do the work at home the majority will benefit and learn to identify the triggers and factors that caused the issues in the first place. Once couples learn to work through the process of change and begin to connect again the success rate is very high. However at times couples come to the decision that they do not wish to continue in the relationship, or one partner is not motivated to continue the relationship. In this instance therapy can also be utilised to assist in managing conflict and agree on how to manage separation.
What do you find is the most satisfying and fulfilling part of this work that you do? The most fulfilling aspect of relationship counselling is that you have made a positive difference in terms of couple’s interactions. The most satisfying outcome for me would when a couple do not need to attend anymore as they have made the necessary changes in their relationship and are now connecting well. They can identify and communicate with each other about potential issues and resolve them on their own. I particular find it fulfilling when the improved relationship leads to improvement in the lives of the couple and their children. I work very hard to support couples and where there are children involved to explore with them the impacts on the larger family system to assist them shift in a positive direction.
What are 3 qualities that your friends and family would describe you as having? I asked my wife to answer this one, she identified loyal, caring, and determined.
What are 3 strengths that you have as a Psychologist? – Practical experience and specific post graduate training in the field of relationship and family counselling.
– The ability to develop rapport and help couples feel comfortable with the therapy process.
– Insight and empathy.
How many years experience do you have practicing/helping clients? I have been practicing for over 25 years. I have been employed in the past in the Department of Human Services as a Team Leader for a specialist Behavioural Intervention Team. Early in my career I have worked with families in crisis in my role as a Psychologist for Human Services in Victoria. I have been in Private Practice for over 10 years and have worked with individuals, couples and families.
If you would like to make a booking with Joe or any other of our psychologists, you are welcome to fill out an enquiry form here, or call our friendly receptionists on 1300 830 552.
When you decide to quit porn, it is usually because you have made an active decision to have something better in your life; a deeper relationship with your partner, a sense of personal integrity and a desire to be respected by your family and the community.
The decision to quit porn is a positive life affirming milestone in a person’s life. It represents a new level of self-responsibility and maturity.
But, it is not an easy process and does require commitment and professional help, as it is almost impossible to change and maintain the changes over time on your own.
With the help of a Psychologist, there are 9 stages or strategies that are essential to your quitting the porn habit:
Acknowledging how porn has caused you problems
Identifying what matters to you most
Facing your fears
Taking responsibility for your own recovery.
Creating a porn free environment
Resolving underlying wounds and unresolved issues
Establish support and accountability
Taking care of your physical and emotional health
Start healing your sexuality and rebuild your sexual relationship with your partner
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.
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
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 idealisingyou, 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.
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.
Rationalisationis 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, rather than the 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 bolster 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 you or 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 or whole 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 his/her 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 already know.
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 pathologize 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 of him/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 into persisting.
70. He/she tells you in subtle or not so subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong or that your feelings are wrong.
71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of to upset 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 your intentions.
74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks you said 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/she will 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
– 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
Continue discovering about Narcissism by checking out our other videos:
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For some people, the thought of having to discuss their relationship problems with someone other than their partner is akin to having all your teeth pulled. Sometimes it’s even hard to talk with your partner about the difficulties between you, let alone a stranger. Your relationship is a private affair, right? And anyway, it’s not easy to understand what’s going on, both in your head, in your partner’s head or in the in-between.
However, our relationship with our partner is arguably the most important thing in our lives and actually forms the foundation of the rest of our life. Most of us build our whole life, family, home, friends and holidays around our relationship.
And the crazy thing is that despite how central our relationship is to our life, for most people no-one has actually taught us how to have a good one! Most of us are either doing what we’ve seen modelled by our parents, or quite the opposite as we don’t want to be like them.
So when our relationship starts to go wrong, due to ignorance on our part (we don’t know what we’re doing that’s causing it to deteriorate) we can be grabbing in the dark to find out how to improve things.
And with 25 years of experience in helping people with their relationship difficulties, unfortunately I also know that the longer you leave your relationship difficulties usually the worse they get.
So being proactive tends to be the best approach.
When you have problems with your car, house, physical health, finances and legal matters you see a trained and experienced professional to help assist you in fixing the problem.
We find some people have hesitations about relationship counselling because they think we will take one person’s side over another. It is important to note that our number 1 goal is to be fair, equal and considerate of both people.
What we do as trained and experienced relationship Psychologists is help you identify the exact unique problem, or combination of problems that you and your partner are having, and then we help educate you on how to change these patterns so that you can get back to having the great relationship you started with in the first place and deserve to have from here on in.
And as a couple when you are both on board with these, and working together on them, often it doesn’t take long to start feeling a whole lot better and more loving towards each other, with the spark coming back again too.
If you are wondering what we do in your session, firstly we take your confidentiality very seriously. In our sessions, we take time to really listen to each of you without taking sides or making any judgements, and from there we give you insight into what patterns you may be inadvertently playing out, and then the specific skills you both need over the next few sessions.
It’s important for us to always work toward win/win solutions as that is what is needed for any of us to have a happy, healthy relationship. We are also there to help, if you have any difficulties along the way. It’s both a very caring and efficient process.
So I’d like to urge you to consider giving us a try. We know how to create awesome relationships and we can help you create one too. That’s our mission.
If you have never been to a counselling session before, it can be a little daunting, so it might help to know that, at the Hart Centre, we have 93% of our clients tell us that their counselling experience with us has been a very helpful one for their relationship.
So, once you have made the appointment and before you come in for your first session, we suggest you take a little time individually to think about what, in your own experience, are the main issues for you. You can write them in your phone, on a note and just keep them in your head.
When you come in, your Psychologist will be looking to build a connection and rapport with both of you and will want to listen to how each of you have been feeling about your experiences in your relationship.
We are trained to be empathic and our first job is to understand the views and experience of each of you.
She or he will also ask you what you would like the outcome to be. Most people want their relationship to be better, but there are some people who don’t want to continue their relationship, and others who aren’t sure.
After each of you have had some time to share what you problems and experiences are, and towards the end of the first session, your Psychologist will summarise how each of you are feeling, and also give you further insight into what might be the underlying dynamics or patterns that you may not have been able to see.
She or he will also suggest a plan on how the therapy should go, giving you some initial suggestions on how to get started.
The following sessions are then about resolving your issues in proactive ways, giving you strategies and tools that you will practice at home, and hearing from you the next session about how they are going for you, and what is needed next for you.
We do work with the most important issues for you first and keep a balanced approach so each of you feels you are being heard and your issues attended to.
We also take a very positive approach as this is important in countering the negativity that has usually built up in your relationship before you come, and we celebrate your gains in your relationship happiness as we go along.
Many of our couples are surprised to find that through our counselling process with them, they actually develop an even better relationship than they have ever had before.
If you feel you have quite a large number of issues in your relationship, we suggest you book a separate session for each of you first, before your joint session, to give you both time to share your issues and perspectives.
We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you on your journey back to love and relationship happiness.
One way of understanding the driving forces behind common relationship problems such as high conflict, communication difficulties and lack of intimacy is to ask what is arguably the most fundamental question of all: ‘Why are we together?’
It seems almost too obvious to ask, doesn’t it? However it is striking how few people who seek relationship counselling have ever asked themselves or their partner that question. People are often unable to easily answer that question for themselves or predict how their partner would answer and sometimes people are afraid to ask.
Two further complications exist here. Firstly, people’s true reasons for being in the relationship are not necessarily their stated ones. Secondly, each person’s perception of why their partner is with them does not necessarily match their partner’s stated reasons. It can, understandably, be a very delicate topic. Nevertheless, open exploration of the answers to this big question can reveal a great deal about why people behave as they do in their relationships and also which insecurities or sensitivities may be present in the relationship.
There could be a range of reasons why two people choose to be in a relationship with each other, including love, attraction, convenience, practical considerations, personal val
ues, cultural or religious practices, etc. Most people would probably think that there are no universally right or good reasons. However, it is important for each person to understand them because they can influence each person’s emotional state and, accordingly, the overall tone or atmosphere of the relationship.
There are two dimensions involved in the question, ‘Why are you together?’ Firstly, how you feel about why you are with your partner and secondly, how you feel about why your partner is with you.
Here are a few reasons that are commonly expressed in counselling. Consider how closely these match either your reasons or what you imagine your partner’s to be:
• We are soul mates.
• We made the commitment of marriage.
• He or she is special to me.
• We’ve been together for a long time.
• I wouldn’t want to be alone or single.
• I’m not sure there is anyone else out there for me.
• For the children’s sakes.
• I don’t like to give up on things easily.
• My partner or I would have to leave the country if we separated.
• I haven’t the strength/courage to end it.
• We used to be so in love.
• He or she has such a lovely family.
• He or she really needs me.
Obligation and desire
The above reasons could be arranged into two categories fitting the two primary types of motivation: desire (attraction to something positive) or obligation (avoidance of some sort of negative consequence). So you could ask yourself if you have an overall sense of being motivated to be with your partner out of desire, obligation or perhaps a bit of both. If you had to choose only one reason for the two of you to be together, what would it be?
When I explore this issue in counselling, most people report that many of their reasons for being in the relationship are to do with obligations. However, people also often add that they would hope that they are with their partner due to desire, due to their partner having a special or unique quality that they hold dear. Similarly, they hope that their partner is also with them primarily due to desire rather than obligation. A lack of desire – or the perception of it – can strike at the heart of a relationship and can lead to hypersensitivity, defensiveness, insecurity and misunderstanding.
What to do if obligation outweighs desire
If you or your partner is in your relationship primarily due to obligation and if you are uncomfortable with this, can you influence the relationship so that you are more motivated by desire? Perhaps you need to remind yourself of what attracted you both to each other when you first met – before the trials and tribulations of life complicated things or before you disappointed each other one too many times. What would you need to do to create or recapture some of the conditions that allow desire to flourish? What would each of you regard as quality time together? What expression of love would you and your partner value the most? If both people are willing and able to make the right sort of behavioural changes, it may be possible to restore the missing element of desire.
If you’re looking for help with your relationship from one of our experienced psychologists across Australia, please contact us.
Sometimes one or both people in a relationship struggle to come to terms with the conditions under which it was formed.
Common examples are where:
• trust breaches occurred
• one or both people were already in a committed relationship
• one or both people were in a dysfunctional state such as drug-affected, unwell, or in some sort of crisis
• there was an unplanned pregnancy
• there were some other difficult situational factors such as an illness, injury or a death.
In such circumstances, meeting one another could have been experienced as fraught, upsetting, complex, controversial or shameful in some way, contributing to a sense of the relationship being somehow sullied or spoiled before it had the chance to develop. The memories or perceived impact of these beginnings could seem to be ‘hanging over’ the relationship creating a negative atmosphere and the potential for further damage to be caused.
Regret about the way the relationship was formed can be heightened by a wish that you and your partner had some version of a normal or acceptable beginning, or perhaps even a ‘fairytale’ one that you might have encountered in novels or movies – the type that many people grow up believing or at least hoping will happen to them. These sorts of regrets and fantasies are understandable as it is the nature of the mind to dwell on the past and create idyllic alternative scenarios.
What to do about it
Couples who feel that they missed out on a normal or fairytale beginning to their relationship, yet who seem to have come to terms with it do at least two things well. Firstly, they fa
ce the issue head on. As with so many relationship problems, the key is to develop insights into your own and the other person’s experience. It’s a good idea to encourage each other to tell the story, uninterrupted, of how your relationship was formed. This way each person can develop their understanding of what their partner is carrying with them. There’s no need to try to persu
ade your partner that it wasn’t that bad, only to let them know that you are trying to understand how it might have been for them.
Secondly, these couples give careful thought to how they present the beginnings of the relationship to people outside it. There are three options. The first is to keep the
story completely private. The second is to tell everyone the whole story ‘warts and all’. The third is to agree upon a story that is somewhere between these two options.
An alternative approach is to tell different stories to different people depending on how well you think they’ll understand and not judge you. The important thing here is that each of you is comfortable with how your relationship is being portrayed to others and that your story is consistent with your partners.
A narrative therapy technique
A narrative therapy technique that can be beneficial to couples who are grappling with perceived difficult beginnings to their relationship is known as ‘re-writing the narrative’ or ‘re-storying the relationship’. This is a creative exercise that involves partners expressing how they wished they had met. You can make it as long and elaborate as you like. Just have fun with it. What happens for some couples is that these invented narratives can sit alongside the actual narrative. Over time, especially if you keep embellishing the story with each re-telling, the invented memories may become as compelling and important as your actual ones. I mean, memories are just constructions anyway!
‘I’d like to think we were secret childhood sweethearts and when we finally ‘came out’, we resisted all comers who tried to break us up.’
‘We actually met at the Beijing Olympic Village after we’d both won gold in the gymnastics. We then retired and spent the next six months as professional dancers on a cruise ship in the Pacific before eloping in Vanuatu.’
Remember, just as many fairytales have tragic endings, many relationships that have a non-fairytale beginning end up being fantastic and fulfilling, perhaps even more so as a result of your overcoming the initial adversity together.
If you’re looking for help with your relationship from one of our experienced psychologists across Australia, please contact us.
Although difficult to believe for some, research by Laumann (1994) has found that the best quality sex occurs in couples who have been in a committed relationship for 15 years of longer.
The best sex doesn’t, in fact, happen between young couples, or first time sexual experiences, which most of us assume.
Most couples begin their relationship as a romantic passionate love affair, complete with idealization of their new love and a strong sexual desire for each other. This is a very short lived but important stage because it gives you the courage to take the risk to become involved in a serious relationship.
But, once you’re settled in the relationship, and it becomes both more serious and secure for you both, the challenge then becomes how to integrate both your intimacy and your eroticism.
No one has a perfect sex life. Great sex, especially in a committed relationship, is uneven and is also variable.
The best research suggests that regular frequency and variable, flexible couple sex that is fully integrated into your real life is the best quality, most satisfying wonderful sex for you as a couple.
Realistically great sex serves a number of purposes in your life: for pleasure, to relieve tension, for self esteem, to feel emotionally close, and also to have babies.
Quality couple sex is made up of a blend of intimacy, desire, pleasure, eroticism and satisfaction.
Balancing intimacy and eroticism
To have long term satisfying sex, here are some crucial points to remember:
Take care of your physical health.Sex is important at any age right up to your 80’s. You are a sexual person right up till you die. In enjoying sex at every age, it is important to take care of your physical health; by sleeping well, exercising regularly and eating healthily.
Trust, love & Commitment.Trust, love and commitment are essential fundamentals in great couple sex. The essence of a healthy relationship is respectful and trusting commitment. You need to feel your partner respects and loves you for the person you are, including your vulnerabilities; that your partner has your best interests at heart; that he/she would not intentionally do anything to hurt you, and is committed to you and your relationship.
Intimacy. You need to feel that you both put each other first above anyone else; that you are safe and emotionally connected with your partner, and that he/she can empathize with you emotionally.
Sex as a regular event. It is important to maintain a regular pattern of being sexual with your partner, no matter what comes along. Whether it be twice a week or twice a month, being able to count on and look forward to making love helps it continue to be enjoyable.
Broaden your definition of Sex. Change your definition of sex from “intercourse” to “mutual pleasure” to encompass the fullness of what the pleasure of your lovemaking can give you.
Have realistic expectations. Be realistic with what you can expect at each age. Research has shown that periodic sexual problems are common, sexual enjoyment varies, orgasm is not essential to sexual satisfaction and men and women have different physiological and psychological experiences. Count on the 85% guideline: this means that in 85% of the time you make love, sex will flow from pleasure to arousal to intercourse. When it doesn’t flow, you can just choose to transition to an erotic, non- intercourse scenario of pleasuring each other, or even a cuddly scenario, so that the lovemaking still ends in a positive way.
Resolve Desire stoppers as soon as possible. “Desire and positive anticipation” are essential core components in maintaining a great sex life, so knowing what factors inhibit desire is important. These include illness, medication side effects, tiredness and unresolved relationship conflict. So addressing and overcoming these as soon as you can reasonably do so, helps maintain a great sex life.
Celebrate your Eroticism. A healthy eroticism, which is a desire for an energy charge with high levels of erotic flow and orgasm; the freedom to let go, to get lost in pleasure, and abandon yourself in passion.You can anticipate and feel deserving of sexual pleasure in your life and your relationship.
A Team sport. Great sex needs to be seen as a team sport; that is a team of 2. The ultimate goal of satisfaction is not so much only orgasm, but feeling energized and bonded as a couple. You need each other as intimate and erotic friends.
Relaxation is the key. As strange as it may seem, relaxation is the foundation of a great sexual experience. All 3 dimensions of relaxation are important – physical relaxation,psychological comfort, and feeling open, desired and accepted as a couple. Relaxationleads to pleasure which leads to arousal which leads to eroticism which can lead to intercourse and then orgasm.
Value and explore all forms of touch. It is really important to include many variations of touch in your lovemaking. These include affectionate and comforting touch, sensual touch, playful touch, erotic touch and or course intercourse. Too often couples can over time revert to going directly from a quick kiss to intercourse, and miss all the pleasures of multiple modes of touching which helps you slow down and become really present and enjoy your mutual pleasuring along the way.
Balance intimacy with eroticism. Too much intimacy can smother the spark of sexual desire. You do need to have some interests of your own and spend time experiencing your native sexual essence, eg women doing things that feed their feminine, and men doing masculine activities in order to feel that magnetic arc of attraction of masculine/feminine.
Ultimately your sexual relationship is meant to play an energizing role in your relationship, one that enlivens and bonds the two of you together, while giving a regular charge of energy to your love.
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