Successful Marriages

The phrase ‘it takes two to tango’ can be applied to many aspects of our lives….from dancing to relationships!  Primary to successful relationships are when two people are fair, just and sensitive. Of course we can not be these at all times yet when we are not we are able to recompense by making amends, repairing the ruptures, making right of the wrong, if our marriage is to be successful. Stan Tatkin in his latest released book “We Do” offers practical skills for relationships whether the couple are just starting out on their adventures together or for those who wish to enhance their relationship after years of togetherness.

Committing fully to a loving relationship, which can be the most fulfilling experience we’ll ever have, can also be one of the most challenging.  When people come to me for relationship counselling most do not realise the opportunities for their own personal growth which lay in front of them. These opportunities, alongside the focus they are placing on their partner, are part and parcel of relationships as successful relationships demand that some of the hard questions that we tend to avoid need to be answered.

Some of these questions center around responsibility, honesty, compassion, curiosity, trust, respect, your ability to regulate your emotions as well as take care of your partners.  Sounds like a tough call? Well it is, but then these questions don’t happen all at once. They happen and develop as we engage and grow with our mate over time.

It is the willingness to engage with ourselves and our partner that either will make or break our relationship.  Couples who take the steps to come to  counselling are usually at a crisis point. It is their ability to repair, patience, willingness to understand, facing up to themselves and their beloved, along with their care for each other and commitment to stay with the process that gets them through  these tough times.

Men’s Grief

In our Aussie culture, men are disproportionately unprepared to express their distressed feelings as they are expected to be strong, assertive, to take charge, to achieve goals, to endure without giving up or giving in,

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Look out for the well being of your mates. You can open up a conversation by saying “You don’t look right……..What’s up……..?”

to protect and support. Due to these spoken, unspoken messages and expectations, it is no wonder that men find themselves isolated in their grief as they are required to deal with tough times and difficult emotions with a certain non-emotional response.

Boys are told “to take things like a man” and “big boys don’t cry”, if not by their fathers, they will be by their peers. This means they are not to show their tears and more vulnerable side as this is called weak. They are to be self sufficient and independent. Men often have minimal support systems outside their immediate family with his girlfriend or wife being their best friend and confidant. It is embarrassing for Aussie men to have the expression of feelings as women might do, to breakdown and cry. It is difficult for an Aussie man to feel helpless and out of control because if he does we believe something is wrong with him.

It becomes a lot harder for a man to handle upsetting feelings or to talk about, cry about, even share thoughts about loss, let alone reaches out for support, while this male conditioning acts strongly and in direct opposition to the grieving process. Most men will react to loss by keeping their thoughts and emotional pain to themselves as doing this protects their vulnerability. Due to this, men are more at risk of getting sick, mental illness and suicide.

Therefore, men will grieve a loss in their own way and even when there is not an outpouring of emotion, there is still grief. It is OK for men to grieve differently and it is OK to be strong and active (some men throw themselves into their work as a distraction from painful feelings) in the face of grief as long as you are not avoiding your feelings. It’s OK for men to feel and express rage (safely) and not to cry as these are typically more masculine responses to grief. There is no right way to mourn a death or loss of any kind.

We have created a myth that if a man is vulnerable and emotional, the castle that he has built will crumble and this is not true. Man can dip in and out of these things and can have both, the castle and the courage and strength to be vulnerable, to show sadness, to go through the grieving process. Silence can kill.  Aussie men are changing. It takes guts to show pain and it takes balls to cry. The main thing to do is to start with a friend, a mate, a trusted person, a trained professional and say “I’ve got something to say…” or “I’ve got a problem…” The hardest thing is about showing your vulnerability as it is most likely that you think you’ll be laughed out of the room but just the opposite happens and often they say “I rate you high on what you’ve just done there”.

Look out for the well being of your mates. You can open up a conversation by saying “You don’t look right…What’s up..?”

Men can talk about their feelings and not lose their manhood.

(Sources for this article include The Man Up documentary series and campaign funded by Movember about masculinity and men’s mental health ManUp.org.au and N.A.L.A.G. The National Association of Loss and Grief)

Relationship Counselling

Couples who come to counselling are brave souls. Bearing all to a near stranger displays to  me their courage, care and humility to face each other and themselves.  As each couple is as unique as the individuals who have paired, how I approach their particular difficulties will be different. I always touch on their emotional  dance, how they respond to each other and make explicit the pattern that has evolved between them. With deeper understanding of how this pattern has developed while attuning to your deeper emotional statements and needs, possibilities open up to respond in different ways that are more conducive to the underlying yearnings of connection being called for. For some noticing communication styles that have a destructive force makes a great difference in the tone of their relationship. The individuals love language is another way in which couples bring greater awareness to where they are ‘missing’ each other. Working in many eclectic ways on various levels in the relationship broadens the capacity of the couple to move in ways which are freeing and loving at the same time.

Relationships

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In a 75 yr Harvard Study found that good relationships keep us happier and healthier and its the quality of your close relationships that matters. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Happily partnered men and women, in their 80’s, report that on the days when they had more physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days when they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain.

Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80’s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer. Whereas the people in relationships where they feel they really can’t count on the other one,those are the people who experience earlier memory decline. Those good relationships, don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough,those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.

We learn how to make a living, play sport and do craft but we learn little on how to create satisfying and fulfilling relationships………………………