Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Infidelity in relationships. Do both partners need to change to save a marriage?

On Sunday this week I was asked to take part in a CapeTalk podcast on the subject of infidelity.

PODCAST: ‘An emotional affair can be equally as hurtful as sexual infidelity’

One question that was put to me was regarding whether or not a partner who has been cheated on in a relationship also needs to make changes in order for the couple to reconcile and recover their bond. When listening to the podcast the next day I realized that I hadn’t answered the question!

I regret this omission as this is an important question. 

When one partner cheats in a relationship it is a sign that the couple aren’t communicating totally openly and that there is some degree of estrangement. The degree and quality of this “disconnect” will vary between couples of course. I couples where the disconnect is severe, the partners would tend to keep a great deal of their inner lives very private. As a consequence, each partner will start to live a disconnected life and will, to all intents and purposes, start to “suit” themselves when it comes to choices and decisions.

When an infidelity is discovered, and the couple decide to try to work through the associated hurt and betrayal, they have to begin to become a “we” again, with the resultant requirement of mutual compromise and consideration. For the partner who has been cheated upon, this is often a very difficult pill to swallow as there is usually a great deal of anger and resistance to the suggestion that there is a joint responsibility on the partners to work towards a mutually satisfactory and satisfying quality of life as a couple.

For example, where a couple have not had an intimate connection for some time and one of the couple has an affair, then the spotlight is put on the nature and quality of their sex life when they attempt to reconcile. In this scenario, the partner who has been cheated on is often privately quite content with not having sex with their partner and now feels pressurized to reconnect on an intimate level. This is particularly common in couples who are no longer young as is not an easy problem for couples to solve!

Often a compassionate and empathetic professional can make all the difference in helping such individuals find a way forward in their lives that will work for each of them.


Maintaining Healthy Relationships

PODCAST: ‘An emotional affair can be equally as hurtful as sexual infidelity’

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Is your relationship surviving Covid 19?

What is so much togetherness doing for your relationship? 

In my experience of seeing couples over the last few months, it seems that most relationships have undergone significant changes over the course of the lock-down, with some couples reporting that their relationships have gone from strength to strength whilst other couples have had the opposite experience and have found that they have become increasingly unhappy.

Of course there are a multiplicity of factors and reasons that account for these differences between couples. 

A major factor is stress. Many couples and families have been under extreme stress during the lockdown. Financial concerns and hardships, home-schooling and working-from-home demands as well as health concerns and anxieties are amongst the major culprits. Job insecurity and job-losses are also common sources of major stress. 

How couples handle these stressors and whether or not they co-operate with each other and work as a team has a significant impact of the degree to which a couple is able to successfully weather the impact of Covid 19 and the lockdown. Couples who support each other and operate as a team will also benefit psychologically, experiencing more contentment and happiness and less anxiety and depression.

I therefore recommend that couples who are experiencing difficulties find ways of working on improving the quality of their relationship. They will be happier for it, and so will their significant others!


Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Relationship recovery tips from a Couples’ Counsellor

What advice do I give to all my couples who see me for relationship problems?

Lately I have been reviewing all my recent couples counselling sessions in an attempt to distil the main ideas I introduce to almost all couples in our first few sessions together. 

The following have come to mind:

  1. Blaming your partner for the problems in your relationship will get you nowhere! It is extremely common for unhappy couples to blame each other for the demise of their relationship. However, this dynamic only serves to deepen the rifts between the partners. It is essential to take personal responsibility for your contribution to the problems that exist. This is an essential first step to relationship improvement.
  2. Listen to your partner in order to really hear what he/she has to say. Defensiveness will only perpetuate your relationship problems.
  3. Avoid attacking your partner’s personality. Focus on behaviour not personal attributes. Treat your partner with respect at all times. 
  4. Avoid  using absolutes when arguing such as “you always” or “you never”. This will only escalate arguments and emotions.
  5. Don’t nag. Rather mention to your partner what behaviours you would like or would prefer rather than harping on and criticizing.
  6. Mention every day to your partner what you appreciate about them. Look for their strengths and not their faults. 

If you and your partner manage to start to implementing all the above points, your relationship should go from strength to strength in no time! 

Best wishes!

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Maintaining healthy relationships in the face of the corona virus.

Do’s and Don’ts…..

Now that most of the world has been advised to self-isolate, how will our closest relationships be impacted?

As things stand at the moment – we are all going to be spending a great deal of time under the same roof as our immediate family. For many families this is great news – no need to spend hours in the traffic, lots of unstructured time, and the opportunity to be together.

However, for many people, the heightened stress and anxiety about the uncertainty about the impacts of the virus in all spheres of life will cause many people to become preoccupied and irritable, which will, of course, impact negatively on their closest relationships.

What can you do?

  1. Be aware and mindful – of what you are saying, and the tone of voice that you are using. Keep an eye on your moods and your anxiety and stress levels. If your anxiety and stress levels are moderate to high, do something about these – such as speaking to someone, downloading a mindfulness or meditation app and exercising regularly, in the outdoors if possible.
  2. Be committed to being respectful and kind to those close to you, especially when tensions are raised in the household.
  3. Focus of what is important and meaningful in your life, value the present and try not to stress the small stuff.
  4. Get enough exercise and sleep.
  5. Arrange some daily alone time.

And the don’ts?

  1. Don’t let anxiety, stress and depression get the better of you. Practice good thought hygiene (read up on the principles and practice of CBT or attend some counselling or psychotherapy sessions to learn these skills).
  2. Don’t evade personal responsibility when it comes to improving relationships. It is easy to assume the other person is at fault. Ask yourself what you can do differently to improve your close relationships.

Empathy and consideration go a long way! Make this period of self-isolation an experience that your family members will remember with fondness in the decades ahead!



Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Finding Mr or Ms Right. What criteria do you use?

Perhaps you don’t believe in criteria at all?!

Many of my clients in my clients in my clinical psychology practice are preoccupied with relationships – past, current or future.

What makes for a compatible partner?

Do you look for certain attributes, like intelligence and a sense of humour in a prospective partner?

A recent article in Psychology Today highlighted an often overlooked dimension – that of relationship compatibility.

If you are looking for the ideal partner you need to look at yourself as well. For example, if you are a stay-at-home introvert but are attracted to someone who is the life of every party, will this work out long term? Or of you are very careful with money and have long-term investment goals will you be happy with a person who believes in living for today and who spends his/her money accordingly?

Of course many other factors will affect likelihood of long-term happiness and relationship satisfaction such as capacity for empathy, compassion and kindness, which are often overlooked as well!

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Couples: Is your relationship as happy as it could be?

If not, what aspects are preventing you and your partner achieving a mutually fulfilling relationship?

Over the years I have provided couple counselling to many unhappy couples who are experiencing major problems in their relationships. In many cases couples tend to wait much too long before accessing couples counselling when relationship problems have become chronic and trust and goodwill between the partners has become seriously eroded.

What issues often undermine relationships?

  1. Infidelity. Cheating on one’s partner, whether it be a fully-fledged sexual affair, secret texting to a third party or even spending money without the partner’s knowledge often places any relationship under serious strain. Partners often have unrealistic expectations that infidelity can be swept under the carpet after a brief discussion and/or apology. This is invariably not the case. A lengthy process is usually involved, where both partners need to commit to the long haul of recovery.
  2. Chronic arguments that do not get resolved successfully but tend to recur over the months and years on a regular basis. In couples, this type of habitual and long-term conflict often centres around disagreements around money, parenting, friends and in-laws.
  3. Poor communication. When partners are dissatisfied about the quality of their communication, this often indicates relationship problems. Intimacy becomes an early casualty of poor communication as partners who no longer communicate their deeper feelings and needs to their partner are invariably removing themselves emotionally from their relationship. Resentments and misunderstandings often result, which takes the relationship further into a negative cycle.

Relationship deterioration can happen suddenly, for example in the cases where infidelity is discovered or revealed, or can happen gradually and often unconsciously over months and years.

It is a good ideal to regularly gauge the health of your relationship by couples asking each other the question “Are we happy” and “what can we do to improve our relationship happiness”. As with our physical health and fitness, relationship health, too,  requires regular work to maintain peak happiness!


Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Jealousy in relationships: Justified or irrational?

Consider the following scenario:

Your intimate partner is regularly staying late at work. You know that the only other person in the office after hours is your spouse’s attractive and single boss.  In addition they often have “working” lunches together.

Do you have a right to object?

I have just come across an article in Psychology Today which addresses this question:

The author of the article states that infidelity is in the eye of the beholder – that if you or your partner objects to a certain behaviour of on the part of the other, that said behaviour should be stopped.

However, how do you determine whether or not concerns about your partner’s actions are rational and justifiable?

Should your partner always alter their behaviour based on your reservations and/or insecurities? The main problem that arises is that the person whose behaviour is questioned will feel that their partner does not totally trust them, which will very likely cause major problems between the couple.  Taken to the extreme a relationship where this type of dynamic is initiated could start to feel extremely constricting and unhappy.

So what is the answer when insecurities arise in a relationship?

I am of the view that these types of issues need to be discussed in an open discussion between the couple. It is important that each partner not come into the discussion being convinced that they are right and that their partner is wrong. Empathy and goodwill are essential in order that a decision can be reached that each partner is able to live with.

If you find that this type of discussion tends to become heated and that you and your partner battle to constructively resolve important issues, it is advisable that you find a wise and unbiased third party who can help you find mutually acceptable solutions.





Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Couples: What are the rules in your relationship?

And do you always agree on what they are?


What do I mean by the rules of a relationship?


I am referring to the decisions you both make together as a couple as to what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of values, norms, behaviour and boundaries. For example, when it comes to the subject of children – there will undoubtedly be discussions on whether or not you want to have children together and if you decide to be parents, how you plan to bring them up (if of course you are both at this stage of life!).

When it comes to finances, couples often have discussions upfront regarding money management. Often there can be major disagreements in this area, which if not resolved will in all likelihood lead to recurring conflict throughout their union.

In many areas of a couples’ life, however, there will have been little discussion and each person will have their own views regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable, based on their own background, beliefs and upbringing.

For example, one partner may make a decision to go out to a club with a friend, only telling their spouse about this one the date has been made. The partner may react angrily, saying that their relationship should be a priority and that all invitations from “outside” of the couple should first be discussed between the couple. This may take the partner by surprise, as they may have thought that seeing a friend once in a while without their partner’s prior knowledge/agreement/consent is no big deal!

This example demonstrates that a great many “rules” in a couples’ relationship are implicit (i.e they are never explicitly  discussed).  This can cause problems in a relationship if partner’s tend to bottle-up their resentment and don’t bring up any issues that are on their minds at the time when a concern comes to light.

If partner’s are upfront with their “other halves” there is a much better chance that compromises and mutual understandings can be reached.




Life in General Maintaining Healthy Relationships Relationship Building

The Benefits of Using Couples Counselling To Repair A Relationship

When your life gets busy, you may find that you and your partner start drifting apart. Couples Counselling is a great way to repair your relationship and get back to a point where both of you are happy. Here are a few benefits of using couples counselling to repair your relationship:


Clarify your feelings

Couples counselling will allow you and your partner to figure out where you would like your relationship to go. Speaking to a professional and giving yourself and your partner a specific time and space to speak to each other about your feelings can help you decide whether or not the relationship should continue.


Resolve past problems

Sometimes it is beneficial to speak about your problems with a professional third party involved. Often, you will find that you and your partner may argue about something and then suppress the emotions once the fight is ‘over’, but all you’re doing is holding in your true feelings in order to stop the argument. These unresolved emotions settle into your unconscious like an ‘unexploded bomb’. Going to couples counselling will allow you to speak in a controlled environment with a patient professional at hand. They can help you and your partner positively resolve past problems before that ‘unexploded bomb’ goes off.