Six Facts About Separation


In an article for Geelong Surf Coast Living magazine, Colleen was interviewed about the impact separation has on the family, and, in particular, children.  You can read Lynda Taylor’s article ‘Separation Anxiety’ now by picking up a copy of the autumn edition at a local coffee shop.

Here are six valuable facts about separation anxiety in families that we can learn from the article:

  1. Children cope better when they see a counsellor

Irrespective of a child’s age, they will feel the pull between both parents and can struggle to work through their emotions. Allowing your child to see a counsellor will help them with this. As the article says, “working with a counsellor provides a safe neutral environment where [a child can] vent”. A counsellor will teach your child strategies to deal with anger, anxiety and conflict.

  1. Parents must be united

Any issues that caused a relationship to break down must be put on the back burner by parents in order to care for their children. Relationships Australia says parents should provide a “composed, united and reassuring” front. This means it’s important for parents to keep the same boundaries in place for their child, and should always speak about one another with respect.

  1. Children react according to their parent’s emotions

Are you angry, confused and indignant about your ex? If you express this to your child, they will take on similar emotions. Colleen points out that if parents are upset, children are often bewildered, confused and despondent. They will also blame themselves for the situation.

  1. Be honest

How you speak to your child about the separation will depend on their age. Always be honest, but explain the situation in a way they will understand. An older child or the first-born will often take the burden of the separation, and what you share will change according to this.

  1. There are different ways to talk about separation

When Colleen is counselling a client whose parents have separated, she will use different methods depending on the child’s age, understanding and interests. An ‘anger thermometer’ is useful for younger children to explain how they feel. Play therapy is a narrative based approach that is also useful for children of various ages, and helps them to explain the family system.

  1. Take care of yourself

While your children are a priority throughout a separation, you also need to take care of yourself. Take ‘me time’ and give yourself the space and time to reflect and heal. Make sure you spend time with like-minded and supportive friends, and don’t be afraid to have fun. As Beth*, the client in the article says, “I found when I was better, my son was better.” When you take care of yourself, you help your children to heal as well.

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Are you going through a separation? Do you want to protect your children through this transition? Here’s what you need to do: Contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.


How Movie Therapy Can Save Your Relationship

Movie Therapy

Can watching a romantic movie with your partner potentially save your marriage? That was the question that motivated Professor Ron Rogge, a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Rochester, to pursue research about the effectiveness of ‘movie therapy’. The results were published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Ron had observed that in America, 50% of marriages end in divorce, and he wanted to find an effective and relatively cost free solution to this troubling and rapidly escalating statistic. He went about his task by recruiting 174 engaged or newly married couples who he found attending bridal showers in the Los Angeles area. The couples were randomly assigned to one of three categories:

  1. No treatment
  2. Movie intervention
  3. Marriage preparation classes in a workshop situation focusing on a couple’s relationship skills

The couples were followed for three years.

Now before you go home and tell your partner that all you need to do to fix your relationship is watch a romantic movie together, there were some requirements that participants in this category were expected to follow. Having picked 5 movies from the suggestions provided, each couple were expected to watch the movie with a particular focus on the following questions:

  • What main problems did this couple face?
  • Are any of these problems similar to the problems you have faced?
  • How did the couple handle arguments or difference of opinion?
  • How did the couple in the movie handle their hurt feelings?

It turned out that the Movie Therapy was equally effective as the Marriage Preparation classes, and over the period of three years, the divorce rate for these 2 groups of couples was halved.

As I said, it is not the movie in itself that was effective for many of these couples, but the conversations that ensued from it. These movies sparked conversations between couples because they could identity with the characters portrayed, observe and reflect upon how their strategies were beneficial or otherwise to the relationship. By using these key questions, couples were able to have an intentional dialogue around issues that frequently trip us up in our relationships.

If you would like to use Movie Therapy to enhance or repair your relationship, here are a few suggestions:

  • Couple’s Retreat
  • Four Christmases
  • Terms of Endearment
  • When a Man Loves a Woman
  • Funny Girls
  • Two for the Road
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Your, Mine and Ours

If none of these inspire you, there are plenty more movies about relationships out there. For instance ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ shows a fighting couple and is also a great action movie. We would love to hear your suggestions to add to our list—just comment below.

By the way, you will notice that I didn’t mention how the ‘no treatment’ fared. Predictably when we do nothing to nurture and support our relationships, it will only survive at best and at its worst, it will end in divorce.

Are you have relationship issues? Do you want to strengthen your marriage? Here’s what you need to do: Contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

Rewriting The Rules of Grief


In 2012, Jim Stynes, the Melbourne Aussie Rules footballer, lost his 2 I/2 year battle with cancer. Upon his death, there was an outpouring of public affection for this Irishman, described as ‘a true gentleman of the game,’ an ‘inspirational man’ who was ‘loved by the people,’ ‘a true champion both on and off the field’, ‘ always humble and genuine in his passion to help others,’ and a ‘wonderful family man with a rare ability to inspire all those around him.’

Jim Stynes had achieved more than most of us dream in his 45 years; AFL consecutive games record holder, a Brownlow Medallist, youth leader, Victorian of the Year, OAM and Melbourne Football Club president. He was also a father to 2 children and husband to wife Sam, who is the true subject of this blog.

How does a partner ‘move on’ when their loss feels like a freight train has irreverently rampaged its way through your heart, leaving a gaping void? How does a partner ‘move on’ when their loved one has risen to such dizzying heights of public adoration? I really have no idea, but I imagine that it is a moment at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time; living in the enormous shadow that their loved one cast in life and now, in death. It has got to be one of the most challenging tasks this life presents, to keep on living and make sense of their new reality. It is a lonely and isolating journey that rarely needs or even welcomes the commentary of well-meaning family and friends. Grief only asks for the other to be present, to listen, to companion.

So it was with some sadness when, just over a week ago, I read the headline:

Jim Stynes widow, Sam Ludbey, opens up about re-marriage backlash

Sam revealed on radio that she had remarried in April 2015, but had withheld the information from the public out of respect. In spite of Sam’s desire to consider others, she still faced criticism from friends, feeling that she had to ‘defend her choice to move on.’

I am sad that Sam felt she had to celebrate her engagement in secrecy.

I am sad that Sam felt that she had to keep her marriage a secret.

I am sad that she had to bear the pain of recrimination from friends and strangers.

I ask myself, who made these rules about when it is okay to ‘move on’ anyway? Is there a book of indelible rules that no one has informed me about? Does Australia Post send me a copy of the rules in the event of the loss of a loved one? Or are these rules internalised in our psychic; informed by the society we live in, our parents & friends, media and teachers? When we internalise these rules, they largely lay in our unconscious self, un-critiqued until we are confronted by our own great loss. Suddenly those unspoken rules take on an authority wielding a power that can devastate the already fragile, vulnerable, grieving heart.

When we observe our friend ‘not moving on’ we get anxious, perhaps frustrated or impatient with them. Perhaps ‘our’ rules inform us that it is not okay to leave their loved ones clothes hanging in the closet long after they are gone? We wonder how normal it is to continue to set a place at the table for dad months after he has died, or suspect there is something very wrong when a bereaved parent leaves their dead child’s room untouched long after they’re gone. Yes, it is confronting, but confronting for whom? May be there is no ‘normal,’ and your loved one is just trying to navigate their daily life and find a different way to maintain a connection with their loved one.

On the other hand, when a person apparently does ‘move on’ (as it appears to be in Sam’s case), we feel offended – it is ‘to soon’, ‘on the rebound’, or ‘disrespectful to their loved one,’ are familiar phrases. Our internalised rules declare how inappropriate that person is behaving.

Who made those rules? Why do we feel the need or believe we have the right to dictate the rules around grief when it isn’t even our journey?

Recent research into how we grieve has moved quite profoundly from the old notion of doing ‘stages of grief’ (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross), to a more dynamic notion where the person who is grieving interacts with the loss experience. People move between their overwhelming loss and the new life they must attend to, oscillating between the two (M.S.Stoebe & Shut 1999). Their task is not so much to ‘let go’ or to ‘move on,’ as it is to work out a way to interact with their loved one even though they are physically absent. We can ‘move with’ rather than ‘moving on’ from grief and the relationship with the person we grieve (Klass, Silverman & Nickman 1996).

After all, there is no right or wrong way to grieve – we just do the best we know how at the time, forging a different, but no less significant connection, with the deceased while at the same time, continuing the task of living and forming new attachments. That is what Sam Ludbey is doing, as we all must do when confronted by our own great loss.

Are you grieving a loss? Do you know someone who is grieving a loss and you don’t know how to help them? Talking to a Counselling Professional about your experience in a safe and nurturing space may be the support you need to navigate your grief experience. For a FREE 10 minute consultation as to how we can help you, ring Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 or press book now to book on the online diary.

Married and Having an Affair: 7 Lies We Tell Ourselves


‘Conversation in the Rain (Explored #83)’ by flashcurd available here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms here.

An affair can keep your marriage intact is the controversial headline of a recent article (8 August 2014) published by the Economic Times. If the headline invokes a strong emotional reaction within you, you are not alone. In my professional experience, an affair can have irreversible negative consequences for a marriage relationship.  This is backed up by a recent survey conducted by the law firm Slater and Gordon published in March 2014, which asked the question ‘Why do people divorce?’ to a total of 1,000 divorcees. The result was a list of the top 10 reasons why people choose to divorce. Not surprisingly, the top answer was, you guessed it, infidelity! You can see the infographic here.

The issue of infidelity as the most prevalent reason a couple divorces, underlines the significance and irreplaceability of the trust that is broken, respect that is lost and love that is betrayed.

Nonetheless as a society, we seem to be fascinated by the theme as we witness it being played out time and again in the media (the never-ending line-up of Hollywood couples continue to sate our appetites), the movies, T.V. soap operas and in our ‘own backyards.’ In contrast to the romance and heightened adrenaline that we witness on screen, our own relationship can feel mundane, boring, lacking in excitement, unsupportive or just plain hard work; and so enters ‘the affair.’

Are you married and having an affair? If the answer is ‘yes,’ I urge you to read on. In my experience, an individual may be discontent or unhappy in their couple relationship, however rarely does that same person seek out an affair with a view of getting a divorce. One of our best mechanisms of defence against inappropriate or poor behaviour is self-deceit, the ability to choose, whether consciously or unconsciously, to ignore the reality of our behaviour by justifying our actions.

Here are 7 Lies we tell ourselves:

  1. ‘I’m not hurting anyone.’ Don’t kid yourself. Infidelity is always a betrayal of your partner’s love, trust and respect for you. Your infidelity will hurt your partner far deeper than you can possibly imagine.
  2. ‘I don’t want to hurt anyone’. You have hurt your partner, your family/extended family and the person you are having the affair with.
  3. ‘I love both of them.’ Your marriage is based on a serious commitment to your partner. Bringing a third person into your ‘marriage bed’ is a betrayal to that commitment.
  4. ‘My partner is not enough for my sexual needs.’ This belief does not give licence for an affair. You need to address the issue and any underlying problems with your partner. This is a challenging issue for most couple’s to deal with, however with the help of a Counselling Professional it may be possible to resolve these difficulties.
  5. ‘I’m bored in my relationship.’ Boredom is not necessarily a sign that a relationship is dead, however it may be stuck and in need of attention to encourage stimulus and growth. Introducing some novelty and exploring new experiences together can bring back some fun and energy into your relationship.
  6. ‘I don’t love them anymore.’ If this is your reality, you need to be honest with your partner and have a conversation about what the implications are for your relationship.
  7. ‘I am afraid of my partner’s reaction if I leave.’ If your marriage relationship is an abusive one, I encourage you to seek help by speaking to a Counselling professional about your experience. With support and the provision of additional resources, you may be better equipped to leave the relationship.

If you or your partner are struggling with infidelity, and need direction and support to repair your relationship, then here’s what you need to do; contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

After The Affair: 6 Principles To Heal Your Marriage

Couple having argument Two people sit silently, the air heavy with  angry emotion and recrimination. There are no words to describe the devastation of   being betrayed by one's partner. Questions assault the mind; How did I not know? Why did I choose to not see it? How could he/she do it to me, to us? Why am I not enough? Could I have done anything differently?
When you have betrayed your partner by having an affair, you have undeniably wounded them and traumatised  your marriage. Now you want to make things right but everything you say or do is misunderstood and met with rejection by your partner. If you are prepared to give 100% commitment to your marriage relationship then with sustained hard work, healing, repair and recovery is very possible.

Here are 6 principles to heal your marriage after the affair. They are tough but absolutely necessary for repair, healing and recovery.

1.  Be honest with yourself.

Look at yourself from the third person position. Call the act for what it is – a betrayal of your partner's trust. You are responsible for your actions.

2.  Apologize to your partner.

Accept responsibility for your actions and resist the urge to want to blame your partner for your betrayal. Often, infidelity is a symptom of unmet need within your marriage relationship and you will be eager to address this, however now is not the time. Your partner is feeling deeply hurt and distrustful of you. Your first task is to acknowledge your deceit and betrayal and begin to repair  broken trust.

3. Be honest with your partner.

Leaving out the details to ‘protect my partner's feelings' sounds noble but is not noble in practice. Your partner will want to know the details inspite of how deeply it hurts. By being honest in your response, your partner can process the facts of the affair and begin to move forward.

4.  Work at building your partner's trust.

There is a consequence to betrayal. Broken trust is not easily repairable and takes months, sometimes years to repair. The process can be accelerated by being prepared to accept the level of vulnerability that your partner needs from you.  Access to your social media passwords, emails and knowledge of where you expect to be each day, feels enormously intrusive however consider this  the trade-off for your partner's newly forged trust. When you are prepared to be totally honest with nothing to hide, your partner's trust is a likely to be restored in a shorter period of time and the couple bond will grow stronger.

5. Disconnect from that other person.

100% commitment to your marriage requires a deliberate decision to distance your self from the other person.

 If you are the one who has backed away, the other person may choose to pursue you. Whilst this is flattering to the ego, it is a temptation that is easy to give in to and will continue to destabilise your marriage. Do what ever you have to do to put an end to the affair completely – change your email address, block your Facebook account, change your phone number.

If the other person works alongside  you, talk with your partner about your options as a couple: changing jobs, relocating. These are huge life choices that sound extreme. However, if your marriage  is the priority, I urge you to consider these options. The other person may still pursue you if they choose, but you are saying to your partner, “I will do whatever it takes to save our marriage” and sending out a clear message to the other person that you have made a choice for your marriage.

6. Seek professional help.

Marriage counselling is essential to the process of healing, repair and recovery. A marriage counsellor will facilitate dialogue for you as a couple that will promote understanding, healing, change and growth. You may also be helped by individual counselling in order to understand yourself, your needs, and personal changes you need to make to restore a level of personal happiness and well being.

If you want to heal, recover and grow in your couple relationship, experience wellness and reach toward your full couple potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or you can make an appointment to see Colleen by booking online now.