Relationship Issues: 3 principles to ensure strong, healthy boundaries

As a person who has had to put significant effort into learning the art of strong, healthy boundaries in relationship with others, I have considerable empathy for individuals who struggle to maintain their personal boundaries and suffer as a consequence. I was reminded about the devastating impact that an absence of boundaries can have, when my friend, Sally (not her real name) shared her story on Facebook. Sally consented for me to share her story and photos with you. I have called it:

Jasper’s Ultimate Challenge for the Vegie Patch.

Cusworth 4Sally recently relocated and has been spending her weekends blissfully re-designing the backyard. Being a ‘green thumb’, she was very excited to discover the ‘remains’ of a once thriving but alas, now very neglected vegetable garden. The image of fresh vegetables on the dining table spurred her in to action and in no time, there were ‘posts’ on Facebook displaying a vegetable garden par excellence.

 

Cusworth Fence 3However like in all good fairy tales there must be a villain. The villain of this story is a likeable fellow – ‘puppy dog’ eyes, a long tongue that needs no invitation to lick your face whenever possible, a hyperactive tale, 4 hairy legs and comes to the name ‘Jasper’. Jasper means well of course, but he does get bored when the family are out, so ‘sampling’ the veggie patch wasn’t such a drama – until Sally arrived home to be confronted with the mess.

 

Not to be deCusworth Fence 1feated, Operation Dog-Proof-Vegetables commenced. A boundary fence needed to be made, and so a visit to Geelong's recycle renovation yards gleaned a gate, ironwork and finials which would become the new boundary. Within a fortnight, the fence was standing, and order was restored to Sally’s beautiful vegetable garden. The End

Postscript – Fortunately, Jasper still survives thanks to a sturdy and impenetrable boundary.

Who is your Jasper?

Do you have a ‘Jasper’ in your life? Partner, parent, child, employer, work colleague, friend or other; ‘Jasper’ is friendly, energetic, warm, enthusiastic and has the potential to overwhelm you by their easy, optimistic, encouraging and often manipulative ways. Most ‘Jasper’s are not conscious of the methods by which they manipulate; however they are intent on your co-operation and involvement. ‘Jasper’ is not good at listening, frequently fails to understand the needs of others and does not like or hear the word ‘no’. As a result, you feel perpetually frustrated, resentful and exhausted.

What to do? We can take a ‘leaf’ from Sally’s book.

Here are 3 principles  to ensure strong, healthy boundaries:

1. Give up trying to reason with ‘Jasper’ and expecting him to understand. This rarely works, so why keep doing it?

2. Take responsibility for your personal boundaries. No one can build those boundaries for you, it is your work and you need to own it.

3. Access the resources and support you need to build your boundary. You don't have to do it alone.These may include:

Further reading: I recommend a book by Dr Henry Cloud called ‘Boundaries’.

Talking to a Professional Counsellor who is skilled to: – facilitate dialogue that will promote self-knowledge – challenge beliefs that have prevented you from keeping strong, healthy boundaries (such as guilt, fear and/or the need to please) – coach you around self-assertive skills – support you as you put your personal boundaries in place.

Journaling: Writing allows you to reflect process and integrate your experience. By getting in touch with your thoughts and feelings, you will promote personal awareness and insight and feel more empowered to build strong boundaries.

A Family Therapist or Family Counsellor who is trained to work with two or more people, may be a resource when ‘Jasper’ is willing to talk about your relationship and how to improve it.

It can be hard, challenging work if you have not had experience building a strong, healthy boundary however it will be worth the effort. You will feel less vulnerable, more safe, respected and in control of your life.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and/or other relationships and need direction and support to restore communication and strong, healthy boundaries, 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.

Relationship Issues: 8 Tips To ‘Jump-Start’ Communication Breakdown

Caucasian couple arguing on sofaLike the majority of young people, my first car was, what you might affectionately call ‘a bomb’. It was a red Hillman Imp and  I relied upon it to get me from one side of Adelaide to the other every day over the long hot South Australian summer. Predictably my trusty ‘Imp’ would make it to the railway crossing just a kilometre from home, where it would inevitably breakdown. What do you do when you find yourself sitting at a railway crossing with a growing line of weary motorists behind you? 1.Panic!! 2. Attempt to get the car going again. With each turn of the ignition, I brought my car closer to the brink of ‘extinction’ –  the car battery expiring yet again! Mobile phones had not been invented yet (yes, I am that old!) so I walked home and my long-suffering father would come to the rescue with his jumper-leads to jump start the Imp back to life, and ready for the next journey across town.

This image of me sitting behind the wheel of my broken-down Hillman Imp, desperately turning that ignition over and over until it refused to respond at all is not dis-similar to the way couples often approach failing communication. You are stuck, repeating the same pattern over and over again, bringing your relationship inevitably closer to the brink of extinction. Communication breakdown is one of the most frequent complaints that couples bring to counselling. ‘He/she never listens!’ is a common catch cry that marks a relationship in crisis. When a couple fail to listen to each other, your needs go unmet within the relationship. In time, what might initially have felt like loneliness, anxiety and frustration turns into resentment, bitterness and anger. Your relationship, once so absorbing and satisfying, is reduced to constant bickering, lengthy silences and/or bitter arguments as you each desperately try to reach out and communicate your unmet needs to your partner.

Learning to listen effectively, when both of you feel ‘not heard’, is an incredibly difficult discipline to manage but not impossible. Called ‘active listening’, effective communication requires commitment, time and practice.

Here are  8  tips that will ‘jump-start’ communication again:

1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be the complainer for fifteen minutes.

2. Don’t give unsolicited advice. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice.

3. Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay intently focused on your partner.

4. Communicate your understanding. Let your partner know that you can and are empathizing with what they are saying.

5. Take your partner’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think that part of his or her perspective is unreasonable. It's all about perspective! Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees – if your relationship is important to you, it is likely more important than your opinion about the intricacies of your mate's conversation with their boss. Again, understanding must precede advice.

6. Express a “we against others” attitude. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together. That you are a team.

7. Express affection. Hold your partner, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and say, “I love you.”

8. Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you by telling them just that.

 

If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to restore communication, repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational 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 press book now to book on my online diary.

 

Relationship Issues: Relationship Repair That Works

What makes a ‘successful couple relationship' is a question that every couple wants the answer to. Is it the absence of conflict that sets them apart? Is it the way the way a couple handles conflict? Is it their particular approach to relationship repair?

For many years Dr John Gottman has studied, what he coins, ‘the repair attempt'. In this video, Dr. John Gottman describes how the “masters” of relationships make repairing their relationship after an argument a priority.  But what makes some repair attempts succeed while others fail? Have a listen. You might be surprised!

 

 

A successful repair attempt doesn't rely on a ‘smooth' or ‘clever' delivery. What it does rely upon is  how good and kind you are to your partner on a daily basis, what Dr Gottman calls ‘ emotional money'.  When your partner experiences you as supportive, caring and safe within the relationship, they are more likely to respond positively to your repair attempt. It comes back to the underlying couple connection you have. Never minimize the impact of just being together, appreciating each others presence and those daily acts of kindness. These experiences build connection and create a ‘rich' emotional bank account.

How much 'emotional money' do you have in the bank? Perhaps this is your opportunity to begin to rebuild your emotional relationship bank account.

 

 

Have you ever wondered why your partner never agrees with your version of what happened?
Go to the following link to find out more:

 

 

 

If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational 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 press book now to book on my online diary.

Relationship Issues: A Three-Fold Formula For Relationship Repair

A 3 fold formula for relationship repairAs I write this, I am enjoying a holiday in Western Australia. (‘Ahhh', you say with just a hint of envy,'I so need a holiday'). Whilst I appreciate the opportunity to have an extended break from routine now, it took some effort to leave work behind (can you believe it?). I feel very passionate and absorbed in my business which  drives me to keep pursuing growth and excellence. Now almost mid-way through my holiday break, I wonder why I found it so hard to come away from work. I feel relaxed, I am enjoying spending time with my husband and I am surrounded by the Australian bush landscape in all its vastness and beauty.

Holidays have always been an opportunity for my husband and I to reconnect with each other, creating happy memories to look back on and providing time to talk about our relationship, our dreams, our needs and the things that are precious to us. It is an opportunity to intentionally nurture our couple connection and reinforce the bond enjoy together. Be it brief or a more  extended period of time, deliberately putting aside time to relax together, will nurture your couple relationship and ensure ongoing health, growth and relationship longevity.
When a couple are experiencing difficulties, they have frequently neglected this all important practice, the issues in their relationship creating an impenetrable wall of blame, criticism, anger, frustration and sadness. It may feel easier and more comfortable to relax and take holiday interludes apart however this also reinforces the distance between you. 
Relationship repair begins at the place where, you turn towards each other again and recall your past relationship, reflect on your present relationship and reinforce your future relationship.

Recall your past relationship 

By sharing happy memories, the feelings you experienced at the time such as happiness, warmth and love, are evoked and experienced in the present, serving to reinforce your couple connection. These moments offer an invitation for you as a couple to revisit and reflect upon the goals you have achieved as a couple, acknowledging disappointments, grieving loss together and reminding each other of the challenging times that you overcame together.

Reflect on your present relationship  

Frequently as time progresses, couples become distant from each other due to the responsibilities and demands of life; children, ageing parents, heavy work loads, commitments to various community groups, financial concerns, and unexpected illness are just some examples of the numerous demands that compete for your attention. Couple relationships frequently lose their way as a result of neglect, making it  vulnerable to serious long-term damage. Having time to relax, have fun together and reconnecting around shared memories facilitates a safer and calmer space to share ‘who we are now'.
 If your couple connection has weakened over a period of time, it is easy for the conversation to take on a negative and blaming tone. Agree to reflect upon the strengths of your present relationship. Taking the time to write down and compare your priorities is a helpful way to stimulate conversation around individual needs verses shared needs and what each of you would choose to do differently to nurture the couple relationship. Make a pledge to listen respectfully to each other and explore how, as a couple, you could have a ‘win-win' situation. The answer may take time to emerge, so learn to be patient with the process and expect that you may have a number of conversations over this before you come to the solution.

Reinforce your future relationship

When was the last time you dreamed together? Remembering the dreams you once shared as a couple evokes feelings of hope, optimism and anticipation. This has the potential to be a fertile space for new possibilities to emerge, injecting renewed energy and hope into a formerly uninviting future together.
Intentionally choosing to schedule quality time and a ‘safe', inviting space where you can learn to ‘turn towards each other' underpins this three-fold formula for relationship repair. Regular weekly ‘dates', monthly day retreats, extended vacation periods; whatever your particular lifestyle allows, these are all opportunities, not only for relationship repair but also for ongoing growth and relationship wellbeing.
Have you ever wondered why your partner never agrees with your version of what happened?
Go to the following link to find out more:

 

 

 

If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational 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 press book now to book on my online diary.

Relationships: 3 Secrets To Manage Conflict in Your Relationship

IMG_8311Are you in a relationship where your partner is quick to anger and insists on confronting the issue when you are not ready to? Do you struggle to understand why your partner ‘shuts down' refusing to speak', when you would prefer to deal with the issue immediately? Does your partner often take a certain course of action without consulting you, failing to understand why you get so upset about this? These scenarios are representative of some of the common complaints that couples bring to counselling. Our response to these dilemmas is something along the lines, ‘Why can't you be more like me?' In my recent article, ‘9 Keys to Strengthen and Improve Your Relationships' I gave 9 keys or statements that indicate what personality type a person is. Each of these keys fall into one of 3 centres: the head-centre, the heart – centre or the gut- centre. I invite you to read the description of each of these and tick the points  that apply to you. The centre with the most ticks is very likely to be the centre you predominantly operate from. You might like to invite your partner to do this same exercise and compare your responses.

The Head- Centred person or Thinker (Keys 5, 6 & 7)

* Predominant emotion is fear. * Gives ground. * Indecisive – processing, analysing and weighing up all the data, the thinker acknowledges that life is not black and white but all shades of gray and that every perspective holds its own truth. * Action centre is underdeveloped. * Relys on outer authority, comfortable with rules, structure and authority . * Basic life instinct is to be empathic, attuned to the situation. * Basic life question is ‘Where am I?'

The Gut-Centred person or Feeler (Keys 8, 9 & 1)

* Predominant emotion is anger but they have little control over it. * Have difficulty listening and absent-minded. * Holds their ground; planted;rooted. * Decisive – ‘yes means yes and no means no'. * Low value of perception, therefore least developed. * Relys on their own inner authority, having high expectations of self that is dictated by ‘shoulds' and ‘oughts'. * Basic life instinct is survival. * Basic life question is ‘ How safe am I ?'

The Heart-Centred person or Doer (2, 3 &4)

* Most in touch with their action centre, and have an instinct for imitation. * Feeling centre is underdeveloped, being most out of touch with anger. * They take ground, having a lack of psychic boundaries, moving in to the psychic space of others. * Their predominant emotion is anxiety. * Basic life instinct is relationships, understanding others through analysis. * Basic life question is ‘Who am I with?'

For your relationship to truly benefit from this knowledge, it is not enough to have insight into the differing way you each function. For change to occur, you must be willing to be more accepting of the way your partner functions and prepared to work on those aspects of your own functioning that have a negative impact in your relationship. This is never easy because it forces you to stretch yourself in ways that you will experience as uncomfortable and unfamiliar. When both people in a relationship choose to do this, change begins to heppen. I encourage you to seek the support of a professional counsellor who will help facilitate this growth process in your relationship.

If you  are experiencing conflict in your relationship, want to grow, experience wellness and reach toward your full relational 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 press book now to book on my online diary.

Relationships: 9 Keys to Strengthen and Improve Your Relationships

light_by_captivatedimages-d5dvvlqDo you get along with most people? My own experience when working with people suggests that whilst most of us get on with most people, there are always certain people that we find difficult to understand and get on with.

Sometimes you may struggle to understand why a person thinks the way they do, or holds a differing belief or value system to you evoking anger in you or by contrast, intimidation. Sometimes you feel irritated by a particular person or find yourself in frequent conflict or you just don’t like them for no apparent reason. Getting along with people is a skill we all need but how and where do we learn the skill?

Your family of origin is the context in which you learn how to do relationships, as you observe your parents or significant care-givers relational style. As a child, you developed your own relational style within your family context, responding to the specific stressors and challenges you experienced. If there were frequent arguments between your parents, you may have taken on the role of a mediator, prioritizing the need to keep things peaceful and settled. If your father was abusive towards your mother, you may have taken the role of protector out of the need to defend your mother. Some of us feel very isolated and abandoned as children. If that was the case for you, you may experience yourself as being different to others, having learned to live within your own imagination.

Relational styles vary. Have you noticed that some people seem to get on with others effortlessly whilst others struggle to get on with people?  Whilst your relational style worked for you as a child within your family context, as an adult you are exposed to a much broader range of relational styles that frequently challenge the way you do relationships. This becomes particularly apparent when you experience a life crisis and discover that the skills you have relied upon to relate to others, no longer work and even keep you stuck in problematic situations. It is at this stage, people often choose to see a counselling professional in order to understand themselves and others in relationship.

It was during a period of personal crisis that I became aware that I needed to understand myself at a deeper level and change the way I related to other people. At that time I was experiencing chronic depression and felt crippled by fear. I withdrew from life, seeking to protect myself from other people’s judgements and expectations, feeling inadequate and insignificant. My recovery from depression was significantly facilitated by the decision to pursue personal self-awareness and the way my relational style impacted others in relationship.

Whether you are at a time of personal life crisis and/or relationship crisis or simply want to strengthen and grow your relationships, I recommend these 9 keys (known as The Enneagram). These 9 keys provided me with a very accurate psychological tool that helped me understand and work effectively with other people instead of being fearful of them. I have since used this tool in every area of my life; my marriage relationship, my family relationships, my personal friendships, my workplace relationships and in my work as a therapist.

These 9 keys give insight into what a particular personality type values and prides themselves on. By identifying the others personality type on the enneagram, you begin to become aware of how they function and how to initiate a relationship based on an appreciation of one another’s strengths and differences.

Here are the 9 keys to strengthen and improve your relationships:

Type 1    The Perfectionist; ‘I am right’

Type 2    The Giver; ‘I am helpful'

Type 3    The Performer; ‘I am successful’

Type 4    The Romantic; ‘I am different’

Type 5    The Observer; ‘I am knowledgeable and wise’

Type 6    The Loyal Sceptic; ‘I am loyal’

Type 7    The Epicurist; ‘I am fun’

Type 8    The Protector; ‘I am strong’

Type 9    The Mediator; ‘I am settled’

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When you begin to pay closer attention to what a person is saying you will hear what a person frequently states or implies about them. Noticing what a person prides themselves on, you can start to appeal to that part of them.

For example, to get along with a Type 1, you need to allow them to feel that you value their advice by asking them what they think, listening carefully, and giving respect to what they say. Whether you agree or not, this person is more likely to support you, because you have given value to them. To get along with a Type 4 it is important to acknowledge that they are different, invite them to share their unique perspective and in particular their creativity. Give them the creative director job and they will do it with flair!

If you want to know more about these 9 keys, look out for more articles to help you to understand your self and others so that you can continue to strengthen and grow your relationships.

 If you want to grow personally and in your relationships, experience wellness and reach toward your full relational 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 press book now to book on my online diary.