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Relationship lessons from young people
We’ve looked at the results of a recent survey to see what can be learned from young people’s experiences of being in relationships. Looking back on the roller coaster ride of your own early relationships might fill you with a mix of fondness, amusement, and utter cringing horror. That shouldn’t mean you can’t learn from those experience but, if you can only bear to look through the narrow gaps between your fingers, then these insights from other people’s early experiences might help. Why relationship quality matters Love is complicated and it can take many forms – the love you feel for a sibling, is different from the love you feel for a friend, and the love you feel for your parents is different to the love you feel for a freshly baked marinara pizza. Mmmm, freshly baked marinara pizza. Anyway. When it comes to romantic partners, love gets even more complicated. When two people are in love, they depend on each other for support, but they also have to make each other feel special. Your lover may be your closest confidant, your source of safety and belonging, and the heart of your passion [1]. This isn’t an easy balance to get right. Relationship quality plays a huge part of our health, happiness and wellbeing. We all have ups and downs in life, and it’s the people we share them with that help shape the way we celebrate the good times and cope with the bad. As we enter adolescence, our closest relationships tend to be those we have with our romantic partners [2]. This doesn’t mean you should go rushing into a relationship with the next person who pays you the remotest bit of attention! Remember – it’s the quality of your relationships that makes the difference [1]. Learning from early relationships If you’re young and in a relationship, you might feel like you’ve found the one (and maybe you have – if so, congrats!) or you might be testing the water to find out what you want from relationships in the future. Either way, you can always work on the skills that will help you be a better and happier partner in the future. In a recent study, young people were asked what they’d learned from being in relationships. The most significant lessons these young people had learned from their early relationships included: Sensitivity. It’s important to keep an eye on your partner’s needs, without losing sight of your own. Realistic expectations. In the early days, we present our best sides. As we get more comfortable with each other, our quirks and foibles start to spill out. While this can lead to some relationships breaking down, it can also be a time when couples strengthen their bond as they start to see each other more completely. Honesty. Being honest and trusting your partner are essential components of any successful relationship. Compromise. A relationship is an ongoing process. You will both have to keep checking in on each other’s needs and making compromises, no matter how long you’ve been together. Balance. Many young people highlighted the importance of keeping intense emotions under control. Not just the negative ones like jealousy and anger, but also the overflowing excitement of falling in love in the first place. Freedom. While your romantic partner might also be your best friend and the most important person in your life, you both also need the freedom to be apart from each other. Stay connected to other friends and family members and remind yourself that you still have a life outside of your relationship. Communication. If you’re a regular on Click, you’ll know how much value we place on good communication. This is reflected in young people’s early relationship experiences too [3]. Whether you’re looking back at everything you’ve had to learn the hard way, or looking ahead to your next romantic adventure, take heed of these words of wisdom, and learn from the brave pioneers who went before you. References [1] Viejo, C., Ortega-Ruiz, R., & Sánchez, V. (2015). Adolescent love and well-being: the role of dating relationships for psychological adjustment. Journal of Youth Studies, 18(9), 1219–1236. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2015.1039967 [2] La Greca, A. M., & Harrison, H. M. (2005). Adolescent peer relations, friendships, and romantic relationships: do they predict social anxiety and depression? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology: The Official Journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 34(1), 49–61. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3401_5 [3] Norona, J. C., Roberson, P. N. E., & Welsh, D. P. (2017). ‘I Learned Things That Make Me Happy, Things That Bring Me Down’: Lessons From Romantic Relationships in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(2), 155–182. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558415605166
Article | dating, new partner
4 min read
Why does someone become addicted?
A person with a substance use problem can behave in a way that seems reckless and selfish, causing chaos in their life and the lives of those close to them. If your partner has a substance use problem, it can be very worrying and you may wonder what’s behind the issue. Addiction isn’t usually a deliberate attempt to behave in a way that is out of control. Often, when someone develops an addiction, it’s an attempt to control how they feel about a situation that feels unmanageable, or to block out thoughts and feelings they find hard to cope with. Imagine you have had a really bad day. Stress at work, a row with your partner, or money worries may leave you feeling anxious, angry, and sad. Or, perhaps something upsetting in your past still disturbs you when you think about it. At these times, you might find that drinking, smoking, escaping into the internet, or playing a video game helps you to switch off and relax. For a time, it feels as if your problems have gone away. Escaping from the real world and forgetting your problems now and then is often OK. For example, a few drinks after work at the weekend can be fun. However, even those feelings of letting go of inhibitions can leave you wanting more… Just check that, whatever it is you are doing to escape, you still feel you can ‘take it or leave it’. If you feel powerless to deal with problems, you may find you crave more and more of whatever helps you escape instead. Unresolved problems often get worse. You feel trapped and turn more and more to your means of escape. This is when the destructive cycle of addiction can begin. By this stage it feels like the ‘take it or leave it’ option has gone. Stopping the addictive behaviour is scary because you feel so dependent on it. Addiction can damage your self-esteem and confidence, leaving you doubting whether you can ever break free and face your problems. The addiction may have caused problems in your relationships. You may feel ashamed to ask for help or be scared that others will refuse to help you. Maybe you feel your life is such a mess that you don’t know where to start making changes. It might feel like the only choice is to block everything out with the additive behaviour. Take it step by step – acknowledging that you have a substance use problem is a big first step. If you are experiencing any of these issues and are concerned it may be triggering addictive behaviour, a valuable next step would be to seek advice or support. Online support, information, and counselling can be very helpful in many cases. However, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP, particularly if: You have a long term addiction problem. You are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Your problem involves cutting or physically harming yourself in some way. You are aware your addiction has been triggered by a traumatic life event. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
Getting help for alcohol addiction
Many people with alcohol addiction and alcohol use problems can function well enough in society. But, if you or your child’s other parent are struggling with alcohol, it’s important to seek help immediately for the following reasons: Your practical skills and judgements can be affected. Alcohol can leave you less able to control your emotions, and pick up on your children’s needs [1]. Your ability to form a secure attachment with your child can be impeded [1]. Attachment is all about to how securely cared for a child feels and it’s one of the most important factors in their development. Alcohol misuse is among the most likely reasons for children being taken into care [2]. These are quite extreme cases that are connected to ‘excessive’ alcohol consumption, but if you have an alcohol problem, it’s vital that you get support to avoid putting your child at risk. Impact on children The impact of parental alcohol use on children can be “severe and long lasting”, affecting “every aspect of [your] child’s development from conception onward” [1]. A parent’s alcohol addiction may have a negative influence on their children’s behaviour and emotional wellbeing, with their children being more likely to act out and be out of control [3]. Children become more likely to take part in other risky behaviours, often repeating behaviour they have witnessed at home – even very young children can learn to be combative and coercive if they are repeatedly surrounded by conflict [3]. In many families with an alcoholic parent, children find themselves having to take on a parental role to try and regain some control in an unpredictable environment [4]. Seeking help It’s best to address the problem directly. Hiding from an alcohol problem will not make it go away, and nor will it reduce the negative impact on those around you. As with many difficult issues, it’s important to keep an open communication with your children. Frequent communication is the key to reducing your children’s risk of developing their own issues in later life. Your partner may be a good source of support in figuring out how to start these conversations. Once you have identified an alcohol problem, the best thing to do is seek professional help. Research shows that any negative effects on children are decreased when parents go through treatment for their addiction [5]. There are currently over 800 agencies in the UK offering advice, treatment or support to people with addiction problems [1]. Often, the easiest route to support is through your doctor, who can talk through your specific needs and direct you to further support. You can also search for local services through the NHS. References [1] Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) (2011). Hidden Harm: Responding to the Needs of Children of Problem Drug Users. [2] Barnard, M. & McKeganey, N. (2004). The impact of parental problem drug use on children: what is the problem and what can be done to help? Society for the Study of Addiction, 99, 552-559. [3] Loukas, A., Fitzgerald, H. E., Zucker, R. A., & Eye., A. von. (2000). Parental Alcoholism and Co-Occurring Antisocial Behavior: Prospective Relationships to Externalizing Behavior Problems in their Young Sons. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29(2), 92-106. [4] Burnett, G., Jones, R. A., Bliwise, N. G., Thomson Ross, L. (2006). Family Unpredictability, Parental Alcoholism, and the Development of Parentification. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 34, 181–189. [5] Andreas, J. B., O'Farrell, T. J., Fals-Stewart, W. (2006). Does Individual Treatment for Alcoholic Fathers Benefit Their Children? A Longitudinal Assessment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(1), pp.191-198.
Article | alcohol, addiction
3 min read
“A mess of a marriage”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hello... My husband and I have been together 33 years. We have 4 children. We have both been to counseling in the past. I love my husband but I don't really like him. It has only been recently - in spite of all our counseling - I realize that a majority of our life and relationship are centered around him, his likes, what he wants, what works for him, with little-to-no-inconvenience for him (even though he would lead you to believe otherwise).I have told him that he is happy in our marriage as long as I keep my mouth shut and legs open. He denies this, of course, but it is how I feel. Then he gets angry and I try to explain even though he doesn't - say - that, it is how I - feel. I have stayed in the marriage because two of our children have special needs and I did not want to create more chaos and upheaval for our family by leaving. Now that our children are older I would like my husband and I to focus on working on our marriage. When I try to express what I need, or how something he does makes me feel, it usually ends with him yelling and being the victim. I find we cannot have a constructive conversation. I cannot say anything critical to him - no matter how calmly I say it, and I cannot be emotional. I have had two affairs while we have been married. They did get physical, but that is not what was important to me. What I really wanted was to matter to someone. I know the affairs were wrong and there is no justification for my behavior. I sometimes think about leaving my marriage, but still feel it would inflict so much emotional pain for everyone, and I feel strongly that our family has endured enough heartache and pain due to the circumstances of our two children with special needs. I also would be shunned for breaking up our family and I don't think I could endure that. I am wondering... do I just "keep my mouth shut and legs open" in order to stay in this marriage? And if I do that, am I justified in having an extramarital relationship (not physical) that brings me happiness? I am also wondering if anyone reading this has constructive things to tell me on what I can do to make this marriage work. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.
Ask the community | communication, abuse
Supporting a partner through depression
One in five people will experience a form of depression at some point in their lives [1]. If your partner is depressed, you can play an important role in helping them get better. Depression is more than just a low mood. It’s a prolonged illness, whose symptoms include a lack of energy, a loss of interest in things you might normally enjoy, feelings of low self-worth, and changes in sleep and appetite [2]. A sudden onset of depression in your partner can have an impact on your relationship. You may have to take on a temporary caring role, which can put unexpected strain on you [3]. Some of your partner’s symptoms can affect you too: Low mood. When your partner is feeling down most of the time, it can feel like you don’t have access to the person who is most important to you. Loss of interest and energy. Your partner may lose interest in the things you like doing together, like going out, cooking, and even sex. Concentration. Depression can affect concentration, even to the extent that your partner struggles to stay involved in a conversation. Sleep and appetite. You may notice changes in your partner’s eating and sleeping patterns, which can affect their mood even further. It can also disrupt your own eating and sleeping as established routines get lost. Low self-worth. You may notice your partner being more critical of themselves and possibly lashing out at you too [2]. You may also wonder if you are responsible for your partner’s mental health problems. While there are sometimes external causes, including relationship problems, depression can often come along out of nowhere [4]. You can play a positive role in your partner’s recovery [3]. One of the first things you can do is notice the signs of depression and encourage your partner to seek help. Often, the quickest route to support is through your GP, who can make a diagnosis and refer your partner to appropriate support. There are many forms of mental health support, but it’s likely that your partner will undertake some form of talking therapy. They may be given exercises to take home. You can offer support by encouraging your partner to complete the exercises or, if appropriate, by getting involved directly. Your partner’s doctor may recommend couples therapy, which has been shown to be effective for people with depression [5]. If this is recommended to your partner, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is in trouble; it just means that you are being asked to get involved in your partner’s recovery. Attending sessions together means you can be better informed and more involved. Whether you are directly involved in your partner’s treatment or not, there are many ways you can be supportive: Encourage them to seek support. Getting your partner into professional support is one of the best ways you can help. Learn about depression. Read up on depression and its symptoms. A good place to start is the OnePlusOne and NHS guide, ‘Depression and low mood: A guide for the partner’. Set aside blame. Accept that the illness is happening, and don’t blame your partner or yourself. It’s here, and it’s treatable, so just focus on recovery. Notice the signs. Be aware of your partner’s symptoms and the things that can set off an episode of depression. Get support if things seem to be getting worse. Solve practical problems. When someone is depressed, problems can be magnified and may seem insurmountable. You can help your partner by solving practical problems, which could be as simple as doing more than your share of housework for a little while. Listen more. Clear communication and active listening can help your partner to feel better supported and more in control. Do some exercise. Help your partner to get some gentle exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. This can have the added benefit of helping with sleep problems. Get your partner out of the house. While it might seem easier to avoid social situations, it’s often best to try and turn up to things that they would usually enjoy. Even if you plan just to go out for half an hour, you can help your partner break out of the loop of depression and inactivity. Notice what helps. What usually makes your partner feel better – a morning walk? Cooking a healthy meal? Make a note of what works, and encourage your partner to do more of it. Keeping a mood journal can also help you to show your partner that they have been making improvements, as they may find it hard to focus on the positives [6]. Seeing a partner go through depression can be upsetting but, with the right support, even the most severe cases can be treated. As with any illness, you should seek professional help if you are worried. Recovery is likely to be gradual, but it is possible, and you can play an important part. This article gives just a quick overview of how you can support a partner with depression. For a more in-depth look, we recommend reading, ‘Depression and low mood: A guide for the partner’, co-produced by OnePlusOne and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. References [1] Bolton, J., Bisson, J., Guthrie, E., Wood., S. (2011) Depression: key facts. Retrieved from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/depressionkeyfacts.aspx [2] NHS (2015). Low mood and depression - NHS Choices. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/low-mood-and-depression.aspx  [3] Crowe, M. (2004). Couples and mental illness. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19:3, 309-318. [4] Hickey, D., Carr, A., Dooley, B., Guerin, S., Butler, E., & Fitzpatrick, L. (2005). Family and marital profiles of couples in which one partner has depression or anxiety. Journal of marital and family therapy, 31(2), 171-182. [5] Bodenmann, G., Plancherel, B., Beach, S. R., Widmer, K., Gabriel, B., Meuwly, N., ... & Schramm, E. (2008). Effects of coping-oriented couples therapy on depression: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 76(6), 944. [6] NICE (2009) Depression: The Treatment and Management of Depression in Adults (Update). NICE clinical guideline 90. Available at www.nice.org.uk/CG90.
Article | depression
5 min read
Depression during pregnancy
One in ten pregnant women experience mental health problems, and often go undiagnosed until after the baby is born. The pregnancy and parenting charity Tommy’s has produced a video encouraging pregnant women to seek support if they feel anxious or depressed. The short clip follows the story of a woman’s journey through pregnancy as she realises she’s not coping and finds someone to talk to. Around 10-15% of pregnant women experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression [1] but, despite antenatal depression being very similar to postnatal depression, many go undiagnosed and untreated until after the baby is born. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and losing interest in activities that used to be fun. Most women feel more emotional than usual during pregnancy, but the video urges you to seek help if you notice that you’re unhappy more than half of the time, or if feelings linger for more than a couple of weeks. When you’re pregnant, it might seem like there’s a pressure on you to feel happy all the time, or to be flushed and glowing with the joys of impending motherhood. If this doesn’t describe your experience, it can be quite distressing and you may even feel guilty for not living up to the expectations of those around you. Your midwife or health visitor will understand. Speak to them and let them know that you need support. You partner, family, and friends can also offer support, by talking things through with you and offering practical support. Let them know you’re not feeling yourself and that you might need some extra support. If you can, hand some of your regular chores over to your partner, or ask someone to help out. Friends love to feel like they are helping, but sometimes need to be given specific tasks like popping to the shops or watering your plants when they come over. Try to eat as healthily as possible, take some gentle exercise, and rest whenever you have the opportunity. Getting regular sleep can have a positive impact on your mood. Take time out to focus on yourself and do something you enjoy. Allow yourself a chance to relax and ease some of the pressure. If you are worried about other areas of your life, such as finances, housing, or your relationship, look into the support available for these specific issues. If you can keep external factors under control, you may find it easier to cope with whatever feelings you are juggling. Keep talking to your partner. Help them to understand what you’re going through, what you’re doing to try and make things better, and what kind of support you need at home. References [1] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2014). Clinical guideline 192: Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed July 2018) [2] Howard L.M, Molyneaux E, Dennis C et al (2014).  Non-Psychotic mental disorders in the perinatal period.  Lancet 384: 1775-1788.
Article | pregnancy, depression, postnatal depression
2 min read
How addiction affects your relationship
A substance use problem often leads to changes in a person’s behaviour that can be damaging to a relationship. They may be emotional and unpredictable. They may feel ashamed or afraid of the consequences of their addiction being discovered. They will sometimes lie to conceal the true extent of it. If this sounds like your partner, you may wonder what impact it is likely to have on your relationship. Secrecy and deceit can cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship. As the partner of an addicted person, you may feel suspicious of the reasons for your partner’s behaviour. You might also feel confused, scared, or angry at the change in your partner and the unpredictable situation. “The worst thing when I discovered their addiction was that I’d been lied to”. A partner with a substance use problem may have highs and lows – they may be happy and positive one moment, and anxious, irritable, or depressed the next. They may be preoccupied and pay less attention to their partner. This unpredictable behaviour and mood can often cause arguments. If an argument starts every time you try to discuss the problem, both of you may give up trying to talk, leading to a breakdown in communication. A distance can grow between you, and there may be a loss of interest in sex or intimacy. “If I try to explain why I started drinking it turns into a row. It’s easier not to talk to each other at all”. However, problematic substance use is not always hidden. You might know that your partner has a problem but feel like you are walking on eggshells as you try to keep the peace. You might also fear that, if you rock the boat, you will drive you partner further into their addiction. Sometimes, people will take on more responsibility in the home, with childcare and finances, to compensate for their partner becoming unreliable. You might feel you have to take control of everything and even become a ‘parent’ to your partner. Children in the family can also suffer. The parent with the addiction may become withdrawn and lose interest in family activities. The other partner may be distracted because of juggling extra responsibilities. Children are often aware of arguments and tension in the home and feel scared and confused. If they get used to seeing addictive behaviour, they may learn and develop similar behaviour themselves. What to do when dealing with a substance use problem Facing up to a substance use problem can feel hard, as it often makes the problem seem more real. But, in a relationship where one person has a problem, both partners may be in denial. If you both feel powerless to make changes, it can feel easier to pretend nothing is happening. You may feel like you can’t talk to family and friends about the problem. You may blame yourself or just feel embarrassed that outsiders will see your partner or your relationship in a negative way. Your partner may have asked you not to tell anyone. There are then two people feeling very scared, resentful, and lonely within the relationship. Talking to an unbiased person outside of your relationship can feel a real relief and a step toward change. If you are experiencing problems in your relationship as the result of addiction, it may be worth seeking professional help. Online relationship advice such as our listening room, support, information, and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it may be advisable for you to seek support from a specialist agency. If the problem is long term, involves cutting or physical harm, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling via a specialist agency or your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
4 min read
Moving on from addiction as a couple
The first step to moving on from a substance use problem is facing up to things together. When substance use is a problem in your relationship, you both need to take the same first step – you and your partner have to be honest with yourselves and each other that the problem is there. If it feels like the behaviour is just beginning to get out of hand, like drinking too much every Friday night, it may still be possible for the person responsible to try to cut down, particularly with support from their partner. However, if it feels like you are past the ‘take it or leave it’ stage, or communication between you has broken down, it may be time to seek professional advice, information, or counselling. It is often valuable for both partners to seek support. If you are not the partner with the problem, you may wonder why you need counselling. Living with an addicted partner can cause personal stresses and strains. You may have bottled things up, worried that you might upset your partner or make things worse. Counselling provides a safe, confidential space to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Attending counselling as a couple can be a great step forward. It can allow space and time for you to be honest with each other about your thoughts and feelings and to deal with problems that may have arisen in your relationship through the addictive behaviour. The counsellor will make sure you both have space to say what you need to say, and will support you in improving communication with each other. Often, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome after a substance use problem is the betrayal of trust. As the partner of an addicted person, you may have been on the receiving end of broken promises before. You may wonder, ‘How can I be certain this time it will be different?’. If the problem was hidden, it may feel harder to trust your partner, and you fear a relapse being kept from you. The partner who has stopped their behaviour may feel frustrated at the lack of trust, wondering, “Will I ever be treated as a responsible adult again?”. It may take time, but you can work together to rebuild trust. Every relationship is different. You should only try these suggestions if you think they might be right for you. Online advice, support, information and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. Sharing your story with the Click community may help you feel less isolated. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it would be advisable to seek support from a specialist agency. If the addiction problem is long term or involves drugs, alcohol, cutting or physically harming yourself, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
3 min read
Letting go of other people’s stress
You may have experienced days at work when your colleagues have been stressed, and you’ve started to feel that way too. This can also happen at home when your partner gets stressed. When people around you have strong feelings, it’s easy to soak them up and take them on as your own. You might even unconsciously adopt the body language and tone of voice from people close to you. If your partner is tense and agitated, you may become more inclined to dwell on your own troubles. This second-hand stress can make it harder for you both to relax and you might start arguing more. Long-term stress, when not addressed, can lead to greater problems like depression and relationship breakdown. So, what can you do when a partner, friend or colleague is making you feel stressed and exhausted? Take a mental step back. Breathe deeply and try to separate their stress from your feelings. You’ll find it becomes easier to recognise and acknowledge their stress without taking it onboard yourself. Walk away. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the situation until you feel more able to help. Leave the room, make a cup of tea, look out of the window, or even take a short walk until you feel calmer yourself. Offer support. If your partner is stressed, listen to what they have to say. Try to remember that a comforting ear may be more useful than offering practical solutions. Your partner may just need some stress relief before they get to a place where they can solve their own problems. Look for the positives. Remind your partner that they can lean on you for support and try to help them see the positives. Bring the topic of conversation back to something more light-hearted and personal, like planning something fun to do at the weekend or remembering a nice experience you recently shared. Stay calm. There’s no value in getting wound up or shouting at your partner if they are stressed. The calmer you are, the more easier it will be for them to see a way through to letting go of their own stress. Do something soothing. If you do feel yourself catching your partner’s stress, do something comforting like taking a bath, reading a book or listening to some relaxing music. This can help clear your head so you can support your partner better. Do you think stress is ‘catching’? Do you find it easy to keep your own feelings separate, or have you found yourself exhausted by your partner or colleague’s stress?
Article | stress
2 min read
Christmas time is jolly, but never easy
We all have different expectations of Christmas. Some people love it, and some people dread it. Others might try really hard to make it special, only to find it doesn’t live up to their expectations. The family tries to have a wonderful time, basking in the tradition and magic of the day, all the while side-stepping difficult moments and awkward family clashes. If you’re a family with a disabled child, you might find Christmas carries some additional challenges. For example, if your child relies on fixed routines (common for children with ASD for example), then the whirlwind of Christmas can feel like a big disruption to them. Even decorated rooms and the presence of a large tree in the room can be a hard adjustment as it’s such a break from the norm. Regular outings and planned events may also go out the window, which can be upsetting. Disabled children who struggle with communicating might find that, due to the number of people in a large family gathering, they don’t feel as heard or given the usual attention. This can be difficult, especially in noisy rooms full of people chatting.   You can help your child to cope with this by preparing a few things in advance, and talking them through what’s going to be happening on the day. If you’re putting up decorations, consider doing it gradually, or just putting up the tree on Christmas eve without making too big a deal of it. If you’ve got family coming over, set up a quiet room with some of your child’s favourite things so they can retreat if things get a bit much. If you are parents trying to make these preparations for their child and make time for one another, you might be struggling at this time of year. But you’re not alone. Even those without those extra challenges struggle through the festive season. Almost a third say they do not look forward to Christmas and a quarter admit to arguing more at this time of year than any other. These extra stresses can lead to pressure on your relationship with your partner. Lots of breakups and plans for divorce are at their highest during the weeks approaching Christmas day.So what can you do to help the situation? You may already be very aware of the ways to help your child cope with the changes and the excitement of Christmas day. If you’re not sure, it might be an idea to get in touch with your local support group or Carers’ Centre, where you can swap tips with other parents on how they do Christmas. You might hear some ideas you hadn’t thought of, and there may even be some community parties where your child can let off a bit of steam. It could be helpful to discuss with your partner which festive traditions are supporting your situation, and which ones are hindering it. For example, if having a huge meet-up with all the family puts too much stress on you, or if you struggle to divide your attention, you might choose to have a smaller, more intimate Christmas with just your immediate family. We’re often nostalgically connected to traditions, but remember; you’re free to make new traditions as well. We also recommend that you and your partner find a quiet moment for yourselves, just to remember that you love and support each other. It may be that you’ve only got the time and energy for a quick cuddle and a smile and an “I love you”, but the little moments can make a big difference. By reminding yourselves and each other of your mutual love and support, you’ll be building on the core relationship, and in a stronger position to tackle other challenges.  
Article | christmas, stress, parenting, disability
3 min read
Body image and low self-esteem
While it’s nice to imagine a time when we can all be comfortable with our bodies, and focus on being healthy and happy instead of worrying about what we look like or what others think of us, we’re not quite there yet. Research shows that both men and women struggle with body image. This affects our self-esteem, which in turn has an impact on our overall relationship satisfaction [1]. In a relationship, many of us want to present our best sides to our partners. If you’re dating, or in the early days of a relationship, you might find yourself drowning in insecurities. When you’re trying to convince others to look at you and see the best, it’s easy to look at yourself and see the worst. You might find yourself fixating on your flaws and insecurities, questioning how someone could possibly be attracted to you, let alone fall in love with you. Be kinder to yourself Your partner, prospective or actual, may well be doing the exact same thing with their own insecurities. Think about a time when a partner has expressed their insecurity about something they see as a flaw. When you love or care for someone, the things they worry about are often the things you love most about them. For example, your partner might think they don’t have the best singing voice – and maybe they don’t – but your heart melts when you hear them singing along to the radio. You might think you’re a terrible dancer but, even if you are, there’s nobody your partner would rather dance with.  Now think about this in terms of body image. Have you ever been totally in love with the things a partner worries about – an untameable curl, an eyelid freckle, or a misshapen finger? Well, it works both ways. Even if you think you have a wonky nose, silly eyebrows and a doughy tummy, your partner can still see you as the cutest, cuddliest creature on the planet. Most of us are our own worst critics. What you think of as your flaws could be just the thing your partner finds most adorable about you. In studies of body image, both men and women were less satisfied with their own bodies than their partners were [2] [3]. So, knowing that the person most likely to be most critical of your body is you, could you give yourself a break and try to celebrate the body you’ve got? Be kinder to your partner  If your partner has a negative body image, the first thing you can do is the most obvious thing – be kinder to them. Sincerity is essential here. It’s no good throwing out random compliments for the sake of it if your partner doesn’t believe you. While you can’t be 100% responsible for how someone feels about themselves, studies do suggest that the more things your partner believes you like about them, the more loved they will feel [4].  This can work in your favour too. When you see your partner in a positive light, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your relationship. This is worth bearing in mind if you think you might be prone to taking your partner for granted. And, the more loved your partner feels, the more optimistic you are both likely to be about the future of your relationship [4]. This, of course, can apply in any relationship – if you’re reading this because you’re seeking advice for a friend, you could do well to remember it in your own relationships too. How to show appreciation You might be wondering how to go about showing your partner that you appreciate all their components. While the specifics are very much down to the individual, most of us fall into one of a few categories, and there are certain things you can look out for to notice the types of things that your partner is likely to appreciate. Some people, for example, are moved most by words of love – simply being told, “You have lovely hands” is enough, provided it’s delivered sincerely. Some rely on physical intimacy, which doesn’t just mean sex – it can also include back rubs, cuddling or actually holding those lovely hands. Others need quality time together to know that they are truly loved, or little practical gestures like surprise cups of tea (delivered into their lovely hands). This isn’t just about paying them compliments—it’s about demonstrating that you love being with them. Try a few different things. Notice what your partner appreciates most, and try to do more of that. Of course, if your partner has very low self-esteem, it can be difficult for any kind of positivity to sink in [4]. If this sounds like you, try to be more considerate to your partner in general, and attentive to their insecurities. If it’s something they’re trying to change, support their efforts. If it’s something they can’t change, keep reminding them that you wouldn’t want them to even if they could. We all have things we don’t like about ourselves and we all want our partners to see us in a positive light. But even people with low self-esteem feel happier in their relationships when they truly feel that their partners love and appreciate them [4] – weird body parts and all. Getting support This article is about general body image worries. If you are worried that your partner has an eating disorder, or consistently negative body image, seek external help. You can find many routes to support through the eating disorder charity, Beat. References [1] Tager, D., Good, G., and Morrison, J. B. (2006). Our bodies, ourselves revisited: Male body image and psychological wellbeing. International Journal of Men’s Heath, 5, 228-237. [2] Markey, C. N., & Markey, P. M. (2006). Romantic relationships and body satisfaction among young women. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 256-264. [3] Goins, L. B., Markey, and C.N., Gillen, M.M. (2012). Understanding Men’s Body Image in the Context of Their Romantic Relationships. American Journal of Men’s Health, 6(3), 240-248. [4] Murray, S., Holmes, J., Griffin, D., Bellavia, G., and Rose, P. (2001). The mismeasure of love: how self-doubt contaminates relationship beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol.27(4), pp.423-436.
Article | self-confidence, YPc
If your partner is aggressive
What am I up against? Every relationship is different, and what works for one couple might not be what works for another. But it’s fair to say that no relationship will benefit from partners being aggressive toward one another. There are several forms of aggression, here we’re going to look at physical and psychological. Firstly, the physical kind. Research tells us that: 10% to 48% of adolescents report experiencing physical aggression in their relationships [1]. These acts include pushing, slapping, hitting and being held down. And secondly, the psychological kind. This includes: Making fun of the other person or calling them hurtful names. Saying negative things about their appearance, body, or family and friends. Telling them who they can see and where they can go. Constantly checking up on them and what they are doing. Using private information to manipulate or threaten them. Research also says that: 25%-50% of adolescents report psychological aggression while dating [1]. Physical aggression is often seen to be more harmful, but psychological aggression can be just as damaging to the individual and the relationship.  How do I deal with it?  1. Recognise the signs, and trust your judgement Early signs to watch out for are controlling behaviours, threats of violence, attempts to control your social interactions, or a short temper. During a series of interviews with young women who had experienced violence in relationships, they could all recognise these early signs but didn’t always trust their own judgement and leave the relationship. They also said it would have been much easier to get out early, rather than waiting until the relationship was more developed. 2. Consider carefully how long you hold on Brand new relationships can be powerful and compelling; this is one of the reasons that young adults sometimes stay in violent relationships, hoping their partners will get their anger management in check. When there’s a connection with someone, it might be easy to believe that you can fix them, or that you can heal them in some way. But research suggests that as relationships progress, it’s likely that the violence will too. The longer you stay in a violent relationship, the worse it’s likely to become [3]. 3. It’s not your fault If you’re a victim of violence, it really isn’t your fault - even if you feel like you’re exacerbating the situation. According to research, young people often stay in violent relationships because they feel like it’s their own fault that their partner is behaving in this way. It’s also quite common for people in a violent or aggressive relationship to justify the behaviour as ‘caring’, or ‘their way’ of expressing love [2]. They may be in difficult circumstances or have suffered past experiences that have contributed to the way they are, but it’s up to them to get help for that. You shouldn’t be punished for their emotional or psychological struggles. If you continue to put up with this behaviour, there’s a danger that it will become normal in your eyes. It could begin blurring your sense of what is right and wrong, which will make it even more difficult to leave the relationship [2].  4. Take it to someone Young men and women who experience violence often don’t report it because they don’t recognise it as violence or think no one will take them seriously [3]. This is most commonly the case with psychological violence, as it is often deemed to be a lesser offence than physical or sexual violence. This is a dangerous assumption; abuse of any kind should be taken seriously. While it’s a good thing to seek support from a friend, there’s a limit to the assistance friends can give in protecting someone from violence. If you don’t feel ready to go to a formal source of help, like an official support helpline, consider someone you can trust like a lecturer or a teacher. They can be impartial as they’re outside of the situation. [3] References [1] Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001; Jouriles, McDonald, Garrido, Rosenfield, & Brown, 2005 [2] C. Barter, 2009 [3] Christine Barter et al., 2009
Article | physical abuse, emotional abuse, YPc
Improving your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise your own feelings and choose how you respond to them. This can allow you to take better control of the way you think and behave [1] and improve your communication skills by helping you to read other people’s emotions better [2]. Why emotional intelligence is good for your relationship Couples with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to be satisfied with their relationships [3]. The more aware you and your partner are of your own emotions, the easier it becomes to see things from each other’s points of view. This can help you feel closer, support each other better, and understand each other more [4]. Developing your emotional intelligence will help you communicate and resolve arguments more effectively. When you have a good understanding of how emotions work, you’ll find it easier to step back from a difficult conversation, examine the options, and look for ways to work towards a resolution [5]. How to improve your emotional intelligence The following tips can help you work on your emotional intelligence, allowing you to take charge of your emotions and improve your communication skills. Learn to recognise your emotions  Developing your emotional intelligence starts with self-examination. Notice how you feel, particularly in times of stress or high emotion. Do you get angry easily, or sulk when you don’t get your way? What about other emotions – what does it feel like when you’re happy, confused, or bored? Check in with yourself from time to time and notice the way you experience different feelings. Without judgement, describe to yourself what you’re thinking and feeling. Notice the physical sensations as well as the thoughts in your head. Is your heart rate up or down? Is your mind racing or still? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? Look behind your emotions Once you’re comfortable with the process of recognising your emotions, start to delve a little deeper and think about why you feel the way you feel. Is it because of what’s happening now, or are there other factors influencing you – perhaps something from the past, or an external factor like a work deadline or a lack of sleep? Check in on your emotions a few times a day, whether you feel good, bad or neutral. As you become more aware of the triggers that lead to certain emotions, you’ll find you can anticipate them, and even regulate them. This is an important step in learning to stay calm under pressure and composed during an argument. Reflect on your behaviour Your thoughts and actions are intrinsically linked to your feelings. As you learn more about your feelings, expand your attention to notice how they affect your behaviour. Do you lash out when you’re angry? Do you leap to the defensive when you’re feeling hurt? Do you get single-minded when you’re under pressure? Remember that the ways you respond to different situations are the product of years of life experience. Try to observe your behaviour without judging it – this will make it easier for you to give yourself an honest account of what’s happening. Notice the links between your emotions, thoughts and actions, and see if you spot any familiar patterns. Take responsibility Once you’re able to recognise the way you respond to your feelings, you can start to take more responsibility for your choices. Try to catch yourself before you react negatively to something, and see if you can make a different decision. This could be as simple as asking someone to clarify their meaning before you respond, or taking a break from something that’s irritating you. The more you practise this, the more you can start to choose how you respond to difficult situations and conversations. Work on your empathy skills Understanding your own emotions will start to give you an insight into others’ emotions too. Being emotionally intelligent will not make you a mind reader, but it will give you a level of insight and understanding that can make you a much better communicator. The next time you are facing difficult feelings, try a quick check-in. Ask yourself: How am I feeling? What am I thinking? How is that making me behave?  You can’t stop yourself from feeling bad, but you can learn to make different choices when you do. References   [1] Coleman, Andrew (2008). A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. [2] Mayer, John D (2008). Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology. 59: 507–536.  [3] Brackett, M., Warner, R., & Bosco, J. (2005). Emotional intelligence and relationship quality among couples. Personal Relationships, 12(2), 197-212.  [4] Schröder-Abé, M., & Schütz, A. (2011). Walking in each other's shoes: Perspective taking mediates effects of emotional intelligence on relationship quality. European Journal of Personality, 25(2), 155-169.  [5] Zeidner, M., & Kloda, I. (2013). Emotional intelligence (EI), conflict resolution patterns, and relationship satisfaction: Actor and partner effects revisited. Personality And Individual Differences, 54(2), 278-283.
Article | communication, mental health
4 min read
Dealing with debt problems
What does money mean to you? We all have different dreams about what we would do if we had lots of it, but we also have different plans about how we would cope if it were to run out. Couples who talk openly about money tend to cope better in tough times, and yet far too many of us keep quiet about our finances. Exaggerating our money management skills and hiding debts from partners are common issues. Your money or your wife? Relationship problems and money problems are directly linked. When you’re struggling with money, you might argue more, have less time together, or feel that things are unfair – particularly if one partner built up the debt without the other knowing [1]. Often, when one partner goes through financial troubles, it’s the other partner who starts to feel less satisfied with the relationship [2]. You can counter these negative effects by talking things through and working together to resolve the debt. In one study, couples who consciously worked together were better at maintaining their relationship through difficult financial periods. These couples made the decision to see their money problems as separate from the relationship, focusing on the importance of communicating well and working together [3]. Aside from overspending, one of the biggest money problems relationships face is appointing one partner to manage all the household finances while the other takes a back seat [4]. While this might seem simpler, it can often increase stress in relationships, creating an extra burden for the person in control [5], and leaving the other person in the dark. The couples who have the most success at dealing with their issues are those who recognise the need for trust and communication around financial matters. When you can trust each other to pay bills on time, discuss big purchases, and avoid overspending, you’re likely to feel more confident in your finances and in your relationship [3]. If you’re worried about debt, be open with your partner. Seek emotional support as well as practical help – research has shown that emotional support like relationship counselling can help people cope better with financial problems [6]. Relationship counselling, in combination with practical debt management, can help you develop your communication skills and build trust in a structured environment.  Talk about money Having regular conversations about money with your partner might be one of the best things you can do for your relationship. Check in a couple of times a year or even once a month. Try to understand and respect each other’s perspectives – you don’t have to have the same money habits, but learning to accept your differences could mean you’ll cope better as a couple if things get tricky in the future [4]. Learning to discuss money with your partner will help you on the road to financial peace [4]. Talk about your long-term financial goals – how much you want to save, big things you want to spend money on, and any issues you might run into. Don’t minimise your problems and don’t boast about how well you manage your finances – particularly if you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Make sure you have the difficult conversations as well as the easy ones. If you’ve been hiding debt from your partner, or if you suspect your partner has been hiding debt from you, have a look at our debt and relationships section. How to manage debts If you’ve gotten into debt, set goals as to how you are going to manage it and work together to carry them out. You may need to make some sacrifices – working more, spending less, or both – so talk about how you are going to handle any lifestyle changes. A clear budget is especially valuable when finances are tight. Set yourself a programme of essentials, alongside optional spending, and review it regularly together. Keep talking. It’s important to have a regular dialogue about money – not just about what has gone wrong, but also about how you will work together to manage your finances. Be open and transparent in conversations about money. Support each other. This could be practical, like paying bills, writing a budget, or making phone calls to creditors; or emotional, like helping each other feel better about the situation. Recognise that you and your partner may have different spending habits and money management styles. Talk about how you will manage your savings and big purchases. Make sure your plans take account of each other’s money preferences – you may want to allow for occasional impulse buys, while also setting aside some savings for the future. If you are in debt, and don’t know how to manage it, speak to a debt management agency. There are many free services available where you can get help with your debts, including tips on which ones to prioritise, and how to set up manageable repayment plans. The most important thing is to support each other and work together to come to solutions. Offer your support wholly and without resentment. Don’t minimise your partner’s concerns and don’t act like you’re above it all. Whether it was your fault or not, you’re a part of it now, and engaging in the solution is the best thing you can do to help get your partner, and yourself, out of the woods [6]. For more information on debt and relationships, see our debt animations and guidance articles. References [1] Dew, J. (2008). Debt Change and Marital Satisfaction Change in Recently Married Couples. Family Relations, 57: 60–71. [2] Karademas, E. C., and Roussi, P. (2016). Financial strain, dyadic coping, relationship satisfaction, and psychological distress: A dyadic mediation study in Greek couples. Stress and Health, 1-10. [3] Skogrand, L., Johnson, A.C., Horrocks, A.M., DeFrain, J. (2011). Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32: 27. [4] Doherty, H. F. (2006). Communication is vital to a couple's successful financial life. Dental Economics, 96(11), 92-93. [5] Rowlingston, K. & Joseph, R. (2009). Assets and Debts Within Couples: Ownership and Decision-Making. Friends Provident Foundation. [6] Falconier, M. K., & Epstein, N. B. (2011). Couples Experiencing Financial Strain: What We Know and What We Can Do. Family Relations, 60(3), 303-317.
Article | debt, communication
5 min read
“Caught between husband and daughter”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi I just want to know if I'm thinking right about all this. To cut a long story short, my daughter (16) and husband are totally at odds with each other. I love my daughter to bits but she has always been a handful. Truckloads of attitude, very highly strung, always right etc! She can also be very rude and disrespectful. I also love my husband but he does tend to be a very negative person, struggles to see the good in people / situations , and he also is very sensitive ie. Takes everything very personally. He can also be very antagonistic and quick to anger and tends to drop hints and be sarcastic rather than say straight out what his problem is. He is also quite an anxious person and seems to automatically think the worst all the time and worry unnecessarily. It used to drive me nuts but I've gotten used to it and try and ignore it now if I can. He has many good points which I prefer to concentrate on. However it drives my daughter mad. He is a great provider and is never violent but sometimes I find it hard to get close to him because of the negativity. He also doesn't take a whole lot of interest in the kids or their lives. Seems to notice every bad thing they do but rarely praises. My daughter openly tells him that she hates him and that he is a douche and that she wouldn't care if he was out of her life. Which I think is terrible and it really upsets me when she says this. But what upset me more is his reaction. In my opinion, he acts just as bad, threatening to leave, saying he isn't going to stay in a house where he is hated etc. I've tried to suggest that they talk to each other but that never goes well as neither of them ever admit they are wrong. I think they both are. My daughter is a hormonal, strong minded, determined teenager. As far as my husband is concerned, sometimes I feel like I am dealing with 2 teenagers ! I can see both points of view but whose side do I take here? I feel like the meat in the sandwich ! The constant enmity between them is really getting me down. I don't feel like I should have to choose between them but that is how I feel a lot of the time. Am I thinking right here? So confused and depressed. I just want to have a happy, functional family.
Ask the community | arguments, despair, control, parenting
“Is my husband controlling?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I have been reading a book on controlling partners and there have been clear signs that he is controlling, but even though I am more aware of his behavior, I am having a hard time distinguishing what is controlling and what isn't for the day to day stuff. I will give a few examples of what has happened in the last few weeks: 1- My husband and I want to lose weight and eat healthier. I started to cut up fruit and veggies and I made him a smoothie each day for a week. He has mostly boiled eggs and peeled them. One evening he reminded me that I hadn't made a smoothie for him yet, and I said that I need to show him how to make one. He turned to me and said "oh, I knew that was coming" - implying that I would not be making his smoothies for the long haul. I quickly replied that I was just kidding and got up and made him his lunch for the next day. 2-The other day I was cleaning the house. The last few months I have not been cleaning at all and our house is a disaster. With spring coming, I put in a good 5 hours doing laundry, wiping down the kitchen, dusting and cleaning the entry way. Our entry way was pretty grungy so I decided to wipe down everything including the window blinds. I removed the blinds and took them to the bathroom and quickly cleaned them (about 15 minutes). Later that evening, I was explaining how easy it was to clean the blinds and my husband got frustrated with me and asked me "I don't want to start a fight, but that was the most important thing to clean at this time?" I had to justify that yes it was because of the dust on the blinds, and that it would benefit us later and that I didn't take a long time on them." He dropped the discussion, but I felt criticized. 3- The other night, he asked for a glass of water...well actually he said "you should get up and get me a glass of water." I told him that he could get up, and he looked at me and said (I think jokingly) I could get up as well and get him water. I stood my ground and didn't move, but neither did he...
Ask the community | arguments, despair, control
Is debt keeping you in an unhappy relationship?
Nearly a fifth of people have stayed in a relationship because of financial difficulties, according to a survey of 2,000 Brits. The Debt Advisory Centre, a provider of debt help, carried out the survey to find out how many people remain in relationships simply because they don’t feel they can afford to break up. Nearly one fifth of respondents (18.9%) reported having been in this difficult situation at one time or another, stuck between ending a relationship and facing up to the financial realities of separation. Of these, two fifths (42.85%) had found themselves staying in struggling relationships for over a year, and nearly a quarter (24.33%) had limped beyond the three-year mark in relationships they knew weren’t working. Those living in London were most likely to have stayed with a partner because of financial worries, with a third of Londoners professing to have found themselves in this situation at some point. The age group most prone to this situation is 25-34, which coincides with the age many people are seeking to get on the property ladder and start a family. Penny Mansfield, Director of OnePlusOne, says: “The stress and worry of debt can affect how you get on with your partner so it’s important to be sure in your own mind whether the relationship is over or if it’s just a bad time in your relationship that could pass. “If you are thinking of sharing a home with your partner because it seems more affordable, think twice. Breaking up is rarely easy but it can be even more difficult when you are financially involved with each other”. Have you ever found yourself staying with someone because you’re worried about the financial impact of a breakup? If you’re struggling with your finances, you can find other people's stories and helpful advice on our debt pages.
Article | debt, finance
“23 and disinterested in sex”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been with my boyfriend for 4 great years. We've been living together with his dad for 3 years now. When we first started dating I was 19 and he was 21. We would really only see each other on weekends or days off during the week. I moved in with him and his father due to an family issue I had with my parents. Through all of this we had a really healthy sex life. Shortly after our relationship began I went on the pill so we could stop using condoms as it seemed I had a mild allergy to them. Our sex life was strong and healthy up until probably a year ago. I started to lose interest in sex. And anything to do with sex. I didn't care to be touched or caressed, didn't care to make out or as my boyfriend calls it explore each other. Looking back, it's not that I lost interest in having sexual relations with my boyfriend, I realised I didn't care to find other men attractive or even have a desire to be with another man. I've had a history with depression. I've thought it may play a role in this. But even when I know my depression isn't with me I still don't have a drive. My boyfriend and I looked into maybe I lost interest in sex because I wasn't keeping physically active. So I started going to yoga and it hasn't increased my drive. I don't have a lot of stress going on in my life. My boyfriend means everything to me and I know he's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with and one day have a family. But right now, it's a tough road. I know it hurts him when I tell him I'm not interested in sex, or he goes to touch me and I brush him off. I've considered it maybe being my birth control and do have an appointment made for next week to see my doctor. I just don't know what to do and it sucks knowing this may be the reason our relationship starts to break apart. Any advice is much appreciated!
Ask the community | sex, intimacy
How mindfulness may help you
Mindfulness is becoming more and more popular as a way to let go of your stress and ‘find’ yourself in the midst of your daily (and probably very busy!) life. Studies have shown [1] that practicing mindfulness helps promote positive feelings like contentment, self-awareness, empathy and self-control. It can soothe the parts of your brain that produce stress hormones and feed the areas that lift your mood. If you haven’t tried practising mindfulness, it might seem like a strange and complicated thing that you have to go to a class to learn, but there are a number of exercises you can try on your own. Practising mindfulness can even be as simple as sitting still for a few moments and concentrating on your own breathing.  There are lots of mobile apps with guided processes for mindfulness. Apps are a helpful option because you can call on them when you need them most – if you’re the kind of person who never seems to have a free moment, convenience can be everything. Even if you only have time for five or ten minutes, it can still be very beneficial.  It’s worth doing a bit of research to find an app that you enjoy using. The practice of mindfulness becomes more powerful when it becomes a regular habit, so if you don’t like the sound of the person’s voice or what they are saying, you’re less likely to want to listen to the app. Pick one that you feel you can get into!   What the research tells us We all face stressful, difficult and challenging situations, and these can have an impact on every area of our lives. It’s not realistic to expect stressful moments to go away completely. At any given moment in your life, you might find yourself dealing with stress from study, work, friends and family, money problems, and prolonged existential dread about your future and who you want to be. That’s perfectly normal – it’s how you cope with these stresses that makes the real difference. Some people cope by focusing on a problem and finding solutions and strategies to improve the situation. Other people focus on finding ways to feel better about a situation by reinterpreting it, distancing themselves, or even denying or avoiding it. When the people around you have different coping mechanisms to your own, it can be frustrating. Mindfulness can help you with your reaction to stressful events. By mentally preparing your mind and the body, you’ll start to find you can handle conflict better, and that tough situations don’t get on top of you as much as they used to. Feeling more in control can create some space for you to be the best version of yourself, which has the added side effect of making others around you feel more comfortable in your presence. The evidence for this is right here [2]. Mindfulness is geared towards experiencing the present moment, and having a moment-to-moment awareness of the world around you. Being truly present can help you become a more effective problem-solver, a better listener, and a calmer and more focused person in general.  Mindfulness is also great for your mental health. In one study, it was shown to lead to significant improvements in: Stress Depression and anxiety Sleep quality Life satisfaction [3]  So, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, if you’re having trouble sleeping, or if you just find that life gets on top of you more than you’d like it to, you might find it useful to give mindfulness a try. Search for some mindfulness apps through your browser or phone and have a look at some reviews. Some focus on topics such as health, sleep, or relationships, and many have free versions that allow you to try them out before you commit. Try a few to find the right one for you. Have you tried mindfulness? Did you find that it made a difference? Or are you a little sceptical? Are there any apps or tools that you’d recommend? We’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave us a comment, or share your story.  References [1] http://franticworld.com/what-can-mindfulness-do-for-you/ [2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789404800285 Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior therapy, 35(3), 471-494. `` [3] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/07/16/peds.2013-3164 Dykens, E. M., Fisher, M. H., Taylor, J. L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014). Reducing distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: a randomized trial. Pediatrics, 134(2), e454-e463.
Article | mental health
4 min read
Dealing with stress
During times of changes, or important stages of your life, there is an increased risk of stress. You can’t make stress go away entirely, but you can learn to cope with it better stay healthy through times of change. Talk to someone These days, we are much better at talking about our feelings than in previous generations, but it can still be a difficult conversation to start. Remember that everyone has been through stress at some time in their lives – no matter how alone you feel, there is always someone who can relate to what you’re going through.  We all need a little help from time to time. Talk to a close friend or a trusted family member about what you’re dealing with and how it’s making you feel. You may find they are able to offer practical help but, more often, just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. If you have a good support network of friends or family, lean on them in times of stress. They can sometimes help you find a different perspective on things, so that you can see a path through to solving practical problems in a way that seemed impossible before Sometimes, of course, it isn’t possible to speak to people close to you. They may be involved in the issue, or you may just want to keep things private. In those instances, it can feel easier to seek support from an online community, where you can share your story or ask a question. Sometimes just getting the thoughts out of your head can help you start to see a new perspective on things. Sometimes, the best way forward is to seek professional help. Stress can be just as bad for your health as a physical illness, and deserves the same amount of attention as you would pay to any other injury. If you’re struggling with stress, your GP can offer some tips on where to get further help and may be able to refer you to a specialist.   Stay healthy Regular physical exercise can be a great boost for your mental health, making you more resilient and protecting your self-esteem. When your body is healthy, you are more likely to feel calmer, and you will find it easier to sleep at night and concentrate during the day, and generally feel better. Getting enough exercise can be as easy as taking a half-hour walk every day, so don’t worry if you don’t have the time or motivation to get to the gym. Avoid the temptation to mask your stress with alcohol or other recreational drugs. You will not make the underlying issues go away and you may end up feeling worse as the chemicals in your brain reset themselves after a binge. If you do drink, monitor your intake, or consider taking a break while you get things back on track. There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel. Cook yourself a healthy meal, with plenty of colourful fresh ingredients, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
Article | stress
3 min read
Supporting a partner with depression
One in five people will experience a form of depression at some point in their lives [1]. Depression is a prolonged illness, whose symptoms include low mood, a lack of energy, a loss of interest in things you might normally enjoy, feelings of low self-worth, and changes in sleep and appetite [2]. It can be caused by difficult circumstances in your life, but it can sometimes come on seemingly out of nowhere. Some of the symptoms you might notice include: Low mood. Depression is characterised by prolonged bouts of low mood which feel very difficult to break out of. Loss of interest and energy. You may lose interest in the things you usually like doing. This can get in the way of your work, study, and social life. Concentration. Depression can affect your concentration, even to the extent that you may struggle to stay involved in a conversation. Sleep and appetite. You may experience changes in your eating and sleeping patterns. As well as disrupting your regular routines, eating and sleeping poorly can further affect your mood. Low self-worth. You may become more critical of yourself and possibly start lashing out at others too [2]. If you’ve noticed the symptoms of depression and things don’t seem to be getting any better, you should seek help straightaway. Getting support from friends and family is a great start, but seeking professional support is often the best way to cope with depression. Often, the quickest route is through your GP, who can make a diagnosis and referral. There are many forms of mental health support, but most people with depression will undertake some form of talking therapy. This can help you explore the causes and find coping mechanisms to help you move forward. You may also be given exercises to take home. In addition to any treatment you may undertake, there are many things you can do to support your own recovery: Learn about depression. Read up on depression and its symptoms to help you understand more about what you are going through and what you can do about it. You are already learning about depression by reading this article. Set aside blame. Accept that the illness is happening, and try not to blame yourself or anyone else. Remember that depression is treatable and try to focus on your recovery. Notice the signs. Try to make yourself aware of your symptoms and the things that can set off an episode of depression. Get support if things seem to be getting worse. Ask for help with practical problems. When you are depressed, problems can be magnified and may seem insurmountable. People like to help, so give them specific tasks to help with some of the practical problems in your way. Do some exercise. Get some gentle exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a 15-minute session from a trainer on YouTube. Exercising can have the added benefit of helping with sleep problems. Get out of the house. While it might seem easier to avoid social situations, it’s often best to try and turn up to things that you would usually enjoy. Even if you plan just to go out for half an hour, it can help break you out of a loop of inactivity and depression. Keep a mood journal. What usually makes you feel better – a morning walk? Cooking a healthy meal? Seeing friends? Keep a journal of what you’ve been finding helpful, and try to do more of it. Your journal can also help remind you that you have been making improvements, as it is often difficult to focus on the positives [3]. Going through depression is never going to be easy but, with the right support, even the most severe cases can be treated. As with any illness, you should seek professional help if you are worried. Recovery is likely to be gradual, but it is possible.     References [1] Bolton, J., Bisson, J., Guthrie, E., Wood., S. (2011) Depression: key facts. Retrieved from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/depressionkeyfacts.aspx [2] NHS (2015). Low mood and depression - NHS Choices. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/low-mood-and-depression.aspx  [3] NICE (2009) Depression: The Treatment and Management of Depression in Adults (Update). NICE clinical guideline 90. Available at www.nice.org.uk/CG90
Article | depression
4 min read
“Boyfriend couldn't cope with my depression”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My boyfriend dumped me out of the blue in December, he has since admitted that it is because he could not cope with my depression - over the past year my illness has got worse and I also self harm. Only a week before he left me I had confided in him how low I was feeling and that I felt I needed to get help.... how he thought breaking my heart would help I do not know!! I have since tried to take my life and have reached an all time low. I have moved back into my parents home (I am 26 and had been living with my ex-boyfriend for a year but we had been together for 8 years!!) and I am now getting professional help. My ex knows all this and we are in contact every day - he says he wants to stay in contact and help me get better, he even came to see me last week and he looked a mess so clearly this has not been easy on him. I am hoping as I get better we might be able to work things out - am I mad? If I ever mention us getting back together he says it is too much too soon and that he doesn't know what he wants... I just want him back. If anyone has been through anything similar your story or advice would be appreciated..... thanks
Ask the community | depression
“My insecurity is killing our relationship”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Hello, I just didn't really want to talk about this with any of my friends and I am looking for an unbiased opinion. My boyfriend and I have been properly together for almost 7 months now and we've had our ups and downs. For this period of time we've been through so much together... through his mum being diagnosed with cancer in the very beginning of our relationship, through my personal problems involving my mum and my past, my emotional instability at some point and others. he's been by my side and I've also been there for him in every way I can. He's almost left a couple of times, but he just couldn't because he loved me too much. The truth is that we argue often, but for silly things and we always find a way to fix it. Sometimes, I feel so broken in comparison to him and other people I know. I've had a pretty emotional and rocky childhood because of my parents' separation and loads of issues concerning that, and also heartbreaks, falling out with friends,etc. At the age of 20 now I find myself so scared of loving someone, but at the same time so willing to love. I just wish I could love and let go of that fear that people always leave and that feeling that I'm never going to be good enough, because I can see how it ruins my relationships with people, not just my boyfriend, but my family and friends. I am a really nice person with a good heart, real fun and people just love to be around me. But then when they get close to me I can feel that I become this baggage for them. I am too emotional. It's so hard to fit everything I need to say to describe myself and my life at this one post. So, let's just get to the point. I am so scared of loosing my boyfriend. A few days ago he told me he didn't feel the same about me. But he explained that it's not that he loves me any less, but he gave an example: at night when we go to bed, before he'd just want to have sex with me, but now if he is too tired he'd go to sleep. I told him that's absolutely normal. After a few months of being together, especially when we've lived together for like more than half of that time, it's completely normal not to have sex every day. He also told me we spend way too much time together and he needs some time on his own to do his own things and he wanted to sleep at his room in his student halls for one night and I took this pretty badly , but still went through with it because of him. The next day when he came back to mine I was upset. I didn't like spending the night away from him. But he was so sweet. He said he missed me that night and he didn't want to spend any more nights away from me, but he just needed to do this to see how he feels. During the summer, he went back home, but he was with me every weekend and we had a lot of sex for those two days. And after he came back here for uni, we kept on having a lot of sex in the beginning and then the amount of sex we have gradually decreased. Is that okay? Does it mean that he doesn't want me anymore? Am I right to think it's normal or should I be worried about it? That's one thing that worries me. We are so good together, I can feel it. We dream of being together forever and love each other unconditionally. But we often end up arguing for really silly things such as my ridiculous jealousy (he hasn't given me any reasons to be jealous, but I am insanely jealous and insecure and I don't know how to deal with it. I apologize for being so jealous, but I think it's worse for me than for him. It just kills me inside. I'd appreciate some advice on how to deal with this as well.) or even things more stupid than that. I am actually ashamed of sharing them with you. Thank you for reading this! I am looking forward to some fresh piece of advice! Xxxxx
Ask the community | insecurity, jealousy
“I hate my partner but we have a child”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  He's not a bad person. But sometimes I just feel like I hate him. Everything he says, his presence in a room just makes me want to run away. He's a good father, we have a wonderful daughter and I guess that is why I have stayed for so long. We have been together for 6 and half years and I'd say I've known things weren't right for about 5 years. Our daughter is three. I love my daughter so much and want the best for her but I just don't know if I can carry on for much longer. But how can I do that to my daughter? And it's not just taking her away from her father, we have a nice house and a good relationship with his family who help out a lot. Practically our relationship works. The logistics are good, if we split up then we would probably end up with shared custody of our daughter and I want her to have a stable upbringing and not to be carted between two homes. I want to love him... but I feel like I don't even like him. I keep thinking back to when we got together and I just think of events where I should have ended it with him. I have actually tried to end it with him more times than I can remember. Even before we had a child. But he always talks me round. Every time. I just can't leave. I don't think I have the will power. He will cry, or overwhelm me with complements, or give me a sob story and tell me what a good person I am. And then for about half an hour I feel like I want to be with him and that things will be ok. Pretty pathetic right? But then the arguments... well they're vicious. We throw insults about each others family at each other and he says stuff to me which has made me feel so worthless which I don't even want to repeat. And it's always my fault. I always start the fight. Apparently. I 'attack' him. But I'm always the one who ends up sobbing and sometimes after a fight I will just go to bed even in the middle of the day and be unable to get up again. He just won't stop. I want him to leave me alone and even hiding under the covers as a thirty year old woman and humming with my fingers in my ears won't block out the things he is saying to me. He will normally come to me once I'm completely worn out and do the whole 'you're a good person' spiel. I feel trapped. I have been suicidal. I am incredibly bitter and just feel resentful to him almost all the time. You will probably think I am a terrible mother but I'm not. We are both good parents and the really bad stuff we keep away from our daughter. She is a happy confident little girl. From the day that I got pregnant all I have cared about is making sure she is happy and healthy. I don't want to ruin that. I don't want to take her away from her lovely home and her father who she adores. I know suicide is ridiculous and that would completely ruin her life and I would never do anything but I am just really depressed and I don't know if there is any way to improve my relationship. I want to love him but it all just feels so fake when I try to act like I do... Help
Ask the community | arguments, despair
“Affair with a close friend and neighbour”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been married for more than 8 years and I can say I am happily married. We are both in our mid 30's and my husband is supportive. He completely adores me! I also love him very much. I love being with him. Actually, we have that kind of relationship everybody "envies" and considers very balanced. About 3 months ago I started to have an affair with my neighbour. We both have children who are friends and we have always spent a lot of time together. It all started off innocently enough and over the years we flirted and started to become emotionally attached. We discussed and shared lot of things in past. He is intelligent person and good friend of my husband. Most of time my husband use to travel for his work. Approx 3 months back i visited his home for some work. His wife and kids were away from home. After having some normal discussion he touched me i dont know what happened to me. In moment of heat, i allowed him. Since then it happened few times more. Now i feel very unsecure. He keep asking after every few days. I deny but he says he loves me and need me. He says he wont get same feeling with his wife. He is also married and has no intention to leave his wife. I don't intend to leave my husband and my kid, but this situation is getting a little out of control for me. At least in what concerns my stability or sanity. Sometimes I just don't know exactly what I should do or what I really want. Go on with this relationship or end it? I'm getting very confused and the problem is that if I was not married to my husband, I would like to be married to this man - we also have a lot in common and that's what strikes me - how many times in your life are you supposed to meet your "soul mate"? I thought I had met mine 8 years ago when I met my husband (and I still do)? What should I do?
Ask the community | someone else, crush
“I'm in love with my brother-in-law”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Before anyone answers, please know I'm not looking to be judged. In a nutshell, I want to be over this. The problem is, I have been sincerely in love with my husband's brother for years. Every year it gets stronger. My husband and I started dating when we were 17 and his brother was only in 6 grade. We got married at 19- about 8 years ago. Around 6 years ago, I developed a personal relationship with my brother in law that was totally healthy and since then have always had a soft spot. I really can't remember when it started, at least 4 years ago, I began to fall in love with him. I know it's wrong. I don't need to be told that. It's gotten to the point that when I'm around him I get depressed. I tried telling myself it's sick because he is basically my little brother but that doesn't work. I won't go on about what it is I love about him as to not justify my feelings. I tried severing any ties or chance of seeing- hearing about him but their family is close and it isn't really possible with out it seeming suspicious. My six year old son is extremely close to him and talks about him constantly. I can't get away from it. I go to bed thinking about him and wake up thinking about him. My marriage is a good one. We got married too young and are very different people. Regardless, my husband and I love each other very much and are best friends. We have moved passed the gushy part on our relationship but are mature adults. I'm a black and white person and feel like there is no situation that would ever make being with my brother in law OK. But I can honestly say I have never loved anyone the way I love him, and it's love that has grown over years. How do I get over him? I know these feelings are not healthy for me my family or my husband's.
Ask the community | someone else, crush
“I have a boyfriend, but I'm falling for someone else”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hey there,  I've been with my boyfriend for a little over 4 years - we met abroad, then, after year or so, we moved back to my country and he found a job and some friends here. Our relationship, on the other hand, started going downhill; We have common interests - except that he's social and likes to go out, while I am and do not... but he's very practical, down to earth and career and money are important to him, while I'm a typical dreamer: I couldn't care less about career and money, I want to do what makes me happy - in my free time as well as professionally - and I don't want to be faced with financial and bureaucratic issues very single day... I'm not saying that one approach is better or worse, that the other, I'm just saying, that we're different and we want different things. We argue a lot and while I'm overly patient and careful with what I say, my boyfriend get very aggressive and overwhelming. Aggressive as in pushing his opinion into my face, not letting me talk, not listening to my point and not taking them into account...then, a few hours later, when he calms down, he acts like nothing's happened...Other time we're okay, he acts like he still loves me and wants me, he makes plans with me, yet we don't do 'romantic stuff' and don't talk about our thoughts and feelings much... And, now that you have an idea of my ongoing relationship... I've met this guy on a long weekend with friends about a year ago and we 'zinged'. We're very similar, he's also calm, introverted, but very caring. We make each other feel special and good about ourselves. We message each other, we talk sometimes, but we don't push it. I know he likes me, and I know he knows that I like him, but we don't say it...because I have a boyfriend and I don't want to hurt him and while he knows the problems we have, the other guy respect it.  But I can't stop thinking about him. At first I thought it was a crush or something I felt because my boyfriend and I had problems, but still, I think about him and when I see him, it's like...i'm just happy. I think I'm (falling) in love with him. Yet, my boyfriend and I have been together for so long and we've been through so much...he's a kind of troubled person and I've been trying to help him and he's also been supporting me through a lot, even bad decisions. It feels kinda unfair even to just have feelings for someone else and thinking about being with someone else... What the hell should I do?
Ask the community | someone else
“I'm happy in love, but have feelings for another woman”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Ok so I am a guy and have a bit of a situation where I need some advice. I have been with my girlfriend for almost 5 years now. I love her and consider myself the luckiest I have ever been to have her. She is the most loyal and committed woman I have ever been with. Ever since the first few months of our relationship, we would stay at each others' houses every night and rarely spent nights apart. So we essentially lived with each other this entire time and have had very minimal problems or conflicts. We now have our own apartment and are still getting along as living partners great. That is the beautiful thing about our relationship is that we are so compatible and cooperative that we can spend every day with each other with little-to-no problems. Of course, there are small things that we get angry about (i.e. "how come I'm always the one doing blah blah?", "all you do is play video games", etc) but they are always temporary and they do not affect the structural integrity of our relationship. We have our ups and downs, and have even separated at one point because things were not working correctly. We eventually reunited and agreed to improve on (and we have improved on) the areas where we were lacking in our relationship. Today, we are strong, together and have big commitments in our future. BUT... here is my predicament. I have a friend that I met through work (we no longer work together currently) and have gotten to be very close friends. She confides in me about things she says she does not tell anyone else, even her family. We share several common interests, passions and get along very well. She has many desirable qualities as a woman and as a person in general. She is essentially the polar-opposite of my girlfriend in many regards. She's also drop dead gorgeous. She has also fought through some very adverse and tragic phases of her life on her own will and has made it to become a strong, independent, self-sufficient, and loving person. She still has her flaws, and actually comes to me for help and guidance. She has had a difficult past with relationships and has always seemingly ended up with guys who don't give her the love, care, commitment, dedication, etc. that she deserves. She has also stated that she is not ready for another relationship as she is still not over her ex-husband. Also, she doesn't get along with other women and doesn't have many female friends (which makes things more difficult) So recently, she has been just "hooking up", "seeing" and spending time with guys. All of which seem to just want to get in her pants. She's aware of what some guys are capable of, yet her actions still contradict what she really wants, which is to be single and emotionally heal from her previous relationship. We text each other very often and spend time with each other a lot (sometimes alone and sometimes with my girlfriend and other friends). I've always been physically attracted to her, but in the past few months other feelings have started to develop. I feel a connection with her. It feels wrong and I don't know how it even developed. I love my girlfriend and would never break my loyalty to her. However, I also understand that you simply can't change what your heart feels. I've tried to remedy this problem with an attempt to channel or reroute my feelings in an appropriate manner, in the form of being a good and loyal FRIEND. When she needs me, I'm there. If she needs advice, I'll give it. If she needs a smile, I'll try to make her laugh. That kind of thing. Purely platonic friendship. My strategy has held firm but as not solved my problem. I don't want to have feelings for this woman! Keep in mind I have never told her that I do have feelings for her. So just last night, we had a get-together/kickback at her place and my girlfriend and I went. Mind you, alcohol was involved. We were all having a great time. There were two guys that came, one of which she knew (and apparently liked). There came a point during the night where everyone (minus my girlfriend and I) became visibly drunk, including my friend. I know she is quite the belligerent drinker and doesn't think quite clearly when she drinks so I kept a close but subtle eye on her. She began making out with this guy (who I believe she has only know for a month or so). There was this feeling in my stomach and fire that started to burn in my mind when I saw it. Jealously? Maybe. The way I analyzed it in my own mind was that I was having a conflict within my own mind. One side of me has feelings for this girl and the other side of me knows her past and has a duty as a friend to protect her from situations where she will get hurt again. For the lack of a better phrase, this sucked ass for more than one reason. Not only did I feel guilty that I was jealous of what I was seeing because my girlfriend was there, but because I had no right to feel guilty! I care for this girl in more ways than one, but I want it to only be ONE way...the PLATONIC way. I don't want to jeopardize this relationship with my girlfriend that I've built for so long. I'm all out of ideas of how to remedy this situation. Do I tell the truth to her about how I feel and lay my cards out on the table? Would that solve anything? Do I continue trying to be a good friend? Will my feelings eventually dissipate or get even stronger? I really need some help here. Thanks.
Ask the community | someone else
How addiction can impact relationships
A substance use problem often leads to changes in a person’s behaviour that can be damaging to a relationship. They may be emotional and unpredictable. They may feel ashamed or fear the consequences of their addiction being discovered. They will sometimes lie to conceal the true extent of it. Secrecy and deceit can cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship. The partner of the addicted person may feel suspicious of the reasons for their partner’s behaviour. They might also feel confused, scared, or angry at the change in their partner and the unpredictable situation. When I discovered their addiction, the worst thing about it was that I’d been lied to. A partner with a substance use problem may have highs and lows - one moment happy and positive, and the next anxious, irritable, or depressed. They may be preoccupied and pay less attention to their partner. This unpredictable behaviour and mood can often cause arguments. If discussing the problem always leads to an argument, both partners may give up trying to talk, and communication can break down entirely. Then a distance grows between them. There may also be a loss of interest in sex or intimacy. If I try to explain why I started drinking, it turns into a row. It’s easier not to talk to each other at all. However, problematic substance use is not always hidden. Sometimes, someone knows that their partner has a problem but feels they are walking on eggshells as they try to keep the peace. They might also fear that, if they rock the boat, they will drive their partner further into their addiction. Sometimes, people will take on more responsibility in the home, with childcare and finances, to compensate for their partner becoming unreliable. They feel they have to take control of everything and that they have become a ‘parent’ to their partner. Children in the family can also suffer. The parent with the addiction may become withdrawn and lose interest in family activities. Their partner may be distracted because of juggling extra responsibilities. Children are often aware of arguments and tension in the home and feel scared and confused. And, if they get used to seeing addictive behaviour, they may learn and develop similar behaviour themselves.   What to do when dealing with a substance use problem Facing up to a substance use problem can feel hard, as it often makes the problem seem more real. But, in a relationship where one person has a problem, both partners may be in denial. If they both feel powerless to make changes, it can feel easier to pretend nothing is happening. The partner may feel ashamed to talk to family and friends about the problem. They may blame themselves or be embarrassed that outsiders will see their partner or relationship in a negative way. They may have been told by their partner not to tell anyone. There are then two people feeling very scared, resentful, and lonely in their own relationship.   Talking to an unbiased person outside of your relationship can be a real relief and a step toward change If you are experiencing problems in your relationship that are the result of addiction, it may be worth seeking professional help. Online relationship advice such as our listening room, support, information, and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, seek support from a specialist agency. If the problem is long-term, involves cutting or physical harm, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, you may need to seek face-to-face counselling via a specialist agency or your GP. You may find it useful to look at article ‘How do we move on from addiction as a couple?’ NEW: Relationship Realities - listen to real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction, substance abuse
4 min read
Keeping your individuality
We’re all different. We all have our own personality traits, habits, hobbies and passions that define us and make us who we are. Yet sometimes when we enter relationship, we find that our defining characteristics start to blur as we fall in step with our new partner. We give up going to our Saturday morning spin classes to go and watch football. We lose touch with friends. Sometimes, we even change the way we speak! We usually do this to bond with our new partner and learn more about their interests in the early stages of the relationship. However, as time goes by, many of us find that we’re still just going along with what our partner wants to do and no longer make the time for our old interests. When we move in with a partner, it can be even harder to maintain a sense of self. In extreme cases, people can find themselves changing their whole appearance and lifestyle to fit in with a partner. But, on top of losing your identity while you’re in the relationship, you put yourself at risk of being even more devastated if the relationship ends. You may feel like you’ve not only lost a partner, but a whole way of life. This can leave you feeling lost and confused over your own identity. Of course, you do have to make some compromises and small changes to make a relationship work, but you don’t have to give up everything that makes you happy. It’s possible to hold onto your individuality and have a strong relationship.   Set aside some ‘me time’ You and your partner don’t need to spend every moment together. It’s the quality of time you spend together that counts, not the quantity. Sit down and discuss a mutually convenient time when you can both be alone to pursue personal interests. Keep in mind that plans may have to change to fit around work and family commitments, so you and your partner must both be open to changing the schedule now and then.   Learn to say ‘no’ You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything your partner wants. This doesn’t mean you have to say ‘no’ to everything – it’s great to try new things – it just means you should look for a balance as you plan your activities.   Keep friends and family close Growing up, your friends and family were the people who helped shape you to become the person you are today. Keep in touch with the people who matter to you, and you’ll stand a better chance of keeping in touch with yourself.
Article | identity, self
3 min read
Overcoming jealousy and insecure feelings
Lots of people in relationships feel jealous from time to time, but it’s important not to let it get out of control. It's also important to recognise that your own insecurities might be playing a part. Here's our best quick-fire tips to help you manage jealousy and work towards a healthier, happier relationship. Recognise your good points Make a list of all the things you like and respect about yourself. In moments of insecurity, this can help to remind you why your partner loves you. Of course, the love from your partner and your own sense of self worth should go beyond a list of character qualities, but it's a good start.  Improve your self-esteem independently of your partner Try to spend time doing something you enjoy that makes you feel good about yourself. Consider taking up a new exercise or joining a class.  Think about how your situation appears to an outsider You may be able to rationalise jealousy in your own head, but think about what other people might think if they were to see your outbursts. Seeing yourself from someone else’s point of view can help you stay calm and in control. Take responsibility for your jealousy If your jealousy comes from your own insecurities rather than your partner’s actions, try to recognise and accept that this is the cause. In time, it could help you overcome the negative emotions. Change your attitude Healthy couples have separate interests. Try not to get jealous if your partner decides to spend an evening with friends. Make your own plans and look forward to having more to talk about when you’re next together. Create balance If your social life revolves around your partner, you might feel left out when they want to do their own thing. Take some pressure off your relationship by developing your own interests, catching up with old friends, and carving out some independence. Learn from past behaviour If jealousy has caused issues in your previous relationships, try learn from experience to make positive changes in your current relationship. Don’t make the same mistakes twice. Share your feelings This one might sound a little bit fluffy, but it's essential. Try to make your partner an ally in battling your jealous feelings. Be open when you’re feeling jealous and ask for your partner’s support. Explain that you know the feelings may not be rational, but that a little reassurance from them can help you let go and move on.
Article | insecurity, jealousy
3 min read