Are you too busy for your marriage?

William Doherty believes that in today’s  – “cell-phone obsessed, distracted, individualistic, consumer driven, media saturated and work orientated world”, people experience less spark, less intimacy and less focus on the couple relationship. Add to that the modern “child centered” parenting approach and it is evident why some marriages drift into decline over time.  Parents become focussed on parent-child rituals, and transfer their devotion onto their children.  One day they wake up and wonder where their connection went.

  • Are you too busy for your marriage? Between work, raising kids, managing daily life, do you put in the work required to keep your connection alive?
  • Have you started taking one another for granted? Special times alone take a back seat, we become habituated to each other and forget that it started with just the two of you, especially when the kids come along.
  • Spouses often have different work orientations towards marriage. Although I am generalizing, men seem to think that once the chase is over, they can relax and put working on the relationship on the back burner. Women are confused and wonder where the romance has gone. Wives usually put making the marriage work high on their agenda, until they settle for their husband’s standards and stop trying. This is when marital drift happens.
  • Is your “relaxing with each other” time in front of the television, instead of focussing on one on one sharing?
  • Are you bringing work home with you? Very often people feel that they need to work in the evenings to cope with their workload. They spend a brief time together, often devoting that time to the kids, and then immediately sit behind their laptops, while their partner goes off of bed.
  • Are cell-phones and social media drawing your attention away from your partner? Do you find chatting on social media more interesting than sharing with the person next to you?

We all want to be loved, admired and cared for. If you are committed to your relationship for the long haul, resist all the above things that are pulling you apart, and work on restoring your couple connection.

Keeping a close connection in your relationship

Do you feel that you and your spouse/ partner have drifted apart? This is one of the reasons that relationships flounder in today’s fast moving world.  Are you drifting in different directions? If so, what can you do to restore your former intimacy?

Your relationship is as important as any other facet of your life, so make time for it, and give it sustained effort – every day.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you absolutely absorbed by social media, phones and TV? Take time out from social media, and do the old fashioned thing – sit together and communicate. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Ban phone and IPad use in the bedroom. It’s the time to be fully present for each other.
  • Are you spending quality time together – just the two of you? Dedicate some time and do activities that you enjoy together. Make some time for regular dates.
  • Are you spending all your time on your children? Give your children adequate time, but remember that to keep the relationship strong, you need to focus on each other. The kids will be fine – but they need the stability of a family that stays together.
  • Do you take your partner for granted? Your family, kids and work are all important.   Do you attach the same importance to being fully present for your husband or wife? To feel appreciated your partner needs to feel prioritized and appreciated.
  • Do your parents, family and friends support your relationship? Negative outside influences can derail your relationship. Get rid of them.
  • Do you display affection to each other? Human touch is so important. Hugs, kisses and holding hands are a very important form of connection. Regular sex needs to happen to maintain intimacy.
  • Are you too focused on material things? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by putting all your focus on “having things”.
  • Is your attention on what you can put into the marriage? We form relationships to satisfy our partner’s needs. Whose needs are you focussing on?
  • Are you showing your true self to your partner? Share goals, hopes, dreams, desires and fears to build that intimate space.
  • Are you concentrating on what makes your partner happy?   Connect during the day – either by phone or text, just to let them know that they are in your thoughts. Be kind and respectful.
  • Are you so consumed by work that you have to engage with work matters during your free time? Time to question work life and your priorities.

If you are looking for more inspiration, “Take back your Marriage” by William Doherty is a good read.

Is your teen struggling with self harm?

I think that being a parent of teens can be quite terrifying. Never has the world been more connected and yet families are becoming more disconnected. Children are subject to many influences each day through social media. Trends spread like wildfire. In my experience, people cut for several reasons:

  • They do not have the coping skills for dealing with strong emotions
  • They may feel worthless and angry with themselves and therefore cut to release the pain
  • They may make mistakes and cut to punish themselves
  • Some feel emotionally numb and the pain from cutting is temporally stimulating
  • Their families are in turmoil and the cutting releases anxiety. They may be the ones that are showing stress because of what is going on in the family circle
  • They have periods of intense sadness and seem disconnected
  • There friends are doing it, so they try it and become almost addicted to the sensation and adrenaline rush

Primarily, cutting is a maladaptive response to emotional problems and should not be taken lightly. Your teenager could also be suffering from symptoms of depression and should be checked out by a mental health professional.  Cognitive behavioural therapy may help to change thoughts and behaviors.   Do not just hope that they will “grow out of it”.  They need to learn better coping skills and the matter should be immediately addressed.  With better coping skills, their symptoms can be remedied.

Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Have open discussions with them.  Canvas their opinions.  Practice empathy. If you are cutting, talk to your parents and ask for their help.

Enrich your relationship

Are you feeling a bit stuck in your marriage or relationship?

Are you living past each other as you struggle to cope with your stressful life?

Do you wish you could get closer to your partner but it’s just not working?

This is the first in a series of blog posts on ways to enrich your relationship.

Number one – identify the reasons why the relationship may be stressed.  Are the stressors external (finances, family demands) or are they internal (communication, conflict resolution)? Once the stressors have been identified – and you will need to sit down with your partner and discuss – you can start working on them.  External stressors are more easily identifiable – and can play a large part in creating arguments and constant bickering.  Keep the conversation light and collaborative – avoid blaming each other.  It’s a question of saying: “What can we do about this”?

If the stressors are external– financial – partner with your spouse and take ownership of the problem. Do a spreadsheet of your finances, and track where the money is being spent.  Are your expenses realistic – or are you spending more than you are bringing in? You will need to repay the debt at some time, and it will not go away.  Stop waiting for that windfall to pay the debt!  Get real, and make a plan to cut your expenses now – even if it means downsizing in the short term. If your debt is huge, perhaps look at consolidating the debt and create a payment plan.

Other external stressors could be time spent at work, not enough time for family or perhaps the extended family is causing the stress? Be honest with each other and make a plan to create boundaries and manage them. Your intimate marital space is the most important, and you need to protect it.  Remember, it started with just the two of you, committing to a life together, and you need to nurture that core.

More on the relationship space in my next blog……………………………………

Carol Nader



You will marry the wrong person

This headline caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. Don’t we go to great length to marry the right person?  We date for a while, get to know them, get to know their families, colleagues, friends, etc.  We try to ensure that we share their interests – and even after that – we have zero chance of marrying the right person?

Why? Because unless we married a clone of ourselves, there is no person on this earth that will understand all our needs, wants, desires, etc.  We marry, then throw two family systems into the mix, add a couple of kids, and expect that we will grow at the same rate.  Events can and will alter our lives completely.   There will be times when we need comforting and our partner is not really conscious of this need.  The idea that all needs will be fulfilled in a marriage is totally unrealistic – as we are married to a person who has diverse wants and needs of their own.

Before marriage we rarely delve into the complexities of living closely with a partner. We are hopeful, optimistic, romantic and so is our partner.  However, marriage moves us onto a different plane – admin and financial planning, running a suburban home,  giving up our independence, learning how to bring up kids, navigating life events, work frustrations, etc.   The only ingredient that we have in common when we embark on life as a couple is our partner.

Do we fully understand ourselves, anyway? So how can we fully understand another?

If the above is true, it follows that we will probably choose a so-called “wrong” person. However, this can be good news.  Alain de Botton states  that all we need to do is “let go of the romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based for the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.”  Once we let go of that notion, we stop expecting all our needs to be met, and become used to the idea that sometimes they won’t be.

We need to choose our partner carefully and then hope that we will marry a “more right than totally wrong” person, who is good at negotiating differences in taste, and tries to be “more right” for you. We must avoid rushing into unions because we are lonely or feel that “time is passing us by.” We need to be aware that the nice feeling of romanticism will not last, but can be replaced by understanding, open communication, and a willingness to try and satisfy our partner’s needs.

The good news is that you can make it work. Get rid of the notion that your union is not “normal” and learn to accommodate the “wrongness”, and strive for a more forgiving, respectful and kind perspective.

Taken from an article by Alain de Botton in the New York Times. May 28th 2016.  Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is the author of the novel “The Course of Love.”



There is a lot of information available about what can damage a relationship, but very little on what to do to have a good relationship.  These are some of the things I have noticed about couples in good relationships.

  • They have open communication – they take time to talk about their relationship and ask what part they can play to make the other happier. They take turns to find out what the other needs. They have the courage to be open and truthful. Avoiding issues often leads to frustration and estrangement.  They practice constructive discussions. If you can’t discuss these issues without getting into arguments, have a one off session with a counsellor.  Inform him/her what the agenda is.
  • They commit to the basic values underlying the relationship or the “relationship rules“. These mutual agreements are the foundation on which any relationship is built. They reach agreement on what is “kind” and “respectful”   and update these “rules” when new issues arise.   Think win = win.  I often have couples that come to counselling within the first year or two of getting married. Most of their issues arise because of a lack of discussion on basic values and how each sees the way forward.
  • They try to feel their partner’s pain. They care about what hurts each other. Put yourself on the back burner and offer empathy, compassion and caring, even if it does not particularly resonate with you. Hopefully they will return the empathy when you need it.
  • They try not to be selfish and endeavour to put their partner’s needs before their own. This can be a difficult one. After all, whose needs should come first? Sometimes we have to sacrifice our needs for what the other needs at the time.  Partners who love each other deeply constantly keep their mate’s needs in mind.  Unselfish emotional chivalry usually is rewarded in kind.
  • They keep an emotional hotline open at all times. They are emotionally receptive and in times of trouble, offer emotional support and compassion, without expecting anything back.
  • They are courageous and strong when needed. Let your partner know that you have got their back. Capitalize on each other’s strengths and your relationship will feel emotionally safe.
  • They believe that their partner is committed to doing his/her best, even if sometimes it does not feel like it. Great couples believe that their partner is doing the best that they can under the circumstances. Trust each other’s good intentions instead of being critical.
  • They do not kick the other when they are down. Be tuned into their failings and self-criticism and do your best to lift them up. Tell him/her what you love about them.
  • They appreciate each other and keep in mind that the “now” is all there is. True security is often an illusion. Treasure each other and be thankful for their presence in your life.  Tell them!
  • They keep confidentiality and honour individual boundaries to build trust. Keep your partner’s secrets for a lasting relationship. No one likes to feel betrayed.  If you are unsure about what can be shared, ask permission.  That is respectful.
  • They validate their partner’s desires. You may have different needs at different times, and commit to being fair. Whether it is sexual frequency, external shared interests, family obligations, etc. Give in sometimes and give them the space that they need – when they need it.
  • They practice resilience and commit to the relationship for the long haul. People in great relationships literally don’t want to lose each other. All relationships have some heartbreaks and ruptures, but the winners are those who navigate the speed bumps and let their partners know that they will not shut each other out.  They commit their energy to trying harder to work out their problems and keep the emotional connection alive.  Remember, change starts with you.[i]
[i][i] Thanks to Randi Gunther for her excellent article on the 14 secrets to having a great relationships – it inspired this blog.


What you can expect from your therapist

I often find that individuals enter therapy with certain worries.  They worry about the therapist judging them, perhaps telling them to do something that they don’t want to.  Often couples fear that the therapist may “tell them to get divorced”.

I do my best to dispel those fears, but I thought that it might be a good idea to explain the therapy process because there does not seem to be much education in that regard.  Most insights into the therapy process are gleaned from the experiences of friends and family.

First of all, according to Carl Rogers – it is the relationship between the therapist and patient that heals.  Not all patients can relate to a particular therapist, so it’s a good idea to go to the first session with that in mind.  If you do not relate, then look for another therapist.  Trained counsellors are aware of this fact and are quite open to recommending a colleague if you feel it could be a better  fit.  Nothing takes precedence over building a trusting relationship with the patient.  In fact, the effective therapist relates to the patient in a genuine, unconditionally supportive and empatic manner.  For a creative session to take place, the counsellor needs to abandon a position of certainty.  No therapist can predict the outcome of the therapy and needs to adopt a position of “not knowing”  or learning.  The patient is the expert on their lives, and the therapist functions more as a companion or guide than an expert.

In his memoir, Karl Jung, commented that therapist need sto invent a new therapy language for each patient.  I strongly agree, and often I will adopt the patient’s “language” to build a strong  connection.  We also may, at some point, as long as it is in the best interests of the patient, alsoreveal certain details of his/her personal life, in an effort to be authentic and genuine.  I often get complaints from patients who have found their therapist too removed, too remote.  I have never heard of a patient who complains that the therapist is too engaged, too interactive, too personal.

So we:

  • Do show unconditional positive regard. That is the first step.
  • Rarely give advice. Often sketch different scenarios, to illustrate alternatives to the patient.
  • Don’t judge or take sides in a couple’s therapy session.
  • become the partner on the journey in a safe, confidential space with the patient.
  • Are bound to a strict code of ethics and confidentiality
  • Can be objective as a patient sketches a scenario. We do not have an emotional investment in the outcome.
  • Do enter the patient’s world, wholeheartedly, and provide a safe space where alternatives can be explored
  • We enter the patient’s world where they are, go at their pace and collaborate with them to make the changes they desire.