Category Archives: Solutions

Playdates for Adults. Conversations for a happier and more fulfilling relationship.

Are you feeling a bit disconnected from your partner and yearn for more closeness?  Making and keeping a date with your partner – often – helps couples to connect. Please remember that you married each other and not the kids.  Take some quality time away from the family.  The suggestions below are topics you can consider for your dates.  Do not get into a conflictual situation.  If that happens, shut it down.

Need suggestions? – here are some:

The first conversation is about trust and commitment.   Find a quiet and private place to have an honest conversation.

  • Where to go: Try an elevated location with a great view.  Relax and be open to the conversation
  • Talk about commitment – what it means to each of you? Is it just sexual fidelity or is it more about loving unconditionally and cherishing them – even if they have insecurities and quirks? Where do you both draw the line?  How is social media affecting us?
  • Ask your partner: Can you describe a time when you didn’t feel you trusted me, and what could I have done to fix the situation?  What do you need to me to trust me more?
  • How do you feel about social media and being connected to a lot of people?

The second conversation is about agreeing how we disagree.  Relation conflict is normal and natural but how are you managing it?  Some conflicts will never be resolved, and some we have to learn to live with/  What lies beneath the conflict?  Discussing this will give you some insight into your partners beliefs and personality>

  • Where to go? Again a place where it is quiet and peaceful and you can listen and discuss.  Hold hands while you talk to each other.
  • Discuss the top three things you argue about. Don’t dwell on the issues themselves. Rather talk about how you can manage conflict when these issues arise.
  • Ask your partner: How was conflict handled when you were growing up? What can I do when you are angry?  How do you like to make up after a disagreement?

The third conversation is on the controversial subject of finances. Research has shown that financial arguments are one of the top three issues couples fight about. Balancing doing the things you love and creating security for the future is difficult and it is necessary to discuss the meaning of money.

  • Where to go: This date should cost little or almost nothing.
  • Talk about what money means to each of you? Focus on all you have as opposed to what you don’t have. Don’t dwell on past mistakes made.
  • Ask your partner: How do you feel about work now? What will change in the future? How can I help you feel secure when you are worried about money?  How can we plan to create security for the future?

The fourth conversation is about Family.   We all have them, and we often have different ideas on how they should behave.  Don’t let resentment build and try not to criticize your partner’s family and parenting style.

  • Find a place that reminds you of a happy time during childhood. If you have this date at home, try to recreate your or your partners favorite dish – or both.
  • Discuss the family member who you consider is closest to you. Tell your partner what you love about them. Discuss any boundaries that need to be put in place.
  • Talk about your children’s best characteristics? What do they get from you and your partner?  What would you like to model?
  • Ask your partner: What can we do to deepen the relationships with our family and close friends? What do you love about being a parent with me?

Carol Nader. 2019

Controlling your anxiety

Many of us suffer from some type of anxiety.  I am aware that my lack of planning causes me a lot of anxiety. Here are some tips that can assist us with stress and anxiety by drawing on your inner strengths:


  • Have three mental inboxes in your head.

    •  Things that I “can control”. Things “I can control with help” and: Things that “I cannot control”.  Mentally assign the “can’t control” things to the requisite box.  What is the point of worrying about things that you cannot control?  All it down is paralyze and dis-empower you. Assign them to the powers that be. It will allow you to feel much lighter and assist you to proceed with other things

  • Are you good at planning?

    •  Have you ever thought of planning to prevent anxiety?  Plan for tomorrow, for that big appointment, even do a bit of practice.  If you feel really prepared, you will stress less.  Spend a bit of time at the end of each day to plan the following day!  Most of my stress emanates from my lack of planning or my bad habit of running a “little” late. 

  • What about an attitude of gratitude?

    • Anxiety often occurs when you feel that “life is out of control”?  How about writing down some of things that you are grateful for.  You probably have strengths that you are not aware of. If you focus on your strengths, instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you will feel more empowered.

  • Practice mindfulness

    •  If we constantly focus on the tasks at hand, without letting other thoughts intrude, we immediately feel calmer and more in control.  There are many good books about that can teach you the technique.  It really works…

  • Look at what is making you anxious and frame it differently.

    •  Are you starting to let your thoughts run away with you?  Is the situation really that difficult? Or have you just fallen into the habit of giving in to stress.  Dissect it and break the task down into small chunks.

  • Call on friends, mentors or counsellors

    •  to assist you with anxiety management techniques – sharing a problem often helps to bring one back to reality.

  • Forgive yourself

    • if you do fail – learn the lesson – and then move on. 




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.





How to become a more loving partner

Do you put as much effort into your relationship as you do in your work?

 We are in a relationship to fulfil the needs of our partner – not our own.  Do you ever think of that?  If your partner concentrates on your needs and you concentrate on his/her needs, then everybody should be happy.  Makes sense, doesn’t it!

However, much of the time we are in a “me, me me” frame of mind, focussing on what we need, want or long for.  Try switching this around and take some time to grasp what your partner feels and experiences when interacting with you.  Be kind and engage in behaviour that meets their wants and desires.  In fact, do you even know what your partner wants or desires?    Take the time to communicate and find out.

Listen; truly listen – with your ears, eyes and heart.  See that your partner feels heard and that what concerns him/her really concerns you.  We live in distracting times with a lot of sensory overload, so when listening, we need to tune out any distractions.

When your partner says that are not feeling well – how do you react?  Do you say “Oh, no, not again – or do you show some care and concern? Little acts of kindness can go a long way.  Just giving your partner a hug – or bringing them a cup of tea -can change the dynamic of your day and theirs too.  Try a little tenderness.

Don’t play tit for tat!  You do not have to win every argument.  Sometimes it is okay to say “it is more important for me to stay close to you and it is to win the argument”.  If you start feeling angry, take hold of yourself and calm down.  Next week, you may not even remember what the argument was about.

Above all, treat your partner as you would like to be treated – and if you are unsure of how they would like to be treated – ask them!


What makes relationships great?

In the course of my counselling career, I have often reflected on what makes relationships great.  Is it luck? is it good management? or does it all come down to consistent, loving effort?  Here are some things that I know will help:

  • Be conscious and present.  Focus on your relationship, and everyday be conscious of trying to make that person happy.  Little things mean a lot……………………………………
  • Make your home a happy, positive and emotionally comfortable living space.   Even if you are not feeling particularly upbeat, move into a positive gear when you get home.  It will rub off on others.
  • Create meaning within your relationship.  What is the purpose of your relationship?  Do you have a mission statement?  Discuss join short and long term goals.  Create a family mission statement and strive towards those values.
  • Reliability and responsibility go hand in hand to keep your relationship on an even keel.  Do what you say, keep your promises.  Brainstorm the “relationship rules” and commit to them. Don’t ignore your cellphone if your partner calls and you are out having a good time. If you can’t be home at the agreed time, send a sms to advise that you will be late.  It only takes a minute and puts your partner’s mind at rest.  If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and apologize.
  • If you make a commitment – keep it.  Even small lapses of “forgetting” erodes the trust and causes doubt.  Tell the truth.
  • Try to be understanding with regard to your partner’s stress and work concerns. Have conversations about motivation and the future.  Take time to listen, help him/her to grow and learn.  Give praise freely and often.  Respect their efforts and give your partner the space to grow within the relationship.
  • Balance your work and home life.  Do not allow your work to intrude upon your private space. If you need time to unwind after a stressful day, ask for it.  When you are at home, be fully present with your partner.
  • and finally -Make time for fun – surprise each other, keep a secret stash of small gifts that will raise their spirits.  Keep being spontaneous and your relationship will remain fresh and alive.