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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

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



Choosing mediation over litigation in the event of a divorce

Many couples who choose to divorce, may find themselves in a somewhat diminished situation when the proceedings are all over.   Although some need the expertise of lawyers, often well trained mediators can provide a somewhat cheaper alternative when discussing division of assets, maintenance and the compilation of a parenting plan. 

 Divorce mediation provides a less costly and more civil alternative to separation or divorce.

  • Solutions sought in mediation take into account the needs of all family members and aims for a win-win situation to an often emotion filled negotiation.
  • As both parties are involved in the decisions, they are more likely to uphold their agreements.
  • It is a future orientated process, with little focus on the past and full focus on the present and future.

The more important aspects of mediation are:

  • It is non-adversarial – both parties are fully involved with any decisions made
  • It is mutual – if there is not mutual agreement, the process does not work
  • It is empowering – Each member controls all the decisions of his or her life. Usually drawn from the Psychology and Legal Profession, trained mediators ensure that the parties remain focused, confidentiality is maintained and communication remains positive. They assist with the exploration of alternative solutions, while providing up to date information and moving the process to a fair outcome.

Mediation is said to be successful if:

  • There is full disclosure of all relevant facts
  • The outcome meets the joint and individual needs of all parties involved
  • There are no victims as a result of the agreement
  • Channels of communication have been open and direct
  • The parties have made empowered decisions and demonstrated negotiation skills.
  • The process is unhurried and the mediators draw up an agenda reflecting the concerns of both parties.

Stage one:

Initial contact, explanation of the process and creating trust, explaining and setting ground rules and contracting for mediation.  The couple will sign a full agreement to mediate at this stage and an agenda will be set for future sessions.

Stage two:

The agenda will be agreed upon and relevant information, such as proof of income and assets will be collected.  Often a child interview will be conducted at this stage (by a qualified counsellor) to ascertain how the children understand the process of divorce and they are also given an opportunity to express their wishes.

Stage three:

The parties involved will clarify their positions and be guided into generating options.

Stage four:

Here the parties involved negotiate and make decisions.  These decisions are not binding until a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed.

Stage five:

The process culminates with the writing up, and signing of, the Memorandum of Understanding and a Parenting Plan.  Having agreed on all decisions, the parties are then free to take this to an attorney of their choice to be converted into a final divorce document and to legally end the marriage.

Mediation is therefore, voluntary, self-empowering, goal directed, non-adversarial, mutual, and confidential and provides a cost effective way of ensuring that all parties concerned can separate with the confidence that an optimal agreement has been reached.  Parties may return to mediation at any time to made amendments to the parenting plan or maintenance agreement knowing that they have a means of problem solving for the future.

Further information can be obtained from:

Carol Nader. 0117873486

The South African Association of Mediators website (SAAM).


John Haynes (1989): A guide to Divorce Mediation: Haynes Mediation Associates.

Jacqueline B Meyerowitz (1995): Unisa Department of Social Work, Study Guide 2, Marriage Guidance and Counselling. 1995.  Revised July 2010


True happiness is much more than just a burst of dopamine – it is a jumble of positive feelings and is often described as a sense of peace and a feeling of contentment.  A sort of “wanting what we have feeling”.   Not everybody is born with a “sunny” personality, but we all can learn to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives.

Often clients sit opposite me and ask the same question “what can I do to be happy”?  This question and the feeling of helplessness it evokes in me have led me to do some research on happy people.  Here are some of the facts that research shows:

  • Happy people allow pleasure and purpose to work together.  Happy people know that enjoying momentary indulgences such as playing with a baby, vegging out on the couch, or reading a great book is important to living a satisfying life.  They do take time out in their busy schedule to “sharpen the saw”.
  • Happy people opt for seeing the forest but not the trees.  It is said that satisfied people are less critical and detail oriented.  They tend to be open to strangers and are uncritical of others.  In short they don’t overthink things.  Paying attention to detail is good but “sweating the small stuff” often is emotionally draining.   Happy people may frequently possess a “devil-may-care” attitude about their performance – as concentrating on the minutiae can lead to decision paralysis.
  • Happy people view anxiety as an optimal state.  To sustain happiness is not only doing the things that you love, but pushing the boundaries, to grow and adventure beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.  To put it simply, happy people are curious.  Although wondering into the realm of “not knowing” can be anxiety producing – curious people know that sometimes being out of your comfort zone is the most direct route to learning new lessons and gaining a sense of mastery.  Happy people opt for the familiar loved routines and having novel experiences.
  • Happy people celebrate others’ good fortune.  In the workplace, social support has been found to be the biggest predictor of happiness at work. The happiest people share in the good fortune of others wholeheartedly, and bask in the glow when their own achievements are reflected back at them.    Research has found that discussing a positive experience with a responsive friend actually changes the memory of the event.  Equally important is that you will feel uplifted by your friend’s positive experience. Happy people have the ability to listen mindfully and put their own concerns/emotions aside.
  • Happy people don’t hide from negative emotions.  They view them as part of life, confront them head on – either standing up for themselves, letting it “roll off their backs “– or accepting responsibility and making some changes to their behaviour.
  • People do differ in their happiness matrices – some will find happiness in social belonging and doing things for others – while others prize a sense of mastery and achievement.  But all agree that a life well lived is more than just feeling up – it is a mixture of feeling content, occasional sadness,  a sense of purpose, playfulness and psychological flexibility, and includes control over one’s life, a sense of belonging and feeling loved.

In short, to visualize a happy person’s stance, one foot will be rooted in the present, with mindful appreciation of what one has – and the other foot reaching for the yet-to-be uncovered sources of meaning in the future.

Sources and further reading: 

“Your best life now”  Joel Osteen (2004)

“Happiness” Richard O Connor (2009)

“The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”.  Stephen Covey. (1989)

“What happy people do differently” Psychology Today. 8.8.2013

Energize your Relationship – Have a Conscious Marriage

In the course of a relationship, some of the things that attracted you about your partner can become irritants. Marriages go through dips and peaks, and without realizing it, we focus on negatives and forget about having  a Conscious Relationship.  Here are some tips to energize your relationships:

  • Use I messages if you are experiencing annoyance.  Rather start your sentence with “I would be happy if…….. “Or “I was thinking about bringing this up and do not want to hurt you…….”  Ask for what you need, but in a kind way.
  • After discussing the relevant issues, take a break from the “hot issues” or visit a counsellor who can facilitate the discussion and stop it turning into the same old argument.
  • Have you forgotten about “Date Night” – planning something fun that you would enjoy together – just the two of you?  (Your kids would rather have two happy parents who take some time for themselves)Don’t use this time to argue about old issues – they belong somewhere else.
  • Perhaps listen to your partner’s views on topics that interest both of you – you probably have forgotten how to listen – with your ears, eyes and heart.  Remember what you found interesting about them in the first place.
  • Focus on what attracted you to the person in the beginning.   Remember what sparked the romance.  You are still married to that person – you have just forgotten to notice.
  • Engage in a new activity together – something that you would both enjoy.  Start aerobic walking, purchase some cycles; hire some old movies that you used to enjoy.  Keep it up and you will re-find your best friend.
  • Concentrate on making your partner happy.  Do something that will make him/her happy.  Cook a favourite meal, surprise him by watching the rugby  with him even though it bores you. Watch those old episodes of Downton Abby with her.
  • Everybody has some baggage.  As my mom used to say “Rather stick to the devil you know than the devil you don’t”.  Work out what are serious issues for you, address them – and let go of the issues that are not.
  • Why do you always have to be right?  Does it matter?  – You can decide to be happy to this time.
  • Consult with a professional relationship counsellor.  They are able to be objective – see both sides of the question, and can mediate on most issues.

Sourced from