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Dip Couns (MBACP). Dip Supervision. MNCS (Accred). DC Hyp (MNRAH) Counselling, Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy for individuals and couples
in Farnham, Surrey & Hassocks, Sussex

Four Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Relationship in 2022

What Are the Five Love Languages?

As a couples counsellor in Farnham, I have seen how members of a relationship like to receive and give love in different ways. We are all different; something that may be incredibly meaningful to one person may be irritating or upsetting to another. Knowing your partner’s ‘love language’, therefore, is so important for maintaining proper communication and a happy dynamic within a relationship. To help you understand your partner better, this blog walks you through the five different ‘love languages’ out there. 

Words of Affirmation

Many people value verbal demonstrations of affection. This could entail frequent “I love you’s”, compliments, appreciative comments, encouragement, and, especially among younger people, frequent communication through texting and social media. People like to feel understood, seen, and appreciated, and for some the most powerful way of doing this is in a verbal sense. 

Receiving Gifts

Gifts are a common and rather straightforward love language. These visual symbols of love are less about their monetary value but more the symbolic thought behind them. Above anything, people treasure the time, effort, and knowledge that has gone into choosing an item; it demonstrates that the other person knows and cares about their partner. If gifts are a ‘love language’ for someone, they will deeply cherish - and keep - all the things they receive, however large or small – such is the impact it has on them. 

Quality Time

A number of people feel most loved when their partner actively wants to spend time with them on a regular basis. This could include weekends away, dinner dates, or simply spending an evening together at home. By extension, they value the partner being highly present: active listening, eye contact, and not going on your phone goes a long way. That sense of receiving undivided attention - of having meaningful conversations and feeling truly seen - makes them feel special, appreciated, and loved.

Physical Touch

Intimacy and physical touch serve as an extremely popular love language, given that this is the most tangible form of affection. For many, this craving goes back to childhood; those who received high levels of physical love from their parents will naturally place considerable importance on touch in future relationships. People who feel this way obviously enjoy sex, and want lots of it, but also value more subtle gestures like handholding, touches to the arm, cuddling on the sofa, or receiving a massage. 

Acts of Service 

A person may cherish their significant other doing small things for them, such as doing the dishes, running errands, making cups of tea, and so on. Someone who falls in this category derives great value from their partner doing minor tasks that make their life a little easier. These people consider actions - especially practical ones - to be much more important than words. They get incredible comfort from receiving a tangible sign that their partner cares.

If you are having trouble communicating with your partner, or feel like there isn’t as much love in your relationship as before, I offer couples counselling in Farnham that gives you the space to explore these feelings and move to a better place. Feel free to get in touch to arrange an initial consultation.

Take the quiz here to find out your love language.


What To Do if Your Partner Has Depression or Anxiety

Over the years as a couples counsellor in Farnham, I have seen how partners, despite having the most loving intentions, often struggle to help their partner when they’re in a dark place. Often they can make the situation worse by saying the wrong thing, or not properly acknowledging their problems, which only serves to create more distance between the two of you.

Giving the right support to someone with anxiety and/or depression is not easy - especially when you love them. Depression and anxiety, although commonplace, are complex problems, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to provide expert support. To help you out, this blog post walks you through a few things to keep in mind if you have a partner experiencing depression and/or anxiety.

Remember It’s Not About You

When your partner is aloof, highly stressed, lacking in energy, or frequently having outbursts of anger, it can be easy to feel like they are experiencing these emotions because of you. You may believe you have done something wrong, or not done something right. People have a tendency to make someone’s emotions about them, but doing this only makes the situation worse. It is important to remember that depression or anxiety often doesn’t have a specific reason. The factors that contribute to someone’s depression/anxiety are complex, stem from childhood, and have nothing to do with you.

Don’t Be a Problem Solver

It is common for people to try and come up with ‘solutions’ to their partner’s depression or anxiety. This is understandable: we love that person dearly, and we want them to feel better. But depression and anxiety are both more complicated than that. There aren’t any comprehensive one-stop solutions. The best thing you can do is simply be there for them and hear them, rather than constantly trying to change the situation. Again, this can only make things worse.

Help Out With Small Things

If your partner is struggling with depression or anxiety, they may find it difficult to stay on top of the small tasks of everyday life, such as washing dishes or preparing meals. Helping them out in this way takes some of the pressure off their shoulders and shows them that you are looking out for their needs. Do whatever you can to make their life a little easier.

Look After Yourself and Stay Active

It is important to remember to look after yourself when you’re looking after a partner with depression or anxiety. Sometimes, in these instances, we can forget about our own needs, so be sure to keep practising healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy balanced diet, and perhaps even reading up on mental health to learn more about what your partner is going through.

Seek Help

Your partner may not want to see a professional about their depression or anxiety, or even deny that they have a problem in the first place. They could be of the opinion that things will never improve for them, but your role as their partner is to show them love and insist that life can get better. Finding professional support is the first step towards reaching a place of greater stability, so take care to gently prod them in the direction of a qualified therapist.

If you find yourself in this situation, I am here to provide non-judgmental, confidential counselling in Farnham for depression and anxiety, working with both individuals and couples. Feel free to get in touch with me at any time.


Relationship Exits - How a Relationship Breaks Down In Three Stages

My experience as a couples counsellor in Farnham has shown me that many relationships often break down in the same way. There is a specific pattern that a long-term relationship will follow and, if not recognised it can lead to your partnership/marriage breaking down entirely.

This pattern is known as relationship exits: when a partner does things in a relationship that prevents them from connecting with the other leading to the couple drifting apart. Failing to share feelings with a partner means they end up being expressed as actions - actions that often lead to a relationship breaking down.

To help you understand relationship exits and spot them when they happen this blog post walks you through the three different tiers of exits that many couples go through once they stop communicating properly.

Common Exits

Common exits refer to everyday activities - exercise, cleaning, doing admin, etc. that we do in order to avoid connection. There may be an issue that needs to be addressed and, if a partner obsesses over small activities to avoid tackling this important topic, they are engaging in common exits. Putting these little barriers between yourself and your partner can be destructive; the space between the two of you becomes polluted.

Serious Exits

When couples fail to notice these common exits they ultimately slip into serious exits. If a couple has engaged in these common exits for a long period of time they lose that sense of connection and vitality in their relationship and, as a result, they seek those qualities from elsewhere. This could involve drinking, gambling, drug use, or affairs. These harmful activities are inevitable if partners don’t properly engage with each other for a prolonged length of time.

If you don’t recognise these common exits for what they are and fail to make an active effort to connect with your partner serious exits end up becoming the norm leading to an insurmountable chasm developing between the two of you.

Catastrophic Exits

Eventually, as serious exits tarnish a relationship to the point where it becomes beyond repair, the couple in question will suffer a catastrophic exit. This usually manifests itself in separation or divorce but sometimes tragic events like murder or suicide can happen. These are the most extreme common exits, and they occur on a daily basis.

If you feel your relationship is drifting, or in a rut, and would like to work towards getting it to a better place, I provide couples counselling in Farnham. My practice gives you a safe space to work through any issues and feel more connected to each other. Please do get in touch if you would like to know more.


What is Codependency?

A common aspect of my work as a relationship counsellor in Farnham and online is supporting people who have become codependent in relationships. Both partners can be codependent, or it can just be one member of the relationship. It is defined as a “specific relationship addiction characterised by preoccupation and extreme dependence - emotional, social, and sometimes physical - on another person”.

In other words, codependency is an unhealthy and unsustainable dynamic, causing a number of issues to develop in a relationship. It stems from a lack of self-esteem brought about by unstable relationships from the past, particularly childhood, and will, if left unexamined, perpetuate itself in every new relationship.

For this blog post, we will look at two main signs of codependency in a relationship, and how one can look to break the cycle.

Lack of Meaning Outside the Relationship

Someone who is codependent will lose a sense of themselves outside of the relationship. They end up sacrificing their own personal identity, interests, and values. They stop being an independent person with their own unique character, and instead only find meaning in something if it happens in the context of their relationship to a partner. This extreme dedication to one person often means that friends and family end up being neglected, along with their work life and everyday responsibilities like cleaning or keeping up with admin.

Ignoring Your Own Needs

Codependency is underpinned by a considerable lack of self-worth. Someone with low self-esteem, who relies on others for approval, is much more likely to become codependent. They will, when it comes to relationships, relentlessly prioritise someone else over themselves, and base their mood on how the other person feels and behaves. Even if the relationship is bad for them, they will stay locked into this unhealthy dynamic and actually feel guilty about thinking of themselves in relationships, becoming unable to voice their personal needs and/or desires.

What To Do About Codependency

Overcoming dependency is a gradual process. It requires small steps, and can’t be done overnight. The first thing to do is acknowledge the codependency and understand the negative role it plays in your life. Just like with addiction, which is not dissimilar to codependency, recognising that you have a problem is the first step towards solving that problem. I always encourage someone in this position to spend time with supportive family and friends, but the real work comes with looking at the low self-esteem that caused this codependency and understanding where it originally comes from, ahead of working to feel more empowered as an individual.

If you are struggling with codependency in a relationship and would like a confidential place to talk it through, give me a call or email to discuss counselling in Farnham or online.


Maternity Loss: 3 Things To Keep In Mind

Over the years as a bereavement counsellor in Farnham and online, I have worked with a number of parents who are battling with the pain of losing a child. Life is never quite the same after maternity loss, whether it’s during or after pregnancy, and it is normal to feel like you have lost a part of yourself forever. Dealing with something so monumental obviously takes time, but there is, I can assure you, life after the death of a child.

To help you during this difficult period, this blog post walks you through three things that I have seen to be helpful when working with clients to process maternity loss.

Have a Routine

This may seem like an obvious one, but establishing a routine is so important, and harder to do than you think. You might stop eating, or stop eating well, or no longer exercise. Perhaps you start to neglect everyday responsibilities. Not completing these tasks only makes your life more hectic and overwhelming, so establishing a good routine that you stick to is particularly crucial. It will act as an important psychological anchor. Even something small, like taking a walk every day or making sure you eat breakfast, can make a useful difference.

Accept That Your Relationship Will Change

Parents need to accept that their dynamic will inevitably change after the death of a child. Perhaps you will grow apart over time. Couples sometimes do decide to move on after such a life-changing event because the feelings and memories evinced by that partner can be too painful. Ending the relationship is, for some, the best way to move past the death of a child.

On the flipside, however, this experience creates a bond between the two people that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Only you and your partner know how that pain feels, and as a result having them close to you might feel even more important than before.

Reach Out

In such a dark time, you have to remember that you aren’t alone. Friends and family are always an option, of course, but there are also people out there who have suffered a similar experience, and speaking to them about your feelings can be particularly helpful. There may be people there further down the road of grief after a maternity loss who can offer valuable advice on how to deal with these challenging times. Either way, the thing to remember is that keeping these feelings all to yourself is never healthy or productive.

If you have recently suffered a maternity loss and would like a confidential, supportive place to speak about your emotions in any way you like, I am here to provide you with personalised bereavement counselling in Farnham or online. Don’t hesitate to get in touch to set up an initial consultation at a time that suits you.


How Shame and Guilt Can Erode a Relationship

When clients come to me for relationship counselling in Farnham or online there are two feelings that almost always crop up: shame and/or guilt. Over time they have a way of showing up in relationships even if neither partner does anything particularly wrong like having an affair or neglecting their loved one in some other way. Without proper communication, and both sides making an effort to be truly open, shame and guilt can appear.

To help you understand this area a little better, and recognise these feelings when they show up, this blog post explores a couple of ways I have seen relationships suffer at the hands of unexplored shame and/or guilt.

Reinforces Unhealthy Patterns

Guilt and shame are forms of anxiety and, as a result, they tend to govern the way we think on a daily basis particularly in the context of relationships. It gets to a point where we create self-fulfilling prophecies that ultimately reinforce the exact fear that we have. Our guilt and shame bring into existence the very things we are guilty or ashamed of.

For instance a partner who feels guilty about arriving late from work will carry that nervous energy into the home trying to compensate for missing dinner or quality time with the children even when the partner has insisted they shouldn’t worry. The guilty/ashamed partner will change the way they behave bringing feelings of stress, resentment and restlessness into the home. The other person will naturally react stiffly reinforcing the belief that they are angry and causing more shame and guilt to develop. It becomes a vicious cycle that erodes closeness in a relationship.

Prevents True Connection

More importantly, however, shame and guilt will inhibit one’s ability to connect in their relationship. If we are fearful of sharing our feelings, or exploring why we feel shame with our partner, we will naturally withdraw into ourselves and not have those important honest conversations that serve as the backbone of any successful relationship.

If we are guilty about something - whether it is a specific event like adultery or guilt over one’s overall way of being - we end up living in constant fear of the partner’s criticism and disapproval. This will mean you don’t share how you truly feel which in turn generates feelings of resentment that we keep bottled up until they breed their own kind of poison erupting in fits of anger or dissociation.

Ignoring feelings of shame or guilt never works. Working through them is the only way to maintain a happy, healthy relationship. If you would like to explore this area further with a relationship counsellor in Farnham or online, please do get in touch.


How Workplace Relationships Can Affect Your Mental Health

We spend the majority of our week at work either at home or at some designated location (offices, restaurants, building sites, etc.) and the quality of our relationships during these hours plays an important role in our overall mental wellbeing. We care immensely about having a peaceful home life where we should feel comfortable and at ease and if we don’t have this security problems like depression and/or anxiety can develop.

This also applies to our working environment. If we don’t feel secure, or we wake up every morning dreading going to work, it takes a considerable toll on our wellbeing. Given the impact it can have this area of our life is not scrutinised enough. And so, in this blog post, we will explore some of the relationship challenges that occur at work.

Abuse

Compared to many years ago the amount of abuse in the workplace has reduced. There is far less tolerance for bosses who practice any kind of overt abuse. Instilling fear into employees is no longer seen as the most effective way of increasing productivity which was the case not so long ago. That said subtle forms of abuse do still occur. This could involve being subjected to a series of passive aggressive, grating comments from a co-worker or manager that gradually wear you down over time.

Sexual abuse also remains a massive issue. This could, once again, simply be a comment or perhaps inappropriate touching of the shoulders and women (and sometimes men) living under these circumstances experience high levels of emotional pain. They don’t feel safe, always have to be on guard and subsequently become anxious, depressed, guilty, or angry.

Neglect

A more common problem when it comes to workplace relationships is neglect. Many people enjoy friendly, harmonious work environments but a lot of the time it can feel like these people you spend 8 hours a day with are strangers. When someone feels distant it’s hard to properly open up to them. This is often the case with managers or supervisors who are higher than you in the hierarchy and usually quite busy.

And so, if you were struggling with any issue such as anxiety or something at home, it can feel impossible to speak to your colleagues about these problems. They may not care about your mental issues and, instead, only want to ensure you get your work done without stopping to look at the wider picture. This form of neglect can be especially difficult to deal with.

Isolation

Many people, in the wake of the pandemic, have had to adjust to working from home permanently or at least a few days a week. And while this has been beneficial for parents with young children, who can now spend more time with them, there are plenty of young professionals out there who are consigned to spend inordinate amounts of time in their rooms completely alone.

In this sense the lack of any workplace relationships can be a problem. Of course, companies use platforms like Zoom, Teams, or Discord to bridge this gap but it never comes close to genuine daily in-person interactions. Not having these relationships can breed a sense of loneliness which in turn augments issues like low self-esteem, depression or anxiety.

If you are having any kind of relationship problem at your workplace I offer completely confidential relationship counselling in Farnham and online. Please do get in touch with me if you have any questions at all.


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