Relationship Excellence

Having a great relationship means taking responsibility for YOUR feelings, being vulnerable and open and willing to share what you are thinking / feeling.

Men, if you have a problem or a difficult feeling – Tell her! Perhaps you had a bad day at work or something went wrong.

Use “I feel…” words. She’s not going to solve your problem but she’d love to hear how you really feel and whether you really want her – when you go to your cave (to solve your problem) without explanation she has to second guess which is when women might feel a sense of rejection.

Of course many women know about the “man cave” but we would love to know that our relationship is “OK” so please take time to “check in”, which in turn builds our connection.

Many women also have a “woman cave”, yes, really.  When this happens it may be our time to allow healing from any overwhelm.  If this happens and you’re unsure, take time to appreciate our need for self-care, no need to solve our problems for us.

If you’re stressed at work and have no way of dissolving your feelings, take time to recognise this feeling; don’t take it home with you but if you do, it’s not about who’s done more or less at home – this is displacement and can be provocative energy. Ask her for the space you might need and take a break between responding and reacting. Explain you need some time out to help yourself. “Give me 5 minutes and I’ll be all yours.”

Women, if you have a problem with your man, ask for what you need/want! Examples like: “When you (behaviour) I feel (feeling). What I want is for you (different behaviour). Be clearer about what you want from him; we all make mistakes but if you’re not clear it just tends to drive resentment and can create a divide.

Many women know what they want from their man and sometimes feel they cannot ask; many men feel they have to second guess women’s  needs and desires, just like women feel they have to second guess their man when he goes cave-like to resolve things HIS way.

So you can see how problems can arise!

Women might say “I’m feeling sad today but it’s ok, you don’t need to fix me nor even understand me. I just want you to listen and know that you have heard me”.

Own Your Feelings! Sometimes we need to make those horrible, messy mistakes in order to build a deeper, longer lasting and loving relationship.

In addition – let’s talk about SEX!

Men need sex to feel connected; Women need to feel connected to have sex.

Which becomes more important?

Men may need to take time to build connections with your woman for a strong, connective relationship; woman, it’s OK to say no – if he is genuine and wants to build your relationship he WILL wait.  But be wary if you are avoiding intimacy as that can be detrimental.

As a postscript, this is a generalisation of gender differences in relationships; you may be a man and want to really understand your relationship or where it might be going if a crisis elsewhere in your life has occurred; a woman may “move into her cave” and you may need to step back as she resolves her feelings with those who she can turn to and be heard and she won’t want to hurt you.

Women may want to solve a relationship problem because you have no idea where you stand but you may not be able to do it with your man if he has retreated into a cave, silently OR he is taking part in other displacement activities in order to resolve his own problems with how he feels about you (which may or may not be the case!)  It’s important for a woman to get out and do what makes her happy. You can still Take Charge and tell him what you want.  Is this really how you want to be treated? If he won’t take responsibility, then you can.

We don’t need to UNDERSTAND each other (Ego); we simply need to respect and appreciate each others strengths and differences (Love) and let go of resentment and fear.

We also need transparency about needs and wants; if the relationship is not working now, what guarantees are there for the future?  The future is working itself out in the here and now.

What were your expectations when you started out in your relationship?

What to do when you disagree with your Partner

We are confronted by differences of opinion regularly; never more so in the news today at the time of writing given that Brexit is very much in the news basking in the 48 / 52 difference of opinion.  We are arguing with friends and neighbours, all determined that our perspective is right.

What often happens is that in a relationship, the dogma of “rightness” becomes so embedded in our psyche that we may even rally round friends and neighbours who agree with us to lend support to our argument that WE are the right person in all of this.  A belief is hard to shift.  But we need to adopt a birds’ eye perspective.

In a close relationship or marriage this presents us with a different problem.

Are they the person we married?

Are they even right for us?

Arguments can become extremely heated, each of us clinging to OUR opinion because of course it is right.

Reflect for a moment on this fact.  You both have strong opinions, in your eyes you are correct in holding this opinion.

But your beloved disagrees intently.

Take the vaccination argument, and one that has caused me personally problems in the past and with good reason.  I’d met several mums who believed quite fervently their children had been vaccine damaged, I’d read a lot of articles and followed doctors such as Dr Jayne Donegan to name a few.

My husband on the other hand had listened to government articles, and felt that societal guidelines were imperative to follow.

Regardless of the fact that we had seriously different perspectives we were both coming from the same point of reasoning.  Fear.  We both feared our children would suffer either a) if they did get vaccinated and experienced devastating side effects (a point that is open to debate), or b) died from a “serious” childhood illness (also a point open to debate).

Same motives, but different reasonings and objectives.

In new relationships where children are involved there can often be disagreements.  The natural reasoning behind this is that these children may not be yours and at times, you could feel “shut out” of that relationship.  Rather than controlling the situation or asserting your self as the “new” parent which causes more ructions, think about how that child might be feeling.  Express your feelings to your spouse or new partner in terms of how you feel and what outcome you would like.  Criticising the child for doing something that perhaps comes naturally will upset both child and their biological parent.

Other emotive issues may involve affairs.

1 person in the relationship has an affair – perhaps this was an opportunity presenting itself or perhaps there were other (deep seated or otherwise) issues in the original relationship.  The other person is left feeling betrayed, devastated, ignored, overlooked and more.  None of us may know entirely the circumstances behind the affair taking place but we do know that the repercussions can be felt for long into the future.

The unfaithful person may be contrite and not want their original relationship to end, they were simply seeking solace or wanting their partner to understand how much they might have been hurting.  Or they were simply taking advantage of an opportunity and were – in general – someone who couldn’t stay faithful.

The person to whom they have been unfaithful finds it hard to trust the other any more and whilst both parties may seek to hold things together the desire to lash out from both is very strong.  It may result in a relationship breakup –

“I deserve better”
“He/she betrayed me, I can’t get past that”
“If only he/she would listen, it may never have happened”
“That’s just the way he/she is, s/he will never change”
“S/he’s a complete b****”

And so forth.  Finding the common element here again, is FEAR.  We have lost something we thought we had, not had something we thought we wanted, not communicated the importance of a particular element in the relationship (in this case, fidelity).

Deep down neither of the partners’ needs have been met.  Neither of them are a true bitch or bastard (ok, there are some narcissists, controlling people out there but even these people often come from a position of fear).

It’s important for each individual partner to really think and voice what the essential ingredients are in a successful partnership / relationship / marriage.  Yet it is rare for any of us to really think anything through before we feel those thunderbolts of attraction as we fall headlong into a romantic love affair.

If you find you are struggling in your relationships, whether you are currently in one, are having disagreements in one or simply want to ensure your next relationship is one that you really want, then download this Relationship Vision guide and get in touch.

Book an appointment with Malmesbury Therapies with Kate using SetMoreAre you operating out of FEAR or LOVE?
What is more important, to be RIGHT or KIND?
What Outcome do YOU want?

Fuzzy Boundaries

Do you have fuzzy boundaries? Do you keep in touch with ex’s or permit loved ones to contact you whenever it suits them?

Are you afraid you will lose your relationship if you’re not available 24/7?

Are you concerned that if you’re not in constant contact, the person you contacts you will somehow fail, take drugs, do something silly and you feel you’re the ONLY person who can help them?

With regards to ex’s often people stay in touch for a myriad of reasons.

  • They’re the father / mother of our son / daughter
  • They upset me and I want them to know about it
  • They abused me and I want to teach them a lesson that it’s not ok
  • They left me and I don’t know why and still want to understand
  • We had constant arguments and I want to explain my perspective
  • They had an affair and I want to punish them / understand why / get even


And so the list goes on. Obviously I’m not saying you must avoid contact with your ex if you have children and shared arrangements, but keep the conversation about arrangements and the children ONLY. Do not use that as an excuse to open up emotional issues and problems concerning your relationship. You Broke Up, remember? They’re not going to suddenly change nor is your relationship going to immediately improve. Your patterns of relating can only change if you both change.

The only reason for the contact is because you want contact.

Nothing more.

What will the contact actually GIVE you? More frustration? More misunderstanding? More arguments? More hurt? More loneliness that you’re not together any more? Envy of the new partner? Anger / Sadness / Frustration with yourself that YOU / he / she couldn’t make it work?  Will it truly help you understand and work through the pain you may be feeling?

How does this solve anything?

In Susan J Elliot’s book Getting Past Your Breakup: “How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You” she cites a myriad of reasons why people continue to stay in touch with their ex’s. When we think about this from a rational perspective it is simply so that we can avoid facing the pain of the breakup and avoid moving through this process to come out of the other side. It’s not rocket science but often part of the human condition.  It doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

After all, we spent time with this person, we got to know them, we probably spent nights together, shared events and family outings. When we break up with a particular relationship we are saying goodbye to a whole lifestyle. We go to places together. When we break up, visiting those places reminds us of them and what we had. Loneliness and pain are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

When a person dies, there is no turning back. Our visits to shared places hold different meanings and a way to make sense of life on our own again. It is painful but a necessary (at times) part of the grieving process. See Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s book on Grief and Grieving) and the “Five Stages of Grief” below:

But move on we must. A breakup can feel like bereavement without a body, someone once told me. How that stuck with me.

Incidentally although there are “stages” of grief, we don’t simply bounce from one to the next …. like, oh stage 1 is dealt with (feeling numb can also fall into the “denial” category. No, we bounce from one to the other and back again, randomly, at different times when things affect us that were perhaps part of the earlier relationship. Work through it we must. Shut it down, suppress it, and difficult relationships may recur time and again….. till we’ve worked through it, faced the pain and allowed it to be released from gripping us.

A divorce can feel that way too; staying in touch NEEDS to be on a practical / pragmatic level. If financial discussions are proving awkward, use a mediator (cheaper than solicitors) and use text or email ONLY for data exchange such as who is picking up the children and when if you have shared arrangements.

Using text/email to list off a rant of all the problems you’re experiencing – either together or with your new partner is a NO NO. Do not do it! It will not make you feel better because you may get a response that could make you feel a whole lot worse. Do Not Do It. NC (No Contact) is the only way. If you really need to rant and make sense, write a letter that you DON’T send and burn it. Or keep it to remind yourself as to how you felt, although it may not help you in the long run except to see how far you’ve come since the split.

People who stay in touch on a “friendly basis” invariably leads to more uncomfortable feelings … why are they telling you about their life, what has it actually got to do with you? Does this make you feel happy, empowered and in control of your life? Are you having make-up / break-up sex? Is it making you happy?

Ex partners who believe they can come and go as they please are probably right because you’ve enabled them. Why?

I have done this. When we split up we had the keys to each other’s houses for ease of dealing with the situation over our children. After a while I realised how much I hated the fact that he could pop into my house at the drop of a hat (to pick up the children, perhaps). It felt like a violation as time passed. Rather than tackle the subject I eventually changed the locks. I didn’t need to tell him.

Nor did I need to email him over the financial issues we had. After the nth email about why I needed the maintenance I realised I had to stop. Each time he would respond with details about my shortcomings and of course there were plenty of those. From his perspective, anyway.

Fuzzy boundaries isn’t just about ex’s. It’s can be about any close relationships. The more you rescue them and explain why they need to get a grip the less they are taking their own personal responsibility. It doesn’t mean you’re unkind, it just means you need to take care of yourself and learn to heal so you can have the life you desire and deserve. You can point them in the direction of professional help and leave it at that.

It may mean you’re unpopular for a while but ultimately once the dust is settled and they have taken personal responsibility you can begin to rebuild your relationship. This is where therapy can help!

“I hate you, mum” declared my beautiful offspring when I once grounded said offspring for being out of order one evening (I cannot remember the situation anymore, but most of us as parents understand how teenagers can affect us!). I had to lay down boundaries as a single parent. That was hard. Nowadays we reflect on that and she knew that she didn’t really; my love for my children will always be unconditional but we need to have mutual respect.

What boundaries in YOUR life are fuzzy and need looking at?

More recommended reading: “Boundaries and Relationships” by Charles L Whitfield. See an infographic here on Boundaries, taken from his book:

Book an appointment with Malmesbury Therapies with Kate using SetMore


Apparently 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal.  This was something posited in 1971, Albert Mehrabian’s book Silent Messages.  The book also asserted that 55 percent to the speaker’s body language and 38 percent to the tone and music of their voice. 7 percent pointed to the speaker’s actual words.

Philip Yaff (October 2011) held that this notion was simply a myth, and that what you say is less important than how you say it and felt that the above was nothing more than a gross misinterpretation of a scientific experiment.

What I will suggest is that communication – in my experience in the therapy room and my own life – is usually based on the shared emotional history you have with the person you are talking to and also previous intimate relationships and the impact they had on you. This is the focus of my blog.  Whatever the communication you use – be it verbal, non-verbal, this is less important than the underlying feelings from where you are actually communicating from.  Take a look at the graphic below.

rowtoresolutionTaken from “Drawing on Your Relationships”, M Sunderland & N Armstrong, 2008

Let’s look at the example of Sasha & Tobias, Rebecca & Naomi .  Please note examples and names used are entirely fictitious and are drawn upon various examples of people I know or have worked with as an amalgamation rather than specifics and any resemblance to people is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Rebecca, a first-born daughter is 24 years old.  She has a daughter, Naomi.  She has always felt criticised or put down by her mother and never feels quite “good enough” when it comes to her mother’s thoughts, feelings and expectations of her, but has absorbed this knowledge into her psyche and unconsciously acts out this script each time her mother speaks to her on matters concerning her daughter.

Her mother herself often felt put down by her own mother and when trying to conceive at the outset found it very difficult and experienced many setbacks getting pregnant.  This caused strain on her marriage but eventually Rebecca was born, a much wanted daughter.  This followed the birth of a second daughter, three years later, also much wanted and adored.

When the children were young, there were problems in the marriage; energetically in part to do with the intense love Sasha felt towards her daughters and in part to do with how she raised her daughters as she often felt not quite good enough with how she was with her daughters; at the first sign of distress she would be helping her daughter(s) out – rescuing them, for wont of a better word – and this caused strain in the marriage as her husband would invariably feel “shut out”.

Note that many of these aspects may be unconscious feelings, just below the surface and are the main drivers behind communication patterns and ALSO, importantly how the central characters played out these roles as their lives progressed.

Rebecca would constantly push the boundaries with her mother; she wanted to find out own way, to make the mistakes she needed to make and grow up at her own pace, sometimes “too quickly” from her mother’s perspective.

The marriage eventually cracked under the strain and Sasha found herself on her own with two daughters and an ex husband with whom she battled to receive basic maintenance.

Rebecca started sleeping around with boys (looking for love or wanting to be loved for herself, perhaps?) and had a baby at 19 years old.

The younger daughter miraculously seems relatively fine now that the dust has settle a bit and by comparison to Rebecca sets herself out as “the good daughter” which often causes more communication tensions.

The mother now feels completely helpless as there is little she can do for her daughter but has begun now to open up to a therapist about her feelings as she has started seeing a new man and really wants now to make things work.

Things have now settled with her daughters but Sasha looks after her 5 year old granddaughter on three days out of four after school to enable her daughter to work to support her little family.  Fortunately her daughter managed to set up home with the father of their daughter and whilst at times things can be a bit stretched financially they are keen to make things work.  There is the occasional flare up.

The communication here centres on the relationship between Sasha and Rebecca.  Rebecca comes to pick her daughter Naomi up on a Tuesday evening.  Sasha says to Rebecca “Naomi was very unsettled today, how’s things going?”

Rebecca (going on the defense) “everything’s fine” (knowing deep down it isn’t because for some reason her salary hasn’t been paid in and she’s gone £250 into her overdraft at the bank with various bills still to pay; and she knows that she’s run up her credit card bill to pay for items for Naomi that she knows full well she can’t fund.  She’s tense and knows that there may be a “lecture on money” at some point so she’s girding herself for the potential challenge…)

Sasha: “look, I know something’s not right, tell me what’s happening?”

Rebecca: “I’m struggling a bit just now as my money’s not been paid and I have a ton of bills”.

Sasha: “what do you mean, struggling?

Rebecca: (sensing an argument) “It’s nothing mum, just back off, I’ll sort this out” (deep down she wants help but is definitely not going to ask her mum).

Sasha: “Let’s not go down this route again, Rebecca; it seems to me that you’re always struggling with money.  You really need to get yourself sorted”.

Rebecca: (hey, I knew this, lecture time).  “Forget it mum! Get off my case! I told you, it’s just difficult right now and I don’t need your lecturing”!

Rebecca storms off with Naomi, slamming the door.

Sasha’s partner Tobias comes in at that very moment, witnessing the slamming of the door as he was about to come in.

“Not another argument with Rebecca, Sasha?”

Sasha is fuming herself, not sure whether to rant or cry.  This pattern of arguing has been going on for so long, and she knows Tobias is starting to show signs of it affecting him and threatening their relationship.

“We really can’t go on like this, Sasha.  I hate seeing you unhappy and I feel there’s little I can do to help and we’ve talked about this so many times.  You rescue Rebecca every time, you look after her five year old daughter and I’m starting to feel like a spare part”.

Later in bed that night, Sasha reflects on the day and how it has gone.  She knows there’s stuff deep down but her head is in such a whirlwind she really doesn’t know which way is up.  After her marriage breakdown the last thing she wants is another breakup and yet she’s a mum with responsibilities.  Something has to change.

And this is where talking therapies can help.  By each and every one of us knowing and owning our deep rooted fears and feelings, relationships can become more conscious and alive.  By stating our feelings in the given moment at least to ourselves.

In this situation Rebecca needs to feel safe to talk to her mother about her spiralling debt and get the professional help she needs to budget and plan accordingly, perhaps finding other ways to earn money rather than spending it to alleviate her own feelings of inadequacy.  What Rebecca does know is what’s happening just now – yet she is an adult now and has to take responsibility for herself.

Sasha needs to understand that how Tobias feels is about himself – it doesn’t mean she needs to be heartless, but release the fear surrounding their relationship.  If it is strong enough it will work but only if both are able to be honest about their feelings; her own feelings of inadequacy and guilt over the breakup of her marriage and difficult start with her daughters and his ability to step up to say exactly how he feels about Sasha.

Tobias needs to be honest about what he is truly feeling.  Separate from the family?  Overlooked?  Unable to be of “service” to his partner?  He may want to “solve” a problem – if he feels unable to make her happy and then removing himself from the situation may make her happier in his eyes.  He may not feel part of the family in the same sense that whilst he may love her daughters, biologically they belong to another man.  Obviously we live in a civilised society but if you look to the animal kingdom, when lioness and her cubs are abandoned by the original mate and a new mate comes onto the scene, he will kill the cubs so that he can father his own cubs.

What outcome do you think these characters are all seeking?

Who comes for therapy in these circumstances?  Often the mother will come as she realises enough is enough after many years.  Sometimes she may want to bring her partner or the offspring to “solve” the ongoing issues.

But ultimately everyone needs to learn a new way to talk to each other; just one person coming can help effect the change.

What needs to happen?

Sometimes we need to rediscover the positive elements of our lives and relationships.  Simply making time to have a get together where the focus is on having fun and enjoying the relationships in the given moment.  Bringing things up at a time when people are relaxed may work better but always coming from the point of view thus:

“I am feeling ……”

“When you, I feel….”

“what I would like is….”

And always be careful to stick to the topic.  Allow each other the time and space to talk without interruption.  Be mindful of ”rescuing” to make yourself feel better.

And remember too… you can please some people some of the time, you can’t please everyone 100 percent of the time.

What others think of you is none of your business.

How to Love Genuinely

A wonderful brief message for all of us.

Transcribed in full from a youtube clip: Tenzin Palmo Jetsunma interviewed about romanticism that makes us confuse genuine love with attachment – and how it causes suffering in relationships.

“The problem is always that we mistake the idea of love for attachment. You know, we imagine that the grasping and clinging that we have in our relationships shows that we love, whereas actually it is just attachment which causes pain. Because the more we grasp, the more we are afraid to lose; then if we do lose we are going to suffer. Genuine love… well attachment says I love so I want you to make me happy…. Genuine love says: I love you therefore I want you to be happy. If that includes me, great, if it doesn’t include me, I just want your happiness. So it’s a very different feeling. Attachment is like holding very tight, genuine love is like holding very gently nurturing, allowing things to flow. Not be held tightly. The more tightly we hold onto others, the more we suffer.

But it is hard for people to understand that; they think that the more they hold onto someone, the more it shows that they care about them, but it’s not, it’s really just that they’re trying to grasp at something because they’re afraid that otherwise they themselves will be hurt. Any kind of relationship which imagines that we can fulfil ourselves through another is bound to be very tricky. I mean, ideally people should come together already feeling fulfilled within themselves and just therefore appreciating that in the other, rather than expecting the other to supply that sense of well-being which they don’t feel on their own. Then there are a lot of problems. And also, along with the projection which comes with romance where we project all our ideas, ideals and desires and romantic fantasies on to the other which the other cannot possibly fulfil when you get to know them; you realise it’s not Prince Charming or Cinderella – it’s just a very ordinary person who’s also struggling. And unless one is able to see them with … to like them as well as feel desire for them and to also have loving kindness and compassion, then it’s going to be a very difficult relationship”.


Writing a page on motherhood can seem odd.  After all, becoming a mother is the most wonderful job of all, right?

Not necessarily.  Firstly the addition of another member of the family can be absolutely joyful, this is true.  If your baby is born healthy, the needs of your infant become clear once you leave the hospital if your baby was born there, or once the midwife has left you to it.  If you have a high need baby it can throw your world and the relationship with your spouse / partner into new-found territory.  If you are breastfeeding you may wonder how it works, whether you’ve enough milk, whether the baby is full (the baby wants breastfeeding *again*?) and why your baby wakes so often?

Clearly if your baby is well-adapted, eating and sleeping healthily and your relationship is just enhanced by the arrival of your newborn, then you won’t be reading this page, but imagine if you could have that lifestyle?  If your baby has additional needs or is born with a physical or mental handicap, then there may be other resources better suited to your needs.

People who know me realise that I am not a fan of the cry-it-out routine.  Many books have been written on the subject – “teach baby to learn” to do without you.  It’s a behavioural technique that works, after all.  The issue I have is that it does “teach baby to learn” to do without you.  Is that healthy or wise?  This can lead to a condition known as  “learned helplessness“.

Personally I feel attachment theory is what all new parents might learn about even before they consider adding to their family.  Richard Bowlby, son of John Bowlby has been furthering the theory after his father passed on and considers the potential of attachment theory to eliminate many mental health conditions, even going as far as to suggest it could halt or prevent alzheimers, although this is impossible to prove since alzheimers has many potential causes.  An interesting debate nonetheless, making it even more important to try as far as possible to get “parenting right” as far as we possibly can within the constraints of our lives and relationships.

If you need help with your baby, breastfeeding and knock-on effect on the relationship, contact me.  I have experience personally and academically in the area of attachment theory and baby bonding.