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Strong Relationships Include These!

10 Steps to a Happy Relationship

 (Part Two) … and then keeping them?

Food for thought for any relationship, whether you are starting out or you are living it up a fair few years down the track. Without being cryptic or confusing, I believe what underpins all of these is acknowledging that you are married, or in a relationship with somebody else! Celebrate difference and if you have someone that extends you rather than reflects you then heck you are on an exciting path for sure.

This isn’t a 10 step programme, that if followed to the letter, will guarantee love, laughter and eternal companionship. Everybody, and the journey’s they travel, are so awesomely unique that some will connect and others not. I would expect nothing more or less. Each aims to pose a question and reflection for us individually but also as a couple. It’s based on my experience as a counsellor that backs up or challenges what text books or training has told me. When I have seen or heard these points in action the relationships have been on a stronger footing.

  1. Feel Safe (Honest Communication) – You have got to feel safe in a relationship to get anywhere close to feeling like you want to be intimate, physically and emotionally but also in terms of relational stability. This is through open and honest conversations.  Folk are generally outstanding at the talking part, but god awful at listening. Listening means really taking it on board, not simply waiting for your next opportunity to speak. By listening properly, you will hear clearly and therefore have a fighting chance of discovering and understanding your partners wants, needs and expectations. Think dialogue not monologue!
  2. Drop the perfectionism. Everybody is perfectly imperfect, but certainly not perfect so give yourself and your partner a break. Tone down the ‘all or nothing’ philosophy of relationships. “You didn’t ask me about my presentation today, so you have fallen out of love with me”. Accept who they are as you would hope they do for you, within reason that is.
  3. Getting Physical: Physical touch is key to a significant relationship. Yep, this does include sex, but so much more. Giving a hug, holding hands, a genuine kiss. Oxytocin is released which has heaps of benefits such as feeling closer and even a stronger immune system. That doesn’t mean an early morning taser like attack with your ‘morning glory’ whilst sniggering both childishly and blindly optimistic. Check out the short post I put on for securing a good sex life.
  4. This ties into Love Languages, which I highly recommend you and your partner identify and use on a daily basis. Time, Words, Gifts, Touch, Acts. Look them up and explore yours and your partners, together. What does it look and sound like? I use this for all my significant relationships with my kids, family and wife. When I have taken a breath I turbo load this and do all 5 in a day.
  5. Your partner can’t be your everything and all the time. Respect your and their own interests. I asked a colleague at his retirement what was the secret to a long and happy marriage given he was passing his 50th year. He simply said, he salmon fishes and she loves her drama group. It made perfect sense and yes, I am sure they were understating how they nurtured so many years, of what I would describe as a beautiful relationship, but that was front and centre and he didn’t pause for a second with his answer.
  6. Do fun stuff. If a Kmart dash is the most exotic thing you tend to do on weekends, it’s time for a change. And you don’t need a ton of cash or vacation days. Choose to do something fun together. This could be watching a movie, going for a stroll, trying a new restaurant, date night, anything. Anything new and positive can help boost the happiness in your own relationship. For parents in particular, it’s oh so important to be more than mum and dad. Invest in you time, friend time, lover time and partner time. It’s tough but I see a large number of couples who have teenage kids and state ‘they have drifted apart’. Don’t make excuses, it’ll come back and bite you.
  7. Check and Connect – Reunited and it feels so good. When you and your partner reunite—at the end of a day, when one of you comes back from a trip, or even when you wake up—do something to show your love. When your partner comes home, for example, stop what you are doing (within reason) and devote just a few seconds to being completely present. Give them a hug or kiss, look in their eyes, and ask how they are. Not, all at the same time… it would be weird and awkward. Put down your phone, pause the TV…do whatever you need to focus even just a short amount of time on your partner. You both will feel much more connected.
  8. Be respectful. John Gottman is a pioneer on research about the longevity of marriages. In fact, in a longitudinal study, he was able to predict with 93 percent accuracy which couples would eventually get divorced. He has identified what he refers to as the four horsemen, which are predictors of relationship problems—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The quick antidote for these is to simply be respectful. Rather than criticize, openly communicate without criticism. Instead of contempt, express disappointment without eye rolls or passive-aggressive comments. Ditch the defensiveness; it is important to take feedback so you and your relationship can improve. And rather than stonewall, listen to your partner and have a constructive conversation when things are not going as smoothly as you would like. Learn to communicate even your disappointments with respect.
  9. Just ask and LET IT LAND!. This one takes an open mind. Ask your partner, “What is one thing I can do this week to be a better partner to you?” The response may be surprising.  The goal is not to be defensive— “I already do that anyway!” or “Yay, I wish you would do that, too!” Instead, simply absorb what you hear and take steps to implement your partner’s desire (as long as it is within your moral boundaries). This is a great way to meet needs that you may not have even realized your partner had.
  10. Abide by the 5-to-1 rule. While you may think giving your partner a compliment will counter some negative “feedback” you provide, think again. The “magic ratio” is not 1:1, but rather 5:1. This means that in order to have an overall positive feel about your relationship, you need to have at least five positive encounters (actions, statements) for every negative one. The take home? Spend more time telling and showing your partner what you love and appreciate about them, laugh more, and spend more fun time together. When you do, the tough times are easier to get through.

Above all, be hopeful. Relationships, like life, have ups and downs. If you are in a downward slope right now, have faith: Things can get better. Put some time, energy, and love into your relationship. Focus on being the best partner you can be. Get help if you need it. And see the positive in your partner and your relationship.

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You’ll have a better sex life if…

You’ll have a better sex life if… Taking the guesswork out of it

Now this came up in a recent conversation and is never too far away when talking about relationships. There are a few practice methods or modalities that practitioners use, not that you would be able to hear or see any real difference between them. I have always been fascinated by all and pick what connects with me and utilise with clients when I think the fit is right. Anyway, then there is cold, hard research that can join so many dots and even better challenge ‘old’ thinking towards ‘new’ ways, based on fact rather than assumption. John Gottman is a legend in that he didn’t settle for guesswork and that he really has done his homework (along with his team). He trawled through 1000’s of research papers and articles. He also observed relationships in real time as they played out in an apartment and they are just for starters. I certainly use elements of The Gottman Method having been though the training, but I find it a tad prescriptive as a one stop shop therapeutic process. I am however hoping to challenge my own view by continuing to learn more about this method, as anything so backed up by fact and best practice can’t be dismissed too quickly.

So, in summary (from The Normal Bar Study):

Fact: Couples who have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are doing the same set of things.

  1. They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  2. They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  3. They give surprise romantic gifts
  4. They know what turns their partners on and off erotically
  5. They are physically affectionate, even in public
  6. They keep playing and having fun together
  7. They cuddle
  8. They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  9. They stay good friends
  10. They can talk comfortably about their sex life
  11. They have weekly dates
  12. They take romantic breaks
  13. They are mindful about turning toward

Fact: Couples have a bad sex life everywhere on the planet.

Not local but… The Sloan Center at UCLA studied 30 dual-career heterosexual couples in Los Angeles. These couples had young children. The researchers were like anthropologists – observing, tape-recording, and interviewing these couples. They discovered that most of these young couples:

  1. Spend very little time together during a typical week
  2. Become job-centered (him) and child-centered (her)
  3. Talk mostly about their huge to-do lists
  4. Seem to make everything else a priority other than their relationship
  5. Drift apart and lead parallel lives
  6. Are unintentional about turning toward one another

The Gottman Institute certainly doesn’t leave you flapping in a place of , “now what?”. Check their resources out for either professionals and/or couples. https://www.gottman.com/couples/


10 Unmindful Road Blocks

Yes – To be fair, no can be just as unmindful. Yes, makes the list as it can certainly bring opportunity, freedom, joy, excitement and a lot of other really awesome thoughts, feelings and experiences. It is saying Yes when you shouldn’t, and handing over time, action and priority to meet someone elses needs, expectations or deadlines as more important than your own.

Maybe / Perhaps – It suggests inaction and uncertainty. Within reason it is either something to commit whole heartedly to as authentic to your hopes, passions and needs. Otherwise, it is something that may not connect with your own values, beliefs, needs and/or expectations. It therefore either heck yeah or not for me thanks.

There – Momentum with ‘there’ is a societal beast and continues to increase in its power. It is the idea of being anywhere and everywhere, but not here and not now. If we are always heading towards a ‘there’, we will never be present in the ‘here’ and I imagine never actually jump of that conveyor belt enroute to somewhere else.

Tomorrow – Never forget yesterday, but always live for today, because you never know what tomorrow may bring, or take away. So, Carpe Diem isn’t just a ‘go to’ tattoo, but a pretty could point.

Should – The expectation placed on yourself by an assumption of the perception of others. It is living in a place of otherness and pursuing what you should do rather than what you would like / need to do. You should get engaged, you should get married, you should have kids, you should go for a promotion, you should have a bigger house and on and on.

But & However– (I’m putting these together)- negates everything that precedes this statement. It’s like a word perfect apology to a partner or friend or colleague that is delivered and lands wonderfully. “But….you did start it with”. Know what needs to be said and said with honesty and maturity.

Can’t – Go with “Not Yet” instead. There are too many folk out there that are pretty quick to define what you aren’t or what you can’t do. So, don’t join in the mindless, useless and often uninformed script and celebrate and shout out loud (figuratively speaking that is) your strengths, abilities and potential.

Too Busy (Cheating with two words here)- Society has high praise indeed for busyness, whether it is real or just being busy telling folk how busy we are. We absolutely need to stop, look, listen, breathe and be truly present in that space and moment. There really is no excuse as we should take absolute responsibility and ownership of our decisions and what we choose to do or not to do.

Life Lessons from a Dribbling Mess!

Life Lessons from a Dribbling Mess!

Slightly harsh, but quite accurate in that the dribbling mess is in fact my 15 month old son. I stand by my description, quite literally as i am stood beside him with a snotty nose, spaghetti in his hair holding a spotlessly clean bib…go figure. Today, I kept him home from day care so we could hang out whilst his big brother was with friends, and his mum hard at work.

I like many others have studied long and hard to establish professions in the field of wellbeing, children, family, counselling and really striving to best understand humans and what makes them tick and blow. Turns out, that we perhaps knew all along, and can save ourselves years and tens of thousands of dollars in student fees by just reconnecting with the 15 month dribbling mess versions of ourselves.

Here is what I was shown and reminded of today:

  1. Be you and nothing and nobody else. You rock that epic wobble with your belly out and keep putting your hands in the air like you rightly don’t care!
  2. Get shit done that needs to be done. No lists, no procrastinating just get it done then crack on. Quite literally! Obviously nappies help, but those things that just need to be done without any deep and meaningful process simply get done and then you move on to the trickier stuff.
  3. Get Outdoors. Tears inside, big smiles outside. Fresh air, nature, space, exercise…
  4. Look and listen before you talk and do
  5. Importance of good connections. Keep your family and friends close and strangers at a distance, not daft advice at all. Perhaps as grownups we invest in relative strangers a tad more than close family and good friends.
  6. Listen to your body. Sleep, eat and play. I know it gets a tad greyer when you get older in more ways than one, but everything starts from strong foundations.
  7. Spontaneity. Be open to new experiences and challenges.
  8. Smile, for no other reason but you can and want to.
  9. Express yourself – Quit controlling the uncontrollable. When it tickles you pink then laugh out loud, if it makes you sad then shed a few tears.
  10. Give it a go first and then know when to ask for help.
  11. Be open to new learning / things.
  12. Move on. When it is done, then get over it and get living.
  13. Listen to those that care about you. Really take notice and act on advice from those you love, oh and a big massive dose of unconditional love, hugs and snotty kisses.
  14. Give without expectation of it being returned now or later. Altruism at its best.
  15. It’s okay to climb and push your limits – but to test our upper limits rather than reach a set goal. Yes, I know developmentally the body, including brain have been fast tracked. However, perhaps it’s their boundless commitment to exploring their own limits and not those placed upon them that has a big hand in such exponential growth. No sign of a glass ceiling with these guys.
  16. Play! Wow, do these guys give a master class in how to have fun. Doing fun things and actually having fun are two very different things.
  17. Mindfulness. Being absolutely in the moment. The bugs, dogs, people, food deserve every bit of your focus and attention. No one of the senses gets left out.
  18. If you fall, have a quick look at the closest loved one to you, and if they smile then take that as a vote of confidence in your resilience, and a nod to all your limbs being present and correct. Then carry on being epic.
  19. Listen to your gut and pick your team wisely. Ever noticed how the kids tend to make a confident b’line for some kids and not others. Be cautious of the negative and go climb trees with the positive.

So, tomorrow I intend to let my pasty belly hang out and stride down my hallway with my hands in the air like I just don’t care and then take it from there. Fingers crossed!

Teachers: Back Yourselves!

When it comes to the masters of behaviour modification then you need look no further than those that practice it on the coal face day in and day out. Not one at a time in an office, but 30 at a time in a hot classroom, last period on a Friday!great teacher

There are so many cliches that spring to mind, all of which are way too naff to add here. Simply, it is okay, in fact essential that teachers back their knowledge and experience and get on with it. This post is prompted by 17 years in a classroom, predominantly having a role with students that are struggling with their behaviour. Policy and procedure can all too quickly shunt young ones along a flow chart of ‘escalation’ as directed by policy and procedure. Take for example, one 13 year old student with challenging behaviour. Firstly the classroom teacher would be faced with challenging behaviours and have tried what they can given the time constraints that come with a whole class to supervise. From here it would then work it’s way up through the leadership / pastoral ladder with increasing strategies and quite often discipline. Then, the big guns are brought in. An Education Psychologist will come in and firstly observe the student. This will come with a hefty wait period and the outcome will be a generic report that you have seen many times before, with simply the name changed at the top. Heck, once I saw one and they had even forgotten to change the name. It is at this point the hopeful school staff will read the report in a desperate search for guidance. What happens is with each point the response will be either ‘I knew that’ and ‘I’ve tried that’.

The school can be left with nothing, the family are left with nothing and what invariably happens is the young one slips further down the slope to the muggy depths of the ‘unfixable’ label. A label unfairly allocated.

This is where I return to the teachers and school backing themselves as the experts they are. You are the ones that day in and day out teach classes in excess of 30 teenagers for 7 straight hours, before heading home to plan for the next 7 days and so on. That is 30 wonderfully unique individuals that love your subject to detest it, that are depressed, anxious and stressed, ADHD, ODD and many other acronyms. To the excitable that have sold their Ritalin to a friend to buy a half litre can of energy drink, thus being left with endless energy and an inability to focus or stop shouting ‘Muppet’ across the class. To see a strong teacher do just this is nothing short of magical and masterful. It is a unique position to have, and not one that has possibly been tried by a very well paid behaviour specialist advisor.

The answer, in my opinion, is to utilise the specialists we have in every school. Not even those with a specialist post graduate certificates in the field. The need is simply the time and space to bounce experiences and ideas amongst these professionals towards informing an outcome that will inevitably be specific and relevant to the students, staff and school community.

As soon as you relinquish responsibility and power of the proposed change you disable and undermine your ability to affect change. Fantastic, if an external specialist comes in and facilitates this but just be mindful of the skills, knowledge and resources you bring.

So, back yourself.teacherprofiles-infographic11-2

Sexts, Texts & Selfies by Susan McLean (Review)

No matter how tech savvy we thing we are the reality is technology, devices and the internet and all the ups and downs it brings evolve faster than we can possibly keep up. We also can’t foresee what is going to go viral and cause issues and what is intended to cause issues and falls flat on its backside.

If you have read an earlier post I wrote then you will know where my current thoughts lie on technology use and our kids. Well, this book by Susan McLean is absolutely bang on the money. I have also been fortunate to see her speak a few times now and I’ve never been disappointed yet.

Her advice, guidance and information is based on experience on the ‘coal face’ itself. So, its not some career academic that is telling you what is right and wrong from the comfort of a fancy office. This book is sharing how to keep your children safe in the digital space.

It is full of examples, many confronting, but I would imagine have been diluted to as to not terrify parents completely.

The acronyms at the back are golden as a quick reference to see what on earth these kids are on about.

This book is full of clear and concise guidance on what to do and when. Given its written in Australia 99% of what is inside and the advice offered is relevant to anybody, anywhere on the planet.

I highly recommend this book. I bought a few extra copies that I lend to families I work with and they are never disappointed.

A is for Anger

A is for Anger!

We know what it is, but what pushes our buttons?

What fears, griefs, insecurities…past hurts?

Understand your anger and you can overcome it.

Anger might make you enemies, but enemies don’t make you angry. Your thoughts do.

Control them and everything will be just fine and dandy.

1. Think before you speak

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

2. Once you’re calm, express your anger

As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

3. Get some exercise

Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.

5. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.

6. Stick with ‘I’ statements

To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”

7. Don’t hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

8. Use humor to release tension

Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

9. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

10. Know when to seek help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

Scheduled ‘Parent Time’

Schedule Quality Time with the Kids

It was unfortunate timing when I googled ‘scheduled parent time’. My wife was sat beside me and was a tad surprised, as from marital bliss I was casually looking up how we would share and schedule custody of our kids. I soon put her mind at rest, “I get the bikes and kids, other than during the school run and night time fun and games”. Obviously that went down like a sack of spuds but I soon cleared things up. However, what I am suggesting in this post will probably raise a few eyebrows. Scheduling in specific time to spend time with our kids.

We need to schedule the quality parent time with our kids. This follows on from a post I did a long time ago about presence and being present. There is a growing movement to flexible work conditions and working from home being a part of that. This can run the risk of inviting everything that you could leave at the office being welcomed with open arms in to your home and family space.

To manage our zest for busyness we schedule, list and plan. This step reinforces the points as priorities and protects the time and space to do what you need to do. When you have a meeting or presentation do you check your messages, emails or make a quick call half way through? I imagine not. So, all day we make meetings and are completely present at the time and with the conversation. Could we say hand on heart that we have any such time or commitment to the time we have with our kids. I write this, again in reflection of my own experiences and family time. My son has been asking me for the last couple of days to play fishing on the deck. I haven’t once! I have taken him to the supermarket for the weekly shop, been to the hardware shop to grab some bits and pieces for a DIY project. We have been on our daily runs, where he cycles beside me. He plays with his Siku cars beside me as I am working on the computer (don’t worry, he has at school now). So, as far as I was concerned we were hanging out loads. I wasn’t. My son was in fact tagging along so I could work through my tasks. I’m usually pretty good at being present, but my priorities had slipped. Nothing is more important than my family and I had forgotten that a little bit.

So, try blocking out half an hour or an hour of absolute quality time. That means the phone and computer are off and nobody is set to drop in or distract. It’s scheduled in so you will have managed your time accordingly. Then, see what they want to do and crack on and do it. Tonight me and my eldest are fishing (imaginary) for Marlin off our bikes and I can’t wait! Not only can it be amazing for our kids but also we get to unwind, and heaven forbid play and have a giggle, and all being well catch an epic Marlin too.