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How to get over a breakup
Almost everyone at some point in their life will suffer from a relationship breakdown or breakup. This can happen for many different reasons, such as incompatibility, loss of love, or lack of trust. No two breakups are ever the same. Whether it was you or your partner who initiated the breakup, you may experience a range of feelings in the days, weeks and months following the breakup – sadness, anger, loss, betrayal, and sometimes even relief. No matter the length of the relationship, even if it was only just a few weeks, the breakup can still hurt and cause pain. There are many things which can affect how well you cope after a breakup and how well you heal and move on with your life. Factors which can hinder your ability to cope with the breakup might include: Experience. If your experience of the breakup and the events surrounding it was traumatic, the healing process may take a little longer. Avoidance. If you don’t allow yourself to process or think about what happened, the healing process may take longer. Distraction. The use of unhelpful coping mechanisms like abuse of substances and alcohol aren’t a helpful or permanent fix as they also don’t allow you to fully process what happened. The only way to really ‘cure’ the feelings and experiences following a breakup is to work through it and process what happened. Uncertainty. You might be keen to find answers on why the relationship broke down, and with good reason. People who understand the reasons surrounding a breakup tend to adjust faster than those who don’t [1]. However, if you're planning to get in contact with your ex-partner, make sure you have thought it through and approach the situation in an amicable manner, to prevent any more distress. Self-blame. This can often follow a lack of clarity around why the relationship broke down. Shared things. You might have shared friends, shared belongings, or even children and pets and the discussion of who keeps what can make things more difficult. Again, things need to be kept amicable to prevent more pain not only for yourself but anyone else involved. But there are measures which can be taken to help your levels of coping and healing following a breakup and help you to feel more like yourself again: Allow yourself the time to understand and process the relationship breakdown and your emotions which follow. Give yourself to grieve from the loss of your relationship. Meet up with friends and family. Getting support is a great way to aid your healing and process the breakup. Those who receive social or professional support following a breakup tend to cope better [1]. Try to get back into hobbies or things you may not have done as much since getting into the relationship. Self-time and care can help you feel more like yourself. Treat yourself. Do something enjoyable, just for you. Take the time to exercise, even if only a little, like a walk outdoors. Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to improving wellbeing and mood [2]. It can also clear your mind and help you reset. Healing after a breakup will take time and can’t be done overnight. There's no set length of time it should take to heal after a breakup and as long your way of coping is healthy you will get through it. However, if you still feel as though you’re struggling to cope, don't be afraid to reach out to a professional. They will be able to guide you through the healing process and aid you in coping and understanding any feelings you still have. By Tamara Almond-Lockett References [1] Barutçu. K, Adjustment to breakup of romantic relationships: initiator status, certainty about the reasons of breakup, current relationship status and perceived social support, 2009. [2] Klaperski, S., Koch, E., Hewel, D., Schempp, A., & Müller, J. (2019). Optimizing mental health benefits of exercise: The influence of the exercise environment on acute stress levels and wellbeing. Mental Health and Prevention, 15, 7. doi:http://dx.doi.org.hallam.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.mhp.2019.200173
Article | breakups
New relationship worries
Romantic relationships can generate powerful emotions. They are often filled with passion and intimacy and can bond people forever. But before getting into a relationship, you will probably have to face the dating experience. You might feel confused, anxious, or terrified, with no idea of how to behave. Or you might feel the opposite: confident, steady, and relaxed. When you’re new to dating, you might experience a whole rush of new feelings [1]. Successful dates can create a real bond between the people involved, especially if you go on to form a couple. But you might be wondering when the dating stops, and the relationship begins. Usually, it is a natural transition as you notice that you’re becoming closer to your partner and getting to know them. Often the beginning of a relationship can feel wonderful and perfect, mainly because you’re both feeling enthusiastic and uplifted by the new feelings you’re experiencing. Too good to be true But, while everything can seem amazing at the beginning of a relationship, there might be worries lurking underneath. You might think it’s too good to be true, or that this wonderful new relationship will suddenly end, and that can leave you feeling very insecure. The desire to make a good impression can lead you to change your behaviour around your new partner, or to hide your flaws. In the early stages of a relationship, you can be so consumed by the novelty that you forget about your responsibilities, or the other people in your life. If you’ve noticed yourself getting lost in a new relationship, these tips might help: Be true to yourself. It’s normal for couples to take on some personality traits from each other, but it’s important not to change your behaviour in a way that isn’t true to you. Pretending to be someone else can be exhausting and isn’t fair on your partner either. Talk about your flaws. Remember that everyone has flaws. You might want to work on the ones that can be fixed but try not to get stuck in the ones that can’t. Instead of hiding, share your concerns with your partner. You might be surprised to find that your partner hasn’t noticed them, or even that they appreciate them. Balance your time. Love can be overwhelming but don’t let it take over your whole life. Make time for the other people in your life, and don’t neglect the other things that are important to you. This will help you maintain a sense of self and may even make you feel more secure in your relationship. Don’t overthink it. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to enjoy the moment. Communication One issue in all relationships is communication. Even people with lots of relationship experience face communication issues, which can negatively impact both partners. In a new relationship, when everything is raw, communication problems can lead to harsh arguments or even breakups. If you feel like you and your partner aren’t communicating enough, have an open and honest conversation. Talk about any issues or misunderstandings and try to sort them out, rather than hiding from each other. Honesty There are many reasons people hide the truth in relationships. You might be trying to protect each other, or you might be worried about how each other will react. Whatever the reason, being honest is usually the best way forward. The truth will come out eventually anyway. It can take time, effort, and courage to make the best of a relationship but when you’re willing to put that in, it can be a wonderful experience filled with exciting feelings. By Adrian Minea References [1] Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2009). Romantic Relationships from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sociological Quarterly, 50(2), 308–335. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01142.x
Article | dating, relationships
Avoiding alcohol during pregnancy
You may have heard mixed messages about whether it’s OK to drink some alcohol while pregnant. We know that alcohol can harm an unborn baby, and we know that heavy drinking or binge drinking can be especially risky [1]. But we don’t know a safe level of alcohol consumption [2]. So if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, the safest approach is to not drink at all.  Whatever stage you’re at, your baby will benefit from you starting to avoid alcohol now.  What’s the harm?  When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol ends up in the unborn baby’s blood. The developing liver can’t filter out toxins that can harm brain cells and damage the nervous system [3], and can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is true throughout the pregnancy, so there is no safe time to drink alcohol during that nine months. On the other hand, quitting at any point can be helpful.  Some people may need to reduce their alcohol intake gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms. A good first step is to talk to your doctor or midwife who can direct you to further support after learning about your specific needs. You can also search for local services through the NHS. Managing stress without alcohol Having a baby is one of the biggest changes you and your partner can go through, so you might find yourself feeling more stressed and arguing more. Avoiding alcohol can be difficult if you’re used to using it as a way of coping with stress. But the negative effects on your mood and general health, and the worry about how it might affect your baby, could end up causing even more stress.  We can’t make stress go away entirely, but we can learn to cope in healthier ways. You could try: Exercise, like going for a walk, yoga, or another favourite activity. Cooking a nutritious meal. Chatting with a friend or family member. Having a supportive partner can be a big help too. It will likely be easier for you to avoid alcohol if your partner chooses to stop drinking as well [4] [5]. You could share the goal of avoiding alcohol together during your pregnancy, and encourage each other along the way.  If you’re worried that you or your partner might be using alcohol to deal with stress, you can find a free short course on Click’s Coping with stress and alcohol section.   Three simple steps  Practicing communication skills can strengthen your relationship and get you through times of stress, from everyday issues to bringing a new baby into the family. Our Me, You and Baby Too resource can help you and your partner manage this period of change together. You will learn how to argue better, which is better for you, better for your partner, and better for your baby. There are three simple steps to arguing better: STOP. This means staying calm and listening. You can’t always control the way you feel, especially when an argument starts. But you can have some control over how you respond. When you feel a conversation heating up, you can try some of these tips to help yourself say calm: Take some deep breaths. Relax your shoulders. Count to 10. Go for a walk with your partner. TALK IT OUT. To talk through what’s going on, we can: See it differently. Try to see things from your partner’s point of view. Speak for myself. Use ‘I’ statements to talk about how you are feeling. WORK IT OUT. Once you are able to stay calm and talk about your issues, you will be able to look for solutions you can both agree on. For more information  If you would like support to quit alcohol, your doctor or midwife can help and you can search for local services through the NHS. If you’d like to know more the effects of alcohol on unborn babies, see the National Organisation for FASD.   References [1] Jones, Theodore B.; Bailey, Beth A.; Sokol, Robert J. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy: Insights in Screening and Intervention for the Clinician. Clinical Obstetrics and Gyneconolgy, 2013.  [2] May, Philip A.; Gossage, J. Phillip. Maternal Risk Factors for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Alcohol Research and Health, 2011.  [3] National Organisation for FASD. Information for parents, carers and professionals, 2012. [4] Montag, Annika C. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: identifying at-risk mothers.International Journal of Women’s Health, 2016. [5] Chang, Grace; Mcnamara, Tay K.; Orav, E. John; Wilkins-Haug, Louise. Alcohol Use by Pregnant Women: Partners, Knowledge, and Other Predictors. Journal Of Studies On Alcohol, 2006.
Article | pregnancy, alcohol
Parenting in a post-lockdown world
Even as lockdown restrictions are easing, parents may be feeling additional stress related to the pandemic. Our lives – and our world -- are not the same as they were a few months ago. Schools will reopen soon, but the experience will be different with physical distancing and other ways to reduce risks. Some families are dealing with health and money issues. And many of us have worries about the future. You want to support your children through this uncertain time, and that’s not always easy when you’re dealing with your own worries. But we can work together to create more resilience within our families and our communities. Coping together as parents Handling stress is the key to a high quality of relationship with your partner, and a happier family life [1]. Parents who focus on supporting each other as a couple are more likely to be able to deal with the stresses of parenting [2]. If you can listen to each other, share the burden, and present a united front, you’ll find it gets easier to come to agreements about parenting [3]. Your children will cope better too – they’ll be less likely to feel sad or anxious, or to act out through stress [4]. Especially during difficult times, it can help to make more of an effort to: Show affection and support: A major study discovered that simple actions such as saying ‘thank you’, touching base during the day with a text message, or bringing your partner a cup of tea could be the foundations of a long and successful relationship [5]. Make time for each other. Try to commit to at least an hour of couple time each week. That’s time without children, friends, or family members, when you can focus solely on each other. Express and share your feelings. When you talk to your partner about a stressful situation, try to describe your feelings as well. Tell your partner why you are upset, and what you hope will change. Offer emotional support. Rather than trying to solve every problem, emotional support helps your partner feel listened to and shows them that you are making the effort to understand what they are going through. Talking to your children Your children might have questions as lockdown restrictions are eased and you sort out what the ‘new normal’ will look like. Generally, if your child is ready to ask a question, they are ready to hear the answer. You don’t have to tell them everything – keep their age in mind, and only tell them as much as is necessary to answer their question. They can always ask a follow-up question if they want to know more. If you don’t know something, say so. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future now, and even the experts don’t have all the answers. Children are reassured by the information they get from their parents, and it’s helpful for them to know they can rely on you [6] [7]. When they feel informed about what’s going on, they can get on with being kids again. Dealing with conflict Conflict is unavoidable. In every relationship, there are always going to be things to sort out that you can’t agree on straightaway. And now we have the added stress of major global events. How you choose to deal with conflict can make all the difference to your relationship and to your children [8]. Children who are exposed to negative conflict can sometimes act out or become anxious and withdrawn [9]. Some tips on keeping your conflict constructive: Stay calm. When you’re calm, it’s much easier to see your partner’s point of view, which is essential to building a constructive conversation. Look for solutions. Trying to win won’t get you anywhere, so look for solutions that take everybody’s needs into account and choose a course of action together. Be accommodating. If your partner is being negative, you don’t have to respond in kind. Sometimes, it only takes one of you to start making the conversation more constructive. Be positive. Positive behaviour like finding a quiet space to work things out can sometimes help you get through a disagreement. Finding support This website has a wealth of resources on navigating relationship difficulties, including community support. You might turn to a trusted family member or friend. This often gives you a chance to explore issues safely, and see them from a different perspective. However, it can sometimes be more useful to speak with a professional relationship counsellor, as friends and family aren’t always equipped to deal with the issues at hand. A counsellor can help by offering emotional support, and encouraging you and your partner to see things from each other’s point of view. This can allow you both to see how you might be contributing to the issue and what you can do to help move things forward. References [1] Ashley K. Randall & Guy Bodenmann, 2008. The role of stress on close relationships and marital satisfaction.[2] Brown, 2012[3] Zemp, Milek, Cummings, & Bodenmann, 2017[4] Zemp, Bodenmann, Backes, Sutter-Stickel, & Revenson, 2016.[5] Enduring Love research project[6] Kennedy, V. L., & Lloyd‐Williams, M., 2009[7] Osborn, T., 2007[8] Goodman, S. H., Barfoot, B., Frye, A. A., & Belli, A. M. (1999). Dimensions of marital conflict and children's social problem-solving skills. Journal of Family Psychology, 13(1), 33.[9] Grych, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (1990). Marital conflict and children's adjustment: a cognitive-contextual framework. Psychological bulletin, 108(2), 267.
Article | parenting, lockdown
Facing money issues as a couple
As we move in and out of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, many of us are facing an uncertain financial future. Some people have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Some businesses have closed or lost much of their revenue. Months after the lockdown was first announced, redundancy is now the top search term on the Citizens Advice website, and their benefits advice page views are at their highest ever levels. Even in ordinary times, money troubles are one of the biggest causes of stress in relationships. More than half of couples include money worries in their top three relationship strains [1]. 60% of people who contact debt charities say they also have problems with their relationships, but they don’t necessarily seek relationship support [2].  On top of that, we’re feeling the effects of a global event that affects us in ways we can’t avoid and that aren’t our fault, which can feel unfair and unsettling [3]. When you’re struggling with money, you and your partner might have less time together and argue more. Arguments about money can be different to other types of arguments – they can last longer, are more likely to get out of hand, and can have a bigger impact on your relationship [4]. But there are practical steps you can take if you’re worried about money, from getting advice on what to do if coronavirus has affected you financially, to managing the stress together with your partner. Get some help Charities like Citizens Advice, Money Advice Service, and the National Debtline can help you figure out what benefits you can get — including coronavirus-specific relief — what to do if you can’t pay your bills or rent, and dealing with debt.  Consider seeking emotional support as well. Research has shown that relationship counselling can help people cope better with financial problems [6]. Organisations like Relate can help with telephone or webcam counselling and live chat services. Talk about money Couples who talk openly about money tend to cope better in tough times. In one study, couples who consciously worked together at finding solutions were better at maintaining their relationship through difficult financial periods. These couples made the decision to see their money problems as separate from the relationship, focusing on the importance of communicating well and working together [5]. Aside from overspending, one of the biggest money problems relationships face is appointing one partner to manage all the household finances while the other takes a back seat [6]. While this might seem simpler, it can often increase stress in relationships, creating an extra burden for the person in control [7], and leaving the other person in the dark. The couples who have the most success at dealing with their issues are those who recognise the need for trust and communication around financial matters. When you can trust each other to pay bills on time, discuss big purchases, and avoid overspending, you’re likely to feel more confident in your finances and in your relationship [5]. Make a budget Get together and write down your income and your expenses, starting with unavoidable things like housing and energy bills. If you’re not sure how to get started with a budget, you can find a free planner and some online guides through the Money Advice Service. Go through your expenses and work out where you can make cuts and savings. Can you change your energy suppliers or switch to a cheaper phone plan? Can you cut your food bills by going to a cheaper supermarket or buying things in bulk? What can you live without while money is tighter than usual? Remember that these changes might only be temporary – it can be easier to adjust when you know what you’re working towards. Take time for each other  You may have to cut back your spending, but this doesn’t mean you should stop making time for each other. During periods of lockdown, you might not have much choice about what you do, but some of these suggestions from couples might be useful as you think about the future: Look for cheaper alternatives to your preferred activities. For example, a football fan might pay for a subscription radio service as a cheaper alternative to the TV package. You can still have special meals while spending less than usual. If you're ordering in, cut the starters and sundries. Set the table and put some music on. Light a candle. Make an evening of it without spending more than you can afford. When the weather is nice, take walks in the park. Explore the open spaces in your area. Go off the beaten track a little – you might be surprised at what's available locally if you let yourself wander. Learn how to support each other well by reading our tips on coping with stress together.  Don’t delay If you’re worried about money, watch this story to see why you should act as soon as possible to deal with the issues and talk to your partner. References [1] Undy, H.,  Bloomfield, B.,  Jopling, K., Marcus, L.,  Saddington, P., &  Sholl, P. (2015). The way we are now: The state of the UK’s relationships 2015. Relate, Relationships Scotland, Marriage Care.[2] Findings from OnePlusOne interviews with major UK debt charities, further supported by Olson, G. Olson, D. National Survey of Marital Strengths, April 2003.(66% of problems in marriage are associated with ‘major debt’)[3] Dew, J.P., & Xiao, J.J. (2013) Financial Declines, Financial Behaviors, and Relationship Satisfaction during the Recession. Journal of Financial Therapy, 4(1).[4] Papp, L. M., Cummings, E. M., & Goeke ‐ Morey, M. C. (2009) For richer, for poorer: Money as a topic of marital conflict in the home. Family Relations, 58(1), 91-103[5] Skogrand, L., Johnson, A.C., Horrocks, A.M., DeFrain, J. (2011). Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32: 27.[6] Doherty, H. F. (2006). Communication is vital to a couple's successful financial life. Dental Economics, 96(11), 92-93.[7] Rowlingston, K. & Joseph, R. (2009). Assets and Debts Within Couples: Ownership and Decision-Making. Friends Provident Foundation.
Article | finance, money, lockdown
Lockdown: coping with grief
When someone dies, our usual ways of coping and moving on are built around getting together with loved ones. During social distancing, we may have to adjust to new ways of dealing with grief. Funeral attendance might be limited to small numbers of close family, and distance might make it impossible to travel at all. For many people, this means not getting a chance to say goodbye. For those who can attend, it might be upsetting to see a small turnout, knowing their loved one isn’t getting the send-off they deserved. Grieving from a distance Even when you’re not able to get together physically, you can still mark the loss. If possible, attend a live stream of the funeral. Many funerals are now being filmed and streamed so mourners can watch them safely from home. Plan a memorial service. We don’t know when or how things will change but, at some point, we should be able to meet up again. Planning a service or celebration in the future can help you move forward in the present. Write down some memories of the person who has died. This can help you acknowledge the loss and reflect on what the person meant to you. Pick up the phone or arrange a video chat. You and your loved ones can share memories and offer each other support. Look for the positives. After some time has passed, you may find it easier to step back and see if anything positive has come out of the situation. Perhaps you’re connecting with friends and family in a different way or seeing how people can come together under difficult circumstances [1]. How am I supposed to feel? Right now, it can be hard to know what’s normal. There’s no set path that you’re supposed to follow after a death, but it can be comforting to know the types of things people often go through. Rather than being sad all the time, people often go back and forth between grieving and getting on with things. You might find yourself switching between moments when you feel very sad, and moments when you feel relatively normal [2]. Often, we push away difficult thoughts and feelings. We might try to convince ourselves everything is OK, even when it’s not. Sometimes, we use drugs or alcohol to try and change the way we feel. Whatever we do to push our feelings away, they will always find a way back in. It won’t always be easy, but it’s best just to let your feelings come and go – that’s how you process them and move forward [1]. Supporting each other as a couple If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner can support each other by sharing the grieving process. At the very least, talking to each other about how you’re feeling can make it easier for both of you to cope [3]. Under normal circumstances, this might mean going to the funeral together or visiting a memorial site but, when that's not possible, you can still find rituals to share from home – like lighting a candle or listening to a special piece of music. These shared experiences can help you adjust to the loss [4]. Even if you don’t live together, you could still meet up online and do something together. One thing to bear in mind, if you’re in a mixed sex couple, is that men and women often have different ways of coping. Women tend to want to surround themselves with other people and talk through memories with friends and family. Men tend to find this type of social support less useful, and may prefer to work through things alone, at least at first [4]. Of course, this won’t be true for everyone. However you and your partner deal with loss, try to be patient with each other and understand that we all have our own ways of dealing with things. Supporting someone else through grief If someone you know is dealing with grief, give them a call. You could text them to arrange a convenient time, or you could just pick up the phone and see if they answer. If it’s not a convenient time, they will let you know. If you want to do something practical, you could arrange to have something sent over. Lots of places are now well-versed in delivering food, drink, flowers, books, and other things. Think about what might help cheer the person up and send them a pleasant surprise. This will let them know you are thinking about them. References [1] Mikulincer & Florian, 1996[2] Stroebe & Schut, 1999[3] Albuquerque, Narciso, & Pereira, 2018[4] Bergstraesser, Inglin, Hornung, & Landolt, 2014
Article | lockdown, grief
Parenting in lockdown
As we face the prospect of more time in lockdown, many of us find ourselves making more adjustments and looking for new ways to cope. As a parent, you know that your children are still relying on you for support. You want to give them everything they need, but it isn’t always easy – especially when you’re dealing with your own worries. Coping together as parents Generally speaking, parents who focus on supporting each other as a couple, are more likely to be able to deal with the stresses of parenting [1]. If you can listen to each other, share the burden, and present a united front, you’ll find it gets easier to come to agreements about parenting [2]. Your children will cope better too – they’ll be less likely to feel sad or anxious, or to act out through stress [3]. Talking to children about the situation With guidelines frequently changing and the future still unclear, it can be hard to know what to tell your children about everything that’s going on. After many months of upheaval, they may even have their own ideas. With so much uncertainty and so many new developments, you might want to protect them from knowing too much. It’s natural to want to protect your children but shielding them from difficult news can actually be worse for them than just answering their questions. It’s usually best just to tell the truth. How to answer children’s questions Generally, if your child is ready to ask a question, they are ready to hear the answer. You don’t have to tell them everything – keep their age in mind, and only tell them as much as is necessary to answer their question. They can always ask a follow-up question if they want to know more. If you don’t know something, say so. There’s still a lot we’re not sure about and it’s better to be honest. If there’s something you’re not comfortable answering, you could try asking your child why they’ve asked that particular question. You could also ask them what they already know, as this can help you understand where they’re coming from. Children are reassured by the information they get from their parents, and it’s helpful for them to know they can rely on you [4] [5]. When they feel informed about what’s going on, they can get on with being kids again. Get them drawing Some younger children might find it hard to talk about their worries. Very young children often don’t have the words to describe what they’re feeling. One thing you can do to help them express themselves is to get them drawing. Grab some pens or pencils and invite them to draw something that shows how they’re feeling. Children can often find it easier to express themselves in this way [6]. A bit of fun It can be hard to find time to relax, especially if you’re trying to fit home schooling around working from home. But, if you can, try to build in some time for fun activities with the children – even it’s just playing or reading together. When you look back on all this, you might find that your role has just been to help your children stay calm and healthy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to do anything more than that. Take it a day at a time and keep looking after each other – that’s all anyone can really ask of you. References [1] Brown, 2012[2] Zemp, Milek, Cummings, & Bodenmann, 2017[3] Zemp, Bodenmann, Backes, Sutter-Stickel, & Revenson, 2016.[4] Kennedy, V. L., & Lloyd‐Williams, M., 2009[5] Osborn, T., 2007[6] Eiser & Twamley, 1999
Article | parenting together, social distancing
Lockdown: how couples can cope together
Over the course of your lives as a couple, you’ll probably go through lots of stressful situations together. Many of these will be things that only happen to one of you, like getting ill or having a tough time at work. In those times, the other partner might step up and offer support. But, as we all move through the phases of a global event, we have found ourselves facing something that affects everyone – that alone can be a lot to deal with, and it may kick off lots of difficult thoughts and feelings. As a couple, it can be hard to know how to cope. What does this mean to each of you as individuals? How should you support each other? What if you both need support at the same time? We’re all dealing with this in our own ways. You and your partner may have different ways of coping, and you may need different types of support at different times. Coping with stress together Stress happens when we feel unable to cope with the things we need to do. It’s like a balancing act – when you’re feeling strong and energised, you can cope with all that life throws at you. But, if you’re feeling worried and tired, even an average day can be overwhelming [1]. Having a supportive partner can help you feel more in control of things. When you and your partner support each other well, you might find you’re both better at coping with – and moving on from – stressful situations [2] [3]. Many couples and families are finding themselves in lockdown together – some for the second or third time, and others for what feels like a constant state of being. This is still a relatively new and strange situation and is likely to require unique ways of coping together. But here’s something interesting – even in a ‘normal’ situation, with just one of you under stress, we would still recommend finding a way of coping together. So, from that point of view, the way you're getting through this situation shouldn’t be entirely different from the way you’d get through any other. Shared coping is easier when you’ve got shared goals. These might be long term jobs like keeping the house clean or helping the children with their schoolwork, or they could be fun things like working through a box set or doing a jigsaw puzzle together. Think about what you both want to get out of this time. Perhaps you could draw up a list of goals to work on together – even easy ones will help you feel connected. You can use the goal-setting feature on Click. Getting through a crisis can be good for your relationship, as long as you find ways of coping together. Mutual support can reduce stress for both of you – when one of you feels better, the other will too, and this can make you feel more supported as a unit [4]. This is great news because, when we’re happy with our relationships, we tend to feel better in general [5]. How to be supportive for your partner Support can be offered in different ways: Emotional support. This is when you show your partner that you have understood. Practical support. This is when you offer ways of solving a problem. Delegating. This is when you take on tasks to give your partner a break [6]. Emotional support helps your partner feel listened to and shows them that you are making the effort understand what they are going through. It’s usually best to offer emotional support first, rather than jumping in with practical support. This video shows the difference between emotional and practical support. The video was made at a time when going out and doing the shopping was a little easier than it is now, but the ideas are still relevant. Notice Naomi’s reaction to the different types of support from Liam: When you offer support, do it willingly, and take your partner’s concerns seriously. They will be able to tell when you’re being sincere. How to talk to each other about stress When you talk to your partner about a stressful situation, try to describe your feelings as well as the situation. Start sentences with “I feel…” and explain what the situation means to you. Tell your partner why you are upset, and what you hope will change. When your partner tells you about a stressful situation, show your support by listening properly. Put down whatever you are doing and give your full attention. Ask questions to learn more. Try summarising the problem to make sure you’ve properly understood. You could use the following guide to help with talking about problems: Explain what the problem is. Discuss it together and look for solutions. Talk about what you will each do next. Alcohol In stressful situations, we might be tempted to turn to harmful ways of managing things, like drinking too much. While alcohol can feel like an effective way to cope with stress in the moment, it’s usually more harmful in the long run – the negative effects on your mood and general health can end up causing more stress than they solve. Try to stick to other, healthier ways of improving your mood, like exercise or phoning a friend for a chat. If you’re worried that you or your partner might be using alcohol to deal with stress, have a look at our alcohol site, where you can find our free short course, ‘Coping with stress’. References [1] Lazarus & Folkman, 1984[2] Bodenmann, Meuwly, & Kayser, 2011[3] Meuwly, Bodenmann, Germann, Bradbury, Ditzen, & Heinrichs, 2012[4] Regan et al., 2014[5] Traa, De Vries, Bodenmann, & Den Oudsten, 2014[6] Falconier, Jackson, Hilpert, & Bodenmann, 2015
Article | stress, isolation
Relationships and social distancing
We’ve all found ourselves in a situation we couldn’t plan for. We know that the best thing to do is stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible but, understandably, a lot of us will be worried about what that might mean. There are lots of tips and ideas for dealing with various aspects of the current situation, but we’re going to focus on our expertise – relationships. Our relationships with others make it easier for us to adjust to and cope with stressful situations. This article will help you find ways to look after your relationships as you switch to a new way of being, for however long that may be. Why relationships matter In a period of social distancing, normal concerns like work, family, and children can be intensified and you worry about how you will cope [1] [2]. You might be adjusting to different ways of working or facing the idea of being unable to work at all. Many of you will also be looking for ways to keep the children busy while they’re off school. On top of all of this, it feels like there’s something new to worry about every time you look at the news or social media. We don’t know what will happen, or when things will change. In the meantime, we’ve got to get on with our lives. Find an exercise community While there are many great reasons to snuggle up in front of the TV, you could see this as an opportunity to get fit. Exercise can have a positive effect on your physical and mental wellbeing [3] [4]. Under UK government guidelines, you should only exercise outside once a day. But, if you can make yourself a little space, there are no restrictions on how much exercise you can do at home. There are lots of exercise videos available online, from aerobics to yoga to Pilates to dance. Could you commit to doing a home workout three times a week? Exercising in a group can be a great way to stay well [5], so take the opportunity to search for exercise classes online. Even if you’re on your own in real life, working out with an online instructor can give you a sense of community, knowing that other people around the world are doing the same activity as you. Use technology to stay connected The internet and social media allow us to keep in touch with loved ones in a way that isn’t always possible face to face. In a period when you can’t visit or meet up with friends and family in person, make use of web chats and video calling to stay connected. Send a quick text and see who wants to book in a chat. Get yourself on Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty, or whatever works for you, and hang out with a friend or family member for a bit. You could plan to bring a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, so it feels like you’re meeting up in real life. And, with things like Netflix Party and twoseven, you can even have long distance movie nights. Feel closer through the power of imagination Being apart from loved ones can be difficult. If you don’t live with your partner, you might be missing sex and intimacy. Even if you’ve got your immediate family at home, you might just want to hug your granny! Whoever you’re missing, you can support the relationship by staying close emotionally. It may not be easy but switching your focus to the emotional connection can be just as good for your relationship as being in the same physical space [6]. One way to hold onto this closeness is to imagine that you’re physically close. Visualising yourselves together can boost your mood [7] and make you feel closer [8]. Try this exercise, focusing on someone you want to feel closer to: Find a space where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. Think about the other person. Picture them somewhere safe and comfortable. Imagine that person encouraging you to feel safe, secure and comforted. What would they say? What would they do? It might sound silly but spending three minutes on this exercise can help you feel closer and more supported. Practise gratitude If you do live with your partner or your family, you might find yourselves spending lots more time together than usual, which can put extra pressure on everyone. Try this gratitude exercise, focusing on a loved one: Grab a pen and paper. Think about the person. Remember the things you’ve always loved about them. Think about what they’re doing now that you’re grateful for. Write down three things about the person that make you feel grateful. Practising gratitude can give your mood a boost [9]. Gratitude for your partner specifically can make you feel better about your relationship [10]. Learning to argue better Times of increased stress and tension can lead to more arguments at home, especially if both of you are finding it hard to cope. When you sense things getting out of hand, try to keep these basic steps in mind. STOP. When you feel an argument creeping up, pause the conversation. Agree to put it on hold until you both feel calmer. SEE IT DIFFERENTLY. Look at things from the other person’s point of view. We’re all dealing with this in our own ways and might need different kinds of support. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. Say how you feel and ask for what you need. Instead of saying, “Stop stressing me out!”, try saying, “I get worried when you read out the headlines. Can we talk about something else for a bit?” Above all, try to keep arguments away from your children. This might be harder with everyone at home but it’s much better for children to see you sorting things out in a calm and healthy way. Getting through it You might be feeling lots of different emotions, including anger, sadness, or irritation [11]. It’s all perfectly normal. Do what you can to relieve the boredom and stay in touch with friends and family. Take up a hobby, start a book group, do some exercise, give someone a call. It all helps. While all of this feels very strange and new, there’s actually lots of evidence about what it’s like for people who have to self-isolate. It may never have been done on such a wide scale, but it’s been done. People have got through it, and you can too. Share your tips Have you learned any helpful relationship tips during social distancing? Post a comment below, or  click ‘Write a post’ to share your ideas. Extra help for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety If things are getting overwhelming, these helplines can offer support with mental health concerns like anxiety or depression. Anxiety UKSupport around anxiety. Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm. Saturday to Sunday, 10am – 8pm.03444 775 774 MindInformation about mental health problems. Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.0300 123 3393 References [1] Cacioppo and Hawkley, 2003[2] Leigh-Hunt, et al., 2017[3] Goodwin, 2003[4] Hyde, Maher, and Elavsky, 2013[5] Williams and Lord, 1997[6] Adams, 1986[7] Carnelley, Bejinaru, & Otway, 2018[8] Otway, Carnelly, & Rowe, 2014[9] Davis 2016[10] Parnell, 2015[11] Brooks et al., 2020
Article | family, social media, Health
Community posts
Sex Life has Dampened and Feeling Unwanted as Hell
I've decided to finally begin writing about this here, as I saw a few posts here about women being in the same situation as me and I know writing is a healthy outlet. My partner and I have been together for over 3 years, when we first met he was in his active addiction and I was also a heavy drinker. Due to this, we had a lot of crazy kinky sex. Do I need it like that? No. But do I compare how he wanted me than to how he wants me now? Yes. I am happier we are both healthier now, but our sex life/intimate life is not satisfying me. Nearly any relationship I had been in, we were having sex way more frequently. I like to do it at least a couple of times a week, if not every day is possible. Why not? I’m still 28, and I’m healthy with a sexual appetite.. I enjoy sex, and I have always been confident sexually so “feeling sexy” was never something I struggled with. We have sex about once a week now, and it's usually always on a Saturday, in the shower, and initiated by me or forced by him because he can see how frustrated I am becoming. I think part of the reason I also want sex so badly, is because he is not an overly affectionate guy (for many reasons), so when we have sex its a good time for me to “feel” the love and feel closer than ever. I understand that he has his own way of showing he loves me and I also understand there are different love languages and not all people are as touchy or romantic.The thing is, as a First Nations man, he has also been exposed to a lot of intergenerational and immediate trauma in his life and he also struggles with mental health challenges, and severe stomach issues and is constantly in discomfort. I believe him and know he has suffered for years, and I would do anything to take all of his pain away. At the same time, I am a human with needs and when they are unmet I am left feeling gross, unwanted, and even selfish for feeling this despite knowing his struggles. The thing is, the reason we usually do it in the shower (in the same position all of the time) is because that is the only place his stomach does not bother him as much. We have spent years trying to resolve his digestive issues and it's been honestly disappointing and a never ending battle. But the thing is, it was also bad when we were no longer drinking further in our relationship and still having sex regularly. I understand he suffers, but I think sometimes the desire to have sex just doesn’t overpower what ever he is feeling. I wish sometimes it did. As women we grow up conditioned into thinking that men always want sex and are always hungry and looking for it. Even from my experience, whatever partner I have ever had has always been all over me. At one point in our relationship, he was addicted to pornography. He was also lying to me about masturbating. It took us a while to get over that and resolve it (if its been resolved). This fucked me up really bad, and still does today to be honest. He never wanted to have sex with me because he said he was tired or he would never finish and I found out he was watching porn and jerking off nearly every day. Its common for people with childhood trauma, or addictions in general to become addicted to internet porn.. But the feeling of someone rather having something that is non-physical and external to you- is unfathomable. We got through it, I’ve been under the impression for about a year that he doesn’t watch porn anymore. I honestly believe he doesn’t, and he wouldn’t really even have time to now anyways. But, is it wrong for me to still wonder in the back of my mind? I guess I have some questions to myself. Is my partner still addicted to porn? Is it wrong for me to be upset and sexually frustrated for not having sex more often while knowing he struggles with multiple things that cause him to feel this way? Is it just normal for some couples to not have sex more than once a week? Should I be “normalizing” it if I still feel crappy and like I want it more often?
User article
Married with feelings for another
My wife and I have been married for four years and together for eight (no kids), we realized and discussed about two years ago that we had fallen out of love with each other. We have been actively trying to make it work but are both such different people now then when we were younger. Primarily the fact we were both quite depressed when we met and fell in love in our twenties and since have both done a lot of growth and healing. We have realized we are both very different people now, and although we both love and care for each other, are not "in love". Neither of us wants to stop the other from being happy and 10 months ago decided to have a trial separation, we are both open to the idea of the other person dating in this time. I feel like we both know where this is truly ending but are afraid to let go. Enter "M", my closest friend at University. We are are extremely close, have engaging conversations every day, work on all our projects together, etc. When we first met there was that instant spark and despite both of us just being friends, there was constantly this underlying tension between us. We have had a pretty close friendship and have shared a lot of personal stuff back and forth including our histories and such. I cannot deny, I have never connected with another person on this level. About a month ago, M and I were chatting online, and she brought up how difficult it has been trying to date and meet people online during pandemic. I related talking about how it has been extra hard on my marriage. Instantly, it was like a switch flipped and M started acting distant. We spoke and M told me she thought we should take a step back and she thought I wanted us to take the relationship to another level. I panicked, told her I had only ever wanted to be friends as well ... and that I was in an Open relationship. I don't know why I said this, I panicked and was afraid to admit my wife and I were separated for some reason. M and I talked again and we agreed to reset just as friends. I see M everyday in class and normally we would chat all class together. M is now avoiding me and is largely ignoring me, I respect she may need space but am also afraid I have lost a really good connection. And as I realize I have pretty serious feelings for M, I am also afraid we may have lost the potential for more. M has made it clear she had feelings for me and needed space, but also left it vague whether we could be friends in the future.. I have realized I have significant feelings for M, but if I am being honest with myself, I know I am not in a place where I even want to be in a relationship. But I do still want M's friendship.. Part of me wants to reach out and tell M the truth about my marriage and feelings, just for the sake of being perfectly honest and clear, before taking a step back and giving her space. The other part of me feels like I hurt M and should just take the step back... The only thing I know is I really really miss M.
User article | marriage, separation, emotional affair
Lack of desire or excitement
Hi everybody. I am writing here because i feel desperate and exhausted. People in my life i tried to speak to about this have been very harsh so id appreciate even just a little bit of empathy. I have been with my boyfriend for almost 10 years. I am 29 so I was  young when i met him, and for a number of reasons we moved in together less than a year into our relationship. Things have been very good for us, even if of course with time our passion has faded away gradually. We would still have sex but without the excitement of the beginning (as it happens naturally i guess). This fact has not bothered me too much until a year ago. There have been some changes in my life, and I feel like I have become more and more comfortable with my sexuality. I grew up in a very religious family so even if from the beginning i have been enjoying sex with him, it was not until recently that i have become more aware of my sexual needs and desires. I think a part of me feels that i cannot express this side of me with him because we have been together for so long and its not who i am with him- it feels wrong. Simultaneously, i have become attracted to a man i met in the course of the past year. We have developed deep feelings  and we are also very attracted to each other- the chemistry drives us both insane, but we have talked about it and we have agreed that we want to remain just friends because we both love our partners.  However, in the past few months it has become nearly impossible for me to have sex with my boyfriend- all i think about is this other person. I try to push him out of my mind but the idea of him is the only one that excites me. I feel horrible about this and wish I could change how my body feels but dont know how to. My boyfriend knows that i consider this person very important and has understood it (they know each other) but I havent told him about the sexual fantasies/desires because I dont want to hurt him. I have also spoken to him about my concerns about our lack of passion/excitement, and he has been trying to calm me, telling me it happens at times and it will get better. I really want things to work between us because I want to marry him, but I also dont want to feel so dissatisfied sexually. If you have ever been through something similar id love to know how/if you worked through through. Any advice or (as I said at the beginning) words of comfort are also most welcome- i have never felt this lost before.
User article | emotional affair, someone else, sex