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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 adjust to living through a global event, we find 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 will you support each other? What if you both need support at the same time? We’re all going to deal 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, then 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 have found themselves in lockdown or self-isolation together. This is a new and strange situation and is likely to require new 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’ll get 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
Consent orders: your questions answered
1. What is a consent order? A consent order is the legal document that sets out the financial arrangements between you and your partner when you are divorcing. It can detail what will happen to property, savings, pensions or debts, and whether one of you will pay the other a regular payment to help with living costs. It can also end future financial claims against each of you by the other. It is legally binding, and the court can enforce the order if one of you does not do what is agreed. 2. Won’t our financial ties be cut when we get divorced or end our civil partnership? No. You will still be financially tied to each other, even if you have been divorced or separated for many years. If you remarry, you will forfeit your claims against your partner, and vice versa. 3. Can you get a consent order if you’re living together? No. If you live together, then you can have a separation agreement to set out what will happen to your finances. A separation agreement is different to a consent order because it is not legally binding (meaning the court can’t enforce it).If you live together and have children, then you can still claim child maintenance from your partner. Find out more here on the government website. 4.What else does the court need to sign off a consent order? For the court to sign off your consent order you will need to provide the following;A. A financial snapshot of your assets, debts, pensions and income for you, your ex and any children you have together. This is called a ‘statement of information’ or form D81. The figures you’ll need to include are: the equity in any property, savings, investments business assets, pensions, and your income after tax (net).B. Details of how you’ll divide the finances and arrange any child or spousal maintenance and pension sharing details. This is called the Financial Remedy Order (or Order, or Consent Order). This document will need to be drafted by a trained legal professional.C. If you are sharing or splitting a pension, you will also need a Pension Sharing Order (called Penson Sharing Annex, form P1) that sets out how much pension will be shared between you. This is a separate document to your consent order and will need to be sent to your pension company along with your sealed consent order.D. You will need to complete a Form A, to ask the court to consider your finances.E. It is also advisable to send an explanation to the court about how and why you’ve come to that agreement. You have to demonstrate that you understand how the law works in relation to marital assets. 5. When do you get a consent order? You can apply for a consent order either at the same time as divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership or after your divorce or dissolution. You cannot get a consent order before starting your divorce or dissolution proceeding. The earliest opportunity that you’ll be able to submit your financial agreement to the court is at Decree Nisi stage. 6. Can a judge turn down a consent order? Yes. If a judge feels the arrangement is unfair on one person, the order will be rejected. Sometimes a judge will ask for more information and you can write a letter of explanation. At other times the judge may order a short hearing to hear from both of you as to why you feel your settlement is fair.   7. What is a clean break consent order? It’s a type of consent order used if there are no finances to sort out now but you want to end all future claims against each other. This is usually used if you don’t have any finances to sort out, or if you have already split your finances. You will still both need to give the court a snapshot of your finances (the financial disclosure). 8. Can I do a consent order myself? No, not unless you’re legally trained. Nowadays. It is relatively straightforward to file a divorce online via the government’s website, but you do need to be legally trained to draw up the legal documentation that makes up a consent order. 9. Do you need a solicitor or lawyer to divorce? No. If you’ve already agreed on what you want to do or even if you need some help with negotiating your finances, you don’t have to involve lawyers if you don’t want to. There are plenty of divorce services companies who offer consent order services. However, if you’d like to know what you’re entitled to, or if there are any danger signs (e.g. hiding assets, or domestic violence) then you should protect yourself by getting a good divorce lawyer. You can find a list of family law and divorce law professionals at Resolution. 10. How much does it cost to get a consent order? The range of getting a consent order starts from hundreds of pounds, but can go all the way up to hundreds of thousands if you’re not in agreement and end up in court. There is also a £50 court fee for filing a consent order. If you need help deciding what route is best suited to your personal situation, get free divorce advice from our partners at amicable.
Article | divorce, consent orders
Short course: “Getting It Right for Children”
Do you know the best ways to stay calm and to make sure you listen as well as talk? Are you prepared to see things differently? Can you stop a discussion turning into an argument? When things get heated, most people struggle to keep their cool. Research shows that drawn-out disagreements between parents can make children feel stressed and unhappy, particularly when it’s obvious to them that something is going on.    What do I need to do? Making agreements can be hard. Sticking to them can be even harder. Practising communication and negotiation skills can help things go more smoothly, even if you and your child’s other parent have very different opinions and emotions are running high.  We've suggested a good place for you to start based on what you've told us already. In this section you can work on improving the way you communicate and negotiate. The skills you gain will help you work with your child's other parent to create and stick to your Parenting Plan. Most people find it helpful to go through the skills in order, so we'd recommend starting at the beginning, and going through the three sections in order: STOP TALK IT OUT WORK IT OUT The first step is usually to STOP arguing. This means staying calm, making sure you listen and being prepared to see things differently. The next step is to TALK IT OUT. Here, you will learn how to speak for yourself and the benefits of being clear and sticking to the rules. The final step is to WORK IT OUT. This is where you bring it all together by looking at the best ways to negotiate when things are difficult.  
Activity | course, GIRFC
5 10 items
Pornography: your questions answered
We get lots of posts about pornography and masturbation. Many of you are worried about what it means if your partner uses pornography, or if masturbation might be reason you’re not getting as much sex as you might like. We’ve had a look at the science behind pornography and the effects it can have on your relationship, and we’ve answered some of your questions below. Is pornography bad for my relationship? This depends on your opinion of it. If you have a problem with pornography in general, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be OK with your partner watching it. This can have a negative impact on your relationship [1]. One way pornography can affect your relationship quality is by diminishing your self-esteem. If you aren’t happy about the idea of your partner using pornography, it can make you feel like you don’t matter in the relationship, or that you aren’t good enough. If you don’t mind pornography, or if your self-esteem is very robust, then it’s less likely to have a negative impact on your relationship [2]. Can pornography reduce sexual desire? Watching pornography doesn’t seem to reduce sexual desire. According to one study, pornography doesn’t take away your sexual urges, so it’s unlikely that this would be the reason a partner seems less interested in sex [3]. For more ideas on why sex might be off the table, check out our tips on being in a sexless relationship. Can we watch pornography together? Several studies have shown that couples who watch pornography together can experience improvements in their sex lives [3] [4]. As a shared activity, it can encourage you to talk about sex, creating a more open atmosphere for you to discuss your sexual desires and fantasies. While it’s important to remember that pornography doesn’t always present a realistic picture of sex, it can sometimes be a springboard for talking about what you like and don’t like [5]. How can we use pornography to talk about our relationship? Be open and honest about pornography. If you like using it, talk to your partner about why. If you don’t like it, let your partner know where you stand. These might not be the easiest conversations to start, but they can have a positive effect on your relationship by allowing you to learn more about each other. This can improve your sex life and may help make your general communication easier – couples who find a way to talk about their sexual desires in this way can even strengthen their relationship quality overall [6]. You may find that starting a dialogue around this helps you to be more open to experimentation, with a more varied and satisfying sex life. You can learn about each other’s likes and dislikes and talk about how happy you both are with the level of intimacy in your relationship [6]. Can’t I just use pornography alone? Yes, you can. However, it’s worth being aware that using pornography alone can lead to a decrease in sexual communication between you and your partner [6]. When sexual activity becomes secretive, sexual communication can too. Is there such a thing as ethical pornography? This is a tricky one, and a good question to ask yourself. While looking at pornography can be a healthy activity within your relationship, it’s important to think about where it comes from. You may not have considered whether the performers were paid for their work or even whether they have consented to do everything you’re seeing. It’s not always easy to find ethical material, or to know the background of the things you do find. One place to start might be the Toronto International Porn Festival, which has strict guidelines around its submission policy and encourages a diversity of sexual interests. It’s up to you and your partner to decide what you think is acceptable but, if you’re unsure about the ethics of a particular piece, the best advice is don’t watch it.   References [1] Maas, M. K., et al. (2018). A Dyadic Approach to Pornography Use and Relationship Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Couples: The Role of Pornography Acceptance and Anxious Attachment. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(6). 772–782. [2] Stewart, D., & Szymanski, N. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. [3] Brown, C., Carroll, C., Yorgason, J., Busby, S., Willoughby, J., & Larson, B. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 575-584. [4] Maddox, A., Rhoades, M., & Markman, G. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. [5] Daneback, K., Træen, B., & Månsson, S. (2009). Use of Pornography in a Random Sample of Norwegian Heterosexual Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5), 746-753. [6] Kohut, T., Balzarini, R., Fisher, W., Campbell, L., Impett, E., & Muise, A. (2018). Pornography’s associations with open sexual communication and relationship closeness vary as a function of dyadic patterns of pornography use within heterosexual relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(4), 655-676.
Article | pornography, masturbation
Parenting courses and disabled children
When you’re a parent of a disabled child, it’s wise to take as much help as you can get. There may be more support on offer than you realise, so speak to everyone who might be able to help – your child’s GP and other clinical professionals, your local children’s services, the school, and even friends or family who might know what’s available in the area. There is still a lot of stigma around parenting support. As a proud parent, you might be tempted to talk yourself into thinking that you don’t need it or shouldn’t accept it. However, when embarking on the most important job you will ever do, you might as well take whatever help is on offer. Seeking support isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a smart, practical choice to help yourself be the best parent you can. If you’ve been asked to do a parenting course, it can feel like you’re being judged. Many parents worry that their parenting skills are being called into question, or that their child is in trouble – try to remember that parenting programmes are designed to support you in developing the positive skills you already have. They can help you deal with stress and improve your and your partner’s relationship with your child and with each other. If you can get onto a programme with specific content for your child’s needs, you may find content that’s especially relevant, but a general parenting course can still help. For lots of parents of disabled children, attending parenting programmes helps to create a sense of stability. Having a specific course of action mapped out can give you a feeling of security which can help your child to feel more confident too [1]. Personal empowerment  A parenting programme can also have a positive effect on how you feel, alleviating some of the stress in your life, and helping you to feel better about your role as a parent. One study found that parents of disabled children felt more empowered and more empathetic after undertaking a specialist parenting programme [2]. Disabled children may be more likely to display behaviour that challenges than non-disabled children as they may have no other way of communicating that they are distressed or unhappy. As a parent, you may feel very alone, and worried about the best approach to take. Getting expert help through a parenting class can help alleviate your concerns, and it can be a relief to discover that other parents are facing the same issues. If you are dealing with behaviour issues, you can also read Contact’s guide Understanding your child’s behaviour. Family support If you can’t get access to an appropriate parenting programme, or don’t feel comfortable attending a generic one, you can still get support from friends and family – you don’t have to do everything on your own. Caring for a child with additional needs can be physically and emotionally exhausting, especially when tackled alone, so don’t hesitate to call on your social support network. Parents of disabled children cope better when they work together as a family unit. Having a strong group dynamic can actively strengthen the resilience of each individual family member [3]. This means that you, if you are the main caregiver, can benefit from the combined strength of your partner, your parents, and other family members. Lean on whoever is available. Accept help when it’s offered, ask for it when it’s not, and build a strong unit of support around your family. Short breaks Of course, not all families have good relationships. Sometimes, the arrival of a disabled child or the realisation that an older child has a disability, can add to already strained relations. Other family members may go through the same emotions as parents – including anger, grief and denial – and some find it hard to move on and accept the situation. Even if you feel disappointed by the support you receive from family members, there are practical services which may be available to give you the chance of a real break and to make time for you and your relationship. ‘Short breaks’, which ensure a disabled child or adult is cared for while the main carer has a break, may include: Overnight care in the family home or elsewhere. Daytime care in the family home or elsewhere. Educational or leisure activities for disabled children and young people outside their homes. Services available to assist carers in the evenings, at weekends and during the school holidays. Most breaks are arranged by social services – the department in your local authority, which is responsible for providing help to meet the needs of disabled children and adults. Usually, social services will need to assess your child and the family’s needs before services can be arranged but getting a break can be a lifeline for some relationships. For more information about getting a break, see Contact’s guide, Services and support from your local authority – England. If you can’t access short breaks, you can ask your local Family Information Service about local organisations offering relaxation sessions for carers, as well as activities in the holidays and at weekends for you, your disabled child and any siblings.   References [1] Nelson, P., Kirk, S., Caress, A., & Glenny, A. (2012). Parents' Emotional and Social Experiences of Caring for a Child Through Cleft Treatment. Qualitative Health Research, 22(3), 346-359. [2] Burton, R., Zwahr-Castro, S., Magrane, J., Hernandez, C., Farley, L., & Amodei, H. (2018). The Nurturing Program: An Intervention for Parents of Children with Special Needs. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(4), 1137-1149. [3] Suzuki, Hiratani, Mizukoshi, Hayashi, & Inagaki. (2018). Family resilience elements alleviate the relationship between maternal psychological distress and the severity of children’s developmental disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 83, 91-98.
Article | disability, parenting
They mess you up, your mum and dad
As that PG-rated version of the famous poem goes, our parents have a lot to answer for. We may not know it at the time, but our attitudes to relationships are formed when we are children, and we learn a lot from seeing adults interacting with each other while we are growing up. Because of this, people who grow up with divorced or separated parents are more likely to have a negative view of marriage and may be less interested in romantic relationships in general. When they do form relationships, they might be more likely to get into arguments with their partners and less keen on the idea of making a long-term commitment [1]. If your parents were separated or divorced, it can affect the way you view relationships from the start. As you get older, this can then affect the way you interact with the people you have relationships with. This doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat your parents’ patterns, but it can be a helpful way of understanding how you relate to others. When you understand the source of your attitude to relationships, it can make it easier for you to set a pace that suits you and to recognise problems when they come up. It’s OK if you don’t feel ready to make a commitment and, of course, some level of conflict is to be expected in most relationships (it’s the way you handle conflict that matters most). But, if you aren’t as happy with your relationship as you’d like to be, and you’re looking to make some changes, then recognising the source of your feelings can be a good place to start. Ask yourself what you might have learned about relationships when you were growing up. Who were your adult role models and what kinds of relationships did they have? Most of what we understand about how relationships work comes from seeing the way our parents interact. When we see them supporting each other, making compromises, and getting over arguments, we learn important skills about how to do this in our own relationships. If you grew up with separated parents, you might have missed out on a lot of that, especially if your parents didn’t handle their breakup very well or continued to argue in front of you. Even when separated parents do get on well, their children can still miss out on important lessons. You could be left trying to figure out relationship skills the hard way – through trial and error. As a result, you might find it harder to deal with relationship stress and arguments with your partner, all of which can make your relationship feel less satisfying [2]. These issues can also be linked to problems with sex and intimacy. You may find that you are less interested in sexual experiences. You might not always recognise it when your partner is trying to be intimate with you, or you might just not be into it. This is quite common for people who grew up in homes with a single parent, particularly if there wasn’t much adult affection on display [2]. Go easy on yourself, especially in your early relationships when you are still figuring out what you want. Ask your partner to be patient with you and try to be honest about anything you are finding difficult. If intimacy is an issue, ask your partner to slow things down. If you find it hard to commit, just be clear about where you’re at so that your partner can manage their expectations. Growing up with step-parents Of course, if you grew up with step-parents, it’s possible that a lot of this won’t apply to you. Unlike children who grow up with both parents, you may have had the benefit of seeing how a successful relationship begins. This can play a big part in how you go on to form your own relationships. If your parents separated when you were a child, but another parental figure entered your life, you might even be better at starting relationships than people whose parents stayed together [3]. References [1] Cui, M., & Fincham, F. (2010). The differential effects of parental divorce and marital conflict on young adult romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(3), 331-343. [2] Shulman, S., Zlotnik, A., Shachar-Shapira, L., Connolly, J., & Bohr, Y. (2012). Adolescent Daughters' Romantic Competence: The Role of Divorce, Quality of Parenting, and Maternal Romantic History. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 593-606. [3] Ivanova, K., Mills, M., & Veenstra, R. (2014). Parental Residential and Partnering Transitions and the Initiation of Adolescent Romantic Relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(3), 465-475.  
Article | separation, divorce, dating
Raising a baby after a breakup
Raising a baby with your ex-partner is unlikely to be something you ever planned for. But, if you and your partner have separated while your child is still very young, you’ll need to find a way to make things work so that you can get on with the job of being parents at a crucial time.  The breakup of a long-term relationship – particularly when there is a child involved – can be profoundly painful. You might be feeling sad, angry, guilty, regretful, relieved, or any number of emotions as you’re left reeling from the shock of the separation. And, while you might need support to get you through it, you must also keep in mind that this time in your child’s life is more important than anything going on between you and your ex. If you feel unable to move forward, it can be useful to get some external help, either in the form of relationship counselling, or individual therapy. Talk to your GP or ask at your local children’s centre to find out what support is available locally. When your emotions are still very raw, it can be difficult to see past them to the next step. Your goal should be get to a stage where you’re able to be the best parent you can be. The first three years of your child’s life are a crucial stage of their emotional development. If you are sharing custody with your ex, be aware that overnight stays in two separate homes can impede your child’s emotional development. While you might both want to have the child living with you, you may have to set aside your own wants for your child’s needs. Don’t focus on fairness between you and your ex – focus on providing continuity and consistency for your child. To achieve this, you’re going to have to cooperate with each other and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship. Put your differences aside, and make sure that your child has access to the warmth and care of both parents, even if you no longer want to be with each other [1]. Positive co-parenting You can help your child adjust to your separation by maintaining a positive relationship with your ex. Your child doesn’t care which of you was in the wrong, or which of you is hurting the most – they just need you both to be there for them. When you and your ex are getting along well, it can actually be a positive force for your child’s emotional development [2], regardless of the fact that you’re not together as a couple. Further support Like many parents in your situation, you might feel like you are powerless to change anything, particularly if you’re finding it hard to get along with your ex. However, change has to start somewhere, so it might as well start with you. Let go of any resentments and set aside the temptation to blame your partner. You can be the one to make the first positive change. You may have to be persistent, but you can start to nudge your co-parenting relationship towards being the positive force that your child needs. For more practical support, try our short course, Getting it Right for Children. It’s completely free to use – if you’re not already registered with us, just create a free Click account and you’ll be able to get started. If it feels OK to do so, consider sharing this course with your ex. Suggest it as something you can both do to make sure you have the best co-parenting relationship possible for your child. References  [1] Pruett, M., Mcintosh, J., & Kelly, J. (2014). Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children. Family Court Review, 52(2), 240-255. [2] Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., Di Blasio, P., & Feinberg, M. (2018). Co-parenting Mediates the Influence of Marital Satisfaction on Child Adjustment: The Conditional Indirect Effect by Parental Empathy. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-12.
Article | separation, divorce, co-parenting
Community posts
“Inconsiderate husband”
This is my first time posting like this. I have been stressing lately. I'm three months' pregnant with my third child. My oldest is 12 and youngest is seven. I have lived most of our family life – 10 years to be exact – with my husband's parents. His family is pretty chaotic. Both his siblings are divorced and have been unstable throughout this whole time. Recently my husband and I bought a house about one hour away from his parents and have been living very comfortable as a family of four for the past year. A week and a half ago my mother-in-law went into hospital after fainting because she was dehydrated. My husband's brother lives as a single dad with his three kids at the in-laws', and my husband wanted to give his mom a chance to feel better without too much commotion with the kids at her house. My husband told me it was temporary for a week while his mom got better. I asked my husband if it's a week for sure about a day ago and he had no answer for me. He said he didn't know. That really upsets me that he doesn't have a clear answer. I use all of my income to support the house and never spend on my wants and don't think it's fair he makes these decisions without taking me in mind. I'm not OK with this because the three nephews are very clingy and are always coming to me when they are thirsty, hungry, or even when in conflicts. I have my own two kids and I'm pregnant. I told my husband that I really planned my kids and family so I didn't need to be overwhelmed by kids. Now I feel like I'm paying for something I didn't cause.
User article | parenting, pregnancy, in-laws
“Lack of sex is destroying me”
The core problem is that we don't have sex very often and it makes me feel bad. The frequency of intimate activity dropped dramatically; he would want to do something three or four times a week. Now, we'll have sex maybe once or twice or maybe three times a month. It makes me feel unwanted, fat, and ugly. My self-esteem is in the tank. Also, because I've talked to him about this so many times, now I feel kind of dirty or wrong for wanting to have sex. And, I feel helpless because, in my eyes, I can't do anything about it. He has always been the one to initiate sex. I became too discouraged to try anymore a long time ago because he either doesn't notice when I'm trying to initiate or (when he does notice) he doesn't want to have sex. I've tried every trick in the book to turn him on, but it doesn't matter. The one time I managed to initiate he couldn't perform. So, we only have sex when he wants to, and as a result, I feel like I can't even turn him on, which makes me feel worse. He doesn't feel bad about the lack of sex. I'm not sure if he doesn't notice it, or if he doesn't need it. Whenever I've talked to him about it, he's never given me a reason for not wanting to have sex. I just wish he would show me that he loves me and finds me sexually desirable (since he doesn't tell me that I'm pretty), but it doesn't matter. To me, it's not a physical need but an emotional one. To make things worse, the reason why I'm so hard to turn on is because I don't ever expect him to follow through. He likes to "tease" me, doing the same types of things he does when he wants to have sex but not follow through. He says he needs to touch me to get turned on, but that everything shouldn't have to lead to sex, so I shouldn't worry about it. But, I can't help but feel like he doesn't want me anymore. He always wants to watch porn and he wants me to Jack him off but he doesn't even bother to touch me. He always has an excuse like his arm hurts or he's not in the mood or he is too sleepy but if I don't get him off his arm no longer hurts or he is not too sleepy anymore, so he will get himself off and when he touches me and doesn't get turned on unless he is watching porn. I feel like he's becoming a selfish lover, only concerned about his needs, which was never true before. I'm desperate. I can't go through the pain and humiliation of talking to him again. I've been trying recently, and I can't get him to have sex with me. I believe a sexual relationship goes both ways as well. The only times I have ever denied him is... NEVER. I'm giving up. I'm crying out for help. Sometimes, I just wish my life was at the end already. Any advice would help so much. Thanks.
User article | sexless, pornography
“Long term crush vs. boyfriend”
Okay, let's start at the beginning. There was a guy – let's name him "Kevin". I have had a crush on Kevin since literally 1st grade (wrote about him in diary etc.). Kevin and I never really interacted much throughout school other than having some classes together. Let's also add in the fact that I was super skinny and had braces and pimples so therefore I was not seen as "popular" or "attractive" in high school. And Kevin was definitely attractive, at least to me, but he was 100% popular. However, Kevin never dated anyone through school (which I always thought was weird). Flash forward a year after high school. I had just broken up with a boyfriend of mine (we were together for three years) and I had a mutual friend of ours reach out to him and ask what he thought about if we went out together. He responded to say he was about to go back to college and didn't want to start anything. Which I get. Whatever. Never really gave much thought to it again, like, “Hey I tried, move on”. During the next year, I got more curves where a woman needs them I guess. I got my braces off, and I learned how to make up pretty decently and I have money to gets clothes I really wanted. So I started dating this guy – we will call him Luke. Luke was a little younger than me, he is super silly, and funny, and he’s pretty good looking. I still struggled getting in a relationship with him for some reason. I took me a long time to fall in love with him even after dating. Luke and I were dating and moved in together for about three months, then one day I was working my second job at the local gas station and Kevin came in to buy beer. I knew it was him but I didn’t really talk to him (I acted like I didn’t know him and just rung him out). Then, two days later I get a phone call from my friend saying Kevin reached out to her to try to get my number. She told him I was seeing someone. I didn’t think much of it until A WHOLE MONTH after when I get a random text message from Kevin asking how I am and if I was free this upcoming weekend. I let him know I was in a relationship (even though he already knew). I was confused with how he even got my number. Come to find out he had his uncle reach out to my mom for it. I was interested, I'm not gonna lie – my long term crush finally sees me and is interested. Middle school me would be screaming. But I'm 21 now, what the hell do I do with this? So, I decided to hang out with him at the park. We fished, we talked, and we laughed for hours. And then we left. No, I never cheated on Luke but I did feel guilty because I hid it. Kevin and I hung out again and we painted. He said he would try anything for me even if it was painting. So we spent hours on the lake painting and listening to music while laughing. He hugged me when we left. He went back to college after that. I kept hearing from his uncle that “Kevin wants to be with you.” “He finally decided he wants to be in a relationship and he chose you.” “He said he sees a future with you…”. But when I ask him what he wants he beats around the bush saying, “I would have to get to know you better” and “I don’t know, I'm a senior in college”. We didn’t talk too much after that. We check in but that’s about it. I'm still currently with Luke but I always think about Kevin and what we could have been in another world. He's back home and still not seeing anyone. Luke and my relationship is currently struggling and I don’t know if its because of me and I'm overreacting… Or if it's just not meant to be.
User article | crush, emotional affair
“We don't have sex and I feel bad”
I'm 27 and my boyfriend is 43. We have lived together for three years. Our relationship was never easy. I never thought we were going to work but then I ended up living with him. I remember our first date and the sex was fantastic. Now it is like the forbidden subject. He has difficulties on having erections so we even find a medicine to help him but still he doesn't want to do it. I feel like when we have sex is because I forced him to do it and he makes me feel so bad. I talk to him, to beg to him, what is the problem. because if I let things flow we might stay forever without touching each other. I feel that I'm being selfish sometimes. Other times I feel like I am not that attractive girl because I'm skinny. I don't have big boobs or a big butt. I don't know. I like sex, I don't mind trying whatever he likes but what he likes is no sex at all. I never talk about this with anybody because nobody supports my relation due to the age difference. I know it's not easy and it's difficult to continue. One year ago I caught him in a dating app talking to other girls and that destroyed me – my confidence, how I feel as a woman – but I forgive him because at the time we where fighting a lot. I tried to move on but he shut down and he does everything to not be with me. We're both together in this quarantine now. We're supposed to be happy together doing a lot of sex but, no, it's me in the room alone, masturbating and him doing whatever in the living room. I still believe that maybe we can work things out. After three years, I don't have the courage to break up and go back to live with my parents and start from zero. It would be so hard to believe in love again. That's why I thank you for this opportunity to let it out and ask for help! Somebody help me. I don't know what to do, I'm feeling miserable. I know relationships aren't easy but are you supposed to feel this pain constantly? [Sorry for my English, it's not my first language, hope it's clear and understandable]
User article | sexless
“Lack of lust or passion”
Been with my partner nearly a year and really love and care about him but it just lacks any lust or passion from him. He says he has rejection issues from a previous relationship and uses that as a reason to never come on to me even though I have never rejected him in any way. He has had a previous relationship since. When we first met, he used to brag about how she was young and pretty – even tried to get me to high five a few times at his accomplishment which I did find really disrespectful, yet I persisted with seeing him. He also has in a way bragged or just mentioned how he used to get up to all sorts of sexual things and how with the past two relationships they would have sex wherever and that he really fancied and wanted the one who rejected him a lot. (My past has probably been, shall we say, more colorful and adventurous than his. I just don’t feel the need to tell him every little detail as he's a jealous guy anyway and its never nice knowing too much as you just envision you partner doing those acts with people from your past, plus I am still like that, I don’t think you should say all the good things you used to do then become a monk in the current relationship.) With me, though, I have to do everything. If I don’t try it on with him nothing happens and I have to build him up to wanting sex with touching, kissing his neck and body and other areas! All whilst he lies or sits there with his eyes closed barely touching me, sometimes not at all touching me until we actually have sex, even then it’s not a lot. I feel like sex for him is just a release. When that feeling has just built up to too much and needs releasing – and that isn’t a lot – I can get about once a week from him and that was even the same in the beginning. But, like I say, it's hard work to get there. It's never spontaneous and I never get any umff back. I think intimacy in any form is a way to bond with your partner. I have mentioned to him it doesn’t have to lead to sex – sometime just kissing, real kissing and rubbing up against each other with just touching each other not even in sexual areas can be just as fun, but he says that leads to frustration which isn’t fun. We only tend to have sex in the evening on the sofa or in bed and the moves are very limited unless I suggest or just do something different. I tend to do 85% of the work. We hug, cuddle, and peck kiss all the time. He loves a cuddle now which he said he has never liked before and actually used to flinch when I used to touch him, as I am quite tactile. He was never used to that and didn’t like ever to be touched but now actually wants that when we are together, even places my hand on his skin like a comfort thing. It just tends to lead to him falling asleep while I cuddle him. Which I do think is cute. I love being near him, just don’t want that all the time. He does work nights so is generally tired all the time, which is the reason he says he's never in that mood as he needs to sleep yet manages to stay awake for hours – I mean 10 hours straight at times – on his computer talking to friends after a night shift, then just gets off to see me when he's tired and falls asleep straight away. He has asked me to try his game so we can play together but I don’t really like the game he plays, plus don’t want to friend zone myself even more than I feel like I am. I would try it once he can make me feel like his girlfriend, not friend or mother. I try to just get a good kiss as we have never just made out or touched or felt up each other even since the beginning. I try and give him a kiss sometimes. I get about four seconds, then he just turns so I get his cheek to kiss or neck. I also do touch him, make comments about him looking good and how he turns me on as he is very insecure and loves a compliment, he almost asks for them. I never get the same back. I get called beautiful and he loves me – it is really sweet and it may be me being fussy but he calls his daughters beautiful. Yet, he has explained to me about previous girlfriend and people his slept with or people from the TV as hot and stunning. When I am feeling up on him and kissing his neck I can see he likes it but I physically have to pick his hands up and put them on me – only on my back or leg but otherwise he will just sit and take it. I used to be quite confident and even though I don’t really like my body, I wouldn’t feel conscious with my past partner who I was with for 18 years. Even though I wasn’t particularly attracted to him we still had a sex life and i didn’t feel like he found me disgusting to touch or look at. I now feel like I need to cover up, as he never looks at me if I am naked while we are doing anything. Because of that and feeling like I am disgusting I have put on half a stone nearly, through being down. It must be me that’s not hot enough and through so much sexual frustration. This does make him sound awful. He really isn’t and I know he really loves me. I do believe that and whenever I mention anything about this he gets defensive. I never actually get to say what I want to say without him become hostile, which is annoying as I want to do the specific things that I have found upsetting or let down by. Afterwards, he is down, thinking I am going to end it with him. He also has a lot of past and had a rubbish childhood which I know has made him very shut down, his family have said that, since we have been together, they have never seen him so relaxing in life and happy. I have even noticed he's a lot less angry from when I first meet him. I just wish there was more effort made as I do love him but won’t let myself feel like this for ever. We both have children with past partners and I get mine looked after for date nights but he ends up eating whenever I have cooked in five mins, then 20 mins later is asleep on the sofa while I spend the evening by myself AGAIN, or if there are plans made to do something, quite a lot he has forgotten and is just asleep again, so I get dressed up or tell people I’m doing this, that, or the other where in fact I end up in my pjs by 7.00 again watching TV while he sleeps lying on me. Sometimes I get a bit of intimacy from him if I try early enough in the evening before food. Often it's just me giving him pleasure thinking he may return that favor but once he's gone that’s it, I get a hug and his then asleep. I enjoy giving him pleasure – you normally do to someone you love and I have always had that returned but he doesn’t feel that need. I have suggested he needs counseling for all his past issues and the fact that it's not normal for a man in his 30s to have this little interest in sex. He does agree but won’t actually do anything about it. I even said to him I will be patient and one day it may all just change. I have said he needs to try a bit though to get his mind set in a different way and push himself a little but I don’t feel like he tries whatsoever. Do I just be extra patient and hope one day it clicks and he has passion and lust? The trouble is the longer it's taking, the more I am struggling and my respect for him as a partner is fading. I then stop going to him and initiating anything but I know that won’t help as he needs that push to feel comfortable and try and break his habit. It just eats me up. Sometimes I have actually been touching him ‘you know where’, being nice and have tears in my eyes. He doesn’t know as his eyes are always closed. He doesn’t look at me but I feel stupid as I have never had to try so hard to get soo so little back in return with any past man I have been with. The trouble is we do get on and are very similar in many ways. All our children get on ridiculously well and, as a family, we have just jelled but I would think we have been married 40 years and in our 70s the amount of effort and intimacy we have.
User article | sexless