As part of the BACP requirements for Continuous
Professional Development, I recently attended a training course on Affairs and
their impact on the couple relationship. It was a fascinating course with
therapists from different cultures, training and moral values. Affairs are
always a controversial subject, often touching both therapists and clients
deeply and on a personal level.
25% of couples coming for relationship
counselling present an extramarital affair as their reason for seeking
have heard that early January is the busiest time of the year for divorce
lawyers. They report on average an increase of 30% in new enquiries post
Christmas/New Year break compared to the rest of the year. Relate, the leading
organisation providing relationship and couple counselling in the UK, also
records significantly higher than average calls and demand for appointments in
January than in any other month of the year.
So why is
that? People have generally high expectations for this time of year, thinking
they will have a wonderful family time putting themselves and their loved ones
under a lot of pressure if things don’t go according to plan.
Did you know that 2 thirds of
couples experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction after the
birth of their first baby? While for some couples, relationship satisfaction
will eventually recover, for most couples the low will persist. It does not
take a rocket scientist to identify the causes of such a drop: lack of sleep,
constant demands of a new baby, being stuck at home a lot of the time, lack of
freedom or spontaneity. But also, becoming a parent is a huge adjustment for
both partners, not only in terms of lifestyle and what they might want to
achieve in life, but crucially it sends one back to their own childhood i.e.
what kind of child they were, how was the parenting they received, what do they
want for their own child, what do they want to replicate and what do they want
Furthermore, research tells
us that it is the changes that men make to their behaviour during that
adjustment period that can significantly improve relationship satisfaction.
This appears surprising at first and definitely at odds with what happens the
rest of the time when trying to address relationship issues where efforts from
both partners are much more balanced. So why is that? In the majority of cases,
it is still the woman who is the partner staying at home to look after the baby
and therefore the most impacted by his/her arrival. As she struggles through
adjusting to her new life, to feelings of guilt that often come with motherhood
and to find her new identity as a woman and a mother, could it be that increased
understanding and support from her loving partner make all the difference?
It is fascinating to observe
what that one third of couples who successfully transition from childless
couple to parents do differently. The overwhelming difference is that these
couples work as a team. They are aware that they are in it together and must
work together to get through the bad nights etc. They acknowledge each other’s
contributions and support each other through thick and thin. And when,
inevitably at times, tempers run short, they try to repair the situation
quickly and don’t let anything fester.
There are many ways any
couple can learn to do this and, obviously, relationship counselling can help.
If you like books, a good starting point is “And Baby makes three” by John and
Julie Gottman (2007). The Gottmans are a real life couple of American relationship
therapists who have developed over the years a keen interest on how couples
handle the transition to parenthood. The book can be a bit cheesy at times but
offers lots of tools and tips parents can use or reflect upon.
seen the BBC news article titled ‘Modern life turning people off sex’ yesterday
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25094142? It describes the findings of a once
in a decade poll of 15,000 brits enquiring about the number of times they’re
having sex per month. Significantly, it is the first time since the poll began
that a reduction in the frequency people are having sex has been registered.
Mercer from University College London was quoted as saying “…we also think
modern technologies are behind the trend too. People have tablets and
smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and
Facebook, answering emails.”
I am not
surprised by these findings as they confirm what my clients have been reporting
more and more during relationship counselling. Couples can easily spend the whole evening side by side on the
sofa each on their smartphone or tablet hardly saying a word to each other.
When people are tired at the end of the day, this is easy entertainment
requiring minimum effort and certainly no ‘real’ human interaction. Not exactly
a turn on, is it? Things get worse when technology gets in the bedroom, as
people tend to fall asleep on their phone/tablet instead of turning to each
other for a cuddle. So if you’re in bed reading this, maybe something to think