With ‘Divorce Day’ fast approaching – the first working Monday of January is dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ by the legal profession as that’s the day most divorce petitions are filed. It follows what is often a stressful time for year for relationships that are already on thin ice, with Christmas and New Year often causing seismic cracks to appear and the relationship to become a casualty of falling through the ice.
I get it.
The festive period is fraught with stress, anxiety and far too many opportunities to mess things up, from a one-too- many festive sherry, to an inappropriate snog under the mistletoe, from telling great Uncle George what you really think of his out-dated attitude and opinions, to upsetting your mother-in-law for refusing her offer of helping with the sprouts (because she’s been boiling them to death since October!).
Then there’s your partner or spouse, either buying the wrong gifts or no gifts at all, or leaving you to deal with the kids and family whilst he goes out for a run, to the football, to buy a pint of milk (AKA a swift pint in the local pub that turns into a lengthy session with his mates) leaving you to worry about absolutely everything whilst still trying to run the home, respond to your work emails and be polite to the in-laws.
You’ve made it through all of that but you’ve woken up in this first week of January and thought ‘I’m not doing that again’ or ‘I’m not allowing myself to be put upon like that again’ and it’s got you thinking about whether it was just Christmas and New Year pressure or whether you feel like that all the time.
You’re an intelligent mid-life woman, and your instinct is s**t-hot in the workplace but now, when it’s closer to home, you’re not sure if your instinct is off.
Maybe it’s just hormones?
Maybe you’re not handling pressure the same as you used to?
Maybe it’s because the kids are older? Even though they’re more independent it seems just as stressful as when they were younger, because now you’re worrying about them drinking too much, offending relatives or just excusing themselves and leaving you to carry the load.
Maybe you just need a break?
Or maybe, you just need to be able to talk through this stuff with someone who’s been there, who’s totally objective and will let you change your mind a million times if you want to. Who won’t tell you what to do but will give you permission to say what’s really bothering you.
Often when we reach this stage in a relationship we just need to be able to vent our frustration and our feelings to someone who isn’t invested in our relationship. Who won’t take sides and who won’t tell us what we should do or say ‘I told you so’.
Just because you feel this way about your partner or spouse doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doomed. It just means you need to find a way to express yourself and to communicate your frustrations to your partner in a way that won’t cause a heated argument.
The best way to change what you want your partner to do is to model that behaviour and language to them, but where to start?
Try saying ‘Thank you’ for the small stuff, the unexpected cup of tea, them making the bed instead of you, them buying milk because they noticed you were nearly out, them putting the laundry out (even if they don’t do it quite the way you do it).
And when you find yourself about to speak in exasperation, frustration or anger, count to five and think about the words you want to use and the tone in which you’ll share them.
Such small and simple changes but they can have a massive impact.
Isn’t it worth it to avoid being a statistic on Divorce Day?
If you need a hand making these small changes, get in touch for a free and no-obligation heart-to-heart call I guarantee you’ll walk away with at least one small and simple change you can implement immediately to avoid becoming a statistic.
I’ve always had a bitter-sweet relationship with this time of year. Whilst I acknowledge that to many it’s a time of renewal, fresh starts and optimism my association with it is far from any of those things so I choose to use this time of year in my own way.
For a very long time I believed there was something wrong with me because I didn’t get excited, I didn’t make ‘New Year, New Me’ plans and I didn’t decide to make massive changes to my life or my business because a date on the calendar and social pressure dictated that I should.
For many, many years I spent this part of the year in a deep depression, numbing my inner pain with excessive alcohol, one-night stands (when I wasn’t in a relationship) and eating rubbish food. I was a party animal, living up to the expectations of all those around me but deep down hating myself, my situation and everything I was becoming, my behaviour and habits developed as coping mechanisms after the shame of my first abusive marriage ended in divorce when I was just 22.
I stopped behaving in that way when I got married again at 31 and had my son, but it wasn’t too long before I had other negative associations with this time of year when my previous successful business became insolvent on New Year’s Eve 2008 and I had to make my team of 6 redundant with immediate effect and no pay.
That’s a pain and memory that has haunted me for years.
I had a brilliant team, they helped me to grow my business from a ‘lifestyle’ business to a key player in the industry at that time. It wasn’t their fault that my business was now in the position it was. Paying their salaries was my responsibility and for years I have beaten myself up, berated myself and told myself that I’m never ever going to be in that position again. And guess what?
I’ve never been in that position again.
In fact, I’ve consciously and sub-consciously, ensured I could never be in that position again.
The prospect of employing a team or taking on outsourced support terrifies me, not because I don’t trust the people I’m delegating work to, but because I didn’t trust myself to be able to pay them.
The daft thing is, with the exception of that instance, I have always met my obligations and commitments, but I have allowed that one instance to over-shadow all of the evidence I have, that says I can meet my commitments, reach my goals and empower others.
My team were great because I empowered them to do their jobs, they knew what needed to be done and knew that I trusted them to do it. I trusted them to build and maintain relationships with my clients and my clients knew that I appointed them the best account manager for their needs. I didn’t receive a single complaint from my staff or my clients about the way things worked for them. Even after delivering the shattering news to my team all of those years ago, all bar one of the team asked if there was anything they could do to help me.
Looking back, I recognise I spent a lot of time building relationships with everyone around me; my team, my clients, my suppliers. And it was in building those relationships that solid foundations and support were laid.
I certainly recognise what went wrong and learned a very hard lesson about toxic relationships.
For someone who historically hasn’t enjoyed this time of year, I’m still not excited as the midnight hour approaches on 31st December but I acknowledge how far I’ve come and the lessons I’ve learned.
This year will be a very different and exciting New Year’s Eve. For one I won’t be drinking as I’m collecting my son from his work sometime in the early hours. And my partner won’t be drinking either, as he celebrates the end of a whole year without alcohol. We’ll head to bed at our usual time, or I may watch Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenany if I’m awake, maybe I’ll read a book and I’ll set my alarm to give me just enough time to throw on some jogging bottoms and shoes to get in the car and collect my son. Then I’ll head back to bed ready to enjoy an early start and the first day of the New Year.
It may be the day I decide to make all sorts of changes, or it may not, but for the first time in 13 years I won’t be spending it in fear or dread of what might be just around the corner. I’ll do my thing, my way, empowered by the decisions I make and walking my own path, one foot in front of the other.
I recently enjoyed a break away with one of my oldest girlfriends in Stratford Upon Avon. We visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, enjoyed a walk along the river, relaxed in the warm Autumn sun and generally put the world to rights over far too much gin, red wine and prosecco.
As I went to take my bags to my car as we prepared to leave on Sunday I was greeted with a tyre so flat I couldn’t even drive it anywhere to put air in.
I rummaged through my purse for the card with the details I needed and before too long, roadside assistance was there to help me get the car to a local garage so the tyre could be changed and I could drive home.
When I saw the tyre I didn’t worry, panic or get upset which I might have done in years gone by. I relaxed, knowing that I pay to have the services of a good breakdown recovery team at hand when I need them.
I love knowing that I have a ‘pre-paid’ subscription that means I can call them whenever I need their assistance regardless of what is going on with my car. I know that I will never be stranded, alone, with a broken-down car.
This was one of my inspirations when I created my Intimately Yours coaching package. I knew that sometimes we want the reassurance of having the right person in our corner when we need them, even if we don’t need them right then or there.
In my previous business (I was one of the UK’s first Virtual Assistants back in the day) I never sold specific services, I just sold retained hours for the clients to use whenever they required them in that month.
So I decided to create a coaching package based on exactly the same model.
Having the right people in your corner, on speed dial, makes life so much easier.
Who do you call when you need a fourth ’emergency service’?
What stories are you and your partner making up about each other?
What stories are playing out each time you have an argument or disagreement?
Are those stories going around and around leaving you feeling like you’re stuck in perpetual cycle of repetition and never moving forward?
The trouble with stories is that we all believe that our perception is the correct perception and tend to forget that the same story, seen through someone else’s eyes, heard through someone else’s ears or felt with someone else’s emotions can be completely different to the story we’re telling ourselves.
I recently watched the musical “Come from Away” with my son. It tells the story of the 9/11 atrocities but from a very different perspective. It’s the story of the passengers on the 38 planes that were diverted from US Air space and had to make unexpected landings in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and how the town suddenly doubled in size to in accommodating the 7,000 passengers who suddenly became residents until they were able to return home almost a week later.
It told the story of 9/11 but from a completely different perspective and it was riveting viewing. Many of the stories within the musical are true and whilst they all tell the story of 9/11, every single one of them is different.
The same story, so many different perspectives.
So many of the clients I work with are stuck in a story seen only from their perspective. When I suggest a different perspective, it takes them a while to acknowledge that theirs isn’t the only perspective, but I also see the penny drop; the light bulb goes on and they suddenly understand why they’ve been stuck in that perpetual cycle of repetition.
We all like to think that our perception of events is right, but often it takes someone completely objective to suggest that maybe the other party’s perception is right too. It doesn’t change our own perception but it does give us an alternative perspective.
When we break down the barrier that’s limiting understanding and start to step into someone else’s perception, then we can break the cycle of repetition and start to repair our relationship.
What do you need to see from your partner’s perspective today?
What barriers do you need to break through to rebuild your relationship?
I had everything planned.
I knew exactly what I was going to do.
I had everything for my business planned to the ‘nth degree.
I was counting down the days until my son returned to education (he’s starting Sixth Form Drama College this year) and then it was going to be all systems go.
I was really excited, in that ‘Back to School‘, New Year, New Start way many of us feel at this time of year.
But then I was brought down to earth with a bump.
My son tested positive for Covid and missed the first two days of his new adventure.
My plans, so carefully mapped out, would have to wait at least another week.
I went into full on nurturing mum mode and dropped everything to ensure he was OK.
I was worried, we’d nearly lost my mum to Covid earlier this year, this was my boy, my baby. At 6 feet tall he suddenly seemed tiny and vulnerable, just like that long but delicate little baby I first met over 16-years ago.
Some things I’d planned got done but lots didn’t.
As my son started to improve, so I started to catch up. Then my partner suggested I took Friday off as I always do.
I was reticent at first, I had so much work to catch up on. But he insisted, having kept his Friday free to spend with me as he always does.
We compromised; I did some urgent work in the morning then we went out for the day.
We visited The National Arboretum at Westonbirt Arboretum, a day in the fresh air, surrounded by trees and absorbing their energy, their strength.
As we walked hand in hand through the acres of the Arboretum I felt the stress melting away, and we started to talk about our hopes, dreams and desires, reconnecting.
I felt calmness return.
We talked about our relationship, acknowledging that it seemed to have drifted recently because we’d both been so busy and not made each other a priority.
We talked about my son and our elderly parents.
We talked about what we each need to fulfil our own individual needs and dreams.
It was much needed time together to reconnect.
So when I got home and found that the technology hadn’t worked, my social media hadn’t scheduled and my authenticator app had lost all of the accounts stored in it, I didn’t panic, I didn’t cry.
Yes, I got annoyed but also recognised that it can all be fixed and starting putting plans into motion to fix it.
What was most important was that I stepped into selfish and spent time on my relationships;
My relationship with myself
My relationship with my partner
My relationship with my son
I spent time thinking about and planning my relationship;
With my parents
With my clients
Relationships take time. They take effort, they take commitment. Sometimes the best laid plans fall by the wayside, but if you’ve put the footwork in before and you make the effort to reconnect after, then those crises soon become little blips that can soon be overcome.
What could have been a mountain of a crisis, has been a mole hill that is being easily overcome.
What can you do today, this week to ensure future crises only become little blips?
What can you do today to Bring back the Bliss into all of your relationships?
What story do they tell?
In my early days of talking about domestic abuse, people would always cite bruises as an indicator that abuse had taken place. But what if there are no visual clues?
I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until a policeman pointed it out to me. This was 5-years after I had left the relationship and was still getting hassle from the perpetrator. Even then, I didn’t believe it was abuse, I just thought it was a ‘normal’ acrimonious separation involving a child. Because to me it was normal, so I accepted it.
Many of my clients tell me about what is going on their relationship and I occasionally have cause to suggest to them that theirs is an abusive relationship. Usually their first response is ‘but he doesn’t hit me’.
We talk about it further and I explain that words and actions can be equally as damaging as physical violence.
Over time, I help them work out what they want to do in the future; some choose to leave the relationship, others choose to stay and develop coping strategies. It is always my clients’ decision and I support her appropriately. If however, I truly believe she is in danger, then I will intervene.
Over time we work together to fix those unseen bruises, the aches and pains that no-one else knows you carry around day after day, hiding them Behind the Mask.
Stepping Behind the Mask is scary, you never know quite what you’ll uncover. But when you know the underlying cause of any symptoms, you can start to fix them.
The bruise in the photo is of my hip. I was recently knocked off my bicycle by a car. That bruise and a bent and twisted bike are the only visible signs of the accident. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have damage and pain in other areas of my body.
Next time you ponder about your relationship, think about more than what you and everyone else can see. Download my e-book that tells my story about what it’s like living Behind the Mask: “Whatever it takes: Living with Leaving and Surviving Psychological Abuse”
I recently celebrated my 50th birthday but I don’t have a single photo of my party to share with anyone.
Why is this?
Upon reflection I realise that it’s because all of us at the party were actually present in the moment rather than worrying about capturing it to share with the rest of the World.
Being present is something many of us forget about in our relationships.
How often are you truly present in your relationship?
Your partner arrives home from work and tells you about their day, but rather than listening properly you’re thinking about what to cook for dinner, what to tell them about your day, what time you have to pick the kids up.
You sit down to watch TV together but one of you is watching whilst the other is scrolling through social media on your phone.
You go out for dinner and rather than talk, you take selfies, photographs of your food, your surroundings and share them on social media.
When was the last time you and your partner really connected and were fully present with each other?
Try it today. Take just 20 minutes, put your phones on silent and out of sight. Spend 10 minutes each talking. Person 1 talks about their day or whatever they want for just 10 minutes without interruption, then person 2 does the same. Truly listen to what is being said. Watch your partner’s physiology. Do you notice when they become excited, angry, reflective, motivated?
Taking time out to be truly present with your partner is the best present you can give each other.
Presence is much better for your relationship, and more valuable than presents.
It’s a bit of a milestone in anyone’s life and I was asked how I ‘really’ feel about turning 50. Well the truth is I’m really happy about it.
The first 3 decades of my adult life weren’t great; 2 abusive marriages, a failed business, personal bankruptcy, a stint working in the sex industry, a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment then led to a third abusive relationship before I hit rock bottom just after my 40th birthday. I was depressed, suffering panic attacks, on anti-depressants and beta blockers and was too scared to leave my home. I was terrified people would discover that I’d been a sex worker and I desperately wanted my life to end. I certainly didn’t want to reach 50.
I wanted my life to be over, the sooner the better. I didn’t love myself and I believed I knew, and had absolute proof, that I was unlovable – I believed I’d discovered the evidence for why people didn’t love me!
So what changed?
I lay on my kitchen floor in the foetus position, feeling sorry for myself and and something inside me snapped. I recognised that the only way my life would change is if I took responsibility for it. No-one else was going to change my life for me.
Within 2 years I had gained my Equity card and Spotlight membership, I was fitter and healthier than I had been for a very long time and I had reconnected with the love of my life whom I’d first met 15 years before.
8 years further on from that at the ripe old age of 50 I’ve used my experiences to create a business that is built around my SIM© Methodology, embracing the lessons I learned from the sex industry, and the knowledge I’ve acquired as a result of studying for a psychology degree with the Open University, and latterly training to become a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Coach, certified Hypnosis practitioner and certified Time LineTM Therapy practitioner. All of which are tools I employ with my clients where appropriate.
At 50 I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been before, in the past couple of years I’ve run a half marathon and I’m seriously considering running another one next year. I have a healthy relationship with alcohol which used to be my drug of choice and I have a healthy relationship with food.
My relationship and sex life is fulfilling, full of unconditional love, trust, respect and fun and I have an amazing relationship with my 16-year old son.
I have a growing business which is something I’d only previously dreamed of and I’m helping women Internationally to change their relationships for the better.
For the first time in my life I have a healthy bank balance and perhaps more importantly, now I’m 50, I have a healthy pension pot. In the past year I’ve taken more responsibility for my finances than ever before. I’ve worked out what I need to do to clear the last vestiges of debt from the 10-year legal battle to become my son’s primary carer.
We have the ability to change our life and our relationships. As soon a we start taking responsibility for ourselves and then taking tiny consistent action, things change.
My social media has been full of memes celebrating Star Wars Day today – May the 4th be with you! It’s a clever play on words from one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
However, for many years, I did all I could to avoid seeing or hearing any media on May 4th simple because it is known as Star Wars Day.
You see, Star Wars was for a very long time one of the triggers that took me back to my psychologically abusive marriage. I write about it in depth in my book ‘Whatever it takes: Living with, Leaving and Surviving Psychological Abuse’.
Much is written about people’s triggers, we learn about triggers for PTSD and so many people today say they are ‘triggered’ by something or another. It is used in so many settings to excuse poor behaviour or a misguided response to something someone has either said or done, that when someone says they are ‘triggered’ it is very often not met with the attention or support it requires.
We don’t always know if someone has been subject to domestic abuse, we’re not always aware if someone has PTSD, such scars and conditions are not always visible. Very often, the first we know of them is when someone has what to many people can only be described as an ‘abnormal reaction’ to something fairly innocuous such as in my case, May the 4th or Star Wars. In fact, there was another occasion when my newly decorated office in an administrative role I had triggered a memory that had lain dormant from my first marriage which was physically and sexually abusive.
It has taken many years of work from me to be able to even tolerate Star Wars on TV, there was a time where I wouldn’t even work with someone who said they were a Star Wars fan because the association to Star Wars created far too strong a response from my nervous system, taking me back to a place where I was forced to watch Star Wars movies, quizzed and tested on my Star Wars knowledge and ridiculed for not knowing various plot twists, intricacies of character relationships or which film came in which order.
Even now, I will choose not to watch Star Wars if I can although I no longer have a problem if someone is a Star Wars fan.
We hear so often about hidden disabilities; hidden abuse needs just as much consideration. We never truly know what is going on behind closed doors or Behind the Mask that people wear in public. Next time someone you know has an extreme response to something fairly innocuous, rather than making a harsh judgement, gently ask them what’s wrong. You might give them the lifeline they need.
Today is Moments of Laughter Day which leads me to ask, how many moments of laughter do you have with your partner?
My partner, Floss, and I are gigglers. We can find humour in the daftest of things and when one of us starts laughing it usually sets the other off. I’m particularly bad, I start laughing but not a loud ‘ha, ha’, I laugh and shake but without any sound at all. Most people laugh at me laughing!
Some of our best moments of laughter have been in bed.
No, not when you’re thinking, although we have been known to stop mid coitus due to laughing too much. Our usual bed-time laughter happens when we mis-hear each other just as we’re falling asleep. I’ll start giggling, he’ll ask why I’m shaking, I’ll try to tell him through my laughter, then he’ll start to laugh too, and we’ll lie there, in the dark giggling away whilst trying to fall asleep.
There is actually something rather nice about falling asleep having giggled in the moments before.
This article shares the health benefits of laughter which include releasing stress and tension, and taking the focus away from anger and guilt.
What moments of laughter can you recall with your partner?
How long ago were those moments of laughter?