I’m often told that the way my partner and I got together is like something out of a Fairy Tale or Hollywood movie, and as today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day I thought I’d share some of our story with you.
We first met 23 years ago in 1998, it wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, my first thoughts were; he was rude, arrogant and I wouldn’t want to bump into him alone on a dark night! I was out with some girlfriends for my birthday, we’d bumped into some mutual acquaintances, one of whom was the person I really fancied, and we’d all started enjoying the evening together, drinking, chatting, laughing, this rude, arrogant man seemed to tag along and we just couldn’t shake him off.
At the end of the evening we were all jumping into taxis and I discovered to my horror that he lived at the other end of the village I was in. So we had to share a taxi. I got out at his street so that we split the taxi bill and he invited me in for coffee. Bizarrely, I agreed. We sat at his kitchen table drinking coffee and talking. We talked all night. I recall sitting at the table seeing the sun come up and realising I still wasn’t home.
This was a revelation to me, a man who invites you in for coffee and a chat and genuinely wants coffee and a chat. My interest was piqued.
He called me a couple of weeks later and we went on our first date – to the local Rugby 7’s tournament! We actually dated for a year before going our separate ways; I went to live and work in London (I was living in South Wales at the time) and he went to Nottingham University as a mature student. These were the days long before mobile phones were common-place and we just couldn’t maintain a long-distance relationship.
Not a day passed without me thinking about him. In the years that followed I got married, had a baby, got divorced, went through business failure, bankruptcy and more before I started to put myself first and started following my dream to become an actor.
I recall receiving the call that told me me I was cast in a play that was due to tour the South West of England. I said to the partner I was with at the time “I have no idea how, but I know that this play is going to change my life”.
It did change my life.
Whilst I was in rehearsal and chosen as the ‘poster girl’ for the play, that man I’d met all those years ago had headed into his local theatre to book tickets for a production. Looking at the posters advertising forthcoming productions, he thought he recognised the woman in the poster for ‘Ward 7’, the play I was in. Asking the box office manager if he knew who I was, and mentioning me by my maiden name, the box office manager also recognised me as I had been in a children’s theatre group with his daughters when I was a child.
A few telephone calls later and they had ascertained that ‘Yes’ I was the woman they thought I was. At that point all I knew is that someone who thought they knew me had booked tickets for opening night. I had no name, it could have been anyone.
A week before opening night I received a Facebook message request. It’s fair to say my heart skipped a beat when I saw who it was from. But I was sceptical. I hadn’t heard from him for 15 years at that point and the last I’d heard he was living and working in Canada with his girlfriend. I agreed to meet him for a coffee.
Within minutes of meeting I knew I was in trouble. All of those old feelings came rushing back and the conversation we had that day over coffee just reinforced the message that he really was the love of my life.
He turned up on Opening Night and within 3 weeks I had left my partner and moved in with him to his bachelor pad in a seaside town in the South West of England. That was 8 years ago and I’ve never been happier.
I’ve often said ‘when you ‘know’, you ‘know”. I always knew he was the love of my life, it took him a while to realise I was the love of his life. That day we met for coffee we talked openly and honestly to each other for hours. We had both felt the same way, he just hadn’t felt he deserved to be loved.
The past 8 years haven’t been easy. We’ve dealt with stuff that would have broken a less strong, healthy or robust relationship. But we have continually felt more and more in love with each other.
Can we look back and say we would have done things differently? Of course we can. But there is nothing in either of our pasts that we’re ashamed of, nothing that either of us doesn’t know about the other, and nothing that we know we can’t overcome in the future.
What we have, is what our relationship was based on from that very first night we met when I didn’t like him at all – we have communication, honesty and trust. We have shared values.
Yes, the way we reconnected is something of a Fairy Tale but there’s truth in the adage that ‘life is stranger than art’.
I’d love to know your Fairy Tale moments.
Recently I have spent a number of hours each week working at my local hospital. It’s certainly been eye-opening and I have so much respect for my colleagues who have worked at the front line for the entirety of this pandemic thus far.
But what has struck me most, and something I’m privileged to witness, is the diversity of relationships that I’m party to during my time there.
There is the obvious patient/clinician relationship, and all staff are trained to help patients who are anxious and worried at this time, to ensure their visit to the hospital, however long, is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Something that requires a lot of resilience in these testing times as procedures seem to change with each new news report.
Then you see the parent/child relationship. Where I’m working it’s often mid-life children accompanying their elderly parents. A generation who as war babies were the most vulnerable at the time of their birth and now once again, find themselves among the most vulnerable in our society.
Then there’s the couples; young and old, long and short term. The young couples barely seem to talk to each other, heads down glued to their mobile phones giving silent moral support in their joint isolation. And the elderly couples, worried about what news may be imparted to their loved one, looking after each other with an enduring love that so many of my clients seek for themselves. They will often have spent the entire day at the hospital for one short appointment with a clinician who could potentially change the course of their life.
And I see the couples where there is obviously conflict or abuse, often the individual won’t even recognise that the conflict is there but for someone finely tuned to detect it, it’s obvious. I see myself in the women or men who present scared of their own shadow, their partner doing all of the talking for them and complaining if their appointment is more than just a few minutes late because they, not the patient, are being inconvenienced.
I relish talking to the patients, giving a smile, behind my mask, ensuring it reaches my eyes. Making what I hope is a reassuring gesture to those who arrive worried and anxious. And doing all I can to make their brief interaction with me as pleasurable as possible. For those who can’t walk without assistance and have a long wait, I fetch water from the water cooler, and I’ve assisted those who can’t read or write to complete forms that are confusing enough for the most literate of us.
You see all of life in a hospital, the good, the bad and the ugly; but for me, the best parts of wearing PPE and having the constant sting and smell of hand sanitiser as company, is giving random acts of kindness to worried strangers, and observing the myriad of relationships that play out day by day in the midst of a pandemic serving as solid reminders that life really does carry on amidst the ebb and flow of whatever nature throws at us, and that strong, healthy and robust relationships can endure whatever adversity is pushed across their path.
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day?
Many of the women over 40 who I work with tell me they feel trapped, doing what they think they SHOULD be doing rather than what they WANT to be doing, keeping everyone else happy rather than themselves, stuck on a treadmill of monotony. Their relationship is stuck in a rut and it’s impacting all other areas of their lives.
How and why does that happen?
Well, it’s all down to our subconscious. Ultimately, it’s designed to keep us safe and alive and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, it’s done a pretty good job so far hasn’t it?
But, whilst keeping you safe and alive, it’s also stopping you from having a truly fantastic relationship and living the life you want to live.
You know all those times you’ve said to yourself “what if?”? That will be your subconscious reminding you that by taking a risk you could potentially cause yourself an injury or lose your life.
Now of course, taking the initiative in your relationship is highly unlikely to cause you to lose your life (and if it is, you need to seek immediate help by calling 999) but the human brain hasn’t evolved quite as fast as the environment around us and that reptilian brain is kicking into survival mode and trying to protect you from the perceived danger of a stampeding woolly mammoth!
So in trying to protect you, your brain reminds you of all of the reasons why doing something you WANT to do rather than what you’ve always done before ( i.e. what you SHOULD do to protect you from said woolly mammoth – or in a more up to date scenario, to protect you from shame or embarrassment) is safer and better for you! Yes, there might well be occasions where it will actually save your life, and in those instances I implore you to listen to it but the reality is, in this day and age, we are so surrounded by health and safety, and a million and one other ways to keep ourselves safe as we live our lives, that we don’t need quite the same amount of protection and reminders that our ancestors needed.
The trouble is, too many of us don’t question our subconscious or the well-meaning but equally fearful guidance of family and friends; all of whom are going through similar scenarios in their own minds and coming up with very similar results.
And so, we carry on doing what we’ve always done and our subconscious keeps quiet, knowing that until the next time we consider doing something different, stepping outside of our comfort zone, we’re safe and free from harm.
But what our subconscious doesn’t know is that this is part of what causes our relationships to fall into a rut; to become safe, dull, boring, routine. Whilst it may be keeping us safe from physical danger, it’s actually damaging our long-term emotional health.
Being in a relationship that doesn’t fulfil your needs on either a physical or emotional level is equally as damaging as that stampeding woolly mammoth was to our ancestors.
You have a choice; either carry on living as if you’re in Groundhog Day, allowing your subconscious to keep you safe from woolly mammoths, or you can break out and create your blockbuster life that includes a strong, healthy and robust relationship and all of the benefits of the sexy little extras of the ripple effect!
If you choose the latter then book a free 15-minute call with me here to banish those woolly mammoths and free you from Groundhog Day.
It’s no surprise that over the past year there have been some questions I’ve been asked time and time again “How can I rejuvenate my relationship?” “How can I bring back the spark?” “How can I make sure we survive?” “How can we keep the spark alive during lockdown?” and many, many more questions.
The simple answer is, there is no secret weapon, like everything else it takes work. But I’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple ‘rules’ to rejuvenate your relationships, ALL of your relationships, during lockdown.
These will work with your partner, your children, your family and whomever is sharing your home and life with you at the moment;
- Know your Boundaries: Make a list of what is and isn’t acceptable to both parties. One of you wants to watch news 24/7 the other doesn’t. Then create a compromise that works for both parties Maybe ‘News at Noon’ and the 5pm update is all you need. Perhaps one of you wants to maintain normal working hours whereas the other wants to stay up late and have a lie-in before starting work and/or home-schooling. Again, set the boundaries, maybe agree that you both get ready for bed at the same time so the one staying up doesn’t disturb the one already asleep by switching the light on and getting changed. Put your clothes for the following day ready in the bathroom or spare room so that you can get dressed without disturbing your late-night partner.
- Create Space: Where possible set up separate work areas and maintain a timetable to ensure you get done what needs to be done without too much interruption. It also helps if you replicate your usual daily routine so you’re not in each others’ pockets 24/7. When it needs to change for any reason, plan the disruption in advance so it doesn’t create stress and friction.
- Submit: Know that you can’t control the current situation, you can only control your response to it. Trying to be in total control will only cause tension and anxiety. Submit to the situation, do what you can and then accept that this will pass. It is only a temporary situation and a new normal is just around the corner, even if it does seem that the corner is getting further and further away. You can only do what you an do, in compliance with the rules and restrictions in your location. Fighting against them will raise your stress levels.
- Step into Selfish: Put your needs first. If your needs are properly met, you’re better able to look after everyone else. Think of the oxygen mask on a flight – you’re advised to put your own on first so you’re better able to help others. Take time to do your own exercise, have a bubble bath, volunteer to do the shopping alone!, read a book, watch your favourite Netflix series.
- Be Kind: Everyone reacts to stress differently. But remember your manners. Be kind, polite and respectful to each other. It will go a long way and stop the tension rising. If you can assist a neighbour or relative as well, it will create harmony and good energy, and you will be repaid in kind. People respond and react to the way they are treated.
These simple ‘rules’ really will help your relationship. And when you can get it on an even keel, maintaining harmony in the home, you can look at revitalising your relationship using the tips in my free e-book; ‘Top10 Tips to Redefine your Relationship’ offers more tips to revitalise your relationship and kick-start your sex life whether you’re in a couple or single.
How often do you and your partner cuddle? Or, if like me, and you’re Welsh, how often do you and your partner cwtch?
There’s nothing quite like a good cwtch or cuddle. It releases the feel-good hormones, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine, and instantly makes you feel better.
How often, after having a bad day, do you say to your partner ‘just put your arms around me’?
I recall on one of the worst days of my life, New Year’s Eve 2008, when I discovered my business was insolvent and I was about to call my team to make them redundant with immediate effect and no pay; I asked my then husband to “just put your arms around me and tell me everything’s going to be OK”. His response was “I can’t, because I don’t know that it will.” In that moment my day got worse, as I realised my second marriage was over and I was well and truly on my own. All I wanted was to feel a little better before facing the enormity of what was before me.
Thankfully, I’ve moved on significantly since then and I have a partner who understands that sometimes all you want is a huge hug to make things better.
We even set our alarm 10 minutes earlier every morning so we can just cuddle, snuggle up, cwtch, before starting our day. And we fall asleep cuddling – until the moment that almost every couple experiences; when one pulls away from the other, kicks their leg out of the bed and almost gasps for cool air because the heat generated by two bodies cuddling under a duvet is just too much!
Sometimes, we’ll have an impromptu cwtch in the kitchen when recounting something that’s happened during our day that may have caused us to feel a bit down, sad or upset, we’ll just stand and cuddle.
I can always tell when my son needs a cuddle – although at 15, it’s not cool to admit to wanting one so we have to refer to it as a hug. He’s 6’ tall and towers over me but there are days when all he needs is a cuddle from his mum. As I like to remind him, ‘you’re never too old, and you’re never too big for a healing cuddle’.
As human beings we crave physical touch, we need that dose from the feel-good triumvirate and research has shown that we only need to cuddle up for 6 seconds to reap the benefits.
So what are you waiting for, grab your partner, children or friends and cuddle up to instantly improve your mood and reduce sadness, anxiety and stress. It’s good for your health.
And don’t just reserve your hugs, cuddles or cwtches for National Cuddle-up Day (6th January) or National Hug Day (21st January). Make every day a Hug, Cuddle or Cwtch Day. Your relationship will benefit from it too.
Who are you going to cuddle up with today?
The first mile of any run I do is the hardest. It’s the time when I’m most likely to turn around and head home. Why?
It’s the time I need to find my pace, my stride, my groove. I need to give my lungs, my legs, my arms and my feet time to adjust to the shock of getting out of bed and into the cool morning air. And I need to tune in to the voices of my running coaches, mentors and physio; “breathe 2, 3, 4” “pockets to socket” “lengthen your stride” “lift your feet” “engage your glutes” “engage, engage, engage”.
Running to train for an event (half marathon in my case) isn’t as easy as just simply running. I need to train to ensure I can go the distance without injury or damage.
And relationships are like that too. We start off a little apprehensive until we find our groove and then we settle into it. But what happens when we receive an injury or some damage? Life throws us curve balls all the time and how we respond to them can determine the longevity, or not, of our relationships.
Asking for help from a Relationships Expert isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you want to go the distance and have strategies in place to keep you strong and able to withstand the curve balls.
It’s knowing that even when you have to run up a hill, as long as you keep running, no matter how slow, you’ll get to the top and then it gets comfortable again. It’s about remembering what you’ve learned so that you don’t cause yourself an injury and it’s about applying those lessons, time after time after time.
If you really want to go the distance, an expert, coach or mentor is worth the initial discomfort.
The first mile really is the hardest.
Join my FREE Live Training for help to get beyond the first mile: 5 Days to Redefine your Relationship. Register here.