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.
There can be nothing nicer than slipping into a hot bubble bath at the end of a hectic day, feeling the silky warmth of the water lapping against your skin as your cares and worries start to drift away as you submerge yourself under the water.
Maybe you’ve lit some candles and poured yourself a glass of wine to enjoy whilst reading a book, listening to a podcast or music.
And as today is Bubble Bath Day, you have the perfect excuse to run yourself a bath and take some time out.
One of the modules in my Behind the Mask programme is called ‘Step Into Selfish’ and it’s the module that all of my clients, without exception struggle with the most.
As the name might suggest it’s about taking time out for themselves and doing things completely for them, no-one else. When they struggle with that I often recommend scheduling in a long, relaxing bubble-bath once a week, just so they get used to having that time to themselves.
It’s always interesting to get their responses. So many of them haven’t allowed themselves the luxury of having a long bath for a very long time and they often comment on how much they enjoyed it, how it allowed them to switch off for a while and have that breathing space to themselves.
I know how difficult it is to allow yourself that time.
In my previous relationships I was told I was selfish if I wanted a long, hot bubble bath. When I met my partner 8-years ago, he was very happy for me to have a long bath, although he couldn’t understand how I could happily spend 2 hours (sometimes longer) in the bath. There was a time when he realised that the bath is where I would go to process stuff; things that had come up during divorce proceedings, child residency proceedings, bankruptcy, a bad day at work. When all that was done and dusted, I stopped having baths as life was good but before long I realised I missed that time solely to myself.
These days, I run a hot bubble bath just because. Maybe I want to completely unwind and relax, I want to ease sore muscles after a run, I want to feel decadent with a glass of wine and a book or I just want some time where I’m not disturbed to think, plan and drift away for a short while.
Whatever the reason for choosing to run a bubble-bath, I always make sure I have a selection of fragrances to choose from too.
Bubble baths are not a luxury, they’re a central feature of my self-care and the best (and easiest) way I know to ‘Step into Selfish’.
Besides, the more relaxed you feel, the more likely you are to be open to advances from your partner, which can only be a good thing for creating a strong, healthy and robust relationship!
Enjoy your bubble bath and whatever may follow!
As I sipped my early morning cup of tea looking through the patio windows at the deer in the frosty field at the end of the garden my partner came alongside me, slipped his arm around my waist and stood sipping his tea just enjoying the moment watching the deer as they tentatively made their way through the field and back into the safety of the hedgerow as the dawn made way for the day ahead.
I was reminded of why I fell in love with him.
We first met 23 years ago and my precise thought on first meeting him was ‘I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley’. He was, back then, built like the proverbial brick outhouse. (The photo shows us in 1997, he’d taken me hiking and camping on Dartmoor on New Year’s Eve. We were celebrating the New Year in The Plume of Feathers, Princetown, Dartmoor )
A former Royal Marine and a rugby player. His chest and shoulders were almost as broad as he was tall and he had a mop of unruly curly blonde hair. He was a formidable figure who you’d think twice about messing with! I also remember thinking how rude he was as he cut into a conversation I was having with the object of my desire at the time. This was the first opportunity I’d had to speak to said object of desire and here was this rude man ruining my chance!
Little did I know at that stage that we would end up dating for a year before going our separate ways and then meeting up again some 15 years later. But that’s another story for another day (or join me at the Introbiz Global Summit where I share that part of the story).
As we stood marvelling in the beauty in front of us, I was reminded this morning of one of our first dates, the time I knew that he really was ‘The One’. It didn’t hit me like a bolt from the blue, more sidled upon me unexpectedly and was met with total calm acceptance.
He had decided we were going to go for a walk. This was a full on long walk with maps and walking boots and waterproof jackets, he even took a rucksack. And I had a fabulous time. As was a feature of our relationship then we spent the entire time talking about anything and everything. Talking remains an important feature of our relationship today.
It was on that walk that I recognised that here was a man who shared the same love and passion for the countryside and nature as I do. As a child I’d had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna of the British countryside and shortly after we split up back then, I studied for a Diploma in Countryside Management because he had reignited the passion that many of my previous relationships had extinguished. He went on to qualify as an International Mountain Leader, using his passion to lead expeditions in some of the remotest parts of the World.
Fast forward 22 years and that common passion is still something that bonds us. Quietly enjoying the wonder of the wildlife that roams in the field beyond our garden gives us shared moments of bliss and awe that no words can convey. And our unspoken understanding of each others’ passion for nature and wildlife means that when it comes to planning our holidays we get inordinately excited about the prospect of a cold, icy February week on a narrowboat somewhere in the middle of the British countryside with almost no-one else around except for kingfishers, herons, foxes, the occasional stoat or weasel, coots, moor hens and numerous other birds and wildlife.
On paper, we really shouldn’t work, we are, on the face of it, total opposites but we have shared values and principles and a deep-rooted shared passion. Our differences create an opportunity to learn from each other to make our bond stronger, and we enjoy learning from each other.
What passion do you share with your partner? What can you learn from your partner?
For ideas on how to ignite that passion and find out how you and your partner can learn for each other register for my next free live training
A lot of the work I do with clients revolves around being tolerant of their partner. You might think that was obvious but so many of us in long term relationships or marriages start to allow the little things our partners say or do, to annoy us.
Over time we lose tolerance with our partner. Those ‘cute little quirks’ that we once found so adorable become annoying habits that drive us mad after we have been living with them for any length of time.
So how do we learn tolerance to accept our partner, quirks and all, in the way we expect them to accept us? Or do we just decide that enough is enough, we can’t put up with the quirks any longer and that’s the end of the relationship?
It’s a conversation I have with my clients time and time again and I always ask them “Do you still love your partner?” The majority of the time the answer is “yes, but I just wish they would stop ………”.
And there’s the crux. Everything after the “but” is making their love of their partner conditional, and the quickest way to fall out of love is to make it conditional upon them being a certain way. By learning tolerance and remembering what made you fall in love with your partner in the first place, you can quickly learn to love them unconditionally.
It takes practice both to love unconditionally and to be loved unconditionally and I spend a lot of time with my clients working through this.
On this International Day for Tolerance what can you be more tolerant of in your partner that will bring you back to unconditional love?
For help working it out register to attend my next FREE live training: 5 Days to Redefine Your Relationships.
Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.
You would think by now that I would stop being surprised by the conversations I have. Let’s face it, I’m a Sexpert.
A lot of my conversations revolve around relationships and sex, and quite often they can be pretty explicit. I have no problem with that, sometimes the only way to describe something is to describe it as it is and that often means using language that my clients are comfortable with to save them worrying about any sensitivities I may have.
Sex is sex, it can be beautiful and glorious, romantic and perfect, and equally it can be downright dirty and disgusting, depending upon your particular proclivities.
None of that surprises me.
What does surprise me, however, is the number of clients I work with, and women I speak to, who don’t ask for what they want in the bedroom.
These are women just like you and me.
You ask for what you want in a bar or restaurant, or even when you go shopping. You know what you want to drink or eat, you know what brand you want to buy and you even make a choice over how much you’re prepared to pay for something.
If you’re in business, you ask for the sale and ask for payment. At the top of your career you’ve asked for promotions and pay rises.
Even in a https://amzn.to/3kcLJx0burger chain you ask for your burger, your way.
So why do so many women avoid asking for what they want in the bedroom or in a relationship?
The answers I hear most often are;
“It seems wrong to ask for what I want.”
“ It’s embarrassing to ask for what I want.”
“Women aren’t meant to ask for what they want.”
The over-riding theme is ‘nice girls don’t ask for what they want in the bedroom’.
And I understand that, for so long women have lived under the constraints of a patriarchal society dictating what is and isn’t acceptable and reigning shame on any woman who dared to suggest that she had rights not only in the voting booth but in the bedroom too.
We don’t even have to look to history for examples of this shame. Any woman deemed to be selling herself, leading someone on or just making her sexual desire known is labelled anything from a common whore to a slut or slag, whilst men are allowed to sow their wild oats and enjoy the adulation whilst boasting about their conquests in the bar or club. Men aren’t judged for literally buying sex but women are judged for selling sex.
But this is a weary argument and one that I don’t intend to resurrect right now.
In my opinion, women have a right to ask for what they want, just as men do and the sex industry is nothing more than a service industry with entrepreneurial women using what they own to fulfil a market need. That is the very premise of business. And is another debate for another time.
But therein lies the answer to my question. Women don’t ask for what they want in the bedroom because they have been conditioned to believe it is shameful, dirty and degrading to do so. Yet the quickest and easiest way to get exactly what you want and alleviate feelings of dissatisfaction, un-fulfilment and frustration is to ask for it.
After all, you wouldn’t put up with the wrong meal or wrong coffee every single time you ordered it, you’d ask for it to be changed and served just as you like it.
Asking for what you want in the bedroom or in a relationship is no different. The words and terminology change but all you’re actually asking is for the provider to fulfil a need, just as food fulfils hunger and water satiates thirst.