In your thirties and finding life difficult?

When people reach their thirties they’re often told that they are in the prime of their lives but this isn’t the case for a lot of young adults.

In fact it can be a time of self-doubt and panic with many of the same feelings associated with the traditional symptoms of a mid-life crisis (usually occurring in the late forties and early fifties). For young adults struggling with many options now available to them and feeling indecisive about some of them, a lot of thirty-somethings can experience depression and anxiety.

With the opportunities to expand careers and travel the world more freely, the choices are more varied than in previous generations but the quest for ‘success’ is much higher too. As a society we put a lot of emphasis on ‘success’ which, for most people, means earning a lot of money and achieving some sort of status through doing so. However, as a counsellor and psychotherapist, but also in my private life, I’ve seen that this constant emphasis on these aspirations does not necessarily lead to happiness. In fact, quite the opposite is true because people get tired and stressed, often losing their motivation and then start to wonder what it’s all about. Constant striving for more can stop people ‘enjoying the moment’ because they’re always looking for the next goal to achieve.

Whilst achieving goals is a good way to enhance self-esteem and motivation, some balance needs to be achieved to feed our inner spirits as well.

However, although uncomfortable and worrying, if people feel stuck in a job or way of life, it can trigger an urge to change things, often for the better. It’s a time of reflection, of saying “is this what I really want?” and if the answer is “no”, this provides the impetus to make changes. This isn’t easy if you feel that you’re stuck in a relationship that doesn’t feel right but, because there are two people in the relationship, talking is the first key to changing things. We can all get stuck in a rut where relationships are concerned, particularly in our thirties when quite possibly there’s a mortgage or high rent combined with a small child and both partners working. However, we all need some time to relax and recuperate from the stresses of work and childcare and it’s important to factor in time for that. If you both want different things in life (and this may not have been the case when you set out together), it may be the time for relationship counselling to see how you can hopefully work things out together, rather than separating and losing a lot of what you’ve built up together, both emotionally and financially.

If it’s your job that’s now a problem because it’s not going the way you had anticipated or you’re not getting the promotions you’d hoped for, feeling ‘stuck’ can provide the stimulation you need to explore different options. This might be to look into re-training opportunities, moving to a different area either job-wise or geographically and generally thinking about where you want to be in five years’ time.

Even though the thirties are adulthood, many people still try to live up to their parents’ expectations of them. For some, this is a great way of seeing what else they can achieve, but for others it’s a burden that they don’t want. In these cases, it’s important to have a conversation (or more than one) with parents, along the lines of you’re not happy and want to make changes which you will make with their blessing.

This time during your thirties may also be a time when you re-evaluate friendships, some of which just aren’t working for you any more. Ask yourself why and whether you or your friend(s) can still make time for each other. It may also seem that you no longer have anything in common – however, one thing that you might have is a shared history and this is often an important part of friendship that we can’t put a price on. If that person, or people, have been there for you in difficult times, that’s quite a bond and worth thinking about before you decide to make permanent distance between you.

In the same way, you might have decided that you no longer want to be treated in a certain way by people you come into contact with – if you often feel ‘put down’ by others, it’s time to look at how you might be more assertive and not accept put-downs.

So, being in your thirties can be the time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be, making changes if you feel that’s right for you and setting goals to achieve that. It’s not easy to change but the rewards can be great and hopefully you’ll start living your life in a way that’s more fulfilling for you and those close to you.

If you feel that life has lost a lot of its meaning or you or a loved one is feeling tired and stressed, counselling can help you to look at this and start making some changes. To discuss this, please phone me on 07956986693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

When your partner’s been unfaithful

Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is one of the worst feelings you can experience – it’s hard to explain how your heart drops and you feel completely betrayed. There are all sorts of emotions as well as feelings of numbness, disorientation (you’re part of the world but you don’t actually feel as if that’s the case), anger and depression.

You’ll probably have lots of questions too such as ‘why wasn’t I enough?’ and ‘how can you do this to me?’. Although you might have had suspicions that this had happened, actually having it confirmed makes it real. It also makes a difference whether your partner told you him/herself, you found out from someone else or discovered the awful truth in another way.

If, after weeks or months of questioning yourself and your partner (and maybe the other person concerned) you decide to try to stay and make things work, remember that it’s all going to take time to work through what’s happened and you can only do that if both of you learn from the experience.

Here are some things that you can think about and do to get beyond what’s happened and hopefully save your relationship:

  • There aren’t any right or wrong feelings – all the rage, possibly guilt (‘should I have done more to stop this happening?’), agitation, pain, confusion and shock are absolutely normal. Even not feeling much at all – that could be the numbness of shock which will wear off, or the fact that you’ve been half-expecting it for some time.
  • Start a journal – write down all your thoughts and feelings regarding what’s happened.
  • Don’t make any major decisions about ending your relationship right now – this is a time you could be used to reflect on what’s happened and how you might deal with it, either by yourself or as a couple.
  • Ask all the questions you want. Talk with your partner about the infidelity but you may have to accept that he or she doesn’t know why it happened. That may seem strange (and infuriating!) but is sometimes the case. However, the other thing is that they may not want to reveal this to you (again, infuriating!).
  • If you have children, they need to know that you’re going to be alright. It’s hard to keep what you’re going through a secret but if they’re old enough to suspect something’s wrong, they don’t need to be weighed down with the details. Whatever you decide, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  • Take it one day at a time. Ideally, both you and your partner should be tested for STDs before you have sex again although that may be a while.
  • Think about what boundaries you need in order for you to stay in the relationship and make them clear to your partner. More importantly, make sure that you stick to them, if only for your own self-respect.
  • Take care of yourself – physical reactions such as sleeplessness, nausea, breathlessness, shaking and either wanting to eat a lot or not at all are normal. Even if you were half-expecting it, you’ve had a shock and your body is reacting to it. Try to make sure you eat well, even if you don’t feel like it, do some exercise, don’t drink too much alcohol and take some time for yourself if at all possible.
  • It’s okay to laugh. Watch some funny films or TV shows. Spend some time with people who make you smile. ‘Life goes on’ is a cliché, but it’s also true – however much your heart is breaking, you still need to function.
  • It’s also okay to cry – it’s natural, for men and women. If you can’t cry yet, you will be able to at some point, probably about something else that doesn’t seem related to what’s happened to you.
  • This is a really hard one – try not to get into the blame game, including blaming the third person involved. It won’t change what’s happened. Also, tempting though it is, think about whether to tell your family or your partner’s family – they might hold a grudge for a long time, even when you’ve worked through it, either alone or with your partner.
  • You may have post-traumatic stress. If you still feel constantly ‘jumpy’, as if you’re walking on eggshells and shout at quite small things after four or five months, it’s probably time to seek outside help.
  • Get practical – look at how you’re going to cope with money in the future, where you will live if you decide to end your relationship and try to budget to see a solicitor about your situation. Some solicitors now offer twenty minutes’ free advice – that’s a good place to start.
  • It all takes time to get beyond the pain of having an unfaithful partner. Don’t expect the feelings, which probably include confusion as well as the inevitable mistrust, to fade quickly. It’s a big loss, even if you stay together, and is part of a grieving process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is over but it will be different, sometimes in a good way although that’s very hard to believe at the beginning of this process.
  • Seek counselling – this can help and support you, either as a couple or by yourself. Talking about it in a confidential environment can help you to come to terms with what’s happened. For example, was it a one-night stand or due to a life or work crisis? Did you cheating happen to make the end of the relationship happen? Understanding some of it can help a lot.

If you, your partner or both of you as a couple feel that counselling would help you at such a difficult time, please contact me by e.mail on annhogancounselling@gmail.com or by phone on 07956986693.

When you feel insecure

If someone is feeling insecure, it’s usually about experiencing a threat or inadequacy of some sort. Most people have felt it at one time or another and that’s pretty normal but when it starts to sabotage your relationship or success in your job, it starts to become very damaging. It stops peace of mind and prevents people from relaxing and being authentic and genuine – they will be asking for reassurance or be mistrusting of others’ motives and actions.

Whilst a lot of people think that the insecurity comes from something that their partner said, mostly it comes from within themselves. However, it probably started in childhood or early teens when someone was very hurt or threatened or perhaps couldn’t depend on what a parent said as they were always let down. If, growing up, children were judged harshly and criticised a lot, there’s usually a residual feeling of never being good enough.

If this is how you, or someone close to you, feels, here are some things that you can do:

  • First of all, try to build up your self-esteem – most people who feel insecure have low self-esteem and they look outside of themselves for validation. However, when you’re trying to feel good by getting approval from others, it doesn’t really address the issue and also puts a burden on your partner, friends and family. By working on your self-esteem by reading a book, doing an on-line course or having counselling can help a lot with feelings of insecurity.
  • With a partner, sometimes the feelings of insecurity are valid inasmuch as they’ve let you down before, lied to you or been unfaithfully. However, you mostly have a choice about how you deal with this and although you may not want to leave or can’t see a way to leave it because of other responsibilities, you can try to put down some boundaries and explain what the outcome will be if this continues. Although your partner may not be reliable, you can still feel secure in yourself as a good and caring human being.
  • Have some trust in yourself if the insecurity was there before you met your partner. Recognise that you don’t have to beautiful or rich to attract a good partner – your particular characteristics are the most important thing and this applies with friends and family members too. Remember the traits that you have that are valuable – this could be a good communicator, you’re funny, kind and generally a nice person. Focus on what you have to offer, rather than what you perceive as a lack of something.
  • Avoid people whom you feel insecure with – in other words, protect yourself. If a group of colleagues is very ‘cliquish’ and ‘excluding’, try to go out with them on a one-to-one basis and don’t socialise with them after work. They may feel that you’re unfriendly but this is about you, not them, and if you feel worse when you go out with them, avoid it.
  • That leads onto surrounding yourself with people who are supportive – not so that they can validate you in some way but because they ‘get’ you and you feel you have things in common and nothing to prove to them. In other words, they like you for who you are and you don’t have to pretend to be someone else in their company.
  • Remember, no-one can see your insecurity so sometimes imagining how you’d really like to be can help in actually being that person. Visualise how you’d be if you weren’t insecure and work towards that image.

If you’re feeling insecure or lonely or are finding things difficult, please contact me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com. or phone me on 07956986693 to discuss how counselling might help you.

 

 

 

Loneliness – not the same as being alone

 

One definition of loneliness is that our need for contact is not being met. However, this isn’t the same as being alone.  Some people choose to be alone and can live very happily without a lot of contact with other people. You can also have lots of friends or be part of a big family but still feel lonely.

Loneliness can have many different causes and affects all of us in different ways. Certain lifestyles and the stresses of life today can make people socially isolated and more vulnerable to loneliness. It can also have a big impact on your mental health, contributing to anxiety, stress and depression. Not feeling part of the world in which you live is part of a vicious circle where you then stop trying to maintain friendships and then feel excluded.

Certain situations might also make you feel lonelier – if you lose a partner or someone close to you, you’re part of an ethnic group with few community networks, experience discrimination because of a disability, a relationship breaks up, you’re a single parent finding it hard to go out, you retire and no longer have the company of work colleagues (sometimes a blessing too!).

Internal feelings of loneliness can come from within a person and they don’t disappear regardless of how many friends someone has. There are lots of different reasons for this including not liking yourself (how will others like you if you don’t feel that you’re a good person?) or lacking self-confidence. If you felt unloved by your parents or family when you were a child, you can grow up still feeling unlovable when you’re an adult.

Sometimes people isolate themselves, even within a relationship and underneath this can be to do with a fear of being hurt emotionally. So being single doesn’t always mean being lonely and being in a relationship doesn’t always mean happiness.

People try different ways to avoid this inner loneliness including spending a lot of time socialising and thereby not having time to ponder on it too much, or they develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol to escape these feelings.

Studies show that socially isolated people suffer from lower self-esteem, experience more stress and are more likely to have problems sleeping than those with a strong social support system. When extreme feelings of loneliness are almost overwhelming, thoughts can turn to suicide. If you are concerned about such thoughts, you can pick up a phone to contact the Samaritans at any time of the day or night.  Otherwise, talk to your GP who may refer you for NHS counselling.

So, how can you combat these feeling of loneliness? For some people it’s about making more social contact with other people, either friends or family. If you’re feeling ‘low’ this can take a lot of effort but if you don’t do so then you’re likely to end up more lonely and isolated than ever.

Take small steps at first:

  • go for a short walk in the fresh air and try to say ‘hello’ if you see anyone from your road or who looks familiar to you.
  • text someone in your family, just to see how they are.
  • If you’re in a group of people, try to make a few comments easier though it seems easier to keep quiet and let everyone else talk.
  • try having a short talk with the cashier when you pay for goods in the shop.
  • if you have children, maybe you could make conversation with one or two other parents at the school gate.

If you are out of practice talking to people, it may seem daunting to do so at first and if you don’t get a very enthusiastic response it’s even harder! However, try not to take it personally – someone else might respond more positively and some groups are notorious for being ‘cliquey’!

Another way of making connections with people is through shared interests, values or experiences. If something interests you, whether that’s walking, watching films or going camping, there will be other people who feel the same. There is usually information about local clubs or groups in the library or you can look online.

If, despite doing your best, you don’t manage to achieve the social contact you’d like, it may be worth learning how to feel more comfortable in your own company. This can be rewarding if you focus on the pleasure it gives you. Having time to reflect and think can be positive.

Techniques like yoga, pilates or writing a journal can help to achieve a peace that frenetic socialising can’t.  Getting a dog or cat is another way to alleviate loneliness, especially as they’re usually pleased to see you when you arrive home!

If you feel irritated by office chit-chat or find it hard to empathise with others, personal skills can be developed through counselling. Sometimes it’s really helpful to talk to someone who’s impartial outside of friends or family.

Whether you’re old and have lost your partner and friends, a young person who’s feeling isolated or someone in their middle years who has a lot to do but still feels lonely inside, please contact me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com. or phone me on 07956986693

How would you know if you were being emotionally abused?

Although we don’t always realise it, emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse but most people don’t realise that they’re affected in one way or another. Maybe this is because, it builds up over time and the victim often becomes desensitised to it. Even if it’s not intentional, insults, threats, humiliation are all parts of abuse and it’s often used to control another person.

 

Another aspect of such abuse is that it’s often minimised and although most of us learnt this adage in childhood which said, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, this isn’t true. This abuse gets right to the core of another person and attacks their sense of self.

 

It may include a pattern of one or more of the following abuses: insults, criticisms, aggressive demands or expectations, threats, rejection, neglect, blame, emotional manipulation and control, isolation, punishment, terrorizing, ignoring, or teasing.

Harassment, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing abuse of others are also forms of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can take place anywhere: at home, at school, in relationships, and in the workplace. Contrary to popular beliefs that bullies are only found in the school yard, many bullies also exist in the workplace and in the home. People who appear happy and shiny on the outside can be very different on the inside. First of all, there’s –

  • The passive-aggressive colleague or partner – this is someone who passively expresses anger. This can be by repeatedly keeping you waiting or by constantly changing arrangements. The underlying message is that their life is more important than yours but there can also be a denial of feelings, back-handed compliments or sarcasm. If you live with someone like that, it’s easy to imagine that you’ve done something to upset your partner or colleague but, if questioned, they’ll say that they’re fine or “I’m not annoyed in any way”. You can spend many hours mulling this over, trying to work out what the other person is thinking or feeling.

If a person can’t communicate in a straightforward way or uses sarcasm a lot, you might be dealing with someone who’s passive-aggressive.

  • The critic – criticism isn’t the same as advice and when you feel judged, no matter what you say or do, it usually has a big impact on your personal or working life. Someone who’s very critical often criticises the person rather than their actions. Although they may not call you names, they often insult your values and opinions, making disparaging remarks about what you say and feel, often because they want to have some control. The person may criticise your every move – for instance, by saying “Why don’t you ever…..?” or “Are you really going to wear that….?”. Does this ring a bell?
  • The refuser – this is someone who refuses to communicate, engage in conversation or discuss feelings. They often refuse to admit that there’s a problem. This leads to negative feelings and it can seem as if there’s a barrier between you but it also often leads to you feeling guilt and maybe resentment. If the other person refuses to be honest and open with you, you may wonder why you’re in the relationship at all as it’s easy to become angry and frustrated.
  •  The narcissist – this is the person who behaves as if they know everything, is best at everything and usually tells you just how good they are. You can never measure up to this person as they put themselves above others and often lack insight and empathy. They might turn this around to you, saying that you ‘overthink’ things but who can make that judgement about you? They can easily jeopardise special occasions which include any anniversary or special day for you and if they feel hurt or rejected, they are capable of destroying everything around them.

 

So, how can you handle this sort of abuse? One helpful thing can be to step back from the situation and trust your instincts and feelings about people. This is very hard if the person behaving like this is your partner because you’ve built up a life with them. However, it’s easy to minimise emotional abuse and think that the other person will change. They won’t – you will have to be the one to change as they won’t see the need to do so.

If you feel that there’s a chance for the relationship/friendship, try writing down what you feel and what they’ve said and give them one last opportunity to address it. If they still refuse to accept that there’s a problem, it may be time to step away for good.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this blog.

It may be that you’re struggling with happiness or have other issues that you’re finding difficult to cope with. If you would like to discuss how counselling could help, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com

 

 

“If only I could feel happy again…….”

Have you been feeling a bit ‘low’ lately, as if happiness is eluding you and has been for a while now? It’s tempting to think that everyone else is joyful and full of love all of the time which can make your own feelings seem even harder to understand.  If you’ve been feeling like that for a while, try some of these tips below to help you through:

  • Recognise that really, truly – the best things in life are mostly free. Little things like someone phoning you or finally finding something on Netflix that you’ve been searching for are treats that really happy people know are the icing on the cake of normal, mundane everyday things.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others. Constantly comparing ourselves just makes us dissatisfied with what we have and highlights things that we don’t have
  • Forgive and try to forget – holding a grudge holds us back and it’s forgiveness that allows us to move on.
  • Don’t save things for ‘best’ – if you have something new in your wardrobe, wear it! It’s important to enjoy the ‘here and now’.
  • This brings me onto living in the present – when bad things happen, it’s hard not to dwell on them and it’s sometimes difficult not to worry about the future but we have little control over it so sometimes it’s better to ‘go with it’.
  • See your friends and family as much as you can – as long as they’re supportive and kind, spending time with them will reinforce that meeting up with people and valuing their love for you, will help you to feel happier. If they’re not kind and supportive, think again about why you actually spend time with them……
  • Get outside – research shows that people who live near green, open spaces have higher life satisfaction than those who spend more time outdoors. You don’t have to live in the country to get those feelings – get out there, walk in parks and see if it helps. I can almost guarantee that it will!
  • Learn to like yourself more – you will never be perfect to look at or as a human being, but accepting yourself, particularly physically, is a great start to feeling happier.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this blog.

It may be that you’re struggling with happiness or have other issues that you’re finding difficult to cope with. If you would like to discuss how counselling could help, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com

Why are we always arguing about money?

When you first get together with someone, it’s easy to forget about possible future issues about money but when you spend more time as a couple, different attitudes often show up and can cause arguments. Why is that?

  • Different past experiences – some people grow up in households where arguments about money happen on a regular basis. It’s almost as if they’re ‘wired’ to listen to this from a young age. Because of that, they might have developed an ‘attitude’ about it by the time they become adults themselves.
  • Learning about money – if you grew up in a house where one or both of your parents budgeted and talked about how to spend any spare income, it’s a good basis for the future. However, that doesn’t happen with everyone and so they haven’t learned how to resolve disagreements about spending.
  • Money means different things to different people – for some people, putting on a good ‘show’ to the outside world is very important. They feel judged by others and their self-worth depends on how much they own, even if that means getting into debt.
  • In a lot of partnerships, typically, one person will take charge of the finances, meaning that the other one doesn’t really know what’s going on or how much goes out on bills. The second person can often feel resentful about this but finds it difficult to say so, especially if the money-organiser takes the view that they’re doing it to save any hassle and their way is the ‘right way’.
  • Secrets about spending or saving can be very detrimental, especially if a credit card bill turns up or someone stashes clothes away without telling the other person. This may seem harmless but why are they doing that? Maybe there’s guilt involved…..

So, if one of you is a ‘spender’ (often called a “squanderer” or “compulsive shopper”) and the other one is a ‘saver’ (thought of as “awkward” or a “miser”), what can you do?

First of all, talk about it and why your view is the one you feel is right. What does money represent for both of you? Do you think it’s better to live for the day or save for the future?

The most important thing is to try to respect your partner’s viewpoint, even if you don’t agree with it. Keep an open mind and remember that it’s not about winning a battle but trying to find a compromise so that both of you feel you’re getting something out of the discussion.

Recognise that if you grew up with different attitudes towards money, this will have influenced both of you, even if you don’t recognise that at first.

Try to come to an agreement about a budget, make a plan and try to stick to it for three months. After that, review it to see how it’s working for both of you. This will help you to feel as if you’re working as a team, rather than in conflict.

If you can’t work it out between you, it could be the time to try relationship counselling to enable both of you to look at the money situation more objectively.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please like and share it with your friends on Facebook and if you would like to discuss counselling, please e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956 986 693.

 

Letting go of a toxic relationship

Sometimes it seems as if we’re programmed keeps to desire love – for a lot of people, it’s almost as important to them as food and water. Is that why, even if we know that we’re with the wrong person, we blind ourselves to seeing that? Even when every part of us tells us that someone is wrong for us, we stay.

So why is that? What keeps us in a relationship, or friendship, even when it seems so difficult?

Maybe you’ve already experienced this with a prospective partner – you meet, you like each other, you meet for drinks or coffee, share a meal and before you know where you are, you’re a couple. You meet each other’s families, you know each other’s friends and to everyone else you seem like a perfect couple.

But underneath, it’s different – you don’t feel it’s at all perfect. They always have their phone with them but never reply to your texts, you make plans but they’re not followed through, you never know where they are and although they refer to you as their girl/boyfriend it doesn’t seem like that. They’re physical, you’re emotional; you like talking, they stay silent. If you challenge them, they say things like “well, I’m not really a texter. I prefer face-to-face conversations”. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, you can sense the dishonesty lurking there.

They only talk about themselves and aren’t interested in you most of the time…..and so it goes on with you always making the effort to be there for them but it rarely being reciprocated.

You tell yourself that you deserve better but do you really believe it? It takes courage to break off this sort of relationship that you may have become dependent upon in some ways and it may be that you’re not ready for that step yet. It could be one of the following as well:

  • Change is difficult and means doing things differently. If you break up, it will mean not having someone special in your life; there will be no phone calls, no-one to wake up next to and no-one to share the rent. These things can seem very daunting.
  • Most of us are quite emotional creatures – we’re complex and can often feel love and hate at the same time. This can happen when someone breaks your heart – you hate what they’ve done but you still love them and they will always have a special place in your heart.
  • We hate the idea of failure – we don’t want to give up on something that seemed so important and want to stick it out so that we don’t have to say that the relationship failed. Somehow, that seems to indicate that we made a poor choice of partner/friend in the first place and that’s hard to face up to.
  • Some people thrive on the drama of it – the yelling and screaming or the day-long sulking. There’s also something to complain about to friends – toxic relationships provide a lot to talk/complain about.
  • We think that we can somehow fix it, or fix the other person, but in reality it’s hard to ‘rescue’ someone, especially if they don’t want to be rescued. In reality, it’s often easier to be with someone who isn’t quite so complicated and who wants a more equal relationship.

So, it seems that we stay for a lot of reasons that are difficult to understand but some of those reasons are bound up with our lack of self-esteem, not wanting to be alone or the desire to feel needed by someone.

If you feel that some of the reasons you put up with less than you really want, it’s time to look at your own feelings of self-worth and discover how you can feel better about yourself. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll be able to look at your relationship in a different light and judge whether you get enough out of it to stay.

Remember – “Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it’s better to leave them broken than hurt yourself trying to put it back together”. Anon.

Counselling can help with low self-esteem as well as other similar issues – if you’re interested in finding out more, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

It’s coming up to holiday time again……….

There are very few people who don’t like holidays because, apart from those who hate the hassle of packing up and living somewhere else for a week or two, almost everyone likes to relax and see new things. Holidays are great in lots of ways but before booking, most of us have to decide whether it’s best to go alone, as a couple, with family or with friends.

Although holidays with family can be cheaper (shared transport and/or free accommodation if parents pay or even have a villa abroad), they can also be hard work. Some families manage to fall out before their flight has been called and maybe that’s because the old dynamics immediately come into play. Mum always wants to go shopping, Dad prefers going to a museum and the children want to go to the beach all day, every day. If you’re a family that’s used to resolving any differences with discussion that’s fine, but if differences in ideas and opinions result in arguments and sulks, it’s unlikely to be any different on holiday! Be warned – those old dynamics, whatever they were, are likely to rear their heads pretty quickly!

Going on holiday with friends is different again – you’ve chosen to go away with these people whom you mix with a lot at home anyway. However, what seemed a good idea over a bottle of Pinot Grigio in January, may not pan out as well when you’re sharing an apartment in Marbella in August. That’s because no matter how well you know your friends, you don’t really know them until you’ve lived under the same roof for a week or two. A week is usually how long it takes to realise that your friend is really a hypochondriac (how come that didn’t seem the case during a wet, cold English winter?) and his/her partner drinks far more than you’d every realized, which means that they don’t surface until after lunch when the sun’s at its hottest.

If one couple has children and the other hasn’t, this in itself can cause problems. Your lifestyles are now different from when you were all child-free and there are probably going to be lots of compromises ahead. For most people, if they have a small child there’s a lot more luggage involved plus stops for nappy-changing and, the biggest difference of all, less ability/desire to go out late at night. This is never as appealing when you know you’re going to be awake at 6a.m. the next day when your baby decides that it’s the start of a new day.

Even if both couples have children, different ways of interacting on holiday can cause a big gulf – you like yours to keep to some sort of routine, whereas they think that it’s fine for their little ones to stay up late, practically bouncing off the ceiling, until they finally drop asleep. Mealtimes, days out – they can all become big issues if they’re not discussed before the actual holiday.

If you’re still single and are thinking of going on holiday with a friend, try to talk about what you both want from the break before you book. For some people, lying on the beach reading with an occasional dip in the sea is what their holiday is about; for others, they like getting up early, looking at the local sights and maybe hiring a car to see more of the area which may well include an old building of some sort. In addition, one of you might want to go out every night, whilst the other one wants to stay in, at least part of the time.

Money is also a factor in some of this – if one of you has a lot more spending money than the other one (or other couple), it means that there will have to be compromises to allow for different budgets. Also, some peoples’ idea of having a kitty or going halves on expenses and eating out can come under scrutiny if one person chooses five courses and orders several bottles of wine, whereas only another eats two courses and drinks lime and soda all evening. Splitting the bill equally is actually not at all equal! You’d think that these things would be apparent before the holiday but often they’re not because people behave differently at home. Once away, they can seem to develop totally different habits and attitudes!

However, to finish on a positive note, travelling and holidaying with friends can be a huge amount of fun and is a good way to learn more about yourself as well as them. It can be a great way to strengthen a friendship and see positive aspects of other people that you hadn’t really noticed before. If it turns out that you hate it, there’s always next year to go it alone…

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Coping with heartbreak

It’s one of the hardest things to overcome when you thought you’d be together for the long-term, possibly forever, and then you find that your partner doesn’t want to be with you any longer.  There may not even be another person involved but he/she wants out and there’s no persuading them otherwise.

Here are a few things that may help on a day-to-day basis – they won’t solve the awful feelings of loss that you’re experiencing but they will hopefully get you from day to day until eventually you feel slightly better.

  1. Accept that your feelings of anger, uncertainty, agitation, fear and shock are normal. There’s no right or wrong about feelings and you’ll be on a roller-coaster of emotions for a long time.
  2. Tears are healthy – you may actually feel numb for some time but it’s important to allow yourself to cry too.
  3. Write a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings your partner’s behaviour and why it feels so painful.
  4. It’s still alright to laugh. Try watching a funny film or TV show and, if you can bear it, spend some time with people who make you smile.
  5. Ask all the questions you want to – however, be aware that you may not get the answers you want or even any answers at all. You can’t make someone give you reasons, frustrating though that is.
  6. Do not make any major decisions about how you want things to be – this is the time for reflection and recognising that even though you thought things were okay some things maybe needed to be dealt with.
  7. Your children need to know that you are going to be okay. You can’t hide the fact that you are going through serious stress or trauma. Being honest with your children might be the best approach depending upon their age, but don’t weigh them down with details. Also, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  8. Take it one day at a time and try not to look too far into the future.
  9. It takes time to get beyond the pain of having break-up. Don’t expect the mixture of feelings, the sense of confusion and limbo, and the mistrust to go away immediately. There are stages to loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and hopefully acceptance at some point) – you can’t fast-forward through these, much as you’d like to.
  10. Think about practical things – look at your finances, housing situation, transportation, etc. Make sure you have thought out where you will live, if you have enough money to pay for your essentials, etc.
  11. Only confide in people that you can trust – it’s good to talk but be careful that you only open your heart to people who can keep things confidentially.
  12. Seek counselling if you’re struggling too much to cope – it can really help to talk to a professional who can listen and give strategies for the future.