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The 5 Relationship Stages

​​​​​​The 5 Relationship Stages

You’ve probably fallen in love at least once in your life.

In fact, some people fall in love multiple times, only to have their hopes and dreams of a long and happy life with their partner dashed.

Unfortunately for many of us, falling in love is
not the hard part of relationships. The hard part is staying in love!

​When I work with couples I find it useful to divide relationships into 5 stages. These stages are never exact, and couples can cycle in out out of 1 or more of these stages easily.

But by thinking about what stage your relationship is in, it is possible for you and your partner to anticipate the pitfalls of each relationship stage and learn the tools to move forward into a happier, more loving and more passionate stage of their relationship.

So, what are these
5 relationship stages?

​​​​You’ve probably fallen in love at least once in your life...Unfortunately for many of us, falling in love is not the hard part of relationships. The hard part is staying in love!​

​Stage 1: ​The Initial Attraction and Romance Stage

The first and most obvious stage of most relationships is the Initial Attraction and Romance stage. Some people even call this the “drug addiction” stage, as this is when the body releases most of the feel-good hormones that characterize the initial feelings of being passionately in love with your partner.

As you probably know from personal experience, the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of a new relationship is usually quite intoxicating. It is also what most movie romances are based on. Strangers may meet on a beach, their eyes lock and they experience a powerful attraction to each other.

They then can’t stand to be away from each other. They think about each other all the time. But just before they admit their true love for each other, in most movies they encounter an obstacle that threatens to keep them apart. But against the odds they overcome this obstacle, so that they can embrace each other in the final scene and kiss passionately as the sun sets behind them.

In these movies however, there is never any focus on what happens next. Are these two characters who have fought to be together really that compatible with each other? Do they have similar world-views? Are they good communicators? Do they have anger management issues? Given that they are hooked on feel-good chemicals are they likely to be faithful to each other long-term? And what are their listening skills like?

In most movies (unlike real life) we never find out. But if you and your partner have progressed beyond at least the initial stages of the Initial Attraction And Romance stage, you are probably probably struggling with some of these questions right now...

  • Are we the right people for each other?
  • Can we learn to live with our differences?
  • Are our communication skills good enough to deal with difficult relationship issues?
  • Can we overcome the things that we fight about, or even better, stop fighting all together?

​​​Are we the right people for each other?

​You will learn tools to deal with all of these questions ​in later blog posts.

For the moment however, know that during the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of any relationship your body will be releasing strong love chemicals that enhance the process of bonding with your partner. These chemicals include high levels of
dopaminenorepinephrine and oxytocin-almost exactly the same chemicals that you would find after taking addictive (and illegal) drugs!

However intense the Initial Attraction and Romance stage feels however, it will subside. Usually between a few months and a couple of years, the levels of these love chemicals returns to normal and your relationship may start to seem very different.

Very often this drop in love chemicals leads couples into relationship stage 2, which is the
Conflict Stage.

​Stage 2: ​The Conflict Stage

In the Conflict stage relationships feel much harder. Instead of looking deeply into each others eyes, you and your partner start to be more concerned about who left the toilet seat up or whose turn it is to take out the trash.

Other issues may start to enter relationship at this stage too. After being infatuated with your partner for so long, all of a sudden you mighty to feel feelings such as anger or disappointment. The questions that you have avoided in the Initial Attraction and Romance stage come into the light.

After your first big argument, or after multiple small ones, you may start to wonder if you actually compatible with each other. Maybe your partner’s sense of humour that first drew you to him starts to annoy you. The outgoing personality that you loved for so long starts to feel ​oppressive and irritating.

​​​After your first big argument, or after multiple small ones, you may start to wonder if you actually compatible with each other.

Often in this stage anger, arguments and power struggles start to appear. You may find that ​when you argue your partner pursues you, while you just want to withdraw. Maybe you find out that your partner has anger issues. Maybe you note that your partner is resistant to change.

Unless you know how too deal with these situations effectively, many couples can get caught in this conflict stage for many years-and possible even for the rest ​of their relationship!

Fortunately however, there are some simple tools to help couples move past this Conflict stage. These tools focus on how couples can maintain effected communication, as well as deal with anger, abuse or arguments. You will learn these tools in ​other blog posts.

For couples that make it past the Conflict stage, the next stage they enter is often called the Working stage.

Stage 3: The Working Stage

​​​Entering the Working stage does not mean that arguments between couples stop, but usually the intensity and frequency of the arguments drop.

Instead of arguing, you and your partner form a good team. A period of peace often enters the relationship-characterised by the beginning of acceptance of your partner for who he or she is. Things that may have bothered you previously now seem like not such a big deal. Issues such as who does the cleaning on the weekend get resolved, or routines get set up to avoid this issue.

The Working stage of relationships can last many years, and for many couples can seem very comfortable. This comfort however is a possible downside of this stage. At this point in relationship, often 5-10 years into the relationship, couples often start to take each other for granted.

Signs of this complacency can be subtle. Maybe you start easing dinner in front of the television, rather than sitting down together at the dinner table and talking. Maybe you stop the romantic gestures or date nights that were a strong part of the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of your relationship. Maybe you start watching television together in the bedroom, rather than snuggling and kissing.

If you are not careful, levels of passion in the Working stage of your relationship can drop.

Stage 4: ​Commitment

The fourth stage of great relationships is the Commitment stage.

The Commitment stage is about internally choosing your partner as your life partner, as they are (as not as you want them to be!). In this stage you decide that the person you are in relationship with is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life.

Of course, for many couples this Commitment stage may coincide with a wedding or other commitment ceremony, but they can also be very different things! In fact, many couples marry each other while they are in any of the first there relationship stages, which can lead to problems later on!

Often once couples enter the Commitment stage their relationship will improves. Psychological exit doors have been closed, and the brain starts to story your relationship in positive ways that justify the level of commitment you feel.

As a consequence, once you accept your partner as your one and only life-partner for the rest of your life passion levels may go up and feelings off being truly connected together often increase.

​​​​​​​​Once you accept your partner as your one and only life-partner for the rest of your life passion levels may go up and feelings off being truly connected together often increase.

​Unfortunately however, many couples return to previous relationship stages even after entering the Commitment stage. Problems, power struggles and conflict may come back into the relationship.

But for most couples the intensity of the problems is less than they were before the Commitment stage. Closing down psychological options to experience other relationships often means that you become happy with the person you have chosen!

The Commitment stage however is not the final stage of most great relationships.

The Final Stage is what I call the
True Love stage.

​​​​​​Stage 5: True Love

​​​In the True Love stage you and your partner are committed to each other, but you are also committed to something bigger. In the True Love stage you become more than the sum of each person. In fact, you influence each other so much that who you are is not separate from each other. As a client of mine said once, there is no ​Tracey without Peter.

The True Love stage is also often characterized by having relationship goals and plans. These plans may involve starting a family, building a dream home, giving back to a church or club together or talking about how you will spend you old-age together.

In the True Love stage you will also have shared short and medium term relationship goals, and be working on these goals together. ​I will discuss this stage more ​in later blog posts!


I hope it is useful for you to think about these 5 relationship stages. Of course, not all relationship pass through all these stages, and there stages do not follow a linear process. You and your partner may cycle between these stages many times before you even come close to the True Love stage.

In ​other ​posts, you will learn many of the tools that will help you move past the relationship stage you are in now to a happier, more loving and more passionate relationship stage.

​Before ending this post ​however, set aside 5-10 minutes with your partner to discuss the following questions.

(Note: The exercise in this ​post works best if you take turns talking and listening to each other as you answer these questions. Don’t focus on “being right” or trying to convince your partner of your perspective. Instead, just focus on listening and trying to really understand what your partner is saying!)

​​​​Question 1: What relationship stage would you say your relationship is in?

Try to explain your answer as fully as possible as your partner is listening to you. Remember there are no right or wrong answers!

​​​​​Question 2: What do you remember most about the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of your relationship?

​When you are answering this question, try to remember how you felt when you first met your partner? What first attracted you to him or her? What as the most romantic thing he or she did for you in this stage, and what did you do for him/her?

​​​​​Question 3: What have been the happiest times in your relationship so far?

​As you answer this question, try to describe these times as fully as possible. It can be a good idea to write down least some of these memories together so that you and your partner can refer back to them as much as possible. Is there anything stopping you recreating some of these memories?

​​​​​Question 4: Are you and your partner in the True Love stage? If not, what would need to change in order for you to move in this direction?

​Remember, if you want help moving your relationship towards the True Love stage, I am here to help!

12 Signs You Are In A Good Relationship

Today I want to help celebrate those people who are in good relationships!

How do you know if you are in a good relationship?

The following are 12 signs that I look for (both with people I work with and in my personal life). I'm not exactly sure what a "pass" score is for a good relationship, but I would hope most people can tick around 9 or 10 of these 12 signs.

If you can't, remember it is always a good option to book relationship counselling to help improve your relationship. It is not as scary as people think, and can help couples far quicker than most people think!

OK. 12 Signs that you are in a good relationship:


​You enjoy time together!

​As obvious as this sounds, this is not true for every couple! Common interests help couples enjoy spending time together, but are not essential. If you lack common interests, don't panic. The way you communicate together is more important than sharing interests together. 


​You communicate well together

​By this, I mean each person feels heard and understood (at least to some level) when you talk to each other. ​I very much rate regular talking time together and using active listen skills. My ebook, "How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood" explains this in more detail. 


​Arguments do not get heated

​Arguments (in themselves) are not good or bad for relationships. However, if arguments get out of control, or result in any abuse or violence, this is always bad for a relationship. Good couples argue respectfully! 


​​You have a relationship "support network"

​It is hard for couples to maintain a good relationship together without others. Times will always get tough, and in the tough times it is good to be able to turn to people who support the relationship to help get things back on track. Usually this is friends or family, but relationship counsellors can also help here! 


​​You spend quality time together

​Spending time alone as a couple (especially if you have children) is vital for all couples. What is quality time? Basically it is time when you are alone together and connect with each other. Beach walks, coffees, playing board games all count as quality time. How much quality time do you need? Research suggest 2 hours a week minimum! 


​​You touch

​When I ask couples what their "love languages" are, almost all men say touch is one of their top two love languages. Some women do too. Happy couples usually touch each other a lot. They hug or kiss when they get home from work, they touch on the couch watching TV, they cuddle in bed at night. These acts of touch help keep the relationship strong. 


​​You trust each other

​Although I wish this went without saying, trust is synonymous with a good relationship. Any jealousy or mistrust (earned or not) can quickly destroy a good relationship. If you or your partner is experiencing issues of mistrust, get help immediately


​You have separate lives

​It is hard for couples to maintain a good relationship if there is not outside interests that each person can bring to the relationship. You both should have your own friends, interests and hobbies! Often this is harder when you have young children, but be sure to arrange the parenting so that both people have time to pursue life outside of home (and work!). 


​​​You respect and support each other (and show it)

​Research indicates that couples that thrive have roughly 20 positive interactions for every negative interaction. This means that for every thing you criticize your partner about, you should praise him or her for 20 other things. It is hard to do this if you do not fully respect and support your partner. If your ratio is a bit off, make sure you repair this as soon as possible! 


​You ​function as a team

​You and your partner are a team! This means that you share the relationship work. This includes housework, cooking dinners, doing jobs outside the house etc. Of course, not everything needs to be shared equally, but there needs to be negotiation about how these tasks are done. 


​​You have a good sex life

​Without a good sex life, couples run the risk of falling into flatmate or friend relationships. One of the keys to a good sex life is the ability to talk about sex. If you and your partner have done this and still find issues sexually, seek professional help as soon as possible! 


​​You have shared goals for the future

​Couples that work together on shared goals are more likely to stick together! Do you and your partner have relationship goals for the next year? The next 5 years? How about the next decade? If not, think about sitting down and discussing what you want together in the future. As with everything, the more you plan it, the more likely it is to happen! 

​I hope that's useful!

Feel free to ​comment below (or on my Facebook page) how many of these items you could tick off (and how you feel about your relationship)! It would be good to calibrate this!

​Don't forget relationship counselling can help any relationship. If you know counselling can help, book now!

How To Create A Better Sex Life

​​​​​​How To Create A Better Sex Life

sex life

​​It is ​the ​part ​of relationships that causes perhaps the most conflict between couples, but also one that perhaps leads to the greatest connection and satisfaction between couples.

​This area is: How to create a better sex life!

​​​​​It is ​the ​part ​of relationships that ​perhaps leads to the greatest connection and satisfaction between couples.

​​​Before I jump into this important and sensitive (no pun intended) topic however, I want to acknowledge that ​for some couples, even talking about sex can be problematic. So, if your sex life with your partner is not where you want it to be, often the best step you can take is to book a relationship counselling session with myself to talk about it.

With a counsellor such as myself present, most couples are able to openly express their true feelings about sex, without fear of their partner reacting defensively or aggressively. This is key to a productive discussion!

Having said that, let's talk about common factors that help couples create a better sex life!


​According to sexuality researchers Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz and James Witte (authors of the great book "The normal bar : the surprising secrets of happy couples and what they reveal about creating a new normal in your relationship"), as well as relationship researcher John Gottman, couples around the world who have a great sex life do 13 things that couples who have poor sex lives do not do.

These 13 things are all simple. They are:

  1. 1
    ​They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  2. 2
    ​They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  3. 3
    ​They give surprise romantic gifts
  4. 4
    ​They know what turns their partners on and off erotically
  5. 5
    ​They are physically affectionate, even in public
  6. 6
    ​They keep playing and having fun together
  7. 7
    ​They cuddle
  8. 8
    ​They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  9. 9
    ​They stay good friends
  10. 10
    ​They can talk comfortably about their sex life
  11. 11
    ​They have weekly dates
  12. 12
    ​They take romantic vacations
  13. 13
    ​They are mindful about turning toward each other (ie they share their lives with each other)

​​​Couples around the world who have a great sex life do 13 things that couples who have poor sex lives do not do.

​​​Sound easy?

It probably is. Great sex is not rocket science, but too many people neglect the basic relationship skills that put couples in a position (again, pun not really intended) to have great sex together.


​​OK, for "homework" I suggest that you sit down with your partner and go over the 13 items above together. Tick the ones you already do, and mark the items you need to "work-on" with a cross.

Once you have done this make a plan together for how you can increase the frequency of the "work-ons". For couples with many work-ons it is probably best to choose just one or two items to start to "work-on". Once you make progress in those areas, move onto other areas until you score well in every area.

I hope this is useful!

​Remember: If you and your partner need help talking about sex (or any other) issue, book a relationship counselling session with me now.

​​​​​​​​Great sex is not rocket science, but too many people neglect the basic relationship skills that put couples in a position (again, pun not really intended) to have great sex together.

Listening Skills In Relationships: Do You Talk Or Listen?

​​​​​Listening Skills In Relationships: Do You Talk Or Listen?

​One big complaint in many relationships is that one person does more talking than the other.

​(Note: If you recognize this, and think that it's the woman who usually does most of the talking, then read on!).

If this dynamic is present, no matter who does most of the talking, ​it can ​be annoying. Over time a significant imbalance in the talking and listening dynamic can (and often does) kill a relationship.​

​​​Over time a significant imbalance in the talking and listening dynamic can (and often does) kill a relationship.​

​​All of us ​regardless of gender, wants to ​feel heard and understood. ​This simply cannot happen if one person ​is doing all the talking and ​very little of the listening.

A simple mistake many people make is ​mistaking
hearing for listening. This is where good listening skills in a relationship come into play.

Hearing is the ​act of ​allowing the sound waves from your partner's mouth to enter into your ears. It is a physical act. Ideally once this happens these sound waves will also be transferred into information in your head.

In contrast to hearing, listening is the mental act of ​hearing, understanding and processed the information you receive in a conversation.

An example of this is if your partner ​says that he or she hates cheese and you suggest Mexican food for dinner, ​then either: ​

  • you aren't familiar with Mexican ​food, or more likely
  • you didn't listen to what ​your partner was saying.

​​​Listening Skill #1: Give Your Partner Time To Speak

​One important and very simple listening skill is giving ​your partner time to speak. 

Many ​men and women, ​even with good intentions, interrupt their partners or talk over the top over the top of ​them. This is always a negative experience for the person talking!

​Avoiding talking over your partner allows him or her to get out what they are truly thinking or feeling. Even if ​your partner is taking longer to say something than you think that he or she should, good listening skills dictate that you should let him or her finish. Often they will not get to the point until right at the end of the conversation-and you need to wait to that point!

Giving your partner time to speak also applies ​even if you think that what your ​partner is ​saying is just totally wrong. It is worth remembering that in relationships there is no absolute right or wrong-both people will have valid perspectives on the issue that you are discussing.

​If you respect ​your partner and care about him or her, you will always give ​them the time ​they need to say what they need to say.

​​​In relationships there is no absolute right or wrong-both people will have valid perspectives on the issue that you are discussing.

All men aren't the same and all women aren't the same

​​As individuals, we are all different. All men aren't the same and all women aren't the same.

Some men for example, ​process ​information or thoughts faster than other men. The same applies to women. There is no gender ​specificity in this. ​

​Interestingly, ​even though most people​ think that women talk more than men, ​recent research ​conducted by Dr. Matthias Mehl, an Associate Professor ​from the University of Arizona, found that ​regardless of gender, we all speak about the same number of words per day.

​While this conclusion may be surprising to some, the ​summary statement of the ​researchers ​is very interesting:

​"On average, women speak 16,215 words per day and men speak 15,669 words per day" according to Dr. Mehl. However, Dr. Mehl ​adds that the mean number of words does not describe this distribution well.

"In fact" he says, ​"the distribution for this study was huge. One person used an estimated 795 words on average per day, while another used almost 47,000 words" (both the least and the most talkative participant were men).

However, according to Dr. Mehl, the distributions were normal for both sexes and averaged out to have no statistical difference.

​​​​​​​On average, women speak 16,215 words per day and men speak 15,669 words per day.

​​​​​Good Communication Skills

​​No matter how difficult the ​problem seems, good communication skills ​can resolve or eliminate most problems in a relationship​.

​Despite how many people act however, good communication skills don't start with knowing what to say. Instead good listening skills are always the key to good communication skills.

As many people observe, our bodies we have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and one mouth. Good communicators listen twice as much as they speak and speak only after they've considered what they are going to say.

As you practice good communication with your partner, it is ​good to think about your level of honesty with your partner. It is easy to leave little details out of stories you are telling your partner, or to omit anything that reflects poorly on yourself.

​​​As many people observe, our bodies we have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and one mouth. Good communicators listen twice as much as they speak and speak only after they've considered what they are going to say.

​Unfortunately, little lies in a relationship often turn into bigger lies. When those lies are exposed your partner begins to wonder how he or she can trust anything that you have ever said.

It might be frightening, but it is bonding to practice openness, vulnerability and honesty with your partner, always.

When you do this, more often than not your partner will be honoured that your trusted him or her with your secrets, and the levels of trust, intimacy and connection will build in your relationship.

Listening Skill #2: ​Practice ​Open Body Language

​​A second and important listening skill is to be ​aware of your ​non-verbal communication and body language. A large percentage of what ​you are thinking and feeling will be communicated through your body language, including the way t​hat you stand, sit and look as you listen to your partner.

For example, ​are ​your arms crossed, eyes averted or ​your body turned away from your partner as he or she is speaking to you? If any of this is true it is likely that your partner will perceive that you are not truly interested in what he or she is saying.

​​While you are paying attention to your body language, also pay attention to the amount that you are talking (rather than listening).

​​​​​Good listeners ​ask questions rather than challenging your partner about what they are saying. These questions include asking your partner what they are thinking or feeling.

Good listeners ​ask questions rather than challenging your partner about what they are saying. These questions include asking your partner what they are thinking or feeling.

For example, instead of telling your partner that he or she looks ​​angry (for example), ask him or her about ​their thoughts. ​Once you have done this ​wait for their answer. Don't jump in. ​It is OK (and even good!) to allow silence until ​they answer.

Good listening skills ​are crucial to any relationship. Listening is ​usually far more important than talking. Practice listening to your partner and ​being totally ​present in ​the conversation. 

You can't always ​do this, ​but, if you are never present ​for your partner, ​then your relationship is likely to struggle.

What Makes A Relationship Last? A Science Based Answer

​​​​What ​Makes ​A ​Relationship ​Last? A ​Science ​Based ​Answer

Why do some relationships last-and others fail?

It’s a question that many couples have when they come into my office. Are we right for each other? Should we work on our relationship, or should we go our separate ways? And, by the way, how do we make this decision?

How to predict whether a relationship will last or not would be a very valuable skill to have-especially when one realizes that in most marriages, even if they last, both partners may not be happy.

In fact, in his book “
Happily Ever After”, psychologist Ty Tashiro states that out of every ten people that get married, only three will create a happy, sustainable long-term relationship with each other.

​​Only 3 out of every 10 married couples will create a happy, sustainable long-term relationship.

​-Ty Tashiro

So, how does one tell if a relationship will last?

A powerful answer to this question comes from
John Gottman, one of America's most eminent relationship researchers.

​​​John Gottman

In 1986, relationship researcher John Gottman (together with colleague Robert Levenson) set up what he called the “Love Lab”. This was an apartment at the University of Washington where newly-wed couples would come and live for several days.

During these days Gottman and Levenson would physiologically-monitor and video-tape each couple as they lived together. They would also ask each couple questions about their relationship, including:

  • ​how they met
  • what conflict they had with each other, and
  • positive memories of each other

​As each member of the couple answered these questions, Gottman and Levenson would monitor their heart rates, the level of sweat produced and their level of general physiological arousal. After a few days they would send the couples home.

Six years later Gottman and Levenson would follow up with each couple to see if their were together to not-and if so, how happy their marriage was.

The Masters of Relationships

From this data, Gottman and Levenson separated the couples into two groups. These groups were:

  • ​the "Masters of Relationships" (these were the couples who were still happily married and content after 6 years), and
  • the "Disasters of Relationships" (these were the couples who had separated or were together but chronically unhappy).

​So, what where the differences between these two groups?

Accordion to Gottman and Levenson, there were just two traits that separated these groups. These traits were kindness and generosity.

​​Accordion to Gottman and Levenson, there were just two traits that separated these groups. These traits were kindness and generosity.


According to Gottman, disasters of relationships to get very quickly into a "fight-flight" (or adversarial) state of mind during relatively simple conversations.

In other words, disasters of relationships quickly get into attack (or defend) mode during conversations. If their spouse says or does something that they do not like or agree with, disasters of relationships are very quick to point out the faults in their spouses words or actions.

In these situations a disaster of relationship will attack their spouse, often by criticism or expressing contempt. Or if they themselves are being criticized, disasters of relationships easily become defensive. Or equally they become non-responsive and stonewall their partner.

These four traits, namely:









​are what Gottman calls the "four horsemen of the apocolypse". They are all signs that a relationship is in trouble. Each behaviour over time is likely to lead to distance in a couple-and eventual separation.

Masters Of Relationships

​​​For masters of relationships the relationship is far more important that any single issue-so they be careful not to let small issues escalate into pointless arguments.

Scanning For Positives

Another behaviour that masters of relationships do that disasters of relationships do not do is to scan their relationship environment for positives-such as for things that they can praise their partner for or say thank you for.

Examples of this may be a partner who regularly thanks their partner for bathing the children in the evenings, even if it their job. Telling your partner what he or she is doing right is a powerful antidote to the times where your partner is feeling judged or criticized.


In the same vein as scanning for positives, kindness helps glue couples together. In fact, research has shown that kindness is the most important predictor of relationship satisfaction and stability. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood and loved.

So, how do you show kindness in a relationship?

Fortunately there are many ways!

One simple way to show kindness in a relationship involves what is known as "bids for attention". A bid for attention is usually a simple request for connection. For example, you may be watching television with your partner and he (or she) may say: "Isn't that funny!".

While this may seem an innocuous comment, in reality it is an attempt (albeit a small one) to connect with the partner. A master of relationship will acknowledge this connection, by saying something like "Yes, it sure is!".

​​​​One simple way to show kindness in a relationship involves what is known as "bids for attention". A bid for attention is usually a simple request for connection.

​By contrast, disasters of relationships will often ignore this bid, perhaps by saying nothing. Or they may disagree, perhaps by saying: "No, not really". In either case, the bid for connection has been lost.

Masters of relationships then respond kindly to bids for attention.

Another way of being kind to your partner is to think the best of their intentions. If your partner makes a mistake, rather than thinking about the outcome of their actions, focus on what your partner was trying to do. Maybe their intention was good. They may have been trying to help. And even if the effect is to hinder, masters of relationships will kindly acknowledge the intention, not the outcome.

A third example of showing kindness in a relationship is to share joyous moments with each other. If your partner has done something well, such as achieved a goal in work or done well at a sporting event-share the joy with them (rather than just making a token acknowledgement-such as by saying "That's nice").

Couples who share each others joy are far more likely to stay together than couples who do not. In fact, research has shown that being there for each other when things are good is even more important for a couple than being there for each other when things get tough!

​​​​​​Research has shown that being there for each other when things are good is even more important for a couple than being there for each other when things get tough!


What Is Generosity?

In general, generosity in a relationship is choosing to focus more on the needs and wants of your partner than your own needs and wants.

Of course there are times when acts of generosity are counter-productive in a relationship-such as when your partner is completely self-serving, narcissistic or controlling, but in general the more generous each partner is to the other, the more likely the relationship is to succeed long-term.

So, what does generosity look like long-term in a relationship?

Luckily there are many ways to show generosity in a relationship.

These include:

1) Being Forgiving

In a relationship it is easy to "keep score" on who does what, who makes the most effort and so forth. Unfortunately research shows that this "score-keeping" is a strong predictor of relationship failure. Being generous in this context means being forgiving (and forgetting) of your partners perceived mistakes, accepting your partners apologies for mistakes and not letting frustrations build up.

​2) Praising Your Partner

Supporting and uplifting your partner is a key part of any great relationship. Taking time to compliment your partner, saying "thank you" or encouraging your partner in their day to day life all contribute to the glue that helps couples stay together.

​3) Thinking About How To Make Your Partner Happy

There are many day to day things that we can all do to improve your partners day. Some of these may be based in knowing what your partners main "love language" is and acting in a way that responds to it. Small acts of services, physical touch and supportive words can all contribute to making your partner happier. But the key is to think what would make him or her happy (not what would make you happy).

​4) Listening To Your Partner

​If your partner has had a difficult day and wants to talk about it, simply listening to your partner as he or she offloads the day is a generous act. I have written previously about the importance of good listening, but if you want to brush up on your listening skills, click here.

​​​If your partner has had a difficult day and wants to talk about it, simply listening to your partner as he or she offloads the day is a generous act. I have written previously about the importance of good listening, but if you want to brush up on your listening skills, click here.

​How Generous Is Your Relationship?

​​There are many other ways to show generosity in your relationship, but for a quick assessment of how generous your relationship is, assess yourself on the following four questions, using a scale of 1-5 (1=Never, 5=Always):

1) How often do you express affection or love to your partner?

2) How often do you express respect or admiration to your partner?

3) How often do you perform small acts of kindness for your partner (like making him or her coffee in the morning)?

4) How often do you forgive your partner for his or her mistakes or failings?

If you would like a full scoring guide, contact me or go to this article:
Quiz: Do you have a generous relationship?

​If you would like an ​indication now of your score, an average score on this quiz is around 15-16. If you are less than that you may have some work to do!

​In Conclusion...

​​​Science has said that kindness and forgiv​eness are the two key traits that "glue" a relationship together.

​Would you ​like to increase the levels of ​ kindness or generosity in your relationship? Book a relationship counselling session here.

Is My Relationship Over? 6 Clear Signs That It May Be Time To Break Up

​​​Is My Relationship Over? 6 Clear Signs That It May Be Time To Break Up

​How do you know if your relationship is over?

This is a question that doesn’t have an easy answer-yet it is something that many people in relationships struggle with.

As a relationship counsellor one of my main tasks is to help couples learn the relationship tools to help them stay together. However having said this it is important to ​realise that for some couples breaking up may be the best option they have.

For these couples it is still important to break up in a healthy, non-damaging ways-especially when children are involved.

​As a relationship counsellor my main task (as I see it) is to help couples learn the relationship tools to help them stay together. However having said this it is important to release that for some couples breaking up may be the best option they have.

​​Often seeing a relationship counsellor to talk through these issues in a constructive way is a good choice even if you have already decided not to stay together. In the past I have helped many couples do exactly this.

So, what are some common signs that your relationship is over?

While there are many answers to this question, here are ​6 common signs that either your relationship is in serious trouble, or that it might already be over.

​​Sign 1: Emotional Distance

One of the biggest red flags between couples is that they start to withdraw from each other.There are many ways couples can do this. These include

  • ​spending more time with friends or family outside the relationship
  • not sharing details of your life with each other
  • spending more time on ​seperate hobbies and interests
  • ​sharing highlights and lowlights of your day with other people (not your partner)

​This process of withdrawal from each other can be gradual, but the effect on any relationship is significant.

​This process of withdrawal from each other can be gradual, but the effect on any relationship is significant. Couples feel less connected to each other, they spend more time apart from each other and levels happiness and bonding drop.

If this process is not reversed then in most cases a relationship will break up. Or if the couple stay together it becomes a functional relationship, rather than a loving, committed one.

​Sign 2: Increased Aggression or Arguments

​​While the presence of aggression or arguments in not a predictor of separation in most relationships, an increase in aggression or arguments (or a change in the type of aggression or arguments) can be.

As an example, of this, it is common for couples who are on the verge of breaking up to increase both the frequency and intensity of arguments. What may have been a minor irritation a few years prior becomes a major argument. And an argument that may have escalated to a certain point a few years prior now its even more heated.

According to relationship guru
John Gottman, one of the most corrosive features in arguments is the presence of contempt between couples.

​Contempt is when we are truly mean towards our partner or think of ourselves as superior to our partner.

For those not familiar with it, contempt is when we are truly mean towards our partner or think of ourselves as superior to our partner. Common examples of contempt include:

  • treat your partner with disrespect
  • mocking him or her
  • using sarcasm or condescension
  • using hostile humour
  • name-calling
  • mimicking, and
  • body language such as eye-rolling and sneering

​Contempt is such a strong predictor of divorce that once is takes hold it usually takes professional help for it to change.

​​​Sign 3: Fantasies of Escape

​​A third sign that your relationship may be over is when either partner is having more and more consistent fantasies of escape.

Common fantasies of escape include the “grass is greener” type of fantasy where you imagine being with another person that will make you happier than your current partner, or simply being single and escaping from your perceived problems at the time.

While fantasies of escape can be tempting, it is important to realize that “running away” is only one solution to the problem of a poor relationship. Perhaps a more mature solution is to try and fix the relationship first by addressing the major issues in it.

While fantasies of escape can be tempting, it is important to realise that “running away” is only one solution to the problem of a poor relationship. Perhaps a more mature solution is to try and fix the relationship first by addressing the major issues in it."

​While some people think that they have already done this, it is also important to realize that many of us have a tendency to focus on our partners perceived weakness or faults and overlook our contribution to relationship issues. In fact, for some people this “taking responsibility” of relationship issues can be almost impossible.

With couples I see I always try to get each member of the couple to focus on their own contribution to the relationship dysfunction-not ​their partners. In other words, it is important to always try to change ourselves before we change others.

Having said that, if one member of the couple has truly looked at themselves and tried to eliminate their contribution to the relationship dysfunction without success, it may be time f​or the relationship to breakup.

​Sign 4: Your sex-life (or level of affection together) diminishes

Establishing and maintaining a healthy sex-life can be challenging in any relationship.This is particularly true in longer term relationships where many factors can affect the quality of a couples sex life. These factors include:

  • amount of time each partner spends at work
  • communication levels between the partners
  • presence and age of children
  • sleep issues
  • general fatigue
  • menopause, and
  • arguments and conflict

While maintaining a healthy sex life is challenging for most couples, changes in the couples sex-life can be problematic-especially if a coupes sex-life (or levels of affection) have diminished to almost zero.

​​As with all of these signs, awareness of the sign is the first step in trying to change it. A useful second step is to seek relationship counselling.

As with all of these signs, awareness of the sign is the first step in trying to change it. A useful second step is to seek relationship counselling.

Some simple steps for couples to try to re-ignite their sex-life (or to increase levels of affection between each other) include:

  • working on improving communication levels. In fact, for many couples communication (and the emotional connection good communication brings) is the key to a healthy and active sex life. This especially applies to being able to talk to each other in non-superficial, “deep” ways.
  • sharing sexual desires and expectations. Having the maturity ​to be open with your partner about what you want sexually is key to a good sexual relationship. As someone said to me once “If you cant talk about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.”
  • making a plan. As strange as it seems, planning to have sex together in a relationship is one of the keys to keeping a healthy sex-life. Too many couples expect sex to be as passionate and spontaneous as it was when they first met. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case-so planning sex is almost always a good idea!

​Sign 5: You ​focus ​on ​your ​partners ​flaws (​not ​their ​good sides!)

We all know that frustrations can build up in a relationship.

One obvious sign of this is that you may find yourself thinking more and more about your partners flaws-and not their strengths.

For some couples this phenomena can be an example of what is called “
negativity bias”.

Negativity bias is the tendency many people to give greater attention and weight to negative information. Australian couples therapist
Clinton Power states it this way:

​The brain is Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences.

When it comes to relationships then it is easy to remember all the negative experiences we have had with our partner and the flaws that we perceive these demonstrate about our partner. These frustrations build up, and before we know it we are thinking of leaving our partner.

A simple anti-dote to our common negativity bias is to learn to mitigate the negative qualities that we see in our partner with a more positive quality. I tell many of my clients that one of the best ways to do this is to use the word “but” whenever you think of a complaint about your partner.

​For example, if your partner is often late for events, but when he or she turns up at the event, they are the life of the party, it is most useful to think of the situation this way:

“My partner is often late, but when he or she turns up they are the life of the party.”

This mitigation of the negative quality can prevent the perceived flaw of your partner from becoming too strong in your mind.

Sign 6: Refusing to see a Counsellor

​If things aren’t going well between your partner and yourself and your partner refuses to go to relationship counselling, this may be a sign that your relationship is not going to work out.

American Marriage and Family therapist,
Christie Tcharkhoutian ​ puts it this way:

​​If your dynamic is toxic and your partner does not want to try to work it out, then that is a big sign that the relationship may be over.

It’s similar to when you are driving a car and the emergency warning that you have a flat tire goes off. If you keep ignoring it and never pull over to change the tire, your car is going to drive off the road and lose control.

In the same way, the dissatisfaction in the relationship and the healthy dynamics are your warning sign for your relationship. If you don’t pull over and get help through going to therapy, your relationship is going to get off track..

In my practice I see this dynamic most commonly with male partners of women who are seeking relationship counselling. In fact, I often get asked the question “How do I get my partner to come to counselling?”. While there is not always an easy answer to this, some options include:

  • asking your partner to make a small commitment, such as ​attending one relationship counselling session. If after this session, he (or she) can’t see value in relationship counselling he or she does not need to come again
  • emphasizing that relationship counselling is not about blame. In fact it is about creating a better, more positive relationship that will benefit both of you
  • asking your partner what would make the relationship better
  • researching relationship counsellors first and presenting your partner with some options
  • coming to relationship counselling individually first, so that your partner can see that you are trying!

​In Conclusion...

​​The above six signs are not the only signs that your relationship may be over. In fact, there are an infinite number.

However, as I tell many of my clients, even though there may be ​many signs that your relationship may be over, it is never too late to start working on it!

As a relationship counsellor I have helped many couples recover from what they thought were almost hopeless relationships. Sometimes this takes time and energy, but if both people are committed, you can create almost any type of relationship that you want!

Surviving Infidelity-Top Tips From A Relationship Expert


​​Surviving Infidelity-Top Tips From A Relationship Expert


​It is is one of the most traumatic events that can happen in a marriage.

Infidelity of any type (emotional or physical) tears at the foundation of any marriage and challenges both partners to question the basis of their union. For many marriages the strain an incident of unfaithfulness of any type is simply too much to bear.

However for other marriages, both partners are able to work through a process of marriage recovery. Sometimes couples emerge from this rocky path stronger even than when they started. However, any attempt at thinking this way in the early stages of the discovery of infidelity is usually too hard to contemplate. Instead the marriage often becomes a stage for hand-to-hand combat the likes of which neither partner have seen before.

Among heterosexual married couples, 20 to 40 percent of men and 10 to 25 percent of women have committed an act of infidelity!

​​The good news is that getting through this conflict is possible. Any relationship can survive infidelity. But it requires time, effort and knowledge that sometimes neither partner may have at the beginning.

In this article I discuss common steps that help the process of marriage recovery following an incident of infidelity. These steps are not linear and can vary from couple to couple. But overall these are very common and helpful steps that couples who are attempting to survive infidelity can take.

If you have experienced infidelity of any type, feel feel to contact me. More often than not professional advice is important in helping couples work through this most difficult issue.

Note: In this article I will use the terms “infidelity”, “unfaithful” and “affair” almost interchangeably. They all indicate an event or events where one person has had an emotional or physical affair with a person outside of the marriage. ​Click here for a ​full definition of infidelity​.

Steps for The Person Who Has Been Unfaithful

​Step 1: End The Affair

This step must be taken to initiate the recovery process.

Ending the affair usually also means that the person who has had the affair will need to cut all ties with their affair partner.

If you are this person, ending your affair is often best done transparently and with full knowledge of your partner. For example, many people choose to end their affairs by calling the affair partner while your spouse is present and listening to the phone call. This indicates to your partner that you are serious about committing to your relationship-not the affair partner.

It is important also for the person who has had the affair to understand that any ongoing contact with the affair partner is likely to undermine your relationship.

​It is important also for the person who has had the affair to understand that any ongoing contact with the affair partner is likely to undermine your relationship.

For people who have had an affair with a work colleague it is best to limit your contact with your affair partner as much as possible. In many situations this may even mean changing jobs or moving to a different department.

This sacrifice is often a necessary consequence of the affair and it usually worth maintaining your marriage for.

Step 2: Be As Transparent As Possible

​Any type of affair is a betrayal of the trust that your spouse has invested in you. Being as transparent as possible from now on goes some way to restoring this trust (which admittedly will take time to fully rebuild).

Two important steps in moving towards full transparency include:


​answering any questions your partner has about the affair, and


​offering your partner full access to all your means of communication.

These steps are important for the following reasons:

1) Answering any questions your partner has about the affair

Almost all partners who have been betrayed will want to know exactly how and why this betrayal happened.

Although you may not want to discuss these details (as you may feel shame or embarrassment about what you have done), it is important to overcome any reluctance to share the details of the affair.

For example, your partner may want to know how often you met your affair partner, where these meetings took place, who initiated them and so forth. Being betrayed is life-shattering. The best way to help your partner come to terms with your infidelity is to simply his or her questions.

In all cases once the infidelity has been revealed it is important that you do not withhold any information or sugar-coat what has happened. In these situations, truth is the best policy!

Often your partner may ask the same question many times. This is one way of coming to terms with the shock of the betrayal. For other people it is a way to simply check how honest you are being or if you are withholding information.

In all cases once the infidelity has been revealed it is important that you do not withhold any information or sugar-coat what has happened. In these situations, truth is the best policy!

One important exception to this principle is when it comes to details of a sexual affair. In most cases it is best for you and your partner to agree to not share intimate sexual details. More often than not sharing these details will traumatize the partner who was not involved in the affair, often leading to images or pictures that he or she can never get out of their mind.

To avoid this, it is often best to keep what happened sexually between you and your affair partner "off-limits" for discussion with your spouse. But you must be fully honest about every other aspect of the affair.

​2) ​Offer your partner full access to all your means of communication

​A second part of transparency is to make all your means of communication (phone, computer, social media accounts and so forth) available to your partner to check if he or she wants to.

Although this may feel like an overstepping of privacy at times (or a demonstration of mis-trust), it is important that the person who has had the affair understands that they the former levels of privacy they had before and during the affair simply cannot be maintained after an affair.

​​Step 3: Understand How The Affair Came About

​In almost all cases, episodes of infidelity do not "just happen". Usually there are a series of steps that the person who has had the affair takes before they eventually cross the line into an emotional or physical affair.

Some common examples of these steps include:

  • ​discussing personal information with the affair partner
  • ​talking about your partner negatively to the affair partner
  • ​fantasizing about the affair partner
  • organizing to spend time alone with the affair partner, and
  • having non-sexual physical contact with the affair partner

​All of these steps start to open a door to a possible affair. In committed relationships it is important that these "door-openers" are avoided, and any feelings of attraction to people outside the relationship are acknowledged and discussed.

Understanding how the affair came about more clearly outlines the choice points that the person who has had the affair made, and allows this person to more consciously make different choices in the future.

For the person who has had the affair there may also be deeper reasons why the affair happened.

These reasons can include:

  • ​​a desire for attention
  • ​​low self-esteem (which is boosted through the affair)
  • ​underlying anger or resentment about the existing marriage, and
  • ​poor communication skills or a decision to “turn away” from your spouse

Whatever reasons there are for the affair occurring it is important that the person who was unfaithful understands them fully, so that they can avoid the infidelity happening again.

​​Whatever reasons there are for the affair occurring it is important that the person who was unfaithful understands them fully, so that they can avoid the infidelity happening again.

While the person who had the affair processes their actions that led to the affair, it is important that they do not let feelings of blame or self-loathing dominate their recovery process.

Instead there is much learning to do around why the affair happened and how you can respond to your partner better. Don’t let shame block you from this learning!

Steps for The Person Who Has Been Betrayed

​Discovering that your spouse has had an affair (or is still having an affair) is a traumatic event for almost everyone that it has happened to.

Many of my clients describe this event as like living through a major earthquake. It seems like the entire ground beneath your feet has shifted. Often the world never feels the same again.

Even though the world may have changed for you, and you may never feel exactly the same way about your spouse as you have in the past, there are ways to get through the affair-both for yourself and (hopefully) for the relationship. The following are some steps that can help this for you:

Step 1: Deal With Your Shock And Rage

Shock and rage are common responses to discovery that your partner has had an affair.

While expressing these feelings a certain amount is to be expected, protracted anger or rage at your partner is usually not useful. You may want answers to questions. You want to know why your partner betrayed you. You may not be sure whether to stay in the relationship or not. And perhaps most of all, you will be feeling incredibly hurt and betrayed.

For many people it is best to start to deal with the feelings of anger, rage, shock and betrayal away from your spouse. This may mean spending hours with a friend, crying and getting these feelings out. It may also mean seeing a professional counsellor, who can help you channel these feelings positively.

Once you are past your initial feelings of shock and rage, it is easier to keep control of the level of shock and rage that express to your partner. You will need to have some serious conversations together about his or her infidelity. Being able to control your emotions in these discussion will usually lead to better outcome.

Step 2: Avoid Punishing Your Partner

While you may feel like you have every right to "punish" your partner for their infidelity, repeated attempts to do this by yelling, putting him or her down, pushing his or her buttons or focusing on their inadequacies rarely leads to a productive outcome.

In contrast to this (providing your partner is able to listen to your feelings), it is better to express exactly how hurt, disappointed  and betrayed you feel by your partners actions. You do not need to protect him or her from your hurt-but expressing this hurt in a punishing or negative way is usually not productive.

Confronting infidelity is really coping with betrayal. It’s all about holding the other person accountable for that betrayal and honoring yourself in the process.

Step 3: Don’t Forget Your Own Mistakes

Although it can be difficult to say, usually affairs do not happen in a "relationship vacuum". While your partner is 100% responsible for his or her choice to have an affair, the state of a relationship prior to an affair happening does often contribute to the affair occurring.

Once you have moved past the initial shock and outrage of discovering the affair, thinking about whether the state of the relationship prior to the affair contributed to the affair (or not) is usually productive.

In this step there is no attempt to minimize the choices your partner made to have the affair, but keeping your focus 100% on your partner is not likely to lead to a healthy recovery for your relationship.

​How Your Relationship Can Recover

Once the initial stages of the affair recovery process have been completed, each person will need to decide if they want to remain in the relationship or not.

For couples who choose to work together to stay in their relationship, there are many ways in which they can do this in a productive and useful way. However it is important to realize that the goal of the relationship recovery process is not to rebuild the relationship how it was-but instead to create a new relationship that is stronger, wiser and more affair-proof than your previous relationship was.

A simple first step in dong this is to work together on your communication skills with your partner. I have written on other places on how to develop better communication with your partner.

​A second step is often to see a professional counsellor like myself. I can guide you and your partner on the relationship recovery process. Many couples do not posses the tools to rebuild their relationship themselves, but with professional help this can be done more quickly than most people realise.

Have you or your partner had an affair? Do any of these steps resonate for you? Do you have any questions about how to recover from infidelity?

If so, contact me or make any comments below.

The Number One Thing That Couples Argue About

number 1 thing couples argue about

​The Number One Thing That Couples Argue About (Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Are Thinking!)

number 1 thing couples argue about

As a relationship counsellor many people ask me the following question:

What is the number one thing that couples argue about?

If you Google this question, the most common answer that comes up is:

Sex, money and kids. Usually in that order!

However, is this right?

Before I answer this question let me what American couples counselling guru John Gottman would say about this question.

(Note: For those who haven’t heard me talking about him, John Gottman is an American relationship researcher. He has spent over forty years researching what makes relationships work and has many extremely useful recommendations on how to create happy, successful and long-lasting relationships. Many of these insights can be found in what I think is his best book, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work).

Anyway, according to John Gottman, the number one thing that makes couples argue about is:


​A​ccording to John Gottman, the number one thing that makes couples argue about is:


​Yes, according to the guru, most couples argue about nothing!

Let’s try to understand this a bit more. 

Common Arguments: A Typical Example:

​Many couples come to see me after arguments about big issues, such as when an affair has been discovered or differences in parenting styles.

However, it is even more common for couples to argue about small issues.

As example of this might be when Julie and John are watching television at home after work, relaxing. Julie arrived home first, made dinner and put the children to bed.

They are now watching a programme that Julie likes. John however is getting restless. He has the remote control and is starting to play with it a little bit.

After a little time, an ad break happens and John says to Julie, “Let me just see if the replay of the rugby is on.”

In response to this comment, Julie feels hurt. She has had a busy day and often feels that John chooses what channel to watch on television. So Julie says to John, “No, leave it on this channel!”.

John is surprised by this. He doesn’t understand why he can’t check the rugby briefly. So he stands up, slightly upset and says to Julie bluntly “Fine. I’m going to check my email.”

Julie is now starting to get more upset, so she says to John “What do you mean by fine? I never get to watch this programme because I’m always putting the kids to bed.”

John is now frustrated. Raising his voice, he says loudly “Thats not true, and besides you always get your way. And I put the kids to bed more than you do.”

It is easy to see how this argument could escalate quickly.

But what is this argument really about?

According to John Gottman, this argument is about nothing.

Or more precisely, this argument is about nothing specific. In other words, the content of this argument is not important, but what lies underneath this content (such as how each person is feeling) is more important.

​How Couples Argue Matter

John Gottman would also say that while it does not matter so much what couples argue about, it does matter how they argue. Healthy couples adopt certain communication styles in a relationship-whereas unhealthy couples argue in different ways.

As an example of this, John Gottman talks about what he calls the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. These are certain communication styles what many couples adopt-especially during arguments. 

The presence of any one of these horseman, or even worse, more than one of these horsemen, is a strong predictor of divorce in married relationships.

So, what are these horsemen?

According to Gottman, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (which indicate poor communication styles) are:






​Defensiveness, and



I will talk more about these four horsemen in future blogs.

For the moment however, it is worth noting that if you catch yourself using any of these four horsemen in an argument, you need to change what you are saying very quickly!

For those who want to do further reading, each of these horsemen has an “antidote”. These antidotes are (in order):


Gentle start-up




Taking Responsibility, and



​You can read more about these “antidotes” here.

​Learning Better Communication Skills

I see couples such as Julie and John almost every day in my counselling practice.

I agree with John Gottman that at the surface level, the most common thing that all couples argue about is basically nothing.

 However, at a deeper level there are always hidden thoughts and feelings beneath these surface issues that drive what seem to be pointless and meaningless arguments.

Uncovering these hidden thoughts and feelings is often the only way to remedy the surface arguments.

Perhaps the best way to undercover these hidden thoughts and feelings is for the couple to adopt more effective communication skills. For most couples this means really improving their listening skills-and particularly their ability to get “underneath the surface” of whatever an argument is about.

Effective ways for couples to improve their listening skills include:

  • making a time and place to talk together without distractions
  • ​asking open questions
  • not giving your perspective on issues until your partner has completely explained his or her perspective, and
  • giving your partner time to speak without interruption.

If you would like to improve your communication skills, I have an ebook called  “How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood” that gives many practical strategies for listening to your partner more effectively.

Check Out My Ebook: How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood

​In my next few blogs I will summarise some of the key communication skills that all couples need to know, including how to listen better to your partner. However, if you would like to know how to practice these skills now without delay, make sure you check out my ebook.

​So, What Is The Number 1 Thing That Couples Argue About?

Coming back to the question that started this article, what is the number 1 thing that couples argue about?

Well, perhaps predictably, I agree with John Gottman. On a surface level, the name one thing that couples argue about is nothing!

On a deeper level, these arguments are often driven by deeper thoughts and feelings. The thoughts and feeling can usually only be uncovered by practicing good listening skills or coming to relationship counselling!

If you and your partner are caught in a cycle of pointless arguments that seem to go around and around, make sure that:

  • you avoid the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” during the arguments (namely criticism, content, defensiveness and stonewalling), and
  • in some cases, seek professional help as soon as possible.

These patterns of arguments can be changed and a more useful communication plan established!

I hope this short article is useful. In the comments section I’d love you to share any thoughts or comments about it, and answer what the most common thing that you and your partner argue about!


7 Ways to Conquer Jealousy and Rescue Your Relationship


“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.”- Gary Allan

“I’ve never admitted this to anyone, but I know my jealousy is pretty bad.”

Jonathan sat nervously in his chair. It was his second session with me-but now he was beginning to open up.

“It doesn’t even make sense when I think about it” Jonathan continued. “After all I cheated on my last partner with Tracey-not her. But now I can’t get the thoughts out of my mind-what if Tracey finds someone better than me. Someone better looking or richer. I couldn’t stand losing her, but I know I’m pushing her away. I know I need to stop-but I don’t know how.”

Of all the relationships issues I encounter, strong jealousy is one of the most difficult to help people change. While we may all feel jealous to some extent, when feelings of jealousy take a person over they can become all-consuming. For some people it is difficult to go even 10 minutes away from their partner with thinking where he or she is or what they are doing. But the extremely controlling nature of these thoughts can easily destroy relationships-creating in the jealous partner the exact scenario that they were most afraid of.

jealous coupleWhat Is Jealousy?

Jealousy is a very common feeling experienced by both men and women.

As with all feelings, jealousy can play both positive and negative roles. For example, jealousy can play a positive role by preserving social bonds and assisting to bond people together, especially in new relationships.

More commonly however, jealousy is a negative experience for people. It makes people possessive and suspicious. It can lead to mistrust in relationships, demanding your partner tell you where he or she is all the time. It can lead people to stop their partner going out or forcing them to break bonds with members of the opposite sex that they have been friends with for years. It can corrode otherwise good relationship quickly-and people often feel powerless to change its influence.

Even though jealousy is a natural feeling it should always be controlled-if it gets out of control it can easily put a huge barrier between you and your partner-putting your relationship in real danger.

Where Jealousy Comes From:

At the root of jealousy is usually a fear of loss. For most people this is the fear of loss of a loved one or a relationship. But it could also be about fearing other losses-such as losing face, losing respect or losing self-esteem. Whatever it is we fear to lose, this fear makes us insecure. The insecurity, in turn, can easily lead to jealousy.

With Jonathan for example, he had seen how upset his ex-partner (Sandra) was when left her for Tracey. He had also experienced relationship losses in the past. And although he didn’t want to admit it, being in relationship with Tracey was scary for him. She was attractive, interesting and intelligent, and sometimes Jonathan wondered why Tracey was with him. What did he have that other men did not have? Jonathan wasn’t sure-but he was sure that he didn’t want to have to find out. He was petrified of Tracey telling him one day that it was over.

One key to addressing jealousy is to understand its roots. Whenever we feel the beginnings of jealousy it is essential that we contemplate the emotions behind these jealous feelings. These feelings may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Insecurity
  • Inferiority
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Distrust
  • Suspicion

By acknowledging these feelings jealousy often loses its power. We are beginning to take responsibility for our emotional self-something that men in particular can struggle with. And we can use the following techniques for dealing with the remaining jealousy we are feeling-always remembering that underneath the jealousy will be other feelings (such as the fear of loss) that we may need to get in touch with. Seeking help from a professional counsellor is often the best way to do this.

7 Ways to Fearlessly Address Jealousy

1. Think through your emotions

As mentioned above, a major key to conquering jealousy is coming to terms with the emotions that created it. Dedicate time to think about this. Think about what feelings may be “underneath’ your jealousy. Is it feelings of inadequacy? Do you need to improve your self-confidence? Are you scared of losing your partner because this has happened to you in the past? Do you need to address past issues (such as a past partner leaving you)?
One way to help you think through these emotions is to keep a journal. Try to really understand the feelings you are experiencing. Ask yourself: What am I feeling and why? Once you answer this question, ask yourself again, why am I feeling this way? Keep going until you run out of answers!

If you prefer, you can make drawings or charts to keep track of what you feel and when. Or you can measure your feelings of jealousy on a scale. What causes it to increase? Or decrease? Throughout this going process, monitor how your body responds and reacts.

2. Believe Your Partner

The vast majority of people that I see who experience strong jealousy know in their rational mind that they partner is trustworthy. They know that their jealousy in their problem-and nothing to do with their partner’s behaviour.

In these cases, you may need to tell yourself over and over again that the jealousy you experience is to do with you-not your partner. The more you tell yourself this the more likely you are to believe it. And while it can take time for your brain to fully realise that your partner is fully trustworthy, over time this does really happen.

3. Work On Your Relationship

For some people, jealousy can be used as a powerful trigger to help them think about their relationship and identify areas of the relationship that can be improved. For example, after talking more with Jonathan, we identified that despite being scared to death of losing Tracey, he was not actually doing much to build their relationship together.

To help him change this, we used jealousy as a signal. Each time he started to feel jealous, I asked him to think of one thing he could do to start to improve his relationship with Tracey. For example, he started to use his jealousy to remind him plan date nights out with Tracey. Each time he started to feel jealous, instead of harassing Tracey about where she was or what she was doing, he would think about his date night plans. This significantly reduced the amount of jealousy he was feeling-and also made the experience of jealousy much more pleasant!

7 Ways to Conquer Jealousy and Rescue Your Relationship

4. Separate feelings from behaviors

Although it can be difficult, here’s where you cut yourself a break. As with all emotions, there’s a huge difference between experiencing jealousy and acting on it. Learn to realise that just because you are feeling jealous-you don’t need to act on it. Ideally you can even use jealousy to motivate you to perform a positive action, such as in item 3 above.

You can also consult your journal to understand and predict triggers. Learn to cultivate relaxation techniques. Embrace mantras such as: “I recognize these feelings of jealousy but I feel no need to act on them.” or “I don’t need to act on jealousy-I can think of something else!”. Remember to take credit for the progress you’re making!

5. Contemplate the worst-case scenario

Jealousy already has your imagination working overtime. Everywhere you look, you see reasons to feel fear. What if you really gave your imagination a workout? What if you contemplated the worst-case scenario? Although it may be difficult, consider the thought that your loved one really is planning to break up with you. Think about what your life be like if you were without the person you think you couldn’t live without? If you think that there would be a massive hole in your life, work on fixing that hole while your partner is in your life. Realize that your happiness cannot depend upon another person-it is always up to you to feel happy in yourself!

6. Work On Yourself

Why do you fear your loved one will leave you for someone else? The answer may involve a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence. Therefore, the fear-based jealousy that threatens to poison your relationship may be best challenged by a self-assessment. Get out that journal again and start making lists. For example, things you like about yourself, things you want to work on, what you bring to your relationship, compliments your partner regularly gives you, and so on.

For some people this may be difficult and I have certainly worked with people who have struggled to think of almost anything positive about themselves. If this is the case, then this is the real problem-not the jealousy. Remember again that it is not up to anyone else to make you happy (or even to feel good about yourself). It is up to you to learn to feel this way. You may even want to open up to your partner to let him or her know this is how you feel and you could work on this together.

Seeing a professional counsellor may also be a great option to help with issues of self-esteem or confidence!

7. Seek support

Feelings of jealousy can be all-consuming and very hard for people to change by themselves. Working with a professional counsellor can help guide you through the rough waters of jealousy. Consider asking for help and take the steps you need to take to understand your jealousy and rescue your relationship. This particularly applies to men, for whom asking for help can be challenging.

If you would like to conquer jealousy and rescue your relationship, please contact me.

Relationship Counselling in Auckland: A Complete Guide

Relationship Counselling in Auckland: The Complete Guide
Relationship Counselling in Auckland: The Complete Guide

All relationships go through hard times.

No matter how long you have been together problems will arise. Work pressure may mean that you spend less time with your partner. Your children may be taking all your time and energy. You and your partner may not be talking as much as you used to. Maybe you don’t talk at all.

It is important to realize that relationship problems don’t always fix themselves. You can’t always just hope for the best. Maybe you know that your relationship is struggling. Maybe anger, resentment, trust issues or communication problems are building up in your relationship. Maybe you know that without professional help your relationship is in serious trouble.

“​The decision to get relationship counselling is a brave one.”

The decision to get relationship counselling is a brave one. It is a decision that many couples benefit from. Some of these couples had little hope for their relationship. Some had even given up on their relationship-biding their time before choosing to separate.

I have written this article to help you choose a relationship counsellor in Auckland. If you are struggling in your relationship I urge you to give relationship counselling a try. Most couples have little to lose-except the endless arguments or constant distance that keeps them unhappy. And they have the world to gain-including finding the happiness and connection that they used to feel together.

Who Am I?

Alastair Duhs

My name is Alastair Duhs. I am a relationship counsellor based in Takapuna, Auckland.

For the last 17 years I have seen hundreds of couples who have been facing a wide variety of relationship issues. These include:

  • communication issues
  • a lack of intimacy in their relationship
  • loss of trust after an affair
  • issues of anger, abuse and violence
  • jealousy
  • work stress
  • and many more.

It is my belief that many of the skills for creating a happy, healthy and loving relationship are easy to learn. However many of us have not had this training. We may have been bought up by parents who constantly argued with each other. Or maybe our parents didn’t argue to all. As a result we may fear conflict-leading to other relationship issues.

Whatever issue couples are facing relationship counselling can help. I personally have seen hundreds of my clients completely transform their relationship. These couples have learned to:

  • communicate better
  • resolve conflict more effectively
  • manage issues of anger
  • regain trust and confidence in each other after an affair
  • increase their levels of intimacy and closeness
  • understand each other more-including learning about each other’s hopes, dreams, plans and goals for their lives


​Past Client

​Over the years, I believe that I have seen a total of 7-8 counsellors. Without any shred of exaggeration, my experience with Alastair was by far the best. He was extremely helpful and he really truly did change my situation at the time completely into a positive direction. I have recommended him to many people since. I will never forget what he did for me, and all I need to do is think about him and it renews my faith in people and that they can care and make a difference and things can change.


(Note: Click on the links below to go to the section that is most relevant to you).

​Can I Help?

​Questions? Need Help? Please contact me to find out anything more about Relationship Counselling in Auckland

What Is Relationship Counselling?

​Relationship counselling can mean many things. Churches, charities, private counsellors and even government departments all carry out relationship counselling. According to Wikipedia, relationship counselling is:

“The process of counselling the parties of a human relationship in an effort to recognize, and to better manage or reconcile, troublesome differences and repeating patterns of stress upon the relationship. The relationship involved may be between members of a family or a couple (see also family therapy), employees or employers in a workplace, or between a professional and a client.

In other words, relationship counselling is the process of helping two people in a relationship build a better relationship with each other.

What Happens in Relationship Counselling?

​Relationship counselling can be conducted in many ways. The following however is a typical description of most relationship counselling processes.

Most relationship counsellors start the first counselling session by asking each person what bought them to counselling (or a similar question). However even simple questions such as “What bought you here today?” or “How can I help you?” may not bring simple answers-as many couples are unhappy for years before coming to relationship counselling. It can be hard to summarize these years in a few simple sentences!

Once the counsellor has an understanding of the problems the couple are facing he or she will start to help the couple overcome these problems. This can be done in many ways, including:

  • encouraging each person to talk more about their issues in the relationship
  • helping each person understand their partners perspective
  • assisting the couple to develop better communication techniques
  • assisting the couple to move on from difficult events (such as one person having an affair)
  • assisting each person to speak about concerns, thoughts or worries they have not shared with their partner
  • teaching basic relationship skills (including communication exercises or anger management techniques)
  • helping the couple to develop closeness and intimacy
  • helping the couple to develop a shared vision of their relationship together

​Some of these discussions can be difficult for the couple to have. It is the role of the relationship counsellor to keep these discussions productive and to make sure both partners are fully heard. By talking together in deep and powerful ways the couple can heal wounds from the past and create a happy, healthy and more loving relationship.

​​How Do I Know If I Need Relationship Counselling?

Many couples wait years before addressing important relationship problems. By this time the problem has become complex-often affecting every part of the couples life. Couples who seek relationship counselling early are usually able to resolve relationship issues far more quickly than couples who have waited months or years to seek help.

Every relationship has specific areas that relationship counselling will help. Some common signs that a couple would benefit from relationship counselling include:

  • ​you are talking to your partner far less than normal
  • most of the conversation between you and your partner is negative
  • your partner gets angry when you mention things you dislike
  • your partner no longer feels like a friend to you
  • you touch your partner less
  • your sex-life is dissatisfying or non-existent
  • you (or your partner) are contemplating having an affair
  • you (or your partner) has actually had an affair
  • you are being financially unfaithful to your partner-hiding money or not telling him or her about significant spending
  • you and your partner prefer to spend time away from each other-rather than together
  • you argue a lot with your partner
Top 10 Signs You Need Relationship Counselling

​Do People Do Relationship Counselling Individually Or Together?

​Couples usually attend relationship counselling together. This ensures that both partners are able to speak and listen to their partner directly. They are also able to work together to improve their relationship.

At times a relationship counsellor may decide it is best to see couples individually. Some counsellors do this on the first relationship counselling session. Individual sessions allow each person to speak about their relationship without judgment or response from the other partner. These sessions also help the counsellor assess if there are other issues (such as alcohol or drug addictions, domestic violence or mental health issues) that may make relationship counselling unsuitable.

Other times issues a person may raise issues in relationship counselling that are more suitable to address individually. This may include situations where one person has anger management issues or the need to address childhood abuse or trauma.

Where Do I Find a Good Relationship Counsellor in Auckland?

There are many highly skilled and qualified relationship counsellors practicing throughout Auckland. Below is a list of some of them-arranged by geography. If you would like further details about any of these counsellors or a recommendation of which counsellor may suit you, please contact me.

North Shore, Auckland

Relationship Expert is a relationship counselling practice based in Takapuna, Auckland-run by myself. I specialise in helping couples create happy, healthy and loving relationships. In addition to providing relationship counselling I have had over 20 years experience running anger management programmes and can help couples resolve issue of anger, abuse or violence extremely rapidly.

To find out more about relationshipexpert.co.nz visit my website or phone me on 021 137 0228.

Shore Therapy is a psychotherapy and counselling practice based in Browns Bay, Auckland. Shore Therapy offers individual and couples counselling and offers a choice of three counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologists to see.

To find out more about Shore Therapy visit their website or phone (09) 478 9223.

Central Auckland

Relate Counselling is a specialist marriage and relationship counselling practice based in Ponsonby, Auckland. They offer a range of services for couples including communication coaching, new relationship coaching and sex and intimacy coaching.

To find out more about Relate Counselling visit their website or phone 027 4101 102.

Suzi Wallis is a counsellor and family therapist located in Ellerslie, Auckland. She offers a range of services for couples, including generalised couple and marriage counselling as well as divorce and separation coaching.

To find out more about Suzi Wallis visit her website or phone 021 870 576.

Suzi Wallis is a counsellor and family therapist located in Ellerslie, Auckland. She offers a range of services for couples, including generalised couple and marriage counselling as well as divorce and separation coaching.

To find out more about Suzi Wallis visit her website or phone 021 870 576.

​West Auckland

​Mary Farrell is a psychotherapist and counsellor who has offices in Mt Eden and Titirangi. Mary has had over 25 years experience in relationship and couples counselling and specialises in helping partners communicate honestly and openly, understand each other fully and resolve conflict.

To find out more about Mary Farrell visit her website or phone (09) 817 4878.

Angelika Schuster a psychotherapist and counsellor who has offices in Henderson and Devonport. Angelika provides a range of services including couples counselling and seeks to walk alongside couples to assist them to face the challenges their lives present. This enables couples to feel more in control, have more satisfying relationships and lead a more fulfilling life.

To find out more about Angelika Schuster visit her website or phone 021 129 6372.

​East Auckland

​Howick Counselling Services is a group practice consisting of 8 counsellors and psychotherapists. They provide a range of services, including couples counselling. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life of people by providing a range of professional counselling services in a supportive and caring environment.

To find out more about Howick Counselling Services visit their website or phone (09) 533 4453.

Caroline Williams is an experienced counsellor located in Howick, Auckland. Caroline provides a range of services to couples, including assisting them to create more connection and understanding in their current relationships or start intimate relationships without ‘baggage”.

To find out more about Caroline Williams visit her website or phone 021 070 6343.

​South Auckland

​South City Counselling is a counselling practice run by William Garden and located in Takanini, Auckland. William provides a range of services to clients, including relationship counselling and assists couples to work together to resolve their issues in the most efficient and effective manner.

To find out more about South City Counselling visit William’s website or phone 027 450 0488.

​Claire Thompson is a counsellor and mediator with offices in Howick, Takanini, Waiuku, Pukekohe and Auckland City. Claire provides a range of services to clients, including helping couples to get the communication and vitality flowing again. She also helps prepare couples for upcoming relationship commitments to ensure they start their relationship on a good footing.

To find out more about Claire Thompson visit her website or phone 021 430 440.

​Can I Help?

​Questions? Need Help? Please contact me to find out anything more about Relationship Counselling in Auckland

Does Relationship Counselling Work?

In general relationship counselling is very effective in helping couples improve their relationships.

As an example of this, research conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists found that:

  • ​98% of couples who attended couples therapy sessions said that they received good or excellent couples therapy
  • 97% of these couples said they got the help they needed, and
  • 93% said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems.

​These results are consistent with my experience. Almost all couples that I see improve how they relate to each other-including learning to listen to each other better, understanding each other more and reducing the number of arguments that they have.

​​​What Issues Does Relationship Counselling Help With?

​Relationship counselling can help couples with a wide range of issues. These include:

  • ​reducing arguments in a relationship
  • improving communication between couples
  • developing greater closeness between couples
  • assisting couples to boost their sex life
  • helping couples move on after an affair
  • dealing with parenting differences
  • learning basic anger management issues
  • working out shared directions and goals for a relationship
  • and many more issues.

How Long Does Relationship Counselling Take?

Relationship counselling can take as little as one session-or many sessions that are spend over many years.

The actual length of relationship counselling is determined by many factors, such as:

  • how committed both partners are to counselling
  • what issues the couple is facing
  • how deeply the couple want to work with these issues
  • the skill (and therapeutic orientation) of the therapist
  • the level of insight and motivation of both partners

​As an indication, most couples I see experience significant improvements in their relationship in 3-5 sessions. After these sessions some couples decide that they have addressed the main issue that they came to see me for.

Other couples choose to continue counselling after 3-5 sessions. These are generally the couples who are committed to creating a better relationship with each other. Some continue to see me for many months or years.

Regardless of the final length of time couples see me for, almost all couples I see experience significant improvements in their relationship in less than 8 sessions.

​What Are The Best Books On Building A Good Relationship?

There are many very good books on how to build a good relationship. The top two books that I recommend to clients are:

5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages-The Secret to Love that Lasts (Gary Chapman)

This is a classic book that describes a simple, but powerful idea. We all experience love in different ways. In this book Gary Chapman describes these 5 ways (spending quality time with your partner, receiving words of encouragement, receiving gifts, receiving acts of service, and physical touch). Many of my clients have used this idea to powerfully transform their relationship.

why marriages succeed or fail

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last (John Gottman)

John Gottman is one of the best known relationship counsellors in the world. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail is a book full of practical tips for how to create a better relationship-including not avoiding arguments and why more sex does not necessarily improve relationships. As with “The 5 Love Languages” many of my clients have used this book to improve their relationship.

The following 2 lists also contain many books that will help you build a happy, healthy and loving relationship:

​How Much Does Relationship Counselling Cost?

​Relationship counselling across Auckland can cost anything from $100 to $300 an hour.

In general there is little correlation between the cost of relationship counselling and its effectiveness. It is best to choose an experienced relationship counsellor that you relate to and think will be able to help you.

What Happens If My Partner Does Not Want To Come To Relationship Counselling?

If your partner does not want to come to counselling there are still some good options for you to consider. For example, you can:

  • choose to seek relationship counselling by yourself. This can help you work on behaviour that you want to change in your relationship (such as dealing with anger or developing ways to respond to your partner differently). You may also want to assess if your relationship is right for you.
  • talk to your partner about your relationship away from a counsellor. While this is often not as effective as attending relationship counselling you may be able to make progress in your relationship without professional help. Some couples I have seen for instance, make regular coffee dates with each other to discuss their relationship.
  • try other methods to improve your relationship. This may include trying new activities together or changing habits and routines (such as watching less television or playng fewer computer games!) that may be limiting the relationship.

​While the above options are good, relationship counselling is often the fastest way to achieve meaningful improvement in a relationship.

​How Do I Choose The Best Relationship Counsellor For Me?

As discussed, there are many good relationship counsellors in Auckland.

However when choosing the right relationship counsellor for you it is useful to keep some of the following factors in mind:

  • it is usually best if your relationship counsellor is a specialist relationship counsellor. Many counsellors in Auckland counsel people with a wide range of issues. Relationship counselling is one of the many services that they offer. In my opinion these counsellors are unlikely to be as effective in providing relationship counselling as specialist relationship counsellors
  • make sure you feel understood and respected by your relationship counsellor. For example, I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation with potential clients to ensure that they feel comfortable with me before we begin counselling together
  • your relationship counsellor should be optimistic and positive about the chance of your relationship succeeding. If he or she is not optimistic about your relationship, it makes it harder for you to be
    choose a counsellor that you relate to. In general the best way to assess this is through the counsellors website. Does he or she look like a person you would get on with? Does he or she have interests in common? Does the counsellor seem approachable and friendly?

​If you would like help choosing a relationship counsellor based in Auckland then please contact me. I will try to recommend the relationship counsellor that I think will be the best match for you.

Alastair Duhs

​​Alastair Duhs is a specialist relationship counsellor who has had almost twenty years experience helping couples create happier, healthier and more loving relationships. For any questions or enquiries please contact Alastair on 021 137 0228 or via www.relationshipexpert.co.nz.