Repair, grow and sustain your relationship. Learn the secrets, principles and strategies for healthy, happy, rewarding and lasting relationships.
July 27, 2020
Conversation during isolation in Covid-19 In social isolation and physical distancing, conversation creates connectedness and intimacy. But often conversations are “transactional”, meaning they are about the […]
June 24, 2020
Cabin Fever Couples This article is taken from The Couples Institute Newsletter, with Drs Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. The Couples Institute provides incredible training for […]
June 23, 2020
Here’s how to kill a relationship in four easy steps By Joe Kort For MediaNews Group Mar 16, 2020 How to kill a relationship? Freezing out […]
February 9, 2020
If she wants sex but you don’t we are talking about desire discrepancy in your relationship. You will be upset. And inevitably your partner will be […]
November 4, 2019
Let us pause to consider why money is such a tricky business. Before we get to “Money-talk: yours, mine and ours”, the companion-article which follows this […]
November 4, 2019
In “Sameness or difference: do you still love me when we don’t agree?”, you will discover the importance of apparently contradictory things: consensus, mirroring, individuation and […]
July 21, 2019
Have you ever considered that aiming for happiness might be aiming too low? Do you say to your kids, “I just want you to be happy”? Or, […]
July 7, 2019
Having trouble understanding yourself? Having trouble understanding others? Understanding personality can solve many communication difficulties. Much misunderstanding between people is because we imagine that all people […]
June 23, 2019
Robert Feldman in his book, “The Liar in your Life”, authored a famous study that found strangers lie to each other about three times in the […]
June 9, 2019
Nothing kills a relationship as quickly as contempt. Contempt leads to the failure of any relationship; partners, parents, children, colleagues. John Gottman, in his extensive research into the causes […]
June 2, 2019
May 28, 2019
So, there you are having a full-on fight. You each want to prove how wrong the other is. You each want the final, clever last word. […]
May 23, 2019
A happy ending depends on when you stop the story…. I am talking with a couple who have stayed together through good times and bad, including […]
May 20, 2019
Many years ago I knew a bubbly, vivacious young woman. We were both at the same stage of life, preoccupied with raising children and forging workable […]
April 3, 2019
February 15, 2019
Prof Jordan Peterson says, “Don’t make the mistake of getting into a stupid relationship in the first place.” So, how to avoid those mistakes, and how […]
February 8, 2019
In this Insight, I focus on domestic violence between a couple. With self-isolation and lockdown for covid-a9, is it inevitable though regrettable, that domestic violence increases. […]
December 4, 2018
When couples consult with me, I look to understand the cause of their relationship stress. Sometimes, there really isn't a lot that needs changing - except their perpetual fatigue. Fatigue has devastating results for your relationship.
November 16, 2018
Christmas holidays are destabilizing, because of the loss of routine and structure of ordinary life. The freedom of the holidays might feel good, but familiar comforts are not available. The gym is closed, and the cleaner is on holidays. Your favourite trades-people are on a long break, often for a whole month, so your usual acts of commerce, which provide both structure and interaction with others, are not available. Apart from not being able to toss off a few DIYs, you feel at a loss. Mental health issues are at a peak during the holiday season, and loss of routine and structure is one of the main reasons. The other is the unrealistic expectations around what feelings you are going to have, of love and family warmth.
November 12, 2018
September 29, 2018
Finally we get right to the heart of the sexual aspect of your relationship. How you keep sex alive will depend on your own individuality, as well as the individuality of your partner. And of course, how you combine that individuality. The next few Insights will focus on sexuality, so we will cover the subject fairly thoroughly. In this Insight you will be invited into self-inquiry. Self-knowledge is crucial for every aspect of relationship, and especially your sexuality.
September 22, 2018
In another Insight, "How many serious ruptures" I summarised the basis for building trust as a couple. Firstly, you consistently turn towards opportunities to connect with your partner. Secondly, you acknowledge and talk about any feelings of unhappiness with your partner. And thirdly, you consistently see your partner in a favourable light. That is, you cultivate a benevolent perspective, where you interpret your partner kindly. Here in this Insight I give much more detail about how trust is gradually and consistently built over time. (Trust can also be eroded over time, but that is not the perspective I am taking here.)
September 15, 2018
When two people get together as a couple, they bring two completely different ideas of what things mean. Sorting out these meanings takes time. The differences […]
September 12, 2018
Couples often ask how many serious ruptures does it take before their relationship is beyond repair. In other words, when is it time to give up? Clearly they are in despair. The answer to this is not straight forward, and here is an analogy to demonstrate the complexities of such a situation. Say you have a garden, with a patch of lawn/turf that gets a lot of traffic. (This is the vulnerable part of your relationship.) The kids take a shortcut on the way to the front door. You take a shortcut on the way to the car. The dog has a favourite circuit of the yard, which includes that particular patch of grass. The habits of life create a lot of wear-and-tear for that patch.
April 28, 2018
She married you because you are the strong silent type, and now she wants you to talk?! Why is it that being strong and silent isn't enough? How did you learn that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness - for a man? But a sign of strength for a woman? Do you take for granted that women can speak, weep and express feelings? But that a man stands there, stoic and silent? No matter what his grief, shame or disappointment?
April 18, 2018
We all have the capacity to learn and to heal. But sometimes we need a catalyst to activate that healing. Sometimes we need only a small catalyst, and at other times we need a cataclysmic catalyst. This applies for the body, and it applies to our psychology. The need for a catalyst also applies to our relationships.
April 15, 2018
The aim of tennis is to keep the ball in play; an exciting rally only happens when both players keep the ball in play. So, it takes both players to create a good rally. In relationships, you need to keep the communication ball in play. The ball is the substance of the relationship, which must be kept in play by both parties, with both giving something. What if one player was really slack, and just dribbled the ball? No rally. As a result, the other could not show his brilliance! This is the kind of communication to aim for! So how do you keep the ball in play in your relationships? How do you pay attention to the other and to your own play? How do you keep the energy of the relationship in motion?
December 19, 2017
Conflict is like exercise, and both conflict and exercise lead to growth. Too much conflict and you and the relationship will be hobbling along, disabled by the conflict. Not enough and you will stagnate. Just enough, and you will be growing, or at your "growth edge." A well-managed exercise programme is like well-managed relationship conflict. You will grow, and be better able to act when further exercise (or conflict) demands are on you.
March 3, 2018
Distraction during an argument can halt a regrettable escalation. We settle, regroup, and get the prefrontal cortex to run the show. An Uber driver in Melbourne has the console between the back seats filled with Tic Tac containers. When a couple are arguing during the drive, he says, “Open the console!” Laughter. Wow! It takes real presence of mind to know when you or your partner need a distraction during a fight. Learn to know when you are flipping your lid. Learn to employ a soothing and calming behaviour rather than escalate that fight.
February 21, 2018
This website is all about change. Because you are here I acknowledge that you want to change - in yourself, and in your relationship. The Insights from the Relationship Doctor are instruments of change. Knowing the 6 stages of change can help you make change. From pre-contemplation, to contemplation, through determination to action, then winding back to relapse, finally arriving at commitment and maintenance. Maintenance is the evidence of your commitment. Knowing the stages of change prepares you for setbacks. Maintenance is when the commitment sticks. Maintenance is the boring bit where you actually show up day after day, achieving what you set out to do. It is a new habit. You have won your change!
March 21, 2018
Intended readership - anyone in a committed relationship, or hoping to turn their relationship into a commitment. No gender bias - the full rainbow. Though dealing with serious issues, each Insight can be read in 10 mins, and actioned immediately. The language is conversational and the examples given are contemporary.
March 11, 2018
Build good relationships through skilful relationship advice. Learn the secrets, principles and strategies that enable you to build healthy, happy, rewarding and lasting relationships. Set healthy boundaries and treat each other respectfully even when you disagree. Learn to love, and to love better.
April 7, 2018
Relationship I see many couples in my therapy practice. So, in my 75 years, I’ve gained a lot of experience in working with relationships. People from […]
July 14, 2018
You use two different kinds of language: the language of commerce problem-solves, gives statistics, formulates policies and gets the plumbing fixed. But it doesn't grow intimacy with your partner. You need the language of connection to carry the heavy and precious cargo of meaning, empathy, feeling and self-revelation.
June 26, 2018
It took me decades to work out the root cause of many miscommunications based on decision-making for a couple. When you are going through the decision-making process for yourself this does confusion does not arise. So it can be puzzling that something that is perfectly easy on your own becomes loaded with difficulty with your loved one. It’s about differences in decision-making styles. When you progress through decision-making stages very quickly, you might imagine that your partner is at the promise/commitment stage, when they are really still verbalising daydreams. You can check: “Is that a promise or a day dream?” Or head off any confusion by clarifying, “This is just a daydream. No promises.”
June 7, 2018
Are you over-functioning or under-functioning in your relationships? Such fundamental imbalance leads to resentment on both sides, with couples accusing each other of being bossy or being passive-aggressive, respectively. One partner needs to step forward, and the other partner needs to step back. Discover how!
June 15, 2018
Biding for time is a very useful tool in relationships. When used wisely, biding for time contributes to good communication. Biding for time is a conscious strategy that you employ intentionally. Biding for time is not procrastination, which is usually unconscious,and rarely employed wisely. Biding for time is not avoidance either. Nor is it "turning away" as described by the Gottman's in response to "bids for connection with your partner."
May 10, 2018
Years ago, when I had small children, I read about a business principle that made a lot of sense to me. Simply put, a manager was […]
January 28, 2018
Some everyday examples of how you filter your awareness happen like this. You've never noticed pregnant women before, but now that you are pregnant, you see so many pregnant women down the street! Or you get a new car and lo and behold you can't believe how many of that model you see on the road. Things which you now value and relate to were invisible before. Learn how your Reticular Activating System work in relationships. You can train your brain!
December 25, 2017
Making repairs, going back to tend to the dropped stitches/opportunities, is ALWAYS worthwhile, although it is harder the further back in the work they are. The sooner you spot the dropped stitches, the more accurately you name them, the earlier both you and your partner pick up the stitch, the sooner your relationship will be back knitting up a storm. It is truly disappointing when I have to spend a lot of time going back over my work to find the problem and correct it. But pretending nothing is wrong will not make the dropped stitch go away. Denial never works. Sooner or later the flaw in your relationship will show up. Not only that, it will get bigger over time if it is not corrected.
August 10, 2018
Your relationship is like your garden! What does it take to make your relationship or garden thrive? If you compare your relationship with others and aspire […]
December 25, 2017
Turbulence: A pilot I know recently flew into a storm. Twice. No, not the same storm! Not the same flight, either. Not intentionally, of course. As […]
May 21, 2018
The smoke and mirrors – projection distorts. To illustrate projection, here is a story about two couples who met at a party. They discovered that they […]
June 10, 2017
Oxytocin calms you, and counteracts your stress hormones. Oxytocin is the mysterious glue that brings you and your partner together in the first place, and keeps you together. The more oxytocin you and your partner have, the stronger your bond. Not only that, but oxytocin is a continually renewable resource!
June 21, 2018
Making good repairs, and celebrating them, is what brings the gold, a substance of high value, into your relationship. Also, making repairs with gold makes your relationship unique. Furthermore, your relationship is more valuable than it was before the rupture and repair. Like kintsugi, making these fine repairs is an art, a craft and a skill.
June 2, 2018
Imagine that someone has fallen into a deep pit. Out of empathy, you jump into the pit too - you are right in there with them. You feel a heavy responsibility. You could even find being empathetic very troublesome. On the other hand, if you were acting from compassion, you would see the person in the pit and reach out to them, encouraging and settling them - from outside of the pit. You would be in the position to get assistance and make decisions from the safety that you yourself occupy. Thus you feel kinder and more eager to help. Maybe you are wary of showing compassion, because you worry that you will be drawn into something that you can't get out of. Being drawn into the empathy-pit is indeed something you do not want to do. On the other hand, compassion serves you both well.
July 5, 2018
How much is enough? Have you set limits and boundaries! Do you ask too much of yourself, or of your partner? Or of your family? Perhaps […]
August 3, 2018
Self-regulation This Insight is about how to self-regulate, auto-regulate or de-escalate and self-soothe: both knitting and playing the ukulele are to do with soothing yourself, increasing […]
July 29, 2017
I often do a much more extended version of Courageous Conversations when I work with couples, when the issues are much more deep-seated or complex. In my example in this post I’ve set the scene for approaching conflict with a friend, acquaintance or service provider rather than an intimate partner. Often it is easier to learn how to front up with a courageous conversation with someone you know less well. Then you can proceed with your partner in confidence that you have a process that will help you get to the difficult issues.