6 Strategies for Dealing with Divorce

Divorce not only signifies starting a new life for both the individuals but is also accompanied with a constellation of hurdles that are strategically placed once they embark on the journey towards single-hood. At the very bottom of the ladder lies the acceptance of ending a major relationship and fashioning new routines to cope with the new life style. Making matters worse are the legal complications that serve as a reminder, making volatile emotions arouse more often, worsening the pain of the unwelcome freedom.

Recognising the emotional instability

Every marriage comprises of a bond with the spouses that survives on feelings of mutual trust and affection. So filing a divorce can mean battling with feelings of hatred, disappointment and insecurity while simultaneously making way for changes that change your life drastically.

Every person seeks a happier existence when they muster the courage to separate paths. While they are together, both spouses develop an unconscious attachment to each other that becomes integrated in their personality as a habitual behaviour. Hence it is only natural for some of them to crack under the pressure of the emotional and social stress and develop symptoms of depression, aggressiveness or anxiety as a response to their internal turmoil.

Divorce is a package of unsettling emotions that don’t seem to heal long after the process is over. You could be anger over your partner’s insensitivity, betrayal or pride. Guilt over making the relationship take the wrong course because of wrong choices on your part may serve as being equally troubling.

More frequently a wave of grief over losing a major relationship makes the restorative course difficult. These emotions open the windows for psychological chaos such that depression and bitterness that can seem to dominate your personality.

Coping with the emotional instability

But it should always be remembered that painful as these emotions may seem, they are only natural responses to a life-altering situation. Therefore, it is essential to cope with the phase of separation in a gentle fashion. To makes the feelings easier to pass during divorce or relationship breakdown, the following measures may prove to be of assistance:

  1. Grieve: Grief is our body’s natural retaliation to tragedy. It is an instinctual internal course that mounts a multitude of emotions till the point where it eventually becomes irrelevant enough to give way for healing. Fighting grief is generally considered counterproductive. Responses may vary from feeling numbness in denial to outrageous anger, fear or vulnerability. The best way is to allow nature to take its course and let our body grieve till it accepts the loss. But people who find themselves a victim of grief for over a year should consider seeking the help of a professional therapist.
  2. Prioritise: Divorce might seem to immobilise your life momentarily. But it must always be remember that even in the midst of a turmoil of emotions, there will be chores to complete and jobs to be done. So don’t keep your bills pending or delay finding a new apartment just because you are in transition. Make a list of your chores and prioritise your responsibilities to adjust in your new life style. The simple act of checking duties off your list will help you establish self-control at tasks that you previously deemed unmanageable.
  3. Putting things away: Making simple attempts at moving on should be a part of your daily routine. Putting things away that act as painful reminders of your past should be removed from your daily encounters. As soon as you consider it practical, start living life like a single person. Old photographs and mementos may serve as pinching flashbacks and hence should be stacked away at the earliest opportunity. Start performing roles that were previously done by your ex-spouse like paying bills or cleaning the house. Pave a way for an independent future rather than glancing miserably back at your divorce.
  4. Sharing the emotional baggage: Pouring your heart out to trusted confidants has proven to work wonders at lessening your suffering. It is generally preferred if a few helpful friends and family members are taken into confidence before proceeding with the divorce. Support groups are another alternative to vent your anger and hurt. If you believe that you need professional help, a therapist or counsellor can help you deal with your fears and turmoil. Sharing enables you to face your feelings through expression and combat them. Finding someone who can offer comforting advice accelerates the process of healing.
  5. Maintain a journal: Sometimes the process of self-realising can be promoted by self-healing techniques like maintaining a personal diary, which will let you decipher your internal commotion so that your mind can deal with it. It allows an outlet for emotional upset so that you have a grip and perspective over the feelings that you express in writing. Furthermore, recognising how you cope with difficult situations everyday will give you a renewed self-confidence.
  6. Explore latent interests: Most people perceive divorce in a pessimistic light as one door shutting on you. They should infact realise that instead of wasting time adjusting to that closure, divorce opens several other doors that were previously unexplored. Finding your hobbies, indulging in social causes or spending time meeting your friends will help provide a useful distraction and make your life feel constructive. This way you feel like an explorer and decision maker rather than victim of a tragic situation. Developing new interests will also pull you in the present and remove your focus from the past.

Divorce is both a beginning and an ending. You have to recognise that you made a life changing decision to feel happier. Once this realisation sets in, it can be much smoother sailing after that and dealing with divorce becomes much easier.

Are you struggling with dealing with divorce or separation? If so, contact the Centre for Relationship Development to receive support at this difficult time.  We have offices in Sydney, Newtown, Mona Vale on the Northern Beaches and Nowra and Kiama on the NSW South Coast.


Grief and Loss: How to Deal with the Death of a Partner

We as human beings live as a part of a closely interactive society where we are programmed from birth to rely on each other. This support can be physical and emotional.

To strengthen our need for company, we choose life partners who we consider walking by our side till our last breath. But sometimes destiny conceals ugly surprises for us. Most of us have experienced the death of a loved one in our lives. But when this person is your spouse, life just takes a different meaning to it. It is only natural to grieve the loss of a loved one. There are no right or wrong rules concerning grieving.
Dealing with the loss of a spouse can be the most traumatic event in one’s life. Not only does this upheaval challenge your psychological boundaries but your social and physical confines are also interrupted. A relationship strives on the division of roles and you might find drastic changes engulfing your lifestyle while you are in mourning.

What is grief?

Grief is defined as the internal feeling that one feels in reaction to a loss while bereavement is the state of having experienced that loss. Grief is a fairly normal and common phenomenon proven by the fact that every three out of four women will naturally outlive their spouses. However, it extends beyond the confines of normal if the grief is prolonged to over 1 year. This is an intensified condition that can affect your personal relations, beliefs and decision-making skills.

How does loss affect the living spouse?

The feelings of grief and loss don’t have a concrete finish date. It’s common to still feel grief and loss for your loved one many years after their death, though the depth and intensity of your loss will decrease. However, for some the grief takes a toll on them to the extent that the find daily handling of their affairs a tedious task. Stress and anxiety are two causes of worry for these individuals.

It has been proven by research that 40% of the surviving partners will undergo an anxiety disorder. For some it can be so severe that the bereavement makes the living spouse lose touch with the realities of life. For some the perpetual separation pushes them on the edge psychologically to an extent that a 70% increase in the deaths of spouses only six months after losing their partners has been reported.

What are grief triggers?

Factors that stimulate this anxiety pattern are factors called grief triggers. While heading on the path to healing, factors that can contribute to a sudden upsurge in grief feelings can be accountable to reminders like events or anniversaries. This can occur in the form of a shared song or a television show, which puts the individual on a spell of nostalgia with memories flooding back.
What determines the extent of grief one experiences after losing a partner is based on the survivor’s emotional health before the incident, the quality of relationship with the deceased and the nature of death.

How does grief feel?

While trying to fight the turmoil of bereavement and making attempts to adjust your life back to normality, the following conditions can be experienced:

  • A feeling of numbness in terms of emotions
  • Fearfulness about the unacceptable
  • Problems concentrating, eating or sleeping
  • A feeling of guilt over being the one left alive
  • Overwhelming desire to cry all the time
  •  Irritability and a hesitation to meet new people

These problems are a common accompaniment of an individual battling with loss and some of them are even a healthy outlet of frustration and sorrow. However, when there are signs of depression, intense stress or serious anxiety, it may be time to consult a professional who will help you cope and move through the loss.

How to cope with the grief

During the period of coping with the loss, you are not only required to deal with the outburst of feelings inside you but also to move on with your life. Shouldering responsibilities and resuming daily chores can just add pain to the process of healing. Initially keeping yourself busy might seem like an effective escape from your nagging thoughts but eventually you will have to settle down and face them.

Here are a few suggestions of how to deal with the tragedy:

  • Let family and friends help you. What leaves the greatest consequences on your soul is the emotional upheaval your life would have ended up in. In such circumstances, care and love from near and dear ones will help you nurture feelings of security and enable you to place trust in relationships.
  • Talk your feelings out: During your period of mourning you will find loved ones eager to lend a listening ear to your miseries. Sharing always allows you to lessen the burden from your chest. If you are uncomfortable at pouring your heart out to them, there are many grief support groups that will help you recover. If nothing else writing a journal will help you recognise your internal feelings to help in the battling process
  • Don’t make drastic changes immediately: Remember mourning is a time consuming process. Any attempts at reconstructing your life should be slowed down to incorporate healing and recovery before you plan to change your job or house. If possible, call a relative or friend over to help out with your spouse’s tasks till you feel okay getting on top of them again.
Are you struggling with the death of a partner and can’t seem to move on from your feelings of grief and loss? Contact the counsellors at the Centre for Relationship Development in Sydney CBD, Newtown, Northern Beaches and the South Coast of NSW to get the support you need.

The Dos and Don’ts of Successful Couples’ Communication

You’ve heard it said a thousand times before: Communication is key. It’s not exactly rocket science, so it begs the question, “Why are so many couples in a communication rut?” The reason is that although the principles are simple enough, we’re sorely lacking in practice, leading to either constant misunderstandings or to safe, yet stale conversations. Neither is healthy for your relationship.

A couple needs to do more than just know how to communicate effectively; they have to actively, consciously, and purposefully put these skills into daily practice. Here are a few things you need to do (or not do) for successful couple communication.

DO listen before you speak

Listening, though part and parcel of the communication process is sadly one of the things that so many couples find easiest to forget. How often have you heard one partner accusing the other of tuning out?

Humans can be self-focused creatures by nature, and it’s only with a conscious effort that we can really overcome the desire to be the only one heard in a conversation.

Take note that active listening doesn’t imply merely keeping silent while the other one speaks. Neither does it mean taking that time to focus on composing what you will say when your turn comes. Active listening shows that you respect your partner and value what he or she has to say.

Train yourself to process what is being said to you – verbally or otherwise – and you’ll be well on your way to improving relationship communication.

DO review your verbal and nonverbal cues

Let’s paint a hypothetical scenario. Partner A comes home after an interesting day, full of stories for Partner B. B listens, but somehow A ends up offended at B’s seeming disinterest. Or suppose A and B are having an argument. A has a valid point, but somehow the message is lost in the delivery, and B finally walks off in a huff. These cases are just a couple of examples of situations where the right verbal and nonverbal cues would have saved the day.

When speaking and listening, try to evaluate your tone, facial expressions, and miscellaneous gestures. Are they supporting the message you wish to convey, or are they confusing your partner? You wouldn’t want a case of the issue getting lost in the delivery.

Don’t shy away from arguments

Another mistake many couples make is avoiding conflict like the plague. As unique individuals in an intimate relationship, friction is not only expected, but even encouraged to a certain degree.

Healthy arguments actually serve to strengthen a couple’s bond, whereas glossing over conflicts for the sake of a semblance of peace only builds walls.

Learn to look at arguments as opportunities for improving communication. Things to avoid in an argument include criticism or name-calling (“You’re [like] this…”) and accusation (“You did/do this…”). Practice using “I” statements, as it lowers your defenses and helps your partner understand where you’re coming from. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t to win the dispute for yourself, but rather for the two of you to reach an amicable compromise.

Don’t overestimate your (or your partner’s) understanding

Here’s another rule that stems from common sense and yet seems so hard for people to do: Never assume anything. Always offer and ask for a clarification if there is any risk at all of a misunderstanding.

It’s not fair to leave your partner guessing what that shrug or eye roll meant. Words of affirmation also fall under this category. Although couples generally understand how they feel about each other, voicing it out not only reinforces the bond between them, but also quells unspoken doubts and misgivings that may arise from time to time.

Don’t underestimate it, either

By “it”, I meant your partner’s capability to understand what you’re thinking, feeling, or saying. Although none of us are mind-readers, people’s instincts do kick in from time to time. Even without your speaking out loud, your partner will be able to see if something is bothering you, so you might as well share it. Not only will this offer relief, but it will also keep your partner from thinking that he or she was at fault. And even if that were the case, you still need to give your partner a little credit.

We’re talking about complete honesty and openness here. Whether things are perfectly peachy or something is amiss, the best thing you can do in either case is to speak out.

Do learn to empathise

This is one of the hallmarks of a loving couple: They know how to place themselves in each other’s shoes.

Empathy resolves conflicts, breaks down barriers, and opens communication lines almost effortlessly. What better way of understanding your partner than seeing things (including yourself) from his or her point of view? This doesn’t mean to say that empathy is a cure-all for every thorny patch, but it sure is an important prerequisite to a healthy relationship.

Do spend time apart

This last piece of advice may seem counter-intuitive, but if you look at it closely, you’ll see why it works. In the case of friction, a short timeout allows tempers to cool down enough for empathy and logic to step in. You will have to go back to the original discussion, but the chances of reaching a compromise would then be considerably higher.

Spending time apart is also necessary for individual growth. Studies show that men and women who give themselves some time for their own hobbies and circle of friends find greater satisfaction in their most intimate relationships. Their communication becomes richer, more varied, and more dynamic than that of couples who take “together time” to an extreme.

So whether you’re married, engaged, or simply dating, if your goal is to take your relationship to the next level, then apply these communication tips daily and practice, practice, PRACTICE! The rewards are all worth your extra effort.

Do you struggle with communication in your relationship? At the Centre for Relationship Development, our counsellors in Sydney, Kiama, NSW South Coast and the Northern Beaches of Sydney can help you improve the communication in your relationship. 

How to Inject Romance to Increase Your Relationship Intimacy

So, your love has already said “Yes”, and that sweet three-letter word makes the two of you a couple. We all know that good communication is the structure of an long-lasting relationship. But aside from that, there are other elements that must be integrated to form an enduring bond.

Whether bound by a ring or just being partners, good relationship intimacy is also a very important factor to sustain a healthy relationship. How do you do that? Follow these helpful tips below on how to inject romance to increase the relationship intimacy with your beloved.

1Notice your partner

Everybody loves attention, but nothing beats to be noticed by your dearest one. Tell your partner how adorable she looks at the moment. Compliment his hair, scent, and everything that makes him up. If she cooks food for you, tell her that the meal drove your taste buds crazy.

The small everyday acknowledging of each other builds your emotional bank account, an increases the overall goodwill and intimacy between you and your partner.

2. Talk to your partner

Good communication is always needed in order to start or improve your relationship.  This doesn’t imply that you discuss with each other how deep your romantic feelings are everyday. However, taking a moment to connect with your partner when you get home from work can make a big difference to your evening together.

Sometimes, when couples are in their comfort zone, conversations become dull and empty. When you’re not together, send him/her sweet messages. This simple act can keep your mate thinking about you for the rest of the day.

3.  Set up your surroundings for romance

Set the romantic mood by lighting aromatic candles up, playing sensual music, and changing the bed with clean sheets. Setting the scene is important. Remember that the excitement doesn’t always start at the bedroom. It might be in the living room, kitchen, or even in the garden.

4. Use aphrodisiacs

For those who don’t know what aphrodisiacs are, these are substances that increase sexual libido, also a contributing factor to relationship intimacy. Chocolates are a great example. According to scientific studies, chocolates contain a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), which produces sexual arousal when released in the brain. Although debatable, some people consider other common aphrodisiacs as oysters, artichoke, and lettuce.

5. Making contact

The first few steps are intended to connect with your partner emotionally, and now’s the time for “friction”.

Start by giving him/her a massage. This produces oxytocin, a hormone that induces feeling of security and contentment between you. Also, touching without sex also helps create a deeper bonding between couples. Couples intimacy doesn’t always have to include sex.

Start by maintaining good eye contact with your partner.  Keeping your eyes on your partner during sex also shows that your attention is solely focused on him/her and is a simple way to increase the emotional closeness you experience while being physically connected.

What tips do you have to increase the romance and intimacy in your relationship? Add your comments below.





Relationship Breakups: The Grief Stages of Couple Separation

Couple separation is a painful and devastating experience. It can be extremely distressing especially when a long time has been spent with the person. The end of any long-term relationship such as that shared by a married couple or de facto relationship can be traumatising and stressful. In fact, people mourn and grieve over the lost love.

Couples who have experienced a painful relationship breakup will often go through several stages as they cope with their loss. As the acclaimed psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross puts it, the stages of grieving chronicles how a person feels and copes during a relationship breakup.

As you read these stages, it’s important to remember that this is not a linear process where a person will go through one stage at a time. Human beings are complex and can experience many feelings at the same time or not feel some of these things at all. Think of these stages as possible feelings that may come up for you when you end a relationship.

First Stage: Denial

The feeling:

At this point, you may block unwanted feelings or turn off their emotions.  There is a strong feeling of refutation that the relationship has ended, and you unwillingly hold on to the thought that the separation is just a phase. You may do everything possible to bring the relationship back to the way it was.

How to cope:

Denial is a stage that may or may not come again even after being able to move on to the succeeding stages. It is important that there is a mutual acknowledgement between both parties about the separation. After all, acknowledging that a problem exists is the first helpful step to properly cope with the breakup. As such, it is important to convince yourself that in spite of the relationship breakup, there are other things that you need to prioritise like school, work or leisure.

Second Stage: Anger

The feeling:

This occurs when you finally understand that the breakup is real. Whether you are angry with yourself or furious at your ex-partner for not keeping the relationship strong, anger is a normal feeling in emotionally stressful experiences. Although sometimes people refuse to acknowledge their anger, it is necessary to release all angry emotions.

How to deal:

It is important to let all your emotions go, rather than keeping all negative feelings inside. Bottling them up will make you burst into rage at any time when there is a trigger. Channel your anger through different recreational activities, such as exercising, painting and singing. Counselling or therapy is another anger management strategy that you can employ. By doing counselling, you are able to truly recognise your feelings and maybe even trace the roots of your anger.

Third Stage: Bargaining

The feeling:

Feelings of bargaining are easily assessed during a relationship breakup. This happens when compromises are made for the benefit of rebuilding the relationship. The affected person may think about making a deal with a supernatural being, or may consider talking with the ex-partner to make promises so that things can go back to how they were before. There is a strong tendency to converse with the ex-partner about working out the many issues and concerns that led to the breakup. Oftentimes, bargaining gives a reassuring feeling that the relationship can still be mended.

How to deal:

Find new activities to keep yourself busy. Being preoccupied with other things will keep your mind from the breakup. Instead of bargaining, try to rationalise the situation and explore why the relationship did not work out in some aspects. Recognising the reality of the problem is the key to proper coping.

Fourth Stage: Depression

The feeling:

Oftentimes when the bargaining does not work, you can fall into despair with the realisation that the relationship cannot be fixed. This stage sets in when there is a clear understanding that the relationship is indeed “over”. Extreme feelings of sadness and loneliness consume the affected person, as well as a general loss of interest in many activities of daily living.

How to deal:

Depression is the best time to use all the effective coping mechanisms, as it is during this time that you may feel extremely down. It is important to reflect on why the breakup has happened, and noting the aspects that led to the separation.

Doing something new and continuing usual activities are recommended to maintain a normal living. Withdrawing yourself from the world is generally not advised, as it’s important to spend time with your loved ones to reinforce social coping. Counselling or therapy is also an effective way to express your depressed feelings.

Fifth Stage: Acceptance

The feeling:

In this final stage, there is a willingness to finally let go and move on with life. You have fully comprehended that it is normal to feel hurt, and that the relationship breakup brings a whole new meaning for you.

How to deal:

By finally accepting the whole experience, you can now be the best person you can be. This is the best time to meet new friends and to mingle with a new crowd. Nevertheless, it’s wise to know your limits and enjoy new experiences one step at a time. After all, one painful relationship breakup should not stop you to feel happy with the next.

Couple separation happens all the time to many people. Learning the stages of grief and how they apply during a relationship breakup will indeed help any person cope with a painful experience.

Are you experiencing a relationship breakup and need help? Contact the counsellors at the Centre for Relationship Development for support with your separation or breakup.

Why all Counsellors are not Created Equal (and What This Means for Your Relationship).

Here at the Centre for Relationship Development, we are passionate about helping individuals and couples move out of painful relationships and create loving, healthy and life-affirming partnerships.

We are also passionate about educating individuals and couples about how to seek the best counselling and therapy in their time of need.

Most people do not realise that many counsellors, therapists and psychologists are not specifically trained in relationship counselling.

Unless they have done specific post-graduate training in couples, marriage or relationship counselling, it is likely that they have only covered at best a couple of modules within their training with regard to working with couples.

We encourage any individuals or couples that are considering relationship counselling to ask the therapists that they interview what specific training they have in working with couples and relationships.

When it comes to your relationship, it makes sense that you only want to work with someone that is specifically trained in working with couples and relationships, so that you have the best chance of getting the results you want.

Unfortunately, many therapists and counsellors in Australia are working with couples without having specific training or skills in this area.

At the Centre for Relationship Development, all our counsellors and marriage therapists are trained specifically in couples counselling and have many years of experience in working with relationships.

The Gap Between Feeling Relationship Pain and Fixing it Widens

New statistics out say that couples wait an average of 6 years after they know that there is a problem in their relationship before seeking counselling.

What is so disturbing about this statistic is that many couples must be experiencing high levels of pain and suffering before they are reaching out for help.

Research into counselling outcomes says that says 80% of people that attend counselling experience positive benefits and change within themselves and their relationships.

So many couples are needlessly struggling within their relationship when they could benefit from attending counselling.

If you are wondering if your relationship might be in trouble, here are some tell-tale signs that you might need help:

  • You feel like you are growing apart and communicating less and less.
  • Your sexual life has diminished or completely evaporated.
  • You frequently feel criticised, blamed or attacked.
  • You look for excuses to avoid your partner or relationship time shared together.
  • You enjoy time with friends and colleagues more than with your partner.
  • You get caught in a cycle of attack and withdrawal and rarely resolve issues.
  • You prefer to lose yourself in sport, the internet or books instead of spending time with your partner.
  • You often feel defensive about the smallest complaints.

If you can relate to some of the statements above, it may be a sign that your relationship needs the assistance of a specifically trained relationship counsellor or therapist.

One of the common myths that stop couples from getting help with their relationship is that to ask for help means that you are weak or inadequate. I often hear the old adage “If you can’t fix it yourself, then it can’t be fixed at all.”  These myths don’t acknowledge that when you are in a relationship or ‘system’, it is very hard at times to have an objective perspective of the relationship dynamics.

A couples counsellor or relationship therapist is trained to specifically identify the blocks that people have to relating. They are also trained in process or systems theory, which helps them see the negative patterns, triggers and cycles that couples get into. Having the third perspective on the patterns in your relationship then helps you step out of these destructive and harmful dynamics.

I think when a couple comes to relationship or marriage counselling, they are saying how much they care about the other and the relationship. They place a priority on their relationship by asking for help or assistance before things get worse.

If you don’t want to be one of the couples that stay in relationship pain, contact one of our counsellors at the Centre for Relationship today.