As part of our ongoing aim to support families in all areas of their lives, we’ve invited Family Therapists Kim Crewe and Lorraine Gillingham of The Crescent Practice to share her thoughts on maintaining healthy relationships.
Are you too emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day to talk to your partner, let alone find the energy for love and affection?
Has life been an endless hamster wheel of exhausting days and sleepless nights?
Spending time together or a night away is really important for keeping your relationship healthy and enjoyable, and couples with children can find it really hard to find time for each other. Even if you do manage to get to that long-awaited break, all you find yourself doing is talking about or worrying or about your children.
Does this sound familiar? Parenting a disabled or vulnerable child can make it even more difficult. It can be hard, if not impossible, to find friends or family to take care of your child or children overnight. As we know parenting a vulnerable child or children with disabilities will put a significant strain on your relationship. Often couples find themselves managing one complex issue or hurdle after another without any time to recover.
Sadly, this on-going strain means that couples who have children with additional needs are more likely to separate or divorce. The worries and the exhaustion can lead couples to feel that they can’t continue in their relationship, while fearing the consequences of a family separation for their child.
At the Crescent Practice we work to help prevent couples getting to a point of crisis. We help them talk through their differences and support them to see things from each other’s point of view. We offer couple counselling, relationship ‘MOTs’, and specialist separation and divorce consultancy.
We worked recently with a mum who was worried that her need to find a diagnosis for her child had become truly obsessive. She moved from book to book, studied every bit of research, and went from doctor to doctor. Her husband felt as though he and their other two children were losing her, he felt there was no time to process what they were going through. They were arguing more often, and this had begun to have an impact on their regard for each other and on each of their three children. We met with them as a couple and helped them to understand that they were each dealing very differently with their distress about their child’s behaviour and development, and this understanding led to a greater closeness between them which enabled them to rebuild their relationship.
Relationship support helps couples listen and really hear what the other partner is thinking and feeling. It can help each of them to feel less isolated and to have a real sense that they are both working as a part of the same team, rather than on opposing sides. This is essential in any family, but even more so for families with vulnerable children or those with disabilities.
Top tips – how to keep your relationship with your partner happy and healthy
Celebrate the good bits – ensure you keep celebrating those special anniversary dates and achievements.
Talk to each other – set aside some time each day to really talk and listen to each other. This will give you help you feel valued and taken seriously. Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship and without it there can be no intimacy.
Cultivate a culture of gratitude – sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the simple things that you and your partner do for each other. It is really important to notice the small gestures and gratitude towards each other can help you stay connected.
Try to find time to be alone together – breaks are really important they can relax you and give you back some of your lost energy.
Put your phone down – sometimes picking up the mobile phone, going on Facebook can fill a gap or put you in touch with other people. But remember if you are in the room together it can act as a barrier between you and your partner.
Have fun together – try to remain playful, sometimes humour can also be helpful for diffusing an argument.
Book a Relationship ‘MOT’ – to ensure your relationship stays healthy and strengthen your understanding of each other. The Relationship MOT is a structured process focussed on improving your communication, parenting styles, your understanding of one another and anything else that is worrying you.
Thank you to Kim Crewe for an extremely informative and helpful blog. Kim, and her colleague Lorraine Gillingham, can be contacted via their website here.