Sex after babies

After giving birth, when it hurts just to go to the toilet, the thought of having to resume love-making can be worrying.

Sex postpartum isn’t something that most women, or men, talk about openly – but it can be a major concern.

As well as fears over pain, new parents find themselves exhausted with looking after the baby, adjusting to their new roles, and uncertain about how to start a conversation about sex with their partner.

Relate counsellor and sex therapist Denise Knowles has been speaking to about it. She says rekindling your sex life depends on what kind of birth and pregnancy a woman experiences. If someone has a difficult birth, and may have stitches, there will be concerns about it hurting or about doing damage. There are also psychological concerns about how they are going to appear to their partner, because their body will have changed, and they will be worried about tiredness.

“For men and women, but especially women because they have given birth, having a baby can take an enormous amount out of you,” says Denise. “Some women will sadly experience postnatal depression, which might have an effect on their libido, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love their partner.

“While you are both busy looking after the baby, communication between couples is the key,” she adds. But for men, it can be a difficult conversation to approach in case their partner feels they are being pressured into having sex.

“It’s important to talk about it and part of the difficulty is some men feel a bit pushed out by the baby, and may also not want to impose themselves on their partner because they can see they are tired,” says Denise. ”They might not want to start talking about it for fear they will be taken the wrong way.”

One of the things it may highlight is how little they talk about sex, or talk generally about their relationship, she says. “It is really important that couples are able to communicate with one another about that. What they can do is just generally enquire and notice when their partner needs physical or emotional support. They could also ask if they need any extra help or say: ‘it would be nice if we could just have a cuddle’. Make it clear it doesn’t have to lead to anything else.”

It may get to the stage, though, where a couple feel they need help to get their sexual relationship back on track, and that’s when a visit to a GP or Relate can help.

“If it becomes a problem for both of you, for sure that’s when you need to be talking to someone about it, because if you don’t talk about it, then it stirs up resentment and that’s not good for anyone,” says Denise.

It takes a couple of years for a woman’s body to get back into some kind of normality, she says. If their sex life or desire for sex hasn’t been rekindled for six, eight or 10 months afterwards, it might not be about sex, it might be about the couple not adapting to becoming parents. When approaching the conversation, it’s important not to make your partner feel they are being blamed for the lack of sex.

If you’d like to talk, with or without your partner, about sex after having a baby, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

Staying friends brings benefits

You’re about to have that awkward conversation with your partner – that you want to break up. But should you suggest ‘remaining ‘friends’? Or cut them out of your life completely?

Relate relationship counsellor Gurpreet Singh has been talking with HuffPost Online about the benefits of remaining friends.

It can help you bring good energy into your next relationship

“History, sadly, has a way of repeating itself,” says Singh. “If you have unresolved issues from a past relationship it’s likely you will carry them forward.” By forcing a resolution with your ex-partner, and parting more amicably, you are likely to go into your next relationship with a more positive mental outlook.

It benefits mutual circles of friends

When relationships exist for long periods, not only do your family lives intertwine but you may well have built up the same friendship group. Or you may have had the same friends before you got together who are left feeling torn when you split. Remaining friends may ensure people close to you don’t feel they have to choose between you both.

It stops you losing a relationship you’ve invested in

Singh says: “Even if you don’t have children you will have developed a friendship with your ex over a period of time, and maybe you don’t want to lose that. You might be okay with losing romance but you may want to hold on to the friendship you’ve built – so why lose that?” 

It’s better for the children

For any children involved, it’s usually better if you can remain friends. It also helps in legal disputes as you might be able to resolve things without a third party getting involved (and all the costs that brings).

How to stay friends

So… you’ve decided it’s worth trying to be friends with your ex, but still don’t know how you’ll make it work.

Ensure boundaries are in place

Singh’s single most important piece of advice is to set boundaries early on – to make sure the friendship remains exactly that. “If you are going to do this you have to make sure that there are boundaries in place from the beginning –especially if you are both now with other partners.”

Be aware it could slip back into being romantic

You decided to break up for a reason and, although it may not always feel like it, there’s a reason you should stay only friends. Singh says: “There’s always a danger with these friendships – what was once there can resurface – so you have to ensure you have checks in place right away.”

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about how you might break up with your partner why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

Not good in bed?

The thought that you might not be particularly good in bed is one that occurs to lots of people at some point in their life.

Insecurities around sex are one of the most common problems that affect relationships.

So… the first thing to say is, if this is something that’s on your mind: you’re not alone.

What do we mean by it?

Very often, when we describe ourselves as not good at something, we’re not necessarily literally talking about our skill level, but rather our relationship with it.

We might feel we’re not good at drawing because we don’t think we’re a particularly ‘arty person’. Or we might say we’re not good at public speaking because we don’t think of ourselves as confident.

When someone says they’re ‘not good in bed’, very often, what they’re really talking about is their relationship. Sex is so often symbolic of wider issues in the relationship. Very often, we’ll see couples who come in saying that sex is the primary issue, but end up talking about this only a few times over the course of their counselling – instead they focus on their relationship as a whole and how they’re feeling about it.

Having a good sex life with someone isn’t about being ‘good at it’ – it’s doing things in a way that is mutually satisfying for you both. Getting to that point is usually much more about exploring issues in the relationship and figuring out how they might be addressed.

How do we do that?

Problems with sex can stem from a wide variety of places. It might be worth thinking about any of the following:

Have you been arguing a lot recently? Do you find that small disagreements can turn into big rows? Or that silly, seemingly unimportant things can easily set you both off?

Are you stressed about any other areas of your life, such as family and work? Anxieties from other sources can very commonly affect our sex lives.

Do you talk effectively? Are you able to communicate your needs and feelings and empathise with what each other is saying?

Do you spend much time with each other? Or are other demands on your time making it hard to properly prioritise your relationship?

Have you been through a big life change recently? Things like moving house, getting a new job or having children can create challenges.

What frequently links relationship problems is lack of effective communication. When partners are not talking openly and constructively it becomes harder to deal with problems and sustain connection as a couple.

Another possibility is that you may feel you’re unable to satisfy your partner because you simply aren’t that experienced, or have never picked up that many ‘skills’.

It’s first worth getting it into perspective. Very often we inflate such issues in our minds. We worry about things like being ‘good’ in bed — or about attractiveness or size — when, really, this stuff isn’t bothering our partner anywhere near as much as we imagine.

It’s also a good idea to address the concept of you personally not being good in bed. Sex with our partner isn’t something we do by ourselves — it’s something we do as a couple. So, if you feel you aren’t getting things ‘right’, it’s something you and your partner need to work on together.

Again, so much of this can be addressed through more effective communication. Talking about sex can be awkward, but it’s a crucial part of having a happy sex life. Remember: the goal isn’t about being ‘good’ — it’s about being good together. The end goal is to figure out what works for both of you by talking about it and understanding one another’s needs.

If you and your partner think you could benefit from help about  sex, there’s no shame in asking. People who come to talk with our sex therapist are often surprised by how effective they find it — how quickly they begin to see changes. You can come in for an initial consultation to find out whether it would be useful for you and your partner. Give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.


When your partner is unreliable

Is your partner unreliable?

At the less serious end of the spectrum, it can be things like always being a bit late when you arrange to meet, or taking longer than you would like to reply to texts – niggling stuff that can get on your nerves, but isn’t necessarily a big problem.

More seriously, it can take the form of emotionally draining behaviour. An unreliable partner is unpredictable in the way he or she treats people: freezing you out and refusing to talk, or swinging between being kind and short-tempered. This form of unreliability can impact your security and self-esteem, and easily stray into becoming emotional abuse.

Why is it so frustrating?

Often, small stuff accumulates to shape how we feel about someone. Instances add up to become our perception of how trustworthy people are – how secure we feel around them, how much we can rely on them when it comes to the big stuff. Trust isn’t just about how much you believe your partner when he or she says something, or feel certain that your partner wouldn’t cheat on you – it’s a general feeling of putting your trust in them: a belief that your partnership is strong and enduring.

When unreliability becomes emotionally unpredictable, trust can be affected in even more extreme or painful ways. If you can’t predict how someone is going to behave towards you on any given day, you can feel like you’re always treading on eggshells, or constantly anxious about your status in the relationship. You might worry that today is going to be the day that there’s going to be another ‘incident’, or find yourself feeling worried or cold when you think about your partner, instead of secure and happy.

If that sounds familiar, it’s important to recognise that this can constitute emotional abuse. Although there are different ideas on what defines abusive behaviour, if you feel that your sense of self-esteem is being consistently undermined, there’s a significant risk that this is the case.

Why are people unreliable in relationships?

Lack of reliability can be triggered by various things. Sometimes, it’s just a part of who they are. Some people are simply less organised than others and find it hard to stick to plans or keep arrangements. They may not feel these things are particularly important – and they may not even realise that they’re causing annoyance when they’re unreliable.

Unreliability can stem from uncertainty or a lack of commitment. When we’re feeling unsure of something, or the extent to which we feel invested in a relationship, we sometimes express this in a passive aggressive way – by giving less than we could, or doing so in inconsistent ways. Such behaviour can be adopted consciously or unconsciously.

Unreliability can also stem from a desire to have more control. When we make someone wait for us by turning up late, we’re attempting to gain control over their actions. We make them appear to be the person who ‘cares’ more – and so gain the upper hand. Similarly, when we freeze someone out, or refuse to give the emotional support they need, we  make them more dependent on the times we are kind, and so exercise control over how they feel.

Again, this can be either conscious or unconscious –it may be part of a pattern of planned behaviour designed to undermine the self-esteem of the other partner, or it may be something the perpetrator is unaware of.

How do you deal with it?

As with many other issues in relationships, the best starting point tends to be an open and honest conversation. If what your partner is doing really affects you, it’s important to address the situation rather than brush things under the carpet.

Not talking is the biggest cause of resentment in long-term relationships so, even when it’s awkward or difficult, it really is the better option for resolving issues. You may find that your frustration comes out in other ways anyway – so better to head off difficulties before they get worse.

However, if your partner’s behaviour is at the more serious end of the spectrum, it can be a good idea to proceed with caution. If you feel your partner is unlikely to respond well to a broad discussion about behaviour, focus on individual instances. That way, you can begin to talk about what you’re finding difficult with a smaller risk of your partner shutting the conversation down.

Of course, in some cases, your partner may be unwilling to talk no matter how carefully you try to express yourself. At this point, it’s worth thinking hard about how much more of this behaviour you’re willing to tolerate. One question we often ask in counselling is: ‘If this were still happening in a year’s time, how would you feel?’

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about these issues do give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.


Left cold by a long relationship

While men and women lose passion with age, women are often left cold by longer relationships, says a study of British sexual attitudes.

The findings, from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in Britain, are based on the experiences of nearly 5,000 men and 6,700 women.

Relate sex therapist Ammanda Major told BBC Health that losing interest in sex isn’t necessarily abnormal, and there were many different reasons why men’s and women’s needs change.

“For some, it is a natural and normal place to be, but for others it causes pain and misery,” she says.

In total, 15% of men and 34% of women surveyed said they had lost interest in sex for three months or more in the previous year.

For men, this lack of interest was highest at the ages of 35-44 while for women it peaked between 55 and 64.

But the researchers, from the University of Southampton and University College London, said there was no evidence that the menopause was a factor for women.

They did find, however, that having young children at home was a particular turn-off for women.

Poor physical and mental health, poor communication and a lack of emotional connection during sex were the main reasons why men and women lost interest.

Tips for rekindling interest in sex

  • Start talking about the issue early on rather than leaving it to fester – ignoring it can lead to other problems and make you feel resentful. If that doesn’t work, confront the reason why you don’t want to talk about it.
  • Explore other forms of intimacy such as holding hands, talking gently to each other, cuddling and stroking rather than full-on sex.
  • Feeling as if you are not being heard is a barrier to sex – so make your partner feel respected and important.
  • Get some additional support by going to see a sex therapist, relationship counsellor or your GP.

In the survey, those who found it “always easy to talk about sex” with their partner were less likely to say they lacked interest.

However, those whose partner had had sexual difficulties, and those who were less happy in their relationship, were more likely to say they had lost interest in sex at some stage.

Ammanda says: “Sex is a very personal thing, and talking about it can be embarrassing. But talking is often the best thing you can do to improve your sex life.”

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about your sex life why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.



The burden of debt

Being in debt can place a huge strain on a relationship.

Having enough money is a basic need, so when you’re under the pressure of debt, it can make you feel scared, upset, stressed and worried about the future. Some people find it can creep into every moment, and make it difficult to enjoy any aspect of their life.

Staying strong as a couple can become tough. Debt can cause one or both partners to become withdrawn and cold; for others it might lead to repeated arguments. Depending on how the debt was accumulated, it can also create issues over trust.

How might it affect our relationship?

It’s not uncommon for the stress of debt to cause couples to turn against each other. You may find yourself blaming your partner for what’s happening — especially if they were directly or indirectly responsible for the debt.

It can be tricky to talk constructively about it, because being in debt is so stressful. And it can affect lots of things that might be important to you. Your family home may be under threat or you may not be able to pay for a sporting activity your child enjoys doing.

Over time, you may find that you’re becoming increasingly withdrawn from each other — not wanting to speak because you know it’ll cause arguments. This kind of situation can expose and exacerbate prior negative communication in the relationship, making it even harder to address the debt as a couple.

Sometimes one person accumulates a debt without the knowledge of their partner. Often though there are signs that someone is having financial difficulties: you might notice they are spending more or less, for example if they start going out less or buying cheaper food.

Finding out that your partner has run up a debt without telling you can feel like a betrayal. We usually assume that our partner has our best interests at heart — in fact, it’s an assumption that’s key to the stability of most healthy relationships — so finding out they’ve done something to compromise this can have a profound, emotional effect.

If you have a debt that you haven’t told your partner about, although it’s a hard conversation to have, you need to talk to your partner. It’s difficult to address debt without both partners being involved, as you will need to look at both of your incomes and outgoings. You might like to think about getting debt advice before you talk so you can show your partner you’ve started to look at solutions and options for dealing with the debt.

It’ll also be important to find a way to address any damage to your relationship that the debt might have caused. even a small amount of pressure can cause difficulties so it’s always worth checking in with one another and talking about how you’re doing.

Sometimes, it’s necessary for one or both partners to acknowledge their responsibility for getting into debt. This can be difficult, but it’s often a crucial part of beginning to rebuild trust. If one person feels they’ve been let down or betrayed by the other, this will likely remain an issue until it’s directly acknowledged or addressed. This applies even if one person felt they were acting for the right reasons — borrowing so they could afford to pay for things for the children, for instance. It’s usually necessary to listen as much as it is to talk in this sort of discussion. You need to get a clear idea of how the situation has affected each other so you can appreciate one another’s perspective.

Getting help

If you think you may need help with rebuilding trust, relationship counselling may be a way forward. People often come to counselling for help with issues surrounding debt, and we can find you a counsellor who is trained to understand and help you discuss it. Your counsellor won’t judge you, tell you what to do or take sides — they’ll simply listen and try to help you find a way back to working together as a couple. If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.


Managing exam results – tips for young people and parents

Now A-Level and GCSE results are out, you may be wondering how best to support your teenager facing up to their disappointment.

Not everyone got the grades they dreamt of and, although outwardly younger people may not appear so upset, deep down they may well be feeling the stress of despair, guilt maybe, and anger that their friends have done better.

Childline figures show a 21% rise in counselling sessions over the last year for young people worried about their grades. Relate is the UK’s largest provider of children and young people’s counselling in schools and here in Bedford and Luton by far the biggest number of counselling sessions we do are with young people of exam age.

So how best should we handle the coming weeks?

Local Relate counsellor Diane Whitmore says that without realising they are doing any harm, parents can sometimes put unnecessary pressure on their children.

“Most parents want what’s best for their child and that’s why they can sometimes pile on the pressure over school work and exams,” she says. “But pushing your child too hard, or criticising them when they don’t get the grades you’d hoped for, isn’t good for their self-esteem or your relationship.

“When it comes to knowing how to react, take your cue from your child. If they’re happy with their grades, try to be happy for them too, even if the straight As you’d hoped for didn’t materialise. If they’re disappointed, support them and talk them through the options they have. It may be that lower than expected grades act as a catalyst for positive changes in their lives or to decide what it is they really want to do.”


Tips for young people

Be honest. You might feel like bottling up what you’re worried about, but if you’re honest with your friends and family, they might be able to help. It can also be hard for those around you to know how to react unless you tell them what you’re hoping for.

Don’t despair. If your results are not what you were hoping for, try not to fly off the handle. It’s ok to feel disappointed, and you should give yourself time for that. But try to think about what steps you can take now to improve the situation.

Talk to someone. If your results aren’t what you wanted, make an effort to talk to an expert about your options. It might be that you can retake exams, or there might be alternative routes that you can take from here. Find out as much information as you can before rushing a decision.

Tips for parents

Talk to your teenager. Try to find out about their expectations so you know what they’re going through. This can make them feel cared for, and it also helps you know how to react.

Match your expectations with theirs. You might be harbouring hopes for a top student, but that might not be what your teenager is hoping for. If they’re happy with their grades, be happy for them. Equally, if they’re disappointed, try to see where they’re coming from and offer support.

Don’t underestimate the effect that exam results can have. Results can be one of the most important issues for young people and it’s vital to recognise that. Don’t make out that the results don’t matter.

Support them. If the grades are not what your teenager was hoping for, give them time to come to terms with it. They might want to talk through their options with you, or they might just want to be alone, but make sure they know that you’re feeling for them, and you’re there to help.

If you or your teenager would like to talk with one of our counsellors do give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350. Some of our young people’s counselling is free and we provide free counselling for young people at the TOKKO youth space, Luton, on most days.

What not to say to someone with dementia

Seven things not to say to someone with dementia are the latest helpful tips from the Alzheimer’s Society.

Those of us who know someone with dementia will recognise how communication can get more difficult over time.

How and when language problems develop will depend on the individual, as well as the type of dementia and the stage it is at.

It’s not just the person living with the condition who may struggle to recall things or find the right word. What we say when we’re visiting someone with dementia, or looking after them full-time, is also important.

“A poor choice of language can be both hurtful and frustrating,” says the Alzheimer’s Society. But good communication can be key to helping somebody to live well with dementia.

Here are a few of the words and questions the society suggests we should avoid in conversation.

‘Remember when…?’

While it can be tempting to try and jog the memory of somebody living with dementia, this kind of question is often a reminder of memories lost. This can be a frustrating or painful experience, and there’s also no evidence that training the brain in this way will help somebody hold on to memories. That’s not to say you should avoid talking about the past, but it’s better to lead the conversation and allow the person to join in.

Instead of posing a question, try leading with ‘I remember when…’. That way the person can search their memory calmly without feeling embarrassed, then join in if they like.

‘I’ve just told you that’

Having to answer the same question several times can be frustrating, but repetition will happen. There is little benefit to passing on your frustration to somebody with dementia. Saying ‘I’ve just told you that’ only reminds the person of their condition.

Try to be polite and as patient as possible. It’s important for somebody with dementia to feel they’re being listened to and understood.

 ‘Your brother died 10 years ago’

A person living with dementia may forget about a past bereavement or ask for somebody who has passed away. But reminding them of a loved one’s death can be painful, even causing them to relive the grief they’ve already experienced.

It may be better to come up with another reason for somebody’s absence, while at other times a gentle reminder is appropriate. In the later stages of dementia, trying to remind them that the person has died is unlikely to work and may be best avoided.

‘What did you do this morning?’

Avoid asking too many open-ended questions, as it could be stressful for a person with dementia if they can’t remember the answer. While it might seem polite to ask somebody about their day, it’s better to focus on what’s happening in the present. It’s also important that people with dementia continue to make personal choices, but defining the options might be a helpful technique.

Rather than ‘what would you like to drink?’, you could ask ‘do you want tea or coffee?’ or more simply, ‘do you want a cup of tea?’.

 ‘Do you recognise me?’

It can be distressing when somebody with dementia doesn’t recognise you, but remember that the feeling is mutual. Asking the person if they know who you are can make them feel guilty if they don’t remember, or offended if they do.

The way you greet somebody with dementia might change depending on the stage of their condition – judge for yourself, but keep it friendly. A warm hello could suffice, or it may help to say your name.

 ‘Let’s have a cup of tea now, then after that we can go for nice walk and get lunch in that café you like in town.’

Long, complex sentences can be difficult to grasp for somebody with dementia. It’s difficult to process several ideas at once as cognitive abilities slow down, so it’s better to give directions or instructions one step at a time.

Use short, simple sentences as much as possible. Avoid speaking in loud environments and wait until you have the person’s full attention before you start a conversation.

‘Do you need some help with that, love?’

Words like ‘love’, ‘honey’ and ‘dear’ can be patronising for people living with dementia. This is sometimes referred to as ‘elderspeak’ and can cause older people to feel infantilised.

Always remember the person behind the dementia, using their name as often as appropriate. This helps keep their dignity intact and aids concentration too.

For more advice on communicating with somebody living with dementia, visit the Communicating and Language section of the Alzheimer’s Society website. And don’t forget we offer free counselling sessions to people looking after someone with dementia, face-to-face or, sometimes more conveniently, by phone or Skype. Call our friendly appointments team on 01234 356350 to make arrangements.


Open relationships: things to think about

Relate counsellors called up by Huffington Post have been giving their thoughts on open relationships – where both partners in a relationship or marriage agree they are permitted to have sexual relationships with other people.

Proponents of open relationships say they have found the answer to differing sex drives, and satiating a desire to have a variety of sexual experiences, but others just see it as glorified cheating without consequences.

So what should you be asking yourself if you’re considering taking your relationship down this route?

Define what an open relationship involves

Relate counsellor Barbara Honey told HuffPost UK that people can have very different ideas about what an open relationship means, both logistically and in terms of scope, and the biggest mistake would be to make assumptions that it means the same for both parties. “Does it [just] mean having sex with other people? If you’re going to embark on an open relationship, it’s important to make sure you are both totally happy about it,” she says.

How will it work? 

Once you’ve decided on the definition for you and your partner, you need to work out how much you want to know about it – do you want full transparency or minimal information? Relate counsellor Rachel Davies says: “Try to cover the who, what, when, where questions when discussing what the open relationship would look like. For example, is bringing someone home ok or does any encounter need to be happening elsewhere?”

Are you really communicating with your partner?

While you may pass the first hurdles, do you really feel like you’re being open with your partner about your feelings and expectations? Margaret Tonge, counsellor and sex therapist, says: “Two people getting together will inevitably come from different backgrounds with differing expectations.  If two people are considering an open relationship there needs to be communication, with neither partner feeling coerced into accepting what the other wants.”

Are you likely to compare yourself to the other person?

Think about whether you’d compare yourself to the other person in your partner’s life. Might you see other parties as competition? “Be prepared that there may be a point where you feel in competition with the other person,” says Margaret. “Comparing one partner with another is unavoidable and this can raise issues of dissatisfaction and confusion about which way to go.”

How will you be supported in this relationship?

Even if your relationship with outsiders is just sexual, this could infringe on how you feel emotionally connected with your primary partner. “It’s worth considering who you turn to for support,” says Margaret. “The issue of how needs will be met should be carefully thought through. One way to test whether people are able to sustain an open relationship is to imagine how easy or difficult it would be to make more than one person feel special and unique all the time.”

How will you react if your feelings change over time?

If an open relationship is for both of you, bear in mind that your feelings might change over time, so you need to check in regularly and be mindful that your partner could be thinking differently from you. “If the situation changes over time and one partner no longer wants an open relationship, confusion, anger and jealousy can surface,” says Margaret. “So it’s best to consider the very real possibility of this happening sooner rather than later.  In any relationship there will always be one partner who struggles more than the other with insecurity and jealously and this creates a difficult balancing act between insecurity and allowing freedom. There should always be regular review points where couples are prepared to redraw the boundaries and agree to do it differently in the light of each partner’s needs and wishes.”

If you’d like to talk about this or any other issue in your relationship with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

Letting go and moving on

It can be difficult to stop living in the past, especially if you’re still carrying around the emotional baggage of a former relationship.

Relationships can have a pull on us long after they’re over. It can be difficult to accept that something that was once a really big part of your life is now becoming a memory. Likewise, unresolved issues can make it difficult to accept that the relationship has ended.

Clients often tell our counsellors that they feel stuck going over and over what happened in their last relationship, and that makes it feel impossible to move on. It’s also a lot harder now to disconnect yourself from painful reminders of the past: simply logging on to Facebook and seeing updates or photos of an ex can leave you heartbroken all over again.

However, there comes a time when we need to accept that what’s done is done – and begin to look forward to what might be coming next.

Talk about how you feel

The cycle of emotions you go through following a breakup can be similar to those you would go through following bereavement. You’re likely to experience feelings of denial, anger, emptiness and sadness. You may find yourself revisiting some of these emotions several times.

Some clients tell us they worry that they aren’t dealing with a breakup as they should be, or that friends or family expect them to snap out of it. The truth is, how someone responds to the end of a relationship is different for each of us: there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The important thing is that you give yourself the time and support you need to feel better.

Let go of anger

One of the hardest things is to let go of anger. It’s easy to get stuck in the ‘blame game’ – endlessly questioning who did what, what could have been done differently and who ended up feeling worse. But this kind of thinking will only make you feel bitter and regretful.

Although it isn’t always easy, it’s much more useful to focus objectively on what the relationship was lacking and how it failed to meet your or your partner’s needs. It isn’t about deciding who was right and who was wrong, but being realistic about what happened and why.

Think about the warning signs that you may have ignored. Think about the things that caused arguments – not just who caused them. And, crucially, try to understand your part in what happened.

Although the answers to these might be upsetting, they will make it easier to let go of the past and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Embrace your freedom

Coming to terms with the end of a relationship is a very freeing experience. It means you’re no longer fighting to keep things alive or struggling to understand what happened.

This new found sense of freedom will come with a surge of positive emotions – potentially even greater levels of energy – and it will allow you to make plans for what you’re going to do next.

As you enter this new stage, you may find the following useful:

  • Look for ways to find a lasting sense of personal happiness. Consider trying out things that would enrich you as a person like a new hobby, or voluntary work. Learning to maintain good self-esteem is an important part of creating a positive future.
  • Be courageous. Believe you can do what you want to do and don’t put limits on your hopes and aspirations.
  • Think positively. Be ready to catch yourself when negative thoughts pop into your head. Think about what you “could try” rather than what you “can’t do”, no matter how small.
  • Try writing out a list of 10 positive things about yourself and keep it with you. When a negative thought creeps in, get the list out and remind yourself of everything you have going for you.If you’d like to talk about how you’re feeling with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.