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Relationships - 12

It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.

 


Time for a Spring clean? 

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

Looking out of the window all I can see is the greyness of a dreary, damp, still wintry afternoon. Even so, the bulbs are coming out, the bushes are in bud and spring is not far away.

Most of us interested in later life are old enough to recall the rituals associated with the onset of spring, when Mum would 'tut-tut' about the sunlight showing up the dust on everything and Dad would disappear to the garden to finish pruning the roses and to check on whatever had over-wintered in the greenhouse.

A wintertime of closed doors and windows in the home, cigarette smoke, continuous log and coal fires, and for some, kitchen ranges deposited a film of grime, which only 'a good spring-clean' would shift. Washing down paintwork, beating rugs in the back yard, laundering curtains and polishing furniture would be embarked upon with zeal until the whole place satisfied mother's eye. In some households this spring-clean didn't stop with the home but included the children as well. I recall my father's tales of the brimstone and treacle his mother mixed and subjected him and his brother to, to great effect apparently!  

All of this reminiscing leads me to ponder how well we still care for things which are important to our everyday lives: the house, the garden, the car, animals, Yet how many of us can honestly say we regularly do the same for our relationship or marriage?

Maintaining a healthy relationship is an extremely important, joint responsibility. Like a car, a problem that is attended to when the first small signs appear is more easily resolved than ignoring it until something drastic happens. Like a home, a relationship is a much more pleasant thing to share when it is light-filled, clean and refreshed, rather than stale and dusty. Like a well-cared for garden shrub, a relationship has a much better chance of staying strong and healthy when the roots are nourished, the old or diseased wood is cut away to encourage the new shoots and any external threats are attended to rapidly before the roots are weakened.

Likewise with a marriage, it is much easier to work together to sort out small problems than getting to the point when communications have completely broken down before trying to mend things.

For most of us it is the easiest thing in the world to assume that because nothing seems to have changed much in the last two/five/twenty (!) years then all is well. What happens to all of us is that we grow older, our bodies change, our jobs change, we have babies, the children grow - leave home, marry, or not, - have babies, or not. Our parents age and die, we move house - probably more than once, and as a result we, every one of us, will have changed.  What we wanted and needed from our marriage at the beginning is not going to be the same as what we want and need from our marriage now.


Here are some of the things to think about and talk about together to help refresh and brighten a relationship:

Think about what you really enjoy doing together. Would you like it to happen more often, does your partner know this? Ask.

What do you do out of habit, individually or as a couple? Do you benefit from this, wish it didn't happen, wish it happened differently, or not even think about?

Ask your partner what they think are habits in the relationship and whether these need revising.

What used to happen but no longer does?   Do you miss it, does your partner miss it too? If you both want it back, how realistic is this and how will you, as a couple, go about it?

What do you appreciate about the way your relationship is now?  Do you tell your partner about this.

Ask your partner what pleases him or her about the relationship. Do you feel there are things lacking in the relationship that you would like to be included? Be realistic.  Is it within either of your capabilities, or physically/financially possible? There's no point wishing for things which are out of your reach unless you make it clear this is a fantasy wish and have a bit of fun thinking about the consequences together!

As a rule of thumb always try hard to avoid telling your partner what they should or shouldn't be doing. Be prepared to listen and not judge. It is better to give them information about how their actions affect you. This way it is less likely to become an accusation, just more information for you both to work on. You are in a partnership, this means that problems may need the attention of both partners. If it is hard to resolve a problem remember you don't have to be in a crisis to ask for help, in fact the earlier you do so, the better. 

Have some fun with this process; it is a spring-clean, a 12,000-mile service, a pruning and feeding, not a completely new roof, major overhaul or a need to totally uproot the flowerbeds!

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years. We hope you find the column useful and interesting …  and if you have any comments or suggestions, Maggi would like to hear from you. email her on maggi@laterlife.com .

 
Please don't send any confidential information to laterlife.com

To view previous articles  - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index page  

 



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