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Category Archives: relationship

Tips to Date With Someone From Another Culture

Keeping lines of communication open can help strengthen your relationship, particularly if you and your partner come from different cultural backgrounds.

Historically, falling for someone from another culture might have been big trouble, but a lot has changed over the last few decades and people are generally much more accepting of young people’s choices of partner these days.

Research shows that dating across different cultures – which includes different races, ethnicities, or different faiths – has become much more common among young people and carries less stigma than it used to. Some studies have shown that couples from different cultures might be more likely to experience conflict in their relationships.

Talking about these difficulties, however, not only alleviates the conflict but can actually help your relationship to develop and grow stronger. In other words, having differences can be a really positive thing, as long as you celebrate them. Making an effort to understand and appreciate each other’s backgrounds can be an enriching experience that also helps you maintain your relationship quality.

If you have a partner whose religious beliefs are different to your own, you may find your differences are particularly pronounced, which could lead to more disagreements that are harder to resolve. This may be because we often develop our religious beliefs from a young age, but also because we feel them strongly and can struggle to articulate them.

On the other hand, you may also find it’s possible to ignore your religious differences for the most part. They may not affect your romantic relationships at all until you reach major life events like marriage – when you’re younger and still exploring relationships, religion doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge issue.

Generally speaking, it’s really helpful to be open and communicative about any cultural or religious differences you have with your partner, as this can help you both feel more satisfied with your relationship.

If you’re in a relationship with someone from a different culture or religion and you haven’t talked about it yet, have a think about how you might express an interest in your partner’s background and beliefs, and see where it takes you. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Tips to be More Independent in Your Relationship

It might seem like making a commitment has to mean letting go of some of your independence, but couples who retain a sense of personal independence may be quicker at resolving arguments and better able to invest in the relationship.

There’s something fun about merging your life with your significant other, particularly in the early stages, but it’s important to maintain the qualities that make you who you are as an individual – after all, that’s what your partner fell in love with in the first place.

Having an independent streak doesn’t mean you’re afraid of commitment – people with a strong sense of personal identity can actually be better communicators. They are less defensive, more honest, and more flexible. They find it easier to be open and to put things into perspective.

A strong sense of individuality, then, can mean you have stronger relationships. When you and your partner support and nurture each other’s need for independence, you can start to find a balance that means you’re also happier and more confident in the relationship.

If you’d like to reclaim a bit of independence as a way of strengthening your relationship, you might want to try the following.

1. Spend some time alone

Alone time gives you a chance to recharge and refresh. We all need a bit of solitude and it’s easy to forget this when we get into relationships. Spend some time reading, or catching up on emails, or just watching something your partner might not be into.

It’s also important to keep in touch with your friends, and do some of the things you did when you were single. If you’ve got a group of friends you used to hang out with, give them a call and arrange something. An evening away from your partner will broaden your experiences and give you more to talk about when you next see each other.

2. Keep your online lives separate

Social media plays a big part in how we present ourselves to the world, and how we interact with our friends and families. Being in a relationship can mean our online lives also intermingle with our real lives.

For some couples, declaring your love online can make you feel closer and more connected. For others, however, it can feel like a bit of a threat to privacy and independence, knowing that a partner can check up on what we’re up to and who we’re talking to.

Don’t go snooping, or trying to work out who they’ve been chatting to – maybe even disconnect your profiles, or mute your partner’s feed. Give each other some online space as well as real space.

3. Plan your own future

Life is full of big decisions. Your decisions around what to do with your life – like where to study, and where to work – may be influenced by a number of factors, including what you can afford. If you are in a long-term relationship, you may need consider whether or not to factor your partner into the decisions.

Coordinating our life plans with those of our partner can mean having to be flexible and make a few compromises, so think carefully about what’s most important to you and make sure your decisions suit you as an individual as well as you as couple.

These days, many people are choosing to wait until a bit later in life before settling into long-term relationships. This can provide an opportunity to figure out what you want as an individual before making decisions about what you want from your romantic relationship.

4. Try living apart together

One – possibly extreme – solution to the issue of combining a committed relationship with personal independence is the increasingly popular practice of living apart together. Couples are described as living apart together when they are in a monogamous relationship but have chosen to maintain separate homes.

For many younger adults, living apart together might be a necessity, based on working or studying arrangements, or finances, but it could also be an attractive option for couples who want to be together while enjoying their own independence.

Living apart together means you can have more control over your daily life, your home arrangements, and even your finances. If these are the kinds of things you tend to argue about, then living apart together might also reduce the risk of conflict in your relationship.

You don’t necessarily have to go as far as living apart together but, if you’re the kind of person who falls in deep, you might want to take a moment to remind yourself who you are outside of your relationship with your partner, and to support your partner in doing the same. It might just help you get along a little better with one another.

Support Your Partner With Mental Health Issues

For many of us, mental health is a difficult subject to talk about. When someone has a mental health issue, it can be hard to understand what’s going on, or to know how to talk to them.

But mental health issues can affect relationships with those closest to us, like friends, family, and partners. So, if your partner has a mental health issue, it can be helpful to know what to do.

This article is designed to give you some tips on how to support your partner. It is not a replacement for professional support and, if you are at all concerned, you should consult a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.

Depending on the issue, and the severity of the symptoms, mental health issues can lead to changes in behaviour and even personality changes. If your partner is going through something like this, it can be hard to know where to start.

But, with a few simple changes, and some good communication, you can be a real support and can help your partner through the most difficult period – alongside any professional support.

Why is it so tough for a partner?

When your partner is dealing with a mental health issue, the stress can start to take its toll on you too. You may notice difficulties starting to show in your relationship, particularly with communication and support.

Your partner might be feeling sad, tearful, irritable, and exhausted, often for long periods of time. You may also notice changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, and a tendency to withdraw socially. Your partner may also lose interest in things you usually enjoy doing together, including sex.

Your partner’s concentration may also be affected, making it hard for them to enjoy even simple activities like watching TV. As a result of all this, you, the partner, can start to feel depleted too.

But there’s lots you can do to help. Even small behaviour changes can make a big difference. Little things like cooking a healthy meal together; making sure your partner gets to bed on time and gets up in the morning; or going for a walk with your partner, can help.

You could even put together a diary of positive experiences and things you are both grateful for. This is a very simple idea and it can really help you look for the positive moments in your day. It will also give you a reminder of good experiences to look back over, which can be particularly helpful if your partner is struggling to see the bright side.

What part can you play in your partner’s recovery?

You’ll naturally want to do the best for your partner and help them wherever you can. What’s really important is that you consider the long term as well as the short term.

While it might be tempting to protect your partner by taking on extra responsibilities and helping them to avoid difficult social situations, this could actually end up being more damaging in the long term.

Keeping up regular activities can help your partner maintain a level of independence that they risk losing if they become over-reliant on you. Visiting family and friends can help your partner to maintain important social ties, and even find solutions to practical problems. Ask your partner how much support they need but err on the side of encouraging them to stay active.

How do you improve communication?

Good communication becomes particularly important when your partner is struggling with a mental health issue. Research shows that attacking or challenging your partner’s behaviour could make them feel even worse, leading them to become more withdrawn and less confident in their ability to improve things.

Try the following tips to improve communication:

  • Drop your judgements. Set aside any preconceptions you have about mental illness so you can approach conversations with an open mind.
  • Hold the space. Encourage your partner to talk about their experiences. Let them know you’re there for them.
  • Listen. This means listening actively to what your partner is saying, and not thinking about what you are going to say next.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. Let your partner know you’ve heard and understood them. Sometimes it’s helpful to repeat back to them what you think you’ve heard so they know you’ve really understood.

You will probably need to exercise a little patience and sensitivity. You may not be able to relate to everything your partner is going through, but just let them know that you’re there to offer support wherever you can.

You can also help by reading up on mental health issues – there is lots of information available online, or you can ask your GP, or local support groups for information. Learning about how mental health can affect your relationship will help you maintain open communication with your partner, and reassure them that you understand what’s going on and are willing to support them.

If in doubt, seek help

You can also play a part in supporting your partner to seek professional help. If you are worried or unsure of what to do, professional help should always be your first step. Your partner’s GP can help and make a referral to a mental health specialist for further support.

If your partner wants extra support, you can go with them to appointments. As part of their treatment, you may be asked to go to couples therapy. This doesn’t mean your relationship is in trouble – it’s just that research has shown couples therapy to be particularly effective with mental health issues. It can also help you find more ways to improve communication and intimacy, and protect against further problems in the future.

Relationship Problems After a Baby Arrives

When you feel like things aren’t what they used to be in your relationship, it can be a sad time. Having a baby can bring this feeling on overnight, so it’s important to recognise and accept that all relationships change and adapt over time.

Having a baby is such an exciting time with so many positives that it’s easy to see why couples expect to feel happier together and it can come as a real shock to find that you are not getting on. But research shows that this is normal – parenthood is often the most difficult transition anyone will have to make.

Struggling with new roles

You may struggle to hold onto a clear sense of who you are when you first become a parent. You have to get used to a new identity and sometimes the other roles in your life become secondary, at least in the beginning. This includes your role as a partner.

New mums may also find it difficult to adjust to changes in their body like increased weight, stretch marks, sagging and scarring. The demands of breastfeeding can be difficult to adjust to and many new mums find themselves feeling unattractive or at odds with their body.

However, while some mothers and fathers may feel the loss of their old selves, others are happy with their new identity.

Loss of freedom

The demands of having a baby to look after can leave you feeling like you no longer have any individual freedom. Many parents struggle with not being able to come and go as they please, to go out and to enjoy their own interests.

Life with children brings a new routine of mealtimes, nap times and bedtimes. Adjusting to this new lifestyle with no letup can feel very suffocating for some parents and may take a lot of adjusting to.

Changes to other relationships

Having a baby can also change your relationships with other people, including your family, friends, parents and in-laws.

Many couples find they develop a stronger bond with their own parents and their in-laws. This often comes from a combination of enjoying a shared interest in the baby, and a reliance on support with childcare. But it isn’t all plain sailing. There are often difficulties with partners’ families, particularly if they interfere with your way of doing things. Some couples struggle with interference or criticism from their own parents, and difficult relationships may become even more strained.

Some partners want to go back to the traditional ways of doing things that they were brought up with, which can lead to conflict between couples because they each have different ways of doing things.

New parenthood can stir up past childhood experiences and feelings and it may also stir up old memories of parenting for the new grandparents.

If you have difficulties with your parents or in-laws, it’s often best to discuss them with your partner first and work out what you’re going to say. That way you can present a united front and avoid letting your in-laws or parents create any difficulties in your relationship with your partner.

Relationships with friends

It can be hard to keep up with old friends, particularly if they don’t have children of their own. They have different schedules and may not understand the demands on your time – especially at the beginning. But having a baby gives you lots of opportunities to make new friends with other new parents, who can be a great source of advice and support.

What else helps

Remember to look after yourself. This means eating well, resting when you can, and exercising if possible. Most importantly, though, try to recognise that things will get easier.

Meet other new parents Being with a baby can be lonely and isolating; other new parents can offer support or just be someone to talk to from time to time. Your health visitor or GP may know of local groups, or you can try your local Children’s Centre, library, NCT group, or faith centre.

Don’t expect too much of yourself. You, your partner and your family are the most important thing to care about, especially when the baby is small. Don’t worry too much about the housework or cooking fancy meals. Most other things can wait.

Take time to enjoy your baby. As parents of older children say, the time when your baby is small will fly by (although it may not seem like it!). It won’t be long before they’re off to school or leaving home, so enjoy this time while it lasts.

Dealing With Relationship’s Debt

Whether it’s a credit card or a bank loan, help from a family member, a quick dip into the overdraft, or even a payday loan, almost everyone has some experience of borrowing money.

In between borrowing money and paying it back, we are in debt. As long as we have the means to pay it back, debt can be a useful way of managing money – but it can end up costing more than it is worth.

How debt affects your relationship

Money worries are one of the biggest causes of stress and arguments in UK households, sitting in the top three relationship strains for 55 percent of couples and for parents, it’s 61 percent. A quarter of people have found money worries getting in the way of their sex lives and one study suggests that couples who get into problem debt are twice as likely to break up.

If you are worried about debt, it’s better that your partner finds out sooner rather than later. When you are under pressure financially, your partner will pick up on it and bear some of the brunt of that strain. Many people feel ashamed of debt, or think they can handle it better alone. However, keeping debt a secret can just make things worse. By sharing the concern with your partner, you can share the burden and work together towards a solution.

Getting into debt

Couples can get into debt when entering a new phase of the relationship, like moving in together, getting married, or having a baby. These times are always challenging, no matter how positive and exciting the change. Your relationship is intensified and magnified as you step up the commitment and costs can escalate.

In these times, couples tend to have big expectations of the future, and how their lives will be. While it can be tempting to load up a few credit cards to get the things you want, it’s important not to borrow more than you can reasonably plan to pay back.

Being in debt makes it much harder to live up to your expectations of the future anyway. The more debt you have, the more likely you are to argue, and the less time you are likely to spend together.

How to deal with debt

  • Talk to your partner. Get things out in the open and share the burden.
  • Put all your debts in front of you. Open your post and check your accounts. Hiding from debt won’t make it go away and could make it worse.
  • Make a budget. Look at what you are spending and where you can cut back.
  • Work out how much you can afford to pay off each month.
  • Contact your creditors to can organise a payment plan, even if it’s only a small amount.
  • Speak to a debt advice organisation. Free services like The Debt Counsellors or The Debt Advice Foundationcan help you get all this information together and offer tips on how to negotiate repayment plans with creditors.

Dealing with debt takes time and understanding. You can make things easier by getting help from debt organisations, but keep in mind that money issues can persist. You may need support not only with money issues, but also with the relationship strains that can accompany them.

If you and your partner want some extra support, counsellors such as those at Relate may be able to help you deal with relationship issues, whether debt-related or not. The good news is that once the debt has been paid off, relationship quality has been shown to improve again.

Tips to be Understood

Picture this: you’ve had a long day at work and you’re glad to be home. There’s some washing-up left in the sink from last night and you want to get it done so you can sit quietly in a tidy kitchen and have a cup of tea from your favourite mug. While you’re washing up, you remember an incident at work today that you didn’t handle very well. As you replay the moment in your head, you let out a big sigh.

Because your partner isn’t inside your head, they might think you’re sighing over the washing-up. If they’ve had a tough day too, they might leap to the defensive and explain why they haven’t had a chance to wash up yet. Before you know it, you’re arguing about something that hasn’t even happened, and your hard day at work has gone unacknowledged by the person you rely on most for support.

Why it’s important to feel understood

Relationships are all about communication – not just what you communicate to each other, but how you each understand what’s being communicated.

When you need something from your partner, the first step is to communicate that need. The second step is for them to recognise the need. Without that recognition, it’s unlikely you’ll get that support. And that’s why understanding each other is so important to having a satisfying relationship. Being understood helps us feel secure and looked after.

What you say and what you mean

If you want your partner to know you’re feeling sad, do you tend to sulk until they notice, or do you step up and say, “I’m feeling a bit down today”? When someone misunderstands you, or fails to even notice you, it’s easy to get cross and to blame them for not listening properly, or for not caring.

What difference could it make if you decided to take responsibility for everything you communicate? What if, when someone misunderstands you, you make the choice to re-frame what you’ve communicated until it makes sense to the other person? Try applying this not just to the words you convey, but also to the emotions.

Don’t assume your partner knows what’s going on in your mind

Your partner may be the person who knows you best but it’s not their job to read your mind. So, while sulking might work from time to time, the direct approach is almost always more helpful. How many times have you moped around waiting for your partner to notice how sad you are? It might feel like your partner doesn’t care, but the reality is that many of us tend to over-estimate how much emotion we are conveying.

Many of us also assume that our partners instinctively know what we’re feeling, but that isn’t always the case. These assumptions can be among the biggest hindrances to communicating effectively in relationships, leaving you feeling unheard, rejected and liable to lash out in response.

Being clear about your feelings can protect against all of this. The next time your partner misunderstands you, take a moment before you respond. Try to remember that they’ve only misunderstood you because they don’t have all the information, and take responsibility for filling in the gaps. Being clear about how you feel almost always makes it easier to get what you need.

Helping your relationship heal if you’ve had an affair

If you’ve had an affair, there may be a question mark hanging over your entire relationship. If you and your partner have decided to work things out, the following tips can help you both to overcome the effects of the affair and start moving on together.

When you first admit to your partner that you’ve had an affair, it’s natural for them to feel lost and confused. Their safe connection with you has been threatened, and it can lead to a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. They may feel angry and behave aggressively or they may shut down and be unable to communicate with you at all.

Affairs leave people feeling emotionally vulnerable, so your partner may become insecure and clingy to protect the relationship. They may repeatedly ask for reassurance that you love them and are still committed to the relationship. Try not to get frustrated – give your partner time to react to the news without criticising them.

After the initial shock and rollercoaster of emotions have died down, you and your partner can both begin thinking about how and why things went wrong in the relationship and how you might move beyond the problem. Revealing an affair can cause your partner to become extremely aware of your behaviour in the relationship and they may start to analyse and judge your actions. They may become more suspicious of you, even when you are behaving normally. For example, if you are trying to be considerate and leave the room to answer your phone, your partner may worry that you are trying to talk to someone in secret.

How can I help us move on?

One of the best things you can do is try to understand your partner’s point of view. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, even if it hurts to hear. It is also important for you to communicate your own feelings.

You will both need to find ways to overcome the mistrust. For example, you may consider sharing the password to your Facebook account or giving your partner access to your phone. These things will only work if the decisions are made together, so make sure you discuss these ideas thoroughly and come up with a plan that works for both of you.

As well as talking things through together, several studies suggest that couple therapy can be an effective way of coming to terms with an affair and moving on together. In a recent study, couples who had successfully dealt with an affair recommended seeking support from people outside of the relationship, as well as talking and listening to each other.

Do Narcissists Make Their Partners Jealous On Purpose?

 Most anyone who has spent significant time dating a narcissistic person knows first hand that narcissists often provoke jealousy by talking about wanting to date other people, commenting on how attractive someone else is e.g. while out on a date, and discussing the short-comings of their current partner compared to others.

Considering that narcissistic people are typically thought to be insecure deep down, on firstblush it doesn’t make sense that they would do things which would threaten their romantic relationships. Researchers (Tortoriello et al. 2017) set out to find out why.

They note there are two sub-types of narcissism – grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists appear confident and outgoing, seemingly devoid of social anxiety, and read immediately to others as “narcissistic”. Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, come across as shy, socially anxious and quiet. After a while, however, they tend to get haughty and stuck-up, making others feel worse possibly to shore up low self-esteem. All these maneuvers take a toll on relationships. Tortoriello and colleagues report that regardless, both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists regularly do things which undermine their relationships.

These examples are familiar: narcissistic people may act distant and uninterested even when they are in a committed relationship, they may form “platonic” relationships with attractive people and act like it shouldn’t bother their partners, they may talk about why they should dump whomever their seeing to be with someone else, highlighting their current partner’s shortcomings, and they often brazenly flirt, and brush it off. They often do things which make their partners insecure and jealous – and then blame them for over-reacting or having issues.

Seeking to work out what makes narcissists make others jealous, the authors use the “five motives for inducing romantic jealousy”, and test for them by surveying narcissists with a rating tool (the Motives for Inducing Romantic Jealousy Scale – MIRJS) after assaying for narcissistic traits.

In addition to the MIRJS, participants (237 undergraduate students) also completed various other measures from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the Pathological Narcissism Inventory,  the Mach-IV (as in “Machiavellianism”), and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale, in addition to completing the Romantic Jealousy-Induction Scale. This allowed them to measure correlations among various aspects of narcissism with motives to make romantic partners jealous.

Finding a Balance in Your Relationship

 In every relationship, there’s a balance of power – how you manage this will affect how you feel as a couple. The more equal and balanced your relationship is, the happier you are both likely to be.

What are relationship power dynamics?

Power dynamics refers to the way decisions are made and who makes them. In a balanced relationship, both partners have an equal say in things.

Finding a balance may take some work. After the initial romance of a new relationship, it’s natural for both partners to start trying to regain a sense of independence. This is a common step in most committed relationships. However, when one partner starts trying to get an unbalanced share of power, the relationship can become manipulative and, in extreme cases, this can turn to aggressio.

Equality is good for both of you

Equality is one of the most important characteristics of a good relationship. Both men and women say their relationships are happier and more open when both partners have an equal balance of power. In an unbalanced relationship, the partner who feels disempowered may have other negative psychological outcomes, including anger, frustration, and even depression.

If you notice an ongoing unbalance in the power dynamic of your own relationship, try to be aware of any signs of aggression creeping in and make sure you stay safe. You do not have to stay in a relationship where someone is trying to control you.

The basis of power

Historically, power in relationships was based around money – which usually favoured men. These days, most young couples have a more balanced financial setup, and this is linked to having more equality overall in the relationship. Seeking a balance in your own relationship is a good sign that you’re stepping out of the shadows of history.

Money isn’t the only factor in how people exert power in relationships. Power is also built around emotionalresources like communication skills and the ability to meet each other’s needs. Someone who is stronger emotionally may be better equipped to love, support, and commit to a romantic partner. Think of a person who is very insecure and afraid that their partner will leave them. In this situation the other person would hold more emotional power.

An age thing?

One thing worth being aware of is that among some friendship groups, things like looks or popularity might be important ‘relationship resources’, meaning some people will accept a less equal role in a relationship because it gives them access to a peer group that they admire and otherwise wouldn’t be able to spend time with.

Generally, teenagers and young people are more likely to be in equal relationships than older couples. Younger people are less likely to have to rely on each other financially, but there’s also been a general shift in attitudes towards equality, compared to previous generations. Younger couples tend to be more emotionally aware and mutually committed to their relationships.

Whatever your age, men and women both say that commitment, attention and good company are among the things that are most important in their relationships.

Supporting a Partner With an Eating Disorder

 If your partner has an eating disorder, you may be feeling lots of guilt, frustration and stress. You may also feel pressure to keep an eye on your other half’s eating habits and behaviours, and feel guilty and responsible if they have a relapse.

If you don’t have an eating disorder yourself, you may also feel isolated and confused about the situation and its effect on you and your relationship. However, there are some things you can do to help.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from 27 February to 5 March. This is an international awareness event which challenges the myths surrounding eating disorders. You can find more information about the week and about eating disorders in general at the website of the UK eating disorder charity, Beat.

The term ‘eating disorder’ covers a range of conditions, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. They can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background, and can have a physical, psychological and social impact. However, it may help to know that you can play an important role in supporting your partner and possibly in helping their recovery.

Eating disorders can affect couples in a number of ways. Concerns about body image can lead to anxiety around sex, and reduced sexual desire. Your social lives may also be negatively affected, particularly when planning activities that involve food (like going to the supermarket, preparing a meal or choosing a restaurant to go to). Your partner may worry about who will be at social events, what food will be available, who will see them eating, and the body sizes of those present.

But there are ways you can help your partner deal with these difficulties. One study found that couples who educate themselves about eating disorders understand the experience better, and may be better able to support each other. Focusing on positive communication skills, such as listening, being open and being understanding, also helps. It is much better to use “I-statements”, than “you-statements”, as they will make your partner feel less judged. For example, try saying, “I’m worried about you” instead of “You are making me worried”.

Your partner may have received some support for their eating disorder (whether that’s therapy or less formal support), but partners and loved ones rarely report receiving help for themselves. Beat currently provides fortnightly online support for loved ones aged 18 or over, as well as a Youthline for those under 18. Beat also has a useful and comprehensive guide on supporting a partner with an eating disorder.

We encourage you to check out and find out more about Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Although there are significant challenges for couples dealing with an eating disorder, it may help to know that in recent research studies, people have reported that going through the experience and recovery process as a couple has ultimately brought them closer together