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Couples Counselling Practice Counselling for Couples and Individuals with Dawn Kaffel
West Hampstead in North West London and Central London W1

Building Trust

As we watch with varying degrees of disbelief the goings on between the Conservative candidates vying for the job of Prime Minister, its very difficult to believe that we can trust any of them to fulfil this important position.

Being able to trust your partner is one of the cornerstones of a healthy strong relationship. Without trust it’s difficult to build a strong connection that helps deepen and grow a relationship. We need trust to feel safe and secure and have confidence that our partners are there for us physically and emotionally.

Building trust in a partnership is a gradual process and requires commitment from both parties. It is the foundation of any long term relationship and ensures confidence and security with each other. It helps us cope with challenges that may arise in the future, trusting that our partner is there by our side throughout more difficult and testing times.

Being able to trust ourselves is an important element in being able to trust a partner. Perhaps you may have been hurt in the past, which may affect your ability to trust yourself and therefore others.

I see many couples struggling with trust issues in their relationships and for many different reasons: money, addiction, texting, emotional and physical affairs. Trust is one of the easiest feelings to loose and the hardest to regain. Without it couples find it hard to deepen their relationship.

How to build Trust – It’s worth checking out these pointers:
  • Are we there for each other?
  • Does your partner listen to you and is open with you?
  • Do you feel your partner supports you?
  • Do you feel genuinely cared about?
  • Do you feel it's safe to talk about feelings and, when you do, you don’t get a negative response?
  • Can you depend on your partner?
  • Is there consistency in what your partner says and how they behave?

What happens when we lose Trust
When we're not being open and honest with each other, keeping secrets erodes trust. At times, lack of trust can be something we experienced as children growing up in our family of origin. We can take this imprint into our adult relationships and it may make us feel more vulnerable around trust issues. It's important to understand whether the mistrust is a pre-existing condition or something that has developed in the relationship due to the behaviour of your partner.

Believing that your partner does not have your best interests at heart can lead to a lack of trust creeping into your relationship. Losing trust in one another can be damaging and long lasting, often creating wounds and scars that prevent closeness and intimacy growing between you.

Betrayal of trust such as an affair can lead to trauma and injury.

Affairs can completely rock a marriage. According to psychotherapist Esther Perel whilst infidelity can shatter trust, it doesn’t mean couples can't find a way to rebuild trust in their relationships.

How to repair Trust Understanding that this is a crisis in a relationship:

  • Consider each other’s views and feelings and listen to each other calmly
  • Engage in positive and constructive discussion
  • Strong shared motivation to work together to resolve the issue
  • Understanding and appreciating the damage caused
  • The more effort put into the repair process the more you will make it through the crisis

Sometimes, despite all efforts, repairing a relationship when trust has been tested is not possible. Seeing a couples counsellor may be a good idea if you are stuck and unable to move forward.

“The most precious thing in the world is trust.
Without trust you have nothing,
with it you can do great things."

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

Dawn Kaffel

Couples and Mental Health

To launch Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 The Duke of Cambridge has teamed up with stars from TV and Music to record the Mental Health Minute. The theme behind this year’s minute is to highlight the importance of listening. Just by taking a minute to stop and really listen has the power to make a real difference to our mental well -being.

I often see relationships under considerable strain, but when a partner is suffering with mental illness the stress of coping is very challenging and can often reach crisis level and destroy the relationship.

Anxiety and Depression are the most common causes of mental illness and these can be episodic or long-term.

Managing the illness becomes the preoccupation of the relationship and often attention is focused mainly on the person with the diagnosis, leaving the healthy partner to cope alone.

In my work as a couples’ therapist, I have witnessed the curative effects that a healthy relationship can have on a partner struggling with mental illness. On the other hand, long-term relationship stress can negatively affect a partner's mental health and can make things considerably worse for a partner already struggling with mental illness.

It’s important to remember that there are two partners in a relationship and that your own wellbeing and needs are just as important as those of your partner

Mental illness does not have to destroy a relationship. There are many ways to maintain a healthy loving relationship despite the obvious challenges.

Show Support
Reassure your partner that you are there for them and love them. Often in our efforts to “make things better” it’s hard to get the balance right. There is a tendency to either ignore the symptoms in the hope they will go away or to take over and do everything you can for your partner to fix the problem

Take time to talk
Try to be empathic and really listen to how life feels for your partner. Don’t dismiss their feelings. Talking together about how you can improve things and what changes you can both make, offers hope and is more helpful than simply dwelling on the problems.

Educate yourself
Although mental health issues are being talked about so much more openly, there are still many people who are ashamed, confused and misinformed about mental illness, the symptoms and the treatment options. Finding out as much information about the condition is important for both partners as you work and support each other through this time

Finding the right help
Partners cannot be therapists for their spouse - it is too demanding and not appropriate. Your role is to provide love and support and to engage with finding the right professional help. It can often be very challenging and shaming for a partner to accept they are suffering with a mental illness and need help. Willingness to take responsibility to manage their own illness and treatment plan because they understand how their illness affects you and those close to you, is an important step towards recovery.

Finding Individual and Couples Therapy
Individual therapy can help process difficult feelings in a safe environment in a way that will help the couple and the individual communicate and understand yourselves and each other better. As a partner of someone with a mental health condition, there are often negative feelings such as anger, frustration and hate that can be overwhelming. Couples Counselling can help give meaning and understanding to these complex dynamics.

Looking after self
Feeling that you have to handle everything is natural but how you look after yourself is not a selfish luxury but an absolute necessity. If you can’t look after yourself, you are not going to be able to look after another. Often the pressure to keep it all going can feel overwhelming.

Important areas to consider are boundaries - what you can reasonably give your partner in terms of time, energy, advice and emotion and what you can’t. Discussing this with your partner is vital. Having clear, consistent and manageable boundaries is your way of working to look after yourself because you care for and are there for your partner. This also means your partner has to take charge of their emotional wellbeing too.

Its important to remember that in all relationships there are periods of difficulty and drama that can overshadow everything. When a partner is going though a mental illness it can be a major challenge that can threaten to destabilise the strongest union. Challenges are a life force for a relationship and if we stop and listen and have the right tools in place, we can ensure a happier more successful relationship.

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

Dawn Kaffel

Secrets and Lies

Couples come to therapy for a range of different reasons and one of the most important requirements for any good therapeutic experience is that there is openness and honesty in the sessions. However, clients are not always honest with themselves, or their therapists and this often leads to a breakdown in the therapeutic alliance and a breakdown in the relationship.

From the start therapists need to be clear with their couples as to what their policy is on secrets especially if they have some individual sessions or if one partner contacts the therapist between sessions to reveal a secret. It is not a therapist’s role to hold onto secrets for the couple but to help and prepare them to have a more honest relationship with their partner. To understand and explore together what their fears about what might happen and why it seems easier to withhold than be honest and open. Sharing these difficulties and bearing the tension and the shame is the path towards a more open and intimate relationship.

Definition of Secrets and Lies

Keeping secrets from your partner is a deliberate intent to keep information hidden. This choice is usually because you fear the impact on yourself or others that the information may have. What often underlies secrecy is a fear of judgment and reprisals. A lie is a deliberate act of deceiving another person by hiding the truth or trying to manufacture an untruth.

Secrets and lies jeopardize trust in our relationships and can cause irreparable damage in the following ways:

*Trust and vulnerability are blocked

*The need to constantly cover up and watch your back leads to tension

*Easier to blame a partner than recognise your choice to maintain secrecy

*Jeopardises sexual intimacy

Being honest in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share every single detail all the time. Knowing what to share and what not to share is an important communication skill in any relationship.

It may seem like your relationship is smooth sailing but having secrets can cause catastrophic results:

Secrets that hurt a marriage

In my experience the reason that couples come into therapy often too late is because sharing their unhappiness or discontent with each other is too difficult. The reason for keeping these feelings a secret for so long is hoping that the problems will eventually sort themselves out, or the fear things could get a lot worse if true feelings were disclosed. Sometimes it’s hard to just be honest and admit we are unhappy.

Finding intimacy outside a marriage
Disconnection between couples is often around for a long time before an affair happens. If you have stopped having sex for a long time and there is a lack of affection and intimacy, it needs to be understood and talked about. Often it feels that it’s easier to turn to someone else and get emotional and sexual fulfilment than manage the honesty and vulnerability that is needed with your partner.

Financial Decisions
Keeping secrets about how you spend money or make financial decisions without sharing with your partner is a major violation of trust and can have devastating consequences.

Making decisions together as a couple is an integral part of any relationship. However feeling that you have to agree all the time for a quiet life is not being honest with yourself or your partner. This leads to unresolved feelings and resentments. Working through disagreements and difference is essential for a closer emotional connection.

Past relationships
Couples often find it hard to share or hear experiences they had with previous partners for fear of exposing aspects of themselves that partners may not feel very attracted to. However part of growing closer together is knowing and understanding each other’s different experiences and how you were affected by them both positively and negatively.

Knowing you are being lied to is often worse than being hurt by the truth. This quote sums it up for me:

'If you tell me the truth
I’m going to get mad but
I’ll get over it.
If you lie to me, I’m never going to be
able to trust you again.
Your choice!'

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

Dawn Kaffel

January can be a difficult month for Couples

What is it about January that sees such a surge in petitions for divorce and triggers a spouse to decide, out of the blue to up and leave their marriage, walk out and file for divorce, leaving partners feeling shocked, abandoned and betrayed?

In my practice this month I have witnessed both men and women struggling with being left, often with children, with no explanation from their partner. They believed their relationship was fine and they never saw this coming. They are devastated at being abandoned and feel on an emotional rollercoaster as they struggle to come to terms with understanding how the partner they had spent so much time with building a life and family together could start the new year by walking away from their life in this destructive harmful way. Everything seems to happen so quickly – one minute they are celebrating a family Christmas together, the next they are gone. Often there is no opportunity for discussion or to process what has happened.

Why spouses decide to walkaway so abruptly?

*For a start it is never ‘out of the blue’ for the partner who chooses to leave

*Problems in the relationship have probably been bubbling over for a very long time and have not been addressed. Spending enforced time over the Christmas break with extended family and friends can be hard and often contributes to emotions running high which can push us to breaking point.

- There has been a prolonged period of non-communication, arguments and distancing leading to feelings of loss of emotional connection and falling out of love

- Work and children have become the focus not the couple

- There are strong feelings of having nothing in common

- There have been prolonged periods of time doing most things separately

- Complacency and boredom have become the norm

- Your partner feels more like a flat mate than a partner

- Sex has become a thing of the past

- Your partner feels ignored and unappreciated

The author Tony Parson suggests that men now have a greater sense of entitlement than women. Years ago a man would have been happy to spend a lifetime providing for his family – now a man wants children but also wants and expects a passionate affair with the mother of his children.

- You no longer share your thoughts and feelings and when you do you often feel not listened to and misunderstood.

- Some spouses will do anything to avoid conflict fearing talking about their feelings will evoke an angry response. It’s easier to stay silent about how you feel.

- Putting on a good front is no longer an option

- There is often another relationship waiting in the wings and wrapping up a marriage speedily allows no break in the new relationship

- It takes enormous courage to walk out of a marriage and family but for some doing it so abruptly and coldly avoids having to work through something difficult or face days and weeks of pleas to stay and work on things.

When a partner walks out on a marriage it seems as if it is the end of your world and the end of a marriage. Sometimes it is but sometimes it’s an opportunity to get professional couples counselling and start a conversation that can help you rebuild and reconnect in ways you used to do when you first got together.

Walking out on a marriage in this way can be devastating and causes long-term consequences for the whole family. If a marriage has to end there are better ways of ending it including by showing a more respectful and calmer approach

“Why did we divorce? I guess you could say we had trouble synchronizing. You know that carnival ride where two cages swing in opposite directions, going higher and higher until they go over the top? That was us. We passed each other all the time, but we never actually stopped in the same place until it was time to get off the ride.” Diana Hammond, Hannah’s Dream.

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

Dawn Kaffel

This Can Happen

It’s not very often that attending a conference leaves such a buzz and positive energy amongst the participants. This is how it was at the This Can Happen Conference on Tuesday, 20 November 2018, the inaugural corporate mental health event where companies address mental health in the workplace and highlight solutions and innovations to support the mental health of their colleagues and staff.

Over 750 Delegates from 120 companies were present to hear the warmest and informative welcome speech by the founders of This Can Happen, Zoe Sinclair, Neil Leybourn and Jonny Benjamin MBE. This was followed by a series of innovative presentations and experimental workshops.

With I in 4 employees experiencing mental health challenges this year, never has it been more important for companies to offer the right kind of support for their staff. Research shows that mental health challenges are the leading cause of work absence in the UK and can significantly impact on a person’s ability to grow and thrive at home and in the workplace.

The conference was honoured to have in attendance HRH the Duke of Cambridge, a passionate mental health campaigner. He joined a panel session facilitated by BBC News Presenter Tina Daheley and shared openly and movingly of his time working with the air ambulance service. How he was often involved with children dealing with life and death situations and families that were destroyed. The relation between the job and his family life took him ‘over the edge’. His Royal status gave him no immunity from these overwhelming feelings and he learnt to distance himself from the job in order to appreciate that this happens in his work life but not all the time and all around him. He really appreciated having his crew around him to debrief with give him the support he needed.

60 other speakers from a diverse range of companies and organisations all contributed emotionally and passionately about their own personal experiences. They offered knowledge and insights to provide solutions for workplace mental health.

Hopefully a Conference like this will help remove the stigma of having a mental health issue. There should be no difference in how mental illness is managed in the work place as with physical illness.

Lyssa Barber, founder of the mental health network at UBS, following her own breakdown believes passionately that “good levels of mental health and wellbeing are needed for everyone to really thrive and has seen the results in her company of putting in place meditation, mindfulness, quiet rooms and Mental Health First Aiders are all in the pipeline”

There is no doubt that businesses are waking up to the scale of poor mental health, but there is still a long way to go. Conferences like This Can Happen offer companies practical toolkits and solutions to take back to their work place. Hopefully the buzz and energy that permeated throughout the day will be carried back to companies and organisations. It will be vital to explore at the next This Can Happen Conference how companies have put some of these ideas into practice to make a real difference to the work place.

If you would like to see a short video about the Conference, please click here.

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

Mind the Age Gap

Getting back into work after the summer break is always a varied and an interesting time. Some couples feel the break has been far too long and can’t wait to resume their weekly sessions. Other couples feel the summer break has been good for their relationship and decide to end their sessions. It is often a time to reflect and be curious as to what new clients may present at an initial session.

Interestingly a theme that has already presented is navigating couple relationships when there is a big age difference of over 15-25 years?

Traditionally these relationships have been the subject of many clichés – ‘It’s a mid-life crisis’, ‘toy boy’, ‘old enough to be your mother/father’, she’s only after his money’. Now due to more celebrity relationships being in the public eye age-gap relationships are more common and acceptable and not always regarded as negative and suspicious!

Before beginning a relationship with someone much younger or older it’s important to consider your motivations. Someone who dates an older person may be seeking a more parental figure than a romantic partner. They may be firmly established in a career and will be able to provide financial security.
Someone who dates a younger person may be seeking more fun and excitement in their lives plus the sexual connection is more energising and exciting.

Does Age Matter?

Research suggests that the success of a relationship depends on the extent to which partners share values, beliefs and goals, trust and support each other and if there is a strong physical and sexual attraction. These factors have little to do with age. It is acknowledged that as long as couples can communicate and work at their relationship, age should not pose a barrier.

Make sure your values, morals and life goals match up. That doesn’t mean they have to be the same but to understand where the other is on these issues and to be able to work on them together.

However what brings age-gap couples into therapy is often they are at a very different stage in their relationship where the age gap appears to be more significant and they are finding it very difficult to talk about how they feel and start to behave very differently with each other. This starts to make the relationship feel insecure.

Issues that present in age gap relationships and questions we should ask each other:

  • Do we share future goals, where and how we live?
  • Do we want a family?
  • Do we fit in with each other’s family and friends?
  • How does it feel to be the older and more mature of the couple?
  • How does if feel to be the younger and more of the caretaker?
  • Does it feel as if the relationship is equal and one partner doesn’t hold power over the other?

At the start of the relationship, the age gap can feel exciting and something couples don’t make a big deal of. It’s often after many years of being together that cracks can start to appear.

An older partner can slow down and have less energy for the younger partner. They may be happier spending more time at home than previously. The younger partner starts to feel resentful and can decide to lead a separate social life, not wanting to be a carer and no longer showing much interest in sex. This in turn triggers feelings of anxiety in the older partner who feels they may be rejected for a younger model. Alternatively, a younger partner may be wanting to start a family of their own, but now realises this is not what their older partner now wants since they already have a family from a previous relationship and don't want to start again with a young baby.

Having said all this, the age gap shouldn’t become the total focus of your relationship. Sometimes unnecessarily dwelling on this can turn things negative when they don’t need to be. Whenever there is conflict we tend to go to our vulnerable spots, which in this case may be the age difference, but that might not actually be the issue at all.

Taking time out to understand these feelings is vital to maintain a successful relationship. Each partner needs to understand themselves as well as understanding their partner and what they need to keep any relationship alive and growing.

Its good to remember:
“When you truly love someone, age doesn’t matter, whether it's
a difference of 2 years or 30 years,
Love is Love.”

If you would like to discuss things further or to make an appointment, you can call me on 07976 403741 or (020) 8959 9528. Alternatively you can contact me by email by clicking here.

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