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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



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.



Couples Emotional Attachment to Money

In a session recently a client disclosed to her husband that she was in a lot of debt but had been too afraid to share this with him. This came as a complete shock to him and he questioned what sort of marriage they had if his partner didn’t feel able to share this with him. Yet again this made me acutely aware of just how difficult it is for many couples to talk about money and their finances. It seems to be even harder than talking about sex.

Even when there is a lot of love and connection in a relationship, money issues are high on the list of subjects that couples argue about and cause conflict. This is probably why couples avoid the topic, particularly in the early stages of a relationship. Couple arguments about money tend to be more problematic and more likely to remain unresolved.

We come into our relationships with inherited attitudes, emotions and beliefs about money from our family backgrounds. We may not be fully aware of what we bring to our relationships about our own feelings about spending and saving, but it often gets acted out in our relationships. If we experienced parents who were careful with money, we often want to emulate that if it was a good experience. However if it wasn’t, we may want to do the opposite and be frivolous with money.

Understanding that we have an emotional relationship with money helps make sense of our feelings and behaviours around it. How we feel about money is often tied up with our need to feel secure, in control and independent.

Money can be challenging in a relationship when partners have contrasting relationships to money for example if one wants to spend and the other to save there is the potential for conflict. What happens if one wants to spend in a certain way and the other to save in a different way? Having polarised views can be challenging if not talked about and understood. Our individual emotional relationship with money often gets projected into our relationships. For example if we see ourselves in the role of a care giver and provider which makes us feel secure, how will this effect a partner who may not be used to being provided for and highly values their financial independence.

We don’t like to acknowledge that money can cause a power imbalance in our relationships. This is more likely to happen when there is a big difference in a couples salary and how money is spent and bills paid. Do you have separate bank accounts and/or joint accounts?

Money doesn’t have to be a wedge in your relationship. Learning how to talk to a partner about finances in a healthier more satisfying way is hugely beneficial for a growing relationship.

The key to dealing with this complex issue is to be open and honest with each other about how you feel about money, what money means to you, your attitude and values and where money fits into your relationship with each other. The need for clarity in how you plan to share finances, manage your spending and pay bills will enable you to have a better understanding and connection to one another’s perspective.


Useful questions to ask each other:

  • How important is money to you?
  • What messages did you get from your parents about money?
  • How do you feel about spending money?
  • What are your thoughts about saving money?
  • Do you identify with being a spender or saver?
  • Do you budget?
  • Are you worried about money?
  • Do you manage money well?
  • Have you ever been in debt or had gambling problems?


If you feel money is an on-going issue that is contributing to conflict and distancing in your relationship, you may find it useful to take time out to talk to a Coupleworks counsellor in a confidential safe setting.

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.



Mistakes that Couples Make - 2018

A recent article in the Times entitled “You’re doing it wrong ! the 60 mistakes we all make” made me reflect on how often couples can make mistakes in the their relationships without even realizing the potential damage this can cause.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that couples repeatedly make that are avoidable:

1. We’ve known each other for so long, we don’t have to work on our relationship
Too many couples are falling victim to Complacency. Content with rushing through life and maintaining a certain life style, couples are oblivious to the reality that their most important relationship is missing out on the effort, attention and care it so desperately needs.

2. Work and children take up all of our time
It’s too easy to allow work and children to become the centre of your universe. It doesn’t hurt to reflect on the time when you were the centre of each other’s universe and how that’s been lost. How important it is to recognise that you both need to show more interest, concern and affection towards each other.

3. Trying to change the other person
Couples are often attracted to each other because of difference but after a while we can be tempted to try to change them to be the same as us. This often leads to a build up of on-going disappointment and resentments which contributes to emotional disconnection
Try to take a step back and remember why you fell in love in the first place.

4. Trying to control your partner
We are often driven crazy by our partner’s behaviours. Being told what to do and how to do it consistently can drive a wedge. Do not treat your partner like a child, who has to be told what to do you are a partner not a parent!

5. Criticising and complaining about your partner
Couples get into bad habits of often using always and never statements that criticize the whole person. When this happens we often feel distant and pull away. This in turn creates feelings of uncertainty and insecurity that triggers the complaining behaviour.

6. Not feeling listened to
Being able to communicate well with your partner is an essential component of a close loving relationship. By paying closer attention to how you talk to each other the tone of your voice, your body language is likely to make you feel that you are being heard, valued and understood. It is more likely to elicit more empathy and understanding from your partner rather than a defensive and negative response.

7. Not feeling understood
Its important to recognise that men and women communicate so differently and getting through to each other in a meaningful way is often a struggle. Women often feel misunderstood by their partner’s emotional disengagement and their offer of a solution. Men often feel overwhelmed with partners changing and often challenging emotional needs.

8. Bringing unresolved issues from our past
Often our past experiences in our families can get re-awakened and projected into our current relationships and its important to take responsibility for what belongs to us as individuals and what belongs to the partnership. This shared understanding can bring empathy and closeness.

9. Depending on each other for happiness
Being completely dependent on the other for your own happiness will only lead to disappointment. Its important to stay connected to who you really are and what you need for yourself to bring happiness both inside and outside your relationship

10. We never argue
Never arguing is often seen as a badge of honour for some couples. In fact couples that argue effectively are more likely to have a stronger more secure attachment than those who avoid arguments out of fear.
Couples who argue tend to be more passionate

11.Spontaneity is the only way to have sex
How difficult is it to bring spontaneity into any aspect of our busy lives let alone our sex lives.
It is argued that putting aside set times to enjoy sex takes away any excitement. However planning sex can help couples maintain their sexual connection and feel closer and intimate.

12. Coming to couples counselling is a last resort and will make our relationship worse
Couples often put off going to couples counselling because for some there is shame in having to ask for help and others believe the therapy process will end the relationship.
In reality counselling offers a safe non-judgmental space to understand and explore our relationships better, in the same way as we use a gym to help us improve our bodies.

Being more aware of these common relationship mistakes means you have a much better chance of happy healthy 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.





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