I just couldn’t get enough of the great Australian Relationship Influencers I’ve featured in recent months. They’ve either encouraged, motivated and facilitated great relationships, set a fine example of being in one - or both!
I’m finding it difficult not to call back all those human dynamos and request to observe and bask in their wisdom over a glass of wine or two. They might find that a little creepy, so I’ve taken the liberty of producing a summary of the “best of” their key words of wisdom:
Constantly engage in little rituals that connect advised John Aiken, Psychologist of Channel Nine’s Married at First Sight reality TV show. Successful couples make time or prioritise each other in activities such as morning coffee, walks or a debrief together in bed at the end of the day. It’s the little things that count!
Beware of virtual infidelity warned Clinton Power, fellow Relationship Therapist and one of my mentor’s, Clinton Power & Associates. Many of us hold our screens as an extension of our arm. They’re rarely out of sight and can lead to the temptation of secret flirting or sexting with someone outside your relationship.
Be an open book with each other decided the so very charismatic Barbara & Allan Pease, motivational speakers and authors when they first met. They also affirmed their relationship would always be on an equal footing together financially, as business partners, lovers and as parents.
Shower and wear deodorant was an important and funny tip from the so very impacting and yet humble Pastor Matt & Karryn Thiele from Immanuel Lutheran Church. Are you retaining the best version of yourself for your partner that allured them in the first place? You both deserve a fit, healthy and enticing partner to come home to.
Prioritise the parents was also handy great advice they were given, “Keep your relationship strong and your children will be secure, never let the children divide you or think that they come first. Their security comes from knowing that you two are strong. When you get home, kiss each other first before giving the children attention.” As we struggle to avoid producing the next “entitled” generation Z, it’s not uncommon for couples I counsel to have lost each other as they gratify their children first. Inherently, they are the most demanding and noisiest, however succumbing to this too often can compromise the foundation of the family – the love between the parents.
Relish and learn from the example set by role models: Jacqui Clarke, Marriage Celebrant & accompanying husband roadie, Graham both enjoyed incredible parental influences. It is such a gift when we’ve had the benefit of watching fine relationship and life mentors. My fervour for counselling is fuelled by the positive ripple effect couples instil in their children. It is my greatest desire is for couples to be comfortable to disagree and show future generations how to navigate these challenges with kindness, patience and respect
Establish the ritual of quality dinner time as a family: Joanne Desmond, Channel Seven news presenter and husband John Smeaton, owner of the Hampton Chair Co have established habits that ensure research proven benefits for their children. These include improved speech, better mental health and healthier eating habits. One outstanding ritual is regularly eating together at the table. It’s their favourite part of the day and allows them to share thoughts and opinions, have a good laugh which facilitates an open and honest relationship with their four boys. They know nothing is off limits and they can talk to them about anything without judgement.
Compatible work ethic: is a theme that shone through from Roz & Michael White, IGA Proprietors. Together they’ve honoured friendship whilst having children and honouring the same tenacious, hardworking ethic in a highly competitive industry that has produced three IGA stores on the Sunshine Coast with expansions on the way.
Choose your life partner wisely: recommended Ted O’Brien – Federal Member for Fairfax and wife Sophia, Lecturer in Law at Sunshine Coast University. Ted is grateful he got it so right, however emphasised this single biggest and impacting decision that can change the course of the rest of your life! I loved the way Sophia uses technology to their advantage to ensure Ted receives cute updates from their daughter and son whilst he’s away in Parliament. Another “gem” from Ted’s Mum was, “Think of marriage as a shiny, golden ball. Every harsh word or thoughtless gesture creates a dent or a scratch that may be hard to erase.”
Complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses: was a beautiful message from my final over-achieving “influencers”, Doctor Sophie Poulter, specialist in endocrinology and obstetric medicine with husband, Doctor Rohan Poulter, Clinical Director of Cardiology at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Their incredible demanding and competing work schedules could easily over-ride their relationship and family time with three young boys. Despite this, they hold hands in public, ensure regular date nights and even steal a few moments to have lunch together as well. Again, those little moments can mean a lot.
I asked every interviewee about technology trends. Whilst they have their advantages, it was affirmed that screens can kill relationships. Maybe a heart wrenching sad warning image needs to be placed on all the hand-held screen boxes like cigarette packets?
Finally, if you haven’t had great mentors when you were raised, find some now, read about them and learn to be one! It is never too late to begin.
Joanne Wilson is a professional relationship counsellor and certified clinical neuropsychotherapy practitioner of TheConfidante Counselling, based on the Sunshine Coast. Visit: www.theconfidantecounselling.com
So great to contribute to Kids On the Coast magazine for January and February on this so very relevant topic at this time of year:
Lonely this Festive Season? There’s likely something quite right with you!
Ever felt like the party is pumping and you’re watching alone and sad with your nose pressed up against the window from outside? We’ve ALL been there at some time and cried those uninvited or isolated tears.
As it turns out, loneliness is not a flaw but a symptom of being inherently created to be connected. If you’re lonely, there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s because of something that is right. This discomfort alerts you to engage with others to get healthy, be known, be loved and befriend others. This is how you’re designed!
Why should you do something about it?
Lack of meaningful relationships can lead to ill health as it compromises your immune system and can increase blood pressure. Lonely people react more strongly to stressful situations than those who are not. It even affects your quality of sleep. I would concur with increasing findings that somewhere along the journey of addictive behaviours such as alcohol, drug and gambling abuse; there’s a link to disconnection or rejection.
As an extrovert, I’ve learnt to respect the introverts’ need for solitude and quiet rejuvenation. There is however, a difference between being alone and being lonely. I’ve also felt lonely surrounded by people in a crowded room too.
Reaching out takes courage to push beyond your internal critical editor within your retreat to be vulnerable, genuine and transparent with others. Life’s roller coaster of highs and lows does not stop during the festive season - and can even amplify.
My observation of the causes of loneliness in my Counselling room are:
This New Year, I encourage the lonely and loved to be bold and spirited with my ideas:
If you’re like me, it’s time to halt the busyness, screen distractions to slow down, look around, give and receive emotional attentiveness. If you’re one of the lucky ones surrounded by love, I urge you to be generous with your smile, wave, call or visit. Befriend the unfriendly.
Joanne Wilson is a Sunshine Coast professional Counsellor and Neuropsychotherapist. She is the feature relationships columnist for the Sunshine Coast Daily, weekly radio guest for Salt 106.5 and enjoys inspiring the community through guest speaking invitations and producing her own books, Pearls of Wisdom from the Thriving Thirties and The Relationship Rejuvenator E-Book.
Contact Jo on 0409 909 933 or email@example.com.
It was an honour to have my article published in the Neuropsychotherapy Journal in 2017! I wrote of an amazing client dedicated to beating her illness and overcoming the anxiety she had developed:
SOOOOO HOW ABOUT THE WEATHER?
What when when you’ve hooked up, got hitched, produced heirs and been together for what feels like a thousand years? The kids have left home, (well, for now?) you’re out for a nice dinner and suddenly; you have nothing to talk about!
You know why: for the last couple of decades, any nights out were spent talking about all the things your darling cherubs have been up to, their amazing attributes and how they drove your crazy. Did you see that cute family drawing little Benny made featuring our ginormous ears? What about the time Ashlee decided to use crayon art work on the walls to make the house look pretty? All too soon it was, how do we stop Franny using SnapChat in her bedroom talking to that Jane? Do you really think John Boy took $20 from my wallet?
Now they’re out of home you realise you’ve got not much more than...
So … how about the weather?
There are lots of reasons couples stop talking. The most common is that the longer you know someone, the easier it is to not bother to “lean-in”, enquire and basically – talk.
At the start of the relationship you’ve got a few decades of information to catch up on. You stay up all night talking and exploring each other’s pasts and histories. The love drug oxytocin is flowing, eye contact is high and finding out what they were doing prior to a date is fresh and exciting information.
Then it’s one, five, ten, or twenty years later and you realise you’ve run out of content. You’ve lost the drive to explore. You know what they were doing before the date; they were getting ready.
Because you were there.
Now in most cases, this lack of exploration isn’t actually about losing interest in the other person (and when it is … well, that’s a whole other article); it’s just that neither person can honestly think of what to ask. They just need a little push in the right direction.
So push I shall! Here are some tips for reigniting conversation when your communication has run dry and it’s about the past, present and future:
Revisit the Past
This might be your shared history, or your individual upbringings. Recall those vivid memories of your best moments; maybe it was a whirlwind holiday across multiple countries, or just the first time you curled up on the couch together during a thunderstorm and watch TV.
Why not pull out all the old photos from childhood and laugh at your ridiculous hairstyles and parent’s fashion choices from when you were 10 years old. That never gets old and it helps add a few bricks to your “safe relationship” house by sharing memories.
Discuss the little things
Don’t ever forget the small stuff. See something interesting? Point it out. See a puppy? Ask your partner if they know who the good boy is. Talk about why you never got a dog as a child or why you might like to be a wildlife volunteer one day.
Remember my previous article about the importance of acknowledging your spouse’s “bids” for emotional connection? It’s the little things in life that may not necessarily be the most profound conversation topic, but the most frequent. These momentary touches of connection have a greater impact than you realise.
Discuss Difficult Things
You know what everyone has at some stage? Fears, concerns, and perceived shortcomings. You know what’s great? Discussing them with your partner. It can be hugely mutually beneficial to not just air your worries, but get feedback and reassurance.
Honest feedback also goes under this umbrella. Nobody gets anywhere if you spend your relationship assuring each other that everything’s fine, when really you wished that the other person would just, for once, chew with their mouth closed. All you achieve is getting riled up and one day exploding in frustration.
Contemplate the Future
Is there a plan for your next five years of togetherness? Do you have interesting short-term personal goals to share?
Happy couples discuss their futures. Making sure you both have complementing plans can prevent a lot of drama.
“I thought we were travelling the world on a sailing boat?”
“But I always wanted to settle down on a farm!”
Might want to sort that.
So that’s just a start! There’s world events, community involvement, the environment, politics, sport and the arts. The key is emotional attentiveness – that is, turn toward your partner and make an effort! You just never know where a little communication lubrication might lead to.
You wouldn’t be the first couple to run out of content so there’s “something I prepared earlier” - Use these Conversation Starters for families or couples. Listen in for my fun chat with the breakfast radio team providing a preview on these weekly articles each Friday morning on Salt106.5 radio.
Joanne Wilson is a Sunshine Coast professional Counsellor and Neuropsychotherapist and feature relationships columnist for the Sunshine Coast Daily, weekly radio guest for Salt 106.5 and enjoys inspiring the community through guest speaking invitations and producing her own books, Pearls of Wisdom from the Thriving Thirties, The Relationship Rejuvenator E-Book.
Contact Jo on 0409 909 933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re in the theme of single, dating and those early days of pairing up. So, now I’m wondering if after the initial excitement of new romance, have you ever found yourself disagreeing with the opposite sex and been absolutely confused about why they’re focusing on something you feel is so irrelevant?
Who’s heard the cliché “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”? Try “Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth. Deal with it.”
As you enter into a relationship with the opposite sex you’ll become intimately familiar with how two humans of opposite gender can approach the same issue in radically different ways. It turns out that this isn’t just a cliché, a bad joke, or even confirmation bias. The truth is, men and women do think differently, and for one very simple reason:
They have different brains.
I’m not suggesting their brains are entirely different organs. That would be weird. It’s the way they're wired and physically different.
Let’s look at how these variances result in why men like to channel surf and why women can talk so much.
Researchers have been able to identify some super fascinating information about the structural, chemical, genetic, hormonal and functional brain differences between the male and female brains. Some of the latest research tells us the brain differences are genetically hard-wired right from the beginning—at conception, even before the influence of hormones. The exposure to hormones may well then determine to what scale a “masculine” or “feminine” a brain becomes. I do know some guys who can talk more than a female!
Men’s brains end up about 10% bigger (I’ll leave that alone!). Women have larger limbic systems and a thicker connection between the left and right side of the brain. It seems men have better connections between front and back.
What does all this have to do with our personalities, thoughts and feelings?
In a nutshell … everything!
When you know how this wiring affects so many things, suddenly it can make some level of sense.
Let’s cut straight to the important factor that men have over two times the space allocated to sex drive in their hypothalamus than women. I’m wondering if the fellas would agree that sexual thoughts and references flicker in their visual cortex all day? Women's sex centre in the hypothalamus is much smaller, and connected to the nurturing, connection and belonging circuits of the brain.
Another example, everyone “knows” that women can be more “emotional” than men. This is an oversimplification — women are more empathetic than men, meaning they’re better at understanding and responding to emotions around them thanks to that larger limbic system (emotional centre) of the brain.
What about this cliché; women can multitask, men can’t. That’s nonsense, right? Nope! This is down to that thicker connection between left and right hemisphere. Women are able to handle multiple tasks at once, whereas men’s brains are geared more towards breaking a problem down into parts and solving them one at a time. They are wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions
Before I get angry letters; that’s not to say men can’t multitask, it’s just not as easy for them.
Or my personal favourite:
Hands up all the ladies reading this who’ve seen a man sitting around not doing much, wondering what deep thoughts they’re lost in!
Hands up all the men who’ve just been zoning out and get frustrated when they’re asked fifty times what they’re thinking!
Guess what? There’s a reason for this too!
Scans of over 1000 brains have revealed that men’s brains actually do go idle a lot easier than women. It’s been said 70% of an idle man’s brain will go “dark”, meaning it’s not doing much, if anything. Seventy percent.
By contrast, only 10% of a woman’s brain will go inactive — even when she’s sleeping.
So yes, ladies — your man really is thinking “nothing” when he’s sitting there staring blankly at the TV. And no, men, your lady is not trying to annoy you. She genuinely can’t fathom sitting there not thinking anything, because that’s simply not how her brain do!
One thing she does do is have greater hippocampal activity which involves memory, so whatever you do, do; she’ll remember!
As Neuroscience is just beginning to understand the great mystery of gender differences in the brain, I’m sure you can see they are not in competition, not just compatible but complementary Take advantage of these inherent strengths to become a united force that you’d otherwise not accomplish on your own. You need each other!
Joanne will be your Confidante, enabling you to speak freely in complete confidence and serenity. An integrated approach tailored to your specific needs will be utilised.
Relationship Specialist for Individuals and Couples servicing areas including Caloundra, Noosa, Noosaville, Buderim, Mountain Creek, Gympie.