Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Category Archives: Relationships

Relationship Lie No 2 – a great relationship should be easy

A great relationship should be easy?

A great relationship should be easy?

This is a lovely lie on the surface of it – that if we are with Mr/Mrs Right, and we are both deeply in love, our relationship should be easy. After all, we are with the person we were destined to be with, so our lives should be like a Disney film and we all live happily ever after. The other person is so right for us and everything is going swimmingly.

And perhaps it is just thus for the first few years – relationship bliss, you are a natural fit for each other and enjoy effortless, joyful connectedness. Great. If you are still there, wonderful! Stop reading, go and embrace your other half, and value and cherish them.

If, like the rest of us, reality has kicked in and you realise that the gloss has worn off and there is some effort involved, keep reading.

Because it is a lie to believe that a great relationship with the right person should be easy.

If I am honest, the shiny glossy everything-is-wonderful phase at the start of our married life many years ago lasted only a few weeks. MB was depressed, and as a new vet, was working 50 hours a week plus two out of three weekends. We hardly saw each other, he was miserable, and the romantic newness of it all crashed about my ears very quickly. We struggled to get to know each other, understand each other and grow together in the face of exhaustion and lack of time. Not great.

Since then, much has happened and changed. And therein lies the key methinks – we are all changing as we get older, and doing so in close proximity with someone else is going to be challenging at best, explosive at worst. Relationships are hard work because we are all flawed human beings. None of us is perfect – see last week’s lie.

Each of us, I tentatively suggest, has a number of things we need to work on to be better people – attitudes, behaviour, characteristics. Living with someone as closely as one does in a relationship is always going to expose and bring out our flaws because it is much less easy to hide them. We are no longer living purely as an individual, having only to consider ourselves and our needs.

And therefore it follows that the relationship will not be plain sailing but require investments of time, effort, humbleness and no doubt quite a few tears.

The fact that we are with someone in a relationship that is hard work can be a very positive thing if we are prepared to see that it takes hard work to grow and change. But ultimately it is worth it because in becoming better versions of ourselves, we are bringing more of the best of us to the relationship. Of course, we cannot make our partner do the same, and that can be the source of huge tension and challenges in any relationship. But when we set out expecting that a relationship should be easy, we are quickly going to crash into a wall of disappointment. Blame, resentment, anger, frustration, distancing quickly follow.

Relationships are hard work.

Living with someone else can be joyful, fun, enriching, and life enhancing. It can also be frustrating, painful, difficult, life-sapping. Hard work is required to recognise – as ever – what is going on, who takes responsibility for what, and how to address the challenges. It might be a question of resetting expectations. Stepping back to understand each other and how each other communicates  and expresses love might be required. Both take hard work and time.

This week, as you go about life alongside your partner, some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my expectations of the relationship, and what are those of my partner?
  • How realistic are those expectations, and how closely do they match?
  • What do I have responsibility for?
  • Am I willing to do the hard work required to cause me to grow into a better version of myself, and ultimately strengthen the relationship?
  • ultimately – and this is what it boils down to – how much is our relationship worth?
  • what would a first step be towards strengthening our relationship?

Imagine both of you at your best, complementing each other and fitting together like two halves of a jigsaw, creating a more beautiful whole that brings out the best in you both. It is possible – it takes hard work and a recognition that it is a lie that a relationship should be easy if you are deeply in love…..being in love makes the relationship worth fighting for and worth the investment and hard work. It is not simple nor straightforward. But who ever said hard work was easy?


Relationship lie No 1 – it’s all my partner’s fault

It's all my partner's faultThe first in our little mini series on relationships starts with a thorny but oh-so-common lie that can fester at the heart of any relationship –

The problems we are having are all my partner’s fault.”

Now, let’s be brutally honest here. After all, what is the point in messing about sticking plasters over a great wound – lets rip that wound open and get right into the core of the mess.

Because when I choose to point the finger at my partner and blame him for all the problems in our relationship, I am essentially stating that I as an individual am totally sorted and have no flaws. That I contribute zippo to the problems, and my behaviour, attitudes and actions are always exemplary. I’m completely fine but oh-you-most-certainly-are-not and therein lies the rub.

Hmmmm….I detect a little uncomfortable shifting about in the seat. I most certainly cannot say this about myself, and I tentatively suggest that you are not perfect either? And yet why do we so easily and so quickly point the finger? Why are we so quick to apportion full blame at the feet of our partners, and abdicate all responsibility for any contribution we might make to the recurring arguments or disconnect in the relationship?

Marriage/partnership is a relationship between two people who collectively pool their strengths, weaknesses, experiences and past histories, and then co-create what happens in the new set up.

There may well be a specific problem that is initially caused by one person, but the other person’s reaction to this – and subsequent choice of behaviour – plays a HUGE role in determining whether things then get better or deteriorate. We all have choice in our responses. This is a key theme, and will repeatedly recur in these discussions.

How willing are we to look at our own behaviour, attitudes, choices, omissions

  • what we do or neglect to do
  • what we take for granted in the relationship
  • what we fail to notice or appreciate in the other person
  • how we blame the other because it is easier/a pattern/habitual/avoids admitting our failings

This takes some honest self examination and a willingness to stop, step back from the relationship and see what is really going on.

To be willing to ask questions like –

  • Am I being as loving as I could be towards my partner?
  • Am I caring for him in a way that makes him know he matters to me?
  • How aware of and supportive am I of her choices and values?
  • How attentive am I when he comes in, or do I make him feel second best?
  • How affectionate am I towards her?
  • How much would he say I understand him?

We all mess up. We all get things wrong.

When we have been hurt by a partner, the temptation is to blame, be angry, resentful, and become cold and distant. A record of wrongs is easily kept. Habitual destructive patterns of blame, hurt, retaliation, neglect, distance, once established, can be hard to change.

But it can be done. I know this from my own relationship, and from working alongside clients helping them break old negative habits and build healthy new ones.

It is important not to ignore or downplay the emotions that surface when there are problems or hurt in a relationship. Those emotions are not going to go away, and if buried are only going to surface in the future in a potentially catastrophic explosion (well, if you are like me that is). But it is possible to learn how to express those emotions more safely, understand what is and is not our own responsibility, and what the emotions point to under the surface. This is always about awareness – key in coaching – and learning to look honestly and bravely at the root of the emotions we are experiencing, at our own behaviour, and at what has contributed to this problem.

We cannot change our partner. We have established that. But we can –

  • look honestly at our own personal flaws
  • take responsibility for our own emotional responses, attitudes and actions
  • choose to not keep a record of wrongs but forgive, let go, admit our own part in the problem, and say sorry.

As a life coach, my emphasis will always be on seeking to move forward from a difficult, stagnant place. To work alongside people to help them understand how they can gain understanding, change attitudes, and move towards deeper connections. To that end, this week why not consider these questions for yourself:

What one thing could I change about my behaviour that would strengthen the connection with my partner?

If I stopped doing/behaving……towards my partner, what would happen?

If I started doing/behaving…..towards/for/with my partner, what would happen?

Perhaps it could help dispel the lie that my relationship problems are always my partner’s fault….and prompt positive action.



Connection at the heart of relationship

Connection at the heart of relationship

Connection at the heart of relationship

Relationship success is more about being the right person than finding the right person. This is last week’s post in a nutshell, and it seems to have resonated very strongly with you. This makes sense – many of us are at an age and stage when we have been doing life and relationships for years, with associated ups and downs. Keeping the connection strong in our relationship may have fallen down the priority list.

With coaching, the goal is to restore the connection within the relationship. In the absence of a strong, deep connection, the relationship can feel like two separate individuals on different life rafts bobbing about in a sea of busyness. The absence of that connection can leave each feeling isolated and misunderstood, and challenges and problems are magnified. Emotions run high and deep (is that possible?) but with little understanding of how to address those emotions safely and gently.

But work to restore the connection, and thus you establish unity and greater strength. And from here, issues within the relationship, and challenges both internal and external, are easier to address and resolve.

One of the keys to restoring that connection is knowledge.

Because we all know that knowledge is power – when we understand ourselves, and what is at the root of our behaviour and reactions, we are then able to make more informed choices.

And it doesn’t stop there. When we take time to understand our partner/spouse – their values, beliefs, unique wiring and internal scripts – we create much more opportunity for breaking negative behaviour cycles and establishing positive ones within the relationship.

I recognise that this is a HUGE subject area, and I do not want to stray into the area of counselling. However, there are some common beliefs that surface in all relationships, not just those in the type of crises that would precipitate counselling.

Stuck, stagnant, dull, functional – if we are being brutally honest, many of us might acknowledge that our relationship is a little thus. Notice I say acknowledge not admit. There is no shame in this.

Relationships are hard work, take time and commitment, and require much emotional,

practical and cognitive investment.

And we struggle to give our relationships all the investment they warrant because of the demands and challenges of modern life. But all that to say, we entered into our relationship in the first place because we loved our partner and wanted that connection, the fulfilment and enjoyment of living in a connected relationship.

So what to do?

Over the next few weeks I will tentatively and cautiously approach some of the big dangerous beliefs that rob us of connection within our relationship, and challenge us all to take small steps to address and deal with what we find.

Issues like –

  • the problems in our relationship are all my partner’s fault
  • I thought relationships were supposed to be easy/wonderful/a bed of roses
  • my partner is not meeting all my emotional needs
  • I am doing everything, he/she is doing nothing, they owe me big time
  • I’m fine, he/she is the one who needs to change

Nice, lighthearted topics….Why is this so important? Why does this come up all the time in my work as a life coach, in my own friendships and in my own marriage?

Because I believe we were made to be in relationships, and thrive when there is a strong, deep connection that enables and encourages us to be at our best and bring out the best in others.

All relationships are important – friendships bring richness and joy without which we would be impoverished. But for this wee while, I am talking specifically about marriage/partner relationship. I recognise if you are single, this might be annoying, frustrating or hard. I apologise. I simply am addressing what I come across all the time in my work.

Have a wee look at that list above. What would you say was the biggest challenge facing your relationship this week? What one thing can you identify that if implemented, would start to make changes to restore or strengthen the connection in your own relationship?