CBHS was lucky to sit down with Jacqueline Hellyer, a Relationship Coach and Sex Therapist, to talk about relationship health and what actions we can take to help ourselves and our partners. You can find her website at www.jacquelinehellyer.com.
Emotional health isn’t always limited to the individual. The relationships we share with our romantic partners is one where emotional health is shared. Like all aspects of health, it can be worked and reflected on. Jacqueline Hellyer lets us in on her expert insights into relationship solutions.
What do you find are the most common problems in Australian relationships?
Too much unspoken expectation and not enough sharing.
Are there any simple steps to maintaining a relationship?
Understand that a relationship is a constantly changing and evolving dynamic and that for it evolve well you need to constantly cultivate and co-create a strong supportive relationship.
What warning signs are there that something is going wrong?
Plenty! The key one would be that you are not talking and are spending all your time in your head wondering, assuming, interpreting, expecting, without actually voicing your feelings and having quality discussion together, especially when it’s a challenging topic.
How can I manage external pressures?
Prioritise down time. In our society we always prioritsie ‘doing’ things, rather than prioritising chill time. Adding to that, having a supportive relationship can help reduce pressure, so if you prioritise chilled out time together you’ll get a double benefit. Make sure you have time together every day, turn off the TV, put away the screens, and have a good chat about non-logistical things, just hang out together. Spending time together like this also makes it much more likely that you’ll want to make love, and quality love-making with your partner is one of the best ways to decrease stress and increase calm and connection.
What's the best way to bring up any problems I'm having?
In a safe space when you’re both feeling calm, such as over a cup of tea, going for a walk, on a drive. Start with positives so that you are feeling connected. Then when you bring up the challenge you’re having, talk about your own experience of it and how it’s making you feel. Avoid ‘you’ language as that can sound blaming and cause your partner to get defensive rather than listen. Once you’ve shared, listen to how your partner feels. Once you have the understanding of how each of you is experiencing the problem, then you can discuss how you can co-create a different way of managing the problem in a way that works for both of you.
How do you break a negative cycle?
Identify it and look at what’s causing it and how you each need to respond differently. If you can’t do that on your own, then get professional help. It’s so much easier to sort things when you have an impartial trained professional to hold space for you and guide you to getting clarity around your dynamic and how you can improve it.
If you could share one thought or line of advice to every couple right now, what would it be?
What makes for a high-quality relationship is the ability to manage your differences. The similarities are easy, the good stuff is easy, it’s when it gets difficult and your differences are apparent that the skills for cultivating a strong relationship come to the fore. We are not taught those skills, they are not innate, they have to be learned and developed. That learning and development never stops.
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