comment Add Comment

How are you affected by COVID-19? Four Questions for Friendship Talk

I have found in my small bubble that people want to talk about COVID-19 restrictions, health and economic issues and I understand the reason why… but it feels like the same conversation with a different slant because everyone has their opinion or subjective reality and it depends on how adversely affected they are.

So I started asking people to be real and asked the following questions, so I could see how people (friends, family and work colleagues) were really managing instead of them saying “we are fine, or just good”… Here I share the four friendship talk questions I am asking of people:

Four Questions for Friendship Talk:

  • What have you found the hardest in this crisis?
  • What have you found as a positive in the current climate?
  • Have you learnt something about yourself that surprised you?
  • What are you most looking forward to once restrictions are lifted?

We asked our children the same questions… and the responses were heartwarming. They were looking forward to our family reunion and our next Australian family holiday together – when we thought they would say, seeing their mates at the pub or sport!

If you are too busy to answer no pressure, but I’m here to listen to your responses if you can…

Robyn Donnelly
Coordinator – Marriage and Relationship Education CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning
MAREAA Membership Coordinator, NSW State Representative
Email  Robyn.Donnelly@mn.catholic.org.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

working with couples online
comment Add Comment

Welcome to our new world and lifestyle of living with restrictions due to COVID-19

I am sure you are finding your personal and work life has changed considerably. I must admit and share that it is a lifestyle I am not enjoying for many reasons – I’m an extrovert, I love people and relationships, I love coffee catch-ups, dinner parties, boot camp and fitness, book club, dining out and travel.

Life has changed. I am missing my face-to-face sessions and workshops, and for the first time in my career of 24 years, I’m now working from home to plan how to work without my clients in the room. We are currently caring for our elderly parents and we miss our boys who are separated from us, and due to the health crisis, our bubble has shrunk considerably.

Recently I reflected on how I was managing and how we were going. My relationship with my husband is based on my work, we use all possible relationship research day in-day out (we try to talk the talk and walk the walk), so I thought about what were we using and relying on most to stay connected with each other especially since we are living in each other’s pockets. Here are my top three and one that I need to work on:

  1. Appreciation: We are really trying to appreciate and thank each other verbally for the little things we notice. It’s easy to get frustrated and highlight what we are doing wrong when we are stressed (Gottman’s level 2 Sound Relationship House [SRH] – Fondness and Appreciation);
  2. Be Grateful: When I get anxious or overwhelmed by negativity and media hype, I write a list of all the things we have and are grateful for and re-read it or read it to each other (Gottman Level 4 SRH – Positive Perspective). We recall all the great times we have had in our relationship and what we are looking forward to post the restrictions;
  3.  Repair and Dialogue: We use more use of Repair & Dialogue (explaining our position – Gottman Level 5 SRH), so you hear a lot more of “I’m so sorry”, “I didn’t mean to say it like that”, or “that came out all wrong way”; and
  4. Subjective Reality: There are also many things I could be doing better, so I need to improve on thinking that my opinion or position is “subjective”  (Gottman’s SRH Level 5 – Subjective Reality). I’m not great at this at present as I’m out of my comfort zone and anxious about where this will end up.

If you are interested in sharing:

  • What are you currently doing or using in your relationships that you present or share with your clients in session? and;
  • What is something you present to your clients, that you are not currently doing yourself, that you could work on?

Take care and be safe, and be kind to those closest to you.

Robyn Donnelly
Coordinator – Marriage and Relationship Education CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning
MAREAA Membership Coordinator, NSW State Representative
Email Robyn.Donnelly@mn.catholic.org.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

Suggested Ground Rules for Online Group Sessions
comment Add Comment

Suggested Ground Rules for Online Group Sessions

The need for relationship education is escalating, service access is becoming more limited because of the increased lock-down and social isolation. Providers of support services must adjust to the conditions and search for innovative ways of working, to help those facing adversity – from the comfort of their own homes.

Group Programs lends themselves well to an online format, as they allow for a combination of teaching, demonstrating and discussion. Facilitated via Teleconference, couples can still learn from each other, however because much of the information is personal to each couple, the online experience can create positive tension. This sharing and learning together can help build a sense of community… even while online.

The following guide can help you work with couples online:

  1. Setting up the Meeting: Teleconferencing and videoconferencing are easy and effective tools, but there are often issues. Ensure you test your audio and visual technology prior to meeting and dial in early and be ready to deal confidently with issues the couples may have with their technology.

    Body language is important. Ensure you can see both couples. If they are in the same location, you need to be able to view both couples from waist up. Ask the couple to adjust their camera to assist with this. If they are both remote, same story, you want to be able to see them from their waist up – they can then also see each other clearly and their body language.

    Ask if they have removed distractions in their home. If possible, other family members, children, pets. Tell them that it is important that you have their full attention for the duration of the call. If another time is better, rescheduling to a time when they are both ready is important.
  2. Environment – safe, confidentiality (limits to confidentiality): As you would normally do, explain that the discussion is confidential and discuss the limits to confidentiality, such as if there is disclosure that someone is at risk of harm. Ensure the couple feel comfortable and safe, establishing an environment where topics can be discussed openly.
  3. Build rapport with couples – establish a relationship: Building rapport with couples online can be hard, but it is important to speak to each couple and to share that focus equally. Introduce yourself and start to get to know each couple. For example, ask the couple how they met; how long they have been together; what drew them to each other; what they hope to get out of the session.
  4. Share relevant information and praise feedback: Give each couple praise for taking intentional time out to focus on their relationship. Always seek to identify and always emphasise the positive aspects of their relationship throughout the discussion.
     
  5. Do they have any questions? Any reservations? Explore these and use examples of where the process will assist to explore these issues. Use an ice-breaker exercise to emphasise this.
  6. Explain the process: Summarise the process and topics that will be discussed. Explain that you are keen to understand each couple and where the ‘edges’ are between them as a couple. Emphasise that the process is one of developing awareness and learning new skills.

With online facilitation, most of the same rules apply but it can often be harder to build rapport and really connect with couples. From setting up your technology (and the couples) through to developing awareness, learning new skills and working through exercises.

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

comment Add Comment

Helping couples strengthen their relationship remotely: A guide to working with couples online

As many organisations close their doors, schools close and public places deserted, many of us are forced to remain home and practice social distancing. With that, anxiety levels rise, fuses become shorter and frustration prevails – our routines are turned upside down and additional stress is placed on relationships and families leading to spikes in demand for family and relationship services.

The need for relationship education is escalating, service access is becoming more limited because of the increased lock-down and social isolation. Providers of support services must adjust to the conditions and search for innovative ways of working, to help those facing adversity – from the comfort of their own homes.

The following guide can help you work with couples online:

  1. Setting up the Meeting: Teleconferencing and videoconferencing are easy and effective tools, but there are often issues. Ensure you test your audio and visual technology prior to meeting and dial in early and be ready to deal confidently with issues the couples may have with their technology.

    Body language is important. Ensure you can see both couples. If they are in the same location, you need to be able to view both couples from waist up. Ask the couple to adjust their camera to assist with this. If they are both remote, same story, you want to be able to see them from their waist up – they can then also see each other clearly and their body language.

    Ask if they have removed distractions in their home. If possible, other family members, children, pets. Tell them that it is important that you have their full attention for the duration of the call. If another time is better, rescheduling to a time when they are both ready is important.
  2. Environment – safe, confidentiality (limits to confidentiality): Explain that the discussion is confidential and discuss the limits to confidentiality, such as if there is disclosure that someone is at risk of harm. Ensure the couple feel comfortable and safe, establishing an environment where topics can be discussed openly.
  3. Build rapport with couple – establish a relationship: Building rapport with the couple is crucial. Introduce yourself and start to get to know the couple. For example, ask the couple how they met; how long they have been together; what drew them to each other.
  4. Share relevant information: Give the couple praise for taking intentional time out to focus on their relationship. Always seek to identify and emphasise the positive aspects of their relationship. 
  5. Do they have any questions? Any reservations? Explore these and use examples of where the process will assist to explore these issues. Use an ice-breaker exercise to emphasise this.
  6. Explain the process: Summarise the process and topics that will be discussed. Explain that you are keen to understand each couple and where the ‘edges’ are between them as a couple. Emphasise that the process is one of developing awareness and learning new skills.

With online facilitation, most of the same rules apply but it can often be harder to build rapport and really connect with couples. From setting up your technology (and the couples) through to developing awareness, learning new skills and working through exercises.

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

comment Add Comment

5 ways to celebrate your relationship: dance together

Here are five small ways to celebrate your relationship today (or any day of the year), because your relationship is worth a little extra effort today.

4.  Dance together: It could be a night out dancing to your favorite local band, a small dance in the kitchen while you are making dinner, or a recreation of your first dance at your wedding. Try sitting down and finding a new song that represents your relationship as it stands today to dance to tonight.

Take some time today to explore your relationship, the ups and the downs, the strengths and the growth areas.

Take some time today to explore your relationship, the ups and the downs, the strengths and the growth areas.

Couple Checkup is a fun, easy way to provide insights into your relationship which will generate deep and productive conversations that you may not otherwise have about your relationship. This will renew your understanding of one another, and it can help revive a relationship and increase intimacy. Take Couple Checkup today  and begin the journey of a stronger, healthier relationship.  And that’s really the best way to celebrate your relationship, right?

More tips at www.couplecheckup.com.au, tune in next week…

Material used with permission of PREPARE/ENRICH.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the new video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM

Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

comment Add Comment

5 ways to celebrate your relationship: Share your gratitude

Here are five small ways to celebrate your relationship today (or any day of the year), because your relationship is worth a little extra effort today.

3.  Share your gratitude: Take a quick moment to share with your partner what you appreciate about them. Start with, “I appreciate you for…”

“Research shows that people who hear frequent appreciations feel better about themselves, produce more, and serve more.

Feeling appreciated is important to healthy relationships and work teams. It’s also important to one’s sense of being valued. Whenever you share an appreciation with another, their brain hears the appreciation and releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that, when released, produces a feeling of pleasure. How many “dopamine shots” do you give your employees, colleagues, spouses, and children each day? May we begin to value not just being appreciated, but appreciating.” – Dr. Mark Richards, PREPARE/ENRICH Facilitator and Trainer.

Take some time today to explore your relationship, the ups and the downs, the strengths and the growth areas.

Material used with permission of PREPARE/ENRICH.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the new video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM

Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

comment Add Comment

Exploring family of origin for individuals who have grown up in extremely rigid and enmeshed families

Relationship education provides an opportunity to work with couples’ perceptions of their families of origin. In particular, it is worth exploring the possible impact of extreme, or unbalanced, family structures on how couples are likely to approach their own relationship.

A series of studies conducted at the University of Sydney have identified some key matters of concern. These studies have been conducted by postgraduate students in the School of Psychology under the supervision of Alan Craddock, a former Senior Lecturer in that School and also the former National Coordinator of PREPARE/ENRICH Australia. All of these studies used measures of family structure that were very closely related to the family of origin questions used in the PREPARE/ENRICH inventories.

The form of extreme family structure focused on in these studies involves enmeshment or extreme closeness. Highly enmeshed families may be typified by an extreme form of cohesiveness that undermines the development of personal autonomy and which results in a form of family bonding that represents an over-identification with the family.

There are two varieties of enmeshed families that occur quite frequently: Rigidly enmeshed and chaotically enmeshed.

Rigidly enmeshed families are excessively close and also have very highly structured rules, roles and routines. In contrast, chaotically enmeshed families, whilst also being excessively close, lack structure and tend to be random, unstable and chaotic.

The University of Sydney studies revealed three areas of personal adjustment that are strongly associated with rigidly enmeshed types of family of origin. These are all areas that may represent important vulnerabilities for couples, and therefore are worth noting.

(1) Relationship Attachment

In 1999, Natalie Nasr, Leah MacFadyen, Clint Marlborough, Rina Sarkis and Susan Scanlon examined the effect of childhood experiences of family of origin on adult relationship attachment among young Australian adults. One important and relevant feature of their findings was that rigid-enmeshment was a significant predictor of discomfort in adult relationships.

(2) Feelings of Shame and Sense of Parentification

In 2003, Margaret Walker studied the effect of childhood experiences of family of origin on young Australian adults’ reports of feeling a sense of personal shame and of being pressured to adopt parent-like roles in their childhood (parentification). She found that rigid-enmeshment, as a feature of family of origin, was a significant predictor of strong feelings of shame and a strong sense of being parentified during childhood.

(3) Perfectionism

In 2006, Wendy Church and Alexandra Sands investigated the relationship between features of family of origin and young Australian adults’ tendencies towards being perfectionistic. They found that family enmeshment and rigid, authoritarian forms of parenting were significant predictors of both functional (healthy) and dysfunctional (unhealthy) forms of perfectionism.

In summary, all of these studies support the view that, although family closeness and structure are generally regarded as positive in their effects, too much closeness (enmeshment) combined with too much structure (rigidity) may be damaging.

The damage identified in these studies may be apparent in couples taking a relational inventory or counselling. In particular, individuals who have grown up in extremely rigid and enmeshed families of origin may find it difficult to be comfortable in their own adult relationships and may be carrying a burden of emotional baggage with them that involves some or all of these components: A sense of shame, a strong pressure to perform perfectly and to inappropriately take on adult parent-like roles. This baggage appears to originate family of origin pressures that are associated with over-controlling and suffocating closeness. Facilitators and counsellors should be alert to these possibilities without assuming that the patterns fit all individuals who have grown up in rigid and enmeshed families.

Tune in for more tips and ideas next week.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the new video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM

Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

comment Add Comment

The benefits of stable, loving relationships for men, women and children (and for society)

Research overwhelmingly points to the physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial benefits of stable, loving relationships for men, women and children (and our society in general).

Knowing these benefits, PREPARE/ENRICH believes and strongly advocates for relationship education across the life span to assist in the development and maintenance of healthy, committed, nurturing relationships in all their diversity.

Providing a highly valid and well researched assessment tool to assist couples explore their strength and growth areas, PREPARE/ENRICH has trained over 15,000 facilitators across Australia in the past 35 years who work with couples in all life stages to change the way they relate and how they handle conflict amongst others things irrespective of age, sexual orientation, cultural or religious background.

Tune in for more tips and ideas next week.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the new video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM

Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships