Tag Archive | relationship

How to Decide Whether Or Not to End a Relationship

How to Decide Whether Or Not to End a Relationship

 

So often I meet with couples who are on the brink of separation. It seems that even while there might still be a skerrick of hope they don’t know what to do about it and decide to separate because they simply can’t see any other way out.

Here is one question that came to me recently that follows this line.

“I have been married for ten years. In the tenth anniversary month, we are in the process of splitsville. One thing we both agree with is that the challenges “do not appear insurmountable”. But guess what, we just have not been able to crack. … No outings, limited intimacy living like roommates. At the moment we are getting ready for court, we are on the brink, what do we do, given that there is a sliver of hope?”

Deciding whether or not to end a relationship is just as hard as being left. Although you may be very dissatisfied or wonder if you have any love left, you may be reluctant to really make a break.

Tormenting yourself over whether or not to continue the relationship may interfere with looking at the changes you need to make in yourself. Don’t count on a new partner to take away any underlying insecurity you might have.

Before making the final decision to stay or leave, consider the following:

Do not expect yourself to feel love for your partner when you are feeling resentful. These two emotions are virtually incompatible. If you are feeling resentful at all you deal with that first. If you can’t talk to your partner about this just yet, speak to a professional Counsellor first to defuse it before it becomes too big to manage and it overwhelms you.

Imagine yourself living with your partner on even days and living apart on odd days. Contemplate what it feels like in each of these scenarios to test whether it feels more right to be together or to be separate.

Do not let anyone pressure you into a decision. Only you can make the correct choice for you. If you are not ready to make it just yet then it’s best to pause making any decision until you are ready. It might mean that your partner will make their own decision to separate in the meanwhile and if this happens you will have to accept the consequences.

I teach my clients a strategy which I call “Traffic Light”. Red stands for ‘stop’. So when you need to make a decision, or you are being asked to do something which you are not sure about, stop whatever you are doing and take some time to think about what is happening. This is represented by the yellow light; slow down and be prepared to take careful and well thought through action. Green stands for ‘go’. Take the action that has been well thought through and is the best action to take for the situation you are in.

Discover how you allow yourself to be a victim by talking to friends or a Counsellor. You will not stop feeling resentful until you stop giving up your power. You can control your life and what you think, do and say and know that if you take the time to consider your situation carefully you will make the right decision.

Identify one change you are going to make in yourself to develop your decision-making skill. Make this change consistently until you sense that you are no longer acting like a victim.

Make a final decision only after making these necessary changes in yourself. This will give you a much better sense of what you need to do next.

Often people, by their inaction, stay in relationships far too long often until they have no love left. If this sounds a bit like you take action now. Don’t let the situation go until you get to that point of resentment. And if there is any hope at all make a commitment right now to do whatever you need to do to really give this relationship the best chance you can give it.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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When Partners Are Constantly Yelling At Each Other

When Partners Are Constantly Yelling At Each Other

So often I hear from couples that they get to a place in their relationship where they are just constantly yelling at each other. And not only do they complain of having constant yelling matches but also that the arguments are as often as not about nothing so that afterwards they are left wondering what was the point of it all anyway.

It may surprise you to know that there is actually a point and if you think that that is actually nothing to do with the topic of the argument you would be right.

The point is this. As you come through the honeymoon phase of your relationship there is a need to re-establish your own identity separate from each other. All this time you have been entangled with each other in a dance only for two. You now need to pull away from each other again in order to get on with your own lives.

This is totally normal and as it should be. You need to re-immerse yourself in your work, in your friendships and in your own interests to ensure that you continue your personal journey as you carry on with your couple’s journey.

To allow this you subconsciously start to find the flaws in each other. This includes the discovery that each of you are human after all with all of the faults and failings that comes with being human.

For so long you have simply only seen each other through rose-coloured glasses. This is now the time to take off the glasses and notice that your partner is not all you’ve attempted to convince yourself they are.

You struggle with this idea. Your prince or princess is really human after all just like you.

The only way you can humanly separate from another person is to create conflict. Just like an adolescent separating from his or her parents has to create conflict so too you do. Otherwise why would you move away from each other at all?

The tricky bit in all of this is firstly to recognise that the fights are for a good reason even if there seems to be no reason at all. Then, and maybe even more importantly, it is going to be critical for each of you to embrace the opportunity that you are providing each other here for growth ensuring in the meanwhile you don’t lose sight of your relationship in the process,

Something to note here is that there are people who are addicted to love. These people are likely to use these fights as a way of leaving the relationship and to seek another to replace it. Some people go their whole lives flitting from one relationship to another. They may even believe that the relationship is over so can’t even contemplate that maybe it’s just a phase.

Then there are others who just believe that they will never actually find love at all and give up even trying to find the way out of the current dilemma.

So if you find yourself yelling and arguing with your partner, pause a moment before making a decision about whether to quit or not. If the arguments really don’t have much substance, other than it being a tug of war to prove that you are right, maybe there is something else going on here.

If this happens take the time to really look deeply within yourself to check whether this is really just a phase and it’s worth the effort to work through or is this truly a sign that you are simply not compatible and maybe should separate from each other before too much damage is done.

If you can’t see the difference clearly seek some professional help before making a decision you may come to regret.

One strategy to really test this out is to commit to going all out for at least thirty days giving 100% of your effort to this relationship without question or regret. Love your partner unreservedly with all the love you have. This might even mean stepping back to allow that person some space to grow in as you take space for your own growth.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Am I Jealous Or Just Insecure?

Am I Jealous Or Just Insecure 2

 

A question I was asked recently was about the apparent need for a fiancé to continue to contact previous girlfriends. It went something like this:

“I wonder why my fiancé can’t get over with his past relationships. We’ve been together for two years and I recently found out that he was trying to reach his ex-girlfriends. It hurt me so much. I wasn’t expecting that he was the one who took the first move. We had a fight over this. The conversation was so nasty. Is it my fault? Or am I just insecure or jealous?”

I was saddened to read this as it seems to come up again and again for couples. I think the real culprit here is simply that some people, despite the fact that they no longer are in a relationship, have not yet really finished their business in those former relationships. And interestingly this can even be the case for the person who initiated the ending of the relationship in the first case.

So let’s take a closer look at what this might actually be about. As you are growing up the way you are treated by your parents and other close family, together with your observations of others in relationship, shapes the way you become as an adult in your relationships. This shaping defines what you do, think, feel and say and how you present yourself to the world.

My theory is that the resulting beliefs directs us to fall in love with people who on the surface may appear quite different from us but who underneath we unconsciously know will reaffirm the beliefs we already have about ourselves, others and relationships.

We then go on in one of two ways. We will both embrace the differences, as opportunities for learning, and take on some of those qualities becoming more whole in terms of the options we now have for responding to life’s events. The other option is that we turn against those differences as we become more fixed in our own opinions.

The problem with this is that you don’t learn anything from the experience. And as you stand fixedly in your position you run the risk of losing the relationship as the conflict between you will invariably escalate.

So what has this to do with what so often happens in future relationships?

Well there is a reason why you are attracted to all the people who come into your life. If you have finished your business with them you are more likely to come to the conclusion that you are simply not ever going to be well-matched. You can then step away from that part of your life and truly move on as you embark on another, hopefully more healthy, relationship.

The alternative is that you simply walk away from the relationship as a reaction to whatever was going on, or not going on, without ever really having learned or rationally made any sense of what actually happened and why.

You leave still angry and then go into another relationship unresolved to the previous one. Why then would you not still be attracted to those from earlier relationships as the opportunities for growth are still to be found there if only you open your eyes to it.

So for the new partner there may indeed be a sense of disconnection from this person. And while there is still some unfinished business for the other, there is also something for the new partner to learn as well. It might feel like jealousy or insecurity, and maybe the other person might like you to wear the responsibility for what might not be working in your relationship so they don’t have to. But this actuality may not be yours entirely.

The way through this is to take responsibility for what is yours, and your thoughts and feelings are your responsibility, to come to accept that you are OK. Your partner also has to take responsibility for their thoughts and feelings; to figure out what it is that s/he needs to learn to truly be able to put that old stuff aside once and for all so they can focus fully, without any distraction, on the current relationship.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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What Is Marriage and Why Marry?

What Is Marriage and Why Marry

In this article I want to address some questions on what is marriage, why do we marry, and the role of extended families in marriage.

Firstly let me define marriage. For me marriage is about two people committing themselves totally to one another. And I’ll add to this my personal opinion that this may refer to a man and a woman or two men or two women.

For me also this does not necessarily require a government or church ceremony, or approval, or even a document to authenticate that the couple are actually married. Of course for those who want to affirm their commitment to each other, and have others witness them doing that, is a way of including the whole of their family and community of friends into their commitment as well as into their marriage.

Marriage is a state of mind.

For me the essence of being married is more about a state of mind than about something defined by people on a church panel or state board. It is about a commitment to a relationship at the exclusion of all others. A relationship from which you get personal nourishment that makes your life worth living as you dedicate all that you have and all that you are to the wellbeing of this other person.

It is more than kinship, more than friendship and even more than a relationship. It is a spiritual connection with another human being that involves all of you every minute of the day whether you are together or not.

I have been in a relationship for more than twenty years and while my partner and I have not married, for me I am as married as I could be. I even refer to my partner as my husband as he refers to me as his wife. Not being married has in no way compromised our love for each other or our commitment to be with each other for as long as we are alive.

I’ll also put another qualifier on this definition. That is that marriage also doesn’t necessarily require the couple to live together. There are now as many ways to be in relationship with each other as there are couples who are finding that some arrangements work for them and others don’t. What I’m referring to here are situations that sometimes have couples living separately from each other; sometimes across town, sometimes across countries. Sometimes these different arrangements are by personal choice and sometimes they are because of work or other commitments.

So why get married?

A challenging question! Again, I can only answer this from my own perspective. For me there is really only one reason to get married. Because my husband completes me! As an individual I believe I can achieve great things. As a couple I believe we can not just double that but multiply it many times over. This is for me truly a case of the possibilities of what we can achieve together being much greater than just the sum of the parts.

Beyond what I’ve already said is the simple fact that as human beings we are basically social animals who tend to be drawn together into groups rather than roaming the world alone. These groups can be as small as a family or as large as a city.

It is within these groups that we get cared for in ways that we might not otherwise. As a grandmother I gladly give of my time in the care of my children and grandchildren in a way that I might not otherwise give so readily but for the fact that they are my family and I also commit all of myself to their wellbeing.

It is in these extended families that we all can find a soft place to land when we are in need. So marriage is maybe something even more than simply a lifelong commitment to one other as it embraces our whole family and beyond.

For our family that extension embraces what I proudly call a “league of nations”. For my partner and my children and their partners we collectively represent, within one generation, persons from Holland, Canada, Greece, China and, of course, Australia. I think for one small family that is pretty spectacular.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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To Give or Not to Give (a Second Chance)

To Give or Not to Give (a Second Chance)

So often I am told about infidelities, hurts and disappointments between couples and then asked whether the offenders should be given another chance.

I think the question is often asked because the offender has felt some remorse for the misdeed and they, both in the couple, are hoping that this is enough to get them back on track. The question is also generally asked following a statement from the injured party confirming a continuing love for the person despite what they have done.

The sad thing is that remorse in and of itself is rarely sufficient to change a person’s behaviour. This is because if the underlying need or belief hasn’t changed then the behaviour may not either.

Let me see if I can make this clearer.

From my experience a typical scenario goes like this. The person who has more invested in the relationship will accept the others apology welcoming them back into the relationship without any requirement. Sadly, while things might be good for a period of time, what most often happens is that the person will likely offend again as nothing has really been learned or really has changed. There may not even have been any real conversation about what happened let alone why it happened.

And here’s another common scenario. There has been an infidelity and the relationship has broken down completely with the couple separating. The person who committed the indiscretion now feels free to enter into a relationship with the party with whom they had the affair who happily takes the person in believing most likely that all manner of wrongs from the other’s partner is the reason for the infidelity. They never even contemplate that the issue may actually have been with the offender and that likely nothing was actually learned to ensure that the person would not digress again.

What often ends up happening is that this couple finds themselves in exactly the same place as the previous relationship and so once again the offender strays from the marriage to attempt to find what is still missing from their lives in the arms of someone else.

What really needs to happen in these circumstances is that each party takes some time to try to figure out why the behaviour happened in the first place. Was it because some need was not being met or that there is actually a mismatch in the things that each party holds valuable about themselves, their spouses and their marriage.

So the way forward is firstly to communicate with each other openly and honestly about what is going on for each of them. They also need to discuss what they feel and think about their relationship and their part in it. Finally, and maybe this needs the assistance of a couples therapist, they need to share with each other what is really important to each of them about being in a relationship and to discover whether there is a match in those values.

If there is a match then the likelihood of them succeeding into the future is reasonably assured.

If there is no match then they need to determine whether they are willing to live with this and the consequences or whether they can save themselves and each other a lot of heartache by acknowledging those differences and separating from each other immediately.

Of course this course of discovery would be better done prior to entering into the relationship in the first place. And this is where preparation for marriage counselling is most valuable; simply ensuring your compatibility prior to saying “I do!”

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Are You Thinking of Leaving? Consider These Seven Things

Are You Thinking of Leaving?

Being the one to decide whether or not to leave a relationship can be just as hard as the one being left, and for some even more so. The one being left really has no say in the matter. The one making the decision to leave is the one taking absolute responsibility for what will happen next.

And although you may be very dissatisfied with your relationship or are wondering if you even have any love left, you may feel reluctant to really make the break.  When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time fear of the unknown can stop the most determined of you in your tracks making the decision even more difficult.

Here are a few things to consider before making the final decision to stay or leave.

  1. Do not expect yourself to feel love for your partner when you are feeling resentful.  These two emotions are almost incompatible. Actually part of the process of leaving anyone is that you must feel the resentment and even anger otherwise you probably wouldn’t consider going at all.
  2. Do not let anyone pressure you into a decision. Imagine yourself living with your partner on even days and living apart on odd days to see if you can get a really good idea for how it’s really going to be like to be separate from each other.
  3. Discover how you allow yourself to be a victim by talking to friends or a therapist.  You will not stop feeling resentful until you stop giving up your power. Tormenting yourself over whether or not to continue the relationship may interfere with looking at the changes you need to make in yourself.
  4. If the decision is too hard for now take some time first to focus in on yourself and figure out what there is to learn about relationships that you may have missed that put you in this predicament in the first place.  Identify one change to start with that you are going to make in yourself for the better.  Make this change consistently until you sense that you are no longer acting like a victim.
  5. Only when you have learned your own lessons and made some changes in yourself make your decision.  Don’t be hurried into it either by yourself or by others. The years you spent together deserve that much thought. This will give you a much better sense of what you need to do. And of course don’t be surprised that in the meanwhile your partner may make your decision for you as they are going through their own process and challenges.
  6. If there are problems with physical or substance abuse, a separation may be needed to save the marriage or to save that person from their habit.  Often, people stay in such relationships until they have no love left.  It is better to recognise problems early and insist on living separately until the other person has sought help. Promises to get help should be ignored until the person takes action and makes significant changes.
  7. Whatever the decision you make about your future it must be viewed from the perspective that it took the two of you to get you to this place so each of you must take responsibility for your part in it. Only when you accept responsibility and do your own therapy around that can you really make a good decision for yours and your partner’s future together.

And let me add one more that is probably even more important than the ones above.

Do not leave one relationship on the promise of another.

These relationships rarely survive as until the lessons are learned from the previous relationship the likelihood of coming back to exactly the same place is actually fairly high. That’s why they call them “rebound” relationships.

Oh and don’t count on a new partner to take away any underlying insecurity you might have. That is why new relationships, gone into too soon after the last one ended, can be fraught with danger and are likely to end you up in exactly the same place.

Learn what there is to learn about yourself, others, life and loving and then, if your love is still there, renew your commitment to this relationship. If however the time is right for you to move on then do so without regret, without resentment, without anger but with love and gratitude for the time you have had with each other and all that you have learned and experienced together.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Keeping the Fun in Relationships Alive

Keeping the Fun in Relationships Alive

There are some statistics from research that show that children laugh at least two hundred times a day. How this is defined could be open to interpretation but from my recall of the data this could be anything from a smile to a giggle to a good old belly laugh. And if my own eleven month old granddaughter is anything to go by, this is absolutely correct especially as the adults around her spend so much of their time trying to make her laugh.

By adulthood though the figure drops considerably to less than – now hear this; TEN laughs a day. I think that is a really sad indictment of our busy lives and of our relationships.

It was with some interest that I received a question recently about how to keep the fun in relationships alive. The short answer to this question is; I’m not sure, but let me have a go at this one and see what comes out of it.

When I observe young lovers, or old ones for that matter, there is naturally lots of happiness and laughter just as there is in the uninhibited happiness and laughter of childhood. This comes from two sources. The first is a means of attracting another person to us. We are much more attractive when we are smiling and appearing to be happy then when we are looking miserable. The second source is that when we are new to a relationship we tend to create occasions to share with our loved one that are fun and exciting and which will encourage that happiness and laughter. And of course for most of you just to see the face of your beloved brings you joy.

Then as we progress in our relationship we fail to create these happy occasions so eagerly or so regularly and consequently have fewer occasions to be happy and to laugh about.

Keeping the Fun Alive

There really are numerous ways to keep the fun alive.

Plan occasions that will be fun. Instead of sitting at home on a Sunday go out and find something to do. Just by going out for something simple like a coffee or lunch and spending time watching other people on their outings can bring opportunities for joy and laughter.

And it’s not just outings that can bring fun into relationships. Cook your meals together, play games, read jokes to each other, connect physically either in sex play or by something simple like tickling each other.

Most importantly make time for each other separate from your work and other commitments. At the end of your work day put your work away and don’t bring it home with you either actually or in your head. When you are at work, work and when you get home be there.

Remember This: You can’t just make fun happen but you can create the conditions for it. Wherever you are and whatever you do give it your 100% commitment and fun will come from it. You can’t smell the roses if you’re not there and you can’t have fun if your mind is somewhere else. Be with your partner with all your body, soul and mind and you won’t be able to help but enjoy keeping the fun alive.

Keeping the fun alive is simply this: Keep the fun alive.

A Social Experiment

This is a task I often give clients who are unhappy in their lives wondering why people are not paying them any attention. Next time you are wandering downtown make eye contact and smile at passers-by. Notice the response you get. Then remove your smile and replace it with a sullen look. Notice the response you get now. If you smile people are more likely to smile back and maybe even greet you. If you look sullen people will most likely look the other way and avoid you.

The same applies to your relationship. Be happy in yourself and your partner will be happy with you. You then can’t help but to have fun.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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The Marriage Is …

marriage

What Is Marriage?

I loved receiving this question as it’s something that we may expect that we all understand but in truth maybe we actually don’t.

So I started my research into answering this question by scrambling to the Macquarie Dictionary which defines marriage as “the legal union of a man and a woman for life including a legal or religious ceremony.”

This definition really doesn’t give us very much at all as marriage today in so many cultures, legally and through the various churches, is open to being dissolved on the wish of one or other of the parties. In most countries these divorces are even permitted without even having to prove that one party is in some way more at fault than the other.

So I thought that I should proceed in this article to discuss my thoughts on what marriage is and would welcome you to add your thoughts on the topic as well.

While marriage may relate to a legal process for me marriage is more about the commitment two people make to be there for each other come what may. I would also expand on the dictionary definition to include not just the communion of a man to a woman but also of either a man or a woman to another man or woman.  In my view they are as much a marriage as any marriage could be.

The sad thing here is that too many people enter into a marriage without really knowing what they are getting themselves into or without going through any preparation to ensure that their marriage will go the distance.

When I work with couples contemplating marriage the first thing I get them to consider and discuss with each other is this very question: what is marriage to each of them? How do they define it and are they ok with how their partner defines it or does it need some tweaking to make it something that both of the couple can live with.

As most of you might know I am in a relationship and have been for more than 20 years. My partner and I are not married nevertheless I describe him as my husband and wear his ring. He also describes me as his wife. It actually took us some time to acknowledge each other in this way as we were assessing our future together especially as I had four young children already as part of the package.

One of the first things we discussed in terms of our marriage was about whether we would live together and where that would be. We then had many conversations about how we would manage my children and whether we would have any more children. We then had to decide on the division of responsibilities both in terms of household chores and financial contributions. Finally we had some conversations about ownership of property and what would happen in the event that either of us predeceased the other.

And while this was not an issue for us as we are both of the same religious beliefs, for many couples there is also the question of what their particular religious beliefs are and how they might impact on their relationship and/or to any children of the relationship.

So while some of these issues are still conversations in progress for my partner and myself, the underlying promise is that we will be there exclusively for each other for the rest of our lives. In this we committed to never walk out on the other and to always raise it whenever we had an issue that affected us both and/or our future together.

This is how I define my marriage for me. It is a safe place to collapse into at the end of each busy day where I can feel safe and not be judged negatively no matter what I do or think. It is a place where I feel loved unconditionally and love in the same way.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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True Love, Lies and Deceit

True Love Lies and Deceit

Is it possible for someone to truly love you and hurt you over and over with lies and deceit?

What a great question this is to get me going for the week

The short answer is this:  NO! Someone cannot truly love you and hurt you over and over with lies and deceit. But it may be a little more complicated than that.

Lying and deceitfulness can be a natural response to being constantly tormented, fear of being found out, or from the modelling we get from the most important people around us, generally our parents.

There are also gradients of lies. There are the lies of omission when we don’t tell someone that what they are wearing doesn’t go with whatever, their body shape, the occasion etc.

On the other end of the continuum are the really big lies that have a huge impact on people’s lives, individuals or whole countries, which can and do change the course of history.

My curiosity is pricked when I hear that someone is being deceitful in their relationship. Is this a cold-hearted act of cruelty with no regard for the impact the lie has on another or is it something much more than that?

My belief is that lying is a complex issue that really needs to be viewed not just in the context of the current event but in the context of a whole lifetime of experience.

When we are very young we learn to tell lies as part of socialising us to the norms of society. So we are taught to hold our tongues when we get crushed under the hug of our big, fat aunties and respectfully say ‘thank you’ for the gift that we really didn’t want. We also learn in the process that lying can protect us from being punished, sometimes in very, even too harsh ways. Lying can even become habitual as a way of avoiding the anger of someone in a position of authority over us as well as a means of avoiding the feelings of fear that can go with that.

As an adult we normally grow out of this behaviour as we meet with other adults face to face, in truth and in good will, to manage our conflicts in an adult way no longer needing to resort to old patterns of behaviour. Sometimes however old behaviours are so entrenched that the habit has become hard to shift. Alternatively the person is triggered to feel the same sort of fear they experienced as a child and respond from an internal child part of themselves rather than an external adult part.

In these situations the lies and deceit are not intended to hurt but become the habitual response of someone who doesn’t yet have the skills to manage themselves in a more mature way.

So to come back to the question at the beginning of this article

Love is a mature adult feeling that is pure and clean with no unresolved issues attached to it. So to truly love another implies that you are fully there with this person in the most vulnerable way possible. This means that your heart, soul and body are open and exposed without any defences. So to put it more simply, love and lying simply cannot be present in the same moment.

While we are humans, and we will slip up, for us to be truly in love with another requires us also to be truly honest. If we cannot be truly honest then we can’t possibly truly love because instead of being there fully in the present we are being held back by something from our past that will need resolution.

So if you are being lied to and hurt constantly by your partner and they are unable, or unwilling, to do what it takes to change then you really do need to think about the long-term viability of your relationship.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Do Opposites Make the Best Relationships?

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If you would like to attend this free presentation please ring 02 99978518 or email admin@northernbeachescounselling.com.au with the words: “Yes I would like to attend the presentation”.

Do Opposites Make the Best Relationships?

Some excerpts from my workshops.