Monday, September 24, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Dear Coach Fabulous

After having been made redundant a little over 3 weeks ago and throwing myself into the job market with gay abandon I have been offered two dream jobs. One offers security and good consistent work. The other is a bit of a maverick and offers the chance to develop the work I would really in my heart like to do.After a long period of instability in both my personal life and relationships I thought what I really wanted was just to settle. But out of the blue came this new offer which to be frank would be a risk at first but promises 100% payback - if it works.My partner who is a solid sort can't understand the appeal of the esoteric and whilst he is my rock, in that he never changes, that never changing can also be stifling. I am under pressure to make the decision but feel that he will deeply disapprove if I take the job I really want.



Dear Defeated

I’d prefer to think of you as temporarily daunted, rather than defeated. It’s not surprising that you’re drawn to security after a long period of uncertainty – and it’s very important to make sound, practical choices – but what I’m hearing underneath your words is a real calling to pursue your dreams, even if that involves risks that challenge your sense of comfort.

While you’re willing to do what it takes to make those dreams a reality, you’re very concerned that your partner will not only find it difficult, but will disapprove of your choices. This is not so much a career question, but an issue within your relationship – you fear that you’ll lose your partner’s approval (and love) if you follow your heart.

The only way to overcome that fear is to confront it and to have a very honest conversation with your partner, expressed in a way that honours their good qualities and asks for their support in this new venture. Make sure that you keep your dialogue focused on how you feel about taking the risk, how much you value them, and how you want to find a solution that works for both of you. Keep away from anything that might sound accusative, such as ‘you always …’ or ‘you won’t let me …’. The point of the discussion is to open up the underlying issues in a safe way, to take your relationship to a greater level of trust and openness.

Whichever choice you make, you cannot leave this unsaid. You may avoid the issue by taking the option your partner is most likely to approve of, but this will lead to resentment down the line that could become a much greater threat to the relationship than a bit of short-term discomfort over a job choice. Sacrificing your own personal development for the sake of a partnership is not a viable option – it will only come back to haunt you.

Remember, too, that it’s never all or nothing. You might feel that you’re torn between two options right now, but you may find that there’s a way to pursue your dreams that doesn’t involve as much risk as the current offer presents. Try using some creative thinking, rather than just assuming that these are the only two choices available to you.

Finally, a big life change like redundancy is usually a clue that something needs to change. Treat it like a wake-up call to refocus on what’s important to you. Don’t assume you should just carry on regardless – a shake-up is on the menu, so go with the flow and take a good look at your life. Be honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s not. Make choices that resonate with who you are and who you want to be – not just ones that are simply convenient. Convenient choices will only delay the opportunities for growth that are trying to show up in your life right now.

Coach Fabulous

Monday, May 28, 2007

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Dear Coach Fabulous

My partner and I have had a very turbulent past relationship but we have managed to come through an awful lot and become closer. Our relationship continues to deepen, to my amazement, in so many different ways. There’s always something new to learn, new places within it to go. Recently we undertook some counselling and it was helpful in that it opened up a lot of dialogue between us and I learned to see things from his point of view a lot more.

The problem now is that due to our differences in the past we now have jobs in separate towns an hour apart and as part of a “space required” exercise we now live separately during the week and get together at weekends.

My partner would like me to relocate back to his house, and I do understand the reasons why this would be a better idea - and I know I am at base happiest when we are together - but a part of me remembers the bad old days and is hesitant, another part of me so loves my current place of work and location and would be loath to give it up. It’s a bit like being a weekly boarder.

I know that at this point in our relationship it is crunch time we simply can’t go on in limbo but yet my partner does not appear to be willing to take the step of a full commitment such as marriage or civil partnership.

Any advice?

Standing At The Crossroads

Dear Standing At The Crossroads

There are a few red flags in your question, so let’s take them one at a time. It’s great that you’ve taken the step of getting counselling, but it’s slightly concerning that the result is that you’ve ‘learned to see things from his point of view more’. Ideally, you’d have learned to see each other’s point of view and find a compromise that works for both of you. It might just be the way you’ve expressed it, but from the rest of your question I’m getting the impression that the compromise is pretty much all down to you.

You like where you live and work, but your partner wants you to move to where he is. You clearly would like a greater level of commitment, but your partner is not willing to think in terms of civil partnership or marriage. From the small glimpse you’ve given me of your life, it doesn’t sound like you have a common vision of a future together, which is an essential if you want to build a life with someone. I’m reminded of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote, “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.”

Before you take any kind of step to change the structure of your life, you absolutely must be certain that choice will take you in the direction you want to go, not just where your partner would like you to go. The ‘bad old days’ will resurface if you don’t stand your ground and ensure that you’re happy with how things are unfolding within your relationship. A major commitment issue can be a dealbreaker. You need to decide if you can be happy with less of a commitment or if it’s a hurdle you just can’t get over. Do not try to postpone the decision until after you’ve relocated – that’s just asking for trouble. Moving to a new area and letting go of your own happy situation will be challenging and you want to know that you’re doing it because you’re secure in your relationship and have a shared vision of how you want your lives to unfold together.

With a lot of honest communication, even turbulent relationships can evolve into strong partnerships and it seems as though you’ve been doing a lot of work to try to make that happen. Don’t give up on that good work when it comes to ensuring that you’re both clear on how you see your future. If it’s really what you want, it won’t feel like a sacrifice. I’m suspecting it currently does because the commitment issue means more to you than you’ve been willing to admit. Stand your ground and make the choices that feel right to you. A strong partnership is one where you’re both willing to stand up for what’s right for you and to work together to find a solution that works for each of you.

Coach Fabulous

Monday, May 07, 2007

What Lies Beneath

Dear Coach Fabulous

I have just come across your website and I must be a prime candidate for no confidence. The worst thing is I used to have loads when I was younger and now I can barely look at myself in the mirror. I have four children, my last being only 4 months ago. I’ve had 3 bouts of post natal depression and trying desperately to avoid a fourth. I have still got pregnancy fat that I’m actively trying to get rid of by nearly killing myself doing a Davina and going to the gym. Before I got pregnant I was going to the gym 3 times a week! I think my weight is probably my biggest problem even though I’m probably only a stone and a half over. But my confidence is way below zero!!!!!!!!!! Help if you can!! Huge challenge I know. :)

Weighing In The Balance

Dear Weighing In The Balance

Confidence is never a constant and it’s particularly susceptible to taking a hit when our bodies change. That doesn’t mean it’s out for the count – your confidence is just having a momentary wobble and if you want it to come out fighting, you’ll need to be kind to yourself. First of all, having 4 children and one of them only 4 months old is a big load, not to mention the post-natal depression. If you’re facing up to another bout of that, don’t try and beat it alone. Get help – medical support, alternative medicine, counselling, getting a break from the kids – whatever it takes. Make sure you talk to your good friends about how you really feel. Nothing is more isolating than trying to handle something that overwhelming without help. For general tips on finding a bit of space for yourself as a new mum, try my iVillage article:,,170040_705014,00.html.

To be realistic, carrying another stone and a half after 4 kids (and only months after the last one) isn’t that much of a deal as far as weight goes, so I suspect this is more about disconnection from your body and loss of a sense of self. Let’s take a look at the bod first. I’m going to recommend an online article I’ve written on body confidence to get you started:,,259_709239,00.html. The most important thing you need to know is that you cannot sort out weight issues while you’re treating your body like an enemy – you have to start to get comfortable being in your body and then learn to love it. The tips in the piece will help you, but my best clue is using exercise to get in tune with your body, rather than to punish it into submission. Classes like yoga, pilates and tai chi teach you to attune to your body by focusing on how it feels, so that you’re partnering with your body, not beating it up. This is the fastest way to learn how to enjoy your body again, along with going strictly cold turkey on criticising it. Absolutely do not say nasty things to yourself about your body – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!

Still on the weight issue, forget dieting. We all know it doesn’t work. As you get more in tune with your body, your food choices will change. Try reading Paul McKenna’s I Can Make You Thin, which comes with a CD of guided visualisations. He’s had significantly more statistical success with weight loss than any other diet and it’s all about learning to eat well, not starving yourself. No-one wants to be a miserable dieter for the rest of their lives and this book seems to give a sound alternative. Get a makeover too – vanity gets a bad rep, but a new look can put you on top of the world. Enlist the help of a stylist if you can afford it. Very few of us know how to dress our body shape well and if yours has changed, chances are you’re not wearing the styles that show your body off to its best advantage.

The rest of the ‘be kind to yourself’ advice includes things like getting regular massages, taking time out to meet your good friends (even if you can only fit in a coffee) and finding some time for you that’s just sacred. Whatever you do in that time is up to you – it’s about remembering what your interests are and making time for them. Read a good book, crash out on the sofa if you need it, go see an art exhibition, write in a journal, meditate, get smashed every once in a while – it’s totally guilt-free, because it’s about remembering who you are, even if that means being a couch potato one day or a gym bunny the next. Carving out small slices of time for yourself will boost your confidence because you’re claiming your space, standing up for what’s important to you and making it non-negotiable.

If you’ve lost sight of who you were before the kids came along, sign up for an online course or a weekend workshop in something you’ve always wanted to do. Doing new things is always a little scary at first, but stretching your sense of accomplishment is a great builder of self-worth. It may be difficult to fit in, but you have to take care of your own needs and decide what’s important to you. I’d suggest listening to Debbie Ford or Cheryl Richardson, who are coaches broadcasting shows on, for a bit of daily upliftment. You can listen to the shows via live streaming or download them to your iPod. Also take a look at
the host of free podcasts available via iTunes – there’s something on almost any imaginable subject, so you’re bound to find something to stimulate your mind. Debbie Ford also has a Best Year Of Your Life kit, with a confidence-building theme to work on every week, which you might enjoy, as well as guided visualisations on loving your body.

I’ve suggested a lot of outer stuff to do, but confidence is really an inside job. You have to get comfortable with being who you are, right here, right now. You have to know that a few extra pounds cannot stand in the way of you being happy, loveable and proud of the person you are. Start loving the small stuff, like how kindly you treat your children or support your friends, how well you manage with a big family or celebrating even just getting through the day in a fairly good mood. Do that every morning and night – find three things you can love about yourself when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning and three more when your head hits the pillow at night. The weight is just a smokescreen – if you can get happy with who you are, you’ll feel confident and enjoy your life no matter what your bathroom scales say. Take the pressure off and don’t give yourself a timescale – just the aim to be happy being you.

Coach Fabulous

If you have an issue you’d like guidance on, need some help finding direction or could just do with a bit of inspiration, email and a little cyber-coaching will appear, as if by magic. Of course, the names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent). All material © 2007 Alison Porter

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bringing Sexy Back

Dear Coach Fabulous,

I have lost my mojo! I have no interest in men and zero sex drive.

I have, within the last year or two, got over depression and am fine and happy generally. The thing is, I haven’t had a sniff of a man in so long it’s beginning to worry me, mostly because I don’t miss it! I’ve had a few bad experiences with men and I suppose that might have put me off.

I used to feel a bit more confident and make more of an effort to look nice, but I have become a bit lazy now so I go out knowing I look a bit rough and thinking that all attractive men are out of my league.

I used to feel quite sexy and would happily flirt, but now I shy away from situations where I may have to interact with men and I cannot handle sexy conversations – I think I have become a bit of a prude, which is the last thing anyone would have said about me before.

My feeling is that I have attitude problems rather than sexual ones and I would love to hear if you have any ideas on how to change my outlook on this subject – I don’t want to end up an old spinster.

Please help!

Soon-To-Be Old Maid

Dear Soon-To-Be Old Maid

You’re right on the money with your own diagnosis – this is an attitude issue, rather than a sexual one. If you’ve watched enough of those dating makeover shows, you’ll know that people with far worse problems than yours can be turned into hunks of burning love almost overnight, simply by taking on board a new set of attitudes, with only the merest dash of re-styling. Let that inspire you to do your own little mojo makeover at home, knowing it can be a fabulous success. You’re just in the habit of thinking badly of yourself and that habit can be changed.

First, you’ve got to get into your body - you’re way too much in your head. That’s probably partially a result of having suffered from depression. The fastest way to start to reconnect is through massage or any form of slow exercise that requires you to put your attention firmly into your body, such as yoga, pilates or tai chi. What you need to be doing is reconnecting to your sensuality as a step to reconnecting to your sexuality. Make sure your senses are stimulated by massage, movement, aromatic bubble baths and sensual textures in clothing. If you’re not already a foodie, start feeding yourself very good quality meals and luxuriate in the tastes. Use every opportunity to notice and enjoy the sensual aspects of life – pay attention to the little things like how the wind feels on your face and how great it feels to be in front of a fire on a cold and rainy day. If this were summer, I’d be recommending that you get out on the grass in your bare feet, but given that we’re in the middle of winter, I’ll let you off on that one. Try noticing the texture of the carpet on your bare feet instead.

When you are in your head, make your thoughts work for you. Try doing an ‘inner smile’ meditation before you get out of bed in the morning, smiling and sending love to all the parts of your body, working from head to toe. If you find this hard to visualise, start off by getting a picture in your mind of something or someone you love and feel that love until you have a smile on your face, then imagine that love spreading throughout your own body. Walking meditation helps too – when your mind is spinning with unhelpful thoughts, place your attention on each step and how it feels in your body as your feet make contact with the ground. Soon you’ll be absorbed in that movement and whatever’s bothering you will fall away.

Now it’s time for some fresh material for that mind of yours. You’re already in the habit of using mantras – you just don’t call them that – but the problem is they’re all bad news. You keep reinforcing thoughts of unattractiveness, which creates a lack of self-confidence, which unsurprisingly results in a lack of interest from the opposite sex. Do you think you’d be attracted to a man who looked like he didn’t like himself that much? Absolutely not.

This is the fun bit – it doesn’t have to be hard work. You just need to come up with a mantra that you can say to yourself over and over, particularly when those negative thoughts of self-attack pop up. If you want your mojo back, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief on this one and just go for it. Try something like “I’m a hot, sexy, lovable babe – men adore me and want to be with me”. If that’s too much of a stretch initially, start with something like “I love being me and people love to be with me”. Make it your own – there are no magic words, just the ones that work for you.

While you’re restyling your mind, restyle your wardrobe while you’re at it. Super-comfy is out and girlie is in. Don’t make yourself feel awkward, but scrub up a bit, wherever you’re going, even if it’s just to the shops. The better you feel about yourself, the more attractive you become. Treat yourself well – buy flattering clothes, refresh your makeup, and get a new hairdo or colour. You don’t have to splash the cash too much – funky accessories can make even the most simple of outfits look individual and interesting. Try swapping clothes with a friend or getting their opinion on a new style that might suit you. If you have the wad to throw at it, get a personal stylist to revamp your wardrobe and a whole new you may well emerge.

It’s hard to create something you can’t even imagine, so when you daydream, start putting that to good work by seeing yourself feeling sexy, lovable and in a relationship. If athletes can use visualisation to improve their game, you can use the same techniques for the game of love – see yourself looking good and feeling relaxed in the company of men.

Now, in the immortal words of the Doobie Brothers, we need to be taking it to the streets. All that practicing on your own is setting the foundation, but you won’t know it’s working until you test it out. Start simply by inviting mixed company over for dinner or going out with a group of friends that includes men, not just women. Make an effort to talk to the guys in the office a bit more. Do a class in something you’re interested in that’s guaranteed to have some male participants. The aim of the game is not to hurl yourself into a dating situation, but to familiarise yourself with the company of men again.

You can up the ante a bit when you have more confidence and feel relaxed when socialising – that’s the time to consider all the new dating options, such as organised dinner parties for singles or online dating, but it’s too much pressure initially. Besides, you may not need a formal dating situation anyway – the better you feel about yourself, the more approachable you’ll be and the more likely you are to just run into someone in the normal course of your life. I once met a man in a road block in Spain – and another one in the Jacuzzi at the health club – so I figure you can meet someone pretty much anywhere if you’re open to it.

You’ve got quite a bit to be getting on with, but I want to leave you with a few resources to keep you fired up. You might want to consider taking St John’s Wort as a supplement, if you aren’t already. Apart from its anti-depressant aspects, it’s also reputed to boost the libido. To keep you feeling that sexy vibe, try listening to the self-hypnosis CD called Man Magnet from It’s a little over the top, so it might take some getting used to, but at the very least it’ll give you a laugh while you’re reprogramming your mind. To help you release issues from past relationships, a great book on the subject is Calling In The One, by Katherine Woodward Thomas. It’s a 7-week programme of exercises that will help you shift your attitudes and release painful feelings. Another excellent book to help you understand the power of positive self-regard in relationships is Secrets Of Attraction by Sandra Anne Taylor. Also has a regular newsletter on relationships, as well as plenty of other free resources for dating advice, such as pre-recorded classes.

All of this has been a very long-winded way of saying that when you learn to love yourself, you open the door to allowing someone else to love you. Just work on liking who you are, feeling confident about your talents and gifts, getting comfortable in your body and enjoying life - your mojo will be back before you know it!

Coach Fabulous

If you have an issue you’d like guidance on, need some help finding direction or could just do with a bit of inspiration, email and a little cyber-coaching will appear, as if by magic. Of course, the names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent). All material © 2007 Alison Porter

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Where Did The Fun Go?

Dear Coach Fabulous

I need your help! I am 27 years old and am in a total rut. My boyfriend and I have been together for four years now and bought a house a year ago. Ever since then I've felt trapped and like my life is all laid out for me – my family keep expecting a wedding announcement any day now! I love my boyfriend dearly but sometimes he winds me up so much! He's so negative about everything (not us, but just the world in general) whereas I try to see the good in everything. We've almost totally stopped having sex (3 times in the year since we bought the house!) and I feel like we're drifting apart. I don't want to leave him as I do still love him very much, but I feel like something’s got to give! On top of this he may be out of work next month (he's a junior doctor) and I think that will put a huge strain on our relationship. I keep blaming myself and trying to change things about me (losing weight, taking up exercise etc) but I give up on these things after a couple of weeks as they seem pointless. The lethargy that's infected our relationship is eating into my professional life too and I find it hard to concentrate for more than a couple of hours.Please help!

Bored Stiff

Dear Bored Stiff

Well, the first flush of love has definitely worn thin, but all is not lost. The big issue here is that the intimacy has gone out of your relationship – and I don’t just mean the sex. I mean that depth of interest that keeps you fascinated, loving their quirky ways and wanting to do thoughtful, caring things for each other. It’s natural that the heady days of new love turn into something more mundane, but that doesn’t mean you have to live without fun, thoughtfulness, affection or intimacy. You and your partner seem to have slipped into a habitual way of relating that’s sucked the fun and excitement out of your relationship. The good news, of course, is that a habit can always be changed. Sometimes, when the purpose of your being together has been exhausted, there may not be enough will on either side to resurrect the love you had, but in your case it sounds like there’s still plenty of love left, but it’s just getting lost in the dull details of how you’re living your life together day-to-day.

First of all, drop the habit of blame – it’s really not doing you any favours. You’re ricocheting between blaming him for being annoying – which just frustrates you as well as making it harder to see him in a loving light – and blaming yourself for not being able to fix it, which simply erodes your self-esteem. What’s going to help you heal this is an attitude of taking responsibility that doesn’t apportion blame. It’s about saying to yourself, “OK, I’m not happy with the way things are, so how can I do things differently?”

Take a look at what happened when you bought the house. If you’ve been feeling trapped since then, it’s probably an unconscious issue around marriage and long-term relationships that’s been triggered. Is there a part of you that’s afraid of either repeating the pattern of your parents’ marriage if it was a difficult one, or not living up to the same standard, if it was an enduring, happy partnership? Plenty of couples manage to sail along very happily until they make a form of commitment that triggers those unconscious patterns. Patterns like these wreak havoc in your life when they’re unconscious, so the best thing you can do is start paying attention to how you really feel about commitment, marriage and relationships. Be honest with yourself about what you’re afraid of, what you think making a commitment might mean for your own independence and what you really want from a relationship or marriage. Look into your beliefs about your parents’ marriage – did you want the same type of relationship or something completely different? However much you think you moved on, your parents’ way of relating with each other is your earliest model of a relationship and the most deeply ingrained, so you will find yourself repeating many of those behaviours unconsciously. When you bring them to light, you can start to act differently.

The next step is going to work equally well on your partner as it does on you – reward behaviour you like and ignore what you don’t. Let’s start with him: let’s say he’s annoying you by being very negative about something, so instead of getting annoyed with him, withdraw your attention. As soon as he moves on to something more positive, engage with him again. Don’t nag or tell him to do anything differently, just reward the things you like about him. At the same time, start remembering the things you liked about him when you fell in love with him and start noticing those more than the annoying stuff. Put your attention where it’s going to pay off – on the good stuff.

You really need to be doing this with yourself as well. You’ve been trying to fix yourself and your relationship by criticising and blaming yourself. That’s a very, very bad habit that’s only going to make you feel worse. So start using the same positive reinforcement on yourself: when self-attacking thoughts arise, focus on something good about you and when you’re feeling judgemental about how the relationship’s going, start focusing on what is working. It’ll be tough at first, but once you’ve cut a new groove it’s going to feel natural to think that way.

If you think your partner would be open to it, talk to him about how you want your relationship to be. Be gentle in your approach, because no-one reacts positively when they feel like they’re being taken to task. Maybe you could remind him how much you used to love doing something together that you’ve fallen out of the habit of doing, and suggest you make more time for each other. Whatever it is that you’d like to have happen, make sure he knows that it’s because you care for him and want to be closer to him. That can gently open the door to more intimate conversations where you can both safely express how you feel without anger or blame.

Even if your partner doesn’t seem to want to work on the relationship, you can still shake things up by changing your own attitude. By dropping the blame and appreciating small, positive things, your relationship will change. It might not seem fair that you’re doing all the work initially, but someone’s got to get the ball rolling. If you sit around hoping for things to get better of their own accord, you’re going to be in for a very long wait. To get some excitement into your life, start doing more spontaneous things. Get away somewhere different even for one day, try a different restaurant or a type of food that’s new, change your style of clothes – just shake it up a little. The changes you make individually will make you interesting to each other and the changes you try together will give you new things to share.

As for the sex life, that will re-ignite when you become more intimate with each other, sharing your thoughts, interests, hopes and dreams. It’s all gone a bit dull, but when you both begin to feel that you’re appreciated and desired, the passion will kick in again. Sex is never just about sex – it’s as much about feeling supported and cared for as it is about physical desire. Without the fuel of real intimacy, sexual attraction can’t be maintained over time.

You’ve got the love and the will to make this work, so don’t be discouraged. Be kind to yourself, notice how you’re relating to each other and make different choices. Honour the good things about yourself and your partner and forget the rest. Even just that is enough to bring about a miracle in your relationship and give you the strength of partnership to handle whatever life throws at you as a couple.

Coach Fabulous

If you have an issue you’d like guidance on, need some help finding direction or could just do with a bit of inspiration, email and a little cyber-coaching will appear, as if by magic. Of course, the names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent). All material © 2007 Alison Porter

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Broken Promises

Dear Coach Fabulous

I am wracked between sympathy and self-pity... some say selfishness. I was supposed to be getting married on 23rd December.

To cut a long story short, his father, aged 81, has been in and out of hospital for the last 30 years. In September I got a gut instinct that something was going to happen and talked it over with my fiancée. He gave me a huge bear hug and said that, no matter what, he promised he would be at my side at the wedding.

On 28th October, his dad was admitted to hospital with breathing problems. That night a cousin of my fiancée’s phoned him and asked 'what about the wedding?' to which my fiancée said 'cancelled’. On 5th November his dad passed away.

I have been left to phone/write letters/pay off deposits/loss adjustor/solicitor for the wedding on my own, whilst he, understandably, with brothers and cousins has dealt with his father's death. I was asked to cater for the family do after the funeral, and quite a few others I was asked to do along the way.

Now I am told that there is to be a big 'family' Christmas to which I am not invited ... as apparently I am not family. Yet I still have a date, 23rd December, to try and get through on my own. My fiancée just tells me to stop brooding and get over it. I can't – I hurt. Am I really being selfish?


Dear Confused

The short answer is no, you are not being selfish. An enormously important and symbolic day for you and your partner is now on hold, despite earlier assurances that it would go ahead, no matter what. But it’s not even really about the day, is it? It’s a step into a deeper level of commitment within your relationship that has now been thrown into limbo. While you’re struggling to deal with your own disappointment and confusion about what this might mean for your future together, you’re busy supporting everyone else, and there seems to be precious little recognition of how much you’ve had to cope with. To top it off, being excluded from the family Christmas celebration must seem like adding insult to injury.

What is so difficult about the circumstances you’re faced with is that you’re dealing with a partner and a family who are grieving. People express grief in so many different ways and some of them are far more intense and difficult to navigate than you may have expected. Often those who are grieving can become very angry or difficult to deal with and generally even those who are normally very thoughtful people can find bereavement so all-consuming that they can’t see beyond their own pain to notice what is going on with anyone else.

Also, the death of a loved one – even when expected – still takes us by surprise in ways we cannot have comprehended. Your partner may have thought that his father’s long illness would have prepared him for the inevitable, but having to face his death in reality – and all the emotions that that raises – will still have come as an enormous shock, from which he is no doubt still reeling. That may go some way to helping you understand why he could have said to you beforehand, quite logically, that the wedding would go ahead regardless, but once he had become enmeshed in grief then his feelings changed about what was appropriate.

I feel for you tremendously, because you’re going through your own grieving process about the cancellation of your wedding and yet it’s as though you’re not even allowed to express how you feel, because everyone else’s grief is taking precedence. I imagine that the comments about ‘selfishness’ are coming from the family, who cannot currently see beyond their own experience of pain, and they are in effect invalidating your feelings. Even though you might logically comprehend why they seem incapable of understanding your disappointment, that doesn’t stop the further feelings of isolation and hurt caused by their failure to recognise that you have your own, valid grief. The one person you would have expected to be supportive – your partner – is so lost in his own pain that he’s just telling you to get on with it as though it were no big deal. The most important thing for you to remember right now is that his unsupportive behaviour is probably more a reflection of his grieving process than a true indication of how he feels about you and your relationship.

You have a tricky road to travel in the coming months, as you try to juggle your own feelings with his grief and presumably unintentional insensitivity. I’m not saying you can’t ask for his support, but I do think that you probably can’t expect a lot in the way of understanding from him for the minute, as the grief is still very fresh. If it continues this way in the long run, then you will need to face up to whether you want to be in a relationship (and a family) where your feelings are not considered valid, but hopefully this is temporary glitch.

If you can’t be honest about how you feel and get support at home, then make sure you are able to talk deeply about your very real disappointment and pain with a close and trusted friend, who will give you the support and validation you need. It’s not selfish to be sad about losing out on a wedding you’d obviously planned for some time or to be feeling let down by a partner who can’t or won’t see that you’re suffering too in your own way.

Then, of course, there’s the wedding date to be faced. For this, firstly make sure that you’ve had a good chance to unload about how you feel with a good friend. None of your feelings are unacceptable, selfish or wrong – they’re just normal under the circumstances, but they’ve been shoved aside in favour of everyone else’s grief over the loss of your partner’s father and you’ve been made to feel that it’s not OK to have them. When you’re feeling a bit less emotionally strained, talk to your partner about how you’d like to take that day to do something special together. Remind him how much you love him and that your wedding date is always going to be special to you, whether there’s a ceremony or not, so you’d like to honour that in some way. Try to find a way to mark the day with some time to yourselves, perhaps get away if you can, to reconnect more deeply. You might even want to consider doing a little something that honours his father too, so that you’re drawing more closely together in this period of grieving.

At some point you will quite reasonably want to know when you’ll be setting a new date for the wedding, but now may not be the time. While the grieving in the family is still so intense, you’re being called upon to be the strong one, even though that may feel terribly hard to handle. Pick your moment, too, to have a discussion about the family Christmas. It’s not only hurtful to be excluded in that way, but this would have been your first Christmas together as a married couple, so to be separated from your partner over the festive season will be even harder to handle. Again, when you’ve had a chance to talk to a supportive friend about your feelings, try raising it gently with your partner about how much you would like to spend Christmas together and see if you can create a compromise that honours your relationship and his need to be with his family.

You’ve coped amazingly well so far, so don’t undermine yourself by thinking that you’re selfish for feeling the way that you do. Anyone would be disappointed and hurt under the circumstances and just because someone else is grieving, it doesn’t mean that your feelings don’t count. Find support where you can with your own friends and family in the meantime and work gently with your partner to start building your future together again.

Coach Fabulous

If you have an issue you’d like guidance on, need some help finding direction or could just do with a bit of inspiration, email and a little cyber-coaching will appear, as if by magic. Of course, the names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent). All material © 2006 Alison Porter

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Nice Cup of Tea & A Sit Down

Coach Fabulous is taking a bit of a rest - on a velvet chaise longue of course. Normal service will be resumed shortly. In the meantime, send in your questions and I'll spring, cat-like, into action - well, a bit like a lazy cat really ... I shall rouse myself gently from my slumber and amble back to the keyboard at a genteel pace.

If you have an issue you’d like guidance on, need some help finding direction or could just do with a bit of inspiration, email and a little cyber-coaching will appear, as if by magic. Of course, the names will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent). All material © 2006 Alison Porter