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Psychology & Relationships

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Couples Counselling as Maintenance | Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

As a couples counsellor, people call me all the time saying things like:

“We’ve been fighting for seven years and hate each other!”

“We haven’t been in love for three years.”

“We don’t even want to be in the same room.”

“There is nothing redeeming about my partner as a human being.”

And all of these individuals follow up with the same request:

“We want to try therapy before getting a divorce. Can you help us?”

I’ll be honest with you, these are the worst calls to get because there’s very little chance of salvaging the relationship. By this point, I’m mostly helping people process the end of their relationship.

It’s hard as well because people are genuinely surprised that we cannot quickly repair a situation involving years of neglect or abuse.

This is why I want to address the concept that couples counselling can be used to maintain a relationship and avoid divorce and separation in the future.

Just because your relationship is good doesn’t mean it can’t use a tune-up from time to time!

Here’s why it works:

Healthy Conflict Resolution

Conflicts, arguments, and issues are always going to pop up even in the healthiest relationships. It’s how you deal with them that makes all the difference.

In couples counseling, you can learn more effective problem-solving techniques to address your concerns in a way that is productive and healthy.

Plus, speaking to a couples counsellor may unearth issues that could become bigger problems in the future. By discussing it in a safe and open environment, you and your partner will be better equipped to handle conflicts in the future.

Improved Communication

A healthy relationship is built on a foundation of good communication. Without it, misunderstandings and miscommunication can lead to arguments and fights that could be avoided otherwise.

I guarantee you that most of the conflicts you face in your relationship, no matter how minor, aren’t about the topic of argument. Most of the time, conflicts stem from poor communication.

Couples counselling can help you and your partner learn healthy communication skills that will improve your relationship and avoid many conflicts in the future.

Increased Effort in the Relationship

happy couple smiling and hugging

Booking an appointment to see a couples counsellor, even if your relationship is going great, shows that you and your partner are willing to put more energy and effort into each other.

It shows that you are dedicated to being proactive in your relationship instead of relying on crisis control when things get out of whack.

This step solidifies you and your partner as a team and can help you feel like you’re working together, not against each other. 

Couples counselling is also a great way to simply check in with each other in a safe space where you can be honest about your feelings.

Nowadays, relationships tend to take a backseat to work, parenting, and other busy aspects of life. Make your relationship a priority by giving it a tune-up every once and a while.

Identify Behavior Patterns

No relationship is perfect and we all get triggered by something. On the other hand, we all behave in ways that seem innocent to use but may annoy or anger someone else.

A couples counsellor can help you identify behavior patterns and triggers in your relationship. It’s a great opportunity for each partner to express what is bothering them without feeling that they are being judgemental or “nit-picky.”

From there, you and your partner can discuss an effective resolution to ensure that you both remain satisfied in the relationship.

Personal Development and Growth

Not only is couples counselling amazing for your relationship, but it can also help you develop and grow as an individual. 

It allows you an opportunity to look inward and deal with your own personal struggles. Perhaps there are some unresolved issues from your past that are affecting your relationship.

This also gives your partner insight into your struggles and learn ways in which they can help support you.

Life is Unpredictable

It could be that your relationship is going along swimmingly until you and your partner face an unpredictable crisis: a loss of a job, the death of a family member, etc.

No couple is safe from misfortune and many do not survive mishaps because they are not prepared for them.

Going to couples counselling is more than visiting a counsellor and talking about feelings. It helps develop a pattern of checking in with your partner, improving your communication skills, and crisis-proofing your relationship.

Anything can happen and having the right tools can help prepare you and your partner for an unfortunate situation.

No Relationship is Perfect

As I mentioned before, even the healthiest relationships face conflict at some point. No relationship is perfect!

However, these minor disagreements and disappointments that may not seem like deal-breakers today can fester and build up to the point where you (or your partner) realize that you are not happy in the relationship.

Usually, by the time this happens, it is often too late to save the relationship – or saving it will take a lot of work.

It’s important to take care of minor annoyances in healthy and effective ways before they become major issues and couples counselling can help with this.

Counselling for Happy Couples

As you can see, couples counselling is not reserved for relationships in distress. Those who are happy in their relationships can greatly benefit from visiting a couples counsellor!

On average, most couples wait up to six years after knowing something is wrong before seeing a counsellor. Most of the time, the relationship has already reached the breaking point and is harder to save.

As a counsellor who specializes in couples therapy, I can help you improve your relationship satisfaction, reduce arguments, improve trust, and increase intimacy.

Don’t let your relationship reach critical mass – book your appointment for your first couples session today!

Call me at (905) 518-0210 or contact me through my website.

Overcoming Trust Issues After Infidelity

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

It’s no secret that infidelity, affairs, and cheating break down the foundation of a relationship and create trust issues.

It can also lead to a sense of insecurity because most people at the raw end of infidelity blame themselves for their partner’s cheating. 

Finding out that your partner has cheated on you is a shock to the system. The emotional effects of infidelity are long-lasting and can end up disrupting your view of reality.

Once upon a time you felt safe and loved and suddenly you discover the possibility that neither may be true. So what else in your life isn’t real?

While dealing with infidelity can be damaging, it’s also an opportunity to experience growth and change. If you decide to leave your partner, you may find yourself increasing your standards when it comes to dating. 

Or, it may be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship if you decide to stay.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to ending or continuing your relationship. There are certain steps you can take to overcome the trust issues caused by infidelity.

1. Be Honest About Your Emotions

After your partner has cheated on you, you may feel compelled to hide how you feel. Maybe you think you are “taking the high road” or perhaps you don’t want your partner to “win” by knowing how much it hurts.

However, it’s important to be honest about your emotions and let your partner know how you feel. You’re allowed to cry and show your grief.

Doing so will not only help you process your emotions but may also help you and your partner overcome communication barriers in your relationship.

2. Don’t Ignore the Issue

Infidelity is not an issue you can sweep under the rug in hopes that it will go away. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to reduce your pain or protect your sense of trust.

You can’t rebuild trust with this issue looming over your head. Plus, if you ignore what happened, you’ll never discover the underlying issues in your relationship.

Knowing the underlying issue is the first step in deciding whether or not you want to stay with your partner and fight for your relationship.

3. Don’t Stalk Your Partner

If you decide to stay with your partner, don’t make the mistake of watching your partner’s every move like a hawk. It may be tempting but it will not help you overcome your trust issues. 

In fact, it will likely destroy all trust in the end.

You can’t build trust if you are constantly checking your partner’s messages or tracking their whereabouts. 

4. Try Not to Dwell on the Past

As I said, it’s important not to ignore the issue but you also need to look forward to the future whether you are staying in the relationship or not.

When you allow yourself to dwell on what happened, you can’t build trust with your partner. And if you’re going out on your own, you’ll have a hard time trusting other people.

To look forward, allow yourself to process the feelings of what happened in the past but focus on how you want to approach relationships, or your current relationship, from this point on.

5. Don’t Blame Yourself

If you’re dealing with infidelity, it’s not your fault. Even if there are issues in your relationship that you are responsible for, the only person to blame for cheating is the person who cheated.

When you play the blame game, you are likely going to develop insecurities. You’ll constantly ask yourself, “Why me?” and pick out all of your flaws in an effort to justify what happened.

From here it’s difficult to heal and overcome trust issues. Take these moments of introspection to look at what role you played in the relationship and how you can avoid any common patterns when entering a new relationship.

6. Work on Yourself

On that note, this is a good time to start working on yourself. This doesn’t mean fixing your “issues” – it simply means developing a stronger sense of self-worth and self-awareness.

When you work on yourself, you are also working on trusting yourself. You can then enter into relationships knowing that you can take care of yourself no matter what happens.

You’ll have the confidence to establish boundaries and communicate more effectively. 

7. Don’t Stop Trusting People

When you are trying to overcome trust issues after infidelity, you may think that you will never be able to trust anyone ever again.

Fortunately, trust is something that can be practiced and you can start with turning to your friends. Open up to your trusted friends, share your feelings, and seek support.

This will help you “practice” trust so that when you enter another relationship, you’ll know how to build this foundation there too.

8. Seek Counseling

Overcoming trust issues after infidelity is something you’re going to have to work on whether you choose to stay in the relationship or not.

It can be a very confusing and emotional time which is why perhaps the best solution to dealing with this is to seek counseling.

An impartial third party can help you gain perspective on the situation and get yourself or your relationship (or both) back on track.

Family and friends are great to talk to, but they can often be biased and negative because they don’t want to see you get hurt. 

Overcoming Trust Issues: We Can Help!

My name is Ryan and I have worked with many clients when it comes to trust issues caused by infidelity. Some improved their relationships while others left and improved themselves.

I don’t know how your situation is going to end but I can help you get there by supporting your journey to rebuilding trust, building self-confidence, and improving your self-awareness.

Ready to get started? Contact me today.

woman with long brown straight hair in yellow sweater holding wedding ring sitting on couch. man in foreground.

10 Myths About Affairs, Cheating and Infidelity

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

We’ll all seen affairs and infidelity portrayed and popularized in the media – and with that comes all kinds of stereotypes and myths.

For those who have been the victim of an affair, as well as those who have played the role of the cheater, understanding the truth behind infidelity is an important step in not only healing but knowing where to go from there.

Let’s look at some interesting ways in which the pandemic has impacted the rate of infidelity as well as common myths that need to be debunked:

The Impact of COVID-19 on Infidelity

Throughout the pandemic, I noticed a significantly higher number of cases in my clinic that involved infidelity and affairs. Almost double, in fact.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic placed significant amounts of stress on couples and presented new challenges to relationships. Isolation, loss of income – these are all byproducts of the pandemic that were thrust upon us all with no prior notice.

Stress is inarguably the main driver when it comes to infidelity and, with stress levels skyrocketing during the past year or so, it’s not surprising that more people are straying outside of their relationships.

The people who cheat and have affairs are often using the activity as a form of escape. Infidelity shares many similar behavioral patterns with substance abuse – but instead of reaching for a drink, it’s reaching for another person.

This is why the most common answer to the question, “Why did you cheat?” is not something like, “Because I wasn’t getting enough sex from my partner,” or, “I resent my partner and feel disconnected from them.” 

The most common answer is, “I don’t know.”

Busting 10 Common Infidelity Myths

Before I start busting through these common infidelity myths, I want to point out that these explanations are in no way excuses for cheating or having an affair. There is never a situation that involves infidelity in which someone doesn’t get unjustifiably hurt.

The point of debunking these myths is to show you that, no matter what end of infidelity you happen to fall, you don’t have to be pressured by societal “norms” when it comes to deciding your next step.s

Think of it as expanding your knowledge and digging into the core of infidelity so that you can make a personal and informed choice.

1. Infidelity Destroys the Marriage

While this may be true in some cases, it is the exception and not the rule. In fact, many marriages survive affairs when both partners are committed to saving the marriage and changing the dynamics that led to the infidelity.

2. Cheating Happens Because of Sexual Attraction

There are many different reasons for having an affair and, although sexual attraction can certainly be a reason for cheating, it is usually an unfulfilled emotional need that drives people to stray from their relationships.

3. Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

There is such thing as serial cheaters but not everyone who cheats will cheat again. It is possible to for couples to work on their relationship and overcome issues of infidelity.

4. You Can’t Love Someone and Cheat on Them – It’s One or the Other

The media tends to portray the cheater as an evil person who doesn’t care about their partner. The truth is, someone can love their partner and end up having an affair. These individuals are often confused, insecure, or hurt.

5. If You Stay With Someone Who Cheats, You Obviously Have No Self-Respect

There are so many cases of infidelity in relationships where cheating was a symptom of other underlying issues. While cheating is inexcusable, it can provide an opportunity to create a stronger and healthier relationship. Having no self-respect would look more like accepting a partner’s unfaithfulness and making no efforts to fix the core issues.

6. Infidelity Only Happens in Unhappy or Troubled Marriages

The truth is, infidelity can happen in good marriages as well. Affairs happen for many reasons other than a “faulty” spouse or unhappy marriage – stress (both inside and outside of the marriage) is a significant predisposing factor.

7. Only Morally Bankrupt People Cheat

As I mentioned before, cheaters are not all heartless when it comes to having an affair. Infidelity can be a random, unplanned act that develops unexpectedly. Does it result from bad decisions? Yes. Does this mean the cheater has no morals? Not at all.

8. Cheaters Are Looking for a Younger or Better Looking Sexual Partner

Yes, we’ve all seen movies and shows where the old spouse is traded in for the “newer model”. Statistically, however, many affairs take place between same-age couples or with an individual that is equally attractive as the spouse. 

9. The Best Thing to Do is Leave Before You Cheat

As I mentioned before, infidelity is often the result of an unplanned act – those who stray typically do not plan on having an affair. Therefore, how can you know to leave the relationship before one happens? Also, infidelity often results from underlying issues in the relationship. It would be more effective to work on these issues than to simply throw in the towel because someone might cheat.

10. You Can’t Have a Good Relationship After an Affair

Surveys have shown that almost 80% of people who divorced their partner because of an affair regretted the decision. Divorce is a difficult process that, in some cases, causes more pain than healing. Of course, if addressing the marital issues doesn’t work out, divorce may be the only recourse.

Infidelity is Ruining My Relationship: What Should I Do?

Knowing what you should do when dealing with infidelity in a relationship isn’t as easy as Googling an answer.

Recovering from an affair is a major challenge that involves rebuilding trust, admitting guilt, learning how to forgive, and reconciling struggles.

Remember to take some time before making a decision. You can always consult a couples therapist to help you put the affair in perspective and identify any issues that may have led to the affair.

As a couples counselor, I can start you on your path to rebuild and strengthen your relationship as well as avoid divorce. If you and your partner are ready to fix your relationship, let’s get in touch today!

man with navy sweater sitting next to woman in green turtleneck on couch. they are speaking to a couples counselor.

Individual Therapy or Couples Therapy: Where Should I Start?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

This classic breakup line may seem like a cliché but it does reinforce the idea that the breakdown of relationships is caused by one person. It ignores the fact that relationships are collaborative efforts.

So when a relationship is on the brink of collapse, what does a person do? Seek individual therapy to work on their own struggles? Or do they bring in their partner for couples therapy to hash out differences and express concerns together?

In all honesty, both forms of therapy are beneficial to strengthening and maintaining a relationship – especially when integrated into a complete relationship-saving plan.

How Individual Therapy Can Help Your Relationship

Identity Loss and Confusion

Everyone changes because of the relationships they are in but sometimes these changes happen in a negative way. You may be worried that you are becoming someone else in order to appease your partner.

Individual therapy can help you address these changes and explore how you feel about them. It may be that you need to learn how to set boundaries or have your voice heard.

Being able to do this without your partner present helps alleviate the pressure of worrying about how they may feel or react to your concerns.

Past Trauma

Trauma can either be obvious or subtle depending on what you have experienced but both forms are equally powerful and can affect your relationship.

These experiences can be easily triggered when you are in a relationship, even if the relationship is healthy. In individual therapy, your therapist can focus on your past trauma in an environment that is safe and intimate.

Big Life Transitions

Life events such as getting married or having a baby are huge transitions, especially if they happen very quickly. 

The resulting stress can put a strain on the relationship. Seeking the support of a therapist through individual therapy can help you come to terms with these changes and strategize how to accommodate them in your life.

Gaining Clarity of a Situation Before Taking It To Your Partner

Most of the time, people are nervous to bring issues to their partners. They may feel that their perspective is unwarranted or they may be fearful of how their partner will react.

By discussing these issues in individual therapy, you can gain clarity of the situation and organize your thoughts so you can present them to your partner in a caring and constructive way.

How Couples Therapy Can Benefit Your Relationship

Improve Emotional Openness

Even the best relationships can fall apart if the couple cannot fully express themselves emotionally. Both partners need to be able to express their emotions as well as be receptive to their partner’s feelings.

When emotional openness is achieved in a relationship, emotional needs can be properly met. A therapist can help mediate emotional expression between partners in couples therapy.

Identify and Address Differences

Relationships involve a fascinating dynamic of similarities and differences. However, sometimes those differences can negatively impact the health of the relationship.

In couples therapy, you and your partner can learn how to accept each other’s differences by identifying deal-breakers and non-negotiables as well as clarifying beliefs and ideals as well as emotional and physical needs.

Help Partners Know Each Other

So many times in couples therapy I hear a patient say, “I feel like I don’t know him/her anymore.”

Just as I mentioned above, we often change when we are in relationships. While this can be difficult to accept in ourselves, it can be equally challenging to accept in our partners.

Couples therapy can help you identify your partner’s ideals as well as their quirks to get to know them better and address any deep-rooted issues you may have.

Address Future Issues

Being able to predict your partner’s reactions is important in preventing issues from occurring.

Couples therapy can help you solve conflicts before they even start by focusing on communication, comfort, and openness between you and your partner.

Integrating Individual Therapy Sessions Into Couples Therapy

Even though individual therapy and couples therapy can benefit your relationship in their own particular ways, you can also use these forms of these therapies integratively.

Before choosing one therapy over another, it’s important to get out of the “you need to work on yourself first” in order to save your relationship mindset. This creates an environment of blame and shifting that blame onto one person in the relationship, whether it’s you or your partner, is not helpful.

Individual therapy should be sought out to gain clarity and express honest feelings about your relationship to see why the relationship is struggling. It’s not about “fixing” you to save the relationship.

Alternatively, it’s also not helpful to assume that having your partner present during therapy sessions will impede your healing. There are issues and struggles brought into relationships that are bigger than the relationship itself.

Think about all of the situations I mentioned above where individual therapy would be beneficial: past trauma, identity loss, transitions, and gaining clarity. I recommend individual therapy for these challenges because it offers you the opportunity to express your feelings freely and without fear of judgment.

But does the healing of the relationship happen there? No. While it’s important to address these barriers individually, they must be explored in the context of the relationship as well.

Being able to explore how these struggles impact your relationship with your partner can help them gain more insight into what is really going on.

That’s why integrating individual therapy with couples therapy is the most effective way to maintain a healthy relationship.

Where Do I Start?

Each couple I’ve worked with is unique and requires flexible and individualized treatment plans.

It’s hard to say definitively that you should start with individual therapy or couples therapy – the starting point depends on you and your situation.

So why don’t we have a chat? Get in touch with me today to start your journey to healing your relationship!


man and woman wearing medical masks making a heart figure with their hands

Pandemic Stress Relief for Couples: Tips for Decreasing Stress and Increasing Communication

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

2020 threw the entire world into a tailspin in emotional, physical, and mental ways. Many couples found themselves facing relationship issues seemingly out of the blue – or dealing with huge issues that didn’t seem so dire before.

The truth is, the pandemic put us in a unique situation where relationship dynamics were drastically altered.

Does that make COVID-19 a doomsayer for all relationships? Not at all!

If you find your relationship suffering because of COVID, it’s important to understand how the pandemic affected relationships as well as how you can decrease stress and increase communication with your partner.

How COVID-19 Affected Relationships

It Created Financial Hardships

Finances are the leading cause of stress in relationships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many people who lost jobs and revenues due to the closures caused by the virus.

Not only does a sudden lack of money cause tension between partners but differing views and values related to money can cause stress as well.

This can lead to couples arguing about money as well as hiding transactions from each other.

It Created a Demand for New Routines and Responsibilities

Working from home, homeschooling, job loss – these are all situations that can cause significant disruptions in daily routines and dramatically shift responsibilities from one partner to the other.

The working partner who lost their job may find themselves frustrated with their lack of work and increase in household responsibilities. Likewise, someone who suddenly begins working at home may feel overwhelmed by the constant presence of their partner. 

The changes in routine and responsibilities resulting from the pandemic can cause tension and strain in a relationship.

It Added More Stress to Pre-Existing Vulnerabilities in the Relationship

Successful relationships often rely on creating space between partners either by going to work or having individual hobbies. When couples find themselves holed up at home during COVID-19 lockdowns, the resulting lack of solitude can have a negative effect on the relationship.

Not only does can the diminished space between couples cause tension in a relationship but it can actually add more stress to pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Those little quirks or annoyances that were once easy to overlook when there were moments of escape are now at the forefront and can cause added strain to couples.

How to Decrease Stress in Your Relationship

Couple is upset and irritated after quarreling.

The end of the pandemic may be visible on the horizon but the resulting effects it had on relationships could be everlasting if not addressed.

COVID-19 was a rough go and our natural responses to it stripped away many of our regular coping mechanisms. And it also brought to light activities that we didn’t even know we relied on to reduce stress such as going to the movies, going to work, and socializing with friends and family.

Because our old sense of “normal” was unceremoniously thrown out the window, it’s important to give yourself and your partner some grace. These changes were traumatic to some degree and we need to allow ourselves some time to heal.

Whether or not any relationship issues arose during the pandemic, now is not the time to make huge relationship decisions like getting a divorce. Instead, give each other a break and see if things get back on track.

Remember that the pandemic aggravated those little irritations that were easy to brush aside when you weren’t stuck at home with your partner. It’s important to relax and ease up on things that are actually subjective, such as how your partner folds the laundry.

By doing so, you’ll put yourself in a position to better appreciate the differences between you and your partner instead of letting them divide you. You may even begin to recognize and find gratitude in the things your partner does that you used to overlook.

How to Increase Communication With Your Partner

The key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner is to develop good communication skills. Once you have reduced the stress in your relationship, follow these tips to improve those skills:

Learn How to Actively Listen

There is a vast difference between hearing someone and actually listening to them. The first step in healthy communication is to learn how to actively listen.

Active listening involves responses and body language that assures your partner that you are listening and registering what they are saying.

A good first step to active listening is to put down your phone while talking with your partner. Maintaining eye contact and giving verbal confirmation that you are listening also work to demonstrate active listening.

Don’t Expect Your Partner to Read Your Mind

Another term for this phenomenon is “passive-aggressive” which occurs when one partner expresses negative feelings instead of openly expressing them. 

For example, one partner may give the other the cold shoulder until they figure out what is wrong with them.

Holding back your feelings is not helpful in creating an environment of healthy communication. Don’t wait for your partner to figure out what’s wrong – tell them in a calm and constructive manner.

Make Time to Talk

When you are placed in a situation in which you are sharing more space with your partner than you are used to, you may fall into the habit of only talking about things that “matter” such as spending money and household responsibilities.

While these conversations are important to have, they shouldn’t dominate the way you communicate with your partner all day. You need to reserve space in your conversations to discuss your feelings, your wants, and your needs.

You also need to make time to talk about the mundane things such as hobbies and interests that you each have. This will help you maintain a sense of personal connection.

Pandemic Stress Relief for Couples

The pandemic may have had a detrimental effect on your relationship but that doesn’t mean this is the end of the road.

If you find yourself unable to dissipate the stress in your relationship, it may be time to seek the support of couples therapy.

Let’s have a chat and see how couples therapy can strengthen your relationship and help you and your partner overcome the hurdles COVID-19 has thrown in your path!

Couple in bed together

Does Having Sex Too Soon Ruin the Chances of a Relationship?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 127 Comments

Before I wrote this, I searched up on the topic and read every result in the first couple pages of Google. NO ONE agrees… talk about frustrating! I was pulling my hair out halfway through, and I don’t want you to do that. You have really nice hair.

How could this be? Why are half the dating columnists saying one thing, and half saying the opposite?

Unfortunately the majority of people giving dating advice are basing their opinion entirely on personal experience. That’s like going fishing and not catching anything, then coming back and telling people there aren’t any fish. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Having Sex Too Soon Doesn’t Ruin the Chance of a Relationship… with One Exception

Ever had sex with someone, only to regret it and feel it was too soon? Maybe you even blamed the timing of your first romp in the sheets (or elsewhere) for the lack of romantic development. You wonder if you should hold out longer next time – maybe then the next guy will stick around and actually get to know you.

The thing that really pisses me off about this is that it takes two people to have sex. If you have sex with someone on the first date, THEY also have sex with YOU on the first date. If you’re easy, they’re just as easy. The facepalm required for this level of double standard would be fatal.

And yet, this perspective continues. Women are told to repress their sexual urges so they don’t scare men away. Great strategy right? “What you want is unattractive to men… just suppress yourself and wait for his approval.”

Shame is something that should NEVER be associated with sex. Whatever you think is best, that’s the best for you. Whatever your sexual kinks and fantasies, awesome. However long you think is the right time to wait before having sex, that’s the right amount of time.

Any guy who thinks less of a woman for having sex with him shouldn’t be dating. If you feel like you have to play games to keep someone in your life, they aren’t someone worth keeping. Cut your losses, be thankful you figured this out sooner rather than later, and move on.

So What’s the One Exception?

The only rule about when you should have sex is waiting until you’re ready. Assuming you’re ready, it doesn’t matter if you hook up on the first date or the fifth. If you aren’t ready and do it anyway, having sex too soon can definitely ruin the chances of having a relationship.

Having sex before you’re ready means you disrespected yourself. Usually you feel shitty, uncertain, you wonder if they’re judging you, and this can lead to needy behaviour. Neediness happens because you lost your own validation, and now you’re trying to regain your self-esteem by getting validation from someone else.

This is toxic. One of the keys to healthy relationships is being internally validated, rather than relying on other things or people to help you feel good. If this describes you or your situation, here’s what you should do.

First, figure out why this happened. There are three basic scenarios, and my advice to you depends on which scenario you’re in. Were you pressured? Did you have sex because you think it’s expected? Was it just because you were drunk or on something?

If you were pressured, don’t spend anymore energy on the relationship. No one worth keeping will pressure you into choices that make you feel bad about yourself.

If you think it’s expected of you, stop and ask yourself why these expectations influence your decisions. What are your expectations? What are you looking for? Focus on your own wants and needs.

If you were drunk or stoned, well… hopefully you had a good time. We’ve all had drunk hook ups and there’s no reason to feel bad about them.

Did you end up in a relationship following a hook up? Are you wondering about your relationship? I’d love to hear your story – tell me what’s going on in the comments below.

Man in white collared shirt surprised woman in denim jumpsuit with daisies

How To Move From Casual Dating to Serious Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 173 Comments

How exactly do you go from dating someone casually to having a serious relationship with them?

Is it some secret, LSD fuelled desert ritual?

Do you just… ask them?

Or maybe even *shudder* express your feelings?

Casual to Serious: Why Do You Commit?

Most of us have experienced a serious relationship by accident, usually when we really like the person we’re dating and it just naturally develops into something more. Other times you really like someone and it doesn’t work out, and you’ve probably wondered if there was anything you could’ve done differently.

To make yourself a better partner, think about your past relationships. What qualities made you want to get serious with your date? What things turned you off?

Being self-aware of how others perceive you is a huge advantage in dating and relationships. If you’re struggling with this, here’s a short list to help you go from a casual date to a serious mate (so lame, I know)

My Top 3 Casual Dating Tips

1) Be Independent

Some “experts” say you should act unavailable. It’s true that being overly available can seem desperate or unattractive, but the last thing you want to do is play dating games.

If you’re suffering from no-life syndrome, step back and ask yourself why you aren’t having fun on your own. Sure, acting unavailable might work at the casual dating stage, but what happens after that? How long before insecurities, neediness, and jealousy creep in?

Instead of acting unavailable, be independent. Hang out with your friends a couple times a week. Go to the gym. Play the sport you like or pursue one of your interests. Learn an instrument, a language, or take dancing lessons. Value yourself and your own time.

The main thing here is neediness is a killer. Insecure people push for serious relationships for the security it brings, and people can sense that.

2) Set Boundaries

Why would someone commit to you if they’re getting everything they want without the commitment?

If you’re struggling to find people willing to move beyond casual dating, there’s a good chance you’re giving too much. Why bend over backwards to make someone you barely know happy?

Let them earn it.

Before you open up completely, open a little bit and see if the person shows up for you. Are they receptive and warm? Or judgmental?

Before you start buying gifts for them and imagining your wedding, give the person an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment. Why dive head over heels without some experiences that show you this person is a caring, compassionate partner worth fantasizing about?

Some women might be wondering if having sex too soon is scaring guys away. Holding off to avoid judgement hints at a double standard – how can two people have sex at the same time but only one of them does it too soon?

Any guy who loses interest in you for having casual sex “too soon” is not worth having around.

3) This Secret Psychology Brain Hack

Here’s a way to discover how you might be sabotaging yourself without knowing it.

When you go on a date, what do you think the purpose is?

Whatever your answer is, that’s the main cause of your behaviour. If your answer is something like “to find the one”, you’re gonna come across as needy. If it’s “to get to know someone”, you’ll probably seem interview-ish.

The best way to look at a date is a chance to have fun. This keeps things… well, fun. People like being around fun, low-pressure people with no expectations.

As things progress, that’s when you get to know each other. If you emotionally vomit on someone and spill your whole life story during the first three dates, where’s the fun in that?

It’s like telling someone what’s in the present they’re about to unwrap. Isn’t the funnest part the unwrapping? Focus on having fun, enjoy the mystery, and going from casual to serious will happen naturally.

Signs You’re Graduating From Dating to a Serious Relationship

If all goes well, you won’t have to do “the talk” of whether or not you’re a serious couple. Watch for these milestones, and you’ll know if the casual dating phase is almost over.

The final milestone is when you know it’s official – whether you say it’s a serious relationship or not.

Unscheduled Time Together

When you start hanging out together without making plans in advance, you know things are getting serious.

Meeting Friends

Meeting each other’s social group is a big step. If you make it past the gauntlet of scrutiny from their friends, things are well on their way.

Sleepovers Without Sex

As long as you aren’t fighting, this is actually a good sign.

You Leave Some Stuff at Their House

If he’s leaving a pair of boxers at your place, it’s a sign. Likewise, if she’s got some clothes or 8,412 bottles of hair product in your shower, you’re in.

The Big One: Your First Fight

If you have a fight and you don’t break up, you’re basically saying this is something worth working on.

Troubleshooting: Dating for Months, but Not Serious?

Dating Tips and Q&A with Yours Truly

I wrote the first version of this article in 2012, and since then I’ve gotten hundreds of emails and comments asking about what to do in certain situations. Here are the most common questions and my answers to each.

If you have a question about moving from casual dating to a serious relationship that I didn’t answer, leave a comment below the article and I’ll get back to you within a couple days.

Q: I’ve been dating this person for months, and when I ask if we’re a serious couple or not, the subject gets changed or I get ignored altogether.

A: There are two explanations for this. One, they’re interested but not good at communicating or are feeling pressured and don’t like it. Two, they don’t want to get serious but want the other benefits of dating.

Let them know what you’re looking for and pull back a bit. If you drift apart, you know they were never going to commit and you saved yourself time, trouble, and heart ache.

Q: My date says it’s just casual, but acts like it’s serious? Texting a lot, we hook up often, they want to meet my friends. What’s the deal?

A: This scenario usually happens when someone wants to get serious but has a fear of commitment. They get around it by tricking themselves into thinking it’s not actually serious unless it’s labelled that way.

You have a choice to make – can you handle someone whose actions and words don’t align? Is it more important to you to have this person, or a person who’s ready and willing to commit?

Q: No one I date wants to get serious!! There’s always an excuse, why can’t I meet the right people?

A: You aren’t a helpless victim of the dating universe, so this isn’t really a question – you keep meeting the wrong people because you keep choosing to date similar people.

What feels right to you isn’t working. You need to try some wrong. Stop meeting people wherever you’re meeting them now. Date people who you don’t usually go for, and stop dating “your type”.

Cognitive Reframing

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Cognitive reframing is extremely effective, if you know how and when to use it.

Used properly – and consistently – it will help you eliminate negative thoughts, challenge limiting beliefs, and become a happier person.

Thoughts shape beliefs, beliefs shape emotions, and emotions shape behaviour. If you want to change something you think, feel, or do, start by using reframing to shape your thoughts.

Let’s get to it…

First Off… What IS Cognitive Reframing?

Cognitive reframing – also known as cognitive restructuring – is a technique that allows you to actively reprogram your brain. In short, if you change your beliefs, you create a real, physical change in your brain.

Your brain is like a muscle with many different parts, and just like a muscle, the parts you use often get bigger and stronger. There was a study done on cab drivers in London, comparing their brain scans with brain scans of average people.

They found the brain area responsible for mapping and memorizing routes (the hippocampus) is more developed in cab drivers. And not just more developed, but physically bigger.

When you think negative thoughts, you strengthen negative parts of your mind. A negative thought becomes a negative belief, a negative belief becomes a negative emotion, a negative emotion becomes negative behaviour.

No matter what you want to change – something you do, something you feel, or something you believe, the change begins with your thoughts.

Let’s run through a mental exercise to see exactly how cognitive reframing works in real life. After the example, I’ll break the process down into steps so you’ll be able to apply them right away.

Say you’re telling your friend a story. You notice him looking around, and attribute it to disinterest. Seconds later, he checks his phone. Now you KNOW you’re boring, and feel embarrassed. You question yourself, and for the rest of the day you feel shitty and insecure.

In this situation, the conclusion seems bullet proof. But it isn’t so – the idea that your perception matches reality is called “naive realism”. The truth is, it’s all a matter of perception.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you perceive what happens to you.”

Cognitive Reframing in 5 Easy Steps

1) Learn About Basic Cognitive Errors

You don’t perceive reality accurately. Between what happens, you perceiving it, and you drawing conclusions about it, there’s a lot of room for mistakes. Here’s a list of common mental errors.

2) Develop Mental Awareness

Once you know what to be aware of, it’s time to start practising. A trained mind is like an exclusive club – before anyone gets in, they go through security.

That’s exactly what I’m asking you to do now. If you’re harbouring negative thoughts, it’s because your security is weak. You let in some lame ass people and they’re ruining your club.

3) Challenge Your Conclusions

This is the most important step of cognitive reframing. Once you understand the types of mental errors and develop an awareness of them, it’s time to start challenging your ideas.

In our example, challenging the ideas means looking at alternatives. Does your friend usually look around while you talk? Is it just you, or does he do it to other people? Is he usually attentive? Could he be expecting an important phone call or text? Could there be something going on he might not want to talk about?

Usually, this process happens at the subconscious level. Your brain would’ve quickly ran through these options, and based on your past experiences, brought the most likely scenario to your conscious awareness.

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

4) Replace Faulty Beliefs

Faulty beliefs are the fuel of negative patterns. Find and replace the faulty beliefs, and you’ll free yourself from negative patterns in your life. The most extreme attempt at this was in the 1600’s, when some French guy named Descartes ran off into solitude in an attempt to examine and replace every single faulty belief he held.

A much less lonely option is to deal with negative beliefs as they come up. Each time you reframe a negative thought, you prevent one more brick being added to the wall.

If you really want to go next level and dive into your mind, think about WHY those negative beliefs came to mind in the first place.

5) Practical Tips

All of this is useless if you don’t use it. Here are some ways you can actively practice cognitive reframing right away, in your day to day life.

The Elastic Band Technique:

Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and whenever you have a negative thought, snap it lightly. It’s not to hurt yourself, just a gentle physical sensation to raise awareness.

Watch Your Words:

The language you use creates your reality. Do you really HATE your job? Is the food really disgusting, or just not that good? Are you really a useless idiot, or did you just make a mistake?

Look For Positives:

On a day to day basis, whether you feel positive or negative is mostly a matter of perception. For every negative thought, there’s a positive counter, and vice versa. The state of your mind will reflect where you place your focus, so be mindful of your choices.

Dirty dishes – an annoying chore, or a sign that you’re eating well? Stuck in traffic – an infuriating combination of bad driving and bureaucratic incompetence, or time to relax and listen to a new podcast?

Have a negative pattern you’re trying to break? Struggling with an insecurity? Feeling anxious because of troubling thoughts? Get in touch and learn how I can help!

Does Cheating Mean They Don’t Love You?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 9 Comments

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people say stuff like “If you really love someone, you won’t cheat on them.”

The problem with this perspective is you’re basically saying that actions reflect what a person truly believes. If you care about someone, you don’t hurt them, and since cheating is hurtful, you can’t cheat on someone if you truly care about them.

Any time you try to explain someone’s behaviour without taking environmental factors into account, you commit what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error (FAE). Contrary to popular belief, environmental pressures play as large a role in determining behaviour as a person’s character. What does this mean, exactly?

Let’s try an experiment

Consider the amount of people who would kill another person just because they’ve been asked to as part of a psychological experiment. Prior to studying psychology, I would’ve said zero or close to zero. Maybe a few psychopaths or murderers if one just so happened to be asked. Would it shock you to hear the number is above 60%?

Obviously no one was actually killed in the experiment, but the people who were part of the experiment didn’t know that. They were asked by a scientist to apply shocks to a student for every wrong answer the student provided, with each wrong answer providing a larger shock. Eventually the student stopped responding, at which point people expressed concern. The scientist simply said they had to continue, and 65% of people did.

This experiment has been repeated around the world, and across several decades. The results are consistently between 60-65%. Does this mean 60-65% of the human population are horrible, murderous savages?

Of course not!

The experiment I described is just one of many, many examples of how people can behave in radically different ways when exposed to environmental pressures.

Environmental factors that affect cheating

In the case of cheating, environmental factors could be drinking or drugs, locations like bars, night clubs, or strip clubs, certain types of people, different forms of stress, and so on. There are dozens of factors at work.

Take a guy who’s in love with his wife but is under a ton of stress from work, goes out with some office guys he’s not really close with, has a few too many drinks, gets caught up in the moment and does some coke. Starts dancing with a girl and makes out with her. They go to the bathroom to do another line and stuff happens.

This is a real life scenario I encountered during a couples session. Were these bad decisions? Yup. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Were there multiple points at which this could’ve been avoided? You bet.

But none of this means he doesn’t love his wife.

Despite the evidence, his wife initially disagreed that environmental pressures are a valid reason for doing stupid things. There’s a very good reason for this denial – it can be terrifying to accept that people you trust can act in horrible ways.

This extends beyond cheating and infidelity, and into all areas of life. Accepting that good people can do bad things is scary. Accepting that you can do bad things is really uncomfortable as well. Try to imagine yourself cheating. Tough right?

Every person I’ve met who has cheated is ashamed to some degree, and I often hear things like “I can’t believe I did that.” So are we all screwed then? Is environmental pressure like a black hole for morals?

No, definitely not.

Although 65% of people “killed” the student in the experiment, 35% of people didn’t. That being said, it’s a lot better if you don’t have to fight an uphill battle. The strategy I recommend is avoiding the pressure in the first place. If you’re married, maybe getting bombed with the boys at Club BJ isn’t the best idea. Get what I’m sayin’?

We can help

I know it’s tough to accept, but you can cheat on someone and still love them very much. The couple I worked with did end up working things out.

If you’re going through infidelity, it IS a real possibility that your partner doesn’t love you. But don’t be too afraid to accept that just maybe, they do.

If you’re ready to seek help, contact us today!

Man and woman ending argument as woman walks away

Stop Arguing in a Relationship

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If there’s too much arguing in a relationship, eventually it breaks things down and you don’t even want to try anymore. I always have hope for the couples I see who are still fighting; it’s the ones who are apathetic that worry me.

To stop the arguing in your relationship before you cross the point of no return, here’s a list of the top ten best pieces of advice I’ve come across during my time as a couples counsellor.

1) Argue with the Right Frame of Mind

For most people, the purpose of arguing in a relationship is to expose your partner’s mistakes, criticize, or to prove that you’re right. Stop for a minute and think about how your purpose affects your actions. When you initiate a conversation feeling like you’re right, how do you act?

Probably like a self-righteous dickwad. I dunno about you, but I’m not very receptive to people who come across that way. It’s a good idea to have positive goals for your argument, ones that produce mutually beneficial outcomes.

A few examples include arguing to explore a topic, to compromise and agree on an outcome, or to understand the other person’s point of view. Those goals put you in a positive frame of mind, you’ll be more receptive, understanding, and less focused on being right.

2) Remember These Two Factors

We form our perspective based on two things:

1) The need to be accurate
2) The need to protect our self-esteem

Generally, the second one trumps the first one.

Your resistance to an idea is directly related to how much that idea threatens your self-esteem. For many people, living a lie is easier than accepting an accurate truth that would force them to acknowledge their flaws. Be aware of how you present your views, and do your best to avoid threatening your partner’s self-esteem.

3) Arguing Isn’t About Playing Games

In a game, you’re pitted against an opponent with the goal of winning. It’s extremely difficult to be vulnerable with someone you consider an opponent, and without vulnerability there is no trust, and… you get the idea.

Every disagreement in your relationship involves both of you. If you think your partner isn’t owning up to their share of the blame, it creates a stand-off. Neither person wants to be the sole bearer of blame, so you end up focusing on what your partner did wrong instead of focusing on how to resolve the issue.

How do you stop it?

When your partner says “Hey, I fucked up, I’m sorry,” you don’t rub it in, gloat, or lecture them. You say “Yeah, me too”, and then have really good make up sex. When you trust each other enough to know that admitting fault results in positives instead of negatives, you eliminate the cause of game playing.

4) Actually Listen

You know you’re listening when you’re carefully considering what’s being said. The big red flag to watch for is the urge to interrupt – if you feel the urge to interrupt you’ve stopped listening and are only waiting for your chance to speak.

If you’re not actively listening and thinking, you’re missing out on chances to find common ground and understand your partner’s perspective.

5) Everybody Has Unique Communication Styles

Most therapist advice seems very therapist-y. When I read relationship communication advice it usually clashes with what I actually see happening in relationship counselling sessions.

A book or advice column might tell you to say something like:

“Honey, I love how hard you work. I know you’re tired when you come home, but you know I’m tired too and it would mean a lot to me if you would help around the house.”

No one talks like that, especially when they’re mad. If they try to it slips into game playing and they do it in a restrained, passive-aggressive way. What they’re really saying is “I’m doing this bullshit our therapist suggested, so get the fuck up and help me clean.”

In my opinion, the most effective communication is honest communication. The honest truth is you’re mad, but also in love – so communicate that. What that looks like will be different for everyone.

I personally prefer something in between, like “Hey, you want dinner tonight? Then get your ass off the couch and come help me with the dishes… you sexy thing.”

6) Arguing Isn’t About the Other Person

Nothing is more frustrating than someone else telling you what you feel, what you think, or what you did. This is the emotional equivalent of someone taking your arm and smacking you with it, then telling you to stop hitting yourself.

Stick to what you know, and phrase things in the first person. Talk about how you felt and what you did or didn’t like, but stick to your own thoughts and feelings.

7) Recognize that Reality is Subjective

There are usually multiple legitimate perspectives on any given situation, and all can be “right”. Don’t focus on explaining why your perspective makes sense – look for common ground between your two perspectives and go from there.

I like to tell couples there’s more than one way to read a text.

8) Forget About Convincing, Start Solving

Instead of trying to decide who’s right, figure out a way you can both agree. This basically means complaining instead of criticizing (yes, complaining can be good).

Most people have a tendency to take what they didn’t like about an action or event, and phrase it as a personal attack against their partner. Instead of saying “You’re so cold lately” (insult, criticism) say “I didn’t get a kiss when I came home” (feedback, complaint).

9) Don’t Forget the Love Beneath the Anger

Sometimes arguing can be draining on your relationship. You yell, say stuff you don’t mean, call each other names. One of the most important skills of successful couples is the ability to kiss through the anger.

It’s being able to let loose on each other, and understand it was just venting frustration and it got out of control. You say sorry for getting out of control, and acknowledge that this is something that needs to be resolved. Either let it go (and only say it if you really can let it go) or agree to deal with it another time.

This is basically the process behind never going to bed angry, which is another really good idea.

10) Avoid Blanket Statements to Stop Arguing in a Relationship

Avoid saying “never”, “always”, and so on. Instead of “You’re never there for me!”, try saying “I know it might not be this way, but it feels like you aren’t ever there when I need you to be.”

Do you have tips for putting an end to relationship arguments? Leave them in the comments below!

And remember, if you’re arguing with your partner and the relationship is in trouble, you can work with me to make things better again.