New Year peak in calls and Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Counsellors at Relate Nottinghamshire are preparing themselves for an anticipated 20 per cent increase in calls from couples, families and individuals this January, in line with annual trends.*

The charity says it hears from many couples and families in the New Year whose relationship issues have come to a head over the Christmas period. It reports that some couples seeking counselling are on the verge of separation but are looking to give their relationship one last shot. Others they say have already made the decision to break up but want support to help them separate in the least painful way possible.

This comes as Relate launches a new national report, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, which finds that divorcing and separating families are being let down by a complex support system which is hard to access and even more difficult to navigate. The result is families trapped in a cycle of conflict, leading to poor outcomes for children.

In response to the report’s findings, Relate is calling for an interactive online portal where people can access all the support they need before, during and after separation, as well as a national helpline. The report has been welcomed by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice.

Alison Towner, Clinical Supervisor at Relate Nottinghamshire said:
“New Year is a time when many of us naturally assess how life is going and this can make people think about how their relationships are faring. The high number of calls Relate receives in January suggests that many people are considering what they want from their relationships at this time of year. It may also be affected by issues which have come to the surface over Christmas.

“Contacting Relate is a positive step – we can help people in all sorts of situations to work out what’s next for their relationships. However, as Relate’s new report finds, the wider support system for separating families, which includes services such as solicitors, Citizens Advice, mediation and counselling, is often difficult to access and complex to navigate. We are therefore calling for a more joined up system with a single online point of access to all relationship support, as well as a national helpline. This will help to ensure that children and families are put first when it comes to divorce and separation.”

Relate Nottinghamshire offers information, advice and counselling for all stages of your relationships, including family counselling which can include support for families and parenting. Call us on 0115 9584278 or visit for more information.

Christmas opening hours

Relate Nottinghamshire will close on December 23rd at 2pm and reopen on January 4th 2016 at 9am

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

How to decide who to spend Christmas with and avoid family rows

As the Christmas lights go up and the heart-warming festive TV adverts appear, anyone who hasn’t confirmed how they are spending Christmas this year may be feeling under pressure to commit.

Who to spend Christmas with sounds like such a simple question but it can actually be rather complicated and cause a lot of stress and tension within families and between the couple themselves. In fact, Relationships charities Relate Nottinghamshire and Marriage Care say that this is something which often comes up in the counselling room. The charities have therefore released top tips on how to avoid rows about who to spend Christmas with.

Relate counsellor, Alison Towner, Clinical Supervisor at Relate Nottinghamshire said the issue can be particularly apparent within blended families. She said:

“Deciding who to spend Christmas with is often a major source of tension in relationships, especially where families are trying to cover all bases. This is never truer than for step families or blended families where there might be competing agendas, especially where children are concerned.”

“At Relate, we often see people who have felt infuriated by an ex-partner having somehow ‘manipulated’ offspring into spending the big day with them instead. Of course, underneath the anger there are often feelings of sadness, abandonment and failure. That’s why if you have difficult relationship with an ex-partner, finding time to connect, talk and listen to their thoughts and feelings within a neutral environment can be a powerful way of coming to an agreement.”

In Marriage Care’s experience, newlyweds can also face issues, particularly when they find themselves having to choose which family they will spend their first Christmas with as a married couple. Bridie Collins at Marriage Care said:

“Sometimes, both sets of families assume they’ll be ‘getting you’ for your first married Christmas and will be disappointed if they don’t. If parents protest, keep in mind that this can be hard for your parents, especially if it’s your first time missing the family occasion. And it’s likely to be tough for you as well. Reassure them that you wish there was a way to spend the holiday with both families, but you have to make a choice. Perhaps you can offer to visit them on another significant holiday occasion, or decide to be with them next year.

“What is most important is that you as a couple discuss the issue and agree on any decision, compromising as necessary for the sake of your relationship. If it’s something you find you can’t agree about, don’t let it become a niggle – seek a little support!”
Tips for avoiding disagreements about how to spend Christmas
• Be realistic and understand that you can’t please everyone all of the time. Rushing around trying to fit in multiple visits on Christmas Day is likely to mean you feel stressed and don’t enjoy it.
• If you come from a blended family, bear in mind that asking a child to ‘choose’ who to spend the day with can make them feel very anxious. Consider a fairer solution such as taking it in turns each year.
• Find time to connect, talk and listen to all parties. If you have a difficult relationship with anyone, discussing things on neutral territory may provide the best outcomes.
• Share with each other what practices or traditions make this time ‘special’ and the importance to each of you of celebrating it with the extended family. You may find that it’s not such a big deal for one of you, despite family expectations
• Try to introduce change gradually so it’s all less of a shock to the system. People can often accept minor differences which before they (and you) know it, become part of a new way of doing Christmas.
• If for instance you want to go abroad this year but are worried about a friend or relative feeling lonely or left out, consider inviting them along or seeing if there’s anyone else who they would like to spend the day with.
• If you can’t see certain people on Christmas Day, arrange to see them at another point during the festive period such as Boxing Day, Christmas Eve or the weekend before.
• Recognize that it’s OK to take control of the Christmas arrangements and not stick to the same routine.
• Next year, start talking about what feels do-able sooner rather than later. This often means that more people’s opinions can be canvassed and considered before a decision is made.

Ten tips for a happy relationship

1. Talk constructively

How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticising. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything. Try our three tips for improving communication with your partner.

2. Listen to each other

Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.

3. Don’t bottle things up

If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favours by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.

4. Keep things fresh

It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around by surprising them occasionally.

5. Let go of the little stuff

Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!

6. Appreciate what you have

Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.

7. Give each other space

Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realise that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about. Try our four steps for setting healthy boundaries in your relationship.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!

9. Avoid jealousy and build trust

Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.

10. Work on it

It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.

Alcohol Awareness Week – parenting troubled teens

Alcohol Awareness Week- Relate Nottinghamshire issues advice for parents worried about their teenager’s drinking

Most teenagers have begun experimenting with alcohol by their mid-teens but this doesn’t make it any less worrying for parents. With the Christmas party season nearly upon us, the chances of your teen being offered a tipple or two are even higher. But how do you intervene if your teenager’s drinking is becoming a problem without damaging your relationship in the process?

To coincide with Alcohol Awareness Week, which takes place from 16th-22nd November, family and relationship experts, Relate Nottinghamshire, have released top tips on talking to teenagers about underage drinking.

Overall the picture is looking more promising than it once was. The number of UK young adults who have binged on alcohol has fallen by more than a third from 29 per cent in 2005 to 18 per cent in 2013*. However, Relate Nottinghamshire, who work closely with families and offer advice on parenting, still hear from many parents who are worried about their teenager’s drinking.

Relate counsellor, Alison Towner, at Relate Nottinghamshire said:

“Underage drinking can have a huge impact on teenager’s lives. Not only are young people who drink regularly at risk of liver damage but alcohol can also affect their mental health, sexual behaviour and achievement in the classroom.

“Lots of parents have concerns about their teenagers and alcohol but find it difficult to communicate effectively, which can put the relationship under strain. The truth is it’s never too early or too late to have an open conversation about drinking and to lay down some ground rules. If like so many parents, you’re unsure where to begin, a Relate counsellor can lend a helping hand.”

Talking to your teenager about alcohol: Relate Nottinghamshire’s tips for parents
 Talk to you teen openly and honestly about the risks associated with alcohol. The Drink Aware ( website is a good source of information.
 Put rules in place- research shows that teens who have rules around alcohol are less likely to get drunk. Sit down with your teen and agree some boundaries together.
 If your teen does come home drunk, don’t talk to them about it until they’ve sobered up. Your son or daughter is unlikely to be able to think clearly while under the influence and the conversation is more likely to end in an argument.
 If they’ve been drinking, explain why you’re upset or concerned – tell them that you really love and care about them and that you’re scared for their safety when they drink.
 Avoid adopting a blaming position. It may help to reflect on your own experiences of alcohol as a teenager.
 Bear in mind your responsibility as a role model when it comes to your own drinking. This may affect their response to the way you communicate with them.
 Get professional support – if you think that your teenager has an alcohol addiction then you can get professional help from a trained counsellor via the Live Chat service on the Relate website.
Relate Nottinghamshire offers information, advice and counselling for all stages of your relationships, including family counselling which can include support for families and parenting. Call us on 0115 9584278 or visit for more information.

Relate also offers a free Live Chat service for parents of teenagers where you can talk to a trained counsellor in real time. Visit to find out more and for advice about how to deal with common teen issues.

National Stress Awareness Day

National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) Wednesday Nov 4th 2015

The 17th National Stress Awareness Day, which is held to celebrate helping people to beat stress will take place on 4 November 2015. The theme this year is “Employee wellbeing as a worthwhile investment in your business”.

Do you know the main reasons for stress at work? There are increasing redundancies taking place in our current climate for one thing. Inevitably this leads to a lot of worries arising where people might wonder how they’ll get by or provide for their families.

Relationship conflicts between colleagues, a build up of accidents caused by a worker and problems linked with the overall upkeep of the organisation’s image could also contribute to elevated stress levels. Depression and issues from work are one of the main causes of stress reported by patients in the doctor’s surgery.

So do you have a routine that helps you get rid of tension? If the answer is yes, great! When we’re happy we’re healthy and that sets us up for a longer, more fulfilled life. If the answer is no, don’t stress over it! The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) is here to help!

But you don’t have to wait around until the day itself, now is the time to start taking action.

You could begin by organising your own event to raise awareness of how to deal with stress in the workplace on the day! ISMA have provided lots of ideas and tips on how to manage planning the event.

For example, you could set up your own stand and ask local businesses to offer treatments like aromatherapy, massages or reflexology. All are known to be great stress relaxation techniques. For your checklist go to the National Stress Awareness Day website for more information about how you can get involved.

If I’m feeling stressed I can take a bath or write my diary to get rid of any pent up feelings! But it’s always good to accept a bit of outside help from time to time.

Don’t waste your extra hour – dedicate it to loved ones

As the clocks go back, Relate Nottinghamshire and Marriage Care suggest spending the extra hour on those who matter most

When the clocks go back on 25th October, we will be blessed with an extra hour. But how are we going to spend it? How about making that extra hour really count and using it to invest in your relationships?

This is the advice being offered by relationships charities, Relate and Marriage Care. Their The Way We Are Now 2015 study in conjunction with Relationships Scotland found that we spend more time with our bosses than with our mums (38% of those in employment see their boss every day compared to only 27% for mums). The same study also found that nearly half (47%) of people with children under five (and who are in a couple relationship) never or rarely engage in outside interests with their partner, compared to 27% without children. With this in mind, the relationship experts believe we should be making the most of any spare time we can get.

Relate counsellor, Alison Towner, Clinical Supervisor at Relate Nottinghamshire said:
“When we’re so busy juggling careers, finances and childcare, our relationships can sadly be put on the back burner. An extra hour may not seem like long but it’s enough time to reach out to somebody in a really positive way and spread a little love and happiness. Whether you decide to focus on your partner, friend, child, or yourself, that little bit of extra effort is likely to go a long way and help to make your relationship stronger.”

Bridie Collins at Marriage Care said: “It’s often quoted that what most people say on their deathbed isn’t that they wish they’d made more money but that they’d spent more time with their family and friends. Our time is the most precious gift we can give to those who are most important in our lives. Sometimes, though, we take this for granted so why not take the gift of this extra hour and spend time with someone you love?”

Relate Nottinghamshire’s six ways to spread the love in your extra hour

• Call to say ‘I love you’ – Why not call somebody close to you like your mum, dad, grandma or son or daughter and tell them how much you care. Sometimes it’s nice to hear those three little words out loud.
• Have a romantic lie in – Let the alarm clock go off at the usual time but instead of getting out of bed, spend the extra hour cuddling with your partner and anything else that might lead to. You’ll be sure to go to work with a spring in your step after that!
• Set up a dating profile – Perhaps you’ve recently come out of a relationship and feel ready to start dating again. An hour is a perfect amount of time to set up a profile on an online dating website.
• Reply to texts and emails – Not work emails, but that text from your friend asking to meet for coffee or that email from your auntie checking how you are that you’ve been meaning to reply to for weeks.
• Have a sit down breakfast – How many families manage to sit round the table for breakfast these days? Often it’s simply not feasible but with an extra hour to spare, why not prepare a fry-up or a delicious fruit salad with yoghurt for the whole family as a treat.
• Invest in yourself- If you’ve been really busy lately and are feeling exhausted, the best thing for you and your relationships may actually be to treat yourself to some ‘me time’. Perhaps read a book, do something creative like playing an instrument or drawing.
Relate Nottinghamshire offers information, advice and counselling for all stages of your relationships. Call us on 0115 9584278 or visit for more information.
Marriage Care offers relationship education courses for couples who want to strengthen their relationships and counselling for those who need some support. Call us on 0800 389 3801 for a local appointment or visit for more information.


GroceryAid has partnered with Relate to provide free relationship counselling and support for grocery colleagues in England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Relate has over 75 years’ experience of providing relationship support to individuals, couples and families and they help over one million people in the UK every year. Relate counsellors and therapists are non-judgemental, impartial and everything you tell them is completely confidential unless someone’s personal safety is at risk.

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and talking to someone outside of your immediate situation can be very beneficial, so please do get in touch.”

For any of the services please contact the GroceryAid Helpline on freephone 08088 021122.

GroceryAid has recently launched a new service to help you when you’re experiencing tension in your relationships. At these times it’s good to know that there’s practical support available to help you, your partner or family cope with both the emotional and practical impact on your lives together.

For further information on this service, please visit the GroceryAid website