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    4 Types Of Toxic Relationship & Their Warning Signs

    Toxic relationships are difficult to define. As no two relationships are the same, there’s no one set of symptoms that clearly define an unhealthy relationship. However, the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is often how it makes you feel. Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
    The negative impact of a toxic relationship is significant, affecting both physical and mental health. While healthy relationships have a foundation of trust, independence and respect for each other, unhealthy relationships often lead to feelings of low self-worth, a lack of agency, as well as feeling helpless, fearful, anxious, and often paranoid.
    The term ‘toxic’ doesn’t only refer to romantic relationships. It can apply to any kind of connection you make with another. An unhealthy relationship with a friend, a family member, or a co-worker, can be equally damaging to your well-being, but the most common signs that these relationships are toxic may vary.
    The signs that a relationship is toxic can accumulate over time and often the boundaries are blurred making it difficult for some to identify. However, if you’re drained by your relationship and your partnership isn’t equal, you might be in a toxic relationship. Signs that your relationship may be toxic:
    Toxic relationship: Friend

    They cross your boundaries

    If you have a toxic relationship with a friend, they might constantly do things that upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. Whenever you try to bring them up and set a firm boundary, they might become defensive or make you feel bad for wanting space. If they apologise, the apology rarely sounds sincere.

    They never listen to your problems

    While they might frequently come to you for advice, they don’t devote equal attention to listening to your problems. Whenever you need them, they appear busy, and every conversation tends to be about them.

    They can’t be happy for you

    Instead of celebrating your victories, they see you as competition. Your every achievement reminds them of their own shortcomings and means they feel they’re being left behind.

    They’re judgmental

    Instead of offering you mental support, they frequently judge your choices and make you feel bad for making them.

    You feel drained

    If the friendship feels suffocating and one-sided, chances are it really is. When your friend isn’t there for you when you need them, you end up feeling lonely and unsupported.
    Toxic Relationship: Family

    They compare you to other people

    No matter what you do, your family member is never satisfied. Somehow, you are never good enough while other people can do no wrong. If you have siblings, you’re often being compared even if you’re completely different people.

    They’re always right

    They always think they know better and treat you like you’re incapable of making your own decisions.

    They dismiss your feelings

    Rather than being empathetic, they’ll often simply tell you that other people have it worse or that you should be grateful for what you have. You aren’t allowed to feel unhappy and express any negative emotions.

    They pick on you

    They frequently make personal or critical comments about you. They might give you backhanded compliments, for example, “You look so pretty with makeup on, you should wear it more often” or “Are you sure you want to eat that?”.
    Toxic Relationship: Coworker

    They act superior

    A toxic co-worker might act like their role is more important than yours. Even though you might have the same duties, they feel superior and enjoy telling you what to do. Nothing is ever their fault, and they think they’re always right.

    They gossip

    They might frequently talk behind people’s backs, enjoy spreading doubt and deliberately turn colleagues against each other.

    They can’t work as a part of a team

    They struggle to cooperate because they want to look better than everyone else.

    They complain a lot

    More than venting about the odd bad day at work, toxic co-workers are never satisfied. They will regularly talk about how much they hate their job and feel every piece of constructive feedback is a personal attack. It becomes draining and can quickly causes discontent to spread.
    Toxic Relationship: Romantic Partner

    They have issues they aren’t willing to work on

    The key to a healthy relationship is mutual respect and growth. If your partner isn’t willing to work on themselves, they aren’t able to fully commit to the relationship. For example, your partner might have anger issues and throw things when you’re having an argument. They might not be abusive towards you but make you feel uneasy and unsupported.

    They can’t, or won’t, communicate

    Instead of talking things through openly and honestly, a toxic partner might disguise their feelings by giving you the silent treatment, lying, or becoming passive-aggressive. These manipulative tactics allow toxic partners to express their resentment or disappointment, while denying your opportunity to respond or express your feelings. This can leave you feeling misunderstood and isolated.

    Controlling behaviours

    Toxic partners often assert control over others using a range of behaviours including humiliation, intimidation, threats, and violence. They may isolate you from your friends and family, seek to control your finances, and monitor your time and whereabouts. This pattern of behaviour is often subtle and gradual, becoming apparent all of a sudden.

    The effort isn’t equal

    Your partner is emotionally detached and disinterested, unwilling to invest any effort or time into your relationship. They are always the priority. You’re always the one initiating plans, and the one who always texts or calls first. You feel you have to work hard just to sustain your partner’s attention, but your efforts never pay off.
    If you have recognise any of these behaviours or you have concerns about a relationship, it’s a good idea to seek help by speak to an experienced professional.
    If you need help and support understanding a toxic relationship you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
    Family Law Advice
    If you are in an toxic relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
    Other Helpful Contacts
    National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
    The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
    The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
    National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
    Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123 More

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    How to better connect with other people

    After over a year of profound social changes that have significantly reduced the opportunity for meaningful interaction, it’s not difficult to see why some of us have forgotten the art of connecting with other people. 
    Here, Psychologist Luisa Williams gives us top tips to increase connection and explains the multifaceted benefits of sharing better bonds with other people.
    We are all social creatures that crave interaction. But what we truly need is connection – a genuine bond with someone that goes beyond spending time with them and enjoying their company.
    When we connect with someone, we feel a sense of belonging that improves our well-being. Positive relationships with people don’t only make us less lonely but also increase life longevity and build our resilience. Connection helps us feel supported and more resistant to life adversities.
    But, if it has so many benefits, why do we find connection with others so difficult?
    An inability to connect might stem from low self-esteem. When we think lowly of ourselves, we’re afraid of being vulnerable enough to share personal struggles with others. A fear of vulnerability might be linked to trust issues. If you were hurt in the past, it’s natural you don’t believe in other people’s intentions.
    In some people’s cases, it’s a matter of a different worldview. If you experience mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, trauma history or personality disorders, you might feel isolated and struggle to relate to other people and their perspectives.
    But no matter what’s holding you back, you can learn how to better connect with others, and begin to enjoy the benefits of connectivity. Check out the tips below:
    Connect with a smile
    Smiling is one of the tricks that make others see you in a positive light. It conveys positive emotions and boosts your mood. When you smile at someone, they’re more likely to respond with a smile as well, which strengthens the bond and positive associations. Essentially, smile is a social tool. It lets others know you want to engage with them and that you’re someone they can trust.
    Practise social skills
    We all need social interaction, whether we’re lonely or not. However, problems arise when we turn to other people to receive validation or distract ourselves from negative emotions. Sometimes, we end up seeing our relationships as a transaction. In the end, we fail to commit and make an effort. If you want to build a true connection with others, you have to start seeing them as someone you can grow with.
    The first step is to become a great listener. Good listening skills let others know you care about what they have to say and that you’re interested in them as a person. Make sure you’re actively listening – make eye contact, respond with nonverbal cues and wait for a pause to ask questions about what is being said.
    If you struggle with concentration, visualise what the other person is saying. Make a mental note of what they like and dislike. It will help you get to know their boundaries and further strengthen the bond. If you know what’s important to someone, you’re less likely to jeopardize your relationship. Don’t forget to engage in small talk. It will allow you to showcase your personality and encourage building on the relationship.
    Get to know them
    Be present and forget about distractions. When you want to get to know someone, you have to make an effort and focus all your attention on them. Make sure you don’t look at your phone or worry about all the things you have to do when you get home.
    Develop interests. One of the most important steps is sharing mutual interests. Your likes and dislikes might be already obvious to you but if your life revolves around school or work, you might struggle to think of things you’re passionate about. Of course, most people enjoy watching TV or playing games but the key to building a relationship with someone is finding something you can both grow doing. You can start by trying out new hobbies. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and consider signing up for a new class.
    Lastly, learn to recognise when they feel uncomfortable or upset. Pay attention to their body language and changes in demeanour. Notice if they’re exceptionally quiet or struggle to keep eye contact.
    Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
    Vulnerability. It’s defined as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’. Most of us take risks frequently: we order food from a new restaurant, we cross the road when the light is red, and arrive late for work. But when it comes to people, we tend to play it safe. We hide our feelings and distance ourselves.
    Vulnerability is the price of connection. Connection is about stepping out of your comfort zone and being open with another person as much as they’re open with us. If someone shares their personal struggles with you, don’t be afraid to respond with the same.
    However, make sure you connect with yourself first. Try to sit with your thoughts and feelings. Write them down and try to link emotions to what’s going on in your life. This will help you spot a pattern and better meet your needs. For example, if your job is stressing you out and you don’t have time to rest because you work overtime, you might think of adjustments to complete your tasks faster.
    Be authentic and let people get to know the real you. If you find it difficult to open up and feel comfortable around someone you don’t know well, remind yourself that everyone has flaws. Write down your strengths and make sure you read them regularly. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A genuine friendship is based on trust and helping each other get through difficult times.

    If you’d like to hear more from Luisa on a range of other topics, visit My Family Psychologist. More

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    Why am I so angry?

    Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to share insights on anger responses and how to recognise when recurring anger may be caused by more persistent underlying problems.
    Why am I so angry?
    Life is full of twists and turns. Its challenges sometimes force us to change direction or adjust to a new reality which includes dealing with difficult emotions. If we don’t get the job we want, we might feel disappointed. If our relationship ends, we might experience pain and sadness.
    Anger is an emotion some of us experience frequently. It can be triggered by being disrespected or treated unfairly. It might be triggered by unexpected situations that interrupt our goals. Or, it can be a response to stress. Imagine you’re late for work and stuck in traffic. This would make anyone at least slightly annoyed at a given moment. When anger is a response to an unpleasant situation, it likely comes and goes quite quickly without causing further issues.
    While anger might seem like a straightforward emotion that’s an interpretation of whatever is going on in your life, it often implies there’s something else hidden underneath the surface. If you find yourself dealing with anger on a daily basis, your anger is likely a part of a bigger problem.
    Unhealthy responses to anger
    While anger is often a natural response, it can easily escalate and turn into an emotional outburst or even aggression. When our anger is triggered by the words or actions of other people, we might struggle to feel understood and take out our frustration on others to avoid being hurt more. Unhealthy anger can take on many forms:
    Passive aggression
    Have you ever given someone a silent treatment because they made you angry instead of trying to talk things through? Have you ever pretended everything was fine when you were upset about something your loved one did? Passive aggression is a strategy that helps us avoid confrontation but only adds to the problem. While we might choose not to fully engage with anger to avoid being vulnerable, suppressed anger doesn’t go away and can turn abusive. When you act in a passive-aggressive way, you place your needs and pride above other people’s feelings. Your refusal to communicate increases frustration on both sides and makes you feel even more hostile.
    Open aggression
    Just like passive aggression, open aggression is a harmful way of expressing anger but it’s directly aimed at other people. It’s a way of confronting someone while disregarding their feelings. Examples include shouting, throwing things, sarcasm or violence. Releasing anger might feel powerful. It might make you feel in control while serving as protection that shields you from further getting hurt. But in reality, it puts a barrier between you and your loved one and hurts both of you.
    Turning anger inwards
    Anger is often intense and might be triggered by the way we feel towards ourselves. When someone lets us down, we might blame ourselves for trusting them and having high expectations or believing we were good enough. If anger is mixed with the feeling of guilt and shame it might be used as a form of punishment. For example, you might self-inflict an injury to deal with overwhelming emotions.
    If you tend to deal with anger using the strategies above, you may struggle with self-control and expressing emotions in a healthy way. Anger aimed at yourself decreases your self-esteem. Anger aimed at other people shows disregard for their feelings and needs. It might make communication difficult. It might escalate and lead to undesired behaviours. It doesn’t only strain relationships with other people but can cause a range of health issues such as headaches, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety and digestion problems. Additionally, when we feel angry our body releases cortisol (the stress hormone) that increases our heart rate and blood pressure, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes inflammation and stress.
    Anger and mental disorders
    Anger can be connected to many other emotions like guilt, shame, anxiety, stress, feeling overwhelmed and irritability. It might be also related to underlying mental health issues some of which are described below.
    Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
    IED is marked by explosive outbursts that occur suddenly and often not in proportion to the situation. These might include verbal aggression, shouting, getting into fights, threatening, or assaulting others or property damage. The episodes are often marked by increased energy, racing thoughts, tingling, tremors, palpitations, or chest tightness. The cause of IED is unknown but the risk factors can be a history of abuse or having another mental disorder that is characterized by disruptive behaviours.
    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. People with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation which makes it difficult for them to manage emotions and keep their intensity appropriate to the situation. The main risk factors for developing ADHD can be genetics, low level of activity in the brain parts responsible for attention and activity or prenatal exposure to alcohol or nicotine.
    Personality disorders such as BPD
    Borderline Personality Disorder is another disorder associated with emotional dysregulation. Individuals with BPD struggle to manage intense emotions which often seem an inappropriate response to a situation. Explosive anger experienced by someone with BPD is one of the diagnostic criteria and might be accompanied by shouting, aggression and even self-harm. The main cause of the disorder is a history of trauma or exposure to distress as a child.
    Conduct disorder
    Conduct Disorder is a pattern of antisocial behaviours in children that might involve property destruction, theft, deceptiveness, animal cruelty and aggression towards people. Children and teenagers with conduct disorder misbehave frequently and find it difficult to manage emotions. The possible causes include defects or injuries to certain brain areas linked to regulating emotions and behaviours, genetics, and a dysfunctional family environment.
    If you feel like your anger is impossible to manage and takes over your life, we recommend seeking professional help.
    Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat. More

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    5 tips for Father’s Day without the kids

    Father’s Day without the kids can be challenging when you’re separated or going through a divorce, particularly if you aren’t seeing your children on the day.  
    Perhaps you don’t see your children as much as you would like at the best of times, or maybe communication between you and their mother has broken down, and you are in the middle of a court process that will ultimately decide how your children divide their time.  
    Or maybe it just isn’t your scheduled time with the children, and you haven’t been able to negotiate a swap.
    If this is you, then the media hype surrounding Father’s Day might seem overwhelming, and it can be easy to lose yourself in feeling low or angry, concentrating on what you have lost and the “what if” questions that might be swirling around your mind.  
    I am here to reassure you that you do have a choice.  You can make a conscious decision to do something differently, to choose how you react, to reframe your thinking – and your choices will have a significant impact on how you feel.
    Focus on what you CAN do 
    Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or no longer have, shift your focus onto what you CAN do. While it’s true that Father’s Day this year might be different, and not the same as before, you can change your approach and focus.
    Ask yourself how you could make it better for you.  Can you Facetime with them, wherever they are?  Could you arrange a special trip out with them for the next time you see them?  Could you write them each a card?  Brainstorm a list of choices and decide to do one of them.
    On the day itself, shift your focus and do something that YOU enjoy and that you know helps you to feel good.  Arrange to see a friend, go for a long run or cycle – whatever it is that feeds your soul.
    Focus on the time you DO have 
    If your children aren’t with you this Father’s Day, focus on the time you DO have with them, rather than dwelling on this one day that you don’t. Choose a different day to celebrate with them. Do something special with them next time you see them – it may be easier to book on a different date, and you may have more choice.
    If you haven’t already, I suggest you create a list together of things you would all love to do, places you would like to go, people, you would like to see.  Keep it on your fridge and cross them off as and when you do them.  Save these new memories by taking photos and putting them up on a memories board.
    Your children will take their cue from you. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed. When you are upbeat and talk about what you can do next time you’re together, they will take your lead.
    Tell the story differently
    Every time you talk about Father’s Day, notice the words you use, and how they make you feel.  The words you use, and the story you tell can have a big effect on your feelings.  Every time you talk about how terrible you feel, how sad or angry you are, you associate into those feelings all over again. 
    Instead, try talking about what you are going to do instead, and notice how that feels different.  Notice also how people start to respond differently to you – instead of feeling sorry for you, they may start to tell you how impressed they are, how proud they are of the way you are dealing with this.  
    Choose to stay off social media
    Whatever you do, don’t indulge in a little of what I can “torture by social media” – don’t go onto your Facebook or Instagram feed to see what all your Dad friends are doing, the fun they’re having.  Take a day, or better still the whole weekend, off your social media accounts.  
    If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same outcome – so if it isn’t working, do something else!
    It is your choices that will make the difference.  When you perhaps feel that everything else is out of your control, your choices and decisions are 100% within your power to make.  
    When you choose to shift your focus, tell your story differently, and protect yourself from social media, you are making active choices to do something differently – and you will get a different outcome.
    Article by Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching
    Claire is one of the UK’s first accredited specialist Divorce Coaches, a former lawyer, and Advanced NLP Practitioner. You can get in touch with Claire at or call 07722 007528
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice on a family law issue, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. 
    If you are struggling to deal with Father’s Day with the kids after a divorce or separation, the following websites have some useful tools and advice. 
    Families need Fathers 
    Hear other father’s experiences
    Separated Dads 
    Men’s Advice Line
    This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.  More

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    Attachment trauma: Why can’t I have real love?

    Louisa Hope, from Therapy Knutsford, joins us to share insight into attachment trauma and how it can manifest in our relationships, as part of our Stowe Guests series.
    As children it is our birth right to feel safe, protected, loved and nurtured, all of which support the development of secure and loving attachments. However, if these needs are not met, we can experience trauma which can have long-lasting effects on our emotional well being and the ability to build healthy relationships.
    What is attachment trauma?
    Attachment trauma can occur in childhood if a caregiver repeatedly gives confusing boundaries, withholds support, is neglectful or abusive. This kind of trauma can be very debilitating, diminishing our self-worth and affecting how we relate to love and connections later in life. Childhood wounding can run deep and even though as adults we may be able to rationalise our childhood experiences, we can hold onto beliefs on a deep core level that we adopted as a young child; “I’m not enough”, “I can’t have real love”, and “I’m not worthy”.
    Attachment styles
    Attachment trauma impacts our attachment style as adults. Instead of creating secure attachments we can become insecure when in love, needing reassurance, close proximity and constant validation. This anxious attachment style may in turn cause anxiety to increase the deeper we fall in love, with the potential to create a state of hypervigilance.
    Alternatively, those who have experienced attachment trauma can develop an avoidant attachment style where they pull away from a partner when the relationship becomes too intimate or loving.
    The early subconscious beliefs we carry within can remind us to keep our distance or cling on tight, and we require our partners to cater for these needs from historical wounding. Oftentimes we develop push-pull relationships where we use protest behaviour to get our needs met, causing the connection to become needy or distant, toxic and painful.
    People pleasing
    Trauma often goes hand in hand with poor boundary setting. We first learn how to create safe boundaries from our parents, but if these boundaries were violated or interchangeable, we may not know how to say no when something does not feel right, and we become ‘People Pleasers’.
    As a result of this, we often learn to over-compensate for a lack of love and validation which can affect our own ability to create safe and loving connection. This overly accommodating behaviour is alluring to the narcissist, and other types of abusers. We often find a deep need to fill the void of love and validation created by trauma, leading us into relationships that will perpetuate old familiar patterns, reaffirming our already brittle view of relationships.
    The benefits of healing
    Healing attachment trauma is a phenomenally powerful way of restoring our ability to give and receive love safely, and experience authentic lasting connections.
    When we heal childhood trauma we can also heal the associated attachment wounding, empowering us to move away from anxious or avoidant styles, and rebalancing towards a more secure form of attachment. This has huge benefits, such as:

    Increasing the joy we can experience in relationships
    Improving our physiology as the expectation of more trauma subsides
    Allowing our nervous systems to return to their parasympathetic state.

    These benefits in turn have huge impact on our health as we are no longer on alert when in love and can relax into the arms of our loved ones and really feel deep, meaningful, secure love.
    Moving forward
    We know so much more about the way the subconscious mind works and how to harness its power to heal and reverse old limiting beliefs.
    With support, those who have experienced attachment trauma can heal. Recognising your attachment style and it’s causes will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life.
    Get in touch
    Contact Louisa Hope at Therapy Knutsford for a free, confidential discovery call on 07510 714447 or visit or email:
    All sessions include follow-up support. More

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    Time to talk: Communicating with your partner

    Communicating with your partner
    Good communication is the foundation of a good relationship. Without it, resentment, fear or distrust can build up, and there’s nothing like this trio to cause relationship problems. 
    So it is no surprise when Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, reports that many couples seeking counselling from them say that communication breakdown is one of the main reasons.
    To understand how better to communicate with your partner, Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to explain the four key communication styles and why understanding them is important in forming and maintaining all relationships.  
    Communication is an important aspect of life that can impact how we form and maintain relationships.  
    Having a good understanding of our communication style can help develop self-awareness and identify our areas of improvement and strengths, resulting in strengthening our relationships, reducing conflicting situations, and expressing our needs.  
    Communication styles are influenced by external factors that are then internalised. These styles are not fixed but transition and adapt to the scenarios we face.  
    There are four main communication styles:





     Assertive communication 
    The assertive communication style is a widely accepted style that is considered an effective communication style.  
    It is focused on the needs of the communicator and those with who they are communicating.  
    Theses communicators value their time, rights, needs and themselves- as well as others.  
    They are driven by their desires and needs as well as respecting others desires and needs.  
    They are straightforward and direct in expressing their opinions, advocate for their rights and someone who states facts (without labels or judgments). They are fair, honest, open to criticism or bargaining whilst ensuring others understand and interpret the situation at hand in a realistic manner.  
    Others will feel that they can trust the assertive communicator at their word, that they know where they stand, that they have been listened to, considered, and respected. 
     In summary, the assertive communication style consists of: 

    Direct communication 

    Appropriate honest 

    Advocates for oneself 

    Utilised “I” statements  

    Listens and does not interrupt  

    Express emotions  

    Passive communication 
    This style of communication focuses on the needs of others rather than the needs of their own.  
    They are driven by the desire and belief to please others and avoid conflict. 
    They typically are indirect about their thoughts or feelings and will submit to other desires.  
    They struggle to take responsibility for decisions, have no opinion, agree to others without question, talk softly, do not express their feelings, and avoid conflict or confrontation.  
    Others may view a passive communicator as frustrating, confused about their needs, and some may advantage of the individual.  
    In summary, a passive communication style consists of: 

    Indirect communication 

    Denies personal needs  

    Apologies for emotions  

    Defers to other opinions  

    Minimises one’s experience  

    Prioritises other emotions  

    Passive-aggressive  style of communication 
    People who communicate in a passive-aggressive style may appear passive on the surface but can act out their needs in an indirect way.  
    They are driven by beliefs such as “I’ll please you, but I will get back at you”. 
    They have difficulties expressing and acknowledging their anger, resulting in feeling trapped, unable to confront conflict or their needs.  
    They often sabotage themselves due to unclear intentions, and their expressions do not match their emotions.  
    Passive-aggressive communicators may be sarcastic, ‘two-faced’, spread rumours, give silent treatments, talk about others behind their backs rather than confronting others and indirectly aggressive.  
    Others may feel they are frequently left feeling confused, angry, hurt, or resentful.  
    In summary, the passive-aggressive communication style consists of: 

    Indirect communication   

    Denies difficult emotions  

    Indirectly expresses anger  

    Backhanded compliments  

    Denies there is a problem  

    Feigns cooperation 

     Aggressive communication 
    They focus on their own needs and disregard the needs of others.  
    They are driven by beliefs such as “I’m right, and you are wrong”,, and “I’ll get what I want no matter what.” 
    They come across as bossy, condescending and threatening.  
    They often are close-minded, interrupt or speak over others, put others down, use threats and are not effective listeners.  
    Others may feel defensive, humiliated, hurt, afraid, disrespected, and can resort to fighting back, being resistant or defiant.   
    In summary, an aggressive communication style consists of: 

    Inappropriately honest  

    Dominate others 

    Does not listen  

    Critics or blames others 

    Low frustration tolerance  

    Only uses “you” statements  

    How understanding your style can help when communicating with your partner
    Understanding the styles of communication is just beginning. Now,  it’s time to take that learning and develop self-awareness by exploring and understanding your style of communication,  your behavioural tendencies and personal needs. 
    Whatever your goals relate to your relationships, family, work, finances, you need to learn to communicate effectively to achieve them.  
    This does not mean talking the loudest, getting the last word in or pretending everything is fine. Powerful communication comes from understanding your needs and learning how to express them clearly — while also valuing the messages you receive from others.
    Starting to practice better communication today will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life. 
    Get in touch 
    If you need some advice on communicating with your partner, please contact My Family Psychologist. 
    We offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples and children, as well as mediation services. Get in touch and see how we can support you when you are going through a difficult time. 
    Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.
    Family law advice 
    For any family law advice please  contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers here
    References More

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    Support for domestic abuse victims during lockdown

    As we mark White Ribbon Day (25th November) and the start of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism, we revisit a blog written by Shanika Varga, a Senior Solicitor at our office in Leeds who explains five ways victims can access support for domestic abuse during the lockdown
    Support for domestic abuse during lockdown
    Most households in the UK will be closely following the developing situation with COVID -19 with worry and concern. In a time where people are being encouraged to isolate at home, my thoughts turned to many of my existing clients, male and female, who may be self-isolating in an abusive relationship.
    Having practised family law for many years now, I have acted on behalf of countless victims of domestic abuse. The ever-changing situation with COVID -19 is worrying for all of us, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
    However, I am sure it is playing on the minds of those men and women who are in domestically abusive relationships (whether that be with a spouse, family member or other person). In the coming months, it is likely that the number of people self-isolating will increase significantly and this for many could be the catalyst for a dangerous environment.
    The impact of isolation on domestic abuse
    Many abusers use isolation as a means of control. Keeping their partner or family member away from family and friends keeps the suspicion of others at bay. The current situation may also increase physical violence in the home for those in abusive relationships.
    This could be because the abuser has less concern that marks resulting from physical violence will be noticed or due to rising tensions in the family home resulting from people being in closer proximity for longer periods of time.
    Most people will find staying at home for long periods taxing but when you add someone who potentially has anger management issues it could be a dangerous environment for many people.
    Self-isolating in an abusive relationship with coercive control
    Domestic abuse goes further than physical violence, coercive and controlling behaviour was criminalised in December 2015 and we are seeing an increasing number of cases of emotional, financial and coercive control.
    Victims may find themselves being controlled by their abuser taking advantage of the worry of the virus or quoting financial concerns such as potential job losses, lack of access to resources etc as a reason to control. The difficulty with this form of domestic abuse is that it is often much more difficult to recognise for victims and their friends and family.
    What help is available for people self-isolating in an abusive relationship?
    If you are in immediate risk, you should call 999 and the police will be able to assist.
    Domestic abuse has been criminalised and therefore, the police, where appropriate may take both protective actions and consider prosecuting abusers.
    There are local and national charities that are able to provide refuge and emotional support during and after the process during this outbreak. For example,  if you, or someone you know, needs support and advice, you can contact Women’s Aid via the Live Chat here. There are more useful contacts at the end of this article.
    I have stayed in close contact with local agencies and one of the most important pieces of advice they gave was for those who are aware they are in potentially dangerous situations, to ensure they had a plan in place. Pack a bag with clothing essentials, money, phone and charger, and their passport and let a friend or family member know that they will be their “safe space contact” if anything were to happen. I appreciate it is not always so easy to hide a packed bag in the house, however, where possible, other arrangements such as somewhere to stay or a friend who knows that they may need to come and collect you and an agreed place to do this should be made.
    Throughout this COVID-19 outbreak,  all Stowe solicitors are able to work remotely including telephone and video appointments to ensure we are able to continue to help our clients.
    The courts are keeping the situation under review but many already have conferencing facilities to enable business as usual. This, of course, may change, but for the time being, courts are still open and it is understood that steps are being taken to ensure facilities are available where necessary. You can read the latest update here.
    Legal options for people experiencing domestic abuse
    There are civil remedies available by way of non-molestation orders (NMO) and occupation orders (OO).
    A non-molestation order
    Molestation involves any form of physical, sexual or physical molestation or harassment that has a serious impact on allegers health and wellbeing or the health and wellbeing of any children.  Molestation is not only defined as violent behaviour it may be other forms of behaviour.
    A non-molestation order provides protection from this behaviour, intimidation and general communication including text messages, emails and phone calls as well as direct contact. It can be extended to include a reference to not damaging any of your property and can in some circumstances, protect children. 
    It will also prevent and prohibit a party from using or threatening violence and can contain very specific provisions based on the particular type of abuse. 
    The order can also provide regulation to prevent one party from entering the house or certain rooms in the house. This can be used as an alternative to an occupation order and would be something to consider when self-isolation is necessary and in place.
    A wide range of people can apply for protection, from spouses to students living in the same house. A solicitor will explore whether a person falls into the permitted categories during their initial appointment.
    Applying for a non-molestation order
    To proceed with an application the necessary court form will be completed together with a witness statement setting out in detail what has taken place. 
    An application can be made to court either ‘on notice’ (the other person is given a prior warning) or ‘without notice’ in urgent situations where safety is at risk.
    A middle ground of ‘on notice but urgently’ can also be considered in certain circumstances such as if bail conditions are to run out in the next few weeks, as the immediate risk of harm is not present but there is justification to have the matter dealt with quicker than usual.
    The court will tend to err on the side of caution so where applications are made without notice or urgently, the protection sought will usually be made in the interim.
    Where orders are made without the other party being aware, they will need to be personally served on the other party by a process server. This means they are physically handed to them so as to prove they are aware of the order and cannot later deny knowledge to justify a breach. Copies are also sent to the police.
    More detail about the court process will be provided in an initial meeting with a solicitor but where an agreement cannot be reached between parties via legal representation, a Judge will hear evidence at a later date and will decide whether to grant the order or not.
    Typically, non-molestation orders last for a period of 12 months. They can be granted for longer but they are not usually indefinite. If, after 12 months the behaviour prevented in the order starts again, then a further application for an order would be made.
    In deciding whether to grant a non-molestation order the Court has wide discretion.  The Court will consider all the circumstances of the case including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the victim and any child.
    The Court will consider whether there is evidence of the molestation and whether the party and/or the children need protection and judicial intervention is required to control the abuser’s behaviour. 
    In considering the above the Court will regard the allegers health which includes both physical and mental health. 
    Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the police can arrest someone who is disobeying an order.
    Occupation order
    This order sets out who can live in the family home (or certain parts of it) and can also restrict someone entering the area surrounding the home.  An occupation order will not affect the other party’s financial interest in the home, it will simply regulate who can live in it.
    It is the same application form as the non-molestation order.  The process for the occupation order will run alongside the process for the non-molestation order.  It is unlikely that an occupation order will be made in the interim. However, protection is often provided by the non-molestation order. 
    The approach to the ‘without notice’ applications for non-molestation orders is different to ‘without notice’ applications for occupation orders. 
    It is recognised that a person has no legal right to inflict or threaten violence or harm against someone else therefore a ‘without notice’ non-molestation order does not infringe on legal rights. 
    However, an occupation order overrides proprietary rights to a property.  The Courts have therefore stated that an order to exclude someone from a property that they have a right to be in should seldom be granted without notice.
    In deciding whether to grant an occupation order the Court will consider whether the alleger and any children are likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the other parties behaviour or conduct if an order is not made. 
    This will be balanced against any harm that the other party is likely to suffer if the order is made.  If the harm the other party will suffer is greater than the harm likely to be suffered by the alleger and any children then the Court will not make the order.  This is known as the balance of harm test.
    The Court will consider the effect of the other party’s conduct on the victim and any children rather than concentrate on what their intention was.
    The Court will also give consideration to each of the parties housing needs and housing resources, their financial resources and the likely effect of any order or decision not to exercise its powers on the health, safety or wellbeing of the alleger and any children. 
    The Court will also give consideration to both parties conduct.  This will include considering whether either party can afford to rent somewhere else or whether there is somewhere that they can stay, for example with a family member. The Court can make an order for an indefinite period of time or for a term. 
    Self-isolating when it is not safe
    I am very concerned about the safety of people experiencing domestic abuse during any period of isolation especially as it can make it harder to access help during these conditions. 
    However, please be assured that support is still available. I have gathered together some useful organisations who can provide you with information and support.
    National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
    The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
    The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
    National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
    Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
    Please note that Stowe Family Law does not necessarily endorse the organisations listed.
    Get in touch
    If you are self-isolating in an abusive relationship and would like support for domestic abuse during lockdown and your legal situation, you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist domestic abuse lawyers here. More

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    When a narcissist meets an echoist…

    We have all heard of the narcissist. In fact, I have written an article recently on how to identify if you are married to one on this blog.
    Throughout my years advising clients I have encountered many cases where the narcissist behaviours of one party have dominated the whole relationship leading to an unhappy and unhealthy marriage.
    But what of the people married or in a relationship with a narcissist? It’s time to meet the echoist; not an officially recognised condition but a term that was popularised in the 2016 book Rethinking Narcissism by Craig Malkin and is gaining momentum.
    Now, I shall start with the caveat that not all echoists are in relationships with narcissists. That would be too simplistic. However, the two personality types are intrinsically linked.
    What is an echoist?
    In a nutshell, an echoist is the opposite of a narcissist. Consider the following statements:

    Narcissist: Look at what you did wrong? The narcissist copes by blaming everyone else.Echoist: What did I do wrong? The echoist copes by blaming themselves.

    An echoist is someone who puts everyone else’s needs and feelings first and at the expense of their own. People pleasers, they cannot bear praise and hate being the centre of attention. They don’t like to talk about themselves but are great listeners. They blame themselves when things go wrong regardless of where the fault lies.
    All in all, a perfect mix for a narcissist who will seek out (consciously or subconsciously) people that verify their importance and allow them to dominate with minimal return required. A narcissist may often arrive on the scene as the rescuer, but this never plays out to be the case.
    However, an echoist is not a doormat. Smart, intelligent, kind and warm-hearted people, they are often more emotionally sensitive and aware than others. They are the ones that always pick up on a bad atmosphere in the room or an underlying argument.
    Many people root the development of echoist behaviours forming in childhood with a dominating narcissist parent or family member creating a learnt behaviour that they must repress their own feelings to be loved; that they must give everything and accept very little back. Imagine a parent that erupts over the smallest of things and it is never their fault. In the end, you would learn to anticipate the situation and change your behaviour to avoid it.
    Echoists and relationships
    An echoist can easily get stuck in an unhealthy relationship where they feel unworthy, unlovable and everything is their fault. This can quickly cause anxiety, depression and loss of hope as they struggle with connection and expressing their needs.
    They can easily lose their voice, their sense of self. I have seen many clients at the start of the divorce process that try to take up as little space in the world as possible, ask for as little as possible and put themselves at a very long line of other people.
    But it can change, and I have seen the results myself.
    New beginnings
    Before I turn to what can be done I would like to express that if you are in an abusive relationship you must seek help immediately. I have detailed some useful links at the end of the article.
    Counselling can certainly help here. An echoist needs to start to understand feelings and feel them – not fear them. Emotions such as anger and resentment are all perfectly normal emotions. By accepting them, you learn to voice them and start to develop more equal relationships where you can say you are not happy and ask for things.
    An echoist also needs to learn to question situations and break the default that it is all their fault, or they are too sensitive. Ask yourself what am I getting from this relationship? Why is it making me feel sad or lonely? Healthy relationships create a space for vulnerability.
    You can unlearn bad habits with professional support, time and the desire to break the old relationship patterns to get your voice back.
    If you are affected by anything in this article the following websites are useful resources:
    RelateWoman’s aidThe Echo Society More