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Typi non habent claritatem insitam; est usus legentis in iis qui facit eorum claritatem. Investigationes demonstraverunt lectores legere me lius quod ii legunt saepius.

Friends Keep or Ditch (4)

14 Mar Friends: Keep or Ditch

Drama queens, liars and whingers are probably the worst friends a girl can have. Do you ditch them or love them ? Sometimes – perhaps not often – you are faced with choosing to keep or lose a friend through no one else’s fault but yours: you made a bad friend – a perpetual whinger; a high-street drama queen or an insufferable story teller.

THE LIAR

Zethu’s ex-bestie Bonnie says:“Looking back now, I don’t know why I became friends with Zethu.” At first, she seemed very exciting. The stories she told of her conquests – with men, her career and her exercise regime – all sounded like true-life accounts, and Bonnie felt like she could learn a lot from her. But as it turnedout, most of her tales were fiction. Yet even after Bonnie began suspecting that Zethu was prone to stretching the truth, she continued the friendship. “She was immensely popular,” mulls Bonnie. “She always knew what the hottest gossip was — I say knew, as in ‘knew’,” she continues, making air quotes. But a lot of the gossip Zethu passed around had no basis. If she saw two people together, she’d say: “They’re sleeping together on their best rated mattress.”

If a lecturer spoke to a student alone, she’d say: “He failed his exams, you see ?” Zethu seemed to have thrived on turning other people’s lives into a soap opera, of which she was the director. Bonnie thought she was the only one excluded from the harsh untruths of Zethu. Until one day, someone came up to her and asked her if she really was a part-time call girl. “I was stupefied,”Friends Keep or Ditch (1)

Bonnie says.“ I asked her where she heard that lie and she pointed me to another girl, who pointed to another girl, who pointed me to Zethu. It hurt so much to think that someone I regarded as one of my best friends had done that to me.” Bonnie confronted Zethu and asked her what was going on, but Zethu was non chalant about the whole thing, saying she was only joking and adding “a little spice” to everyone’s lives. What harm could come of that? “With people like her, you always think you’re their confidante, a so-called ‘bestfriend’,”says Bonnie, again with the air quotes. “But if she can tell lies about others that way to you, you can bet that she has no problem telling lies about you to others.”

Keep or ditch : Bonnie walked awayfrom the friendship. Michael Wano, author of Refill for Life, does not think she could have done any better. “There’s little debate here,” he says. “Negativity is like gravity–both work equally hard to bring things down.”

THE WHINGER

Although liars, when caught out, are easy to break away from, complainers are a lot trickier to deal with. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way they live their lives or the way they can be friends. But there’s something downright depressing about having them around. They are wet blankets wherever you go, and dampen spirits no matter what the occasion.Friends Keep or Ditch (3)

Philile and Refilwe, both 28, have been friends for six years, but the two couldn’t be more different. Philile is an optimist, gung ho about her opportunities in life and relaxed when crisis strikes. She does not let much get her down for long, and her motto is: “I fight hard to keep my spirits up in the face of adversity.”

Refilwe is quite the opposite. Although she starts off looking for the bright side to everything, it’s not long before she’s blinded by negativity. She’s a perennial jobhopper, having had six jobs in the past four years. She starts off every one with a positive attitude, but within a few months, her enthusiasm wanes and she’s soon reduced to a sighing heap of gloom just waiting for her next pay day. “She complains about everything,” says Philile.Friends Keep or Ditch (2)

Refilwe complains about her bosses and company,which seems quite normal, but she also complains about her younger sister, her parents, her car, her bills, the government, her helper – basically everything. “You cannot put an end to that list,” says Philile. “She really does complain about everything.” Yet she’s only like that with her closest friends, who get to see the “real Refilwe”. “When she’s around others, I always notice that she’s very upbeat and zealous,” says Philile. “But it’s asham,really. In a way, I suppose that makes me special because I’m one of the few folk she feels completely at ease with.” What makes it bad is that when Refilwe comes visiting, she brings her negativity with her. And like a cloud, it descends upon the room and depresses Philile. The negative energy surrounds her. She fights it as best she can but sometimes Philile really cannot help but wish she had not come.

Keep or ditch: Bill Cottringer, a sociocultural researcher and author of You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too suggests that with people like Refilwe, you take a specific situation and give them some detailed feedback about how they could approach something differently and get better results.

“First, create a nondefensive climate in which you acknowledge that everyone feels this way now and then,” says Cottringer. “Then say that if you have a valid criticism to offer, take some more time and instruct them how they may do something differently to get better results.” Philile won’t desert Refilwe just yet because, she says, although she has a lousy air about her, she’s a good person at heart and that’s what counts. “She’s depressing to be around,” says Philile, “But I’ve been in jams before and she’s always been there to help me out. She’s just a pessimistic complainer, and I think that makes the friendship I give to her all the more valuable.”

THE DRAMA QUEEN

Possibly the worst kind of friend you could make–and probably the easiest to ditch–is a drama queen who lives for the next crisis and tries to rope in those around her.“If I wanted publicity, I’d have become an actress, ”says Winnie,23. “My former friend insisted on making a hulla baloo about the smallest things. Once she found an antin her drink and she screamed. The waiter ran to her to see what the matter was and she positively yelled at him!”Friends Keep or Ditch (6)

According to Winnie, her friend was not really scared but the incident gave her the opportunity to make a scene. She grabbed it. She started talking loudly to Winnie, trying to get her involved. But all Winnie wanted to do was leave. “I never hated her more than that time, ”says Winnie. “ I wouldn’t have minded a private word with the manager, but she really overreacted.”Friends Keep or Ditch (5)

Keep or ditch: In this instance, Wano can only offer a little tongue-in-cheek advice that may very well be the answer to all of us who are terrified of being in Winnie’s position oneday.“Find a king for your drama queen, ”he says. “It may help to reduce your stress levels.” These days, Winnie spends as little time as possible around her “royal” friend. Of course, this has given her even more opportunity to dramatise her life by bitching about Winnie,but she doesn’t mind. “Soon, she’ll get bored of talking about how stuck-up I am and move onto something more exciting,”Winnie says.“So what? At least I’ll still be sane.”■

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be happy less worry (1)

17 Dec Stop worrying get happy

Excess stress can affect your mood, relationships, work life and even your health. Follow our tips to knock anxiety on the head for good…

Six ways to sort it

  1. Work it outbe happy less worry (7)

    Physical activity is the best way to quash worry, as it triggers the release of feel-good endorphins. And heading outside to exercise is even better – research from the University of Essex has found getting active in a green area, such as a park, boosts mood and self-esteem, reducing anxiety.

  2. Tackle problemsbe happy less worry (2)

    Solving difficulties head-on will help melt away anxiety. ‘When people avoid problems, they fester,’ says psychologist Dr Shannon Snapp. As soon as you face your dilemma, you’ll feel more in control and less stressed. Also, talk it out with your partner or a friend so you have some support.

  3. See fun friendsbe happy less worry (3)

    Spend time with people who lift and lighten your mood. ‘Take a look at who’s in your life and what they bring to it,’ says psychologist Katie-ane Goldin. ‘Nurture positive friends who brighten up your
    day. Weed out negative ones who drag you down.’

  4. Be thankfulbe happy less worry (4)

    Expressing feelings of gratitude can make you more optimistic and lower anxiety levels, so you sleep better. Write down five things you’re grateful for every week.

  5. Prioritise

    Trying to be perfect = stress! To escape the ‘superwoman trap’, life coach Georgina Burnett (footprintcoaching.org.uk) suggests listing your life priorities. ‘For example, health, career, marriage and children,’ she says. ‘Now put them in order of importance. Whenever you feel stressed, think of the list and focus on what matters most to you.’

  6. Be diet wisebe happy less worry (5)

    Eat regularly. Low blood sugar levels can trigger panic attacks, so eat healthy food little and often.
    Cut down on caffeine and avoid alcohol, as these can increase anxiety

Quick fix

Try this cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercise:

  • Write down what you’re anxious about and how it’s making you feel.
  • Now write down a more rational thought. For example, if your partner’s home late and your mind’s
    gone straight to the worst case scenario, write the more likely reason he’s been delayed, such as traffic jams. Notice how you feel now – chances are, you’re much calmer.
  • Try to do this whenever a worry enters your mind to help you think rationally.

Mind control

  1. Worry Watch

    With this app you can track what’s bothering you and log the outcomes – so next time you’re anxious about something similar, you’ll realise there’s no need to be. iPhone and iPad, £1.49

  2. Smiling Mind

    The whole family can benefit from this app. The mindfulness programmes cater for kids from seven years old to adults – all delivered in soothing Aussie tones. iPhone, iPad and Android, Free

  3. Headspace

    This is meditation made simple. It’s delivered in relaxing 10-minute sessions by a former Buddhist monk to help you destress and be more mindful. iPhone and Android, £4.99 a month (10-day free trial)

  4. Walking Meditations

    Too busy to sit still and meditate? You don’t have to with this app, which helps you chill on the move. There are three short tracks to focus your mind on your body and surroundings.  iPhone, iPad and Android, £1.49

  5. Buddhify

    You can tell this app where you are, be it the gym, walking, commuting or at home, then pick a style of meditation that suits the situation, and choose from male or female voices. £3.99, iPhone and  iPad

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Loneliness can be a killer (7)

07 Nov Loneliness can be a killer

No one is immune to that hollow ache of loneliness. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or marital status, it is a hurdle we all, at some stage in our lives, have to recognise and surmount. But recent research at Brigham Young University in Utah suggests that a pervasive perception of loneliness – as opposed to actual isolation – does affect physical health.

Based on 70 studies undertaken between 1980 and 2014, the researchers found that the effects on health of loneliness and social isolation are as great or greater than those of obesity and should be regarded as a serious threat.

 

Loneliness or living alone seem to be particularly bad for adults under the age of 65, presumably because, research suggests, solitary middle-aged adults are more likely to engage in risky behaviours and are less likely to seek medical treatment. According to study authors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Tim Smith, affluent nations have the highest rates of individuals living alone, and as this number increases, social isolation will reach epidemic proportions in the next two decades.

Previous research by Holt-Lunstad and Smith put the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness at the same level as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic. This more recent study suggests that not only is the risk of mortality in the same category as these well-known risk factors, but it also surpasses health risks associated with obesity.loneliness if they are over 80, live alone, belong to an ethnic minority, are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or have poorer health than expected and/or a disability.

Men report higher rates of loneliness than women – as Scott says, women tend to have wider social networks than men – and Pacific and Asian people tend to be lonelier than other ethnic groups. Income also makes a difference. “People in severest hardship or even people who are relatively comfortably off report being more lonely than people who are well off,” says Massey University psychology professor Fiona Alpass. “If you are poor, you have fewer resources to get out or have a computer to contact your family.” For many, loneliness is triggered by key events: the death of a spouse, the loss of a driver’s licence, a neighbourhood scare, even a fall.
Loneliness can be a killer (7)

“There are all the [physical] implications to do with that fall,” says Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton. “But then there is often a loss of confidence, which means not going out so much. That can be a slippery slope.” There is also the sudden change of location. In Christchurch, many people had to change suburbs following the earthquake. “So people were having to move away from their social connections, their church, the dairy down the road where they bought bread and milk every day.” Three years ago, in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake of 2011, the South Shore Residents Association surveyed 500 local households to gauge their needs. More important than water and insurance advice, says chairman Bill Simpson, was the loss of “bumping into” places.

“Almost all were feeling isolated. We used to have a neighbourhood pub, the fish and chip shop, a cafe – they’ve gone. There’s no school, no church. [Local residents] are not on Facebook or Twitter.” The association established a drop-in facility for coffee, a chat, a weekly game of mah-jong. On a Wednesday morning, there are volunteers from Red Cross; a depression support worker offers confidential advice. For the three women relaxing over a cup of tea, it’s about strengthening roots, feeling safe, re-establishing a sense of community. For others, the response to old age or simply retirement is to leave altogether – to a new life by the sea, a new city close to children, a new home in a new subdivision. A move, says Alpass, that some later regret. “You finally get somewhere and there is not the support as you age and people are quite mobile with their work. You might go there at 65, but when you are 75, who will be looking after you?”
Loneliness can be a killer (8)

For older migrants this sense of alienation is even more acute. “Often children think it is the best thing to do,” says Templeton. “Dad has died, let’s bring Mum over so she won’t be sad and lonely. So they move her over here. They’re busy at work, she’s in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, has no friends.” In his work with older Chinese migrants, Auckland psychiatrist Dr Sai Wong describes a debilitating combination of loss of friends, loss of language and loss of culture. “People are proud of their culture in their home of origin. They come here and find it is not the same; they have nothing to hang on
to. But they are ashamed to say they are lonely; they are worried people will blame their children.”

AS DAMAGING TO HEALTH AS SMOKING

Investing in social opportunities for older people cannot be dismissed as a “nice to have”, says Alpass. “What we see from health outcomes [is that] services to ameliorate issues around loneliness are critical to keep people out of hospitals and GP surgeries – the more expensive end of dealing with older people.” According to Age UK, loneliness in old age is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and twice as damaging as obesity. High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and anxiety all become more prevalent when social connections fall away.

The lonely are more at risk of drinking too much, smoking, overeating, gambling (older women in particular are gambling in increasing numbers) and being depressed. Ministry of Health figures show an extraordinary 15-20% of people over 65 are affected by depression. Loneliness can be a killer (1)

It’s a challenge on all fronts. Older people may find it difficult to talk about emotions, particularly if they have grown up with the social stigma attached to mental illness or are worried how such a diagnosis may affect their independence. And family members, even GPs, may assume that downheartedness or general crankiness is an inevitable part of ageing. “Older people do seek help,” says University of Auckland psychiatry lecturer Gary Cheung. “They go to their GP, but they don’t necessarily talk about their feelings.” In analysing 200 suicide cases among those over-65, he found 70% had seen a GP within a month of their death. Provisional suicide figures for the year to June 2014 from the Chief Coroner’s office show that 29 people aged 80 or over took their lives. Of these, 24 were men, the highest rate per 100,000 population of any other age group in New Zealand.

In his study, Cheung found three main predictors: depression, self-reported health problems and perceived loneliness. Personality plays a factor, as does community and family support, but he says there is a clear need for a specific strategy for older people, including stronger screening and treatment of depression in primary care. Any strategy to reduce social isolation will also have a cost benefit. Those struggling with loneliness clock up more doctor visits and more days in hospital. In the UK, at least one in 10 visits by older people to their GP appears to be motivated by social isolation. Emergency services report that elderly people may call just to have someone to talk to.

Lonely older people are also more vulnerable to scams, losing anything up to a reported $850,000 to callers offering prizes, money and friendship by phone, mail, computer or door-to-door encounters. “Scammers are cold-calling, ringing up, becoming friends, making all sorts of promises,” says BNZ security and fraud coordinator Bronwyn Groot. The problem is not naivety but loneliness, she says. Older victims are vulnerable because they are isolated. “And scammers know that. They abuse them, scare them or groom them. Dating romance scams offering online friendship are a real shocker.”

Groot takes her Scam-Savvy presentation to community groups across the country. “I say it’s okay to hang up the phone, delete emails, say no to someone at the door. People have to be suspicious. I recommend people stop and wait, ring someone before they go ahead with it.” And if they have been sucked in, speak up. “Often they’re ashamed. They’re scared of what their family might think or that their kids might take their chequebook or force power of attorney. And that is very worrying.”

REST HOMES NO PANACEA

Last year Peggy Garnett went to see a two-room apartment in a retirement village. “I was a wee bit down and lonely and thought it would be lovely but I don’t think I want to leave my home. I love my home. I have all my bits and pieces that I’ve had all my life. It’s nice to stay with your memories.” Her curiosity is not unusual. Loneliness has been found to almost double the likelihood of an older person entering residential care.

But rest homes are not a panacea for loneliness. Although there is more opportunity for social contact, says Alpass, if you lack mobility or resources, “it’s going to be harder for you to make social contacts”. The Mental Health Foundation in the UK claims that depression affects one in five older people living in the community and two in five living in care homes. “People have this idea they will go into residential care and they’ll be with all of these people and not be lonely,” says Templeton. “But they go there and suddenly they’re sharing lounges, they’re having meals when they are told to have meals – they lose so much of their autonomy.” Loneliness can be a killer (6)

It is much worse if the move is not the older person’s choice, he says. “Cognitive impairment aside – and there is a process for that – if you are making decisions for them, that is elder abuse.” Templeton talks of “dignity of risk … Older people have the right to make poor choices. We get families saying Mum has to go into care because she might fall at home and if she does she will lie on the floor for three days – that is about their concern. We talk to [the mother], we say there is a risk of falling and we can get you a walking frame, but she might say, ‘I know that but I want to stay at home.’ Yes, there is a risk she could fall over and die – I could go home tonight and drink four bottles of whisky and die. It is the choice we make.” As with other OECD countries, New Zealand is committed to ageing in place, supporting older people to remain in their own homes or in supported accommodation of some type in the community, rather than moving into residential care.

But in doing that, says Templeton, we need to be thinking about ways we connect with older people, “so they can thrive in a community”.

THE SOCIAL NETWORKS

Around the country, Age Concern runs weekly van outings for over-65s to go to a venue or event or simply meet at one of their houses for morning tea. It also runs a one-on-one weekly visiting service to older housebound people that is staffed by volunteers, half of them over 65. “Some older people have days, weeks, not talking to anybody. Often that [Age Concern] visitor is the only person not paid to come and see them.” In 2002 Age Concern Otago in conjunction with the University of Otago pioneered Steady As You Go (Saygo). Designed as a peer-led falls-prevention exercise class, it was found to provide not only important physical benefits but also vital social connections.

Such has been the success of the programme that Saygo courses are now rolling out across the country. Church groups, Neighbourhood Support groups and residents’ associations are all working, usually on a shoestring budget, to re-establish meaningful social networks for the elderly in their communities. For the past six years, in the last weekend in March, communities around the country have celebrated Neighbours Day, established in 2001 by Neighbours Day Aotearoa to encourage people to get together for a barbecue, a street makeover, a beer or a cup of tea as a catalyst for connecting or re-connecting neighbours with neighbours.Loneliness can be a killer (2)

Last year entrepreneurs Casey Eden and Shane Bradley launched the Neighbourly website and app, an online bush telegraph aimed at fostering a community feeling for neighbourhoods through a local and secure listing service for events and activities, be it a garage sale or community sausage sizzle. Today it has more than 60,000 members in 1400 suburbs. Around the country some 17,000 retirees are enrolled in SeniorNet programmes, negotiating new computer technologies to master online banking, research family history or keep in contact with family and friends via Skype or email. As executive officer Grant Sidaway says, “We’re the largest technical school in the country.” Technology is not the answer, says Templeton, but it is an answer to an increasing problem. “As the population of that age doubles, we will struggle to double our service, so we need to come up with other ways.

Some people will need face to face [contact]. For others Skype is perfect.” He describes a programme launched by Age UK, whereby older British citizens link up with overseas students studying English via Skype. “The older person gets to talk to these young 20-year-old students and they get to practise their English. It’s a great mix of ages. I’d love to see that here.”

FLEXIBLE APPROACHES

We are an ageing population. By the late 2030s, close to a quarter of us will be flashing our SuperGold Cards. The number of single-person households is increasing generally but most dramatically in the over-65 age group. According to Alpass, we will be living longer in, say, widowhood “and many of us will not have family support around us …

The most at risk of loneliness are over 80 and we are going to have a lot more people living well past 80 in the future. We need to be thinking about this now.” Many – currently nearly a quarter of over-65s – will continue in paid employment. “A farm labourer might not want to be still working at 70,” says Templeton, “but as the population ages and the workforce decreases, there won’t be enough nurses, taxi drivers or burger flippers. There just won’t be enough people to man the pumps. There’s two ways around that – immigration and people working longer.” Loneliness can be a killer (5)

Which may mean less demanding work and more flexible hours. “It is about workplaces valuing [older people’s] input.” More flexible forms of housing are also in demand. Across the world new models are being established to cater to the growing number of single or widowed elderly people wanting to live independently but not alone. The Golden Girls Network in the US runs a database for members seeking compatible housemates. In the Netherlands, the Humanitas Apartments for Life challenges the inevitability of nursing homes with age-friendly housing developments that include restaurants, shops and other services so older residents can live as they choose in a social and supported environment. In New Zealand, the Bays Community Housing Trust in Auckland runs two five-bedroom houses for women over 65 with limited assets.

Around the country, the Abbeyfield model provides homes staffed by a cook-housekeeper that have a communal lounge, dining room and kitchen. Basically, flatting for ageing baby boomers. Massey’s Neville talks about age-friendly communities and more integrated neigh- bourhoods that enable older people to engage with others through well-designed housing, public transport, places to meet, footpaths designed so people can safely walk – or use a scooter – to meet friends. “Communities must be designed so older people can easily, safely, confidently move around.”

He cites the World Health Organization’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, by which cities are encouraged to boost the participation, health and independence of olderpeople. “It’s about fostering a sense of community within communities, so people feel they belong, and there are activities that bring people together.” To better meet the needs of this growing sector of our population, Templeton is calling for more involvement of older people in planning decisions. “There is a requirement for every government body or organisation to have a statement relating to the Treaty of Waitangi, and that’s important, but I’d like the same thing to be mandated for old people.

For every change, every decision, every plan, there has to be a statement about how is this going to effect older people? What have we done to consult with them?” It is a whole of society challenge, he says, and a whole of society responsibility. “Our children don’t stay in the same city; family members live all over the world. So when older people require some support, families aren’t in a position to do that. And you often hear, ‘My son lives in [the same city] but he is so busy with his own life.’ As a society we need to take a look at that. This is not just about old people. It’s about the whole continuum of us looking after and supporting each other. It is a two-way street, and the benefits to society are huge.”

NEW LEASE OF LIFE

Every Wednesday up to 40 mainly older local residents arrive at the hall at St Faith’s Anglican church in Christchurch’s New Brighton for a bite of lunch and a sip of companionship. Ben Jensen has been alone for 15 years. His wife died in 2000; he has no family in New Zealand. In summer he plays bowls once or twice a week, and he enjoys outings organised by the local church. “But days can be long. There are quite a few days when I don’t talk to anyone. If you are a person who is chatty, you get on well, but if you are lonely and don’t talk much, it’s a lot harder.” In the kitchen Grace Dunstan, 83, is helping prepare lunch. After her partner of 34 years died, she says, she “felt a bit lost”.

She tried volunteering at the local library but they wanted someone with computer skills. “I’m not that kind of person.” Now on Tuesdays she helps prepare vegetable boxes and on Wednesdays she’s on lunch duty. “I knew I had to do something with my life. I’ve got friends in a similar position, but they just can’t make the effort. Here I’m meeting different people and I go home feeling good about myself. There’s no point in looking at four walls all day, and you can’t keep going out because that costs money. But this has given me a new lease of life.”

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lets talk about sex (2)

02 Nov Let’s talk about sex baby

In theory, being open about our sexual needsisnotonlyfora also to maintain a close out side the bedroom. But sitting down and talking about the intricacies of sex can be difficult. It’s often in long- term how to communicate about sex. This relationships that goodsexlife,but rewe lationship forget is compounded when there are other seemingly more pressing issues to be discussed, such as kids or finances. For many couples, the problem is more likely to be communication than chemistry. Some might have been together for 15 or 20 years and have never talked about sex properly. Others might simply be out of the habit of giving feedback. But once you start a conversation about sex, no matter how long it has been, you become more open and relaxed. You’ll feel closer, have more understanding and better sex as a result. Here’s a guide to the four key conversations you need to have and how to approach them.

ARE YOU STILL HAPPY?

This is a gentler way of asking: “What would you change about your sex life?” It’s important you talk about this to keep your relationship fresh. It’s fine to keep doing the same thing for 20 or 30 years if you enjoy it.This is more about making small enhancements and introducing variety to maintain intimacy.

lets talk about sex (1)
How to approach it: This conversation could start like this: “Our sex life is great, but can we make it better?” Avoid any language which could sound as if you’re blaming or accusing your partner. Use positive language, such as: “I’d like it if…” or “It’s good when…” Sex can make us feel vulnerable, so take a kind and sensitive approach and try to have some physical closeness while you’re talking by holding hands, for example

WHAT’S GOOD SEX TO YOU?

Unhappiness around sex can feel awkward and difficult to deal with, and the longer you don’t have sex, the more difficult it becomes to talk. I always tell couples that they can’t expect their partners to know what they want or like. They have to work it out for themselves first so they can share their thoughts. If they are having trouble, I tell them to think about previous sexual experiences they enjoyed. When you think about them, ask yourself what made them so exciting? Did your partner kiss or touch you in a certain way? lets talk about sex (2)

How to approach it: Start by doing the thinking in your own time. Then you could ask: “Is there anything we haven’t tried in bed that you might like to?” This will give you the opportunity to share what you like doing and to start building your thoughts and desires into sex. Do this in a romantic setting outside the bedroom. For example, you can cuddle up on your sofa and hold hands so you both feel open.

HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?

Your skin is your largest erogenous zone and touch forms the foundation of any intimate experience, from foreplay to sex. It is what gets you in or ruins the mood and it’s about feeling whether the person really gets you. If they are not touching you the way you like, it can feel like you don’t have a real connection.

How to approach it: You need to understand your own body first. Next time you’re alone in the bed, the bath or the shower, explore your body and what works for you, then share this with your partner. But be sensitive so they don’t feel they’ve been doing it all wrong. Try using the sandwich technique, where you say something positive, then something they need to change, followed by another positive. You can also play a game by placing his hand over yours while you direct him on how to touch you, then swap it around so he can do it himself. Approach it like a new, fun game of exploration.

ANY FANTASIES?

We should all give ourselves permission to have fantasies. Sharing some of yours lets your partner into an area of your life that’s deeply personal and helps create more intimacy, heighten the mood or act as inspiration. lets talk about sex (3)

How to approach it: It can be difficult tovocalise your deepest fantasies for fear of shocking your partner. Try writing them down first. As you read about each others’ thoughts and desires, have an open mind and avoid being judgemental. Ask questions about what else they’d like or suggest things you could do to build on the fantasy together. But avoid fantasies that involve close friends as this can spark jealousy. Make it clearwhether you’d like to act out your fantasy or prefer just to talk about it.■

WHAT HE’S THINKING…

Women’s concerns about sex often relate to confidence in their bodies, but men tend to worry about technique, so conversations that feel like criticism could hit a man’s nerve, says relationship therapist Andrew G Marshall, author of Make Love Like a Prairie Vole: Six Steps to Passionate, Plentiful and Monogamous Sex. Avoid raising problems after sex, and talk positively about things you’d like to do more. Also, don’t make global statements like, “I’m happy with our sex life”.lets talk about sex (4)

Instead use three-part sentences to keep it specific. You can say, for instance, “I feel our sex life is unsatisfactory when we have sex at night because I’m tired”. When you do this, he will feel like it’s an issue he can deal with. Another fear for men is that the conversation will go on for hours. Men see every issue raised as a problem they need to solve. Talking during a short(ish) car journey or walk enforces a welcome time constraint, says Andrew.

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stuck on you (4)

26 Oct Stuck on you

Lindo, a 30-year-old clothing merchandiser confesses: “It’s 9.30pm. I’m 18 years old. The Generations credits are rolling and, as if on cue, mom goes to bed. I change channels, and my phone rings. It’s him. The remotes lips out of my hand.Suddenly, it’s as if I’m having an out-of-body experience. Hands trembling, I answer.

  • Him:Sure baby gal,how’re doing?

  • Me:Hello,I’m fine;can’t complain.

  • Him:I’m in your neighbourhood and want to see you.

  • Me: Sure, no problem. Give me a few minutes, I’m coming outside. As I put the phone down, panic sets in.

All sorts of questions run through my mind:

How do I sneak out of the house?

What if mom wakes up?

Does my hair look good?

How do I go from my dowdy about-to-go-to-bed look to a casual but cute one in three minutes flat?

Kryptonite Lover

But looks aside, the most critical question is:

Am I really about to risk the wrath of my strict mom to see a guy? My answer to anything related to this guy, whom I admit to have been shamelessly obsessed about four years, is always ‘yes’. I’ll risk all hell breaking loose just to be with him because he’s what I call the ‘kryptonite lover’. You know how in the Superman cartoons the superhero had one weakness, kryptonite? Well, Themba is that to me. Even now, 12 years later, after two serious relationships, a fiancé and a child on the way, I’m still stuck on him. His voice and the mention of his name makes me weak.”She met Themba in high school, and they were teenage lovers. “He was my first love and we shared my first kiss. And, boy, was it dramatic. One minute he was casually talking to me, and the next he was all up in my business,” she says.

stuck on you (1)

Lindo recalls how, when she was in matric, she’d get home from school, scrounge around the house for all the loose change and head out to the shops to call him. They dated on and off for a few years but she just couldn’t shake him off. “I knew he was not good for me – he was a player and never kept his word. He’d cheat like he was getting paid per affair.I’d find out from friends or the girls themselves. He’d apologise and I’d forgive him, and so it went,” she says.

Make sense of your relationship

According to clinical psychologist Teboho Monyamane, “It’s important to ask yourself what it is that’s preventing you from moving on.” She adds: “Think about how the relationship was and what it is that caused it to end – ask yourself if those issues are still there and whether you both have the same understanding of your needs and expectations. If you feel stuck or confused, it might be helpful to consult a therapist who can help you make sense of your relationship dynamics.”stuck on you (2)

Bonnie Kaye, a relationship counsellor and author of Manreaders: A Woman’s Guide to Dysfunctional Men, agrees with Teboho and suggests that if you make the list of the reasons you keep breaking up with each other, you’ll probably notice whatever’s written there doesn’t change much over time. She says:“This person can’t do what is necessary to keep both of you happy, so move on and find someone who’s able to give you the emotional support you need in a romantic relationship.”

As time progressed, Lindo did things for Themba that became more ridiculous. “I remember one Wednesday evening I’d arranged a sleepover at a friend’s place so that I could get a lift from her while my car was undergoing a major service. At about 11:30pm, Themba called after having disappeared out of my life for almost three years. Just that voice saying: ‘Hi, baby, where are you?’ had me flustered. He said he missed me madly and wanted to see me.”stuck on you (3)

Lindo begged her friend, who had an important meeting scheduled for 7am the following morning, to borrow her car.She drove off to where he was,then left his place at the crack of dawn to return the car.“Madness!”she exclaims. His unceremonious entries and exits in and out of her life were often disruptive because sometimes they’d happen when she was in serious relationships.

But because Themba had this inexplicable hold over Lindo, she’d ditch or risk the relationship for a brief tryst with him .“I guess what kept me on this‘not so merry-go-round’ was the flicker of hope I’d always had that he was the one, that we’d somehow eventually find our groove and have a proper long-term relationship one day. But with the wisdom of hindsight, I’ve realised how, in most cases, a relationship with your kryptonite is always doomed,” she says. According to Teboho, sometimes, especially after a long-term relationship, the dating world can be a little daunting and intimidating. “People might feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves and struggle to adjust to a self-concept that doesn’t involve their ex. So, you keep hoping that things will change for the better.stuck on you (4)

It might be tempting or feel ‘natural’ to go back to someone you’re used to and with whom you’ve shared many experiences, especially if you feel lonely. This is known as revolving cycle, or cycling; the reasons for this behaviour are varied but there are some common themes. There are usually some unresolved feelings that keep people in cyclical relationships,” says Teboho. Bonnie says, “These situations start out with you feeling flattered by the attention and promises of change, but the reality is that these kinds of manipulators, or even abusers, if you will, don’t change, but their partners have to.” She adds: “You need
to set boundaries quickly before getting sucked in again and again.”

Decided to move on

Other people who have had this kind of affair include Chris Brown and Rihanna. Even though they’ve broken up and she’s since moved on to date other people, Rihanna admitted in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey that he was the love of her life and that her heart still races when she sees him. But watch them try to get back together again and it’s almost certain it will implode. In the same interview, Rihanna explained how, even though she and Chris have moved on, she believes he’s the one lover she’ll always care about. And Lindo is no different. She says: “Themba is my Chris Brown. A year ago, I finally let him go. I deleted his numbers, email address and WhatsApp – I’ve decided to move on.

But guess what? As I drove to work with my fiancé one morning, I saw him stopped at the traffic lights. It was awkward, he was with someone else but I found my heart racing again,” she admits. Teboho warns that these kinds of relationships tend to become more negative and toxic over time, hence seeking professional help is the first step to take

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Navigating the friendzone (3)

25 Oct Navigating the friendzone

The urban dictionary describes the friend zone as “the worst position someone can be in”. It happens when one person in a platonic relationship wants to enter into a romantic relationship and the other doesn’t. For me, the friend zone is the equivalent of unrequited love, a subject explored in many Shakespearean plays and sad love poems.

It’s common for women to friend-zone men

Navigating the friendzone (1)

Celebrity couple Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith managed to work their way out of the friend zone. Speaking about their relationship on celebrity.yahoo.com, Jada says: “After we’d known each other for many years, we went out for dinner one night with mutual friends and I saw that he had grown from this lanky kid to this really responsible man. We started courting each other and our friendship turned into romance.” It’s common for women to friend-zone men.

But what happens when the roles are reversed? You WhatsApp each other every day, call every second day and “like” every status update he makes on Facebook. You give him more attention than other guys and you share personal jokes. But when you see that he’s not making further advancements towards a romantic relationship, you panic and start analysing how and when the lines were blurred.

Being friend-zoned is also a reality for womenNavigating the friendzone (4)

According to Elite Daily contributor Sierra Vandervort, being friend-zoned is also a reality for women. One of the signs of being friend zoned, she says, is being so comfortable around each other ,you feel okay with wearing your oldest or most comfortable clothes – like your favourite iduku (headscarf) and oversized sweatpants – around him when he comes over for a visit.

Another clear way to tell if you’ve been friendzoned is when your guy friend finally expresses his true feelings for you and tells you he loves you …like a sister. Dr Akashni Maharaj, a Durbanbased psychologist and coach, adds that he might not be into you “if he frequently talks about other girls or talks more about himself without asking you about your life”.

Men and women cannot have platonic relationships

Mathapelo, 27, experienced it first-hand when the guy she’d been friends with for years became engaged. What he didn’t know was that Mathapelo had been in love with him. “I was crushed when I found out he was engaged.I knew he had a girlfriend but I was secretly hoping for a moment to express my feelings,” she says. Plagued with questions about whether or not to still tell him, she decided against it. “At the end of the day, I was going to be putting myself out there so much and I felt it wasn’t worth it, especially if he didn’t feel the same way,” she says.Navigating the friendzone (2)

Steve Harvey, comedian, talk show host and author of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, believes men and women cannot have platonic relationships. “All of my friends are men. I don’t have female friends. I’m incapable of that,” he told CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield in an interview. “We remain your friends in hopes that one day there will be a crack in the door.

Trust and believe that the guy you think is just your buddy will slide into that crack the moment he gets the opportunity – 99,9% of men think this way,”he adds. Navigating the friendzone is not easy because when you finally voice your true feelings, you risk embarrassing yourself. Dr Maharaj is a believer in expressing how you feel. “If you know he feels the same about you and‘maybe’ he’s in denial or you just want to get things off your chest, you can tell him how you feel so that both of you can move forward with all the facts in hand and make informed decisions based onthat.”

Friendship is worth cultivating and no one likes rejectionNavigating the friendzone (3)

But if you’re going to go out on a limb on the subject, you must understand things might change. “The relationship can and may become strained if he doesn’t share the sentiment. However, if the friendship is strong,it may survive this with no collateral damage.It’s easier to know than to live with the ‘what if’ scenario in your head,”she adds. Friendship is worth cultivating and no one likes rejection.So whether you’re the one in the friend zone or doing the friend-zoning, always remember, it’s a risk either way.

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