Making Relationships Work (Together or Apart)
We all have a story. I’m no exception. Just like you, my story has informed my life and my relationships. In fact it would be near on impossible for me to work my magic with you if I didn’t understand my own story and its impact.
So if you want to know more about who I am, feel free to check me out.
Mine was typical 60’s home with defined roles. My father worked in his barber shop and my mother was a diligent housewife. I learned very early on in my little life that my father was the only important member of our household and my mother always put him first. In fact she has told me quite gaily, that my father only agreed to having children if they didn’t interfere with him. Translated in to daily life this meant that anything that stopped my mother agreeing to his every wish and whim was off limits.
Growing up was not much fun at all. I loved the weekends when I saw my beloved grandparents but even they realized how difficult my father was. My nana would say to me ‘be nice to daddy’. I have come to understand that this meant ‘keep quiet and do as you are told or you’ll shoot yourself in the foot’.
I have a hundred stories to justify and evidence the challenges of ‘being seen and not heard’ when that’s really not my true nature. My experience of childhood was lonely and isolated with no encouragement or patience for my curiosity or intelligence.
To me, our home was regimented, controlled and lonely, so I left home at 17 to travel for a year, and ended up living in a bedsit in London.
Some hard times followed. My parent’s finances were never stable, so from the moment I left I was on my own. Sometimes I could barely make the rent and buy food, so it was one or the other. I met my future husband within 6 months of living in London and he really was my rescuer. The challenge with rescuers is that they rescue you when you are vulnerable and dependent on them. If you stay in this role the status quo remains. However if you want to grow and have a voice the rescuer loses their role and the status quo is disturbed.
So I lost my voice and I lived my marriage and my life pretty much unconsciously. My main claim to fame was my spotless home. You could have eaten your dinner from my skirting boards. I was strongly attached to my marigolds and jif. I had a controlling husband who held the purse strings and unbeknown to me was also cheating. During this time and quite randomly, he suggested I do something one evening a week whilst he babysat the kids, probably to alleviate his guilt at being out all the time. (It was 1992 and three years before our marriage officially ended). I jumped at the chance to hang up my rubber gloves! I certain didn’t think of studying Counselling. I enrolled for a Drama course at the local college because I thought it would be so much fun and I was really looking forward to it. When I got to the desk to hand in my application they told me the course had been cancelled because there were not enough enrollments. Boy was I upset. You know how it is when you set your mind on doing something and you get totally psyched up for it, isn’t it so frustrating to be thwarted in you efforts at the last minute? I had a Wednesday night free and clear and I was not going to lose the opportunity of using it. So I asked what else they had available and they said Counselling has places, so I said, I’ll take it!
On the first night of the Four Year Diploma Course, 26 of us sat in a circle and we were asked to say our names and why we were there. I told the truth – because I had the night free and drama wasn’t available, but I had an open mind and loved to learn. The next person introduced themselves and round we went until one lady said ‘my name is ‘Helen’ and didn’t get any further because she burst into tears! Another lady became quite agitated and said ‘oh dear shall I go and put the kettle on’? I just sat there observing this and I remember thinking, ‘wow, this is so much better than drama, this is the real thing’. My vocation found me and I loved it. I studied every Tuesday reading as much as I could and writing my essays whilst the kids were at school and I went to my course every Wednesday night for four years! The course was my saviour and my own therapy and my introduction to whom I really was in the world, emerging from years of living unconsciously.
In 1995, After 15 years of living my husbands life and being and doing everything he wanted me to be, I discovered his infidelity and that was my get out of jail card. Even though I had two small children aged 5 and 8, no money of my own, no real identity and no career, I had the wherewithal to realise I was now free to be me once again. Ok I had been given lemons, but I was determined to make lemonade. What ensued were years of study and reinvention to become an expert about relationships. As a result of my own experience I was insatiably curious to discover how you get loved and maintain a relationship whilst staying true to yourself.
However, I needed money badly to keep a roof over my kid’s heads and put food on the table. My husband was out of work and the house was in negative equity. He had left leaving all the responsibility for the mortgage to me. I was not allowed to make myself homeless so had to stay where I was and find a way to make it work. I got three jobs. One as a residential social worker with abused and neglected children, and two telesales jobs. After getting beaten up (unintentionally in the social work job) and working all hours on the phone, I eventually got a full time job as a secretary (which I was useless at - it took me all morning to type one letter because I couldn’t read back my shorthand) and then I became a charity fundraiser (which I was good at). At the same time I finished my Counselling Diploma and then took The CTI Coaching Course and became one of the first life coaches in the UK. I was also determined to be the best parent ever to my kids. And I wanted to raise them in a loving and understanding and respectful environment where yes was yes and no was no and the reasons why were explained. I found a wonderful course and obtained a credit card for the first time to pay for a journey of a lifetime to go to San Diego to train with Dr Thomas Gordon and become a Parent Effectiveness Trainer. This was a real turning point in my life, making a decision without anyone’s permission and following my intuition to do what I believed in. I came back, put all I had learned into practice with my kids, and started up some workshops to teach what I had learned. I worked incredibly hard and loved it. I was so motivated.
Eventually after three years I gave up my day job to coach full time and for the first two years made huge losses, drawing on money I had paid into my mortgage to subsidize me. During that time I had the opportunity to train as a Time Management trainer with DayTimers and trained at BMW, Tesco, Lloyds Bank and many others. I joined forces with Fiona Harrold as one of her coaches and by year three I started to make decent money and begin the long haul of paying back my colossal mortgage to keep my home safe for the kids. I worked very long days and evenings and just kept going. In that time I had made some radical decisions. After the Parent Effectiveness Training, I made the commitment not to live with anyone until my children were grown and left home. I wanted to bring them up my way without intervention or the good opinions of another person. I met a new man who could live with those conditions. He had issues of his own, so it suited him. Once again though I slipped into putting my own needs aside to meet his, but at least I wasn’t living with him. After another 14 years of growing my kids and forging forward with my career, writing two books, The Divorce Doctor and Time To Live and working for 3 years each on the Trisha Show and The Wright Stuff, doing all sorts of TV and on Radio and in the press, I began to realise I was in a relationship that wasn’t working. I had made it my business to try and heal his hurts (because that’s what I do), but I wasn’t getting much back in return. On the day of my book launch in May 2009 he let me down badly and I allowed myself to feel upset and consider my own needs. It was a bittersweet day because on the best day of my career to date I ended the relationship.
So now I had a clear pattern. I chose men who I put in a place of being more important than I was and ended up being just like my mother in relationship. The most shameful thing for me was that I was teaching this very stuff. The realization that I didn’t choose equal reciprocal relationships was now crystal clear to me and it totally changed my perspective of relationship. Of course this meant the qualities I brought to my couples and individual coaching totally transformed as my understanding of the process of triggering each other’s old stories was now blatantly obvious to me.
The next 6 years of singledom were the most interesting of my life. I trained as an Imago Clinical Therapist and Imago Facilitator, I studied Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and NLP and studied Attachment Theory in depth. All of which added to my wealth of knowledge. I observed myself in a variety of relationships. I noticed my tendency to act in a way that made the other person feel far more important than myself. I noticed how I projected my hurt from the past onto them if I was upset by something I believed they had done or not done. And I noticed how my reactions internally and externally reactivated my old core wounding. Often I had periods of great peace whilst not being in relationship. But I also noticed that when I was not in relationship, I didn’t grow in quite the same way as I did when I was with a man. I became quite insular and independent. That was my armour for avoiding the pain of loneliness. But when I did let myself feel, I realized that a part of me still held a desire to find a partner to share my abundance of love with. Almost like I had unfinished business to complete.
Allowing myself to be contentedly single and letting life evolve naturally around me, in September 2014 I decided to buy a little cottage and move out of the area. Life had other ideas for me though and the cottage fell through so instead I spent some money giving my own house a facelift, which was a joy.
Then after the New Year, I received a phone call. Would I like to be introduced to this guy whom my cousin and her friend thought I would get on with. We had our first date on January 11th 2015 and began a beautiful romance that sadly ended after 20 months. I truly believe that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. But its very hard to hold on to that belief when your heart feels like its shattered into a million pieces and the pain in the pit of your stomach leaves you leaden and deadened on the inside. Even in the midst of shock and denial (you know that feeling when you’ve heard what’s been said, its not a foreign language, but you brain refuses to allow the access for it to land) if you, like me, can really take the time to look inside yourself into the depth of that pain, you’ll discover the truth about why it happened, how it happened, who you were then, who you are now and how to make new more informed choices for yourself going forward. And it’s not something you have to do on your own. My grief was totally my own process though I also have a small, but exceptionally stalwart, army of supporters. I meditated, I read and I researched, I got professional support, I spent hours talking to my ‘tribe’ who will always be honest with me, I spent time with my loved ones, I journalled and shed a bucket load of tears. I tried to resist the pain but it totally ignored my resistance and often arrived, unexpectedly, to visit anyway. And just like an injection of a super charged vulnerability, it has skyrocketed even more empathy and connection with my clients struggles.
When you work with me you are working with a very real human being who has experienced a great deal of life. I was a little girl who pitched up with parents with very limited resources. I’ve been single and lonely, married and unconscious, a single parent, reinvented my career, tried relationship second time around and made the same mistakes, took years out to be single, studied every kind of core wounding and its projections and impacts and finally when I was happy to be contentedly single, fell back in love again only to experience the pain of it’s loss. I know how relationships work inside and out. I have worked with hundreds of men and women, women and women, men and men, from every culture and religion and I have discovered that what every single one of us wants is to be loved, accepted and understood. Not one of us comes with an operating manual because we are always a work in progress. Finding and keeping the love we so long for always happens ‘on the job’. No game of any depth, value or joy was ever played from the stands. Its only on the field of intimate relationship itself that all the growth of loving and receiving love takes place.
I have a simple theory, which was poignantly backed up by tragedy.
When 9/11 happened in two buildings designed for world trade and money making, some very hard working suited and booted people realized that they were not going to survive. Those who were able called home. Do you remember what they said?
Can you even imagine what they said?
I’ll tell you.
They said, ‘I love you, tell the children I love them’. They spoke only of love and from love. Not one of them said, look after my big portfoloio of investments, my BMW or my big F…. off house. Why? Because in the end, the only thing that is important to all of us and the only thing we take with us when we leave, is who we have loved and who loves us. I know this to be true. In working with me, I have only one agenda for you. And that is for you to be able and willing to express your own truth, so that all of your relationships work, together or apart.