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Text five one five five one Brendan O'Connor on RTG Radio one.


We're solving all your problems today. So you've got cold showers. Do a little bit of exercise. And I get the other problem people are having at the moment is that I think this way of living, this weird way we're living is putting a strain on the best of relationships. And underlying now is Dr. Collum O'Connor and call him as a clinical psychologist who's been working for decades as a specialist. Family and couples therapists call him.


Good afternoon. Good afternoon. I call them. Are you finding that more relationships are in trouble because of the lockdown? Certainly, I've had quite an input of people getting onto me who are kind of struggling. I think what what kind of happens is it's not so much that they're struggling directly with the covid and the restrictions on the lockdown's, but it's kind of exposing some faults in the relationship, some issues in the relationship, some difficulties that they have that they may not have been aware of beforehand or else have been exacerbated by us.


So certainly the stress that's caused by the cause of it causes stress on the individual in terms of triggering kind of anxiety or stress or depression and on the relationship itself, in terms of things like the core need of a relationship being connexion and freedom and stability and certainty so on, those core needs are kind of kind of fractured a little bit in the relationship. It certainly creates a vulnerability that brings people into me and into people in the area of marriage and family therapy.


Yeah, I'm thinking of eating at Tommy Tiernan said when he was out here kind of relatively early on in things. And he just said like that as a man, he found it to be natural that a man was spending so much time with his wife and not seeing male friends and stuff that we weren't built to to to live like that in marriages, weren't built to be like that, to have that kind of pressure on them.


Yes. I think one of the interesting things to reflect on is, you know, your own life. You want to spend time with your significant others, like your your wife and your family. But what we've discovered with the core of it is that if you spend too much time with your significant others, you begin to lose the resources and the things in life that actually maintain your own mental health. And that has to do with freedom and going out into the world.


So like so what you find then is that the people that you would have considered as insignificant in your life, like the cashier at the shop or the lady at the post office or the neighbour that you have to say hello to when you're walking across the street or just people you bump into throughout your day. All those activities, we realise, are vital to mental health and the kind of like the invisible people or the little people in life that we may never have attended to.


But we realise now that they're actually vital. And for elderly people or people struggling with life, it's so important to be able to go out and buy something in the shop and come home and people feel better about it. I notice myself recently I was I wasn't feeling the great I and I went into a shop and there was a lovely cashier and there that engaged in a lovely, lively way with me. But I came out of the shop a better man than I was when I went in.


So we draw on all these little people in life that give us that kind of sustenance and place in the world. Yeah, and I think for men, too, it's a difficulty because if they're working at home, then certainly the role has to be redefined. But for me, there's a lot of positives in a to Brendan. And I think it's easy to create the narrative of a lot of stress and difficulty for couples, but it does give couples the chance to reconsider their priorities, re-evaluate what their relationship is and what's important to them.


And certainly in previous generations, they would have been a lot of complaints about men not spending time at home. And now we have a situation where they can and they do. And with lots of people, that actually is a blessing. And children and partners are finding that to be a huge resource and listen equally.


Now, I think everyone being at home and the children being at home as well is causing probably a certain amount of resentment. Is it in some households, are you getting that sense that women feel that their so-called emotional labour, that their home schooling and that is tending to fall a bit more on them? Absolutely, and I think when it comes to one of the dynamics that would come up with a lot of couples with me would be patterns of what would call over responsibility and under responsibility.


And traditionally in family life, the woman would tend to be the overall responsible person that will be doing things, taking care of things, making sure the shopping is done, keeping the laundry, going through the system. While Dad would traditionally have been there to help out, but not necessarily carrying the responsibility. So because, of course, this becomes heightened, one of the difficulties that would emerge would be the mother carrying more of the responsibility and wanting him to engage more or to work more or monitor things more.


I've also noticed that actually, interestingly, in terms of the attitude the covid itself, like historically, again, if you look at Irish families, usually the the mother or the mom or the grandmother is the kind of health authority. So in terms of monitoring health and family, your family, if you want to see the GP, if the mom to get him to go, or if mom says to the dad, you need to go to the doctor about that, he usually says, I'm grand.


Well, she would be in and out more frequently. But when it comes to Corbitt itself, the same dynamic happens. More often than not, you'd find that the women in the houses are monitoring the covid and the health status of everybody and keeping the rules. And it's more likely that in all cases, but it's more likely that they will be saying I should withdraw and leave them alone. You know, and this becomes an issue as well, just around handling covid.


And I found out I do a lot of work in the family law course as well. And it's a real issue, too, in terms of access for children with fathers tending to be a little bit more casual and mothers tending to be a little bit more strict. You know, so the dynamic of over and under responsibility is a big one. Yeah.


And of course, there can be room for both approaches as well, probably in general in an ideal situation.


Listen. So all these kind of day to day frictions that we're talking about here, I suppose they can build up at a time like this when there is no escape in one way and they can become magnified in everything. So and then you get to a point maybe where point where things don't need to necessarily get to where people are in trouble and they're fighting a lot.


How do you how do you kind of nip it in the board and start reconciling those day to day little frictions and make sure they don't explode? Well, that was one of the things I do, Brendan would be like, I work with coppers and I'd be another an advocate for doing marital therapy. I'm doing things called covid sessions with couples for five and 10 sessions, which is helping couples just to take time out of the stress and the relationship to take stock of what's going on and what's happening.


And most couples find it very reassuring to have a kind of a safe place within which they can begin to have the conversations they need to have so that there's a process that I go through with couples that are around that kind of thing. But in terms of dealing with the bickering and things like that, one of the things I work with couples would be you have to take anger out of the relationship. So very often couples are getting into repetitive arguments about certain things.


Either she's getting angry and frustrated or he's getting irritated and fed up with her, criticising him. And you have to create a climate where you can take it, take anger out of it and create facilitate dialogue with people. Or there's no fear of the other person getting angry or fear of a defensive reaction. And the work I do with couples is taking them through the stages of moving from angry arguments into a kind of more intimate dialogue in a safe kind of way where people can have the conversation that they need to have.


Yeah, and I can see that it would be better to have somebody in the room to mediate that kind of thing.


And you talk about Israel, which I think is a nice notion, is that couples need to try and get a better dance going between them. Yes, I think one of the interesting things about Kopper's and even for people to think of their own relationship, because there's three people in it, that is you. If it's me, it's you, there would be me and there'd be us to. The third entity is the relationship. And we're like, what's good for me might not be good for the relationship.


So listening to to Joel and Keith told me earlier, if people are too focussed on themselves and developing them themselves and looking after themselves, that might be good for them as an individual, but it mightn't be good for the relationship. So what happens in a relationship that you very often have a typical dance? I call it the Here we go again thing. So when I meet couples very quickly, I can see what the dances and the dance is a typical one, either of pursuit and distance or of blaming and hating, attacking and defend sort of the predictable sequence.


The couples are in it. Then they have the feel like here we go again. It's the same thing. And again, that's what they are again.


So because people might want to recognise which their pathology is in that.


So pursue pursuit and distance would be a typical one where you have a say in over responsible wife or mother pursuing a man in order to try to get him to be more engaged, to talk more or to take more responsibility. It would be a very typical one where you have one who's overresponse, vulnerable and pursuing for a connexion. And typically, and this has been stereotypical, the man disengaging and not wanting to talk too much. So that would be a typical one.


Another typical one would be blaming and placating where you have one partner who tends to be angry and irritable and blames the other partner on the other partners trying to keep him or her happy and tends to play case in order to create the peace in the House, or else you have like a defence. So these couples would be kind of continually fighting and continually arguing. You also relationship sort of the further companions and their pals and they get on well, you other relationships for it's kind of I can't live with you and I can't live without you kind of couple every copper that come in to me and then just be literally roaring and shouting with each other, but utterly committed to each other and loving each other at the same time.


And so in a way, dunce's. Yeah.


And in some way we're all getting some need met in the dance, are we. That's why we do it. Even if it's dysfunctional. Are we kind of slightly addicted to it or comfortable in it? In a way. Absolutely so so we get enough out of it to sustain us, but but there's enough negatives in it to make us wanted to complain about us. What are the metaphors I use with couples when they come to see me? Would be it's very often a relationship.


It's like it's like a ship that you're in and around the ground and runs up on the rocks. And for some people in that relationship, they can be stuck on the rocks. They're going nowhere. They're on board the ship and they spend all their time complaining about the state of the relationship or fighting with each other about who's responsible for getting them to that position. And very often what I do with couples is I'm not going to get into the problem, which we're not going to argue about what's happened.


Let's talk about building a new ship. Let's talk about building something different that would help you meet your particular needs. And you could spend the next ten years trying to repair an old one that isn't going to go anywhere. Or you could invest your energies in trying to build a new relationship based on what it is that you need and hope for and long for. And most couples find that very refreshing because they get stuck and trying to fix something that isn't going to work or trying to change the other part or in some way that is never going to happen.


But they've never had the possibility to sit down and work together in order to create a relationship that they can both kind of buy into someone. Couples get married. No, they don't do that kind of work. So it's want to drive a car. You have to do all sorts of testing and read books and be ready to do it before you get married and settle down. And people without ever checking what it is that we're hoping for, I call them.


You have a technique that sounds very interesting. You say that it can sometimes help your situation to ask a man to say yes to everything in a relationship for one day. What situation without working? All right, I thought that would come from some of the research on the differences between men and women in relationships. One thing that comes up, a lot of that men's difficulty in accepting influence, that very simply would be that men a lot of men don't like being told what to do.


So if his wife said it was you put that in the door, put that in the microwave because it's going to blow up. And he starts saying, well, why I know how microwaves work. And you get into a kind of an argument about something. So a lot of men don't like being told what to do when they get into arguments so that they don't have to comply. So I would work with men around teaching them the skill of accepting influence and accepting influences very simply, very simply with these men.


It's like saying if your wife asks you to do something just for one day or for even a week, just say yes. I call it as you wish strategy. If anybody's seen the Princess Bride, Princess Buttercup and the guy that she's in love with, every time she asks for something, he says, as you wish. But it's a kind of a playful way of helping men get over the the reluctance to follow an instruction or a request by a wife who gets very frustrated because everything turns into a little argument.


And all she wanted him to do was to unload the dishwasher or something like that.


You know, listen, that might be a thing people could try in the privacy of their own homes. And listen, there's probably a lot of men saying, well, I'm going to ask my wife to say yes to everything for a day.


Listen, call him before you go on the broader picture. Presumably, this is not a time to make drastic or long term decisions about a relationship. Really? Is that. Yeah, that's a very, very good point. I was just say, by the way, if anybody's interested in what I'm talking about, they can get onto my website, doctora column, Okano dot com. What I do is call with conversations, but I would agree with that.


Certainly one of the effects of chronic stress and chronic trauma on relationships and people is that you can get into faulty thinking and you can get into urgent thinking and thinking. You need to do something quickly and kind of force a question. So very often couples would come in to me and should we sit together or should we split up? And my approach is, well, let's take our time. Let's take a look at things. Let's talk things through and assess the situation so that then in three months time, you can make the best decision based on a good assessment.


But certainly the effect of chronic trauma and stress on people is that it forces decisions. People tend to get into more black and white thinking and then can very often make a decision under pressure rather than had been thought through and considered. But that's not a fault of the couple. That's a symptom of the effect of the chronic stress of something like covid and what it does to people in their decision column.


That was really good, really interesting and really helpful.


And look, if you've got nothing else from it, it's to remember your soft connexions out in the world. Israelis remember to take a little bit of time to pass the time of day with people and older people and everything else when people are out about which they all are. Judging by the taxers today column kind of clinical psychologist. Thank you so much.


Text five one five five one. Brendan O'Connor on RTG, Radio one.