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Let's Talk about Relationships, Social Media and Self-worth with Life Coach Lisa McFarland

A subject I've always been fascinated by is relationships (and the misconception that they're always going to be easy). We are a society that has the world at their fingertips with the internet. With online shopping and an abundance of knowledge and programming available to us at all times, as a generation we aren't very patient. I often wonder if people understand the level of work you need to put in to truly maintain a relationship. You shouldn't just throw relationships away when it feels like they're "broken". I can't understand why relationship advice isn't more readily available to young people. So I went on a hunt to learn more about the inner workings of relationships...

Lisa McFarland is an amazing relationship coach who offers coaching for couples. She is extremely active on her Instagram, discussing how to navigate relationships and the complications that comes with them. She normalises coaching for people in all aspects of life. I was struck by how knowledgable Lisa was on the topic of self-love and relationships. I learnt so much in our conversation. Lisa was introduced to the world of relationships when she experienced therapy herself. She advocates for everyone to try therapy. Young people will benefit from learning about aspects of relationships like attachment styles, love languages and self worth. They'll be able to better understand themselves and their partners.

How should young people deal with their first relationships? (Long distance, resolving conflicts...)

This is hilarious because I have two daughters who are eighteen and twenty and they won't listen to a word of this! There's two things that cause a lot of arguments in relationships. Often, expectations don't meet reality. That is one. People say "oh, have fun" when their partners go on nights out."I don't care what time you're home." But do you really not care? You need to communicate as an adult. Express yourself as you would do in a friendship. "So could you text me at one. Just let me know that you're in the house, I just really need that". Understand your own needs and expectations. Be aware of what you're worth. It comes down to the basics really- to like each other. Be kind and respect your partner. Treat them in a respectful manner. Be sure to communicate clearly with them. What's also key is to know your own worth. You should also express how you feel when resolving conflict. Don't shift blame on your partner or direct statements in an angry, accusatory way. Express how you feel, "when you didn't come home I was afraid". Couples each have a different argument style. Either you show up as your seven, thirteen or even two year old self. Recognise the areas in life where you have healthy conflict like the work place. Try to incorporate that into your relationship.

Can you explain how self-love is key in learning to love someone else?

You need know your own enoughness and completeness. It's so important when it comes to relationships. Otherwise you end up being paranoid, which can break down a bond between two people. Be confident in knowing that if they want to be with you they'll make it clear. Don't go looking for crumbs. You deserve the whole banquet. Don't accept crumbs or- believe me- you'll get them! A huge factor is the ANTS. Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the insecurities of the inner child. I call mine Shirley. Negative thoughts are like a toxic boyfriend, they just keep coming back. You should journal about the negative belief about yourself. Know that it's just trying to protect you. However, don't give in to your self-doubt or fears. You can deconstruct these beliefs by writing what you feel is true vs what the reality of the situation is with evidence in your own life. Usually there is no evidence to confirm your insecurity is true. And you'll have to do this over and over. Rationalise it. Own your insecurities as it's your inner child speaking. Sometimes we have to work through triggers in our childhood. Often the person we love the most we treat the worst.

But , we love Shirley, we want to bring her along with us on this journey!

How can young people cope with the pressures of social media and unrealistic expectations?

Life is so different now compared to when I was dating. With social media, you can't really escape your ex, even if you do block them. And, of course, there are so many people that are accessible online. It wasn't like that before. You need to understand people are putting their best face forward on Instagram. It ties in to expectation not meeting reality. It's just recognising we're going to find other people attractive, but we don't have to be disrespectful or unkind. You should care about your person's feelings. There is also an issue with the perceived reality created through porn. There are unrealistic ideas about the length of sex or our bodies. Hopefully we can all just be kind and realise this isn't real life! Oh my days alive, I hope people don't believe those things!!

How do men and women differ when it comes to sex?

I don't like to categorise men or women in that way. I like to speak about masculine and feminine energy because we can have both. The masculine energy does not associate the physical act of sex with love or commitment. It associates sex with a good time. The feminine energy connects physical contact with love, connection and devotion. It's much more difficult for feminine energy not to catch feelings. You should be really in your masculine energy to be able to sleep with someone and view it as just a bit of craic.

Tell me a little bit about love languages.

Love languages were created by an American man, Gary Chapman. He wrote a book about understanding how to express your needs and cater to your partner's love lnaguage.

There are five love languages which are spending time, acts of service, words of affirmation, touch and gifts.

Your love language is how you show someone you love them. Perhaps you need words as you didn't get validation as a child. You should always remember to speak to your partner in their love language, not yours. When we're stressed or have a lot going on, we forget to acknowledge how the other person needs to be loved. I'd highly recommend marrying someone who's love language is acts of service. They'll look after you really well! Don't be co-dependent. The relationship is a cup that needs filled. If you don't work on filling the cup (maintaining the relationship), you start to feel lonely, even neglected. Show up for each other, use love languages and recognise your attachment styles.

There are four things that should never exist in relationships. The Gothman institute teaches that criticism, contempt, stonewalling (huffing) and defensiveness should be eliminated from our relationships. We need to do the work on ourselves to figure out why we're huffing or why we're being defensive with our partner. It's really about your relationship with yourself.

We also should be aware of our attachment styles. You can be anxious , secure or avoidant. (Anxious means you're worried about your relationship. Avoidant is when you're struggling to commit). Of course we all would like to have a secure attachment style. It's not your partner's job to make you feel secure. You need to be secure in yourself.

How would you advise people on dealing with jealousy?

You have to question, why are you jealous? My husband and I are both very secure. If we went out and a guy asked me to dance my partner would be okay with it. He's secure in himself and in our relationship. You should feel secure yourself and make each other feel secure in the relationship. Also, if someone is making you feel jealous, maybe they're not worth your attention. Do they make you feel more than or less than? If they make you feel less than, don't stay! If you're hanging around with people who make you feel less than, you need to cut ties.

Even in friendship, you should surround yourself with radiators- not drains.

And last but not least, what is your advice on the dreaded break up?!

Well, another thing we are not taught about is how to grief. Grief is a really big thing. It's going to happen to us in our lifetime. It's a really good tool to have learnt. There's five stages of grief. Anger, disbelief, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.

You go through all the stages. Sometimes you just have to get down right sad that a relationship has ended. I don't believe in relationships failing. Sometimes they just end.

It's not rejection it's a it's a redirection.

You need to think "you know what- that was the relationship for that time. I need to take the knowledge from it and think about what I want my next relationship to look like. What did I really love about that relationship that I would like to have again in another relationship? What was I not too keen about that I don't want to have again?" Journal journal journal everyday! Journaling everyday get those thoughts down on paper. It's like writing your Christmas list, once it's done with paper it never seems as bad as it was at the start.

When you're sad, my advice is block each other. Don't go stalking their Instagram or Snapchat. Know that it's not going to bring you any good! Back in the day, when I was your age, we didn't have that option. You broke up with the person and never saw them again. The moving on part is really difficult to do when your tangled watching their Insta stories. You might even see things and you misinterpret them. Get yourself pulled together and then then you can do whatever you need to do. But until you get yourself together and you get to the fifth stage of grief-which is acceptance -just stay out of each others social media and no drunk texts!

I teach people- you are whole and complete the way you are. If you want to after that realisation- go on this journey with someone- awesome. But you're complete yourself. So then when there is a break up you were already complete. You just need to lick your wounds and pick yourself up. But you were already complete. "A breakup can't take that away from me!"

Chatting with Lisa has enlightened me on how intricate and complex relationships can be. There are so many aspects to creating a great bond with someone. Ultimately, it is key to put your self-love on the top of your list of priorities. You need to be a secure and complete person to have a fulfilling and healthy partnership with someone.

There will be good days and bad days in all relationships. But when two people come together to try to make it work, it can be really beautiful.


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