How to keep the kids’ busy during the Easter school holiday

The Easter school holiday is nearly upon us. Parents can look forward to asking the same big question a dozen times: what do I do with the kids today? To help ease the pressure on stressed-out parents, here are our top 5 things to do for the Easter holiday.

1. Have your own bake off

Easter school holidayBaking is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen and help them understand what goes in to preparing any kind of food. It is inevitably messy (which kids love), teaches them how to follow instructions and rewards patience (a much sought after character trait amongst the IPad generation!)

There are thousands of simple baking recipes available for free online. YouTube also offers helpful videos if you are not a natural Nigella or Mary Berry.

Plus baking with the kids is easy on the bank balance as ingredients are likely to be some of the cheapest on your weekly grocery shopping list.

Easter school holiday2. Use your local library

Libraries often provide free or low cost activities during the school holidays. They are also a great place to encourage and cultivate imagination. Amongst all the smartphones, YouTube and PS4 kids of any age love to sit down with a good book.

Local libraries often have a big selection of children’s titles to suit all reading abilities and interests. From kids classics and modern characters like Katie Morag and the Gruffalo, libraries are a brilliant way to spend a few mind-broadening hours.

Find your local library’s website or your local council website for details.

3. A (cheap) trip to the cinema

Easter school holidayTaking kids to the cinema can be a very costly affair. Thankfully, both ODEON and Cineworld offer morning screenings of top kids films during the Easter half-term holidays. Tickets start from as little as £2.00 and it is a great chance to catch up on some recent favourites.

Stock up on popcorn and drinks from your local shop to avoid paying premium prices at the cinema. Alternatively take along some homemade treats made earlier in the Easter holiday during your family ‘bake off’!

4. Create a fairy castle or superhero hideout


Easter school holidayNo doubt there will be loads of cardboard boxes in your garage or loft. And no doubt you’ll be keeping them because they will ‘come in handy’ one day. The Easter school holiday is that day!

Kids love nothing better than combining their amazing imagination with arts/crafts and creating their own wee space. Grab the boxes plus all the crafting bits and pieces you have (pens, pencils, glitter, paper) and build a castle or hideout with them.

Thanks to Frozen and Beauty and the Beast many kids would love a fairy-tale castle. Others a secret base for The Avengers or their own Batcave. The biggest problem you’ll have is trying to get Elsa or Bruce Wayne to leave their hideout for dinner!

Easter school holiday5. Take day trip by train

Thanks to Scotrail’s Kids Go Free ticket you can explore Scotland during the Easter school holiday at low cost. Two children aged between 5 and 15 can travel for free with 1 paying adult during off peak travel (and who wants to try and coral the kids somewhere during morning rush hour?!).

But the great value does not end there! The Kids Go Free package also offers discounted admission to some of Scotland’s top attractions. From the Aberdeen Science Centre to Culzean Castle, the Hampden Stadium Experience and the historic RRS Discovery in Dundee, great low cost days out are ready and waiting.

Making relationships work

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

Whether you need help with parenting, overcoming family issues or dealing with the normal pressures of being part of a family, The Spark can help.

Find out more about our counselling services or take a look at our free resources for couples, parents and families.

We also provide a free Relationship Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems.

Supreme Court judge, Lord Wilson of Culworth has been in the news recently following his criticism of government ministers for failing to reform divorce law. Among other issues Wilson cited the refusal of successive governments to institute no fault divorce. This has been the subject of campaigning from judges and family lawyers for some time. There has been less popular interest in the issue of no fault divorce. Partly perhaps, because many people wrongly assume that we already have this option in law.

no fault divorce
Henry VIII – the original poster boy for divorce

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived

As everyone knows, divorce was invented in the 1500s by Strawberry blond Trump-a-like monarch, King Henry VIII. In actual fact divorce required an Act of Parliament and Henry’s marriages to Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves were all annulled. Henry also cut Boleyn’s head off because, as discussed in Professor Eric Ives’s ground-breaking masterpiece The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2005, Blackwell Publishing) he didn’t like her anymore.

A century later, the poet John Milton published a pamphlet campaigning for divorce. In it he likened the inability to end an unhappy marriage to:

“two carcasses chained unnaturally together ; or, as it may happen, a living soul bound to a dead corpse”

(John Milton 1644, On the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce)

This tells us that:

  1. Divorce was still contrary to cannon law in the 17th century, and
  2. The Milton’s were having problems

While a form of divorce was made available in the 1690s, this was only open to men and the very wealthy. It has been argued that until the 19th century:

“Mortality rates were so high that…death often did the work then that divorce does now in cutting marriages short. Even those spouses who refrained from giving mortality a little push must sometimes have greeted the death of a spouse with, shall we say, mixed emotions”

(Frances E Dolan 2008, Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy, page 53)

no fault divorce
John Milton – a fan of divorce

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857

“We are not here, Mr. Adam, to secure your happiness, but to preserve the institution of marriage and the purity of the home. And, therefore, one of you must commit adultery …”

(A.P. Herbert 1934, source: Parliament UK)

In the mid-1800s divorce finally became available to ordinary people and to both sexes. Awards did favour men and women were more restricted as to grounds for divorce. Until well into the 20th century it was often necessary for a woman petitioning for divorce to prove adultery. When the couple wished to part on mutual agreement it was not uncommon for the husband to do the decent thing: agree to be the ‘guilty party’ then hire a prostitute, a detective with a camera and a hotel room to be ‘caught’ in.  Some detectives (and guest houses) specialised in this service.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969

The current law gives five grounds for divorce which can be found under the Government webpage ‘Get a Divorce’. (If the Government is reading this, ‘How to Get a Divorce’ might sound a little more like guidelines and a little less like a suggestion). These grounds are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. You have lived apart for more than 2 years (if both partners agree) or
  5. You have lived apart for at least 5 years (if only one partner agrees)

There are many loopholes in this list. For one thing guidelines state that ‘The law recognises the act of adultery as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman’. This means that if you are in a gay marriage with a spouse who is unfaithful (or, for that matter, a man whose wife has slept with every woman she’s met since your honeymoon) then in law, this doesn’t count as adultery.

You’d imagine that most judges would see this as ‘unreasonable behaviour’. The problem is, it is up to the judge to make that call.

This issue was brought to the media’s attention recently in the case of Tini Owens. Ms Owens had petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.  She had had an affair and wished to end the marriage. But her husband (in a bout of passive aggression worthy of an Irish mother) would not agree to the divorce saying that he had forgiven her. Judge Robin Toulson, QC refused to grant the divorce and now Ms Owens is left with a five year stretch before she can start proceedings again to end her marriage.

Finding fault

Judge Toulson’s ruling was unusual but it highlights, firstly that getting out of an unhappy marriage isn’t always your choice; but also that often the default ground for divorce is unreasonable behaviour. Many people go with this option when they feel the marriage is over. But there is nothing as dramatic or concrete to point to as adultery or desertion.

This means that even when a couple wish to part amicably and by mutual consent, the most straightforward and least acrimonious route for divorce is that one partner must be cited as being to blame for the breakdown of the marriage.

no fault divorceMoving on positively

Once a couple has decided on divorce counselling is often considered a lost cause. In reality breaking up and moving on is as much part of relationships as dating, starting a family or any other transition and perhaps requires even more support.

Relationship counselling can create a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space where you can both look deeper at what might have been at the root of your marriage problems. Crucially it offers a chance to recognise your own part in why the relationship did not work.  This can make a huge difference. Not only facilitating your communication through the divorce process itself. But helping everyone involved to move forward to amicable shared parenting and more positive relationships in the future.

Dear husband/wife, you are charged with the following…

Even with the support of a counsellor, this kind of honesty takes courage and hard work. What cannot help this process is having the legal requirement to select an ‘innocent’ and ‘guilty’ party. Plus a formal list of faults that the ‘guilty’ person is formally charged with.

Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution writes:

“Removing the need to allege fault on the part of one party would encourage parties to look forward rather than at what has happened in the past and would facilitate a constructive focus on future arrangements and responsibilities in the best interests of the children”. (Family Law April 2015)

These days it is no longer necessary to break with the Church of Rome, decapitate your unwanted spouse, wait for them to die or be the perfect gentleman and get caught with your trousers down. But if divorce is to signal a period of learning and moving on, rather than a battlefield that perpetuates bitterness and repeated mistakes we should have the option to end our marriages without assigning blame and have greater access to counselling to support us through the transition and help us move on positively.

Counselling for divorce and separations

Divorce counselling or separation counselling aims to help individuals come to terms with the emotions created by the end of a relationship. Reconciliation is not the objective of separation counselling. Instead it aims to help each individual reflect on the underlying emotions, deal with grief and anger, come to terms with what has happened and manage the impact of separation amicably.

Furthermore separation counselling can help individuals make the best of future relationships and parent apart successfully, improving outcomes for themselves and their children.

For more information contact our enquiries team on freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an enquiry form.

social media

3 tips to stop social media wrecking relationships

Social media is becoming ever more intertwined in our lives and relationships. In an earlier blog we looked at the concept of the ‘digital shadow’ and the risk to relationships between parents and children. The conclusion being that parents who share every aspect of a child’s life on social media risk damage to their future relationship.

social mediaSocial media and relationships

Social media can of course enhance and advance good relationships. The opportunity to connect families living thousands of miles apart in shared experiences is just one example of the positive impact of platforms like Facebook. However social media has created a whole new type of risk to positive relationships amongst families and friends.

A virtual ‘sharing’ society has been created by social media. In that process we have all – willingly – opened up aspects of our lives that were previously hidden. Dates, family gatherings, nights out and the like are now all open to anyone who is interested. With that accessibility comes some risks.

I know what you did last Friday night

For example, recruiters are now using social media extensively to vet potential candidates. Suddenly that picture from last Friday night of your cousin, drunk as a skunk and fast asleep in the pub is not so funny or harmless.

It used to be a joke to say that families out for dinner do not talk as everyone is just scrolling through Instagram or Facebook on smartphones. Now it is a depressing reality; mum, dad, daughter and son wired to their social media feeds. Often son/daughter also have their headphones in – literally present in body but not mind.

Some words cannot be deleted

social mediaA distressing by-product of social media can be its power to create feelings of jealousy, envy and low self-esteem. As a friend or family member captures every moment of their ‘perfect’ life on Instagram, others genuinely struggle to get by.  It is not inconceivable that relationships might be irrevocably damaged because jealousy leads to hurt, anger and eventually boils over in to harmful words/actions that cannot be deleted as easily as a post or tweet.

Relationships are what make humans tick. The belief that they keep us happy and healthy is now a proven fact. They need to be protected and looked after (a bit like a Tamagotchi – remember them?!).

But social media is here to stay so how do we enjoy the benefits of what it has to offer without compromising our most important relationships? Here are 3 tips.

Social media tip 1: Be in the room

It will sound ridiculously simple but spend time with the people you are physically in the same space with. When you are visiting family or spending time with friends, be present. Leave phones at the door or put them on flight-safe mode.

Talk, enquire, respond, laugh and cry with the people in the room. Be ‘social’ with the people right in front of you. Make that network the one you focus on during your time with them. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will still be there when you head home after visiting your family.

Social media tip 2: Think before you post

A concept wasted on many people (high profile world leaders included). Before tapping the post button ask yourself: who might see this? In the context of work emails the aphorism has been ‘don’t send something you wouldn’t like your boss to see’. For the social media sphere we can adapt to ‘don’t tweet/post something you wouldn’t want… mum/dad/husband/wife/friends to see’.

It is not a call to censor what you do on social media. Consider it an opportunity to be empathetic and considerate to your network of friends. You may love your new-born baby and want to share pictures of them every day but what about your friend who is going through infertility treatment?

social media switch offSocial media tip 3: Do social media then switch off

A radical thought but set time aside to be social online and then switch off. Enjoy the opportunity to be social with the people around you as much as those you only know by their Instagram handle.

Social media has given us a severe case of FOMO – fear of missing out. What is he/she saying? Did you see her pics on Instagram? Why are people tweeting about Boaty McBoatface? The cure is of course to switch off and spend less time online. Occupy your mind (and those twitching thumbs) with a book, exercise, or – shock horror – actually using your smartphone to call your mum for a chat.

Soon you will realise that the world will not stop turning if you ignore Twitter and spend an hour having coffee with a friend. Donald Trump will still have offended a person/city/gender/country when you check in later.

Related article: Social media and celebrity

Making relationships work

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

Find out more about our counselling services or take a look at our free resources for couples, parents and families.

We also provide a free Relationship Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems. Find out more about the Relationship Helpline which offers telephone and online support.

I Hope you Dance by Lee Ann Womack

Songs for Sound Minds #12 – ‘I Hope you Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack

For our latest pick in the #SongsForSoundMinds series we are going a little bit country and checking out songs of hopeful advice for our kids.

What advice would you give to your kids in song?

I hope you dance - advice for your kidsParenting can, at times, be exasperating. You see your little ones get into scrapes, fall out with friends and make mistakes and you think: things would be so much easier if they only listened to my advice!

On the other hand, as your children grow and develop, score minor successes, start to forge a career and build families of their own your heart swells with pride and you think: at least part of their success is down to my support and encouragement over the years.

But if you were to choose a song to inspire your kids, what would you choose? What words would be your gift to your children as they make their way through life?

From the cradle to the grave

I hope you dance - cat stevens father and sonThere are a number of songs that celebrate the birth of a new baby. For people of a certain age ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ by Stevie Wonder will immediately spring to mind. Celebrating the gift of a child and all that entails, offering encouragement to future generations as they move towards parenthood.

Another common theme in music is tracks written by parents for their children. Take ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) for example. Similarly many poignant songs have been written by children to their late parents. ‘The Living Years’ by Mike and Mechanics is a painfully sad track about how things might have been if only a father had lived on.

‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin is perhaps the most well-known song of advice to a future generation. A cautionary tale that encourages us all to think about the time we do (and do not) spend with our kids as they grown up.

Originally a poem by Chapin’s wife, Sandy Gaston, the lyrics were inspired by the poor relationship between her first husband and his son. It follows a boy growing up and longing for time with his absent working father. Chapin’s classic concludes with the bitter irony of the now retired and lonely father lamenting the unavailability of his son:

‘As I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.’

Hope for the future

At The Spark, one of our favourites is ‘I Hope You Dance’, a country crossover hit in the USA for Lee Ann Womack. Written by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers the track is about a parent giving heartfelt and hard-earned advice to their child. Womack herself has said, “you can’t hear those lyrics and not think about children and hope for the future and things you want for them. And those are the things I want for (my daughters) in life.”

To us, it is a song of hope. Covered by Ronan Keating in 2004 ‘I Hope you Dance’ is about gratitude and enjoying the small things in life.  It’s about overcoming adversity.  It’s about making the most of life and finding joy.

I Hope you Dance – Lee Ann Womack

#SongsForSoundMinds – music tracks written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more #SongsforSoundMinds or suggest a track on Twitter using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds


Poor communication can be a starting point for relationship problems. Whether between married couples, parents and children, amongst friends or work colleagues, bad communication helps no one.

Even amidst the rise of social media our primary means of communication remains the same now as it was before the telephone (let alone the mobile phone) was invented: the humble conversation.

A conversation may seem like a simple thing to do. And therefore impossible to get wrong. I talk, you listen, then you talk and I listen. It is of course much more complicated than that, especially when it is an important one.

In this inspiring talk, Celeste Headlee takes us through her top 10 tips on how to have a better conversation.

Late in time

When you type ‘why are some people always…’ into Google, it finishes your question by supplying the top ranked query which is ‘why are some people always late’? Rightly a lot of people want to know this.


In 1818, in his seminal work “The World as Will and Representation”, Schopenhauer says:

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

Find out what it means to me

Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me

We are all inconsiderate in small ways. Somehow even when you would not be doing anything else, the ten minute wait for a friend outside the cinema seems incredibly irritating. When someone is actively rude to you at least you feel they have put the effort in. If someone always leaves you standing like a numpty it seems to imply that they do not think you are particularly important.

Basically we don’t like to feel we are being treated disrespectfully even if that was never the intention in the first place.

Ok, but you still haven’t answered ‘what are some people always late?’

Looking online there are various answers to why some people are always late. The American website Psychology Today suggests that there might be deep-rooted and unconscious reasons for this behaviour:

Being late
Time flies when you’re waiting for someone… said no one, ever.

Maybe tardy arrivers enjoy the attention they get from making an entrance and breathlessly describing to the assembled group whatever detained them on this occasion (which elicits sympathetic smiles and nods …)  Or maybe they feel guilty for other reasons so that lateness gives them a chance to apologize and seek forgiveness.

Meanwhile The Mail Online offers us this balanced pearl of wisdom that is not remotely tongue-in-cheek: “Do your late friends drive you mad? They could be insane!”

I have a friend who is never on time when we meet. She does not enjoy making an entrance, she does not want sympathy from strangers, she does not suffer guilt and she is definitely not insane. What she does have is a baby – let’s call him Abe … or Abe-y.

My guy

In his magnum opus “Ethics” Spinoza posits:

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy (My guy)

Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy (My guy)

Abe-y the Baby understands that until he is old enough to arrange for his mother to be electronically tagged, his best chance of not sharing her is to cause an incident at the front door. Abe the Babe generally relies on a good old vomit just as his mother opens the front door.

The upshot (sorry) of this is that by the time my friend has cleaned him up and arrived, she is late and flustered and I am grumpy and possibly cold and rained on. At this point we have forgotten that we are supposed to be enjoying each other’s company and the whole thing is just a chore to be got through.

Breaking point

In what is believed to be his most important work, “The Critique of Pure Reason” Immanuel Kant postulates:

One of these mornings, the chain is gonna break

But up until the day, I’m gonna take all I can take

Chain, chain, chain. Chain of fools

And really, Kant was right.

Once my friend and I realised what a strain her greatness for lateness was putting on our friendship we had a chat and came up with a plan. We don’t meet outside the museum or cinema like we did in the pre-Abe days. We meet in a café first – then I can bring a book and have a coffee. This adds up to two relaxed friends and one stymied baby.


The cornerstone of “Principles of Philosophy” by René Descartes is that mankind should:

Aretha Franklin - never late
Aretha Franklin – a different kind of philosopher

Think (think), think about what you’re trying to do to me

Just think (think, think), let your mind go, let yourself be free

We all do things that are annoying to our friends. Some people are always late. Some people throw up on us as we are trying to leave the house. And some people pointlessly mis-attribute the lyrics of Aretha Franklin songs to post-medieval European philosophers.

We need respect in our friendships as much as in our family or romantic relationships. It is good to stop and think sometimes – ask ourselves if we are the ones doing all the running or making all the compromises. If the friendship is worth keeping you can talk about it and work something out – if you can’t, it might be time to ‘walk on by’.

Making relationships work

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

Find out more about our counselling services.

We also provide a free Relationship Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems plus our free Relationship MOT quiz.

family day

We celebrate some elements of family in British life. We recognise Christmas Day as a time to spend with family and enjoy a public holiday in which to do it. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day recognise the contribution parents make to society. But the family unit itself does not get as much as a party popper or home-made banner.

Our cousins across the north Atlantic in Canada however do things a little differently. They recognise the family and the majority of them get a day off to celebrate it.

Family Day in Canada

Family Day Canada sledging
Family Day in Canada – sledging is definitely an option

Several provinces in Canada – accounting for nearly 2/3 of the population – celebrate ‘Family Day’ in February. For most Canadians it is a statutory public holiday. Its aim is quite simple: to remind Canadians that it is important to spend time with family and to reinforce family values.

First established in the province of Alberta in 1990, Family Day is now celebrated in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Typically falling on National Heritage Day adds additional meaning as families therefore tend to do a bit of digging in to their family history. Special day trips and excursions are common. Whatever Canadians do on Family Day, spending time with loved ones is the only ‘rule’.

Given how vitally important the family is to the very fabric of society, should we not do something to recognise that fact over here too?

Family may have changed but it is still vitally important

Families in 21st century Britain take various forms. Whilst the definition of what you or I consider to be our family may differ, the underlying value of the family unit is the same. Family is a safe place of support, care and protection for the vast majority of people.

Family is the bedrock upon which society is built. Studies continue to demonstrate links between the breakdown of families and various societal ills from poverty to substance abuse and young lives blighted well in to adulthood. Conversely, the stability of a family unit helps children thrive and become productive contributors to society.

In isolation the importance of family makes it hard to understand why it is not something we revere, protect and celebrate.

Mothers Day Family Day
We have Mother’s Day & Father’s Day – why no Family Day?

Celebrate family on your own time

Politicians have for decades talked of the value of the family unit and its importance to society. All too often such talk tends to focus on promoting  one type of family unit as trumping all others. Or ends up being nothing more than rhetoric. In practice there is little celebration or protection of the concept of family. No matter what form it takes.

Family will not be cherished if we don’t value it

When society as a whole offers no discernible attitude of respect for and positivity towards a concept, how can anyone expect it to be cherished?

We could learn a lot from the Family Day holiday in Canada. The family unit is vital to the effective functioning of society. Therefore it should be treated as such. Not just with words in speeches but in deeds and actions.

A national Family Day would be a great place to start.

Making relationships work

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

Find out more about our counselling services or take a look at our free resources for couples, parents and families.

We also provide a free Relationship Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems. Find out more about the Relationship Helpline which offers telephone and online support.

cram our relationships

Humans love to cram. We cram for exams, cram for interviews and cram before that big presentation at work. A whole 24-episode TV boxset gets crammed in to a weekend and we cram our plates at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Our modern lives are often described as ‘time poor’ leaving us more inclined, or feeling we have no option other than to cram. Which lays the foundation for an important question: can we cram our relationships?

Can we cram our relationships?

Cramming works in many situations. I recall university friends reciting the ‘C’s get degrees’ mantra as they crammed for exams after a semester of bunking off lectures. The ‘night before’ cram for an interview can often lead to a job offer. And it is nigh on impossible to find anyone who does not enjoy cramming ‘just one more episode’ of Game of Thrones or Homeland in before bed.

What does that mean for our relationships? Are they the next thing to be crammed?

Sadly the truth is that whether we made a conscious decision to or not, we are already guilty of cramming our relationships.

cram our relationships
Sometimes it feels like 6 hands are just not enough…

Get ready to cram some more

Britons are working longer hours than ever before due to economic uncertainty, the rising cost of living and falling incomes. The net result is a sense that we must cram domestic duties, leisure pursuits and relationships in to whatever time remains after work.

This is compounded by the messages we are bombarded with about self-improvement and how to ‘be happy’. Eat well, keep fit, expand your horizons, get up early, sleep for at least 7 hours a day, watch the latest show, read more, tweet, post, become an Instagram star and a lot more besides. Add that up and we inevitably cram our relationships.

Cramming sometimes works

Occasionally cramming for relationships can work. For example when a couple have both been working long hours for several weeks or hardly see each other, a night away can be an excellent relationship booster. But it is not a long term solution.

Why? Simply put, when we cram our relationships we send a message:  what I am doing when I’m not with you is more important.

Cramming couples

There is no way around it. Cramming relationships for any extended period of time sends out that message. Rarely is it intended but it gets through.

The Spark Counselling works with many couples who drift apart because their relationship has been crammed. In the majority of cases neither party has ever uttered the words ‘my time spent on [insert your particular relationship issue here] is more important than you’. But one or both have ended up feeling like it was said every single day.

For [insert your particular relationship issue here] there are an infinite number of possible problems. The one you placed there could be unique to you but it is just as important and worthy of discussion as the common ones like work, alcohol, drugs or other people.

cram our relationships
Could we squeeze in an extra hour?

So can we cram our relationships?

Of course we can. But hopefully in reading this post you will have realised the more appropriate question is this: should we cram our relationships? And the answer to that is a resounding no.

Instead we should focus on setting time aside every day to properly accommodate our relationships. To achieve that the first step for many individuals and couples is to examine what they do with their time.

We only get 24 hours each day to work, rest, play and spend time with those we care about. Contrary to what self-help books, life coaches and management gurus say, we cannot ‘make time’. We can only allocate time.

Does something need to drop off your priority list in order to make that time for your partner? Are you guilty of being a ‘cramming couple’? Perhaps tonight instead of cramming in ‘just one more episode’ it would be worth allocating that time to be with your loved one.

Making relationships work

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

Find out more about our counselling services.

We also provide a free Relationship Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems plus our free Relationship MOT quiz.

Fix You Coldplay

Songs for Sound Minds #11 – ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay

Our series of music that uplifts, inspires and boosts mental health is on to track 11 and it is stadium-shaking rock anthem ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay.

Fix You – Coldplay

Few songs can be as simultaneously heart breaking and heart-warming as Fix You by Coldplay. Arguably the best of their now signature stadium anthems, Fix You is a celebration of those who care about us enough to help through the rough times. Underpinning the track is a message about accepting help even when we feel like it won’t make a difference or we don’t deserve it.

Fix You Coldplay

The story behind Fix You

The origin of Fix You sets the tone for its lyrics and composition. Following the death of Gwyneth Paltrow’s father Bruce, her then husband and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin penned the song to help her through her grief. Martin had intended to use a church organ for the track. But in a beautiful and tragic twist Martin was unable to access one and instead used an old keyboard that Bruce Paltrow had bought shortly before his death.

“My father-in-law Bruce Paltrow bought this big keyboard just before he died. No one had ever plugged it in. I plugged it in, and there was this incredible sound I’d never heard before. All these songs poured out from this one sound. Something has to inspire you, and something else takes over.” Chris Martin.

What followed was a track that Martin himself described as “probably the most important song we’ve ever written”.

In times of trouble we can end up turning away help from friends and loved ones. Fix You reminds us that those same people want to be there for us. Not out of a sense of obligation or duty. But out of their love and care for us.

They may not be able to fix us but in times of trouble we should let them at least try.

#SongsForSoundMinds are our picks of the music written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

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Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day balloonsThe cards are in the shops. The adverts for champagne and chocolates are on the TV. Pink love hearts are popping up everywhere. We cannot fail to notice it is Valentine’s Day very soon.

The annual celebration of love puts high value on grand ideas and romance. Couples that have been together for a long time can naturally feel a bit removed from this. Life gets in the way and spontaneity can begin to decline. Grand gestures make way for a simple exchange of cards and little else.

Does that mean Valentine’s Day is unimportant when you have been together a long time? Definitely not.

Valentine’s Day is still important

Everyone has an opinion on 14th February. Some think it is romantic and a date to be strictly observed and never missed. Couples can spend hundreds of pounds on gifts, a romantic meal or getaway. Others are horrified at the commercialism of your favourite restaurant charging double for the same meal you had last week. Whatever your opinion on Valentine’s it is important to ask whether it is the same as your partner’s perspective?

Valentine’s is only for ‘young love’

It is not unusual to meet couples who have been together for a while saying that they “don’t celebrate Valentine’s” and that it is “only for young love”. But behind the seeming disapproval of its commercialisation and contentment not to be involved there can be an individual who is secretly coveting a bit of attention.

On this one day of the year they might actually be desperate to get a surprise or enjoy a day that is not just like every other Tuesday. The bottom line is this: ask and do not assume, even if you have been together for 20 or 30 years.

Valentine's Day cuddly toyRemind them how valuable they are

Just because Valentine’s Day has not been a big deal for you and your partner in the past couple of years does not mean that is still the case. Where an individual has experienced a difficult time – perhaps due to the loss of a parent or loved one – they might really need a day of being reminded how valuable they are.

That of course is not to say that valuing your partner equates to how much you spend. Despite what jewellers, restaurants and travel websites tell us, a genuine demonstration of love is far more precious. Simple things mean the most like preparing a meal on Valentine’s Day at home or booking him/her in to a local spa for a massage.

In making an effort to celebrate your love as a couple, it is the little gestures that mean the most. A kiss, a hug, a rose picked from the garden are the kinds gestures that hold our partners close and keep the spark alive. Whether it’s your 1st, your 15th or your 30th anniversary this year, celebrate your love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Relationship tips and advice

The Spark is a leading relationship counselling and support charity. We exist to help make relationships work for everyone in Scotland.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for tips and advice on making your relationships work. We also offer a range of free relationship resources on our website to help with the problems we all face in life.