Here’s a question that came to mind on Hogmanay: why do we rarely make New Year resolutions about our relationships?

Typically we opt for an act of self-improvement like eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking or spending more time reading books that will broaden our minds and less time binge-watching Amazon Prime.

All are important in their own way but they are focused on the self and rarely have anything to do with our relationships. Certainly not directly, although eating better/exercising more can be prompted by a desire to at least partially please our significant other.

New Year sign - try a relationship resolution this New Year

Is there such a thing as a relationship resolution?

What about spending more time with your partner and less time at work? Or trying to give your full attention to a conversation instead of trying to finish it quickly so you can get back to checking Instagram? What about making a commitment to be intimate more often or for busy couples/couples with kids, making a determined effort to schedule time for sex?

As a relationship counselling provider we know good relationships are what keep humans happy, content and secure (if you don’t believe us, check out this brilliant TED Talk about the world’s longest study into what makes us happy by Harvard University. Spoiler alert: it’s good relationships!). They do not, however, get the attention they deserve and we are all guilty of neglecting them in much the same way we neglect our waistlines over Christmas.

Why we all need to invest in our relationships

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that important relationships are just ‘there’. Especially when it comes to the one we have with our spouse or partner.

They happen. We wake up in the morning and they are there.  They function and there’s nothing we really need to do about them. This is especially the case when we have been in a long relationship or other aspects of living where kids, careers and the natural ups and downs of life monopolise our attention.

Unhappy couple image - does you relationship need some TLC?

In reality, our relationships are living entities in their own right. Just like humans, they need to be looked after, cared for and nourished. In much the same way that the beach body you resolved to sculpt this year will require time and effort, so too does your relationship.

Sticking to that healthy eating plan requires sacrifice and dedication. Though we hate to break it to you, those post-Christmas muffin-tops won’t shrink themselves. They need time invested in exercise and a focus on nutrition to disappear. In the same way, our relationships need time and focus to maintain their health.

When life gets in the way of nurturing that most important relationship

Some of the couples that come to The Spark for counselling do, in time, trace the start of their problems back to the moment they stopped tending to their relationship. More often than not it is simply due to circumstance rather than any deliberate action.

Life gets busy and without realising it they started treating their most important relationships as just a part of getting through the day or making it to the weekend. Before long their partner was just the other person they shared a home with and relied on to get the kids to school, pay the bills and feed the family. Like a gym membership card, the relationship just gets buried under everything else and forgotten about.

We want to wish you well in whatever you have resolved to achieve this year. If you are in need of some help take a look at our advice on keeping New Year resolutions beyond mid-January. However, before you do, we would encourage you to consider making a relationship resolution this year.

Consider a relationship resolution this New Year

Instead of settling for the usual get fit/eat less chocolate/stop watching TV options, have a think about the important relationships in your life. In particular, consider the ones involving your partner, kids and close friends/family. And be honest with yourself.

Image of a bowl of Love Heart sweets. Consider making a relationship resolution this year

Did any of them get lip service last year? Has your relationship with your partner survived on the emotional equivalent of junk food? Have you got into the habit of spending more time glued to social media than talking to your kids about their day at school?

What part of your relationship needs some TLC?

Once you have considered which relationship could do with some attention, consider what aspect of it could do with a little TLC. Could you and your partner spend more time together? When was the last time you had a conversation that was not devoted to the daily/weekly checklists of family life? What fun things did you used to do together that you don’t really do now?

Could the TV be switched off at mealtimes to encourage the family to simply talk and listen to each other? Is it worth committing to getting home for bath time and a bedtime story more than once in a blue moon? Is it actually a ‘life-saver’ to ‘plug’ your child into a tablet if it means you rarely talk these days?

Relationships make us tick as humans. When they are good, we feel good. When they are bad, stale or in need of attention we tend to feel the same way.

So before committing to that ‘zero upfront and no fees until March gym membership’ have a think about committing to a relationship resolution instead this year.

special relationship Trump smug

The term ‘special relationship’ has been bandied about more often than usual recently. Whether it is in the context of UK – USA relations, UK – EU relations or to describe some of the insta-coupling occurring on ITV’s ‘Love Island’ we are all pretty familiar with it.

Traditionally it has been used to describe a deep bond of trust and mutual respect. Most famously in the context of the wartime relationship between the UK and the USA. But recently its practical application has been somewhat stretched.

special relationship UK USA

It seems that in the 21st century, maintaining a special relationship means ‘looking the other way’ when it comes to the indiscretions of the other half.

A special relationship that remains special

For example, the special relationship saw the British establishment roll out the red carpet for President Donald Trump. Despite the uproar caused by the comments and actions of the President. Similarly, we hear mention of a special relationship when celebrities take back their wandering exes.

All of which raises the question: is it acceptable to gloss over the unpalatable/unacceptable actions of a partner in order to maintain that ‘special relationship’?

Stand by your man

Supporting your partner is, of course, a critical foundation of any solid relationship. The knowledge that a partner is there for us in difficult times both emotionally and physically supports a healthy relationship. After all, Tammy Wynette did encourage us to ‘stand by your man’ despite their indiscretions and limitations.

Though commitment vows for couples are evolving, they still remain relatively true to the original marriage tenets. Principles of supporting and loving our better half no matter what. This, of course, implies that steadfast support – irrespective of the situation – is essential. Furthermore that we should perhaps bite our tongue when they do or say something we do not agree with.

special relationship Trump smug

What makes a special relationship, special?

A relationship is an organic thing: it changes and develops. Part of that process is the opportunity to help each other become better versions of our selves. Mutually beneficial personal growth comes from the differences of opinion, experiences and background inherent to most relationships. As they say, opposites attract and for good reason.

Therefore the ability to help each other grow and develop is just as critical to the happiness and longevity of our relationships as steadfastly supporting each other. In order to maintain what is special about a relationship we need to, at times, offer an honest but loving suggestion that what they are doing/saying might not be appropriate or acceptable.

special relationship couple happy

I love you but this is not OK

This is not to be confused with petty nit-picking or deliberately hurtful comments. We are not offering carte blanche to present your partner with a “20 things you do that annoy me that need to change” list.

We do our relationships a disservice, however, if we are not willing to step up and say “I love you and support you but this is not OK”.

Otherwise, a special relationship becomes one of two things: either shallow and meaningless, or worse still, based on bullying and intimidation. Neither of which are acceptable, no matter who you are or what position you hold.

Relationship counselling services in Scotland

The Spark is one of the leading providers of relationship counselling and support for couples in Scotland. Through our network of 14 counselling centres, we have been providing relationship counselling services for over 50 years.

Find out more about our work with couples, individuals and marriage counselling. Alternatively freephone our team on 0808 802 0050 for more information or complete an enquiry form.

Follow The Spark on Twitter and Facebook.

Christmas budget credit cards

Christmas is an expensive time of year for all of us as we buy presents, decorate our homes and enjoy nights out. Costs can soon add up and Christmas debt is a significant problem with 1 in 4 adults in the UK feeling pressured into overspending at Christmas.

Loans, credit cards and Christmas debt

Christmas debt credit cards

Many of us can be left feeling we have no choice but to spread the costs of Christmas across loans or credit cards. If we are not careful about where we source credit from, we can end up left with a financial hangover in the New Year.

High-interest costs and long repayments – a common feature of many high-cost lenders – can leave us with serious financial worries many months after Christmas.

Our friends at Scotcash – a not-for-profit community finance lender – have put together some hints and tips on how to keep on top of your finances this year and avoid Christmas debt.

Take control of your budget

To take control of your Christmas spending the first thing to do is to plan your budget and then stick to it.

The Christmas Calculator tool from Independent Age Scotland lets you see exactly how much money you will need for your Christmas expenses.

Christmas debt food and drink shopping

The calculator breaks down all the usual Christmas spending – for gifts, food and drink, going out – to give you a clear idea of what you can afford.

With a set budget in mind, you will be a big step closer to avoiding Christmas debt this year.

Avoid high-interest rate borrowing

Wherever possible try to avoid borrowing to finance Christmas so you can start the New Year with as little Christmas debt as possible.

Should you need to spread the cost of Christmas, do a bit of research on the options available to you first. Avoid high-cost options such as doorstep loans and payday lenders.

Christmas debt

Both will include high-interest rates that will leave you paying much more back than you originally borrowed.

By contrast, community finance lenders such as Scotcash can provide borrowing at a much lower rate of interest.

What if I’ve run up Christmas debt already?

If you do find yourself in debt, please be assured that there is advice and help available to you.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help with information on benefits, grants and money management advice. Organisations such as Step Change Debt Charity can provide over the phone advice and support if you are struggling with debt.

Affordable alternatives to Christmas debt

Community lenders like Scotcash can provide advice and access to affordable loans and other financial products and services. These organisations want to make sure you do not feel trapped in a spiral of high-cost credit.

Christmas debt

By providing affordable alternatives and helping individuals and families manage their money better, they are a great way to get your finances back on track.

Find out more about Scotcash and their services.

Counselling and support

Financial worries can be a source of stress and anxiety. Unsecured debts like credit cards and pay-day loans are a common cause of relationship problems and relationship breakdown.

Counselling support for individuals, couples and families struggling with debt cannot provide practical ways to manage and improve your financial situation. It can, however, help you explore why debt has become an issue, the motivations behind it and ways to tackle those issues.

Find out more about counselling or locate your nearest The Spark counselling centre.

To enquire about counselling freephone 0808 802 0050 during our opening hours or complete an online enquiry form.

Christmas debt

Nearly half of all Scots surveyed in a recent YouGov poll are already in debt before they spend on Christmas. Nearly 20% said they were struggling to cope and feeling stressed by personal debt on credit cards and loans.

Christmas debt and relationship breakdown

Debt is a major cause of stress and relationship problems for individuals, couples and whole families. The pressure to spend towards a ‘perfect’ Christmas on gifts, decorations, food and drink can have a damaging impact financially and emotionally.

We caught up with Sharon MacPherson, Chief Executive of Scotcash to get some advice on avoiding a Christmas debt hangover this January.

Sharon MacPherson blogs on Christmas debtWhat can you really afford this Christmas?

“It is important to know how much you can afford to spend this Christmas. We are encouraged to spend a lot of money on gifts and celebrations for a fun and enjoyable Christmas. For many this is short-lived until the credit card bills land in January.

Setting a budget can help you avoid spending more than you can afford. The Christmas Budget Planner tool is a good way to set your budget. Once set try and stick to it during December.

You are not alone

If you are struggling to manage the rising cost of Christmas it is important to know that you are not alone. It can be hard to admit that you are not coping with debt and Christmas can cause extra stress and worry. 1 in 4 people will still have outstanding Christmas payments in February. For some this financial hangover will last well in to April.

Research indicates that the average person spends nearly £470 on gifts, food, drink and socialising at Christmas. A third of people polled thought that they might have to make cutbacks to other non-essential items to be able to pay for the cost of the previous Christmas.

Many people end up being taken advantage of as a result and are lured into taking out high interest loans or expensive credit cards to pay for Christmas. The growth of pay day loan providers provides added risk as their interest rates can be crippling. Wherever possible try to avoid using such lenders or credit cards as a means to support Christmas debt.

christmas debtAlternatives to high interest loans and credit cards

Organisations like Scotcash can provide advice and access to affordable loans and savings accounts. We want to make sure that people we support no longer feel trapped by helping them to manage their debt in an affordable way. Some people are stuck in a cycle of debt. Others are just one step away from it happening to them. Scotcash alongside other providers offer products to change that and help people break free from high cost borrowing.”

For more information on products from Scotcash visit their website.


Is debt harming your relationships?

Debt is a major cause of stress and relationship problems for individuals, couples and whole families. Counselling can help you deal with the emotional and mental issues around debt and to rebuild relationships.

Find out more about counselling from The Spark or find your local counselling centre.

For counselling enquiries complete an enquiry form or freephone 0808 802 0050.

Scottish Mental Health First Aid

First aid training for relationshipsThe concept of First Aid is something most of us are familiar with. Many of us have the training (the rest of us wish we had) to deal with accidents and emergencies. When a loved one, colleague or complete stranger takes ill there is a natural human instinct to help. Traditional First Aid training does that for us in the physical sense – the world of concussions, burns, and doing heart compressions to the rhythm of ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees.

Arguably the logical extension of this is to ask: do we have the skills to help in an emergency when the wounds are not physical but emotional? The Spark’s Relationship First Aid training is the answer to that question.

Understanding the basics of relationships

In the same way that ‘physical’ First Aid does not make you a doctor, Relationship First Aid is not about becoming an expert. It is about becoming proficient enough to help someone through those early moments until an expert takes over.

First aid training for relationshipsThe focus of Relationship First Aid is to understand the basics. To spot if someone is struggling with relationship problems, know the actions to take, and where to direct them for support. The training is designed for professionals working in sectors like social care, employability, HR and housing. In these sectors front line staff will often encounter individuals who may be experiencing relationship and/or emotional problems. Therefore it is important to ask: do my colleagues have the right training to handle these situations?

Helping relationships

In 21st century Scotland it is not difficult to find evidence of individuals and families struggling with life and relationships. Ill health, unemployment, addiction and mental illness – the list is seemingly endless. These are the families that will therefore require the support in terms of social care, employability, housing and education. As a result of the fear and shame of seeking support they will not seek additional help for the underlying emotional issues.

Relationship First Aid training from The Spark

The Spark’s Relationship First Aid training is a 2-day programme. It provides attendees with the skills and confidence needed to open up conversations about relationship issues. In being able to identify early signs of relationship problems, individuals or whole teams can thus be equipped to help their clients find expert support for relationship issues.

Find out more about Relationship First Aid training or telephone 0141 222 2166 to speak to a member of our Training team. Alternatively complete an online enquiry form.

Courses and professional training with The Spark

The Spark provides a range of courses and training for individuals and organisations. Training is provided at all levels – from introductory courses like our Relationship First Aid to advanced qualifications in counselling.

For more information visit the Professionals section of our website.

Find out more about Relationship First Aid training or telephone our training team on 0141 222 2166.

EU after Brexit

Emotions were still raw in Scotland following the 2014 Independence referendum when the matter of Brexit came along. The campaigning and the referendum result itself have left a legacy already tangible: economic uncertainty, a devalued British pound, political turmoil and worst of all fundamental divisions amongst families and friendships.

The question is no longer ‘in or out’, it is now how do we heal those divisions?

Brexit – bringing out the worst in people

Campaigning for the Scottish independence referendum at times became vitriolic and doom-laden. By polling day wearisome was added to the list. There were one or two positive effects. At a time when so many people in Scotland were disillusioned with politics, 2014 saw a massive re-engagement in the political process. It was also speculated that the Queen could be replaced as Head of State in Scotland by her closest living relative of Jacobite decent. One Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern was the man in question and it all sounded very exciting.

The most negative fallout from that referendum was the damage done to personal relationships. Arguments within families and friendships were at times nasty and some relationships were irrevocably spoiled. Then Brexit appeared on the horizon and upped the ante to a whole new level.

The UK’s member countries, communities, friendships and families were at loggerheads during campaigning. Now, post result, those opposing perspectives appear firmly entrenched. Worse still the wounds of the independence referendum have been reopened.

Them and us

Scottish referendum

The circumstances of the European Union and Scottish referendums both had three things in common:

  • having a referendum usually means there’s a question about which people are feeling intensely worried, intensely angry, or both
  • both referendums dealt with questions which, ostensibly about economics and political autonomy, were argued around identity and personal values
  • both were effectively ‘yes or no’ questions, so we were immediately presented with a ‘them and us’ situation

Dealing with differing values, opinions and perspectives

In April 2015 the Scottish Government published Tackling Sectarianism and its Consequences in Scotland. The report examined work carried out by a range of organisations including The Spark’s Young People team. Aimed specifically at sectarianism in Scotland, the activities were designed to get young people thinking more generally about how they react to those with different values.

Among other questions, The Spark’s Young People team asked the following:

  • is it possible to say why we believe one value is more important than another?
  • what would happen if you took a value too far? Is this possible? If someone values keeping healthy, might they believe that by eating healthy foods they could look down on someone who is overweight?
  • what are some of the behaviours associated with someone taking their values too far? Behaviours might include: jokes and comments, name-calling, chants and songs, graffiti, verbal abuse, intimidation, physical violence, murder, wars.

How to be different

A ‘them and us’ mentality is not a good starting point for discussion or decision-making. It appeals to our less desirable instincts and creates an environment where each side is simply shouting ‘it’s my way or the highway’. Consequently we all need to take some personal responsibility when it comes to how we deal with difference. It is not enough that we should learn to tolerate difference. We need to learn to accept difference because the alternative is not good.

In the Tackling Sectarianism programme young people considered the concept that differing values is neither ‘them or us’ nor ‘right or wrong’. When a value or attitude which might be right in itself (e.g. keeping healthy) is taken too far or imposed upon someone else, it can become wrong. For all of us living on the road to Brexit proper, we need to understand that it may not be our preference but it does not need to be as polarising as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. This is not about whether some people’s opinions are ‘wrong’. It is about why some people feel a certain way and what that means.

How to fight cleanEU Union Jack

If you or someone you know has ever joined a martial arts club then you will probably have witnessed an unlikely phenomenon. A tight-knit group of people walloping the living daylights out of each other. Many of these clubs use the slogan: train like a team, fight like a family. The key is sticking to the rules of engagement and trusting that no-one will fight dirty.

Rules of engagement

Leaving relationships damaged because of Brexit would be a far worse consequence for society than economic uncertainty or getting a few less Euros for your Sterling.

To help us all along the way, these are what we believe to be the rules of engagement for families, friendships and communities:

  • move past differences of opinion/perspective being about ‘them and us’
  • try not to dismiss someone else’s feelings because they do not tally with your own
  • try not to characterise perspectives as ‘right or wrong’
  • communicate – talk about the issues, not the people
  • listen – listen to understand, not merely to respond
  • use non-blaming/non-aggressive language – talk about my opinion, my beliefs and not why you are ‘wrong’.

Taking these steps can start the process of mending bridges and thankfully, they do not require any kind of polling or voting to be put in to practice.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationships with family or friends, The Spark can provide counselling and support services for individuals, couples and families.

Relationship counselling sessions are available across our Scottish counselling centres. For more information freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an enquiry form. You can also search for your nearest Spark Counselling centre.

relationship breakdowns

Entrepreneur Stephen Moore blogs about supporting the work of The Spark, relationship breakdowns and working with lawyers.

The trauma of relationship breakdowns

Relationship breakdowns are traumatic for all involved and all of us know someone who has suffered as a result. Counselling and guidance can come from friends and family but, as in most spheres of life, when matters are complicated one should really speak to an expert and this is where The Spark comes in.

Over the past few years I have built a career around online marketing for law firms. As a society we generally try and deal with lawyers as infrequently as possible as their services, for individuals, are normally associated with stress on both personal and financial levels. In my business life the companies I am involved in generate family law enquiries for law firms concerning relationship breakdowns.

We profit from these generally, as do the law firms we work with. Divorce and separation is an aspect of society necessarily arising from human nature and society’s focus on marriage as both a personal and financial union. When the union breaks down finances and commitments have to be untangled and the lawyer’s role is to ensure that their client’s interests are effectively represented. In some cases this can be done amicably and without difficulty, in others the situation can quickly become acrimonious and the effect on the children of the dissolving union is often significant.  

Who helps those with relationship problems?

I am fortunate enough to come from a harmonious family background. Of course, my parents would have had ups and downs in their relationship but in general I was shielded from this and have a very positive perspective on the benefits of marriage. I am happily married myself and have three children all of whom live in a secure, respectful and loving environment. At times when they are misbehaving I will chide them about how lucky they are, how sheltered they are and how they don’t know they are born. I encourage them to think of others far less fortunate than themselves, finding myself echoing the comments of my parents to me from many years ago.

In those exchanges with them I began to think: ‘Who am I to encourage them to think of others? What do I do to show them that I actually put some effort into helping others?’

The answers were ‘nobody really’ and ‘nothing’. I would do the occasional bit for local charities or pay a bit of money here and there but I wasn’t really using the skills I had built up professionally to the benefit of anyone, other than myself.

Putting ‘The Spark’ back in to relationships

It was around this time, when I was on a low level personal quest to find a charity that I could actually help a bit, that I was introduced to The Spark. I didn’t want to give money; I actually wanted to be of some use and when the work of The Spark was described to me I thought that this could maybe the case.

The Spark is a relationship charity which relies on a combination of funding and self-generated income. The self-generated income was the part that appealed to me because I believe that in order to succeed one must be able to become self-sufficient without entirely relying on the whims of others. I briefly reviewed the Spark’s online marketing materials and whilst I could see that it looked good, there were a number of elements missing which needed to be improved upon in order to generate more income. If we could grow this element of the charity’s business then more people in general could be provided with relationship counselling and specifically, those without the financial means to receive counselling at all. So at the end of 2015 I volunteered to become a board member of the charity. 

How’s it been?

It’s been great. The board meetings are quarterly and that has given me a chance to meet others from different sectors who all have a common interest in ensuring that as many people as possible can be helped by The Spark’s invaluable services. We identified that in order for The Spark to generate more income, an online marketing manager was required and so Stella Gibson (The Spark’s indefatigable Chief Executive) and I embarked upon a recruitment process to find the ideal candidate, who turned out to be Andrew and since then The Spark’s online marketing activity has been on an upward trajectory.

In my day job I’m judged on the numbers and this is the same with my voluntary work at The Spark. Similarly in my day job I’ve arrived at the situation where I’m judged on the numbers but the actual work to get there is down to others; so Andrew if the numbers are good, it’s down to me, if they are bad it’s down to you!


Follow Stephen on twitter.

Follow The Spark counselling on twitter.

Relationship breakdowns

If your relationship is feeling under pressure and you need someone to talk to, The Spark are experts in couple counselling and marriage counselling. To discuss whether counselling could be the right option for you and your partner, freephone 0808 802 0050 in confidence or complete an enquiry form.

The Spark provides a free Relationship Helpline on 0808 802 2088 where you can speak to a member of our team in confidence about the issues you are struggling with. The Relationship Helpline is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 11am – 2pm. Alternatively find out more about relationship counselling with The Spark.

Every day we pose thousands of difficult questions about many of life’s most challenging issues. But in 21st-century society, we do not put them to close friends, scientists, professional counsellors or medical professionals. We put them to Google.

That’s right – we ask the world’s most famous and dominant search engine how to sort out our lives. We in effect request guidance and wisdom from banks of servers – silicon chips with more in common with sand than humans.

Searching for answers online

A quick glance over the many articles on ‘most popular searches on Google’ (found via Google of course), gives the initial impression our queries are a mixture of tongue-in-cheek curiosity, personal development and philanthropy.

searching for answers on Google

In recent years, ‘what is twerking?’ ‘how to knit’ ‘how can I help Nepal’ and ‘how to draw’ have topped the Google ‘most searched’ lists. But looking in greater depth it is apparent many of us are turning to Google searching for answers to life’s most important and challenging questions.

Topics like ‘what is love?’ and ‘what is anxiety?’ have featured regularly in the top 10 most searched terms. Similarly searches including ‘is my marriage over?’ and ‘I can’t cope’ prove our deepest feelings are being typed across a keyboard on a daily basis. So what does Google (and other search engines) offer that appeals to us so much for these big, life-defining questions?

Why do we take life issues to Google?

Broadly there are three elements that make up the appeal of asking Google how to get our lives back on track. Firstly search engines provide access to millions of sources of information. Secondly, these sources are readily available to us at the click of a touchscreen. Thirdly it is, we believe, a confidential request of information.

But as anyone who has typed ‘sore throat and headache’ into Google and received diagnoses ranging from the mundane to the downright scary knows, access to pages and pages of information is not always helpful. Without an expert to guide you through it, the information can be more damaging than helpful as it is, fundamentally, a mixture of opinion and fact. Determining what is the former and what is the latter is a huge challenge.

What search engines don’t tell us

Constant access to the information can often be utterly counterproductive when we are in the middle of a life crisis. For example, constantly reading statistics on the probability of your marriage ending in divorce is not helpful when you are in the throes of relationship turmoil with your spouse. When our ability to self-regulate access to these ‘answers’ is damaged by circumstances, we need an external control in place to help us stop spending every waking hour mulling our problems. And as we know now, our search histories are not just between us and our iPads.

There is, however, a far better, far more effective solution than tapping away on smartphones: counselling.

Searching for answers with a guide

As leading providers of counselling and relationship support in Scotland, The Spark understands the significant benefits of counselling. Counselling offers a professional guide to help you/you and your partner through the forest of opinions, statistics and fads.

Searching for answers with a guide

It exposes us to expert knowledge and expertise and allows us to have set times when we deal with the issues we face instead of allowing them to control every thought to the detriment of our emotional and mental wellbeing. And confidentiality between the client and counsellor is absolutely enshrined in that relationship – the foundation of the profession. Ultimately counselling can provide a depth of knowledge, expertise and human empathy that search engines simply cannot recreate.

Search engines do make a huge and beneficial contribution to our lives. They keep us connected with what is happening in our world, help us to learn new skills, to eat better and to live well. But they are not the best place to take our deepest, most personal thoughts and fears when seeking help and guidance. Working with a professional counsellor is a more effective way to tackle the major questions and issues we all face in life.

Searching for answers?

If you want to talk to a counsellor about the difficulties and issues you/ you and your partner are facing, freephone 0808 802 0050 to discuss the best options for you. Alternatively, complete an enquiry form and a member of our team will contact you at a time convenient to you.

For more information about The Spark visit our website or search for your local The Spark Counselling centre. We have counselling centres across Scotland offering face-to-face, telephone and online counselling.

The Spark also provides a range of free resources to help with life’s challenges.

depression and relationships

Depression and relationships: Mental Health Awareness Week

The second of our articles for Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on the challenges faced by partners, carers and family in helping a loved one through depression. It includes advice for those helping a loved one to better understand depression and relationships. Thus enabling them to help their loved one tackle depression whilst looking after their own mental health.

For a recap on spotting the signs of depression in a loved one, check out our earlier blog ‘Depression: spotting the signs’.

depression and relationships

Depression and relationships

Living with depression is not easy – for the person suffering from depression and for their loved ones. If you are well but your loved one is struggling you may feel unsure how to cope with their symptoms and this may put pressure on your relationship. In some cases, depression may be the result of underlying relationship difficulties. The good news is that there is help available.

How can I help my loved one through depression?

• Depression is an illness. It drains energy, enthusiasm, optimism and confidence. Encouraging your loved one to seek professional help through their GP is the first step to recovery. Find out more here.

• Patience for the patient is important. Depression is not something a person can simply ‘snap out of’. Once treatment starts it may take time for a depressed loved one to start to feel better.

• Be a compassionate listener. It is not about giving advice or instantly ‘fixing’ the problem. The simple act of being present and listening, without judgement, can be a huge lift for them.

• Be affectionate and let them know that you care about them and are there for them. Reinforce that you will get through this period together as feelings of isolation are common for those with depression.

• Encourage getting exercise, doing enjoyable things and listening to music. Getting fresh air, exercising and doing pleasurable activities releases natural endorphins which help reduce feelings of depression.

• Try to understand how your loved one is feeling. An individual with depression may feel like a failure and a burden. They will want to be better but often they simply cannot find the energy to cope.

• If you feel that depression is impacting on your relationship with a loved one, The Spark Counselling can provide relationship counselling and relationship support. Freephone our Counselling enquiry line on 0808 802 0050 to discuss options around face-to-face and telephone counselling with The Spark Counselling. Alternatively e-mail The Spark

Depression and relationships: support for me

Whilst helping a loved one through depression it is important to be mindful of your own mental health and wellbeing. You can speak to a member of The Spark team free and in confidence on 0808 802 2088 about how depression might be impacting on your relationship with a loved one. Review full details and operational hours for the Relationship Helpline.

There are other practical steps you can take in maintaining your own wellbeing.

Keep within your own social circles

Try to keep your own life on track. Some changes to daily life might be needed whilst helping your loved one but it is important to keep as many of your own plans and arrangements. Keep appointments with friends and family wherever possible, and if your loved one feels unable to attend with you, invite a friend. Don’t be afraid to ask family members and close friends to spend time with your loved one if it allows you some downtime with other people.

depression and relationships

Be supported as well as a supporter

The individual suffering from depression is not the only one who needs support – you do as well. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, consider a support group or speak to a professional counsellor. The Spark provide counselling sessions to deal with the relationship challenges depression may cause. Appointments are available face-to-face from one of our centres or via telephone.

Freephone 0808 802 0050 to discuss counselling options or e-mail The Spark.

Recharge your own batteries

Take care of yourself. A life without enjoyable and fun activities will make it difficult for you to be strong and supportive for your loved one. You need time to recharge your batteries so maintaining boundaries between what you can and cannot do will help nurture your own wellbeing, and consequently leave you better prepared to nurture their wellbeing.

Tackling depression is best done with a wide range of support tools in place and The Spark is here to be part of that support system. Freephone 0808 802 0050 to speak to us about support and counselling options for you and your loved one.

The Spark Counselling provides individual counselling, marriage counselling, couples counselling and family counselling from centres across Scotland including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Dunfermline, East Kilbride, Irvine and Paisley.

To book a counselling appointment freephone 0808 802 0050 or e-mail The Spark.

Find out more about The Spark Counselling services for Couples and Individuals, Families and Young People.

Sex outside marriage

I love you but I'm not in love with you - dealing with a wounded heart


“I love my partner but I am not in love with them” is one of the most common reasons people contact The Spark Relationship Helpline or seek Relationship Counselling

I love you but i’m not in love with you

What does “I love you but I’m not in love with you”, mean? People say that the ‘spark’ has gone from their relationship; “we don’t talk”, “sex is non-existent”, “I just don’t fancy them anymore”. If you’re not talking and not having sex, you may feel empty, lost, and guilty. You may even have fantasies of a new perfect relationship with someone else. To complicate matters the ‘I’m not in love with you’ is often followed by, ‘but I don’t want to hurt you’.

So, why might you feel like this? How can you tell if it’s possible to get that ‘spark’ back? Can you understand yourself and your partner and what has happened to that once great relationship? The good news is that the answer is yes.

What goes wrong?

There are many reasons couples reach the stage of one concluding: I love you but I’m not in love with you. But the heart of the matter is, they have lost that connection with their loved one.

Two people can start out with joint hopes and dreams, but normal life can take them in different directions. Something as simple as one of you returning to education or getting a promotion at work can mean that your interests and aspirations change. When a couple’s values start to diverge they can drift apart without even noticing. Consider this example: whilst you are working in fear of work redundancy, your partner is caught up in football or clubbing. The lack of empathy and support, coupled with the cost of their interests, creates a dynamic which further increases the frustration and sense of growing distance.

Saying to a partner “I am not in love with you” is a body blow that may be difficult to survive, but communication is at the heart of relationships. Saying you don’t want to hurt your partner while secretly being annoyed or fantasising about someone else is dishonest and increases the emotional distance. So while it seems hard to say the difficult stuff, unless the situation is addressed, the relationship is in trouble.

I love you but I'm not in love with you - a couple with relationship problems

How can I change this?

There are things you can do to try to reconnect. First, think about your own feelings and behaviour:

  • Are you overwhelmed by work or home commitments?
  • Have you been so worried that you have not shared how you feel?
  • Are other factors like financial pressures or hidden addiction causing pressure?
  • Has all this meant that you have withdrawn from the relationship?

If you are struggling to pinpoint the source of the issue, you can try our free online Relationship MOT. This is a confidential service that allows you to answer a series of questions to produce a snapshot of potential issues in your relationship right now. This can provide suggested areas to consider as roots of the problem and why “I’m not in love with you” is a feeling one partner is struggling with. Try out the Relationship MOT.


Then, talk.

It seems really simple but it is the best way to tackle the issue. Good communications are the beating heart of good relationships.

Tell your partner you are worried about your relationship and agree a time and space to talk about it. Jointly acknowledging that you are unhappy may be a shock, but emphasise your commitment to improving the situation. This may be the wakeup call needed to save it.

Talking - I love you but i'm not in love with you

Couples counselling

Often facilitating the process of talking requires professional support. Relationship counselling (or couples counselling and marriage counselling as it can often be referred to) is a safe and neutral way to discuss issues and rekindle the ‘spark’. Society presents this incorrectly as a ‘last throw of the dice’ which discourages many couples from considering it. Yet 97% of our clients would recommend us to family and friends because of the benefits they have experienced in their relationships.

Freephone our Counselling Enquiry line to discuss counselling options for you and your partner on 0808 802 0050, or complete an enquiry form. Alternatively visit the Relationship Counselling section of this site for more information. Counselling is a way to help your relationship get back on track.

The Spark also provides a range of free resources and hints and tips for common relationship problems on our website. Have a look at our Top 10 Communication Tips or our Tips to Reconnect. Whether you want guidance on how to reconnect or need support navigating the difficult feelings The Spark is here to help.

The Spark Relationship Counselling

The Spark provides the following relationship counselling services and support from our regional centres across Scotland:

  • Relationship counselling
  • Marriage counselling
  • Couples counselling
  • Family counselling
  • Individual counselling

We have counselling locations across Scotland including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Dunfermline, Ayrshire, East Kilbride, Falkirk, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Paisley and Port Glasgow. Find your local The Spark Counselling centre or telephone 0808 802 0050 to enquire about counselling appointments.