Should Couples Go to Bed at the Same Time?

Couple laying in bed together

A couple laying in bed together

By Dr Guy Winch

Oliver and Jaymee had been together for 20 years and were the parents of two tweens. The first issue they brought up in couples therapy was a common one.

Jaymee always “collapsed at 9:30 and went to bed”, leaving Oliver alone in the living room. “I’m finally ready to start my evening and he’s already asleep,” Oliver complained.

“I can’t help it,” Jaymee countered, “I’m just exhausted. I beg Oliver to shift his sleeping patterns but he refuses. It’s like he’s avoiding being in bed with me.” “That’s exactly how I feel!” Oliver objected. 

Many couples don’t go to bed at the same time. Some people are night owls who thrive at night and some are morning larks who are most energetic in the morning, and it is those preferences that most determine a couples’ co-sleeping patterns, also known as dyadic sleep patterns.

How synced a couples’ bedtime is can have a significant impact on their relationship but contrary to common assumptions, these effects can be both negative and positive and are often a mix of both. On the pro side of syncing sleep times, some people simply love to fall asleep while in an embrace because they find it physically comforting.

To others, having the same sleep time represents their relationship is in a good place. Being in the bed alone makes them feel anxious because they associate their partner’s absence as a sign of conflict or avoidance, reflecting relationship tension.

While that might be the case at times—and probably is when a partner who usually goes to bed at the same time chooses not to do so following an argument or with little explanation—feeling unsettled when our partner stays up late when there are no current tensions in the relationship can be a sign of a deeper psychological issue.

Two people laying in bed under white sheets

Studies have linked these kinds of anxious feelings to a person’s attachment – how one’s experience with caregivers in earlier life impacts our expectations regarding our adult partners’ ability to be consistently warm, nurturing, and responsive to our needs. Insecure attachment can cause us to feel anxious when our partner is present and to require more reassurance from them than the circumstances might suggest.

Attachment issues aside, for many couples separate bedtimes are the norm and bare no reflection of the state of their relationship. Other than a person’s circadian preferences, our sleep habits are often just that—habits we develop for a variety of different reasons.

In most cases, separate sleep times are simply the result of trying to manage our sleep, such as when one member of a couple snores, has a restless leg or makes frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, or when a person has insomnia and they find it easier to fall asleep when they are alone in the bed. And given how important sleep is for health, mental health, and general cognitive functioning, making sleep a priority is a sound and important consideration.

Having separate sleep times can have other advantages. Some people value their alone time and being up when their partner is sleeping is their only way of getting it, and couples with younger children can rotate child care in order to divide parenting responsibilities more equally.

That said when a couple has different sleep schedules they do need to consider how it impacts their relationship and discuss ways to address any issues that might ensue from their discordant bedtimes.

10 Questions To Consider When Partners Have Different Bedtimes:

Lady laying in bed by herself

Each member of the couple should note which topics they would like to discuss. Start with the topics you both chose, then take turns discussing the ones only one of you chose:

  1. Do you need to find other times to talk and connect if you typically do so when you’re both in bed (and awake)?
  2. Do you need to find other times to have sex if you’re used to having it before bed?
  3. Should you consider spending an hour cuddling on the sofa before the lark collapses and leaves the owl by themselves?
  4. Are there other ways to find alone time so that your sleep schedules can be better synced?
  5. Do you need to get your kids to bed earlier so you have more time together before exhaustion takes over?
  6. Do you need to find alternative times to watch your favourite shows together?
  7. Should you schedule daytime naps on the weekend to allow for an intimate (or sexual) relaxed time in bed together?
  8. Do you need to communicate more clearly about your reasons for staying up later or going to bed earlier?
  9. Does one or both of you snore and need to consult a doctor for sleep apnea?
  10. Does one or both of you need to improve your sleep hygiene and go to bed at a consistent time every night and wake up at a consistent time every morning?

Differences in bedtimes can be managed but it takes communication to set mutual expectations and problem-solve issues that arise when couples are unable to both unwind and relax together before they go to bed. Set a time to talk and work together to get yourselves on the same page.

Dr Guy Winch had all couples nodding in agreement and completely surprised by the simplicity of the complaint sandwich and small bids at the 2019 Upgrade Your Life event.  Re-live every moment of that talk below. 

7 Useful Ways To Reboot Your Emotional Health 

husband and wife hugging
broken heart fixed with a bandaid

By Dr. Guy Winch

You put a bandage on a cut or take antibiotics to treat an infection, right? No questions asked.

In fact, questions would be asked if you didn’t apply first aid when necessary. So, why isn’t the same true of our mental health?

We are expected to just “get over” psychological wounds — when as anyone who’s ever ruminated over rejection or agonised over a failure knows only too well, emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones. We need to learn how to practice emotional first aid.

Here are seven ways to do so:

1. Pay Attention To Emotional Pain:

Recognise it when it happens and work to treat it before it feels all-encompassing. The body evolved the sensation of physical pain to alert us that something is wrong and we need to address it.

The same is true for emotional pain. If a rejection, failure or bad mood is not getting better, it means you’ve sustained a psychological wound and you need to treat it.

For example, loneliness can be devastatingly damaging to your psychological and physical health. So, when you or your friend or loved one is feeling socially or emotionally isolated, you need to take action.

2. Redirect Your Gut Reaction When You Fail:

The nature of psychological wounds makes it easy for one to lead to another. Failure can often drive you to focus on what you can’t do instead of focusing on what you can.

That can then make you less likely to perform at your best, which will make you even more focused on your shortcomings, and on the cycle goes. To stop this sort of emotional spiral, learn to ignore the post-failure “gut” reaction of feeling helpless and demoralised, and make a list of factors that you can control were you to try again.

For instance, think about preparation and planning, and how you might improve each of them. This kind of exercise will reduce feelings of helplessness and improve your chances of future success.

Two people hugging outside

3. Monitor And Protect Your Self-Esteem:

When you feel like putting yourself down, take a moment to be compassionate to yourself. Self-esteem is like an emotional immune system that buffers you from emotional pain and strengthens your emotional resilience.

As such, it is very important to monitor it and avoid putting yourself down, particularly when you are already hurting. One way to “heal” damaged self-esteem is to practise self-compassion.

When you’re feeling critical of yourself, do the following exercise: imagine a dear friend is feeling bad about him or herself for similar reasons and write an email expressing compassion and support. Then read the email. Those are the messages you should be giving yourself.

4. When Negative Thoughts Taking Over, Disrupt Them With Positive Distractions:

When you replay distressing events in your mind without seeking new insight or trying to solve a problem, you’re just brooding, and that, especially when it becomes habitual, can lead to deeper psychological pain. The best way to disrupt unhealthy rumination is to distract yourself by engaging in a task that requires concentration.

For example, do a Sudoku, complete a crossword, try to recall the names of the kids in your fifth-grade class. Studies show that even two minutes of distraction will reduce the urge to focus on the negative.

5. Find Meaning In Loss:

Loss is a part of life, but it can scar us and keep us from moving forward if we don’t treat the emotional wounds it creates. If sufficient time has passed and you’re still struggling to move forward after a loss, you need to introduce a new way of thinking about it.

Specifically, the most important thing you can do to ease your pain and recover is to find meaning in the loss and derive purpose from it. It might be hard, but think of what you might have gained from the loss.

For instance, “I lost my spouse but I’ve become much closer to my kids”. Consider how you might gain or help others gain a new appreciation for life, or imagine the changes you could make that will help you live a life more aligned with your values and purpose.

Man with his face in his hand

6. Don’t Let Excessive Guilt Linger:

Guilt can be useful. In small doses, it alerts you to take action to mend a problem in your relationship with another person.

But excessive guilt is toxic, in that it wastes your emotional and intellectual energies, distracts you from other tasks, and prevents you from enjoying life. One of the best ways to resolve lingering guilt is to offer an effective apology.

Yes, you might have tried apologising previously, but apologies are more complex than we tend to realise. The crucial ingredient that every effective apology requires — and most standard apologies lack — is an “empathy statement.”

In other words, your apology should focus less on explaining why you did what you did and more on how your actions (or inactions) impacted the other person. It is much easier to forgive someone when you feel they truly understand. By apologising (even if for a second time), the other person is much more likely to convey authentic forgiveness and help your guilt dissolve.

7. Learn What Treatments For Emotional Wounds Work For You:

Pay attention to yourself and learn how you, personally, deal with common emotional wounds. For instance, do you shrug them off, get really upset but recover quickly, get upset and recover slowly or squelch your feelings?

Use this analysis to help yourself understand, which emotional first aid treatments work best for you in various situations (just as you would identify which of the many pain relievers on the shelves works best for you). The same goes for building emotional resilience.

Try out various techniques and figure out which are easiest for you to implement and which tend to be most effective for you. But mostly, get into the habit of taking note of your psychological health on a regular basis — and especially after a stressful, difficult, or emotionally painful situation.

Yes, practising emotional hygiene takes a little time and effort, but it will seriously elevate your entire quality of life. I promise.

Guy Winch with a quote that reads "emotional pain should not be a constant companion. Do not let it become one."

How To Love Your Life

Three girls in a sunflower field

Three girls standing and smiling in a sunflower field

By Sam Makhoul

I’ve been asked time and time again, what are some of the practical things people can employ to be happier and more successful on a day-to-day basis? To begin with, focussing on the below eight areas will provide you with an excellent foundation for personal and professional success. 

Here’s how:

1. Health:

Cherish your body. Nothing else matters more. Focus on the energy you have. Eat well, exercise and relax daily. Fill your daily life with purposeful activities that give your body a reason to manifest energy.

2. Love:

Love yourself by looking after your health and guarding your mind against negative images, negative thinking and negative associations. Look your best by wearing clothes that make you feel attractive. Have the courage to show and give love to your life partner, whether or not they give it back. Tell your partner daily what you love about them – these words are powerful. Work just as much on your love life as you do on your work.

Family cuddling

3. Family

Support your family at all times. Give them the confidence to pursue their goals and dreams. Help them overcome obstacles. Focus on their strengths and good qualities. Remind them daily of their worth. Tell them you love them no matter what happens – whether they succeed or fail at anything. Spend time developing a relationship with all family members.

4. Work:

Choose to love your work. Always do your best. Focus on the difference that your product or service is making to society. Have empathy for your customers. Value the privilege of serving them from the heart. Be grateful that you live in a society where there is the opportunity to work. At all times be honest in the execution of your work. Master your job by constantly learning and evolving. Always ask yourself, “can I do this job better?” Be impeccable in your conduct at work. Be fearless in your execution.

5. Friendship:

Let your words, laughter and charm bring a smile to others. Help your friends see the lighter side of life and not take themselves too seriously. Act with integrity and hold true to your standards and beliefs. Never compromise them to be popular. Never pre-judge others. Be open to new friendships. Always greet people with a smile and a friendly hello. How others respond is their own reality and has nothing to do with you.

Man reading a book and drinking coffee

6. Learning

Commit to 45 minutes of learning daily about every aspect of your life and not just your work and wealth. Limit watching TV and other popular media. Watch uplifting talks by great thinkers on TED.com. Read books from pioneering minds. Attend courses and seminars organised by people who care and have something unique to share. Listen twice as much you talk. Discover your talents by having self-awareness for your thoughts and feelings. Live a conscious life where you decide what you want to listen to, read and watch. Develop a growth mindset.

7. Wealth

Invest in yourself first before you invest your money. If you have a business invest in your own field of dreams first before investing with others on the stock market. Live a frugal lifestyle and reduce your dependence on money. Spend less, save more. Say no to consumerism and your addiction to buying more and more things that end up collecting dust or in the landfill. Spend money on experiences. But don’t skimp on things that improve your life like better quality food or better quality education for you and your children.

8. Charity:

Learn about the plight of others in need. Don’t shut yourself out to other people’s suffering. Help others by giving your time and/or money. Charity does not have to be grand. A simple kind word of support is sometimes all that someone needs. Help a team member at work.  Share an idea that can help a friend live a better life or simply listen to them without distraction.

Sex, Lies And Fasting

Couple kissing in black and white image

Couple sharing a passionate kiss

By Sam Makhoul

Should we fast from sex and other pleasures?

Before I get into the science of why we should, I want to make one observation about the lies we have been fed by most experts. The experts who peddle the idea that if you are not having sex with your partner two to five times per week then there must be something wrong with the relationship.

Trashy magazines thrive on this message, as much as personal trainers thrive on the message you need to work out in one-hour intervals. Both are simply not true; both create a state of fear and guilt. 

So much has been written in recent years about the benefits of intermittent food fasting. Research shows that fasting puts us into a state of autophagy.

Put simply, it means the body goes into a self-cleaning mode, which boosts the immune system and slows down ageing. It begs the question; does fasting from sex and other pleasures also have health benefits?

Yes, it does. In fact, it is so much more powerful because fasting from pleasures impacts our mental and emotional health in a profound way.

Fasting from pleasurable things short-circuits our tendency to lose appreciation for them. Psychologists call this tendency, hedonic adaptation — the idea that no matter how good something makes us feel, over time we take it for granted and lose the thrill.

We return to an emotional baseline, even after the most exciting of purchases, like a new car or a new house. The problem is that this baseline is shifting.

Why? Because we live in an era of extreme affluence where money and technology are making pleasurable things so accessible.

Relationships are only a swipe away, so too is our favourite restaurant. Luxury cars, fine foods, bags, shoes, computers, phones; the list of comforts and pleasures is growing year on year and yet, people are unhappier than ever.

Couple in bed together

Depression is skyrocketing. It makes no sense, right? 

Hedonic adaptation also works for us during periods of war and economic hardship because it forces us to appreciate what we have and returns us to our baseline. But during periods of affluence, it works against us.

We lose appreciation for everyday comforts, food, people and sex. People who stray in a relationship are a product of hedonic adaptation.

They lose the thrill and go chasing it elsewhere. People who binge on food, alcohol, gambling or even drugs are chasing to fill that same emotional gap.

Therefore, the enemy is not a hedonic adaptation. It is a useful evolutionary survival mechanism, much in the same way the fight or flight mechanism is.

The enemy is hedonism itself and the lack of control we have over our appetites. Psychologists use two tools to manage hedonic adaptation.

And I will add a third one. Fasting.

The first technique involves practising gratitude, which is familiar to most; to be mindful and appreciative of all that you have. To give thanks.

How does this help? I think only marginally.

This might be a provocative and controversial position I am taking. You see, I believe that being grateful only gives us a temporary (even fleeting) positive state before we gorge on that huge cone of chocolate ice cream or, buy that next pair of shoes that we do not need but is “oh so necessary because it is in a different shade of blue” to the one we already own.

So I ask you. Is it ok to over-indulge just because we are grateful for it?

Not in my books, because being mindful enough to stop and feel grateful for an over-indulgence does not make it less of an indulgence. And it does not teach self-control.

The second technique is to practice variety. Try a different routine.

Eat vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate, try a new sex position or read a book together instead of watching TV, go to a different holiday destination, or try a macchiato instead of a cappuccino. It is arguable that this technique, if not practised correctly, can make matters worse by feeding our hedonistic tendencies.

So, you buy a Chanel bag instead of an LV one. That’s a variety for you!

Couple leaning in for a kiss

It is still an over-indulgence. And again, it does nothing for our self-control.  

Which brings us to fasting. This is much more effective because it directly strengthens our ability to control our appetite for all manner of desires and pleasures.

It goes deeper than practising variety and forces us into a state of gratefulness. It is no coincidence that all major world religions practice some form of fasting.

And not just from food. How do you practice fasting? Simply abstain and practice moderation from all of your favourite things.

Activity: What Is Your List Of Fasting Favourites? 

List all the things that you absolutely love to do. The more you love them the more you should want to protect them. Because the more you fast from them, the more you will appreciate and savour them. 

If you love working, you need to practice abstention by taking regular breaks from work.  My performance is off the charts when I return from holidays.

Do you love dark chocolate? Indulge occasionally in small portions. You should see my face when I am savouring every molecule of chocolate after a month of abstention. My wife says it is priceless.

Some of my favourite things that I regularly fast from include: a fine dining restaurant, wine (esp. Yarra Valley Pinot Noir), Macallan scotch whisky, driving a convertible (any), Italian cheese and bread, drinking TWG teas, listening to my favourite music (currently The Weeknd), watching my favourite TV shows.

Remember that fasting is completely relative depending on what it is. So when I say that I fast from my favourite tea, it does not mean I go without for days.

I simply have one cup per day in the afternoon as a special treat, instead of opting for that bottomless cup.

I’d love to hear your list of favourites and how you would fast from them. Head to our Facebook page and share them with us.

10 Marriage Rules You Should Break

A married couple holding hands over a table

Couple holding hands while drinking coffee

By Dr. Jenn Mann

There are a lot of opinions out there about what makes a marriage work. Myths and misconceptions abound. Here are ten rules you should consider breaking.

1. Never Go To Sleep Angry:

Actually, you probably should go to sleep angry. Things become a whole lot clearer after a good nights sleep.

Staying up and trying to convince your spouse of your perspective when you are angry makes it more likely that you will say things you will regret. Make an agreement to talk about it in the morning.

2. The Kids Always Come First:

Your relationship with your partner is the emotional foundation for your entire family. Your children count on you not only to demonstrate a healthy relationship but also to provide them with the safety and security they need to create their own healthy attachments as they get older.

Couple kissing

3. Your Partner Should Love Unconditionally:

Unconditional love does not exist beyond the parent-child relationship. We earn love from our spouse and they earn it from us.

This is not to say that we always have to be perfect. Ideally, we have enough in the love bank to weather those times where we don’t behave as we should. 

4. Fighting Is A Sign Of A Bad Marriage:

According to Dr. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the most important predictor of the success or failure of a marriage is the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions. According to Gottman, there must be five positive interactions for every negative one.

5. Always Be 100% Honest:

Let’s be real. You don’t want to know if those jeans make your butt look big, or which one of your friends he would like to sleep with if he could.

He shouldn’t answer those questions honestly and neither should you. It is more important to be a kind and loving spouse than to share the intimate details of a previous relationship.

Couple holding hands and walking

6. Our Partner Should Always Be Attracted To Us:

I got a call the other day on my radio show from a woman who was upset because her husband said that he was no longer attracted to her. When I probed further, she revealed that she had gained 100 pounds.

We owe it to ourselves to live a healthy life, but we also owe it to our spouse. If you don’t love yourself enough to take care of yourself, why should he?

7. Date Night Should Be A Big Romantic Evening: 

Most couples think a date together has to be an elaborate expensive evening, but that misses the true intention of the event. Date night is about reconnecting and being together, not trying to impress your spouse. 

8. Your Spouse Should Be Your Whole Life:

Somewhere between dependency and neglect lies interdependency. One person cannot fulfil your every need. We have different people in our lives to fulfil different needs—girlfriends for gossip and mum for shoe shopping, for example.

Expecting your spouse to be everything to you puts unnecessary pressure on him. Have separate adventures and report back what happened during your day.

Couple laughing together

9. Couples In Therapy Are Headed For Divorce:

Most couples could benefit from learning communications tools. Also, having a third party in the room can make spouses behave more calmly then they do at home, which can lead to the resolution of conflicts. Marriage counselling can give you a better understanding of one another and a safe forum to work through issues you are experiencing.

10. Being Unhappy In Your Marriage Means You Should Leave:

Marriages that last for many decades go through ups and downs. If you are lucky enough to stay married that long, you will probably fall in and out of love many times. Marriages that last do so because both spouses work hard at it and are willing to stick it out and work through difficult times.

Read about Dr. Jenn Mann here.

How To Mend A Broken Heart

Image of a broken heart

Image of a pink broken heart

By Dr Guy Winch

The emotional pain that heartbreak evokes is excruciating. Nothing else matters, no one else matters.

We can barely function, think, or move. We feel removed from everyone and alone in a haze of unreality, trapped in our shattered world.

All we can see is the person who broke our heart and all we can feel is terrible pain. In his famous TED talk, which has gone viral, renowned New York Psychologist and faculty member, Dr Guy Winch, stunned everyone when he explained that we cannot trust our mind when we have a broken heart.

What we want most is for the pain to ease, to stop hurting so badly — but that is not what our mind wants. In this article, he shares the five ways your mind tricks you after a break-up.

5 Ways Your Mind Tricks You After A Break-Up:

To stop hurting, we need to reduce the amount of time we spend thinking about the person who broke our heart. We need to diminish their presence in our thoughts and our lives, slowly but surely.

Our mind wants to do the opposite. Our mind wants us to think about the person all the time, to hold on to the pain and never forget who and what caused it.

Our mind wants this because it is trying to protect us in the manner in which it typically does. If something causes us pain, like a hot stove, our mind’s job is to remind us not to touch that hot stove again, to make sure we remember how painful it was the first time.

The more painful the experience, the more our mind will labour to make sure we don’t forget it, so we never make that mistake again. Given how excruciating heartbreak is, our mind will do everything it can to keep that pain fresh in our thoughts.

As a result, our mind will trick us into thinking that…

Lady crying

1. Our Ex Was The Best, The One, The Only One:

Our mind will try to remind us of our ex’s best qualities. Images of them at their best will pop into our head unbidden. However, this unbalanced, unrealistic, and idealised portrayal of the person who broke our heart will only make the pain we feel worse.

2. The Relationship Made Us Happy All The Time:

No, it didn’t; no relationship does. There were plenty of frustrating, annoying, or hurtful moments, and we should recall those as well.

3. If We Just Text Them Or Contact Them, We Will Feel Better:

The urge to text, message, call, or email will be very strong. But doing those things will only make us feel more desperate and needy, and hurt our self-esteem.

4. Talking About The Breakup With All Our Friends Will Ease Our Pain:

No, it won’t. Talking about emotionally painful events is natural — even useful, if we do it in a problem-solving way or if we do it to get emotional validation. But just going over the same details, again and again, will only make us feel worse.

5. We Have To Know Exactly Why The Breakup Occurred.

Having a clear understanding of why a breakup occurred is actually useful. However, few of us ever get a clear and honest explanation for such things. Trying to get into our ex’s head to understand why things didn’t work out is a rabbit hole. Better to settle on “they weren’t in love enough” or “we were not the right match.”

Watch Dr Guy Winch TED Talk:

About Guy Winch:

Dr Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, keynote speaker and author. His many books including latest How to Mend A Broken Heart have been translated into twenty languages and his TED Talk Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid has been rated among the top five most inspirational TED Talks of all time on ted.com. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University in 1991 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in family and couples therapy at NYU Medical Centre.

How Mistakes Early In A Relationship Can Have Long-Term Effects

Couple playing

By Dr. Guy Winch

When couples go to therapy to work on their relationship and present their problems, the therapist usually asks when these issues began. More often than not, couples can trace the seeds of the problem(s) to their earliest dating days.

They might not have had big fights about the issue at that time, but it was likely a tension point that one or both of them had already noted. The question is, why is this so?

After all, if there was something problematic going on earlier in the relationship, why wasn’t it addressed or worked out at that time? There are a number of reasons couples fail to address important issues that arise in the early stages of their relationship.

  1. First, when we’re first falling in love, we are less likely to be bothered by certain issues than we are once the spell of infatuation wears off.
  2. Second, once we become emotionally invested in our partner and motivated to see the relationship succeed, we may be hesitant to raise issues that might cause conflict and/or highlight differences between us.
  3. Lastly, we often let too many bothersome things go in the initial stages of a relationship because we are unaware of a fundamental truth about relationships.

Relationship dynamics are like concrete. They can be shaped when the concrete is still fresh but they quickly become rigid and hard to mould.

In other words; the expectations we set early on in a relationship, the give and take, the roles we step into, the habits we accept, the rhythm of our day to day quickly set. Once they do, they become far more difficult to change.

When problematic issues arise in the earliest stages of the relationship and are not addressed, there may be an unspoken assumption that whatever has happened is acceptable to both members of the couple. Bill and Grace, a couple I recently worked with, are a great example of this principle.

Bill was 12 minutes late for their first date. He did not text Grace to give her the heads up or apologise when he arrived.

Since he arrived slightly out of breath and looked as though he had rushed, Grace did not comment on the lateness. By not doing so, what she communicated to Bill was that she would accept his lateness and that he would not even have to apologise for it.

Bill was then only seven minutes late to their second date, which Grace overlooked as he was “clearly improving” (Grace’s words). But that dynamic helped to create an expectation that Bill does not have to be on time.

I have worked with many couples in which lateness is an issue and in almost all cases, it reared its head very early in the relationship. When it did, the partner left waiting did not make it an issue.

When I ask why they did not speak up, the answer is usually some form of, “I didn’t want to ruin the date,” or “I didn’t want to start a fight,” or “it was only a few minutes.”

While those are valid concerns, what we neglect to anticipate is that by not bringing it up we are setting ourselves up for more of the behaviour we find objectionable going forward, whatever it is.

How To Set Correct Limits Early In The Relationship:

Two hands holding a love heart

In order to prevent behaviours we don’t like from becoming a common feature in our relationships, we need to notice them and address them as early as possible in a manner that brings attention to the issue without causing a conflict that might derail the budding relationship. Here are some guidelines:

1. When The Behaviour We Don’t Like Is Mild:

We need to find casual ways to comment on it such that it doesn’t ruin the date or alienate the other person. A casual reference subtly communicates that the behaviour was not one we find acceptable. For example asking, “Was there a lot of traffic?”

2. If The Behaviour Is More Egregious:

The intensity of our messaging needs to match the level of concern that the specific behaviour evokes in us. For example, if during our first argument our partner resorts to name-calling or put-downs and we don’t make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate being spoken to in that manner, name-calling and put-downs are likely to persist and even increase.

Therefore, we have to be more declarative in communicating our concern about such behaviours and insist our partner find other ways to express their frustrations without dismissive, rude or insulting comments.

3. If A Behaviour Is A Deal-Breaker:

We not only need to communicate with the other person that we will not tolerate it again, we have to mean it. If the behaviour is repeated and we do not then follow through with our warning, we are clearly communicating that the behaviour is troublesome but not a deal-breaker.

Our messaging has to leave no room for doubt that it will be grounds for an instant breakup. Sad as it might be to exit the relationship at that point, not doing so (assuming the limit and the severity of the issue has been clearly communicated) will invite more of the behaviour going forward.

In short, the early stages of dating are those in which an unspoken contract is formed about the rules and conduct of the relationship going forward. The realities we establish in the early days, weeks, and months of a romance are likely to determine the nature of the relationship going forward.

Therefore, we have to be able to look beyond our excitement and enthusiasm, assess the behaviours and dynamics we are setting up, and address potential problems in their infancy. Changing behaviours and dynamics once a relationship is established is far more difficult and the degree of change we can enact at that point is usually much smaller.

The biggest mistake we can make in the early part of a relationship is to overlook problems and hope to address them later on.

Dr Guy Winch’s blog was first featured on the website Psychology Today.
here. Dr Guy is a faculty member of A Higher Branch; you can read his profile here.

Valentine’s Day Do’s and Don’ts

Lady with roses

Love sign

By Sam Makhoul

Valentine’s Day is celebrated across the globe every year. It is a day that brings couples together; a day that they show off their true love and desire for one another.

And as the years go on, Valentine’s Day grows bigger and bigger. But what exactly are you expected to do for your loved one on this particular day?

We uncover the true dos and don’ts when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

But First, What Is Love?

At A Higher Branch, we are expanding the scope of Valentine’s day. Love is not just about romance but also about love for self, love for family (including pets), love for friends, love for colleague sand love for humanity generally, including strangers and the customers we serve or the random person that serves us.

A simple note of appreciation in an email or kind words in person or over the telephone are unexpectedly nice and will make a person’s day. It’s that easy and yet so powerful.

As Dr Guy Winch says, love does not have to be grand. It’s in the little gestures and words to show people they are valued.

And remember that showing love to people who are nice is easy. Showing love to people you don’t know or who appear unfriendly is where true greatness lies. Often, they are the people who need our love the most.

Man with a rose on Valentine's Day

The Dos And Don’ts On Valentine’s Day:


  • Don’t – Buy flowers
  • Don’t – Say I love you
  • Don’t – Book a restaurant 
  • Don’t – Overspend on gifts
  • Don’t – Post a Valentine’s Day picture on social media


  • Do – Look at old photos together
  • Do – Write each other a love letter of what you love about them
  • Do – Pack a picnic or re-create your first date
  • Do – Reminisce about your favourite moments and highlights reel
  • Do – Cook your favourite meal together
  • Do – Involve your children before their bedtime
  • Do – Switch off the lights and technology, light candles and get intimate

The Power of WHEN

By Sam Makhoul

WHY ignites motivation.
WHAT clarifies outcomes.
HOW is the process.
WHEN is your point of difference!

There is no doubt that we should all start at WHY. WHY sparks the motivation for change that shapes your beliefs and defines your identity, which is critical for behavioural change.

But in my opinion, if you do not get the WHEN right, the WHY along with your motivation will disappear behind a sea of inevitable setbacks, energy dips, failures, rejections, hurts and disappointments. Timing is everything.

If you get your timing wrong you are more likely to fail or get rejected; whether it is the time of day you wake, eat, sleep, exercise, work, and even initiate sex with your partner. Timing is critical.

You may think you are not good at something, when in fact you just did it at the wrong time of day that is not aligned with your optimal chrono-type. Munich University pioneered the research into discovering your chrono-type with a simple quiz but if you really think about it, you would know intuitively whether you are a morning person or a night owl. 

The research shows that approximately 30% of people are ‘morning’ types, 30% are ‘night owls’ and 40% are in-between. Most modern work schedules favour the morning types.

I know some people who have gone into business for themselves purely so they can be in control of when they eat, sleep and work. Others have asked their boss if they can work different hours that favour their chrono-type.

If you don’t have the privilege of either, don’t despair. Read on….

8 Tips To Get Your Timing Right?

Using the Higher Branch framework, consider how you can get your timing right in the following eight areas of life. These tips can make a huge difference to your energy, motivation and performance.


There are three branches to your physical health. Nutrition, sleep and movement (exercise).

Sleep is by far the most important factor for your cognitive performance, emotional happiness, immunity and longevity. If you are a night owl, going to bed early may cause you to slip into self-induced insomnia as you lie awake trying to get to sleep before you are ready.

You start developing a negative association with your bed and it’s a spiral into anxiety from there that causes more insomnia. If your optimal time to go to bed is 11 pm and wake at 7 am then stick to that and be true to your chrono-type.

If you prefer to sleep at 9 pm and wake at 5 am then go with that. When it comes to eating, typically morning people can’t survive without breakfast, while night owls prefer to snack at night and fast till midday the next day.

Some can have one or two meals per day, others are primed for grazing throughout the day. For some, exercise first thing boosts their energy level, for others midday or late afternoon is the best time.

Don’t try and be something you are not. You need to listen to your body.

And if you cannot figure out what your body is telling you then maybe it is time to have an Ayurvedic or a genetic consultation with a peak performance coach. We recommend Mark Bunn, Alessandra Edwards and Anthia Koullouros. 

Love And Intimacy:

Couples can sometimes think they have relationships problems simply because they have their timing all wrong. For example, if you try to initiate sex with your partner late at night and they are a morning person, then you are setting yourself up for rejection.

So, it is important to get your timing right. How do you do that?

Start with sleep. In a previous article The Sex/Sleep Connection I talked about how important sleep is to a relationship.


If you are a morning person, then the best time to spend with your children is in the morning. Driving them to school is a great way to do that.

Otherwise, I know some parents who wake early and go jogging or swimming with their children. If they are too young, then a playground is an awesome way to start the day.

If you are a night person, then flip that around and do those things later in the day. Pick them up from school. Read to them at night.

Play board games. Please don’t watch TV or have any screen time at night with your children.

Artificial light at night will mess up their sleep and yours whether you are a morning person or a night person. More on the importance of your circadian rhythm in the next article.


If you are a morning person you need to do your most important work in the first 90 minutes after you start work. Why only 90 mins?

Research shows that after 90 minutes, your attention span and focus deteriorate, and you need a 15 min break outside in the sunlight to reset. Why the first 90 mins?

For a morning person, the first 90 minutes at work is the most productive. This should never be spent checking email!

Or in meetings, unless the meeting is for brainstorming or decision making. The converse is true for a night person. You need to ease into the day and do your best work later in the day when your brain comes alive.


Socialising is a critical element to our wellbeing. In fact, all the research shows that the longest living humans in the blue zones of the world all have very strong social networks that keep them happy and mentally sharp.

Friendships help us have fun and bring laughter to our life. BUT only when you socialise at the right time.

If you are a night person then going out at night to the footy or a bar or restaurant brings the best out of you. You will be a lot more fun and energetic.

If you are a morning person, then perhaps you should avoid going out at night and choose a morning cycle and coffee or a long lunch on weekends. Timing can be the difference between being perceived as fun or boring.


At A Higher Branch, we consider learning to be an essential element for growth. Our whole mission is built around sharing actionable knowledge with our community. 

Learning is not just about attending seminars about your subject-matter expertise. But more importantly about your personal life.

Your health, how to be a better partner, friend or parent and all the eight areas of life. And learning is no different from working.

You should read, listen or watch when you are most alert. Again, this leads back to whether you identify yourself as a morning person, a night person or an in-between.

The best ways to learn on the fly is during your daily commute. Some call it ‘Traffic University’. By far the most effective exponential way to learn is face-to-face at seminars and events with other like-minded people.


Your appetite for risk varies according to the time of day. If you are a morning person, then the worst time for you to make investment decisions is later in the day when you are more emotional and prone to impulsiveness.

The converse is true for night owls. The morning is the worst time to make an investment or business decisions.


Helping others, whether it is the new person at work or a friend that needs someone to listen to is best when you are emotionally solid. Otherwise, you are going to come across as insincere or nonchalant.

It is amazing how your chrono-type can influence the way you help others. I know the timing for helping others may be difficult but if you do have the choice, always choose the time of day when you are most empathetic and patient.

Listening requires both. I hope you enjoyed this article. It is shared with care and the utmost of respect for your time.

In the next article, we will be discussing the most important success factor for just about every component of your life. SLEEP. The absolute latest research reveals some stunning truths about the importance of sleep and the TWO lifestyle changes that will take away all the anxiety that can sometimes be associated with sleep.

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