What is love?

This is a question I have often thought about. More than a million songs about love have been recorded over the years. We all need love. Love is associated with feelings of positivity, warmth and protectiveness. Feeling love from another person plays a positive role in our general well-being.

What is love by Helen Ross 1

Love is a human response to another person where there is a mutual feeling of respect, and where that person doesn’t feel judged for who she or he is.

So why is “love” a reason to stay in a clearly toxic relationship?

In my private practice I regularly see couples who stay together because they “love” each other when clearly the relationship is not working for either. Blaming each other for the relationship not working is common: “you spend too much time at work” or “you never help with the children/ housework”.

Quite often there is a real fear of being alone, with thoughts such as “if I am not with this person, I will be alone and no one else will want to be with me, therefore the relationship I have is better that no relationship”. And as we see the real person reveal themselves, instead of reconsidering whether we accept them and respect them for all that they prove to be, we often keep trying to force them to fit the mould, persuading them to give up this or that, be more or less this or that, so that our personal fantasy can continue. Because if that can’t continue, what else is there. The fairy tale didn’t have an alternative ending. But love can’t be forced, can’t be designed or remoulded. Love accepts. In deeds as well as words.

Unconditional relationships are the only relationships that work. No one is perfect. It is not about status, money or appearance. It is about mutual empathy. Only when you have this ingredient can you be in a relationship where the true sense of love can be nurtured.

This for me sums up love:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”.

Helen Ross

Being kind to yourself

Why is Self-care so important?

Throughout my work as a therapist I have learnt the importance of self-care and how to implement self-care. Self-care is all about being kind to yourself which encompasses being as kind to yourself as you would to others. It is crucial especially if you have experienced a trauma such as losing a loved one, moving to a different area, divorce or losing your job.

For instance, you’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self- care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse. Then moreover you may find that alcohol or cigarettes or drugs give you a temporary relief from your stress, and perhaps in time these relief strategies overtake.

Self-care isn’t important – it’s crucial. It can make a difference to your overall mental state and help you become more productive, reduce general negativity, and re-focus. We used to be told that the harder things are, the better the reward, but the thoughts of health professionals are changing.


How do you implement self-care?

• Make time to eat well and exercise, even if you are busy.

• Take more breaks and get more done

• Recognise stress and fatigue and process it.

• Do not take on more than you can cope with.

• Put time aside for yourself to pursue the things you enjoy

• Spend your money and time on things that matter to you.


Much of the work I do as a counsellor involves clients who are caught up in the addictive life of a loved one. Clients find themselves intrinsically tangled in a web of lies, denial, hope and disappointment, not knowing what to do or how to help. There is usually self-blame and guilt too such as “I am a bad parent/ friend”.

The hard reality of this situation is you cannot do anything at all. Recovery must come from the addictive individual. No matter what you say or do or threaten falls on dead ground. And the hardest thing to do especially as a parent is to do the opposite of what feels natural, for example, making sure they have somewhere to stay, food and money. With an individual suffering from an addictive disorder, the most important thing for them is to have enough of the addictive substance. That is all. Therefore, money is a way of feeding the habit. Providing everyday essentials such as mobile phones, somewhere to stay makes things easier to carry on this addictive lifestyle.

As a counsellor, I am more concerned with those caught up in this situation, rather than the addict, because there are numerous agencies where help is available for them. My work focuses on self-care, and its importance.
The importance of self-care has been well documented by health professionals, saving billions of pounds every year. But what is self-care?

Self-care is looking after yourself. And when you are in a situation that is all consuming and occupies every minute of your day, it is easy to forget about yourself. Depression, low self-esteem and anxiety are just a few of the symptoms related to self-neglect.

Working collaboratively with a client is a way to explore how he/she can promote a healthy lifestyle that is realistic, for example, eating healthily and taking moderate exercise to going to the cinema and meeting friends so that he/she can recognise their individuality.

Al-anon (a self-help group set up to support affected others) have a saying “Detach with Love” thus giving permission to live your own life and not getting tangled up in your loved one’s addictive behaviour involving sobriety and binges.

Please do get in touch