Wednesday 22nd August 2018

Now in its tenth year, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s partnership with relationship counselling service Relate has been so successful the service has been extended to include RAF veterans and their partners.

To date more than 5,000 serving personnel have taken up the Fund’s offer of six free Relate counselling sessions and the effects have been life-changing. The service is now open to RAF veterans and their partners and includes additional access to subsidised mediation sessions for couples going through separation or divorce, and family counselling.

One service user Caroline, and her husband Sam, explain how Relate had a positive impact on their relationship.  Sam and his long-term partner, Caroline are one of the many ‘new’ modern families where two families join to become one. They reached out to Relate for some counselling sessions when they felt new pressures arise from moving in together, closer to Sam’s Station.

Caroline said:

“Having moved in to our first home together after six years of being together, we naturally had to do some adjusting. Sam went on an overseas deployment 10 days after we moved in, which would normally be fine but this was the first time Sam had been away on ops for quite some time. He was still finding his place in his new Squadron and was also very pre-occupied about what lay ahead and so those 10 days went pretty quickly!

“He was still cramming in pre-deployment courses, gathering and checking off his kit whilst trying to be a dad too with some pretty concerned little people. During all this, we hadn’t actually set any plans on how to just live and so once Sam left, I unpacked both of our homes into one house, with the mindset of having a mutually acceptable layout for when Sam returned, as well as making sure his children felt included in everything.

“So fast forward a good few months and detachment two ticked off as well, we decided we needed a little help! Having read about the various means of relationship support through the RAF Benevolent Fund, we decided that the one-to-one sessions would be our best route to take. Sam got in touch with Relate and we set up our initial assessment and it all went from there really.

“Relate helped us step through what the issues were and then to help in finding some middle ground to work on for taking forward.

“I’ll be honest in that sometimes we came home angry with each other and I share that not to put others off but in looking back we realised it had brought out things that needed addressing. It was actually good to allow the rawness of hidden thoughts and comments to be aired. We had ‘homework’ to focus on during the weeks in between the sessions too and that helped us to keep on track.”

Sam added:

When talking at home, we both tended to become very defensive and especially when talking about our own families and parenting styles, let alone which way the bins should be pointing (yes… it did happen!). By talking ‘through’ a counsellor, it took away the emotion a little and allowed us to almost step out of becoming too personal so that we could actually learn and understand about each other – in our case, appreciate our parenting approaches, dig through our more negative scenarios and to create positive pathways forward.

“All a lot of common sense really but there’s that saying isn’t there that, ‘when you are in the picture, you can’t see the big picture’. How true that is at times! The counsellor takes you out of the picture and allows you to look in.”

Both Sam and Caroline concluded:

“The positive impact for us is that, with the non-judgemental support of a counsellor, we have stepped through learning how to slow down in our minds, lose those walls of defence and to communicate better. Not only to each other but to our family of children. We take one step back now (most of the time!) before we jump in on anything – and that might be to do a bit of talking and planning, or helping the family get a job done together with everyone knowing the boundaries of what’s expected of them. It all seems to drop in to place so much more easily.

“We also understand each other’s fears a lot more. I think we’d protected ourselves from each other in some strange kind of way but now we realise it’s okay to say we aren’t okay – and actually, by talking it through we normally find a happy place much, much quicker!”

Alison Wyman, Head of Welfare Programmes and Development, said:

“Relationship counselling is just one way the RAF Benevolent Fund supports the emotional wellbeing of the RAF Family. The Fund also has partnerships with Anxiety UK and Cruse Bereavement Care to offer help to those facing anxiety and depression issues or struggling with the loss of a loved one.

“The mental and emotional wellbeing of the entire RAF Family is vitally important. As we know only too well, RAF families can face unique challenges and that does not change as service leavers transition into new civilian careers.”

To find out more about the Fund’s relationship counselling support or call 0845 077 5556

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