Personal Change

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“Knowledge can be the initial impetus for any significant life-change. It is, however, our passion for change and our internal discipline, which will empower us to sustain change, until it becomes meaningful transformation.”

Denise J Charles

Beyond Relationship Pain to Personal Power

Okay; so that man or that woman did you wrong. Well maybe that’s not so okay, but the reality is that as long as we are in a relationship, we are going to experience some pain. Things definitely do not always go smoothly in love-land. So what exactly should we do when we find ourselves deep in the throes of relationship pain or anguish? We have a choice among several responses which will more or less determine how well we are able to cope with the seeming injustices of relationships. Of course I’m in no way suggesting that all relationship infractions are equal; breaking a date, constantly leaving the toilet seat up and being unfaithful are all distinct issues with varying levels of gravity. When an action or behavior by our spouse causes us to experience feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, extreme irritation or bitter disappointment, it’s within our power to determine where we will allow these experiences to take us.

The Pity Party

When we are hurt or angry, feeling sorry for ourselves can be fairly valuable; for about two minutes. We need that much time to hunch our shoulders, bite our lips and concentrate on our pain; before we decide what we’re going to do about it. This pseudo-comfort which a pity party allows is actually quite short-lived. There is perhaps nothing as dis-empowering as wallowing in a place of self-pity for too long. When we do this we are seeing ourselves as victims, as weak, as powerless and even sometimes as deserving of the “punishment” we are enduring. In a pity-party we don’t only own our pain (as we should) but we hold on to it for dear life. We come to identify ourselves by it and see ourselves only through the lens of our relationship pain or dissatisfaction. Ultimately, this is counter-productive and inhibits us from moving into action.

Revenge Mode

There is a very common human emotion which encourages us to want that “eye for an eye”. When we have been hurt and we are in the throes of pain sometimes we can be motivated to retaliate by causing similar hurt to our partners. It is not always literally feasible to perhaps do the same thing that was done to us but the objective of dwelling in this mode, is to try to damage our partner’s psyche as much as ours has been. Usually this is an extreme response to deep pain caused by infidelity or some other really serious infraction. Some actually do cheat or at least flirt in return for their experience of infidelity. For other infractions, there may be angry, insensitive words hurled at the offending partner, the withholding of sex or affectionate gestures, the withdrawal of financial support or even an act of secretive, wild spending, where the family funds, personal account or credit cards are splurged. These responses are of course surface responses to deeper issues and may only bring momentary satisfaction. They are incapable of addressing the real problem of relationship pain and what caused it.

Stonewalling

Somehow, some of us believe that remaining silent, while fuming and seething on the inside, is self-empowering. Because we are not crying, ranting, raving or throwing things, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we have a handle on our difficult emotions and that we are somehow large and in charge. Actually, we couldn’t be farther from the truth. Refusing to talk about the things which our partner or spouse does that irritate us, only serves to give those things more power over us. When an issue remains un-discussed and unsettled, it retains the power to shape our thinking, feelings and emotions. This is why individuals who refuse to vent, tend to suffer from raised blood pressure. Just imagine, poor relationship habits can actually affect our health. While there may be critical times in our lives when silence may indeed be golden, a relationship confrontation or problem is not one of those times. Stonewalling represents a certain character weakness and a tacit refusal to confront issues.

Claiming Personal Power

Seizing personal power out of relationship difficulties sounds wonderful and resonates with a certain political correctness; it is, however, no mean feat. This preferred response often involves admitting personal weakness and exposing our own vulnerability. We have to be willing first to admit that what our partner has done or neglected to do caused us pain. Sometimes we even have to admit our own part in the problem. Whether we communicate this calmly or with loads of emotion, we must be willing to share our real feelings. This is the beginning of our own healing. While we cannot control what someone else does to us, we can control our responses to it. This brings us to the need to assume personal responsibility for our relationship well-being.

Assuming responsibility does not mean that we can manipulate our partner into doing whatever we what him/her to do. Nor does it signify that there is any secret behavior which we can do, which guarantees that our partner will never hurt us again (how I abhor those articles and books which make these false promises).  Rather, it means that we are responsible for communicating honestly our feelings and our expectations. Even though I promote relationship education and believe that we should “clear the air” on certain issues even before getting together, the truth is that relationships are on-going and developmental. There will always be the need to grow, change and make adjustments; no matter how many relationship seminars we attend!

Seizing personal power also involves being willing to share our challenges and our ineptitudes with others. Admitting to friends and family that our relationship is far from perfect can be a cry for a help or a source of encouragement to others who may also feel that they are going through difficulties alone. It means admitting being wrong. It means being willing to acknowledge that we don’t know everything. More so, it involves using our relationship challenges as a learning curve to catapult us into better relationship practices.

If we truly want a healthier relationship, these best-practices should involve:

  • Practicing greater openness with our partner; this means making communication sessions a regular feature of the relationship
  • Communicating expectations in a non-threatening way; for example “Having a date with you once a week will help me to feel closer to you” instead of the anger filled sentence: “You never carry me anywhere.”
  • Owning our pain without accusation by utilizing “I” statements, for example,: “When you . . .  I feel undervalued” instead of “You don’t appreciate me.”
  • Reading great books or articles on relationships together or if only one partner is a reader, using the subject matter as the basis for couple discussions
  • Complimenting each other or showing appreciation when something is done right in the relationship
  • Practicing random acts of kindness; for example, delivering flowers outside of special dates like Valentine’s or birthdays, paying for a spa-day for our spouse, making breakfast, rubbing tired feet at night, doing a body massage with no “sexpectation” (if you get lucky well so be it), buying a special item for our spouse which we know he/she has had an eye on for a while
  • Spending valuable time together just connecting and having fun
  • Setting up clear boundaries for the things we will absolutely not tolerate in the relationship, like infidelity, abuse or any form of dishonesty
  • Accessing help from a counselor, pastor, mentor or friend when we think that things are way over the top and that we are clearly not coping

Getting to this point of positive relationship practices, is however not automatic. We must be proactive and willing to do whatever is necessary to breed a healthy relationship, even before the challenges come. This means knowing the pulse beat of our relationship by living in the moments and not avoiding them. Ultimately, when we are open about our pain, and seek help, we begin the cycle of relationship renewal.

IS SEXUAL FANTASY REALLY GOOD FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

In most couples’ forums today, there are several arguments advanced as to why sexual fantasy is a good practice among couples. There is the belief that it adds some needed excitement and dynamism to the bedroom. Through fantasy individuals can become somebody else and can take on attributes and characteristics not necessarily their own on a regular day. But before we go any further into our discussion it is perhaps necessary that we define fantasy.

I believe that we can fantasize at various levels and perhaps all sexual fantasy should not be lumped together in the same way. Loosely speaking, sexual fantasy can be described as any thought or imagining which is of a sexual nature. It can involve the individual behaving sexually with herself, her partner, a friend/friends, acquaintances, virtual strangers or purely fictitious or made-up characters. I believe that our natural ability to imagine is God-given. How or why we use this natural gift is, however, another matter altogether. Perhaps the sexual fantasies we engage in provide a hint on how we feel about sex. If we perceive sex to be something to be hidden, that is dirty or bad, then this may influence us to become someone else who can enjoy this “badness” without guilt. We may also use fantasizing to become someone else who is allowed sexual pleasure because  as we are, we don’t see ourselves as being very sexy or sexually desirable. In this light, fantasy can be used to shed pounds, increase breast size and in the case of the male, lengthen and strengthen a certain important attribute.

Very often the tendency to fantasize may also be linked to how we learnt about sex. If our sexual repertoire was built through romance novels, pornographic images or through the reading of graphic erotica, then our brains are likely wired to accessing our sexual arousal and enjoyment through these avenues. In other words, we become hooked on the habit and can’t seem to enjoy sex without it.

I am aware that several of us engage in sexual behaviour without giving it much thought. It is highly possible that people will continue to blissfully do what works for them, especially when it yields an orgasm. For those of us interested in improving the quality of our sexual relationships, however, it may be good to give the “sexual-fantasy” habit some deep thought. Why is there a need to fantasize? Does it signify some dissatisfaction with our partner? Are we unhappy with his/her love-making skills? Do we long for more excitement and passion? Have we trained our bodies only to orgasm through certain sexual thoughts and therefore we need to rely on such thoughts if we are to experience a sexual climax? Are we doing it because Oprah said it was good or because we think that every body else is doing it?

I have no scientific evidence but I honestly believe that most people fantasize because it is behaviour which they have learned to rely on for sexual arousal. It is most likely linked to past experience and exposure. I think, however, that private fantasizing is also a sure fire way for couples to become disengaged and disconnected during sex. It also does not encourage dialogue between couples about the things with which they are unhappy. Some couples may claim to share sexual fantasies but if after this so called “sharing” they revert right back to focusing on someone else, then theirs is no real exclusive couple-intimacy and the sharing is counter-productive.

If we need to expend so much energy thinking about somebody else, or about ourselves in some other sexual scenario, then surely we are robbing our spouse of some of the fire and passion that should be reserved for him alone. What right-thinking woman (unless she’s kinky to the bone) wants her husband to be thinking about another woman when he’s making love to her?

The reality is that sex is as much a mind-activity as it is one which involves the genitals. It is unlikely that we can enjoy sex with an “empty mind”. The mind was not designed to be empty. Deliberately using the mind during sex is perhaps good and necessary. It is great for focusing in on our own pleasure and on that of our spouse. But if our focus is “relationship” and not “self-love”, then perhaps we can utilize this brain energy by thinking only of ourselves and our partners. Maybe we can  imagine ourselves doing something hot and delicious that we have not yet had a chance to try. While the possibilities may be endless, the mind should not be allowed to become an enemy of the relationship where we prefer to live there, than in the reality of our real union.

SEX! From Boredom to Best Practice

 

 

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If you’ve been married for a while, chances are you’ve experienced some level of bedroom boredom. Like any often performed human activity, sex runs the risk of becoming routine and predictable. While we may choose from a variety of natural responses, if we really want to tackle this relationship challenge, it may mean stepping outside ourselves a bit and evaluating how we tend to respond. This is needed before we can craft our way forward to a what I will call sexual best practices.

The Auto-Pilot Response

This occurs where couples mostly have sex when either half-asleep or half-awake (just a matter of perspective). Sex occurs as a matter of course, pretty much like the necessary bodily function of going to the bathroom. There is absolutely no effort at creativity or ingenuity extended into the love-life. Sex is brief, functional, perfunctory and release-oriented;  pretty much along the lines of that well worn expression “wham-bam-thank-you-mam!” The missionary position becomes etched in stone and sometimes the wife can even do the grocery list during the act, if she can get her eyes opened wide enough.

The Sexless Response

Couples go sexless when the cares of life become so overwhelming that sex is no longer worth the time, work and effort. This couple begins to function almost along the lines of a brother and sister. There may or may not be a certain sense of warmth between them but life has become so centred on the activities of family (children and in-laws) that this couple has actually lost all sense of being a couple. In this response pattern, the practice of not having any sex (or as little as twice a year), is not necessarily a well-thought out or deliberate response. It usually occurs because one individual loses his/her desire and the other capitulates because he/she gives into a feeling of powerlessness in the situation.

The Nocturnal Headache Response

This response occurs when there is a simple lack of common sex, I mean common sense. One partner (usually the woman) gets locked into complaining of a nightly headache, while failing to realise that she’s having that headache precisely because she has not had some good sex in a while and perhaps needs that great orgasmic release. No seriously, the headache response reveals an escape-route mentality. Of course I am not denying that there may be times when illness may prevent partners from experiencing a good roll in the hay but that’s not the point here. Barring genuine illness, partners can become locked into various excuses as to why sex does not happen. “The kids will hear us”, “the dogs are barking”, “my mother lives next-door”, “there is a hole in the ceiling” all become viable reasons as to why sex should be circumnavigated. While this sex-avoidance behaviour may only be perpetuated by one individual, it becomes a significant road-block to sexual intimacy since it definitely takes two to tango.

The Roving Reporter Response

Perhaps this is the most lethal of responses to bedroom boredom. It occurs when one or both partners begin to look outside the relationship for the sexual excitement which they know is lacking. The partner or couple who gets locked into this response may not be necessarily interested in leaving the relationship. There may be a sense of security in knowing that they have built a life together. They perhaps share a mortgage, a car loan, kids, pets and the list goes on. What they don’t share however is an exciting sex life. When sexual boredom has set in and there is a lack of dialogue on the matter, the result could very well be a tendency to inspect the grass on the other side. This is a response that is grounded in laziness and a self-serving agenda. The energy, spontaneity and ingenuity that is often required to make an affair work, had it been applied to the marriage, would most likely have resulted in  a re-kindling of the sexual fires. The self-serving partner is however looking for a quick fix and working on a relationship can be time-consuming.

The “I Want to Have Great Sex With You” Response

There are couples who love to have great sex, and I mean with a capital L. There is however one condition. They only want to have that great sex with the person to whom they are committed. Sex for such individuals is not an end in itself. It’s not a case of “any sex will do”. They are not into trading vaginas and penises for their own personal aggrandizement. Do such couples experience boredom in the bedroom? Of course! Their boredom could be as palpable as the next guys. What distinguishes their response however is their level of commitment to the relationship and their intuitive understanding of the value of a good sex-life to the health of the relationship. Because they understand the basics of relational health, they are, therefore, willing to put in the extra work to alleviate the bedroom blues. They also understand that love is really about putting the needs of another individual before their own. This means that if each partner focuses on what to do to please the other sexually, then the result is likely to be one sexually fulfilled couple.

Regardless of the response mode you and your spouse may have found yourselves in when it comes to the bedroom blues, the following tips represent a starting point for your continued sexual renewal as a couple:

  • Schedule lovemaking sessions; especially when there are kids around. This ensures that sexual intimacy becomes as regular a part of your couple’s repertoire as taking a shower is to the individual.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the quickie. Yes the long, drawn out, steamy, lovemaking sessions a la Hollywood and the romance novel may be well known to some of us, but a short, sweet sexual encounter may be better than none at all
  • Get deliberately creative. Using the powers of imagination from time to time can always add flavour to the love-life. This may involve using sexy lingerie, silk boxers and other little tricks like scented candles, fragrant oils, music, feathers, flavoured condoms, satin sheets, carefully positioned mirrors and you get my drift I’m sure.
  • Cultivate a ‘touchy-feely” relationship. Couples who understand how to be physically demonstrative to each other outside of the bedroom get to preserve a certain level of sexual tension which just goes kaboom when they come together.
  • Have a regular date-night. Spending time together regularly in other social settings helps an individual to see his/her partner in a different light. Taking the effort to dress up and go out together sends a powerful message that the individual is not being taken for granted.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Couples who fail to share what they really feel about their love-life run the risk of harbouring anger and resentment which can contribute to further rifts in the relationship. It is important for couples to practice emotional intimacy if they expect to have great sexual intimacy. This comes only through honesty, openness and a shared vulnerability.
  • Have lots of sex. Scientific studies have proven that the more sex we have the more sex we want. So there is perhaps no greater way to jump-start a flagging sex life that with some attempt at a sexual marathon (of course not forever but just so you could get those hormones racing again). Couples could perhaps set themselves an attainable sexual goal as an experiment or a challenge; for example, sex everyday for five or seven straight days. According to researchers, this is guaranteed to straighten out those hormones and have them and other parts of of your anatomy in tip-top working condition.

8 Signs Your Relationship May Be In Trouble

Every relationship has its highs and lows but do you know when yours is in serious trouble?

Love Life: Streaming love, sex, relationships . . .

ang couple Do you know when your relationship is in serious trouble?

Whether your significant relationship/marriage is new or old, chances are it has gone through its fair share of highs and lows. While the traditional notion of “falling in love” may seem a tad euphoric and short-lived, growing in love, according to scientific research, is still a very real and explainable occurrence. Which brings me to the focus of this article.

What happens when our relationships seem to have reached a growth stalemate? Do we even recognize that things have come to a screeching halt in the growth department? Are we even aware of the signals which might suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble? Do we even know what we can do to turn things around? The following list, though not exhaustive, represents some of the common warning signals which suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble.

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Men, Sex and the New C.P.R

Men and the New CPR: Chase Penetrate Retreat?

Love Life: Streaming love, sex, relationships . . .

“For many men, sexual expression over time becomes habit and impulse driven, leading often to fleeting or diminished pleasure and perhaps increased longing, desire and frustration.“

Many men engage in a set of predictable sexual behaviours.

While many of us may be familiar with C.P.R as a life-saving technique, in the context of my discussion, it takes on a whole new definition which I’m sure will easily resonate with my female reading-audience. Male “relationship-behaviour” has been governed for centuries by what I term the three pillars of male sexuality. For the purposes of this article, this behaviour is represented by the letters CPR, which in turn stand for Chase, Penetrate and Retreat. These “pillars” are in fact, a series of collective-behaviours which have become familiar themes in today’s male-female relationships.

While phrases like “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” and the less complimentary “you can’t teach an…

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Getting The Relationship You Want

Get the relationship you want

Are you completely satisfied with the state of your intimate relationship or marriage? If not, how do you demand what you want from your relationship without begging or appearing bossy or worst yet, desperate? The fine art of being at peace in our relationship is a combination of set of core factors. These include knowing our worth, having realistic expectations about our partner, and demonstrating an unwillingness to settle for long-term mediocrity. Of course the glue that holds these factors all together should be  the practice of unconditional love. But I don’t mean to get ahead of myself by suggesting that real love will gloss over or tolerate all wrong doing. So let’s head back to factor one.

Know Your Worth

While unconditional love or loving our spouse in spite of, is very necessary for a successful relationship, even more important is a healthy dose of self love. Love which comes from a place of self worth and value allows us to understand that our love is precious and not to be taken for granted. When we love ourselves, we expect to be treated well. We know when to say “I don’t deserve this”. That self-love and confidence also exudes a level of inner strength which can be very appealing. It can make our partner sit up and take notice when the situation demands it and this can be a pathway to relationship improvement. Of course this attitude can also produce fear or intimidation in a potential abuser but this is why it’s completely necessary to demonstrate this in the early stages of a relationship. It can alert us to common relationship red flags. If we came into self-love later in our relationship or marriage, it gives us options; especially in the case of serious relationship infractions like infidelity or abuse. When we know our worth, it becomes easier to be assertive or to find our voice in terms of articulating our core needs and desires.

Have Realistic Expectations

Many times we’re unhappy in love because we expect too much. We have that old fairy tale etched deeply in our minds and when our partner flops at being our prized prince or princess, we protest; loudly. It’s a great thing to have high relationship expectations but the practice of putting our partner on a pedestal can be fairly problematic. Our relationship peace can be disturbed because we appear to have infantile needs or we approach our needs with a certain level of immaturity. We can expect constant affirmation from our spouse or we expect a relationship that is free from major challenges. But life happens even when we’re in love. We gain weight, we don’t always look our best, sometimes illness interrupts, babies get cranky, teens cause stress, our parents age, we lose jobs and yet we have to adjust. Understanding that your life with your partner will be no bed of roses must then be carefully balanced against knowing what you will not tolerate. Discerning what you will battle out together as a couple, must, therefore, be distinguished from major relationship deal breakers, which yo will not tolerate for the long term.

Don’t Settle

While problems and challenges are unavoidable in an imperfect world, any relationship worth its salt must be buttressed by a healthy set of relationship goals. It’s important that a couple shares what is most important to each of them, in the relationship. Differences in age, sex, religious persuasion and socialization, can often cause a couple to start out on different pages even when the physical or sexual attraction is strong. Starting the conversation towards critical core needs, should ensure that each knows what is most important to the other. Having reached that stage of initial understanding, working towards aligning goals and dreams for the present and future, is a great way to safe guard against settling for relationship mediocrity. Above all else, loving your partner unconditionally, is a great way to be at peace in knowing that in spite of it all, he or she is your chosen number one.

 

 

When to Ditch That Relationship

Sometimes we hold on to a relationship for all the wrong reasons. At times it can be a sign of desperation or it may reveal our insecurities or our obsession with romance. Follow the link here to watch an episode on Digital Romance TV, where I share on when it’s right to “kick that relationship to the curb.”

Denise J Charles on Digital Romance TVsexless-marriage

How to Succeed When We Fail at Love

If you feel as though your love life is just not working, maybe you need to do some fresh reflection.

Love Life: Streaming love, sex, relationships . . .

There’s a common relationship scenario with which many of you ladies are familiar I’m sure. Girl meets guy and she’s absolutely sure that this time he’s the one. In the early stages everything seems to be going fine. There is terrific physical attraction and chemistry; lots of deep staring into the eyes and long, passionate, exploratory kisses. There is also an inordinate amount of time spent together doing fun things and going on romantic dates. And of course there is the regular communication by telephone, cell phone, internet, it just does not matter; it seems that this couple can hardly get enough of each other.

After a couple of months of heated intensity, however, things start to peter off. Phone calls diminish in regularity. He seems inclined to spend more time with his boys or in pursuing personal interests like sports, gym-time or car-racing; basically anything that does not include…

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