If I were to ask how many of you love either receiving or shopping for new things, I am sure for most people both hands would go up; twice. We love the new with a capital L; that’s why a new romance is so exciting and enticing. We get to experience fresh new butterflies and a wave of pleasure we’d never felt before or which at least we might have forgotten. If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we often wish that some of this quality of “the new” could be preserved in our intimate relationships. If only it were as easy as it appears in the chick flicks we watch religiously.
Despite what we may see on television or read in romance novels, we must, however, recognize that great relationships don’t just happen. The truth is, a great love requires blood, sweat, tears and a dose of some good old common sense, which perhaps isn’t at all so common these days.
Because we women are more prone to comparing our relationships to some fantasy ideal, we are the ones who tend to take stock of our relationship barometer fairly regularly. Not that I’m suggesting that we should settle for any old crap and passively accept whatever hand life deals us, but there is room for a re-evaluation of our expectations, on the pathway to the emergence of a renewed relationship.
Now let’s face it girls, our partners won’t all look like the sexy Edris Alba nor will we all have the body of a Sanaa Lathan. Some of us are short and chunky, some a bit too much on the skinny side, some are overweight and still others of us are dissatisfied because our breasts are too small, hips too big, or because some other part of our anatomy just doesn’t line up with the national average.
Then they are the failed expectations when our spouse just is not ambitious enough or doesn’t earn that multi-figured salary guaranteed to keep us outfitted in the latest from Versace or Prada. Maybe we have not yet bought our dream home or we never got to have that dream vacation in South Florida or Europe. Then outside of our materialistic, surface expectations, is the reality of a lack of intimacy, a boring sex life, a failure to communicate meaningfully and generally the acknowledgment of a relationship where we are not affirmed, encouraged or “blessed” by our spouse. Whatever the source of our disappointments, as we advance in our relationships, we learn, in the words of one of my poems “to get up, rise up, and make up the bed”. In other words, we learn to shelve these disappointments and get on with the business of living.
But how do we balance it? How do we “get on” with our life responsibilities without giving up on the relationship ideals or goals which we believe we deserve? How do we stay true to ourselves? I think the answer lies in reflection and renewal. We have to reflect on the reality of what we have, (assess it, make notes, devise goals for change) and then we have to allow the magic of self-change to work. No matter how much we beat up on our spouses in frustration, either literally or with our words, the reality is, we don’t possess the power to change anyone; (chances are, if we did, we would have zapped our supposed Prices back into frogs). That’s right, the only one we can assume responsibility for changing is us. And admittedly that is often a tough pill to swallow for us women who seem to be born “fixers”. The sooner we come to terms with this truth however, the better off we will be.
If what we want is a renewed relationship, then first, it must begin with us, (and if you’re a man, the same principle applies to you). Maybe these suggestions will help get your relationship started on the path of renewal:
- Learn to love and affirm you: the truth is, we can’t love and appreciate someone if we don’t first love and appreciate ourselves. I am not referring here to a narcissistic, self-obsession which is rooted in selfishness. Rather I speak of a need to appreciate how blessed we are in terms of our strengths, gifts and talents. Self-love also means an acknowledgement of our innate worth which will enable us to be confident and to demand the respect we deserve. A woman who is confident in who she is and truly loves herself, will not tolerate abuse in a relationship because she knows her value. A confident woman is also generally sexy and irresistible to the man in her life.
- Rethink expectations through the lens of reality: this is not a bid to encourage women to lower their standards and to accept anything on two legs with a penis who makes them some promises; not on your life! Standards are good, generally, but we must reassess our expectations in the light of our partner’s and our own capabilities. Can we really afford that cruise that everyone else is taking? What about a stay instead at a local hotel for the weekend? Is a mortgage right for us at this time, or should we continue to rent a bit longer? These are just a few examples, but dreams and goals, while good in a relationship, must be reviewed in terms of how achievable they really are. Take responsibility for easing some of the pressure off of an early relationship-dream by rethinking and re-languaging it in more realistic terms, taking note of the fact that we ladies are the ones who often apply the pressure when there is something that we want. Also, instead of always expecting your partner to be your “dream provider”, get involved in making your own goals happen.
- Give without expecting to get: now admittedly this is a toughie and it goes against every human survival instinct. We love to get and we love to give in order to get but giving without expectation? humph, that admittedly is a tall order if ever there was one but it is not impossible. It involves stepping outside of ourselves to see the worth in our spouse in spite of the human failings, and glaring weaknesses which shout at us every day. Again this is not about self-abuse or any such thing but it speaks of cultivating what I call a higher-order love. Love that loves in spite of and one that therefore gives even when it does not receive. Now ideally, when this principle is practiced by both parties, everyone reaps the benefits. But even if it is not, there is a great satisfaction in knowing that you have stepped above and beyond in giving to the one you have chosen to be with. This type of love however calls for a deep humility and for a level of graciousness that is perhaps hard to find in today’s “me-obsessed” culture. It is perhaps, hopefully, more easily practiced by those with a spiritual base.
- Get your sexy on:now there is no way I could deal with the concept of a renewed relationship without mentioning the ever-important three-letter word. Sex in a relationship builds and extends the relationship’s intimacy-capacity. In other words intimacy as a state is not fixed; it is dynamic or is always changing and the more great sex a couple has, the more their intimacy is expanded and strengthened. So you want renewal? Set yourself some specific sexual goals and initiate; don’t wait on your partner to bite (the bait that is), you can get the ball going. Perhaps you could suggest a sexual marathon (I don’t know a guy on the planet who would refuse) or do something new which you have never tried before. Find out what your partner really loves that you may not yet know and treat him to a sexual feast. Be at your partner’s beck and call sexually. Bring out the lengerie, the oils, the fragrances, the satin sheets and all that you love; I guarantee, your partner will feed off your enthusiasm and love it too. The law of sexual attraction will determine that what you put out sexually, you will receive in full return. Any sexually satisfied spouse knows that this rule of thumb works.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: renewal cannot be experienced in a marriage that is devoid of communication. If sex is the car that will take your relationship on a new journey, then communication is the fuel. Now this is no straightforward feat, especially when one partner is not a talker. Truthfully, we all communicate, because even when we say nothing, we are communicating with our silence. But we women, being the talkers that we generally are, expect our partner to share our exact communication style. Most men however do not. It is the rare man who enjoys deep, exploratory conversation; generally such a man is either trained in the area, or is simply comfortable and in touch with his kinder, softer, gentler, nurturing side. This is why many a woman becomes very drawn or even attracted to her Pastor or Counsellor. In him she finds a man who is attentive, who listens and will then talk back (in that order); very often validating her feelings. More often than not, her spouse is nothing like this. Communication will, nonetheless, foster renewal because through it we get to share needs, wants, disappointments, desires, goals and the like. Knowing where our partner is at physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually, will only serve to strengthen our sense of connection. We must take care however to monitor our partner’s unique communication style by perhaps doing the following:
- Learn to read non-verbal cues
- Learn to hear what has been really said and to also dissect what has not been said.
- Listen and respond to your spouse’s true feelings, even if they appear misguided or irrational.
- Encourage openness and honesty in conversation by modelling such behaviour in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way.
- When discussing sensitive issues, always begin with ‘I” statements, instead of “You” statements; in other words, assume responsibility for how you feel instead of accusing your spouse.
- If your partner is uncomfortable with overt efforts at communication, relax, take it slowly and love him anyhow.