Okay, so the old year has passed. You are virtually over the excitement of fireworks and New Year’s resolutions; been there, done that. Life has more or less settled down to the routine to which you are accustomed. If you’re anything like me and Michelle Obama, January born, the New Year provides a doubly fresh context for review and renewal. After all, we start straight off the bat, one whole year older (and hopefully wiser, stronger). But whether or not we are blessed to be born in the first month of the year, we can all take this time to learn from our past mistakes and to put our experiential wisdom into practice.

Some of you may have as your primary goal this year a more meaningful, intimate relationship or marriage. In my own corner, I want to bring more balance or equilibrium to my marriage. This simply means that I want to reduce the level of discrepancy that can occur when one partner is steadfastly pursuing their goals. For example, I’m a fairly committed blogger and writer and I actively work at updating our websites, doing research and planning/designing courses and the like. This often takes me away from my bed; literally. So this year my goal is to get better at what I do while not sacrificing the valuable time I should spend with my husband. My husband should of course have his own priority area which he thinks would improve our relationship from his end.

If we pursue our relationships on automatic pilot instead of with thought or intention, then we run the risk of missing valuable “growth-moments”. Who wants a crappy relationship which fails to thrive simply because we don’t pay it the attention it deserves? Ultimately, the “relationship” does not exist out there in a vacuum but is a creature of the behaviour of the couple involved. We can only know what we want to improve, if we spend time reflecting on our mistakes with the goal of ensuring that they are not repeated. These areas do not only involve what we do but also how we respond to what is done to us.

The following are a few pointers to help all of us get rid of the unwanted crap which invariably pollutes our love lives.

  1. Utilize confrontation wisely: If we are constantly unhappy with the up-turned toilet seat, or with our partner’s propensity to be a workaholic; if we are bored stiff with sex or hate the fact that we have virtually no romantic couple time; then now is the time to open our mouths wide and speak. Suffering in silence or being a relationship martyr is dis-empowering and self-destructive. Practicing the fine art of loving confrontation with disarming ‘I feel’ statements, as opposed to harsh accusations, can go a long way towards improving relational quality.
  2. Take responsibility for our own happiness:  Cutting the crap out of a relationship is a two-sided deal because both partners share equal responsibility. While one may be responsible for outright change, the other is equally responsible for facilitating that change. Admittedly, it is very easy to blame someone else for our own misery. It is, however, equally important to look within to see where we have let ourselves down. Very often we can internalize our life-disappointments and project this unhappiness unto our spouse. Taking responsibility for our own peace of mind may mean deliberately letting go of past hurts in the relationship, forgiving parents or siblings and seizing the possibilities of the present.
  3. Practise self-love: As women we want to be loved and told that we are beautiful, sexy and desirable. Amazingly, some of us can’t stand the best bone in our own bodies. We are filled with self-loathing and self-rejection every time we stare at ourselves in the mirror; which is fairly often. If we are unable to say to ourselves “girl you look fine”, then why on earth would we expect our man to tell us this. Low self-esteem and self-recrimination are tangible states of being which affect the way we carry ourselves; they breed a negativity which does not exactly encourage compliments. Even when we may ‘over-do’ fashion or make up in an attempt to cover up our negative feelings, we can come across as insecure and lacking in depth. Starting with personal honesty is always best. Admit why we may ‘hate’ ourselves then renounce this negativity by walking in the exact opposite. This can be achieved through daily declarations which affirm that we are indeed beautiful; fearfully and wonderfully made. If there is anything we do need to change, then we can actively pursue this while understanding that our worth is not tied to our looks. A confident woman, who loves her inner self and her body, makes for a more dynamite lover and by extension this breeds a better relationship.
  4. Pursue dreams: Some of us, particularly from conservative or religious backgrounds, have been taught that it is vain or even self-serving, to focus too much on ourselves. As a consequence, we usually place the needs of others before our own; ALL THE TIME. Of course I wholeheartedly believe that there is a juncture in our lives when this is entirely necessary. When we have babies and small children we learn about this all too well. Even when our children have grown into adolescents or young adults we know instinctively that we would sacrifice anything to ensure their happiness; and this is perhaps as it should be. But there is nothing wrong with also pursuing what makes us happy or fulfilled; as long as it’s legal and no one is being hurt. Women, who constantly sacrifice their dreams and goals and never share such with their partners or children, run the risk of becoming angry and resentful. This could present in the relationship in a number of ways; chief among them being a bout of starvation in the sex department. Such women withhold sex or fail to actively participate, as a means of inadvertently punishing their partners for their unhappiness. In so doing, they are, however, also robbing themselves of the sexual enjoyment which is their right. When we feel happy and fulfilled we bring a positive energy to the relationship which is infectious.
  5. Shed unrealistic relationship expectations: I am a big believer in love and finding “the one”. Of course this does not mean finding a perfect soul-mate who will meet our every emotional and sexual need; this is a myth. I, nonetheless, think that there is a partner who is perhaps more suited to us than everyone else out there. There can be a sense of purpose or even destiny in partnering with someone who does share our vision and values. No one, however, is perfect. We should therefore shed unrealistic expectations. These can include beliefs that our partner should anticipate our every need, read our minds even before we speak, know exactly what we mean when we do speak, be the perfect lover, kisser, gourmet chef, provider, leader, handyman, disciplinarian, planner and the list can go on. While there may be such men somewhere out there on Mars, I haven’t met many of them. Of course I am not abdicating men of their responsibilities, but expect that a marriage will involve loads of mistakes, personality flaws, wrong decisions and hopefully some couple-growth in the midst of it all. Accept that neither of you is perfect and determine to improve together.

Ultimately, “cutting the crap” out of our relationships, involves cutting the crap out of ourselves. We need to flush away our own “stinking thinking” or flawed perceptions, so that we can emerge better individuals. While some may argue that from Dec 31st to January 1st, is just another twenty four hours, we normal human beings need times and seasons to make sense out of life. Let’s use this time to review, renew and to become re-energized for a better relationship in 2012 and beyond.


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