Tag Archives: marriage improvement

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.



How Is Your Post-Valentine Relationship?

man-roses-mainOkay; so the yearly annual red roses hype has ended. The flowery words in cards of red and white have been stashed away by vendors until next year. Some of you may be out of pocket by a few bucks depending on how seriously you adhere to the Valentine’s Day tradition. Whatever the case, another special occasion for the expression of love has passed. So what’s next in your significant relationship? Although a die-hard romantic who loves romantic gestures, I’m always inclined to think that the true state of a relationship is tested outside the marketing hype of any special holiday. Romance must not be viewed as an act or posture we assume because it’s popular or because it will hopefully get us some sex. It should also never be used to manipulate the one we claim to love. Am I purporting that we should get all cynical and boring and ditch the roses? Of course not! But what is our relationship really like the many mornings after Valentine’s has passed? Is romance just a seasonal thing with us? Do we really value our partner and do we let him/her know it? Seasons and special days are important because they should allow us to creatively affirm our love. They should provide a context for our partner to feel special. Maintaining authentic expressions of love and appreciation outside of these times is, however, also imperative. If we’re to really make our relationships strong for the long haul, then we must engage in positive acts which demonstrate that our love is more than mere talk. In a classic case of putting our money where our mouth is, putting the love we feel into action should demand our willingness to spend our time, money and resourcefulness. For those who may think this is complicated or for those who may feel fresh out of ideas, the following tips provide some great tips for improving your relationship post-valentine’s and beyond.

  •  Cook your partner’s favorite meal and do a special decorative layout of such; this can be especially meaningful on a regular day when it’s totally unexpected
  • Do an at-home massage or spa treatment complete with scented candles and oils to create that setting which says that your loved one is truly special.
  • Send your partner to a classy spa for a full day of expert handling and relaxation.
  • Volunteer to babysit the kids so your wife can go shopping or simply hang out with the girls.
  • Pre-purchase tickets for your guy’s favorite game.
  • Buy your partner that special electronic toy or gadget which you know he’s had his eyes on for the past couple of months.
  • Send flowers when there’s no special occasion.
  • Give your spouse the time to work on a special project or to pursue his/her passion by holding down the fort at home.
  • Take over a regular at-home chore for which your partner is primarily responsible.
  • Wash your partner’s car.
  • Surprise your partner with a new book from his/her favorite author.
  • Write your lover a letter or e mail which itemizes why and how much he/she is loved.
  • Send a special love-song request via the local radio station.
  • Buy your lover a bottle of her favorite wine and make some time to share it.
  • Massage your partner’s neck, shoulders and or feet after a tired day at the office; especially without being asked.
  • Make a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or blend a favorite cocktail or health-drink for your spouse.
  • Plan a surprise romantic getaway weekend or trip for you and your spouse.
  • Buy that sexy lingerie or those crotch-less panties you long go see your woman in and do all kinds of hot things to her to let her know just how much of an effect she’s having on you.
  • Arrange babysitting if necessary or get away from home and plan to get it on with your partner with a night of steamy, uninhibited lovemaking.


Sex After Infidelity

cheating-husbandAfter a confession or the discovery of sexual impropriety, a decision to stay together is going to be filled with challenges. One of the primary places where the effects of infidelity are likely to be experienced is the bedroom. How does a couple reclaim their sexual groove after one of them has cheated?

The Cheater
Waiting It Out: If you’re the guilty party it may be important to communicate that while you still want to connect sexually, you are willing to wait for as long as your partner needs, to feel emotionally ready to resume intimacy. This communicates genuine remorse and a willingness to be selfless; especially since your act of indiscretion will reek of selfishness.

Talking It Over: Understand that the period of waiting is likely to be punctuated by long questioning sessions which will pry for sexual details; it is likely that the victim of infidelity will be consumed by a need to know incidents and details of time and place. Curiosity may also be extended to the nature of sex acts participated in. This time can be made easier by not erecting further barriers with silence but by answering questions as honestly as possible.

Sensitivity In The Sack: Most likely, your partner will be consumed with thoughts of the other man or woman. It is imperative that you go slowly when the time for lovemaking comes or at least take the lead or cue from your partner who has been hurt. This sensitivity should include lots of verbal affirmations which are intimate and loving. Be sure to let your partner know why you married her, how much he is loved and how much you appreciate her staying in the relationship. Affirm your partner’s beauty or brawn and use loads of eye contact which confirm how truly sorry you are.

Maximising The Moments: Sex with your spouse after confessing an affair is likely to be more about emotional and spiritual re-bonding than about the quality of an orgasm. Use this time, nonetheless, to cement your reconnection by focusing on your spouse’s pleasure. The vulnerability that occurs, because everything is out in the open, can actually increase the intensity of passion.

The Cheated
Admit Your Pain: There is no greater disservice you can do to your marriage then to attempt to trivialize the impact of an affair. It is imperative that you articulate your disappointment and hurt. This may involve screaming, crying, throwing things, journaling, talking to a counselor or even moving out of the bedroom for a while. If you are to experience great sex again without feeling victimized, sharing the depth of your pain with your spouse is critical.

Focus On You: There is a huge temptation after being cheated on to blame yourself—your lack of attractiveness, lack of sexiness and the like. This is particularly true of women. It will take a Herculean effort at this time to reach inside yourself to find the worthwhile, sensual woman who deserves to be loved despite your spouse’s act of indiscretion. For husbands as well, images of your wife making love to another man can be disconcerting to say the least. It is critical, therefore, to disassociate yourself sexually from what your spouse did and to refuse to accept blame. It is also critical to pay attention to your own sexual health by getting tested for any STDs.

Resist The Temptation To Compare: Wondering if you are better in bed than your spouse’s lover is likely to be an obsessive thought but is actually counter-productive. Studies consistently show that many have affairs while still having great or adequate sex at home. The motivation for an affair usually has little to do with the quality of sex and tends more to be linked to life-challenges, transitions, depression, a weak moment or feelings of inadequacy. When these thoughts come, focus on how you can make your love life even better. Dwell on the fact that you and your partner have decided to stay together; this must mean something in terms of how you feel about each other.

For Both of You

Putting Sex in Perspective: After the confession of an affair, resuming sexual intimacy may be the last thing on your minds as a couple. Anger, bitterness, resentment and remorse are likely to be the dominant emotions and not sexual passion or desire. While communication about the affair and even counselling by a professional will be critical at this stage, resuming an exclusive sexuality in your relationship is also important. Sex, however, should not be used to cloak or cover the serious issues which may have contributed to the infidelity in the first place.

Redefine To Reconnect: If you, your marriage and your sex life are to survive this juncture, it is critical that you seek to redefine your marriage. This involves acceptance of the affair as an event of the past which cannot be altered. This process is, of course, a lot easier if the guilty partner cooperates in these efforts by developing new levels of openness and honesty. The result is likely to be improved communication and greater levels of intimacy, which are often precursors to a better sexual relationship.

Denise J Charles is Director & Counsellor/Coach at Better Blends Relationship Institute e mail betterblends@gmail.com

Kick-Starting Your Relationship In 2013

NEW-YE~1Most of us look towards the prospect of a new year with loads of excitement. Although the new-year is really only the turning over of one other 24hr period, somehow, we humans continue to imbue it with a remarkable power to change the course of our lives.  When you think about it, times and seasons are really reference points which allow us to reflect on where we are and to set goals towards where we want to be. What better area to do this in than in our relationships? The prospect of a new-year should therefore provide us with fresh impetus to bring much needed change to our intimate relationships. Making a relationship assessment is much easier when we look at the critical areas that allow us to evaluate our level of happiness or satisfaction. Even if we have cruised through 2012 without much fuss, making a commitment to kick-start our relationship should begin with our determination to make it better in all the critical areas.

Commit to more open and honest communication in 2013. Sometimes bad relationship habits like skirting on the truth, telling white lies, convenient omissions or failure to confront, can take their toll on a relationship. Deciding to be up-front and honest about those relationship issues which rub you the wrong way is a sure-fire way to keep the communication channels open between you and your partner. While there is some scope for overlooking some idiosyncrasies in your spouse, it is important that critical issues are not continuously neglected. The truth is that even when we believe we’re not rocking the boat by discussing volatile issues, our body language or even the way that we treat our partner, becomes a powerful communicator of our unhappiness. Deciding to take our communication of dissatisfaction to the next level through open discourse, is a far more healthy way to encourage the resolution of problems.

Couple Time
Admittedly, our lives today are ridiculously busy. Between our professional lives, family commitments, pursuit of studies and recreational activities, we can sometimes feel a serious tug-of-war pulling us in several directions at once. Carving out special couple-time is critical for preserving that sense of special intimacy which should characterize a committed relationship or marriage. Kick-starting your relationship in 2013 should therefore include a decision to regularize date-nights. Date nights need not mean that we must break the bank every time with extravagant dinners but can include simple activities like movie-nights, romantic walks on the beach, home -dining, dancing and the like. Doing such activities together minus the kids or even with another couple, can be a powerful reminder of why we got together in the first place and can serve to keep the spark alive.

Super Sex
When our sex degenerates into a boring, hum-drum activity which we always do on morning rush-hour with eyes half-closed, we know that we have a problem on our hands. Even if the sex is not as extreme as described here, any move towards relationship enhancement must take stock of the state of the bedroom. So how will you rev things up in the sex department this coming year? Well; actually getting out of the bedroom may be a good place to start. Deciding to be a tad risqué by making out in your car, patio or garden (of course with privacy observed) may be a great way to add some excitement to your sex. Of course for those of us with really busy lives or small kids, committing to actually having regular sex, even minus the frills, may be a great starting point. Scheduling sex need not be a boring, predictable alternative to zero sex, since some sex is actually way better than none at all. Planning for passionate encounters, however, allows a couple to roll out the champagne, the rose petals, the music, the scented oils, the flavoured condoms, the adventurous lingerie and the like. These are the things which admittedly we can’t do every week but when we do take the time to include them, they can make our sex something really special. Let your sex goal of 2013 be the shedding of sexual inhibitions, as you and your spouse strive for something new.


Ultimately, the best way to inject a sense of newness into our relationship, is to inject some newness into ourselves. Very often our relationships are stale and boring because we’ve become stale and boring. A failure to change something as peripheral as a hairstyle, make-up, or style of dress, can be indicative of the fact that we may be stuck in a time warp. Surface changes should not just be seen as mere treks into vanity, but can indicate a willingness to try new things. This penchant for “the new” can actually spill over into other areas of the life. Pursuing studies, taking up a foreign language, learning a new skill or hobby is a great move towards self-investment. Not only will you benefit from your new-found enthusiasm and zest for life but this new, more fulfilled, more interesting and sexier you, is likely to be far more enticing to your partner.

Making a commitment to developing the self can be parallel to our commitment to developing our relationship, as we head into the new year together.




Are You Competing In Your Relationship?

One of the cardinal rules of marriage is to recognize that you and your spouse are on the same team; at least you should be. Yes, we live in a world that is rife with competition. From the time we enter school, or an athletics team or land our first dream job, we are competing to prove that we are better than everyone else. In all spheres of life, “winning” invariably brings us recognition. It validates our efforts and affirms our worth. Then we get married and everything changes. Suddenly we find ourselves in a partnership where competition can be a real enemy and where we have to re-school ourselves with regards to putting someone else’s needs before our own; namely those of our spouse.

So how do two high-achieving, driven, ambitious partners play out their marriage without hurting each other in the process? And is competition always as lethal as it sounds? I believe that even before we begin to think about marriage; like in the earliest stages of our committed relationship, we have to begin to envision ourselves as a team where we the parties, basically have each others back.

Depending on how we were raised and on our earliest life experiences, competing for attention and feelings of self-worth may be akin to breathing. Many of us in the human-services  field recognize a distinct difference between the child who in her formative years was lavished by the attention of one or two primary adults, versus the child who was forced to clamor for attention at day-care. One appears more settled and secure and seems to have less of a point to prove, while the other may have perfected the art of screaming for attention to ensure his primary needs were met.

Many of us Psychologists believe that this behavior follows us well into our adolescent and adult years. While of course this is one generalization, it brings home the point that apart from our own natural instinct for survival, social conditions often force us to focus on our own needs first and having them met. Yes, to some extent this may be all well and good but very often it can be at cross-purposes with the higher, more selfless ideals of marriage.

If we truly understand marriage to be a supportive partnership hinged on collaboration and NOT competition, then there are perhaps some critical areas which we may need to pay attention to. The truth is, we very well might not be able to guard against competitiveness in marriage unless we can first recognize it in ourselves. The following lists are designed to help you assess whether your relationship with your spouse is competitive or collaborative.

  • You believe you are always right and have no qualms about saying “I told you so”
  • You are big on emphasizing the things you do better than your spouse
  • You boast a lot to friends and family about your achievements while neglecting to mention your partner’s
  • Even in recreational activities and games, if you don’t win, you tend to sulk or pout
  • You panic if your partner excels at something you tend to do well or feel mildly resentful at his/her accomplishments
  • In your relationship you carry an air of superiority


  • You cheer your partner on when he/she excels at something
  • You see your partner’s achievements as an extension of your own
  • You see your relationship as a team and you strive for mutual support
  • You boast to friends and family about your spouse’s achievements
  • You value  your partner’s opinion and often seek his/her advice, especially before making critical decisions
  • You believe that you and your partner complement each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses

While I don’t necessarily believe that all competitiveness is intrinsically evil, I definitely don’t believe that marriage or a committed relationship is the place for it. Competitiveness in our relationships can alienate our partner from us and can succeed in driving a wedge between us. This can leave our relationship vulnerable and open to more friendly and supportive external influences which could be lethal; if you get my drift.

In a relationship where we feel celebrated and supported, we are motivated to rise above our daily challenges. This in fact empowers us to be our best self and redounds to the benefit of the relationship. Support should however be mutual and not lopsided. If your partner is the one competing with you, then don’t tolerate this. Lovingly confront your partner, encouraging him/her to take personal responsibility for change.

If you find yourself to be overtly competitive with your spouse and find it particularly hard to shake the habit, then this may be worth some personal reflection or deeper exploration with the help of a counselor. If you are ambitious and competitive on the job, you may also need to drop this attitude once you reach home, recognizing that your marriage should not be a hostile war-zone. Taking the time to discover how you, as a couple, can be best together is a vital part of building a strong collaborative partnership where each of you “wins”.


Your Relationship Health-Check

It's important to know how healthy or unhealthy your relationship is.

Whether you’ve been with that guy for a long or short time, whether you’ve been thinking about marriage or have already tied the knot, now is perhaps a great time to give your relationship a health check. Just as there are known indicators of physical health, relationships carry their own set of indicators, which let us know whether or not they are functioning as they should. Healthy relationships by their very definition are likely to fill us with a sense of peace and well-being; they build our self-esteem and affirm that we are worthy of being loved. They easily confirm that we have made a correct relationship choice or that our hard work on the union, has paid off.

Conversely, a negative relationship scenario breeds unhappiness, depression, instability and uncertainty. While we can spot such a relationship a mile off, we can yet become hooked on it. The truth is that many of us experience our relationships in automatic pilot, giving little thought to what the “state of our union” is telling us. We live and let live because we cannot imagine being on our own. We are so desperate to be connected or are so “in love with love”, that we are willing to tolerate almost anything, in the name of a “love relationship”.

The following checklist, while not exhaustive and definitely not scientific, can provide a fairly good gauge for where our relationships are health wise. Each measure represents a specific “relationship ideal”. While we may each have peculiar or individual relationship ideals, there are several commonly shared ones, which we know intuitively, define a healthy relationship. Please feel free to also add your own ideals which I may not have mentioned.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 0-4 represents “unsatisfactory” on a particular measure; this behaviour never happens, is virtually non-existent or happens only occasionally; 5-7 is “moderate” or “average”; this means the measure is sometimes true but not dominant enough to be a defining characteristic and 8-10 represents a high level of satisfaction or of “relational health” since the particular measure always or almost always defines the relationship. The higher the score is on a greater number of measures on our checklist, then, presumably, the healthier that relationship is. Where any behaviour identified is practiced more by one partner than the other, then the score there can only be moderate at best. We admit however, that many of our relationships are in active progress and have not or will never likely “arrive” with a perfect 10. By the same token, health can also indicate having an awareness of what is critical, knowing what needs to be worked on and having an active plan to do so.

This information should hopefully encourage us to make some critical decisions to enhance or improve our relationships. It may even indicate where we need to make critical changes in our own behaviour or where in extreme situations, we may need to move on.

In order to assess your relationship’s health, please score each of the following items from 1-10, to indicate how healthy your relationship might be. Another interesting spin on this, would be to have your partner independently score the checklist and then compare notes. It would be instructive to note whether your perceptions of your relationship are the same.


  1. Couple time: You each enjoy spending quality time together and this is a priority in your relationship. You therefore make deliberate plans like date-nights, shared recreation and the like, to strengthen your couple-time together.
  2. Emotional and sexual boundaries: You are each aware of the need to establish emotional and sexual boundaries with members of the opposite sex.  This means that you deliberately avoid volatile situations like late night dinners with work colleagues, secret Facebook accounts, internet chat room friends, sharing intimate relationship details, sexually flirtatious behaviour and the like.
  3. Demonstrations of love and affection: You each find tangible ways to demonstrate love and affections which include (but are not limited to) hugging, kissing, gifts (in and out of season), favours, caring for the other during illness, helping with chores, sharing home and parenting responsibilities, and vocalising love
  4. Partner priority: Your partner and his or her happiness is your priority. You demonstrate loyalty to each other and your friends and family know how important you are to each other.
  5. Shared goals: While you each may have diverse or individual goals which may be career oriented, academic or some other type, there are common couple/family goals which you share and can work towards together; for example owning your own home, securing investments, planning a trip etc. Even where goals are individual, there is mutual support given.
  6. Shared values: Basically you share the same fundamental beliefs about God, life, morality, politics, rearing children etc. Even where cultural/social differences may see some distinctions in beliefs, these are “liveable” and are not critical enough to cause a serious divide in the relationship.
  7. Clear expectations: You have each communicated what your expectations are in the relationship or the communication about expectations is on-going. These may include issues like marriage, gender-roles, children, financial responsibility, plans for retirement, savings, family worship, sexual experimentation, and emotional and sexual fidelity.
  8. Individual identity & completeness: You each know who you are; you have come to terms with certain issues from your past and are whole or complete individuals. Even if this is not entirely the case, you are actively working towards defining who you are and your own happiness.
  9. Communication: The channels of communication between you are clear. You are each expressive of your own opinions, even when these are different from your spouse’s/partner’s. You not only talk but you are both keen listeners who have learned to also interpret your partner’s body language/facial expressions.
  10. Sexual compatibility: You are each sexually aware of your own needs and desires but see great sex as a work in progress. Having a great sexual relationship (even if you are abstaining until marriage) is paramount to you. You are both open to discovering more about sex and sexual responsiveness. You each see sex as the ultimate expression of a committed love relationship and believe that it is the highpoint of your marriage (where applicable).
  11. Management of Negativity: You are both able to manage the challenges or negative scenarios (differences of opinion, disappointments etc) which can happen in a relationship, without becoming negative or abusive. You attempt to deal with anger and disagreements without allowing them to escalate.
  12. Absence of abuse: You do not physically strike or insult and berate each other.

While my unscientific checklist does not yield a total score which will determine that your relationship is healthy or unhealthy, you are free to examine individually or as a couple your performance on each item. This will assist you in determining what is unsatisfactory in the relationship, what is just average and what you can take a bow about.