Ten Tips For Rekindling the Sizzling

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If you and your spouse have been together for a while, chances are that you’ve been dealing with relationship boredom at some level. There is no way around it; sex can and does get boring, our relationships grow stale and we can settle into a sense of inevitability. The passing of years, however, need not spell the death of novelty or excitement in our relationships. With a little forethought, planning and ingenuity, we can learn to turn things around. The following ten tips represent some of the strategies we may use, to actively keep  ourselves and our marriages fresh and interesting.

  1. Preserve a sense of mystery in the relationship by not doing every single thing together; whether man or woman pursue your own interests, bring something back to the relationship that you can discuss with your spouse; something with which he or she is unfamiliar
  2. Occasionally reinvent yourself; a new wardrobe, a fresh hairstyle, a manicure and pedicure can add some pep to your steps causing you to exude confidence and an irresistible sexiness; having the exact same hairstyle, using the same fragrance or the same method of applying make-up as when you first met spells bore, bore, bore. The same goes for the guys; keeping yourself well-groomed and making sure your wardrobe is current, shows that you understand that your woman is visual too
  3. Develop a new skill or pursue a new course of study, learn a second language or pursue a new hobby, which confirms that you are all about developing you
  4. Keep some personal rituals private; intimacy does not mean you have to “do the bathroom business” while having a conversation about the kids or the mortgage
  5. Keep your date-nights diverse; going out regularly does not mean eating at the same restaurant for five years in a row; introduce each other to new cuisine, remembering that eating together is a terrific way to bond
  6. Do something spontaneous and adventurous together; (bungee jumping, hiking, paragliding?) something that may reveal a whole new side of you that your partner may be totally unaware of
  7. Switch up your sex life as regularly as your busy schedule will allow; try sex in a new location, a different position, with new trinkets (lingerie, feathers, candles, music, silk, mirrors), you get my drift
  8. Agree to fore-go sex for about a week or so or longer if you can handle it (the longer the better for this experiment); practice lots of teasing touching and hot glances during this time with zero sex; come together afterwards for a night of explosive passion guaranteed to wake up the neighbours; this can definitely add some freshness to the routine which sex may have become
  9. Call your spouse with a surprise suggestion/plan that knocks him or her for six; for example, “your bags are packed and we’re spending the night/weekend at a hotel”, “I’ve arranged baby-sitting and we’re going out tonight”, “I’ve booked a spa day for you just so you could unwind”; being thoughtful or showing that you have your partner’s best interests at heart, is a sure-fire way to inject some needed energy into a flagging relationship
  10. Travel together as much as possible; being tourists in a foreign location can affect the way you see each other and you get to experience new sights and sounds in a mutually fresh environment

Is Jealousy Destroying Your Relationship?

Let’s patop-10-ways-to-deal-with-jealousyint a familiar scenario. You’re out at a restaurant with your partner when you notice his eyes wandering to the beautiful lady across the room or perhaps his eyes rested a bit too long on the backside of the attractive waitress. Immediately, you become incensed at the audacity of the man and this spoils your date night for the rest of the evening. Is this spate of intense jealousy a reasonable response to the common practice of the wandering male eye? Is jealousy ever permitted or is it always an out-of-place emotion which can do more harm than good?

One rule of thumb which must define any committed relationship is a sense of integrity. When mutual integrity forms the basis of a relationship, then partners will not readily act in ways to jeopardize or compromise that union. Having said that, with human nature being as fickle as it is, the road towards relationship integrity can be a rocky one. It is definitely a journey and not a destination. In other words, no relationship is immediately perfect. The preferred quality of your relationship will not be ideal  from the get-go but will require hard work and constant dialogue throughout the course of your lives together. So how then should we deal with that green-eyed monster if it rears its ugly head?

Setting realistic parameters for all opposite sex interaction which will occur in the course of your relationship, is advised. This simply means deciding together what is or is not appropriate. Realistically, we will find other people attractive from time to time. Being in love does not make us blind. Acknowledging attractiveness with a cursory glance should be fine. Dwelling on someone else’s attributes in a prolonged way, out rightly flirting with them or even being physical or playful whether or not our partner is there, is, however, disrespectful to our primary relationship. This behavior should be confronted, discussed and hopefully discontinued. Discussing relationship expectations in this regard is therefore critical and partners must be clear and consistent about what they will not tolerate.

On the other hand, jealousy can also be an unreasonable response which stems from insecurity and or immaturity. Sometimes an individual’s idea of commitment means total ownership and control. Of course this is a flawed idea but it exists in several relationships nonetheless. Controlling who your partner speaks to or glances at, even when such behavior is not disrespectful in any way, can mean that there are deeper issues at stake. Fear of abandonment, or fear of rejection in one partner, can contribute to such behavior. Infidelity in a previous relationship can also influence the lens through which we see daily interaction between our partner and others. This must also be confronted and exposed if a relationship is to assume a sense of normalcy.

These extreme examples aside, we may experience a fleeting sense of jealousy occasionally in the course of our relationship; this is human, normal and to be expected. We are in a relationship because we desire exclusivity and at heart we do want to be the only girl or guy in the world, in our partner’s life. Having said that, being open about deep, recurring feelings of insecurity or confronting our partner if his/her actions make us feel disrespected in any way, is also vital to the life and health of our relationships.

Beauty Brains And Bad Relationships

beauty brains and bad relationshipsWhile discussing the Rihanna-Chris Brown debacle recently at my hair salon, one patron attempted to sum it up philosophically with these words; “the heart wants what the heart wants”. For those of you not in the know, Pop sensation Rihanna has apparently re-kindled her romantic relationship with the man who literally pulverized her face a couple years ago. Why would a beautiful, wealthy, seemingly intelligent woman do this? For many of us strong, independent ladies, this leaves a decided distaste in the mouth. It’s not that most of us don’t have anything better to do than follow the love lives of celebrities but it is the principle of the thing that strikes a chord.

This prompts the question at the core of our discussion. Why do women stay in bad relationships? This is a difficult question to answer without perhaps asking several others.  For example, why should following one’s heart be advocated, if such is ill-advised or even likely to get one maimed? Should we always chase after what our hearts seem to want even if such is not good for us? Is the course of true love always that difficult or have we been fed a big lie with respect to the nature of love?

Most of us females schooled on stories of love have grown accustomed to the idea that we must find an all-consuming passion, in order to be happy or fulfilled. While love is characterized by self-sacrifice, we have mistakenly believed that this means sacrificing ourselves and our common sense on the altar of stupidity; all in the name of love. And Hollywood has not exactly helped.

With the names of popular romantic chick-flicks like “Crazy Stupid Love” “Only You” and “Head Over Heels” we’ve been steadily fed the idea that relationships are born out of some heady, magical string of coincidences which often force women, because of love, to act against their better judgment. I am not denying the headiness of being in love or the overpowering connection we can feel for someone. I am, however, convinced that we women need to look at love as a more holistic emotion; it should be one of strength and not of weakness. Loving a man should not mean having to sacrifice love of self.

Women stay in less than favorable partnerships for a number of reasons including low self-esteem, financial dependency, and co-dependency. Issues like children and finance, though resolvable, are external reasons why some women decide to stay. Self-esteem and co-dependency point to unresolved internal issues which need more specific attention. A co-dependent relationship is fueled by both individuals’ unhealthy need of each other and this need is powerful glue which can bind a couple together. A man may need his woman to be weak and needy or she may be stronger and need an indecisive man to feel in control. Some females from conservative back grounds may crave a “bad boy” type which makes them feel rebellious, powerful and worldly.

Dependency on a man or on a romantic relationship for feelings of worth makes a woman vulnerable to the point where she may tolerate anything to maintain that relationship. Tolerating emotional abuse, physical abuse or infidelity is a cry for help. Unfortunately many women are not in a place to assess their own behavior and hence continue in that place of weakness indefinitely.

What must a woman do if she needs to grow past the place of being victim especially when she feels at home in this role?  She should look deep within herself, to honestly evaluate her own happiness. Unfortunately, many women in unfavorable relationships are in denial and are blinded to their own victimization.  They, nonetheless, can be helped if they are lovingly confronted by friends and family. Forcing a girlfriend in this position to ask herself some critical questions may not make us the most popular friend, but it is a true demonstration of being our sister’s keeper.

Making a decision to walk away from a toxic relationship is a personal one which must emerge from a place of strength and resolve. While Rihanna may claim to “love” Chris Brown, we must ask whether or not she is demonstrating sufficient self-love at this time. And of course there is room for forgiveness and redefining of a relationship but a woman must be very sure; especially when abuse has been involved. Love does not make us responsible for someone else’s weaknesses but should actually help us lead that one we claim to love into personal accountability.

Many of us love too much pizza or too much dessert or even too much romance. Being a sucker to the latter can actually get us roped into unhealthy dependencies. Making a decision to stand on our own two feet even if alone for a while, is perhaps the ultimate salute to the idea of maturing womanhood.

How to Grow Your Relationship

holding_new_plant_o4i8I have to admit that I am no green thumb. Plants under my care tend not to thrive. The truth is that whenever I have had a young plant, I usually begin with loads of enthusiasm which tends to peter off as time goes by. If we think about it, many of us treat our significant relationships or marriages like this; we begin with enthusiasm only to allow them to languish in neglect.

And a relationship is like plant. It’s a living, breathing thing which requires loads of attention if it is to grow and thrive. If, however, we pursue our relationships on automatic pilot instead of with thought or intention, then we run the risk of missing valuable “growth-moments”. When that plant becomes dry and withered because of a lack of water, sunlight or nourishing soil, then it will take some pruning, watering and overall care to get it back to a healthy state.

If our relationship is suffering with neglect and needs an injection of life and renewal, then the following  pointers should help us maximize growth.

  • 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.
  • Take responsibility for your own happiness:  Ensuring relationship growth 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 our relationship or previous ones.
  • Practice 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. 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. This negativity can be reversed through daily declarations which affirm that we are indeed beautiful.  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.
  • Pursue dreams: Some of us 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 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. On the other hand, when we feel happy and fulfilled, we bring a positive energy to the relationship which is infectious.
  • Shed unrealistic expectations: Falling in love does not mean finding a perfect soul-mate who will meet our every emotional and sexual need; this is a myth. 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. Accept that neither one of you is perfect and determine to improve together.

Bouncing Back From An Affair

sexless-marriageThe idea of “bouncing back” from an affair actually doesn’t sit very well with me. It seems somehow to suggest a happy, cheerful recovery period and belies the stress inherent in dealing with the aftermath of infidelity. When I think of the movement past an affair, I tend to think more of a difficult, painful, reluctant crawl back to wherever that couple was before or hopefully to an even better place.

When a relationship which is designed to be sexually exclusive, is threatened by a third party, then that relationship runs the risk of becoming unglued at the seams. Sex with an “outside” partner, threatens the core of what marriage stands for; the idea of forsaking all others. While there are a variety of reasons why people cheat, if a coupe desires to move beyond the affair, then there is the need for honest reflection, to determine why the affair happened.

The source

People cheat for a variety of reasons including relationship neglect, boredom, sexual dissatisfaction, emotional disconnection, sexual greed, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and this list goes on. This knowledge of “why” is critical because it identifies the relationship’s weaknesses. If the couple intends to go forward, this information will be necessary to preserve relationship health and to safeguard it against future threats. This of course assumes that the underlying issues are exposed and remedied through honest and open communication.

Responsibility

While a knowledge of what made the relationship vulnerable to infidelity is great, the reason for cheating should not be used to excuse the act. In other words, the partner who understands why he/she cheated must also be willing to assume responsibility for the affair. It is therefore never kosher to intimate that your partner made you do it. The guilty party must own up to a moment of weakness, bad judgment, a lack of integrity, selfishness and the like. Admitting where you went wrong is critical to the experience of forgiveness.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness should be seen as a mutual, active process and not as a one-time event. The words “I forgive you” must never be forced or said prematurely. The victim of infidelity needs to be given time to grieve the relationship which was. This grieving process is experienced differently by individuals and may be evidenced by emotional and sexual withdrawal, depression, anger, rage, crying or sessions of screaming and throwing things. Whatever the case, it is critical that the victim of infidelity is allowed to vent before there is even am attempt at “fixing” things.

This venting is also often a process and not a one-off event which is characterized by the convenient forgetting of all that has occurred. An affair forever changes a relationship and even though healing is possible, what was lost can never be regained and as painful as this might be for both parties to accept, it must be, if there is to be true progress. This process may be assisted through counseling, therapy or personal pursuits like journaling which help to clarify difficult emotions.

Redefining

Redefining the damaged relationship is necessary and should be seen as an on-going part of the healing process. Deciding together how you want your new relationship to look is going to be a major step in getting your couple groove back. Since an affair involves a fair amount of deceit, then coming clean about all aspects of the affair will be critical to moving forward. This means a new commitment to honesty and accountability, in an attempt to rebuild trust. Questions are to be expected and should be answered candidly.

Since rekindling a healthy sex life is likely to be more challenging, the guilty party should take the cue from his/her partner. While sex itself can be a great healer, it should never be forced prematurely. At the same time, carving out special time together for meaningful communication, attentiveness, romantic gestures and the like, are useful strategies for reconnecting as a couple.

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.

COMPETES COLLABORATES
  • 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”.

 

Are You Trapped In The Relationship Maze?

Are you trapped in a relationship maze?

Many women today, from various walks of life, are making the same complaint; they can’t find a decent guy to settle down with. Most of my single girlfriends voice the complaint, that there seems to be a shortage of good men. Not to be left out of the fray, many males by their defining behavior seem to believe that the girls should perhaps just learn to share. And therein lies the problem. One of the defining characteristics of the male has been his propensity to be fairly generous in his affections and this happens to be the one trait which most of us women find intolerable! We love generosity but not when it comes to intimacies like love and sex.

So what should a girl do? Should she settle? Relax her standards a bit? Get rid of that old, never to be fulfilled impossible list? Accept the “generosity” of her erstwhile male friend? Forget her idea of an exclusive relationship which will lead to marriage? Or should she just settle for spinsterhood? Certainly, critical questions requiring critical answers.

Like any other aspect of life, relationships and our perception of them have the power to define us. From which ever quarters we gather our information, most of us have a fair set of defined standards and I’m not here to suggest that we lay them down by the riverside. It is important that we know what we are looking for, especially in the area of a life-partner. However, having had a couple of conversations with men, I am not at all convinced that the good breed has become extinct. Somehow I believe that the lines of communication have become crossed between today’s men and women and the result has been a polarization of both species. We think we know what each others’ problems are, so we have perfected the art of accusation without pausing long enough to really listen to each other. As it stands, the guys with the really canine activity get all the attention and the really decent ones get branded with the same brush and could perhaps be overlooked time and time again.

In the war of the sexes the fight is not always fair.

Now I really believe that men and women appear to be at cross-purposes because we have easily become locked into exclusive communication styles designed to keep each other out. We have developed an adversarial “us versus them” mentality which deepens our mutual suspicions and keeps each other at arms’ length. But let’s face it, in the war of the sexes, the fight is not always fair. So then how is a girl to spot a decent guy in this crazy relationship maze we have created? More so, how can such a guy get through to a girl without having his tail whacked in a trap as it were? Have we perhaps become trapped in a complex maze of our own making, guaranteed to keep us apart?

The relationship maze speaks in fact to the walls which are built between men and women, as a consequence of our flawed perceptions and mindsets; walls of misunderstanding, distrust and generalization. If we are to surmount the relationship barriers which we have erected, we first have to recognize, understand and then hopefully circumvent them in our quest for true love. Here are a few examples to go by:

What Women Say What Men Think
  1. I’m confident, independent and capable of making my own decisions.
  2. All a man wants from a woman is sex.
  3. I’m not yet ready to take our relationship to the next level.
  4. My biological clock is ticking.
  5. I wish you would be more supportive.
  1. You don’t need a man because you have it all going on; so I’m not that important to you.
  2. You don’t plan to give up the apple without a fight.
  3. You think I just want to use you.
  4. You’re ready for a marriage proposal and I’m the lucky guy.
  5. You want me to agree with everything you say.
What Men Say What Women Think
  1. I want to spend more time with you.
  2. I can’t get you out of my mind.
  3. I want you to look out for my needs; I have feelings too.
  4. Maybe we can start an exercise routine together.
  5. I want to take care of you.
  1. You want another opportunity to jump my bones.
  2. You want to wear down my resolve with sweet, flattering words.
  3. I can’t stand a sniveling guy and I’m definitely not your mother.
  4. You think I need to lose weight.
  5. You want to control me with your money.

Of course these are just a few examples which are not exhaustive by any means and according to culture and socialization they may change. They however do bring home the point that what we hear/think, is often filtered by our past experiences, the stories we’ve been told by our friends, what we witnessed as children and even by the male-female script presented in the media. The problem with this super-script is when we allow it to become gospel and accept it as the defining parameter for all of our relationships.

There will always be men who are unscrupulous and women who are users. This tendency to look out for numero uno at all costs is just a part of human nature which is unlikely to change. If we hope, however, to find true love, then we have to be willing to give each man or woman we encounter the courtesy of a “clean slate”. So if you’re hoping to get yourself out of this maze, take some advice.

Try not to lump all male and female behavior into the same mold, no matter how tempting it is to do so. Yes we do share several traits but give your new interest the opportunity to shine. Allow a guy or a girl a chance to prove themselves. Keep the channels of communication open and don’t assume that this guy is exactly like your last. Resist the urge to channel your past pain into a new relationship prospect. This does not mean acting naively or putting aside our common sense or our intuition, but it means giving that individual a brief opportunity to prove us wrong. It means keeping hope alive and not being deliberately adversarial or negative in our expectations. Basically it means practicing grace and graciousness, while admitting our own foibles.

Navigating the relationship maze does not mean dropping our guard or lowering our expectations or standards but it does mean adopting a mature response to the exciting opportunity of meeting new people. More importantly, navigating that maze also means looking inward to ensure that we are perhaps somewhere close to the ideal, we are so steadfastly looking for in a mate.

Are You a Sexual Terrorist?

Some of us have become locked into the practice of navigating our relationship strictly on our own terms. As a result, we have literally taken the “relate” out of the figurative “ship”, and what we are left with is a lopsided union which is quickly sinking. Relationships, by the very word, should be built on the concept of mutuality. This suggests a need for communication, dialogue and compromise. It means thinking in terms of a union or partnership to ensure that both individual’s needs are met or fulfilled. While selfishness in a relationship can be experienced in all quarters, it is perhaps nowhere as glaring or troublesome, as in the sexual department.

Sexuality in our postmodern age has most decidedly taken on an assertive have-my-needs-met-at-all-costs bent which screams at us from the covers of most magazines. While in some respects this may be great and should guard against things like sexual abuse in relationships, as with any new movement, too far east, is usually west. Yes, I am most definitely all for personal empowerment and the like but as a counselor and observer of human behavior, I am seeing a quality which for the purposes of our discussion I will name “sexual terrorism” (thanks to Danielle Norris for coining the term).

Now the sexual terrorist doesn’t actually hold a weapon to your head to have sex; at least not a physical one. Through the use of “emotional weapons” like overt demands, manipulations, angry complaints, put downs, threats, and the withdrawal of attention/affection; sexual terrorists attempt to control the sexual relationship so as to ensure that their every sexual demand is met. In an extreme scenario, violence could also be used. The sexual terrorist is more obsessed with his/her own needs than with a relationship which focusses on meeting the needs of their partner. Now before you accuse me of being a backward thinker, I have no problem with sexual assertiveness or with the celebration of individual sexuality. I am not suggesting that it is not important to desire sexual pleasure and fulfillment but if sex is all that defines a relationship what will happen if or when that desire starts to wane? Moreover, if sex is going to be all about one individual’s needs at the expense of another’s happiness, why don’t people just masturbate and call it a day?

Without having to fully dissect the topic of masturbation, some of us know intuitively that as instructive as some may tout masturbation to be, it could never be enough. The experience of sexual release does not take care of the problem of relational loneliness and the desire for meaningful human connection.  So why don’t the sexual terrorists among us get this? To be fair, some of us may just have been born with a selfish streak, which turns up, guns blazing, in our intimate relationships. Others may have had failed sexual encounters in the past which sort of “spoiled” them and made them intent never to be left wanting again. Others, through poor modeling, may just believe that being sexually assertive means catering to “numero uno”. Some with deeper emotional issues may even use sex as a form of escapism, resulting in obsessive/compulsive/addictive sexual behaviour. This can take its toll on the other partner who may lack sleep or adequate rest, as a result of these seemingly unquenchable demands.

There is a peculiar phenomenon among women today, who while grasping their sexual liberation with both hands, seem not to care what is lost in the process. So what was once categorized as shallow, selfish, “male behavior” is now being embraced by some women in a case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. As a consequence, far more women are hooking up for what they term “meaningless sex”. Even in relationships, they have become more obsessed with their multi-orgasmic potential or with their ability to “shejaculate”, in an attempt to match the national average. While I am not discrediting a search for more passionate ways to enjoy sex, we must not forget that a sexual relationship is also about giving; not just taking.

We were created as relational beings that derive social and emotional satisfaction from connecting with others. The concept of searching for and finding “the one” and then of “living happily ever after” exists in the fairy-tales and chick-flicks for a reason. It reflects an eternal, instinctive desire at the heart of the human being for meaning in life and relationships. Brain hormones like Oxytocin, which are released at birth and through the nursing of infants, are in fact also released through hugging, kissing and sexual intimacy. So from birth to adulthood, our hormones are directing us to connect or bond; not to pursue our own gratification selfishly.

So what happens when we go against this natural grain? What occurs when we become so obsessed with sexual pleasure, that the search for it ignores this human need and supersedes basic common sense, reason, good-judgment or values? What happens when we attempt to substitute the orgasm for a basic human need called love? What in fact happens is that people become reduced to genitals. What happens is that we objectify body parts and begin to reference sex in immature ways like “it”, “piece”, or ‘some”. Every woman becomes a walking vagina and every man a potential penis (never mind those who claim to like this) and then we wonder why we hop from relationship to relationship in a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction!

Could it be that we’re aiming for the wrong thing in search of a basic human need? Even the age old relationship question has changed from “are you the one I want to spend the rest of my life with?” to “are you the one I want to have sex with for the rest of my life?” This question suggests that if the sex isn’t good, then there’s little hope for the relationship. Men have even taken to sexting their genitals to women as a point of introduction. The underlying idea, flawed though it may be, seems to be that if a woman likes the look of the penis, she will likely give the man the time of day. Which man’s character can be accurately judged by the look of his penis? And for those who say such relationships are just about the sex and nothing more, try telling that to the press. Unfortunately, our character can never be dislodged from our sexual escapades; just ask Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods!

If you’ve evidenced any of this behavior first hand, chances are you are all too aware of the person of whom I speak. Maybe you’ve been sexually self-obsessed and are tired of the lack of relationship satisfaction you have been experiencing. Maybe the following can assist you in re-evaluating your current relationship philosophy. Most times it takes reflection, evaluation and even counseling intervention, to help us become more sexually whole or balanced individuals:

  1. Sex, as great as it is, can never be a substitute for feelings of value and self-worth. Your sexual identity is critical but you are not your vagina or penis.
  2. Relationships exist for mutual sharing not for bullying, coercing or dominating the will of another.
  3. It is important to respect your partner’s sexual choices and preferences.
  4. Catering to your partner’s sexual needs, as well as having your own needs met, is critical to a balanced relationship.
  5. A difference in sex drive is not an excuse for infidelity; relationships must be built on compromise and trust from both individuals.
  6. Your partner is not responsible for “giving you an orgasm”. Your sexual climax is primarily dependent upon your own thinking and feelings about sex, as well as on the understanding of how your body responds.
  7. Withholding displays of love and affection in an attempt to punish your partner is insensitive and immature.
  8. Withholding sex or using it as a reward or promise for “good behavior” demeans the significance of the act to you and your spouse.
  9. Expecting ‘sex-on-demand’ at all costs and fuming or pouting if is not had, is childish behavior which is completely unattractive and is likely to negatively impact your marriage.
  10. An addictive/compulsive dependence on sex, may signal a need for counselling or therapy.
  11. Kindness and thoughtfulness, as genuine displays of affection, can be the most powerful precursors to a sexually satisfying relationship.

Red Alert! What’s Wrong With This Relationship?

Sometimes things can go horribly wrong in a relationship. Watch this film short produced by Better Blends Relationship Institute & Red Red Apples in association with ULTIMATE PRESTIGE Media House and Fresh Productions. Just follow the link to watch on “YOU TUBE”.

Red Alert: The Very Short Film

From the Film Short, Red Alert!

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.

HEALTH CHECKLIST

  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.