A few weeks ago, one of my clients asked me if I had watched a movie that has racked up about a billion (give or take) Oscar nods this year—A Marriage Story. I think because, as a marriage life coach, I feel like I see the movie, on repeat, every week, it didn't "move me" quite as much as it probably did a lot of other people. Still, I totally get why my divorced client—along with a friend of mine who said she cried while watching it—was a bit shook. The writing is extremely realistic. It also helps to prove a particular belief on marriage that I have. It's the belief that "big things" are not what typically rock a marriage to its core. No, it's usually very small things that go ignored or resentfully unaddressed that end up snowballing way out of control.
That is why I'm a huge fan of recommending marriage hacks to couples. Aside from seasonal therapy (which I also highly recommend; it's like a routine oil change for your relationship), it's one of the best ways to keep little issues from eventually becoming gigantic problems. It's also one way to hopefully avoid becoming the real-life version of one of this year's most popular films.
1. Write a Marriage Mission Statement
If you go to Wikipedia to see how it defines a mission statement, this is a part of what it will say—"A mission statement is a short statement of why an organization exists, what its overall goal is, identifying the goal of its operations…" And yes, while a lot of mission statements are penned for businesses, I personally am a huge fan of them also being written for personal reasons. Ask any married couple who's passed the newlywed phase and they will vouch for the fact that it's the kind of union that also needs clarity on why the relationship exists, what the overall goals are and what needs to be done in order to reach those ambitions. If right now, it feels like, although you and your spouse are "in it to win it", you're not really sure what that means or how to get where you want to go, take out a couple of hours one weekend to write a mission statement together. Then post it somewhere where you both can see it. This very simple marriage hack could be what brings clarity to the purpose of and desires for your relationship.
2. Go on a Positivity Fast
If someone were to ask you right now to mention seven things that totally irk you about your partner, I'm willing to bet the money that I will get from writing this article that you can rattle those things right off. Yet isn't it interesting that, if someone were to also ask you to share 10 things that you adore about your spouse, chances are, it would probably take a lot more time? A part of the reason why a lot of us roll that way is due to something known as a "negativity bias". It basically means that our brains have a tendency to not only take in negative stimuli more easily but we oftentimes dwell on it too.
One way to "reprogram" yourself is to be intentional about focusing on the positive. One way to do this in your marriage is to tell yourself (and your partner) that you are going to go three, five or seven days without saying anything negative. Instead, you are only going to state positive words towards and about them.
The affirmations will make your spouse feel loved, respected and appreciated. Plus, putting good energy into your relationship will help you to see your marriage from a "glass half full" rather than a "glass half empty" perspective. And that always will work in your favor.
3. DIY a Hotel Bed
People who know me know that I am good for hooking a married couple up with a hotel room, free of charge. Although it's been a minute since I've had hotel sex (le sigh), I still have my memories and there is something about a hotel bed that makes coitus extra bomb! But man, when I went to book a Valentine's Day reservation recently, the rooms in Nashville were averaging between $350-400 a night. Geeze. That has given me the idea to also start doing DIY hotel room gift baskets. Basically, they're baskets with high thread-count sheets, new pillows, some essential oils and possibly a pillow mattress cover, if needed.
Listen, while incorporating a sex jar can help you to save money so that you can engage in a lil' bit of hotel copulation, if times are tight right now, one way to make sex extra hot is to DIY your own hotel bed. A change of bedding and a few candles can do miracles. You'd betta believe it.
4. Do a Project Together
One of my closest male friends calls me a "king maker". Out of all of the affirmations that I've received, that one definitely ranks up in the top three because he told me that it means that I like to do my part to help men to win. He's right. That's why I consider myself to be a complementarian which basically means that I believe that men and women were created equally yet differently, in part, in order to complement one another and bring balance to each other's lives. So, if you're a single woman who desires to be married someday, please make sure that the man you choose shows clear signs of being a "queen maker"—that you both are invested in building each other up in as many ways as possible.
If you're already married, one way to do this kind of building is for you and your spouse to pick a project that you can do together. It can be something around the house. It can be taking a class or course together. Or, it could be putting together an annual bucket list and seeing how many things you can check off of it come Christmas. Sometimes, life is so crazy, that couples forget that they are there to help to share the load, dream together, and use each other's resources to accomplish certain goals and aspirations. The more two people function as a team, the more bonded they tend to be.
5. Forgive. ASAP.
Something that I tell single and engaged people often is, if you're not good at forgiving someone (including yourself), you are going to suck at marriage. Keeping this in mind, while it might be an "ouch" moment for some, when you think about the root cause of a lot of divorces out here, many of them stem from unforgivingness. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons why a lot of people struggle so much with marriage is because they have too much pride, fear and/or ego to accept that someone else is just as human and flawed as they are. The reason why I say that is because, it's real interesting how much we want to be forgiven for what we do (or don't do), but the moment someone else desires the same empathy, compassion and pardon, we emotionally shut down.
Forgiveness isn't easy. Whew, not at all. But some of the healthiest people with the longest-running marriages will tell you that if you want your marriage to thrive, accepting the humanness of your partner, not holding grudges and learning to let stuff go are some of the best ways to do that.
The Bible even co-signs—"When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down." (Ephesians 4:26—AMPC) Another way to look at this is, "Forgive others as quickly as you expect God to forgive you." (A writer named Sylvia Grace once said that.) If the Word ain't your thing, a great quote by author Bryan H. McGill says, "There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love." Show your partner how much you love them by forgiving them. It really is one of marriage's superpowers and the key to not only saying "until death parts us" but actually meaning it.
6. Recreate Your First Date
Romance is important to the health and well-being of a relationship; especially a marriage. This definition of the word is a big reason why—"to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness". No one wants to feel like their spouse isn't "wooing them" anymore, simply because they are "officially" together. If it's been a while since you and your partner have done something to make you blush or him grin, a simple way to bring the romance back is to recreate your first date. No matter how elaborate or simple it was, there is always something super sweet about revisiting the moments when you both first saw a spark (or a potential one) between the two of you.
7. Participate in a 7-Day Climax Mission
There are a lot of married people who've told me that the longer they are with their spouse, the better their sex life becomes. To me, that makes total sense because even the King James Version of the Bible uses the word "know" to define sexual intimacy (the New King James Version of Genesis 4:1 is a good example of this). The more you get to know someone and they get to know you, the more pleasurable the relationship can be. And, the more two people get to know one another, the better they become at figuring out what turns their partner on and what doesn't; what will make them climax and what won't.
That's why, whenever I'm dealing with a sexually frustrated spouse who tells me that it's been a while since they've had an orgasm, one eyebrow—if not both—goes up. "Have they ever made you cum?" is usually my first question. If the answer is "yes", then I tell them that if it happened before, it can happen again. Next, I suggest that they go on a 7-day climax mission—and yep, it's just what you think it is. The reason why I've penned articles like "10 Simple Ways Married Couples Can Make More Time For Sex" is because, while it would be cool if all sex sessions could be like 90s R&B songs, not everyone has time for all night long sex, all of the time. But you know what you can make time for? Getting your partner off. And if you've been paying even 50 percent of attention to their body, that is something that you can make time to pull off every day, for a week straight—easily. If doing this doesn't make the two of you happier and ultimately bring the two of you closer together, I promise you that I don't know what will!
8. Go on a Road Trip
There are some couples I know who've been married for years and can count on one hand how many times they've taken a romantic trip together (including their honeymoon). That's sad, y'all. Spending quality time away with your boo should not be seen as a luxury; it should definitely be treated as a necessity, especially since there are studies to support the fact that traveling together causes couples to feel closer to one another. Not only that but one article I read stated that couples who go on vacations feel like they have similar goals and desires, that they are able to handle their differences better and that they have more fun together too.
Even if you're not ballin' and you can't get away on a cruise or even catch a flight to another state any time soon, at least try and fit a road trip in a couple of times a year. The time alone in the car, coupled with spending a few days being totally off of life's grid can be just what you need to breathe new life and romance into your union.
9. Pray and/or Meditate Together
I recently read an article that stated some of the health benefits that come from praying. Some of them include the fact that praying makes you more positive, reduces stress, gives you stronger coping mechanisms, increases your ability to forgive, and even adds years to your life. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because, whenever I deal with a couple that's in trouble, there are usually two things that they are not doing—praying and having sex. When you see all of the good things that come out of doing both (for the sex point, check out "10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important"), why wouldn't you want to incorporate them into your relationship as much as possible?
On the prayer tip, it can be having prayer together in the morning or before turning in at night. Or, if prayer isn't your thing, consider taking out 10-15 minutes to meditate together instead. I once read an article that provided 100 physiological benefits of meditation. If you take it a step further and turn it into an orgasmic meditation exercise, you might find that prayer and/or meditation are the hacks that could be totally life-saving when it comes to your relationship.
One more hack, y'all and it's an easy one. When's the last time that you and yours cuddled? I don't mean getting close as a lead into foreplay. I mean just sitting on the couch while being draped over one another or curling up in each other's arms while engaging in some pillow talk? Yeah, don't sleep on cuddling. It's proven to lower inflammation, ease chronic pain, boost immunity, relieve anxiety and improve one's quality of sleep. Also, since cuddling is a surefire way to boost the "love hormone" known as oxytocin (which can instantly make you feel closer to your partner), it's the kind of activity that can cause your mind, body and spirit to feel connected to your partner in a very sweet, sentimental and intimate kind of way. Try it tonight. Watch how it benefits your union—how a simple thing like experiencing a long hug from your life partner can totally get your marriage back on track.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images