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12 Monthly Themes Each Married Couple Should Commit To In The New Year

New year. Marriage upgrades. Let's do this.

Marriage

So, it was about this time last year when I penned “12 Monthly Self-Love Themes That Will Make This Your Best Year Yet” for the site. And in the spirit of cultivating even more love, I thought it would be cool to create 12 themes, specifically for married couples — things that can help them to not just “stay married” but thrive and flourish within their union as well.


If you happen to be married, I’ll just put it right on out there and say that none of these themes can manifest without some real effort on you and your boo’s part. Still, if you’re serious about making your relationship more solid and fulfilling than ever, by walking through all of these months with passion and intention, you could look up at the end of 2022, feeling closer to your spouse and more resolved that you made the best decision to say “I do” than you ever have. With that said, let’s get into these themes, shall we?

January: Forgiveness

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If you’re a single or engaged person reading this, please take me quite literally when I say that people who are bad at forgiving have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS getting married. The main reason why I say that is because, when you choose to share such a close and intimate space (figuratively and literally) with someone else, there are going to be times, often daily, when you will have to "pardon” something that was done or said.

In fact, from a spiritual perspective, a lot of folks would say that if you want to learn how to be more spiritual, forgiveness will help you to do it because it requires patience, humility (because humble people forgive because they know they need to be forgiven) and compassion for others. And when it comes to marriage, specifically, if folks want to get REALLY real about what a lot of divorces boil down to— it’s choosing to not forgive their spouse.

So yeah, married folks, starting off a brand and spanking new year by pondering where grudges may have been held, how to forgive better and how to move forward after forgiving your partner is definitely a great starting point for 2022.

February: Romance

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We all know what happens during the month of February — Valentine’s Day. Although I’m personally not a holiday chick, I do dig the story about how there was a chaplain by the name of Valentine who was martyred. Why? It was because he married people illegally during a time of war because he felt that men needed wives. Anyway, in the spirit of roses, candies and greeting cards, choose to be romantic, all month long. Write love letters. Go on never-done-this-before dates. Dance in the living room. Sprinkle rose petals on the bed and in the bathtub. Have dinner by candlelight. Customize a gift basket with your man’s favorite kinds of things in them. Get lingerie in his favorite color. Have a picnic in the living room. Reenact your first date. If you can, do something every day of the shortest month of the year, that would fall into the category of being romantic. You can never go wrong with this kind of intentionality. It’s good seed into good ground.

March: Newness

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When spring rolls around, it symbolizes newness. And whenever I think of this particular combo, the color green and a Scripture in the Bible that simply says “our bed is green” (Song of Solomon 1:16) comes to mind. Green symbolizes growth. Green symbolizes renewal. Green symbolizes fertility. Green symbolizes health, prosperity and progress. Sometimes, when a couple comes to me struggling with a particular issue, I will encourage them to get a plant and then handle the problem with the same kind of daily caring and nurturing that the plant requires. It helps them to realize how “fragile” certain things can be and how much commitment to finding a resolve is required. And so, in a month and season where all things are made new, determine to take a “fresh approach” to your relationship. Every day is new and you know what? You can be original in how you handle different aspects of your relationship every day too.

April: Expressed Emotions

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You know the saying — April showers bring May flowers. This reminds me of another verse in the Bible that says “sow in tears, reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5). You know, something that I am honored about, when it comes to my male friendships, is the fact that pretty much all of them have felt comfortable enough to express themselves by crying in my presence. And when you’re a wife, your husband should DEFINITELY feel the same way. That said, sometimes the hustle and bustle of life can get couples so caught up in just making it day by day that they stop having real conversations. They don’t “take each other’s temperature.” They don’t discuss what might be going on beneath the surface. I know I’ve shared before that one of my favorite quotes is “people change and don’t tell each other.” This happens, in part, because genuine emotions are not expressed in a safe environment. That said, setting aside time, just so the two of you can talk about how you’re really feeling (so long as it’s done in a respectful manner), can never hurt because it can help you both to get clarity on where you stand — and in a marriage, that is always beneficial.

May: Spontaneity

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The theatrical producer Wei Wu Wei once said, “Spontaneity is being present in the present” and I couldn’t agree more! At the end of the day, spontaneity is all about acting on your impulses because you absolutely want to seize the moment that you’re in. Spontaneous people email their partner a hotel key at work. Spontaneous people have sex in the kitchen while they’re cooking. Spontaneous people buy “just because” presents. Spontaneous people go above and beyond in their partner’s love language (like cleaning the entire house if acts of service is their thing or having a massage therapist come to their home if their partner is all about physical touch). In short, spontaneous people see their marriage as an adventure and treat it as such. There is absolutely no way that your marriage can’t improve, exponentially so, if you choose to be more mindful about it. Believe it or not, being spontaneous can help to make that happen. Act on a few impulses in May. See where it gets you.

June: Rededication

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Two of the most popular months for weddings continue to be June and October. Something that happens in, pretty much every wedding ceremony, are wedding vows.

Vows are promises. Vows are pledges. Vows are personal commitments. Vows ain’t nothin’ to play with. In fact, the Bible thinks so highly of vows that it says, “Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5) When it comes to this month and its particular theme, even if you got married at some other time throughout the year, use June as an opportunity to rededicate yourself to your husband and your relationship.

Print your marriage vows off and get them matted into a pretty frame. “Upgrade” your vows by building on the things that you’ve already said and then post those up where you and yours can see them on a regular basis. Formally or not-so-formally have a rededication ceremony. Do things that will remind the two of you why you chose each other to begin with and why you said the vows that you did in the first place.

July: (Sexual) Fireworks

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Even if you happen to have a “normal” sex life (check out “Married Folks: Ever Wonder If Your Sex Life Is ‘Normal’?”), even if you’re not like 15-20 percent of married couples and you’re not sexless (“What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage”), even if you, for the most part, respect the purpose that sex plays in a marital union (check out “10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important” and “8 ‘Kinds Of Sex’ All Married Couples Should Put Into Rotation”), there need to be moments when you are willing to take your sex life to another level in order to avoid routine, ruts (check out “7 Signs You're In A ‘Sex Rut’ & How To Get Out Of It”) and all out boredom.

July is the month where fireworks are the most popular so why not use that as a metaphor for your sex life? Plan a sexcation. Create a new sex-themed bucket list. Try some new positions. Play around with some sex apps. Buy some new things for your sex stash (check out “15 Simple-Yet-Kinda-Buck Items To Take Sex To Another Level”). Step outside of your traditional comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many married people have told me that the thought of having sex with one person for the rest of their life isn’t the “problem” (check out “10 Men Told Me Why They're Fine Having Sex With One Partner”); it’s the idea of redundant sex that drives them completely up the wall! The good news is with some creativity and passion, this can be avoided. Use all of July to prove this very point.

August: Travel

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There’s a married couple of over 30 years that I know who hasn’t taken a honeymoon and hasn’t taken a vacation together in over a decade (what in the world?). Every time I ask them what’s up, the wife defers to the husband while he keeps talking about all of the other things that need to be prioritized first. That’s a shame because one of the best ways for two people to spend quality time together is to travel. Even if it’s not something super extravagant that requires a passport, they should at least take a road trip together and stay at a quaint bed and breakfast in a city that’s a drive away. While I personally think that couples should take some sort of trip once a season, if you can’t do it any other time than in summer, plan to travel somewhere then. It can help the two of you to get off of the grid and really focus on each other. Do it enough and you’ll realize that travel is not a luxury; it is absolutely a necessity.

September: Budgeting

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I recently read an article that said married people have higher credit scores and also quite a bit more debt than single people do. As far as the debt goes, it’s about $113,000 worth. I also checked out that two-thirds of marriages start with debt (watch how much you spend on those weddings, engaged people) while spouses feeling like their partner misspends money increases the likelihood of divorce by 45 percent. The bottom line? There’s no way around the fact that financial responsibility is a key to having a thriving relationship. So, while you should be budgeting all year long (lawd, please make sure that you do), using September as a time to be hypervigilant in this lane certainly can’t hurt. Speak with a financial consultant. Set short- and long-term financial goals. Figure out where you can stand to cut corners. Determine where and how you want to save. Become more of a financial team. Being that financial drama continues to be a leading cause of divorce, taking this step is a surefire way to do your part in “divorce-proofing” your relationship. No doubt about it.

October: Holistic Affection

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A wise person once said, “Men need to be loved physically in order to love emotionally. Women need to be loved emotionally in order to love physically.” While processing this point, something that can help both genders to get their needs met in this way is affection.

Affection is basically doing things that express your love and devotion to your partner. It’s holding hands. It’s cuddling in bed. It’s verbally affirming one another. It’s touching while you both are talking. It’s validating what your partner has said. It’s being proactively attentive. It’s flirting over texts. It’s kissing on foreheads. It’s giving backrubs while watching television. It’s doing things that evoke warmth and tenderness between the two of you.

Just recently, I was talking with a couple who’d been married close to 45 years about the fact that while they are great friends, their intimate life had room for improvement, mostly because they know they aren’t as physically or verbally affectionate as they should be. Take heed to what they said. Affection is foreplay, on some way levels, in so many ways.

November: Family

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There’s an indie Black movie that I checked out a few years ago calledIncomplete. Without giving too much away, one of the main problems that the main married couple in it had was the wife was consumed with the idea of conceiving a child; so much that things got really out of hand. Anyway, one of the things that her husband kept saying was, “Why don’t you recognize us as a family?” Y’all, something else the Bible says is when a husband and wife are joined, he is to leave his parents and cleave to her (Genesis 2:24-25). I can’t tell you how many couples go through real unnecessary drama because they happen to miss this memo.

When you get married, you are basically saying that the family you were born into takes a backseat to the family you are now in with your husband. This means you’ve got to set some boundaries with your relatives. This means you and yours need to come up with some of your own traditions. This means that neither one of you can be caught up in what your mama or his mama did in their house as a way to justify doing it in yours (even though it’s not working). Family is important. Your marriage is your family. The more time you devote to making sure that it remains healthy and intact, the better off your union will be for years to come.

December: Goodwill

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According to biblical account, when Christ was born, an angel appeared to some shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Although legend has it that Christ was actually born in June (my birthday, to be exact), we know that a lot of people acknowledge his birth in December. And peace and goodwill (which is benevolence which is kindness)? Can you imagine how much better marriages would be if both people, on a consistent basis, came from a place of “How can I bring more peace to my marriage?” and “How can I be kinder to my partner?” So, in December, ponder those very things.

Ask your husband how he defines peace in a relationship. Then ask him how you can be kinder as he processes your answers to these same questions. The Bible also tells us that love is not rude (I Corinthians 13:5) and yet, I can’t tell you how many sessions I’ve sat in where husbands and wives have been the absolute rudest to one another. Be his peace as he’s yours. Be kind as he’s kind to you. Goodwill is a beautiful thing in a marriage, so end your year with as much as it as absolutely possible. It’s the best kind of way to express love. It really and truly is.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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