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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 is absolutely possible. It’s the best kind of way to express love. It really and truly is.
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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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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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