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These 7 Things Will Start Your Marriage Off Right In 2021

It's a new year. Here's how to make it your best one yet.

Marriage

Here we are. At the beginning of yet another year. And let me just say that if you and yours were able to survive 2020, you should already pat yourself on the back. I'm. Not. Playing. Still, I'm pretty sure that on your wedding day, when you exchanged your vows with each other, the goal wasn't to "barely make it"; it was to see how high the two of you could soar—together.

I'm a huge fan of marriage so I'm all about that. That's why I sat down, reflected on the sessions I had with couples last year and came up with seven things that I think can help all husbands and wives start off the new year on the right foot. Because you know what? You deserve it. Your husband does too.

1. Focus on Your Friendship

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I've said it before because it's something that I wholeheartedly believe. If you are single and desire marriage, focus on establishing a friendship with your significant other more than putting a ton of energy into turning them into a potential mate. Why? So that if/when you do get married, friendship will be the foundation of your relationship. When that happens, even during the moments when you don't feel so attracted or even "in love" with your spouse, the friendship, the fondness, the like that you have for them will see you through.

This is actually why I think it's important that we learn more about what it means to have and be true friends, whether we're single or not. In the article, "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships", the traits that I listed were loyalty, honesty, protectiveness, support, compassion, good communication, respect, availability, selflessness and a safe place. Now sit and think about it for a moment—how much can a marriage really suffer if these things are intact? Are there seasons when sometimes a marital union has more highs than lows? 1000 percent. Yet, I have had some close friends and clients who literally survived the last few months of trying times within their marriage because they were able to rely on the friendship that they had with their spouse.

I tell the people that I work with often that if they are still "in like" we can get back to love because folks tend to have a much more "I got you" attitude towards their friends than they ever do towards their spouse (crazy, right?). And again, a big part of that is due to them actually valuing friendship (sometimes more than marriage). So, if you're married, the 10 traits of a friendship that I just mentioned? Strengthen those this year. In the good times, it'll make your marriage that much sweeter. In the not-so-good, it can get you to the other side.

2. Enhance Your Intimacy

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The Hebrew word for intimacy is "yada". It means "to know". I always find that interesting because, in the New King James Version of the Bible, when a husband and wife would copulate, "know" is the word that was used to explain it (Genesis 4:1), for example. And honestly, when two people take vows to be with one another until one of them transitions on, I believe that a big part of what they sign up for is to be patient enough (I Corinthians 13:4) to really get to know another person for the many years that it takes all of us to grow, develop and evolve. Get to know them physically. Get to know them mentally. Get to know them emotionally. Get to know them spiritually. Get to know what makes them who they are—and who they are ultimately meant to become.

So, why did I decide to go with the word "enhance" for this particular point? To enhance something is "to raise to a higher degree". Sex within a marriage should be intimate. How can you take your sex life to another level this year? Establishing a healthier form of communication is a way to be mentally intimate. How can you be a better listener? Understanding your partner's triggers and how they came to be is one way to emotionally establish intimacy (because the less triggers are pushed at home, the safer everyone feels in the long run, right?). Do you do that? Could you stand to learn more about how to understand your partner? If we're doing life right, we're always spiritually going from one level to another? Are you embracing your partner's personal growth? Do you respect it, even if it differs from your own when it comes to perspective and pace?

The more I work with married folks, the more I see that a truly underrated cause of divorce is sheer boredom. People feel like they have outgrown each other because they aren't trying to enhance their union enough. Make this the year when the both of you want to enhance what you know about each other, more than you ever have. You might be shocked by how differently, in the best way possible, you'll feel about your relationship, come this time next year, if you do.

3. Discuss How You Can Help Each Other’s Purpose

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Actually, as I'm writing this article, I'm emailing back and forth with a woman who said that her marriage ultimately ended because she and her former husband did not complement each other. "Complement" is a word that I like so much that I wrote an entire article about it (check out "If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life"). Y'all, if there's one area where I definitely think two people should complement each other it's when it comes to being a solid support system for each other's purpose.

Unfortunately, a lot of couples suffer because, since they didn't spend enough time discussing what they believe they are called to do on this earth while they were dating, they ended up not really understanding and/or respecting their partner's purpose after saying "I do". And that couldn't be more problematic because, no matter how much you may love someone, if they don't back you on why you were put on this planet to begin with, where can the two of you go from there?

You were created for a specific reason. Your husband was as well. Do you both know what those reasons are? Have you talked about what you each can do to help one another thrive in your individual purposes? The best marriages consist of two individuals who can really and truly see one another. A part of that consists of fully respecting the other's purpose. Some time before spring hits, sit down and talk about purposes and how you each can use your gifts, talent and time to help one another. Purpose partnership is unstoppable. It tends to last a really long time too.

4. Treat Dates As an Absolute Necessity

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I know someone who's been married for going on 40 years, never had a honeymoon and rarely goes on dates. Yet her husband? Oh, he doesn't miss an opportunity to clock in some extra hours at work. To him, work is extremely important because he needs to provide while romance is seen as more of a luxury.

Personally, I'm surprised that she didn't snap on him years ago because while I agree that a part of being a good husband is to provide for your wife, provision isn't only financial. Being intentional about setting aside some alone time to nourish, cherish and enjoy your relationship is a form of provision too. In other words, dating your spouse shouldn't be seen as a "want"; it is an absolute need if you want your relationship to flourish and thrive.

You may not have the time or money to go all-out. But there's no reason why the two of you can't cook together, snuggle up and watch a movie alone or have a picnic in the living room or in your backyard, even if it's really early in the morning or super late at night (if you've got kids). Dating your spouse conveys that you don't take them for granted, that romance is still a priority and that you want to get off of life's grid to hang out with them. Even if it's only one time each month, make sure that you can say, come December, that you and yours went on at least 12 dates this year.

5. Establish a Solid Support System

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Are there certain things that should only remain between a husband and wife? YES. In fact, I think a lot of people don't take that point seriously enough (that's my nice way of saying that they talk too much). At the same time, when I wrote the article, "Why Every Engaged Couple Needs A 'Marriage Registry'" a couple of years back, I actually believe that already-married people could stand to create a marriage registry too. Basically, it's a list of different ways that others can support you and yours from having a mentor couple to creating an encouragement team and so much in between. The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child? Chile, it also takes a trustworthy, solid and spiritually mature village to support a marriage. Get some folks who can truly hold you down in 2021. It can help to take the pressure off in ways you wouldn't even imagine.

6. Have “Plugged in” Hours

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We all know that there are 24 hours in a day. Guess how many of those researchers say that we spend plugged into a device? 12. If you factor in that we need to sleep 6-8 hours and that remaining time is probably doing things like showering and preparing meals, we're basically on some sort of a device all day long. While that can make doing our jobs, networking and talking to others much easier, what really is it doing for your marriage? Not only that but what message are you conveying when you can't even put down your phone long enough to give your partner eye contact while they're telling you a story or that you can't go to bed without your laptop being right next to you?

Devices are convenient. Only to a point, though. If you are on them so much that it basically seems like they are more important to you than your partner is, something is way out of balance. This year, why not set some hours when you're plugged in and hours when things are totally off? While it might sound crazy at first, you have work hours so that you won't overwhelm yourself, right? At the same time, having hours when you're on your phone or computer can help you to focus on other things that matter. Your marriage definitely being one of them.

7. Show Gratitude. Daily.

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Who wants to be in a relationship where they don't feel appreciated? Lawd. Wanna know one of the reasons why dating, engagement and the first several of months of marriage, more times than not, feels so awesome? It's because two people in strong like or love are complimenting each other, giving each other random cards and presents, bragging about each other to their friends—they are letting their partner know how truly grateful they are to have them in their lives. Unfortunately, a couple of years in and the bouquet of flowers and surprises at work seem to cease. Couples fall into a routine, that is more like a rut, which makes it easier for them to nitpick at each other rather than seek out the reasons why they still find one another to be the complete and total bomb.

It's unrealistic to expect a marriage to be on the constant "honeymoon phase" setting. Still, if you truly want to, it's not hard to think at least one thing about your spouse that you are truly grateful for. If you need a bit of help, "10 Creative Ways To Express Gratitude In Your Relationship" can hopefully inspire you.

Throughout this year, I'll be sharing some other things that can help to keep you and your man on the up and up. For now, though, as we're at the beginning of a new year, try applying these seven points. If you do it consistently, there's no telling how great your marriage can become. Happy 2021, married folks!

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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