Here’s the reality: knowing how to improve marriage intimacy and doing the things required to save a troubled marriage isn’t all that complicated…it’s hard as hell, but it’s not complicated!
First of all, the “landscape” has changed.
Couples are busier than ever.
We are overly connected with the whole world but lack connection with each other.
Our kids demand more than ever before.
Many of us are working different jobs or have different roles to generate enough streams of income to support our lifestyles.
Lifestyles that are often filled with debt, anxiety, stress, depression, and all forms of addiction ease the pain somewhat.
The rules around relationships also seem to have changed.
Dating someone is now more like ordering shoes online.
The irony is that we also bring the same mindset to the table, in that we have a need for immediate gratification, wanting all our high expectations met, and we have no problem with “returning the product” and moving on.
Other people have essentially become commodities that we can use and abuse and discard in any way.
But even in established relationships, things have changed.
We look to other things to make us happy or fill us up rather than ourselves and our relationships.
And when things don’t go the way we want, we are very quick to throw in the towel and say, “I’m not in love anymore,” “I’m not attracted to her anymore,” “I dunno if I want it anymore” and so on.
We also seem to be a lot more impulsive with our decisions.
We make stupid decisions with massive consequences for our partners and spouses and families, oftentimes with seemingly little care in the world.
We are quick to commit, or what we believe counts as commitment, but we are quicker to opt-out.
I’m so happy that you’ve decided to get this book. My hope is that it will help change your life for the better.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be that way.
All of us can create passionate relationships with lasting love if we are willing to put in the effort.
We are going to have to start doing things very differently from how most people seem to do it or some of the myths about relationships that are out there.
The good news is that you don’t have to be someone special with incredible intellect or abilities to create a lasting love relationship.
It doesn’t take someone special to create an incredible love life, but it does require applying special strategies.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you choose to spend your time and your energy.
I’ve met with many couples over the years and they know all that different from each other.
However, the ones who end up creating the happiest relationships were the ones who were willing to start using their time and energy in many different ways than those who remained in unhappy relationships (or even broke up).
I’m a big proponent of the idea that whatever we do consistently will compound.
If I keep working out day after day, at some point my body will start reflecting that effort and I will start reaping even more benefits than just looking better.
I will most likely become fitter and healthier as a result of working out every day.
In other words, my consistent effort will compound.
The same applies to a relationship.
Whatever we choose to do consistently, i.e. how we choose to use our time and energy consistently, will ultimately yield a greater result in the long run.
For example, if I treat my wife kindly day after day and never deviate, at some point, that action will start rendering positive results in our relationship that transcend kindness.
We will most likely feel more connected, have a greater sense of stability, and have more intimacy.
Now, in a world filled with a lot of noise and a lot of information, I have no intention of adding to the clutter.
My only aim in this post is to serve you with principles and strategies that work.
You won’t find hundreds of stories and a lot of fluff in this post.
I have a lot of people who reach out to me for help but not everyone ends up working with me on a one on one level.
So, I decided to create this book that lays out my philosophy around what it takes to create a happy, healthy, and intimate relationship long-term.
But I also wanted to give you more than just theory.
You will also learn my step by step framework for creating lasting romance.
Essentially, I wanted to give you a playbook or manual that you can use to start repairing your relationship again and create a love life that you love.
The purpose of this book is to help you understand that creating a healthy, happy, and intimate relationship, in principle, is actually very simple indeed … IF you understand and obey certain principles and truths consistently.
The truth is that you do NOT have to be unhappy.
But choosing to be happy and living that kind of life looks completely different from an unhappy one. Happy people think, talk, behave, and live vastly differently from people who are constantly unhappy or depressed.
I also want you to get very real about where things are at in your relationship and life, and help give you the courage to face the truth in order to make the necessary decisions to start creating the life you actually want.
Because it is a known fact that the quality of our intimate relationships determines the quality of our lives. They go together. One feeds the other.
When our intimate relationships are struggling, everything else in our lives seems to struggle as well.
You can be making a boatload of money for your job or business, but if your relationship is falling apart at home, all that money will mean very little. The stress will ruin you.
You could be extremely popular with most people, but if there isn’t any happiness in your love life, all that attention and popularity will feel jaded.
This post is about helping you take control of your life by taking control of your relationship and making it happy, healthy and intimate again.
Or perhaps for the first time.
On My Way to The Altar with The Wrong Person
If you were to tell me in my early 20s that I would break up with my current partner, meet someone else a few months later, ask her to marry me within three months of meeting her, and get married seven months later, I would have told you that you’re crazy.
Before I met my wife, I was in an almost five-year relationship that was doing okay …
There were a few other shorter-lived ones before that as well, but this was a long and serious one.
It was getting serious towards the end and chances were that unless I broke up when I did, we would most likely have ended up getting married … which would have been a mistake.
But that’s where the whole thing was headed.
The only problem with that was, it was the wrong relationship for both of us.
But of course, when you’re in it, you rarely face the truth and you tend to smooth things over by justifying them in your head … Even when everyone else is telling you that you’re making a mistake.
But that’s just how it goes and how it happens.
Now, the dangerous thing about a mediocre relationship that doesn’t really have any major issues, is that it can lull you into a false sense of security.
It can become a type of trap or prison. But you only realise it too late, sometimes.
Because there aren’t many things that are rocking the boat, or any major red flags, you tend to simply go with the flow rather than question things.
The reality is that when something isn’t bothering you that much, you put things off for another day. You just keep going.
And that’s exactly what I was doing.
Things weren’t overly bad, even though they weren’t great, which didn’t really motivate me to make any changes.
And it was until things started heading in a more permanent direction, with both of us reaching a stage where the possibility of marriage became a reality, that something inside of me finally stood up and said: “Whoa now! Not one step further, Fella!”
I finally realised, and accepted, that this is not what I wanted.
This is not the person I wanted to be with.
Yes, things weren’t bad, but they weren’t right either.
They weren’t right for me.
She … wasn’t right for me.
It’s just that we were just unwilling to face the truth or do something about it.
I finally did.
Just like that …
Now, going through that process came with its own set of challenges, let me tell you.
It was by no means easy and there was some serious backlash for a period.
Some of the family, especially, took it quite hard and personally.
But I stuck to my decision, kept my head down, and kept moving forward.
And in the end, we all got through it and we moved on.
“Seeing an Angel”
It took me a couple of months to get over the whole “I’m never doing that again” but I got there eventually.
I started meeting new ladies and taking them out to get to know them. Some ended up becoming good friends.
However, it wasn’t until quite a few months later that my life changed.
One Sunday morning, I was leading a church service (yes, I was a pastor in my previous life) where I saw an absolutely stunning young woman.
Later on, I started referring to this day as the time that “I saw an angel.”
Now, I had no idea who she was, how to get hold of her, where she lived, where she was from, or any of that important stuff.
But that didn’t change the impression she made on me.
Now … just remember, that I knew absolutely nothing about her, apart from the fact that she was really attractive and that I couldn’t stop looking at her.
(I really struggled to get through that service hahaha)
I ended up mentioning this to a friend of mine afterwards, who just so happened to know her and also ran into her after the service.
This, of course, was great news to me.
But I didn’t have time to follow it up because I was on my way to a leadership camp for three days, and I kind of put her to the back of my mind for the time being.
On my return the following week, I got a text message from someone (I still don’t know who) with a name and number … her name and number!
Needless to say, I was filled with nerves but also VERY excited!
Now, to make a long story short, I end up discovering that I actually knew her brother fairly well (even as far back as our university days), and I also discovered that it was her birthday that same day I received her name and number.
All of which I ended up using to my advantage … I decided to text her “happy birthday.”
I also mentioned that I was “the guy she had to listen to in church the previous Sunday.”
She responded back immediately.
And so, it began …
We ended up calling and texting each other non-stop over the next couple of days.
And the more we talked, flirted, and got to know each other, the more we both knew that we definitely wanted to meet the other one in person as soon as possible.
And so, we did.
She decided to come and surprise me the first weekend she had available, and we instantly hit off … big time!
We ended up talking for hours about all sorts of things, and at the end of that we both thought to ourselves that this just felt “right.”
What I learned was that she also came out of a long-term relationship before meeting me and was seeing a counsellor at the time to work through various things in her life.
I very much related to her journey and what she was going through, and even though our previous relationships didn’t work out, we also realised that they prepared us for when the real thing was to show up.
And so, three months after meeting my (now) wife, we got engaged and got married around five or six months after that. About seven- or eight months total from meeting to marriage.
Now, 15.5 years, quite a few challenges, two kids, and a new country later, we are still all over each other and very happy.
How to Improve Marriage Intimacy: What takes to save a troubled marriage
Is our story common?
Is this how it goes for most people?
I would say, “no.”
We have many family and friends with completely different stories and experiences.
Our story is also definitely not how it is supposed to go, and I would therefore caution you to read it as such.
Your journey is yours.
And things will work out for you the way they are supposed to work out.
However, there are a few things that we have learned on our journey about what it takes to create a happy, healthy, and intimate relationship.
You can see these things as principles or rules or guidelines for success in your love life.
Again, nothing is set in concrete, but the principles we’ve learned do seem to hold true for many other people who have managed to create their own happy relationships.
So, if for no other reason than that, it might be good to at least know what they are.
This is exactly why I decided to write this “love manual” for you.
Now, let me just say that nothing stands in your way to go and learn these things on your own … you can.
But you have to understand that a lot of it comes with its own fair amount of challenges, heartache, frustrations, disappointment, trial and error, stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and even seasons of depression.
And again, that’s not true for everyone or not everything will be true for everyone, but much of it will be.
I just need you to hear that …
So, before we get into the nitty-gritty and I share with you a step-by-step formula for creating a lasting love relationship, let me just share with you first, a few overarching principles that are just as important.
Firstly, something I’ve learned both personally and professionally, is that no amount of counselling, therapy or coaching can overcome the wrong choice in partner.
Now, this is a tricky one because how do we decide whether somebody is the “right” person for us, or not? It’s not that simple.
Personally, I don’t think there are any easy or simple answers to that question, but what I do know is that if you get this wrong, you’re setting yourself up for a much harder journey than when you get it (somewhat) right.
And even though this is a very complicated question, I do think that one thing that makes it easier to answer, is to know yourself.
One of the things that both my wife and I had in the common back when we met at the time we did, was that we both have been through a process of self-discovery prior to us meeting each other.
And in that time, we did a lot of introspection and reflection in the months (perhaps even years) leading up to our initial introduction.
All of which points out another principle that plays a huge role, which is the right timing.
Sometimes we meet the right person at the right time, for both them and us, and it all works out.
Or at least, it makes it all the easier.
But sometimes, we might meet a potentially “right” person, but the timing is wrong.
We might not be in the right headspace, or we are in the wrong relationship, or it’s just not the right time, or whatever.
So timing is extremely important.
This, of course, emphasises the importance of us being prepared by working on ourselves constantly, so we can be “ready” when the “right time” and “right person” show up.
Another principle that seems to be important if you want to create a happy, healthy, and intimate relationship that lasts, is understanding that love is a decision (first) and not just an emotion.
It’s obviously more than that as well, but in the context of a love relationship, love needs to be a daily decision we make.
I’ve talked about this many times before, but if we reduce our feelings of love to feelings of euphoria or happiness only, we run the risk of believing that we no longer love when those feelings aren’t present.
But of course, that’s absurd.
For life is filled with many moments where euphoria or happiness aren’t present.
We simply don’t feel good for whatever reason.
Things go wrong.
Things fall apart.
But that’s not a sign that love is absent.
It’s also not a sign that we no longer love our partners or that our partners don’t love us.
Sometimes, we just go through stuff that we have to deal with.
None of which has anything to do with the love we have for our partners (or vice versa).
Love, therefore, is more than just something we experience when we feel good.
It’s also not something that comes from without.
It is an energetic state that comes from within.
In a sense, we can say it is who we are.
Love is not something we do but it’s something we are.
And as an extension of that, we “love.”
We embody love.
We display affection.
We care for.
We show kindness.
Again, that is not dictated by my environment or situation because it is not tied to that.
The source of love transcends anything and everything we sometimes believe diminishes it.
Some say this is the greatest gift the Universe or our Creator gave us.
And because of that, it is far more than an emotion or feeling.
It is raw energy that we either channel or direct or block.
All of which brings us to another principle that is closely related to this one, which is the importance of making a daily recommitment to your relationship.
Not every day in a relationship is a good one.
They don’t always end the way we expected them to.
We make mistakes.
We get angry.
We miss the point.
We go to bed disappointed or frustrated.
And so, understanding this reality of sharing a life with someone else, will make things a lot easier down the road.
Expecting things to go wrong, even though you’re hoping that they won’t, is more realistic than believing that relationships are filled with rainbows and unicorns, and perfect all the time.
Because they are not.
Not all the time.
Another extremely important principle to keep in mind when sharing a life with someone else is the fact that your expectations of both that person and the relationship impact your experience and therefore the quality of your life together.
I know that’s a mouthful, but I need you to read that again … Carefully.
Some of you will know that I’ve talked about this idea before in that one of the fastest ways to create unhappiness and instability in a relationship is through disappointment.
And very few things create disappointment as quickly as unmet expectations.
But there are typically two problems with expectations in relationships.
They are either one of two types of expectations:
- Unrealistic Expectations, OR
- Unclear Expectations
Often, couples struggle to meet each other’s expectations because they are simply unrealistic.
They can, of course, be unrealistic for various reasons.
Our expectations typically come from other people, past experiences, beliefs, or internal values, and we tend to simply transfer those things into our “new” relationship.
I explain this to the couples I work with, with what I call, “The Happiness Gap” …
And because many of our expectations, beliefs and values are conditioned and adopted constructs, we sometimes have unrealistic expectations of our partners with catastrophic consequences.
Alternatively, couples sometimes struggle to meet each other’s expectations because they simply don’t know what the other one expects from them, or in their relationship.
In other words, it’s UNCLEAR.
Now, maybe you are certain about what YOU expect from your relationship and your partner, but that doesn’t mean that your partner can read your mind, which means they most likely have no clue what you expect.
This can lead to real problems later on.
So, if you want to avoid unhappiness in your relationship, it is your responsibility to be very clear about your expectations and share those with your partner.
And, if in doing so, you come to realise that some of your expectations might be slightly unrealistic, or even impossible to meet, you might want to check where those expectations come from and even more importantly – choose to stay unrealistic or be happy.
The reality of any relationship is that we will always have expectations of our partners.
That is normal and to be expected.
However, when our expectations become unrealistic or we never communicate them, we shouldn’t stand surprised when unhappiness and relationship dissatisfaction show up in our relationship.
At the end of the day, a relationship requires work and energy to grow and thrive but having misguided or unclear expectations can slow that growth down. Even kill the whole thing.
So, the question then becomes, how do we need to deal with expectations in our relationship in order for our relationship to thrive?
I think the simplest answer comes from Tony Robbins who once said,
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”
Ultimately what this comes down to is that in order to create a great relationship we must turn our expectations on ourselves rather than our partners.
When we expect more of ourselves than our partners, our relationship stands a greater chance to thrive.
But when a relationship becomes a place that you go to take, or differently put, to get YOUR expectations met only, that relationship cannot grow and will definitely not thrive.
To build a happy, healthy and intimate relationship, we must have realistic expectations and aim most of them at ourselves.
You Must Give More Than You Receive.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this elaborate post for you, is for you to discover how to improve marriage intimacy and learn how to save a troubled marriage. The other is for your to understand that in order to do any those, you will need to start doing things differently from many other couples.Gideon Hanekom
It doesn’t take much to fall in love and start a relationship.
Most people I know can do that.
However, to create a relationship that’s filled with love, passion, romance, and happiness long-term, is a completely different challenge.
Often, the things that we relied on at the start of a relationship are either no longer present or don’t work the same way.
Relationships require us to evolve as our intimate knowledge and understanding of each other evolve.
It requires constant adjustment as we grow individually and collectively.
I usually explain it like this to couples …
Some of the stuff that worked during the Infatuation Stage of your relationship doesn’t work long term unless they evolve with your relationship. There are certain things you need to do to nurture a Companionate Love while avoiding the “Love Kill Zone” or deadly “Relationship Rut.”
And in this book, I want to give you a step-by-step framework that you can follow to make that process simpler.
There are essentially six phases that I take my coaching clients through, which are the same six phases I’m going to share with you in this book.
So, once you put the book down you will know exactly which areas you need to work on and keep working on, in order to ensure that your relationship remains happy, healthy, and intimate.
And whenever you start encountering problems in your love life, all you need to do is go back to these six phases or areas to check where you’re either slipping up or lacking growth.
Because once you address the problematic area, things will most likely start moving in the right direction again.
Creating a happy, healthy, and intimate love life that lasts isn’t rocket science.
It’s not complicated.
The principles are oftentimes very much common sense.
But there is a big difference between common sense and common practice.
Knowing HOW to do something doesn’t necessarily mean DOING it.
There is no power without application.
Principles on their own are essentially useless.
It’s only when we start applying those principles that we will most likely start seeing improvements or changes.
I know this is an old saying, but you cannot do the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
That is unfortunately not how things work.
You don’t have to be someone special or a particularly gifted couple to create a truly happy relationship.
All you need is to pay attention to the lessons we’ve learned from truly happy couples and apply those same principles in our own lives.
Yes, we put our own spin on things, but that doesn’t mean we deviate from ancient wisdom and principles that work.
It’s like baking a chocolate cake.
You can take a recipe, adjust it slightly and put your own spin on it, but you will still end up with something that looks and tastes somewhat like a chocolate cake.
However, it is highly unlikely that you can use a carrot cake recipe and make it taste like a chocolate cake.
Because even if you could, it would still be experienced as a chocolate cake and not a carrot cake.
The same goes for relationships.
If you want to create a certain type of relationship that gives you a certain quality of life, you need to opt for a type of “recipe” that will give you the highest probability of creating that.
And that’s what I want to achieve with this book.
I want to give you a step-by-step framework, or recipe if you will, that you can follow and implement in your situation to hopefully help you create a happier, healthier, and more intimate relationship that will last.
You still need to do all the work.
For one, you will need to read this book.
But I will make it as simple as possible in the next couple of pages so that you can have absolute clarity around where you need to start and what you need to do.
So, with all of that said …
Let’s start with the simple question of why many people have trouble creating the happiness and intimacy they want in their relationships.
- What are some of the mistakes I see many couples make?
- What are some of the things they forget or don’t keep in mind?
- And where are many couples headed if they never course correct at some point?
Here’s the thing …
Relationships Are Hard Work at Times!
People seem to forget this.
Anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than six months knows this.
Now, granted, it’s also very fun ‘work’ when it works, but not so much when it doesn’t. Make no mistake about it.
I work with couples all the time and the amount of frustration, unhappiness and pain that unhealthy relationships cause, are very real and very possible for everyone. No one is exempt from heartache when things go wrong for a couple.
Understanding this truth right from the start will save you the surprise when it happens BUT it will also prepare you much better for making your relationship work.
Another thing I see quite a bit is that many couples have some idea about how to fix things … yet they never start.
Why is that?
I think there are two reasons:
- They either know what needs to be done BUT don’t apply what they know for whatever reason, and then pay the price, OR
- There are some things they’ve either never heard of or just forgotten about, and they pay the price.
Either way, what I need you to understand is that there is a cost for either avoiding, ignoring or ignorance when it comes to our love lives!
Ignorance is NOT BLISS when it comes to saving your relationship.
Which, again, is WHY I decided to write this “love manual” for you.
What Doesn’t Work …
As a happily married man, dad, and relationship coach who sees a lot of couples in a year, I’ve learned, seen and experienced quite a bit about what WORKS (or can work) for couples and what does not.
Sometimes you simply need a little more than the standard “listen well” type of advice … even though that’s pretty good advice.
So, I want to share with you a few common mistakes that ruin relationships that I’ve come across in my coaching work with couples.
These are common mistakes many couples make which end up hurting them badly if left unattended.
Some things just don’t mix well with love relationships and I would caution you to pay very close attention when some of these following mistakes start showing up in your life.
In this instance, you’re not special and unique … these mistakes WILL ruin your relationship in one way or another.
The first common mistake I see many couples make is …
Trying to change the other person.
Have you ever tried changing a habit or losing weight?
How hard was it?
Because if you’ve ever tried to lose weight or get yourself to do something you don’t want to do, you know how challenging it can be to change.
Why am I telling you this?
Because if it’s that hard to get yourself to change or do something that doesn’t come naturally to you, understand that it’s 10 times harder to change another person.
I won’t go as far as to say that it’s impossible, but it’s very close in my opinion.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you cannot influence or impact another person and inspire them to make some personal changes, but that is something else.
However, that’s not you forcing them to change, but rather you influencing them by your own example.
To increase your chances of success, I would personally rather adopt the belief that I will never be able to change my partner and go from there.
That way I’m not living by unrealistic expectations.
Being in a relationship with someone else, assuming you can mould him or her into something you can live with for the rest of your life, is quite foolish.
You are setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment and frustration.
If there is one person that you should focus on changing, it should be yourself.
Because when you change yourself in a positive way, there is a higher chance of inspiring your partner to make positive changes as well.
A second common mistake a lot of couples make is …
Avoiding confrontation at all costs.
Listen, some things just aren’t worth arguing about.
They just aren’t.
So many couples have told me in our sessions, that a lot of the arguments end up being about the same stuff without any resolution.
And it gets tiring and even boring at some point.
Also, some research indicates that about 67% of all disagreements in a marriage never get resolved.
Just think about that for a moment …
Almost three-quarters of all disagreements end up becoming stuff we don’t see eye to eye to, and they don’t get resolved.
But the big difference between unhappy and happy couples, however, is that happy couples deal with these unresolved matters completely differently.
For one thing, they let things go a lot quicker and they let them stay lost once they’ve been let go.
They don’t keep digging up old bones as unhappy couples love to do.
Sometimes, in a marriage, you just need to learn how to bite your tongue and let things go.
Saying something about an issue isn’t always the best strategy.
Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight and long term benefit of having that fight.
And let’s be honest, some things just aren’t that important anyway. Except for in our minds, of course.
However, with all that said, there are some things that do need to be discussed.
I refer to those types of things as potential “deal breakers.”
Especially when they are left unattended or unaddressed.
There is a saying in the old Hebrew Scriptures that it is the “small jackals that destroy the vineyards.”
I think one way to look at that saying is to think that it refers to ALL small things.
And when those small things are left to their own devices and unattended, they can end up destroying all the good stuff in your situation.
Now, with that approach to things, you would have to discuss and address or point out ALL the small things that could potentially become big things and create chaos.
And that would be a fair take on this saying, I suppose.
However, I think there is also a different way to look at this saying that might give it a different meaning.
It refers to small “jackals” which we can understand as potential threats or a danger to the vineyard.
It’s not talking about small butterflies or small bees, for example.
In other words, it’s not that ALL small things are a potential threat to the vineyard, but rather certain small but dangerous threats.
And when I translate that into a marital context, it points to the fact that as couples we need to be very aware of the small things that are very much potential threats to our happiness and love.
Furthermore, what this demand, is to then develop the skill to discern between which small things to address and which ones to let go.
Because there is a difference.
Because if you’re gonna go after every single little thing and make a big thing out of it, it’s most likely going to turn into a major thing.
However, when you start looking for the potential small “jackals” and you only jump on those when they show up, you most likely never run the risk of becoming overbearing and nagging while still addressing what truly needs to be addressed.
So, the things that really bother you are worth addressing, in my opinion.
Otherwise, how will the situation ever improve?
You need to let things go, but you also cannot let everything go.
Because some weeds are dangerous.
They start small but they grow up.
Jackals might be small, but they are still dangerous enough to destroy the vineyard and the harvest.
So, in my opinion, it’s a mistake to avoid all forms of conflict.
Or rather avoid the difficult conversations you need to have from time to time.
Because, again, without doing that how do you expect your situation to improve.
Also, when your partner is doing something in a manner that truly hurts or disrespects you, how can they stop doing that when you always choose to avoid the conversation where you tell them.
Yes, avoiding conflict will keep the peace …
But it also provides an opportunity for the small, dangerous things to move in and take over.
When you choose avoidance as your strategy to maintain peace in your relationship, you are potentially setting yourself up to be annoyed, hurt, disrespected, or frustrated on a daily basis for the rest of your life or the life of the relationship.
Avoidance of all things is a mistake.
Another common mistake I’ve come across a few times is …
Not maintaining enough distance from your ex.
Now look, I understand if your ex is still your friend.
Or, as in some common instances I’ve come across, you might have children together. This obviously comes with its own set of responsibilities, which you can’t just necessarily walk away from simply because you’re no longer together.
I get all that.
The mistake I’ve seen a few couples make, however, is allowing your ex a lot more room and influence in your current relationship.
Because even though you might have shared responsibilities, as in the case of children, there is still a limit to what your current partner should have to deal with.
Now, this is not my opinion, but rather something I’ve seen played out in a few relationships.
And never peacefully.
Your current partner will have some level of understanding of your situation, but the moment you cross a certain line with your ex, it becomes very hard to explain that away.
For example, late-night, semi intimate text messages are very hard to justify.
Or, your ex always running to you first for advice or support for stuff that is going on in their lives, will eventually become very difficult to be accepted by your current partner.
It’s important to understand where your true responsibilities and priorities now lie.
Yes, you might have a past with your ex which could be complicated, that is still no reason to allow them a foothold in your current relationship.
For it will hurt you, as I’ve seen happen many times over.
The next common mistake many couples make is a little bit more insidious but can become very pervasive and unhealthy.
I’m talking about …
Focusing too much on the negative.
When you’re around someone who is constantly focusing on the negative, it becomes very taxing and tiring over time.
It also does very little for increasing feelings of positivity and optimism within your relationship as a whole.
To be honest, I can’t really think of any good reason why anyone would want to focus too much on the negative.
Some might argue that it keeps them real and prepared for the realities of life; which could be true.
But surely there are just as many, if not more, positive things you could focus on (and reason to) even when you’re still aware of the realities of life (in your situation).
In the context of creating a happy, healthy, and intimate love life, focusing too much on the negative can severely hurt your chances of doing that.
I’ve met quite a few couples who have struggled with this very issue.
And it’s especially very challenging when it’s only one of the two partners that tend to focus too much on the negative.
Over time, it seems to weigh the other one down to the point where they can’t stand it anymore.
They just cannot be around that level of toxicity and negativity any longer.
On the other hand, however, optimism is one of the healthiest traits to have in a partner, new research finds.
There is also an indication that people married to an optimistic person have a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
And similarly, optimistic people themselves tend to live longer life. Research indicates that optimism increases the odds of reaching 85-years-old by up to 70 per cent.
So, not only is it one of the healthiest characteristics to be around in a relationship, but it also increases longevity.
I want you to take a second to reflect on that.
Think of the implications.
Pessimism or negativity isn’t an innocent thing. It is destructive and robs you of joy and life.
So, focusing too much on the negative in your relationship isn’t just something you can write of as a personality trait or being a realist.
For if you truly want to be a realist, it’s also important to be realistic about the consequences of pessimism and all the advantages of becoming more optimistic.
It’s crucial for your own well-being, the well-being of your relationship, and your longevity.
All three big reasons to pay attention to this.
Now, to help you with that, it’s important to sometimes “force yourself” to focus more on the positive.
One simple exercise you can do is to take a few minutes each day to jot down all the things that you appreciate about your partner.
Even if it’s just a few things you’ve noticed that day.
When you do an exercise like this, what tends to happen is that you become more open to seeing the positive, which will also increase your feelings of positivity towards your partner.
That, in turn, will then cause you to see even more positive things which will help you feel even more positive about your partner, and so on and so on.
A mistake many couples make, however, is to focus too much on the negative for far too long before intervening.
The issue with that is that nobody is coming to save you.
Unless you consciously choose to start focusing more on the positive, in order to then see more of the positive and feel more positively, no one’s gonna tell you to. Which ultimately means that you will persist with it and end up paying the price.
Another mistake that is closely related to avoiding conflict is …
Failing to communicate your needs.
So, here’s the thing …
Your partner isn’t a mind reader.
Unless they are the Mentalist or a psychic, of course.
Therefore, unless you actually communicate to your partner what your needs are, he or she will most likely fail to know what they are and fail to meet them.
For we don’t know what we don’t know.
And in this instance, again, ignorance is not bliss.
What you don’t know can actually hurt your relationship.
So, if you want your partner to meet your needs, start at least by communicating your needs to them.
And what I’ve observed is that BOTH men and women seem to be guilty of this …
Many women seem to think that the men in their lives should be able to read their minds or just “know” what they need or want.
But if you were to talk to those same men, they wouldn’t have a clue.
I mean, many of them would guess, but that’s often a hit and miss affair.
However, we also know that men typically don’t communicate what they’re thinking or feeling all that well.
This means that the woman in his life also needs to “mind read” to guess what he’s thinking.
So, what you end up with is a man who doesn’t communicate his thoughts and a woman who just expects her man to “know” what she wants …
No wonder a lot of couples struggle with not getting their needs met!
Because neither of these two strategies or approaches is an effective way to get your needs met in a relationship.
Let me share a very simple truth with you …
If you want to create a happy, healthy, and intimate love life that you enjoy, then you to take responsibility for your relationship and your happiness by communicating clearly with your partner.
This leads me to another common mistake I see a lot of couples make …
Failing to take care of yourself.
Now, before we start pointing fingers, understand that …
Men and women are both guilty of this.
There isn’t one party that’s more guilty than the others.
But it’s still a mistake that a lot of couples start to make, especially when they start becoming comfortable in their relationship.
Now, let me just say that I believe a relationship should be your “safe place.”
It’s the place where you can be your true self.
You don’t have to pretend.
You don’t have to wear a mask
You don’t have to you always be at your best.
It’s a place where you can sometimes just crash and burn, knowing that someone’s got your back.
And even though all of that is true …
I also believe that it’s still no reason or excuse to stop taking care of yourself.
Because it’s when we take care of ourselves and take responsibility for our own happiness, then we empower ourselves in a way where we CAN show up for our partners the way they deserve.
I don’t believe that a solid relationship is suddenly a reason to stop going to the gym, or take of your body, stop showering, or start wearing your pyjamas to the store.
Because as shallow as it may seem, part of the reason you fell in love with each other initially, was based on your physical appearances.
Now that, of course, includes your confidence, smile, the way you carried yourself, how you spoke, and so on.
When I just talking about bodyweight here … Because I know a lot of you instantly started thinking about that.
This is about taking as much pride in your appearance today as you did in the past.
Because when you have self-confidence and pride, that communicates something to your partner.
Look, even if you don’t agree with me on this, you have to at least consider the research on this …
And then make up your own mind what you want to do with it.
Data from a representative sample of over 5,000 Americans, ranging in age from 21 to over 76, identified the top 10 relationship dealbreakers.
Here are the top 10 relationship dealbreakers:
- Messy or unclean appearance
- Too needy
- Lacks a sense of humour
- Lives more than three hours away
- Bad sex
- Lacks self-confidence
- Too much TV/video games
- Low sex drive
Have a look at number one and number two … Unclean appearance or laziness.
However you feel about this, you have to consider that even though there is a lot of flexibility, room to be yourself, and a sense of informality in your relationship …
How much you take care of yourself does play a role.
The next common mistake I see a lot of couples make that can keep them from creating a happy relationship, especially younger couples, is almost counterintuitive and perhaps even slightly paradoxical.
It is …
Failing to give your partner space.
The reason I say that this is counterintuitive and slightly paradoxical is that what we are saying here is that “distance” is necessary to create” closeness.”
It’s counterintuitive because when you think about it logically, it doesn’t really make sense.
How does giving your partner space end up causing them to feel closer to you?
It feels more logical that if I want to be closer to my partner we actually need to spend more time together and minimise “distance.”
Now, even though spending a lot of quality time together is absolutely necessary for creating a happy, healthy, and intimate love life …
So is giving your partner space.
Yes, you have a life together BUT you also have separate lives.
You need to allow each other space to breathe and do your own thing.
When you live in each other’s pockets, it ends up becoming overbearing and simply too much.
To create a happy and fulfilling love life, you don’t have to be joined at the hip 24/7.
In fact, I would encourage you not to be.
As a couple, you need to find a balance between interdependence and independence.
It’s not binary, meaning just the one or just the other.
Let me put it like this …
A healthy level of independence strengthens your interdependence.
When I am growing as an individual separately from my partner (independence), and she is doing the same, our relationship ends up benefiting from all that independent growth.
Which in turn grows our relationship (interdependence).
But again, quite a few couples make the mistake of limiting their partner’s own space because their relationship is, in reality, built on enough distrust and insecurity that they won’t allow their partner to be separate from them.
And so, they hold their partner’s close, controlling them even, and call it “love.”
But it’s the furthest thing from it.
Don’t make the mistake of stepping into the same trap.
Conversely, however, also be careful that you don’t confuse “growing separately” for “growing apart.”
Because that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Growing apart is a very dangerous thing as it creates emotional dissociation which is a relationship killer.
The second to last common mistake I see many couples make is more a kind of incomplete way of thinking than a mistake.
It is the belief that …
Commitment in a relationship is a one-time event.
The truth, however, is that commitment is a daily exercise.
Any happy couple that’s been together long enough, will tell you this.
You cannot commit to your partner one time, and then never again.
As a couple, you will go the through ups and downs of life which will challenge your relationship at times.
And your commitment to your relationship will be challenged well.
You will question whether you still want to do this or not.
You will question whether you’re still with the right person.
You’ll question whether your relationship will ever come right again.
And the only way that you can get back on track when that happens, is to recommit to your partner.
In fact, I think it’s a healthy habit to get into on a daily basis.
Not because you need to but because you never want to reach the point where you will have to need to.
What am I talking about here?
I simply mean making a conscious decision or choice every single day when you awake … to love, enjoy, adore, and serve your partner the best way you can that day.
You set it as your intention for that day.
And the next day you do the same thing all over again.
What I have learned in my marriage is that you essentially have to recreate your relationship with your partner anew each day.
It is not a set-and-forget type of thing.
This is not like spray-and-walk-away.
The reality of a love relationship is that as soon as you fail or stop putting energy into it, it begins to die.
I want you to read that again.
Your relationship doesn’t start to die when you mess up or make a huge mistake.
Many couples go through life without ever messing up so badly that it ends their relationship.
However, a lot of couples go through life settling for mediocrity and apathy at some point, which DOES end a lot of relationships.
You cannot put your relationship on the back burner and expect it to grow.
That’s the simple truth of it.
This brings me to the last common mistake a lot of couples make, which perhaps also explains why many end up holding back (as in the previous point) …
Believing that relationships are supposed to be perfect.
Let’s get something out of the way very quickly …
No relationship is perfect.
And, in fact, I don’t believe they are supposed to be perfect.
A relationship between two people is oftentimes more like a website that is constantly “under construction” rather than a completed thing.
We are constantly making changes, tweaking things, making sure that there aren’t any broken links, our site isn’t blacklisted, and it is easy to navigate.
Or that’s what it’s been like in my experience.
It’s never done, but always evolving.
But a mistake I see some couples make is having a belief or some expectation in their heads about what the “perfect” relationship looks like or should look like.
And that belief ends up hurting them more than it helps them.
There is no issue with having high expectations in a relationship, as long as that holds you to a higher standard personally as well as relationally.
However, when your expectations are unrealistic because they are based on irrational beliefs, you might discover that those expectations actually become counterproductive.
It’s important to understand that a commitment from someone to be with you doesn’t guarantee perfection.
All relationships have challenging times.
Anything that involves two people will have the potential for tough moments.
But those challenges also provide an opportunity to grow and strengthen your relationship in the long run.
A mistake a lot of couples seem to make is to under-appreciate the reality that all relationships experience a decline in love, satisfaction, passion, and commitment over time.
It is natural.
Unfortunately, many couples that go through this will then reach a point where they attempt to hit the factory reset button.
They will say things like, “she isn’t for me,” or “he doesn’t love me anymore,” or “we’re just not in love anymore.”
Now, sometimes that might be the case, but more often than not it’s not the case at all.
All relationships go through their ups and downs.
All of us experience moments of decline, but it’s how we respond to those moments that matter in the end.
Just simply accepting it and continuing on autopilot, hoping that things will improve, is relationship suicide.
All relationships require ongoing work.
It might not be much work, but it still requires some work.
An extremely important truth to remember if you’re serious about creating a happy, healthy, and intimate love life, is the fact that the moment you stop working on your relationship …
It starts to die!
Not next year,
Not in 10 years’ time …
The problem with having a belief that your relationship should be perfect is that as long as you experience imperfection, you will also experience a decline in motivation and drive to actually work on your relationship.
It sounds paradoxical and strange because you would expect someone who is after perfection to constantly work towards it … But that’s not how it works.
Many people, for example, procrastinate because they are holding on to this fictitious idea that their work needs to be perfect, and so they would rather not start than start but risk the possibility that they’re just not that good.
It’s better to say, “I didn’t do it” than “I tried, but wasn’t good enough.”
The same goes for relationships.
It’s tempting to hold onto this idea that you want a “perfect” relationship and unless you have it there is no point putting any effort in at all.
But that’s an illogical way to think about things.
For, how can you create a “perfect” relationship without putting any effort into it?
My view is that it’s easier to accept that there is no perfection when it comes to love relationships and to simply commit to constantly work towards a deeper level of love, compassion, passion, intimacy, satisfaction, and commitment.
Then at least you have a fighting chance of creating a relationship that is worthwhile.
It might not be “perfect,” but it will be perfect enough for you.
The Cost of Not Having A Plan or Strategy
Relationships can be challenging AND rewarding.
Many couples, however, experience it to be more challenging than rewarding a lot of the time.
One of the main reasons for that is not having a plan or strategy.
Imagine for a moment you’re trying to create and grow a business without any plan.
How do you suppose that would work?
How successful do you think you’d be?
How would you know what to work on more and also what isn’t working?
Well, that is exactly how many couples try and “manage” their relationships, often with less than ideal results.
Now, I understand that a love relationship is not a business and, therefore, a lot of the rules of business don’t apply.
However, not knowing where you are going as a couple or what strategies work best within your relationship, are also not going to work.
You might not be running a business, but you are trying to create a thriving relationship and life together as two completely unique individuals.
And that is challenging at the best of times, let alone trying to do it without a strategy or recipe for potential success.
Goals, in general, help us to keep moving forward in life, even when we are uncertain or down about something. They keep us focused and on course when the chips are down.
We also know that focusing on our goals can give us a lot of purpose and enjoyment in life. Especially when there are intrinsic rewards connected to them, i.e. when we benefit by achieving these goals.
But goals aren’t just about achieving success in our work life or making more money.
There are plenty of goals that have to do with other things, like hobbies, travel, relationships, and other areas of life.
The truth is, that our love relationships are oftentimes an overlooked key area in our lives even when we KNOW that happy, love relationships contribute hugely to both overall satisfaction and life, improved health, and even longevity.
Yet, it’s the first thing we put on the back burner when life gets busy or our focus gets occupied and we get distracted.
Sadly though, life is unbiased for the most part. It won’t treat you specially simply because you are busy.
If you stop nurturing or taking care of your love relationship, for WHATEVER reason, you will suffer the same consequences as another couple who stopped taking care of their relationship because they didn’t feel like it anymore, just the same.
Regardless of what your reasons are for not having a strategy or executing that strategy consistently and diligently, you will still suffer the same consequences.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across the room from a couple who seemed genuinely surprised by what’s happened to their relationship.
Even though they’ve just told me that they …
spend very little quality time together,
they rarely talk about their relationship or their goals as a couple,
they are always busy with someone or something else (like the kids or hobbies),
they haven’t been away together on a holiday or vacation in like forever,
nor do they go out on dates, and so on.
I’ve even had couples tell me that they haven’t slept in the same room, let alone bed, in the last 18 months.
Now, I am not a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take that much to understand that it is very difficult (perhaps even impossible) to establish a deep connection with another human being when you never actually spend time doing the stuff that creates a connection.
But again, it comes back to not having a strategy when you know you need one (or even when you don’t).
I’ve seen couples turn things around pretty quickly the moment they understand this truth, and they start putting things in place that is constructive for their relationship rather than destructive.
And not having anything in place at all, can also be destructive. It might just take a little bit longer to fall apart, but it will happen at some point.
Maybe you’re wondering right now, what then is a good strategy to have as a couple?
Well, I’m glad I asked that question …
Because that’s what I spend a lot of my time helping couples with.
Not just figuring out any strategy but following a very specific framework that starts putting things back together again for a couple.
I believe that you can take the long route or you can learn some of the shortcuts that can get you to your destination quicker.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you shortcut your effort, but it does mean that there are some things that are more effective and work quicker than others.
And if I can help a couple save even a little bit of time and energy, especially after they’ve wasted so much time and energy being stuck in a rut, then that’s a win for all of us.
So, I’ve looked at the research, reflected on my own marital journey, observed both happy and unhappy couples over time, and ended up putting a framework together that is like a “quick start guide.”
It’s important to know that this is not therapy.
If you want therapy or counselling, I can refer you to someone good. Now, that doesn’t mean that I can’t do counselling, but I just choose not to work that way at the moment.
There are many good things about counselling, but that’s a different process to this.
I put together a framework that I coach couples through to help them start putting things in place that will create quick wins and lasting results should they stick to the process.
I call it …
As you get into this specific step-by-step framework that I use when I work with couples, it’s important that you first understand that this is based on my understanding and observation of both authoritative literature, research, as well as personal experience (which includes my own marital journey and with various different couples over time).
I am by no means making any quantitative statements or suggestions. These are what some researchers may call, non-numerical observations of both research literature and personal experience.
So, with that being said, let’s get into it …
My 6-C-Framework implies four very important principles which I believe have a lot of significance for any transformation process.
The first important principle is,
Truth for me is about honesty.
It’s about facing the music and taking responsibility for what is actually happening or is going on in your life.
It is very difficult to change anything when you’re deceiving yourself or aren’t willing to accept the facts of the matter of what’s really going on.
How can I put the things in place to improve the quality of my marriage when I’m in denial about its current state?
The truth is, I won’t be able to.
Because change implies honesty.
And honesty requires facing the truth.
Consequently, my step-by-step framework only works when a person or couple is willing to be honest with themselves and each other, and work with their truth.
A second important principle is,
This is about observation and paying attention.
You cannot tap into your “truth” when you’re oblivious to what is going on.
Ignorance or conscious blindness will keep you from seeing the truth, which in turn will keep you from changing anything.
But awareness is also about perpetual observation.
What I mean by that is that once you’ve made certain changes, it is important to continuously pay attention to the outcomes of these changes in order to make sure they provide you with the result you expected.
If, however, any change does not stack up or provide you with the long-term benefits it initially promised, awareness can help you interrupt your own process by making alterations rather than waste time.
But, again, it comes down to a willingness to face the truth.
Sometimes, after we’ve made certain changes, we seem to become attached to the changes we’ve made … Even when at some point we realise that we’ve made a mistake.
It is at that time that we avoid being stubborn, but rather choose to be humble, bold and take action.
This brings me to the third principle which is,
Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to face your fears and act regardless.
Oftentimes, lack of action on our part is not the result of a lack of knowledge or knowing what to do, but rather the lack of courage …
Instead, it is FEAR that seems to be running the show.
Now, even though we are biologically primed to identify and react to perceived threats instantly, it was never intended to be a long-term strategy for thriving.
Being in a constant state of “under threat” can lead to all kinds of other devastating results in our lives.
Fear is a great “alarm bell,” but that’s probably as far as it goes.
It’s not a long-term success plan or strategy.
Therefore, it is important to develop COURAGE.
For it is courage that will help us step up when we need to.
Again, oftentimes we withhold ourselves somewhat because we are scared of what might happen should we actually speak up or step up.
But that’s where the gold often is.
Not cowering in the shadows.
Courage is the energy we require to ultimately put any plan or strategy into action.
Courage also gives us consistency in application.
We are more inclined to follow through when we feel courageous rather than fearful.
Especially when our first-time efforts don’t pay off.
At those moments fear will often be loudest.
But it is courage that keeps us on the path.
This brings me to the fourth important principle underlying my framework, which is,
To create any change, you need more than just the desire or goal to do so. What you need is an effective strategy.
I call this, tactics.
There are many things you can do to improve a love relationship. Because, as we said before, it isn’t rocket science.
However, it does seem like there are some tactics that work better than others when we take into account what many experts and couples have learned over the years about happy and healthy relationships.
Look, there is no shortage of literature on love and marriage.
We’ve been in relationships with each other from the dawn of humankind.
This is what we do.
We connect, we attract, we procreate. We are a social species.
So, needless to say, we have observed and learned a lot about relationships and what works well and what does not.
And even to this day, more research is being done on relationships, attraction, emotions, chemistry, and so on.
There isn’t a shortage of information.
But that could also be a problem. Because how do we know where to start and what to do?
In my experience working with couples, a lot of them are so frustrated and feel so stuck by the time they reach me, that there isn’t much time to waste.
They are not in the mood for lengthy therapy that could take years to start giving them some kind of result or relief. They need improvement and they need it now!
And that is where tactics and my 6-C-Framework comes in …
It provides you with six simple phases you need to work through, each with the potential and ability to start turning things around in your relationship.
Now, again, this doesn’t discount any of what I said before regarding the right choice in partner, sharing values, etc., but this framework has the ability to help you make the necessary changes as quickly as possible.
Because sometimes, all a couple needs are 1) assurance that they’re not alone and 2) some effective skills.
Phase 1: Control of Self
The first phase of this framework starts with YOU.
That’s right … You.
There is no relationship transformation without some personal transformation.
You cannot expect a relationship to change when nobody within that relationship makes any changes. It doesn’t work that way.
So, before we get into any relationship-specific strategies or tactics, we have to start with you as an individual.
Because any relationship is highly influenced by the reality of causality: cause and effect, or action and reaction.
Everything we do in a relationship creates ripples. It has consequences.
And those consequences, in turn, lead to more reactions with even more consequences and on and on.
And when you follow this logic you can understand WHY this framework starts with YOU.
Because the moment you change or become a better version of yourself, your partner can no longer react to the “new” you in the same way they did to the “old” you.
And consequently, your relationship must change as a result too. Positively or negatively.
The point is, the moment the “cause” changes, the “effect” must change as well. And we can use this to our advantage.
Which parts about YOU, in particular, do we have to look at?
Because again, we can focus on a thousand different things, but I have found that starting with two main areas can make a huge impact right out of the gate.
The first area is VALUES.
The second area is EMOTIONS.
These two factors play a huge role in both the direction of your behaviour and the coinciding energy you harbour each day.
When you become aware of your highest values, why you have them, how they still serve you or not, and realigning with your highest values now … Your life can instantly start taking a different turn for the better.
Moreover, when you become aware of your current emotional state, how emotions are typically created, why you might be feeling dissatisfaction (in the sense of unhappiness), how to bridge that gap, and how to generate more helpful emotions …
You can start showing up feeling happier and being more motivated to pursue your highest values.
Psychologists call this “emotional self-regulation.”
And if you want to know the exact framework I use when I work with a couple on emotional self-regulation, here it is …
I call it my eCube for emotional management. There you go … I just saved you a fair bit of money to get access to this.
In addition to that, when we become aware as a couple of our partners’ highest values, we can align with that.
We can also support them in living out these values, as well as help to create an environment wherein they can find it much easier to develop their ability to generate empowering, constructive emotions.
But we can also help them by creating an environment where it is okay to sometimes struggle and fall apart, knowing that it’s not a dealbreaker.
Unless you become aware of your highest values now, not those you have adopted over time for whatever reason, and until you learn to manage your emotions …
Creating a happy, healthy, and intimate love life could remain difficult.
Therefore, spending enough time on this and yourself can really pay dividends for your relationship in the long run.
Once we’ve worked a bit to realign you with your “higher self,” we also need to start focusing on your relationship by getting into,
Phase 2: Commitment Reboot
One factor that I’ve observed with struggling couples, is the feeling of uncertainty.
It’s when one or both partners feel enough uncertainty in their relationship to make them question the whole thing.
They feel uncertain about where they stand with the other.
They feel uncertain about where the relationship is going.
They feel uncertain about the future of the relationship.
They feel uncertain about knowing what the other partner wants.
They feel uncertain about whether they can trust their partner.
So, there is a lot of uncertainty and it typically seems to prevent the relationship from being stable and improving or growing.
This is why we spend some time in this second phase on what I call, “Commitment Reboot.”
Oftentimes a couple wants to have some certainty again first before they commit to working on the rest of the relationship.
Which makes sense if you think about it.
Why would you invest in something when you’re uncertain about its validity or future?
That would be a hard sell any day of the week.
I’ve seen couples noticeably relax and take a deep breath when their partner verbally and unequivocally stated that they are committed to the relationship.
It’s almost like they’ve been holding their breath until it was said.
I have also observed that until a couple has recommitted themselves to the future of the relationship, it remains a kind of elephant in the room … It’s the thing that needs to be said but isn’t said.
So, in this phase of my framework, I help a couple to reboot their commitment to each other and their relationship.
This is also important based on what some research has found around the worst type of relationship pattern that can exist between a couple.
Some studies indicate that a dramatic style involving many ups and downs (mood swings and uncontrolled emotions) and wildly swinging commitment, is the worst type of relationship pattern between a couple.
Part of the reason is that “dramatic couples” like to do things separately (which fuels uncertainty about commitment) and tend to focus on the negative aspects of each other.
The research found that this type of couple is twice as likely to break up as those that fall into other categories like, partner-focused couples or socially involved couples.
Happy, healthy, and intimate couples seem to engage in behaviour that emphasises and feeds their commitment to each other, rather than unravel it.
Therefore, it only makes sense to spend some time in this phase on looking at the commitment and what a couple can do to start creating enough certainty for each other again.
And this is especially important when trust has been broken or one partner feels that the other cannot be trusted (for whatever reason).
Once we’ve rebooted commitment, we move on to the third phase which is,
Phase 3: Clarity Gained
The simple premise of this phase is that you cannot achieve a certain result or goal without being clear about what it is.
So many people I meet have a strong desire for a better or different result in their life. But the same people also tend to be very uncertain and unclear about what that result looks like.
When asked, they tend to be very clear about what they DON’T want, which is all well and good, but it’s not enough.
If you want to start creating a new result in ANY area of your life, you have to get some clarity around what that actually looks like.
And in this third phase, I help couples through a simple little exercise to gain the clarity they need for the type of relationship they are trying to create. Because without this clarity, it’s really a waste of time because you end up doing a lot of things but without knowing whether you’re getting closer to your desired result or not.
If you are serious about creating a happier, healthier, and more intimate love life, you also need to get very clear about what that would look like exactly, in your specific situation. Because every situation is different, and no two people are alike.
Let’s do something quickly …
Take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine for a few moments your current problems are something of the past, and you have your ideal relationship with your partner.
Imagine what that feels like.
Imagine what that looks like.
Imagine what that sounds like.
Imagine what other people, like your children, experience being around you.
Now, I know that for some of you reading this, this might be hard to imagine right now, but just give it a try …
I always say to clients, imagine for a moment that you have your ideal relationship, and I visited you (not knowing much about you) …
What would I see, hear, feel, and experience?
That’s the level of clarity I need you to start thinking of.
Having some idea isn’t good enough because you need specificity in order to go after something effectively and to know whether you’re getting closer or not.
This specific phase has helped so many couples because, in many cases, it’s the first time one partner actually gets to hear what the other partner really wants … In no uncertain terms.
And that goes a long way in terms of one partner being able to meet the needs, wants, and expectations of the other partner.
Gaining clarity in your relationship isn’t just a nice idea to fill in time …
It ultimately becomes the lighthouse when things seem dark and the terrain has become somewhat rocky or unknown.
And once a couple has created the level of clarity they need to start moving forward in their relationship, the next phase is to start looking at the “climate” of the relationship.
What that means is – how it feels within that relationship.
Phase 4: Climate Changed
It is extremely difficult to change the quality and direction of a relationship when the overall climate is filled with negativity or toxicity.
I refer to this as the “overall effect.” It is essentially how it feels like being part of that relationship and in a relationship with you.
As long as this overall effect or climate is negative and filled with criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or emotional stonewalling, changing things remain difficult if not impossible.
Some research indicates that a ratio of 5:1, positive to negative experiences or interactions, is necessary to maintain a healthy climate and balanced relationship.
Part of this phase, therefore, is to assess the current climate of a couple’s relationship and to strategise how that climate can be changed by introducing new elements to it.
And to help couples work on the most effective things, I share with them a very specific list of basic human needs that all people intrinsically want to meet.
It can be argued that these basic human needs are the driving force behind much of human behaviour, and therefore, holds an important key to relationship happiness.
If I can understand what my partners intrinsic basic human needs are, and find a way to meet them consistently, then logic would say that my chances of creating a more positive environment or climate would increase.
That’s what this phase is about.
Some research has also indicated that an important skill many happy couples possess, is “mindfulness.”
It is essentially being attuned to one another’s needs, wants, and expectations, and tending to these without reminder or prompting.
And when a partner has empathy, attentiveness, and try to meet the other’s needs, not only does it improve the overall quality of the relationship, but also the couple’s desire and motivation to remain in that relationship.
So, working on changing the climate within the context of a relationship is vital for the overall success of individual strategies.
If the climate isn’t taken care of or improved, it essentially becomes like moving chairs around on the sinking Titanic.
But once that’s taken care of, or at least addressed, everything else seems to become much so easier as well.
Once the climate is being changed, it is time to start focusing on refreshing the connection between the two partners in a relationship.
Because at the end of the day, in my mind, this is really what it’s all about.
Without a deep and growing connection between two people, you might end up having an enmeshed couple with a complicated and integrated life, but that’s basically it.
No more and no less.
Phase 5: Connection Refreshed
During this phase, it’s important that you as a couple start working on re-establishing and refreshing your connection with each other.
The issue that a lot of couples face, is that the connection they once had with each other has faded over time. For many reasons.
But if they want to create a happier, healthier, and more intimate love life, it is vital that they nurture and grow their connection with one another again.
However, this is where many heterosexual couples mess things up …
What I have observed is that oftentimes men in a relationship try and fix things in the relationship in a way that is typically a man’s way. And at the same time, women do the same.
The problem with that is that what tends to come naturally to us as males and females, isn’t necessarily what the other wants. Or even makes sense to them.
Take stress for example …
We know that men typically react and deal with stress vastly differently from women. Not better, just differently.
But in that difference is enough “firepower” to shoot the whole thing full of holes.
Furthermore, there are some things that men (or masculine energy) desire more than women (feminine energy).
There are some things that you can do as a man to instantly create a deeper, lasting connection with a woman, and vice versa.
But there are also things that you can do as a man (or woman) to break that connection over and over again. And oftentimes, completely unbeknownst to you.
When we approach our partners in the same manner that we want to be approached, especially in the context of a man/woman relationship, we run the risk of missing the boat completely.
Therefore, in this phase, couples need to learn how to approach each other in a unique and specific way that makes sense to the other.
I sometimes call this a ”gender-specific approach”, or GSA for short (“gender” refers to biological sex here as to not confuse “sex” with intercourse)
Now, I know that the issue of “gender” is supersensitive nowadays, which makes me slightly reluctant to talk about it, but we also cannot escape the fact that we are complicated bio-psycho-socio-beings.
There is a biological and physiological component to us as humans. Not everything is psychological or sociologically constructed. There is a biological component that plays an equally, if not greater, role in how we respond to our environment (marriage included).
Just from a purely behavioural point of view, it seems that the average man (as a rule) desires and responds to certain things more than the average female (as a rule). Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but they seem to be few and far between.
For example, it seems that men crave respect more than love while women desire to be loved more than respect.
Respect here however refers to a sense of significance and feeling worthy and successful rather than a failure.
When a man gets respect from his partner, he feels loved.
Relationship experts like James Bauer refer to this as the Hero Instinct.
Conversely, when a woman feels deeply loved by her man, she feels respected, admired and important (i.e. like a priority).
However, a man can admire his wife for who she is while she still feels less loved as she’s not that important to him on his list of priorities.
Now, of course, this is purely observational and qualitative, but it does seem that there is some merit to this approach.
And, in any case, the clients I have worked with have responded well to the principles and ideas explored and applied in this particular phase of this framework. I let you be the judge.
The point here is that you need to start putting things in place in your relationship to start restoring the connection you have with your partner.
In addition to that, what is extremely helpful, is to keep in mind that men and women tend to be different when it comes to creating a connection with them.
One good example, in this instance, is that women love to (need to) talk and men love to (need to) do.
If, therefore, you want to create a connection with a typical man you need to think in terms of action or activities (adventure, sports, hobbies, outdoors, hunting, and someone).
Conversely, if you want to create a connection with a typical woman, you need to think in terms of conversation, talking, and hanging out.
Now, again, there are exceptions but for the most part, keeping this in mind in your relationship will go a long way.
Again, the point is that in order to create a happier, healthier, and more intimate relationship …
You need to establish a deeper and growing connection with your partner or spouse.
This brings us to the final component of this 6-C-Framework, namely …
Phase 6: Communication Restored
Firstly, why leave communication for last?
The simple answer is that it seems that when the foundation of a relationship is taken care of, in that,
- each partner takes responsibility for themselves,
- there is renewed commitment,
- they have clarity around the type of relationship they want to create,
- they put things in place to improve the overall climate of their relationship,
- and they work hard on deepening their connection with each other …
Communication seems to take care of itself.
The opposite, however, is NOT necessarily true.
When a couple tries to improve their relationship by means of a communication strategy only, without rebuilding the foundation of the relationship, it doesn’t necessarily yield the same results.
What really changed my way of thinking about this, was the research and work by Patricia Love (ED. D) and Stephen Stosny PhD) on how to improve your marriage WITHOUT talking about it.
Their whole argument is that the best chance of saving a marriage is to return to a state of a mutually soothing and empowering connection.
This is ultimately the goal that yields far more results for a relationship, including better communication, but there are things that a woman and a man can do, unfortunately, that breaks this connection with each other.
One such thing is to use “talking” as a primary method to improve relationship satisfaction and happiness.
The reason for that is because men typically do not want to talk about stressful stuff that causes emotional overwhelmed, while women don’t want to feel like they are alone in their relationship.
The problem with using communication (talking) only as a means to strengthen a relationship and overcome problems, is that a man will typically try and avoid these conversations which in turn will cause a woman to feel like he doesn’t care (about her) and consequently make her feel alone (on her own in the relationship).
It essentially becomes a negative environment that feeds on itself.
Conversely, however, when a couple works strategically to create a mutually soothing and empowering connection with each other, the so-called “tough” conversations become far less stressful and difficult to have, which means couples tend to have more rather than avoid them.
So, to be clear, this is not a matter of sidestepping or avoiding having difficult conversations.
As couples, we need to have difficult conversations from time to time.
No, this is more about creating a healthy, mutually soothing and deep connection as the foundation which creates an optimal environment in which difficult conversations can occur more easily and frequently.
Moreover, during this phase of this framework, we also emphasise the point that everything communicates.
Not just our words.
Oftentimes couples unknowingly hurt each other and indirectly hurt communication within their relationship, by being ignorant of the fact that everything communicates.
For example …
Psychologists have broken “communication” down into three main parts:
- body language
- verbal or words
The interesting part about this breakdown, however, is that the verbal part of communication accounts for the least.
In other words, the words we use when communicating with each other is not nearly as important as our body language and tonality. Both, of which, have to do with HOW we communicate something.
Percentage-wise, body language accounts for 55%, tonality 38%, and verbal only 7% of communication.
So, I want you to think about that for a moment …
Think for a moment about your communication with your spouse.
What are you really communicating when you take into account your body language, tonality (how you sound) and verbal (the words you use)?
Suddenly the picture changes a bit, doesn’t it?
When a couple wants to improve their communication, they need to become aware of what and how they communicate, and also how they can improve that.
This brings me to a very simple little framework that I teach many couples to both measure and improve their communication with.
I call it my “LOVE-Talk-Method”.
It’s essentially a framework that reminds a couple to
- focus on listening effectively,
- being aware of and overcome any emotional arousal on their part,
- validate the other,
- establish the most appropriate next step by ensuring there is some form of resolution that works for both (whether that entails compromising or not).
The problem with many struggling couples is that their relationship becomes so filled with defensiveness and consequently, negativity, that it prevents them from wanting to hear each other and providing space for each other’s uniqueness and opinions.
That, in turn, ends up creating an overall negative effect in the relationship which becomes the environment or climate in which they try and survive.
But once that point is reached, it becomes very difficult to remember any good reason why you’re in that relationship in the first place, let alone have the motivation to turn things around.
This is why, going back to Phase 1, I always start with each individual and taking a long hard look at themselves, and coming up with strategies to improve their own contribution to the relationship, as well as, neglect of the other.
The Guy Who Surprised Me …
Depending on how far and how long negativity has been part of a relationship, things could be turned around a lot quicker than what many people might think.
It might take some newfound awareness, courage, putting your pride aside, and trying some new things, but it can be done.
Let me share with you a quick story …
Quite some time ago, I had a couple who came to see me.
The wife was clearly upset about quite a few things, while the husband was completely out of his depth and felt clueless as to what he could do to improve things.
Now, what was interesting, even though it’s quite typical, is that this couple came to me for a specific set of reasons.
However, as we got into it and layers started coming off, one or two deeper-seated issues start emerging.
Back then, my framework looked a little bit different compared to now, but when we got to the session on “clarity”, things started opening up for them.
It seemed like for the first time, perhaps in a long time, they became aware of how much the other person has changed and how much time they have spent neglecting each other as a result of it.
And so, they took that on board and went away to start making some changes.
I still remember we had one session on clarity, after which there was a weekend before our next session the following week.
When they came back the following week, the energy in the room was noticeably different from the first time.
They seemed genuinely happy.
The wife, especially, seemed really happy.
That was a good sign … not wanting to count my chickens and all.
So, I asked them what happened since the last time we met.
They told me that the husband took everything his wife said on board, went away and thought about how he could meet her expectations and needs a lot more consciously and directly.
Which he did.
He took the initiative, made some plans, and took his wife on a trip (just for a weekend) that 1) was a huge surprise to her and 2) she thoroughly embraced and enjoyed.
She told me that her husband went above and beyond to make this weekend special for her, which she couldn’t believe, but it was simply amazing.
She felt like he actually cared about her for the first time in a long time.
She felt important and special, and that made her feel extremely loved.
And as she was sharing this with me, he was simply sitting there with a very broad grin on his face, clearly impressed with himself, but still pretty humble about it.
So, I asked him, what he learned from the experience.
He told me that he was amazed at how quickly and easily the whole feeling and atmosphere in their home changed because of something so simple.
It was almost like he was saying, “If I knew sooner that this would happen, I would have done it ages ago.”
Now, what was even more special, is that in the following weeks this couple just went from strength to strength.
In fact, the husband was the one that showed up with a little notebook and pen to make notes of everything we discussed in our sessions.
It was almost like, now that he had experienced how quickly a little bit of effort could turn things around, he wanted more.
And he didn’t want to miss anything.
I was extremely proud of their (especially his) effort and told them so at the end of our time together.
It was an absolute joy working with them, as this was simply a couple that had lost their way for a bit and got stuck in a rut.
But in the end, they managed to get unstuck and move forward again because they decided to put in the work.
Fast forward a couple of months …
I ran into the wife and asked her how things were going, to which she simply replied, smiling: “Great!”
What about You … What Are Your Next Steps?
Relationship research by Dr John Gottman shows that many couples wait on average six years before reaching out to get some help with issues in their relationship.
That’s of course, way too long.
Other research shows us waiting for problems to spiral out of control may not be the best method; identifying and resolving issues early is more likely to restore a relationship’s health since counselling is more likely to succeed if both parties remain invested in the relationship.
But why would anyone get marriage therapy before they have “serious” problems?
I think the simplest answer is because the whole idea of counselling or coaching has evolved from something you get when there is a problem to making sure you’re constantly developing as a person (or couple) and are prepared for challenges.
Some people even see it as a type of “taking stock” of where things are at and making the necessary adjustments or changes where necessary.
In the context of marriage or love relationships, it is probably even more important to get counselling or coaching sooner rather than later.
And I say this because we know that once too much negativity is present in a relationship, everything else becomes so much more difficult to deal with.
In fact, the severity of some things actually intensifies.
In other words, small issues become big issues when the whole thing doesn’t feel good.
Conversely, however, when the whole thing feels good and is healthy, even big problems can’t knock the relationship off course.
So, the question for you now is …
Where to next?
What are the next steps for you, as a couple?
What do you need to do now, to start creating the quality of relationship that you truly want?
Maybe this post gave you a few ideas for how to improve marriage intimacy or strategies for how to save a troubled marriage.
Perhaps it confirmed something you already knew.
Whatever it is, my challenge to you is to not wait too long before putting something into practice.
Especially if your relationship has been on the back burner for some time now.
Don’t leave it there, but rather make it a focus and priority sooner rather than later.
I always say to people to remember that nobody is coming to save them. If it is to be it is up to me (or us).
No one is coming to knock on your door and tell you to start improving things.
It is truly up to you.
Only you can decide when enough is enough, and when it’s time to start working on the type of life and relationship that you actually want.
Everything else that you keep yourself busy with up to that point, to avoid doing what needs to be done, is simply a waste of time.
Because you are essentially pouring your time and energy into a life or result that you don’t actually want.
But only you can change that.
The question is, are you willing?
The more important question is, WILL you?
A good place to start is to check out the work of Mort Fertel.
I really like his philosophy on relationships and how to save a troubled marriage.