7 Important questions to ask your partner

7 Important questions to ask your partner

There are seven questions that you should ask your partner on a regular basis. These are questions that will change your marriage for the better…

“How was your day?” This is the common backup question – the one you depend on out of habit. The one you use when you want to show that you are interested (even when you’re not) and the one you dig out when you don’t know what to say. Worst of all, if you ask this question regularly, your partner doesn’t really hear it anymore and just answers automatically, without really paying attention themselves.

What you ask and the way you ask it, however, is very important for a healthy marriage. By asking good questions, you keep conversations going, you open communication lines and you get to know your partner on a deeper level.

On the website www.bustle.com, New York etiquette expert, April Masini, writes that she believes a good communicator is someone who knows how to articulate their needs and someone who listens out for misunderstandings and concepts that needs to be explained. “When all people in the communication transaction understand what is being said and expected, there has been effective communication,” April says. Specific questions can help you and your partner to start a successful dialogue so that you can both effectively communicate your feelings, fears and concerns.

Here are some questions to ask your partner:

QUESTION #1: What can I do to help you?

Guys, listen up, because this is an important question to ask. If you are the kind of person who wants to fix things (a doer), you may mean well when you jump right in, without getting the desired response. Why? Because your partner doesn’t always want you to fix the problem. However, he/she wants to know that you care enough to want to do it. If you jump right into action mode, ready to help, your partner may feel like you just want him/her to shut up, but when you ask how you can help, it shows your partner that you care, that you are really listening and that you are willing to do what your he/she needs.

QUESTION #2 What can I do to make you feel more loved?

Everyone wants to feel loved and sometimes the way you feel has nothing to do with your partner, but rather with what happened in your childhood or with things that you are currently trying to sort out in your life. However, you can do a lot to make your partner feel better about him or herself. You may just not always know how. You might think that running a bath for her will show her how much you love her, but meanwhile all she wants is for you to sit right next to her on the couch watching This is Us.

QUESTION #3: Do I understand correctly when you say…?

So many quarrels arise as a result of misunderstandings. Misunderstanding that happen when two people are talking past each other, when they are not listening carefully or are making assumptions. Before you get hot under the collar, take a step back and first ask: “Do I understand correctly when you say…?” Also count to ten before you respond and ask as many questions as necessary for you to get clarity about the situation.

QUESTION #4: What can we do together to achieve that goal?

We are often in such a hurry on the way to achieve our own goals, dreams and future plans that we forget how important it is to work on a shared future dream. Do you really know what your partner is dreaming about? Strategize together and make plans to get there. This one conversation will take you to a much deeper level of intimacy than where you were before this important question.

QUESTION #5: Would you like us to talk about it again?

There are very few serious issues that can be sorted out in one brief debate. Most arguments will need another conversation, and perhaps yet another one. And it is not just arguments, but also conversations about where to move to or which school to choose for the children. These issues need several discussions… and follow-up discussions to make sure that you are both still moving in the same direction or whether it is time to go through everything again. Follow up to make sure that you both have certainty and peace about a matter, and that you are still on the same page after you’ve had time to think about it separately.

QUESTION #6: What is your most beautify memory of us?

This question is super important and you can ask it every now and then, or you can make it an annual event to ask this question on your wedding anniversary. According to research published in Motivation and Emotion, couples who cherish memories of their best times together, reported greater satisfaction with their relationships.

QUESTION #7: Do you think we spend enough time together?

Whether your love language is quality time or not, it is important for any couple to ask this question. According to therapist and author, Tina B. Tessina, it is important not to get so caught up in your role as parents (for example) that you forget how to be friends. Ask your partner regularly if he/she thinks that you spend enough time together, so that the romance doesn’t get lost completely.

There are many other questions that you should ask frequently. Keep some of them light and ask things like: “What on earth freaks you out the most?”, but do not forget about the serious questions, for example: “What is your biggest dream for our children?”. Read magazines and note the questions that celebrities answer. Try to remember things that stood out for you during your childhood and ask your partner about it, for example: “Did you ever eat Catawba grapes as a child?”.

What it actually comes down to is that you should never stop asking your partner questions. While certain things won’t ever change, such as your partner’s past, there are always variables. In ten year’s time she might not feel the same about adoption or university studies, because she is a dynamic being. Keep this in mind, always stay curious and ask as much as you can.

Additional sources: www.bestlifeonline.com; www.bustle.com;  The Effect of Reminiscing about Laughter on Relationship Satisfaction, published in Motivation and Emotion and written by Doris G. Bazzini, Elizabeth R. Stack, Penny D. Marincin and Carmen P. Davis.

Date night is non-negotiable!

Date night is non-negotiable!

Our time is limited and we have a whole lot of excuses! We can’t find a babysitter, our schedules are way too busy and our budget is tight. Still, date nights are not negotiable, says those who know.

Do you feel like you are always busy? Guess what – everyone does. Life is hectic! There is not even enough time to meet all our daily obligations, not to mention the pleasures of romantic evenings out or late morning sex… And if you think you are busy, can you imagine a Hollywood celebrity’s diary? But Chrissy Teigen and her husband, John Legend, make time to ensure that they have date nights. And if they can do it… well…

When was the last time you had a real date night? When last did you switch of your cell phones and tablets to spend time with each other?

“Date night is so important. In fact, it is critical,” says psychologist and relationship expert, Melanie Schilling in Australia’s The Huffington Post.

She believes that couples who have one screen-free evening just once every two weeks, are happy. It doesn’t have to be a fancy affair and it doesn’t have to include any of the romantic cliches. But it is so easy to take your partner for granted – one of the most dangerous territories for a relationship.

According to a study by The Marriage Foundation, couples who have a monthly date night, have a 14% smaller chance of breaking up than couples who don’t.

When you leave date night for “when we get time” or say “we will plan something closer to the time”, the chance that it will realize is very small. There is a saying: “You don’t succeed to the level of your goals, you fail to the level of your systems.”

Therefore, make date night part of a system. Put a solid plan and structure in place to ensure that date night happens – no matter what! To achieve a goal the goal must meet five requirements:

  • It must be specific.
  • It must be measurable.
  • It must be agreed upon.
  • It must be realistic.
  • It must be time-based.

Avoid phrases like: “We’ll have a date night later this week.” Rather say: “Let’s go to Burger King on Wednesday at six-o-clock and go and watch a movie at the Mall afterwards.” Make sure that you are on the same page and if it feels like you are aiming to high, adjust your plans to be more feasible.

4 Reasons why you should do date night

  1. It enhances communication.

There are so many things that demand your attention every day, that date night becomes essential. You have to keep getting to know each other. However, keep date night as light-hearted and positive as possible.

  1. It is an opportunity to relax and take a break from daily stress.

Couples often feel guilty when putting their own needs above those of the children, but every couple deserves to take a night off every now and then, without worrying about household chores. It is good to sometimes put the bills and difficult decisions aside and just have fun.

  1. It is a reminder of why you fell in love with each other.

If you don’t go on a regular date night, you might forget to focus on each other’s good qualities. One-on-one time can serve as a reminder of how things were before the kids arrived.

  1. It builds commitment.

The more good memories you create, the stronger foundation you have when going through a difficult time. Date nights are a good way to create “love reserves”. Being serious about date night shows your partner that you are serious about your relationship.

4 Types of date nights

  1. Combine a common interest.

If you both love history, plan an evening to research your family history together. If you both like exercise, go jogging together at least once a week.

  1. Be adventurous.

Do something that neither of you have ever done before. Move outside your comfort zone and do something that falls outside your normal framework. If you normally prefer a traditional home-cooked meal, then maybe it is time to try out Japanese cuisine.

  1. Have another “first date”.

The longer you are married, the more you become used to each other. Later on, it doesn’t feel like there is anything you don’t know about each other – but there is! Make this date night one where you get to know each other again. Do it interview-style, complete a questionnaire or do a personality test.

  1. Be romantic.

When planning a date night, think about all the facets that you desire in your marriage. Every date night doesn’t have to be romantic, but it is important to focus on romance every now and then to bring the butterflies back.

4 Systems to get in place every month

  1. The calendar.

Date nights are non-negotiable. View them as very important meetings that happen after hours. Get together and schedule time in your diaries for date night once a week. These dates can only be moved in extreme circumstances.

  1. A plan for the kids.

If you have kids, planning their care is a priority. Get someone that you can trust with your kids. If you have to use the neighbor’s sixteen-year-old out of desperation at the last minute, you might be so worried that you won’t enjoy your night out anyway.

  1. Who will plan the details?

If there isn’t a designated person responsible for planning date night, it won’t happen. If both wait for the other partner to do the planning, it will result in misunderstandings, half-baked plans and date nights that simply do not happen. For each date night scheduled, the planner’s name must be noted. Take turns, otherwise the one partner will feel as if the initiative is just coming from one side.

  1. The budget.

Date nights do not have to cost a fortune – it is, however, super important that you consider it a priority – so much so that you don’t neglect it. Set up a budget at the beginning of the month and decide how much can be spent on each respective date night. You can either divide it up equally, or plan for two cheaper and two more expensive date nights.

4 Places of inspiration

  1. Something old.

Borrow inspiration from earlier times. Older people didn’t have Pinterest and had to think creatively. They focused on old world charm and manners (such as opening the car door for a lady). If you don’t know much about this, ask people that are older than you.

  1. Something new.

This is where Pinterest comes in handy. Use the available technology to your advantage and don’t underestimate the value of Über, Booking.com and Cheapfligths.

  1. Something borrowed.

Chat to your friends or colleagues to get original ideas for date night. Borrow ideas from movies. Use phrases from songs and poems to woo your partner and google for ideas on chat sites.

  1. Something NOT blue.

Think red! Think passion! Think romance! Think sexy!

4 Don’ts for the planner

  1. DON’T plan a date night only one of you will enjoy.

Yes, it might happen that your date is scheduled on a day when “Your Team” plays rugby, but your wife might not appreciate a night out at the local rugby stadium just because you don’t want to miss the game.

  1. DON’T just go out for dinner.

Dinner can be part of date night, but there must be something extra. Dinner is the easy part. If, however, you choose this as the main event, then opt for an exotic restaurant.

  1. DON’T underestimate the value of catching a hint.

If you listen carefully to your partner’s comments, those will tell you exactly what he/she would like. Especially when they mention: “We must definitely do that someday!”. When you hear something like that, make a note on your phone’s Notes app.

  1. DON’T choose a child-friendly venue.

This is the one chance you have to go to a place without an age restriction. Watch the movie with the highest age restriction, sleep in hotels where children aren’t allowed and eat at restaurants with real white linen napkins (and without the waiters singing Happy Birthday).

4 Rules for date night

  1. You’re not allowed to talk about the kids.

Yes, we know you want to discuss little Ben’s new tooth (it is after all what your life at home revolve around at the moment), but restrain yourself. You had a life before little Ben and will have one after he leaves home one day.

  1. Tough issues are off the table.

Date night is not the time for serious discussions or marriage therapy. It is not the time to raise your frustration or to dig up old dirt. It is a time to get to know each other intimately and have fun together.

  1. Date night is only for you two.

It doesn’t include anyone else. Not even your best friends who are also having a date night and happen to arrive at the same restaurant. Date night is your time exclusively and other people aren’t welcome.

  1. Don’t put too much pressure on your partner.

Don’t expect too much but keep it realistic. Don’t expect your spouse to go into debt so that you can have a spectacular date night. And don’t get angry if your partner is not emotionally in the same place as you are that night.

Additional sources: www.gq.com; www.thechaosandtheclutter.com; www.nestingstory.ca

Christian marriages are fun marriages

Christian marriages are fun marriages

A Christian marriage – boring? Not at all! On the contrary, as a believing couple, you have access to a world of fun in your marriage.

Solomon even recommended it when he said in Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Enjoy life with the woman you love…”.

Research done by the University of Denver shows that couples who have fun together, stay together. “The correlation between fun and marriage satisfaction is high and noticeably, the more they invest in fun and friendship, and being there for each other, the happier the relationship will become over time,” says Howard Markman, a psychologist and co-director at the University’s Centre for Marital and Family Studies.

In addition, in his book Blueprints for a Solid Marriage, Dr Steve Stephens writes: “Couples who know how to play and have fun together, develop a bond that can carry them through the most difficult times”.

A New York Times article entitled Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples further highlights that quality time alone is not enough to result in satisfaction with a relationship. Researchers have found that couples have to spend that time doing interesting activities, because it is new experiences that activate the brain’s reward system.

Couples who took part in exciting date nights reported much greater satisfaction in their marriages than others. So, grab the opportunity – it is not as if we are telling you to sit and study a stack of books together! To have fun with each other is probably the most enjoyable and easiest way to strengthen the bond in your marriage.

This is how you can do it:

  1. Be silly!

Just because you’re grown up doesn’t mean that you have to be boring. And what is better than some silliness, just like when you were kids? Wake hubby up with a clown wig on your head and a cigar in your mouth. Read silly jokes, go ice skating or have a water balloon fight. It is the best cure for boredom!

  1. Try something new.

Is there something you have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing? Do it together! Whether it is something adventurous like parachuting out of a helicopter or learning how to make chocolate… Make it happen and take enough pictures to later look back and remember those moments.

  1. Stay in bed the whole day.

Yes, it is fun! Especially because you would normally feel too guilty to do it. Plan the day: Pack a cooler box full of drinks and snacks so that you don’t even have to get up to go to the kitchen. Make out, sleep, eat, make out, sleep, eat… repeat.

  1. Celebrate everything under the sun!

Make a big fuss over every little thing. The first summer greens, the last day of school, the first swim of the year, the last day of winter. Celebrate the fact that you have survived another year with your son’s strict kindergarten principal. Buy cupcakes for everyone if little sis gives up her pacifier. Create your own events and celebrate!

  1. Play games

When was the last time you played Pictionary? Or Uno? Invite another couple for game night and have a good laugh. Print T-shirts (for example the Johnsons vs the Smiths), make up a war cry that you perform before the games start and buy a tub full of M&M’s for the winning team! Or forget the friends and take each other on, but find a reason to take off your clothes in the process… like playing “strip” Uno.

  1. Make date night non-negotiable.

Whether you buy soft serve ice cream at McDonald’s to enjoy somewhere with a view, or whether you go out for a three-course meal at a five-star hotel… put it in your diaries and mark it as “important”. Nothing should interfere with date night.

  1. Occasionally involve the kids.

Many parents are inclined to think that their romantic plans must always include the children. It does not have to be that way. But sometimes it is impossible to find a babysitter and every now and then you have to include the little ones in your romantic activities. How about a picnic in the moonlight or watching stars on the trampoline? These ideas can be just as romantic, even if the kids are around. At the same time, it will also give them a good example of what a healthy, fun-filled marriage should look like.

  1. Keep your conversations interesting

Yes, sometimes it is necessary to talk about the “important” things, but it is equally necessary to be light-hearted every now and then. Talk to each other in rhymes for an hour! Or imitate funny accents. Quote famous movies or Shakespeare. Whatever you choose, do your best to make each other laugh.

It is completely natural to have fun, we just tend to forget to prioritize it as we get older. Bring back the fun into your relationship and soon you will have the most enjoyable marriage you can imagine!

Sources:  www.equippinggodlywomen.com; www1.cbn.com; www.drmichellegannon.com

Sex toys in your marriage – yay or nay?

Sex toys in your marriage – yay or nay?

There are those who believe that anything that is battery-powered does not belong in a married couple’s bedroom. Then there are those who say that sex toys have saved their marriages. Among Christians, there is a fierce debate about whether the use of sex toys are okay or not. Marriage Capsule decided to investigate…

A lot has changed since the days when women’s “hysteria” was “cured” using a steam-powered contraption, which turned out to be the predecessor of the first electro-mechanical vibrators that saw the light in 1884!

Today, sex toys come in every color, shape and size. From jagged little black numbers with studs, which would freak out any conservative Christian woman, to the innocent duckling, butterfly or rabbit.

Over the past few years, people’s attitudes towards sex toys have also become very relaxed, to the point where it is now almost normal to discuss these around the dinner table. However, this doesn’t mean that the controversy surrounding the subject has completely disappeared.

NO! Sex toys are still taboo

Do sex toys break the unity between husband and wife? Will they eventually become a substitute for your sex partner? For many Christians, sex toys are completely off-limits and not something that can reconcile with their faith.

Well-known speaker, Gretha Wiid, wrote a few years ago on her personal Facebook page that she believes the greatest gift that God gives people in terms of sex is not a wonderful orgasm, but the gift of intimacy. She made it clear that she was not a supporter of vibrators and also referred to her husband, Francois’ DVD called Sex that Destroys.

Gretha is convinced that one can bring lust into your marriage and that even though certain things might be acceptable to both partners, they should not necessarily become permissible. She believes that nothing should take a husband’s or wife’s place. One must also guard against the desires of the flesh and rather obtain divine intimacy in your marriage, she believes.

“Unnatural assistance does not belong in a Christian marriage”

Dr Stella Potgieter is a pastoral counselor who conducts research into sexually deviant behaviour. She also lectures to graduates in order to equip churches to help people. Stella says: “Sex toys are aids used for sexual stimulation to promote intimacy. Intimacy, on the other hand, is a process through which two people, who love each other, freely share their feelings, thoughts, and actions. Through sex, we seek intimacy. Someone to belong to. As is often said: ‘God equips us with all the right tools’ and we do not need ‘help’ of an unnatural nature,” Stella explains.

“Among others, God has given us sex to enable us to become one. What happens between two people when they have sex is a deep mystery and a meeting of two souls. While the human body is temporal and spatial in its physicality, it must be seen and treated as a bodily space for the care of intimacy and bonding, for the body accommodates the soul.

“When penetration occurs, an encounter takes place, yes, an encounter with the other, but also an encounter with the OTHER. The deeply mystical sexual union takes place in God’s presence. This is when husband and wife become one. When sex toys are used, this meeting does not take place.”

“Sex toys can become addictive”

The use of sex toys can, according to Stella, also lead to people losing their passion for sex and/or looking for more and more stimulation in unnatural ways. “Sex was given to man by God to enjoy (Proverbs 5:18). Because the sexual intercourse between two people is the deep mystery of the encounter between two souls, sex toys weaken the power of this encounter. “

She adds: “The trend in society is that there is increasing freedom with regards to sexual practices, orientation, habits and desires. Pornography as a sex toy is also used by some as a stimulant. In such cases, the result is dullness and boredom, which in turn leads to the search for stronger stimuli and more blatant aid forms. Those involved become caught up and are deprived of true sexuality in a normal situation.

“It is like a door to temptation”

Juané, a Marriage Capsule member, and her husband are both opposed to using sex toys. “First of all, from a Christian point of view, the Father gave husband and woman to each other. He also instructed us not to give in to temptation. Temptation usually comes in through a door that was deliberately left open. It may start out as innocent fun for many people… until it’s not enough anymore.

“My opinion is that it is like a drug. And that is precisely where the temptation door is opened up wide and pornography, strip clubs and who knows what else, start to emerge. So, my advice is to enjoy each other and find precious love. I don’t think sexy underwear, however, has such a big influence. After all you want to look good for your husband. And it only stays on for a while, not so? I just think that, as soon as you become dependent on something, it may have to be viewed in a different light,” says Juané.

René, a visitor on Gretha Wiid’s Facebook page, comments: “I don’t believe there were vibrators and toys in Paradise and my husband is all I need, thank you. A husband and wife make a covenant with God every time they have sex, and where does plastic toys fit in with that?” Although on the other hand, people might argue that there was also no Lindt chocolate and bubble bath in Paradise, but that we have the opportunity to enjoy these little pleasures today!

“You’re not making love to your husband”

Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex, is equally opposed to sex toys. According to her, sex toys emphasize physical intimacy over spiritual or emotional intimacy. She is worried that people will become too dependent on sex toys and the pursuit of an orgasm rather than the expression of love. She also believes that many (although not all) sex toys are a form of masturbation. Even if your husband uses the sex toys on you, he is not the one you are making love to, she believes.

Some people end up using sex toys so much that it is no longer their partner, but rather the toy that makes them feel good. When you start relying too much on sex toys, you lose the closeness that sex can possibly bring. Sex is not supposed to be just about one person, it is supposed to be mutual, Sheila says.

She also believes that sex toys can have the same effect as pornography, by recreating body parts that create unrealistic expectations and which can ultimately result in your spouse no longer being “good enough” or sufficient to satisfy your needs.

YES! Sex toys saved my marriage

About eight months after she got married, *Charmaine Williams discovered with a shock that she had Vaginismus. Sex with her husband was almost impossible – every attempt was more painful than the one before. Her husband tried his best to be supportive, but Charmaine was terrified that her marriage would eventually break up because their sex life was limited to mutual masturbation.

She eventually gathered the courage to visit a gynecologist. Although she was relieved to receive a diagnosis, she also realized that it would take time before she would ever be able to have “normal” sex.

“One of the suggestions made by my therapist was to use sex toys to ‘train’ myself for sex,” Charmaine says. “I was really terrified of sex because I didn’t want to experience that pain again. Using a vibrator, I was able to discover myself bit for bit without feeling traumatized.”

Charmaine and her husband now incorporate various battery-powered devices into their routine to relieve the pressure of penetration. “It is no fun for any newly married couple to struggle with sexual problems – what a disillusionment!” says Charmaine. “I even told my husband, after a painful session one night, that I would understand if he didn’t want me anymore, because I felt like half a woman. However, thanks to sex toys, we can now sexually interact with each other. It saved my marriage!”

*Name changed

“A vibrator can be an aid”

Dr Ettiene Kok, a sexologist and urologist from Pretoria, points out that a distinction must be made between sexual aids and toys. An item used by one person simply for kicks, may mean the difference between an orgasm or no pleasure at all for another person.

“In my book, a vibrator is not a toy, but rather an enhancer that can help many women discover themselves and their own sexuality, but it can also be used together, as part of the game of love and the process of making love,” says Ettiene. “It is from this point of view that I would suggest to a person in therapy or a couple to purchase and use a vibrator. The same goes for the use of lubricants.”

But where does one draw the line? Are beautiful underwear, feathers and chocolates not also toys? “Soft” toys such as chocolate, body paint, feathers and so on can help to spice up people’s sex lives. “Here, the biggest stimulus doesn’t come from the toys anyway, but rather from a good relationship with respect, trust, openness, communication and “I like you”-feelings!” says Ettiene.

What about “hard/rough” toys such as handcuffs and whips? “I don’t think there are room for these in a marriage,” he says. “For me it is on the same level as sadomasochism and the Fifty Shades of Grey idea, with which I have a big problem. Things that hurt and cause pain are not supposed to be erotic!”

“If it leads to mutual enjoyment, why not?”

According to Dr Johan Nel, a pastoral therapist from Bloemfontein, there is not much written in the Bible about sex toys. Song of Songs does however lead us to understand what an essential and enjoyable ingredient a good sexual relationship is within marriage. Beautiful and sensual underwear/sleepwear is acceptable within the limited space of spouses’ love game. So are aromatic massage oils and scented candles.

“It is good to feel sexy – it builds self-confidence and self-esteem. If it can contribute to mutual enjoyment, it can’t hurt,” he says. Johan also agrees that vibrators fall in a grey area when it comes to the distinction between a tool and a toy.

“A vibrator is sometimes more functional than erotic, as it is a tool for people who find it difficult to get an orgasm. Its use is common, and it is often recommended by sexologists and therapists. There are situations where penetration cannot occur, and then a vibrator is very useful. It is also helpful in cases where the woman, for example, takes longer to reach climax. As long as the partners focus on closeness, romance and mutual considerate action to deepen the relationship, there is my view, no problem.”

“It can be part of a Christian marriage”

The website themarriagebed.com, aimed at married Christian couples, interprets the term “sex toys” as a poor description for items that enhance sex. “Anything that is not part of our bodies, and which we use to improve sex, can be deemed an item that enhances sex. In Proverbs 7, the Bible mentions herbs and special sheets to make sex more enjoyable.”

Similarly, there are also items that can be used today to make sex more enjoyable for a Christian couple, they say. These include “tame” aids, such as satin sheets, scented candles, mirrors and lubricants. Then, for the more adventurous couples, there are fragrant powders and oils, such as honey and chocolate. Underwear also fits in this category. The website argues that the Bible does not forbid sexual aids like these and they can therefore form part of a loving sex life within the boundaries of marriage.

“But these items can also be the source of distraction, arguments and hard feelings. Many Christians are still struggling with the rules and restrictions they learnt in the past and sexual items may make them feel confused or uncomfortable.” The most important thing for you and your partner is to agree on using aids and not push the other one if he/she is uncomfortable with it.

Johan agrees with this last point and says that toys can become a problem if, for example, the man insists that his wife satisfies herself with the vibrator because it is exciting for him, but she does not like it. “Or if one mate wants the other to use the vibrator anally while there is no agreement. Here it comes down to a lack of love and sex that blurs to a mere act.”

He warns that any Fifty Shades of Grey-type toys rather not belong in marriage. “The Bible rates the love game, with the emphasis on love, very high, in fact, it is said that one should not unnecessarily refuse each other intercourse. Where’s the problem with rough toys? Some of the practices become violent, and that is not the intention of the gift of sex.”

Toys galore

The term “sex toys” is not limited to only dildos and vibrators. According to sexologist, Elmari Mulder-Craig, the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey has led to the sales of sexual aids, especially vibrators, increase threefold. “Sexual aids include lubricants, vibrators and penis rings, among others. Also remember that your whole house is full of sexual toys, such as velvet items, silk scarves, cream, massage oils and more.”

According to Mohamed, a salesman at Adult World in Vredenburg in the Western Cape, poppers and erection pills are their best sellers. A vibrator that stimulates the clitoris is the most popular item among married people. “Married couples usually visit the store together looking for something to spice up their marriage.”

Who buys sex toys?

Michael Brauer, of a company selling sex aids online, estimates that at least 50% of their clients are couples. “We can see in the nature of an order whether it is a couple buying. For example, they buy items for both her and him (in other words, a bit of everything), or the husband buys something for his wife – the order is placed by a man, but it’s a vibrator or lingerie, usually a gift from him to her. We have realized that many couples together search for what they want online,” Michael adds. “Then it is most often the man who places the order (and pays for it!).

“We often get inquiries about what couple’s toys are recommended. We have a whole range of toys specifically designed for couples. Couples usually start with items that they can use during foreplay. If they like it (which is almost always the case!), they try out other things as well. We have couples who have been buying from us for years and regularly try something new. It’s wonderful that people are realising more and more that sex and fun go together.”

Michael says that vibrators remain the most popular item. The sales of sex toys among couples are certainly rising. “People are becoming increasingly ‘open-minded’ and the Fifty Shades of Grey books have also helped to break down stigmas. “

What can you do to stay safe?

Elmari says: “Buy a good quality vibrator recommended by a sexologist. Visit the leading sexologists’ websites in South Africa for guidelines. But when one of the lovers prefers using a sexual aid rather than being intimate with his or her partner, the alarms should sound. This probably indicates underlying dynamics in the relationship that need to be dealt with. Communicate about this. It is not true that you will never again be able to reach an orgasm naturally once you have become used to a vibrator. One can certainly not get addicted to it either.”

Elmari’s tips:

  • There is no recipe that works for everyone. We all have different needs and preferences. Sexual aids are not a prerequisite for good or interesting sex.
  • Ultimately, the love game is about intimacy, sensuality and mutual satisfaction. A vibrator is just a sexual aid.
  • As a woman, you do not have to be ashamed for using a vibrator. You are part of the only species on earth with a clitoris, which consists of about 8 000 nerve endings and which was created exclusively for sexual pleasure.
  • Make sure that you know what each one’s likes and dislikes are, and respect your partner’s boundaries at all times.

Additional sources: facebook.com and tolovehonorandvacuum.com.

A Marriage filled with Gratitude

A Marriage filled with Gratitude

Live a grateful marriage. This is how…

Some experts believe that there is immense value in keeping a “gratitude” journal. Not only can this enrich your life, but it can change your mindset in such a way that your whole being benefits from it. Did you know that living a life of gratitude within your marriage can also bless you abundantly?

“I am so tired of his impulsiveness,” Elaine complained. Her husband, John, was one of the most exciting and unpredictable people in others’ eyes, but one could see that she was tired – emotionally utterly exhausted.

Early in their relationship, on a random Tuesday, he decided that he wanted to go and show Elaine the Eiffel Tower – and the next day, they were on their way. Another time, during his lunch hour, he walked past a jewelry shop where he saw a very beautiful ring, which he bought on the spot and that very same night, he asked Elaine to marry him. Even their wedding day was an impromptu affair – just three weeks after he asked the big question, they got married on the beach… barefoot. To outsiders, it looked like one of the most romantic marriages ever.

But John’s impulsivity was taking its toll on Elaine, whose nature is not impulsive at all. That morning, things just became too much for her to bear.  “Our finances worry me – he makes impulsive purchases and then the items just gather dust in our garage. In addition, last night he decided to quit his job and start building a 3D printer. I never know what crazy idea he will have next.”

Elaine’s concern was justified, but one thing was certain – she would never change John. Deep down, she knew that, and one day, a close friend reminded her about something very important: “Elaine, do you remember that day when you and Gerald (her former boyfriend) were together for about a year? You came to me, being very unhappy, and you opened your heart. You told me at the time that that you know Gerald was your parents’ ideal son-in-law, but that you could never marry him. He was a perfectionist and his entire life was planned to the finest detail. John knocked your feet out from under you…”

And that is when Elaine had a light-bulb moment. She was focused on the bad instead of the good.

The value of gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important ingredients for a successful marriage. In the early days of your relationship, you appreciated each other with gratitude, but over time, it is easy to start taking each other for granted. We then become blind to our partner’s good traits and only focus on the things that bother us.

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, entitled “Have You Thanked Your Spouse Today? – Felt and Expressed Gratitude Among Married Couples” involved couples that were married on average twenty years. It was found that if one partner is deeply grateful for the positive aspects regarding their spouse, or their marriage, they also experienced higher satisfaction within their marriage. Individuals that had higher levels of gratitude was also happier with their marriages. And where one partner actually expressed their gratitude, the other partner also showed more gratitude, without even being aware of the other partner’s specific opinion.

Dr Cameron Gordon, lead researcher of this study, labels gratitude as a positive characteristic, saying: “To create something positive in a marriage is very different from removing something negative. Negativity in marriage leads to the relationship eroding, but we actually know little about the effect of positivity on the maintenance of a marriage.”

This is true, and gratitude indeed leads to laughter, fun, grace and a better understanding of each other.

In another study, published in the journal Personal Relationships, researchers from the University of George interviewed a total of 468 married couples and questioned them about finance, communication strategies and how they expressed gratitude towards their partners. Again, it was found that gratitude remarkably indicated marriage quality. Couples who showed gratitude towards one another was also less likely to divorce. Feeling appreciated has a huge impact on how a person feels about his/her marriage and the individual’s dedication to make it work.

Co-author of the study, Ted Futris, says that all couples disagree and argue. “What distinguishes the marriages that last, from those that don’t, is not how much the spouses argue, but rather HOW they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”

The study also found that financial stress can negatively affect marriages, but that, just by expressing appreciation for one another, this stress can be relieved. “When couples are worried about how to make ends meet, they are more likely to act in negative ways – they are more critical and defensive towards each other and can even stop talking to each other and withdraw, which then results in a lower quality marriage,” says Ted. “Gratitude, however, can break this cycle and help couples overcome negative communication patterns in their relationship, patterns which could be the result of current stress factors.”

It is not always easy to live with gratitude. Sometimes we simply don’t feel grateful and other times life is just moving too fast to focus on gratitude. But in a New York Times article, entitled Choose to be Grateful. It will Make You Happier, Arthur C. Brooks wrote that choosing gratitude can make us feel even more thankful. This is due to the fact that when we express gratitude, our brains release chemicals that reduces our stress, and make us more grateful.

In his research center, marriage expert, Dr John Gottman, also discovered that successful couples have created a culture of kindness and deliberately strive to view each other in a good light.

Habits of gratitude can start small, and in his article, Arthur writes that one should practice internal gratitude, external gratitude and then finally, gratitude for trivial things. The latter is the easiest. Being thankful for his smile, for the coffee that she woke you up with, gratitude for his warm breath in your neck on a cold night…

How do you do it?

  1. Be intentionally grateful.

Become more aware of the things that you appreciate about your partner and change your mindset. Instead of thinking that it is your partner’s job to do something wonderful so that you can feel grateful about it, rather see it as your responsibility to look out for something to be grateful for.

  1. Be generous and selfless.

Do something for your partner without them having to ask and without making a fuss about it. Have new tires fitted to her car, but don’t expect her to praise you for it. Pull the weeds out of his favorite flower bed without expecting thanks.

  1. Recognize and appreciate the intention and effort.

Sometimes things just don’t work out. He might have tried his best to prepare a “MasterChef” meal for your, but it had failed miserably. Respond kindly, for example by saying: “Don’t worry at all. I really appreciate what you did for me.”

  1. Be creative when you express gratitude.

Don’t just use the words “thank you” every time. Learn how say it in different ways. For example, say “I appreciate you”, or “I am so grateful for…” or “May you be blessed for this…”.

  1. Show your appreciation.

Use your body language and reaction to show your partner how much you value him/her. In the study led by Dr Cameron Gordon, it clearly emerged that couples who appreciate each other, apply active listening. When one partner is talking, the other one is clearly listening and processing what is being said (this is a way of showing your partner that you value his/her opinion).

  1. Make a conscious effort.

Set aside some time every day during which you pay specific attention to what is going on in your spouse’s life. Listen attentively when you ask him/her about their day.

  1. Focus every day on things that make your marriage work.

We are so inclined to complain about things that does not work. Make it a daily habit to move your focus to the positives and over time it will become easier to maintain this habit.

  1. Occasionally, express your gratitude in public.

Sometimes even the most confident of people feel insecure in public. Firstly, at home, make sure that your partner knows how grateful you are. But also make sure that he/she knows this when you are among other people.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Write something in your journal every day and devote a specific section, for example the top right block on each page, to your marriage. In that block, write one thing about your partner that you are grateful for every day.

  1. The 60 Second Blessing.

Think about what you can tell your partner every day to encourage him/her. Then take one full minute (without any distractions), look your partner in the eyes and speak life. It is amazing what a simple compliment can do to make love grow. On the blog “marriage363.org”, Heather Christy wrote about one of the turning points in her marriage –  when she and her partner learned about the power of speaking words of encouragement over each other.

If something as simple as a mindset, words of encouragement or gratitude can make such a big difference in your marriage, why not seize the opportunity immediately? Live a marriage of gratitude and experience change in your relationship from today onward.

Additional sources: www.foryourmarriage.org; www.psychologytoday.com; www.bustle.com; www.relatable.com; www.gottman.com; www.soundvision.com

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