October 20, 2015

Dear Rev Dunbar

My husband and I are Christians and we love each other very much, we have been married for more than 20 years and our two children have both gone overseas. Rev sometimes I swear we are brothers and sister, we are not chummy, we don't do things together, we have sex sometimes but it just dull. I want us to enjoy ourselves but he says we are ok because we don't quarrel or fight. Is this all that there is to it after all these years.


Dear Concerned

I believe that you have both grown apart. You have allowed your lives to revolve around your children and now that they are off you can't connect. You needed to have created some habits while they were there and you would be doing them now. I am going to suggest some general habits over the next two weeks so take note.

Habit No. 1 - Give Each Other Pleasure

Happily married couples are committed to the goal of giving each other pleasure. You must stay focused on the ultimate goal- which is to give each other pleasure and not cause pain. It sounds simple enough, but can be very hard in practice. For just one day, try to maintain a consciousness with everything you do, by asking yourself, "Is what I'm about to do or say going to cause my spouse pain or pleasure?" To monitor how you are doing, each of you should make two lists: One for all the things your spouse does to cause you pain, and another which identifies what you will like your spouse to do to cause you pleasure. Swap lists, and now you know exactly what to do and what not to do. No more mind reading!!

Habit No. 2 - Create Mutually Satisfying Love and Friendship Rituals

Habits are rituals that build and strengthen a relationship. One couple had the following "greeting ritual" at night when the husband came home: He would first greet the dog and hug the kids. Then he would go into his bedroom, change his clothes, and watch the news, followed by a visit to the bathroom. Finally he would wander into the kitchen and mutter something to his wife, for example, "Let's eat fast so we can go to bed!" One might say that such a ritual was not exactly increasing their love for each other. How Are Your Greeting and Goodbye Rituals? So after watching how their dog greeted them every time they come home, this couple decided to come up with a ritual. Elated dogs jump all over their masters and lick them. So they decided to greet each other like the dogs. They started jumping up and down and hugging each other. They really got into it. They had fun and the kids got a kick out it, too. Our actions affect the way we feel. How are your greeting and goodbye rituals? Here are some rituals you and your spouse should consider working on:

n Daily e-mailing, WhatsApp or texting each other with a compliment.

n Daily phone call. (Especially important for husbands to do)

n Anniversaries deserve special attention. Plan to do something both of you really enjoy, rather than feeling stuck two days before your anniversary arrives and then running out to get some flowers.

n Before you turn in for the night, try saying two compliments to each other. This means coming up with new ones each night!

n It is essential to have a "Date Night" at least once every other week.

Habit No. 3 - Create a Safe Place to Discuss Issues Openly and Honestly

Abusive relationships are ones in which you are afraid to express feelings and opinions. Happily married couples create a sense of safety that allows each person to feel comfortable expressing his/her feelings, problems, and dissatisfaction. This sense of safety is the foundation upon which a couple negotiates things that are bothering them. It's common for each person to come into a relationship with certain expectations about how things will be. But without the ability to communicate and negotiate, these issues become sources for power struggles that almost always damage the relationship.

To be continued...

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