DON'T you ever wish you could sit a counsellor down and have him or her answer your most pressing questions without batting an eye?
Relationship issues are many and varied, and many of these issues can consume couples who may not have an outlet to vent. To seek counselling is still seen as taboo in some circles, and many of us will sit and stew over problems, sometimes for years, without getting solutions.
This week we tackled Anthony L Gordon, career educator and family counsellor, who over the last 30 years has distinguished himself in the field of family life education and counselling.
A graduate of West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University) and Andrews University, Michigan, USA, Gordon, an avid researcher and writer specialising in marriage, parenting and human sexuality, is a certified family educator/counsellor.
Here is his take on some of your top relationship queries.
What are the keys to a long, lasting and healthy relationship?
First of all, let us establish that a relationship is the process of engaging one mind with or against another mind. All relationships begin and exist in the mind. Marriage is in the mind, parenting and all other things are in the mind. Therefore, for a relationship to be lasting and healthy, it must be anchored in a healthy state of mind of the parties engaged in the relationship. Some keys to be kept in mind are sweet, childlike friendship; honesty; open communication of words and feelings; and sincere commitment and loyalty. Spouses (husbands and wives) need to share just about everything unreservedly and uninhibitedly with each other.
My husband of 12 years is cheating, what can I do apart from leaving him?
This might be difficult for some to accept, but cheating in a relationship is a choice, a decision of the mind that the individual makes, and no one else should be expected to share that responsibility with them. It is understood that there might be unhealthy situations in a marriage that could be very disheartening to the husband, and the wife might or might not be aware of it. Both should seek to identify and address such situations together. She should therefore begin with some personal, wifely introspection, and if she truly loves him, check to see what issues there might be between them, maybe even coming from her, that might be impacting him negatively. Remember, these at no time will exonerate him of his unfaithfulness. Try to engage him in a heart-to heart sharing of the feelings and the desire for the relationship to work.
My husband is a habitual cheater. What do I do? Do I forgive him?
Forgiveness is always the healthiest way to deal with transgressions against the person. When you forgive, you are the first beneficiary, because your mind finds rest and calm from the situation that has caused you pain and hurt. That said, it does not mean that you are condoning your husband's behaviour. Nor should you continue to allow your body to be used by him at his convenience. Keep your values and sense of self-esteem. Maintain your position that it is you alone or not at all. It is a choice he must make and where you can help him to remedy it, do so for the mutual interest of the marriage.
I am still in love with my ex even though he has moved on. Do I try getting him back? How do I move on?
'Ex' means 'out'. You cannot be out and in at the same time. That is the law in the physical world as well as in the relational world. The implication is that you have not had closure with the previous relationship. Depending on how it ended, who called it quits, and if in your sincerest, genuine heart, you wish for the relationship to be reignited, and if both or one of you have not forged another relationship, and if in attempting to pursue him again you will not be exposing yourself to being used by him at the expense of your dignity, then in a healthy way, it could be OK to make another effort at the relationship. If, however, 'moved on' means that he is engaged in another relationship, for your sense of personal pride and value, you can address your mind also to move on.
My husband doesn't find me sexy anymore, what do I do?
The fact that your husband does not find you sexy anymore does not automatically say that something is wrong with you. It could be the result of his straying mind or even the possibility of him having become unfaithful. However, be sure that you are not knowingly or unknowingly turning him off. Create an atmosphere for simple dialogue, talk through the challenges together. Listen to him explain what might be his concerns. If you have concerns about him, put them on the table as well. Remember, too, that men are sexually motivated by what they see and feel, and if for any reason you might not be attentive to your personal, physical well-being and attractiveness, that could hold a part of the answer to your dilemma.
I can't have children so my husband has got someone else pregnant. How do I survive the pain?
That is real pain for sure. This situation is not unique to you. In my practice, I have seen several couples, who for one reason or another, have not been able to produce children together, and there are many among such couples who still have happy marriages. Now that he has a child coming, it does not necessarily mean that the marriage must be dissolved. Forgiveness on your part should meet repentance on his part and the fractured relationship can be mended and healed in the process of time. In addition, an agreement can be reached as to how he should relate responsibly to the child as long as he does not continue a relationship with the mother of the child.
We have tried counselling to save our marriage. It didn't work. What is my next option?
There is counselling and there is counselling! I am going to assume that you mean professional counselling by a trained competent marriage counsellor/therapist. I am also assuming that you both have been, and are still mutually desirous of saving the marriage, because if it is not the case, and one desires it, and the other doesn't, then it is hardly likely that anything positive will be accomplished even with the most competent counsellor. You ought to have individual sessions as well as the couples' sessions. Proper diagnosis of the issues impacting the marriage ought to have been done and assessments backed up with exercises prescribed as therapy to be part of the treatment package.
Unfortunately, not all troubled, sick cases will experience healing and recovery. While I do not advocate separation and divorce as easy options out, I do not at the same time advocate a life of misery.
I've been married for seven years but I'm in love with someone else. How do I deal with it?
It is not strange for a married woman or man to see someone else to whom he or she can get attracted. Truth be told, every person has the capacity to love more than one person at any time. But that is where the commitment called 'marriage' makes the difference. Being married for seven years and now finding yourself in love with someone else, (and implied here is that your affection for your husband is affected), suggests that something might not be well in the marriage. Maybe your marriage is sending off the SOS signal and you both need to take some mutually-agreed positive measures to spruce-up the married life.
Try and find the factors that led to the love feeling that has developed in you for this other person. Reaffirm your commitment to your husband and to your marriage vows. It is always a good idea to tell your spouse about such feelings, depending of course, on the quality of the marital bond, and where this will not incite insecurity and jealousy.
My husband and I were Christians when we got married and so we never had sex before. Now I find that he cannot satisfy me in bed. Should I divorce him or have an affair?
No to both suggestions. Marriage is for keeps, and it is a school from which you will never graduate... ideally, until death do you part. Moreso, you are Christians, so you ought to keep that holy ideal in your mind. To make that 'keeps' realised, there must be growth together. Your sexual intimacy is a part of your growing together, and if for any reason it is not mutually satisfying, both of you need to get professional and/or medical help to address the matter. There are many factors that could be influencing the situation.
My husband wants to bring porn in the bedroom, is this okay? He also wants me to think about threesomes to spice up the relationship. This is against my principles but I'm afraid he will leave me. How do I handle it?
There is no way that I could endorse any of these suggestions. You ought not to sacrifice your moral principles, especially when these form a part of your sense of integrity and value system. You should firmly, yet as respectfully as you can, share with your husband what your stance on the subject is. Make every effort to be mutually engaged in your intimate relationships and bond with your husband. It is quite OK to get and watch professionally prepared videos/movies that teach and advocate healthy intimate/sexual relationships, but this also needs to be mutually agreed upon. Threesomes are out. That is adultery. Any spicing-up of the relationship ought to be done by just the two of you. If you sacrifice your principles of personal self-worth, marital fidelity and pander to the apparently lower value system of your husband, you will undoubtedly regret it later.
I have seen too many instances of these over my years of practice. The pain is intense and the regret devastating. The improvement of the marriage is very unlikely, because the natural, progressive bonding process with just the two of you has not taken place. I suggest that you sit with a professional who will give you some specific counsel to fit your unique situation.