Saturday, September 9, 2017

On 2:54 PM by Unknown in , ,    No comments

When people think of the word “intimacy”, their mind typically tracks towards sex. While sexual intimacy is vital to relationships, maintaining a strong emotional bond during a marriage is as challenging as it is important ensuring your relationship remains healthy and continues to grow. Taking the steps to develop, strengthen and sustain intimacy demonstrates your commitment to a loving, lasting, happy marriage. Additionally, you’ll be a better man, husband, friend, and partner.

In seeking to make intimacy more a part of your relationship, it is important to recognize that intimacy is relational. Intimacy is not something you can do on your own, the degrees of intimacy possible in a relationship is dependent on there being a shared commitment and interest. Negotiating and building intimacy in relationships is, therefore, dependent on a clear knowledge of your own and a partner’s preferences and a will to put time and energy into the relationship.

As with any aspect of a relationship, intimacy must be nurtured and cared for continuously. Below is a list of tips to help improve the intimacy in your marriage:
  • Identify that intimacy is its strongest outside of the bedroom. It is extremely critical to clearly distinguish sexual intimacy from other forms of intimacy.
    • Emotional Intimacy – you are able to share a wide range of both positive and negative feelings without fear of judgment or rejection
    • Physical Intimacy – The delight in being sensual, playful, and sensitive in sexual intimacy that is joyful and fulfilling for both partners.
    • Intellectual Intimacy – Sharing ideas or talking about issues or even hotly debating opinions and still respect each other’s beliefs and views
    • Spiritual Intimacy – discussing how spirituality works in your lives, in such a way that you respect each other’s particular spiritual needs and beliefs
    • Conflict Intimacy – the ability to work through our differences in a fair way, and reach solutions that are broadly and mutually satisfactory, recognizing that perfect solutions are not part of human life.
    • Work Intimacy – You are able to agree on ways to share the common loads of tasks in maintaining your home, incomes, and pursuing other mutually agreed goals.
    • Parenting Intimacy – If you have children, you have developed shared ways of being supportive to each other while enabling your children to grow and develop as individuals.
    • Crisis Intimacy – You are able to stand together in times of crisis, both external and internal to your relationship and offer support and understanding.
    • Play Intimacy – Having fun together, through recreation, relaxation or humor.
  • Be a better listener: Intimacy is about understanding and appreciating your wife’s desires and interests. Being a better listener means more than not watching TV while she’s talking, it’s about caring enough to ask the questions that will further the conversation. 
  • Let her rest: If she’s had a long week of work, the kids are being more than a handful or life is weighing heavily on her shoulders, give her a chance to recharge her batteries. Often.
  • Put her goals first: Give her time to learn and grow herself. Invest in her goals and support her dreams. If your wife feels like she’s growing as a woman and person, she will be happier and healthier – so will your entire family.
  • Show her intimacy without expectation: Show her how much you love her without wanting anything in return. She will likely give you things you weren’t even asking for.
  • Make her feel noticed: Let her know she looks beautiful when she takes the time to look pretty. Attention is a human need, your wife isn’t any different, pay attention (even when she makes you late and compliment her as often as possible.
  • Write a mission statement: Take the time to write the expectations for your marriage. Sitting down and sharing goals is an extremely intimate experience. Deciding where to take your family together is the first step in getting where you’ve always wanted to go.
  • Put her first: Value your wife above everyone else and make sure she knows how you feel. Your friends will always be around, your parents are family, but your wife should feel like she’s the most important person in your life.
  • Court her: Remember how easy intimacy seemed before you said, “I do!” Intimacy doesn’t end after you get married, but it’s up to you to bring it back. You’ve caught her, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t ever want to be chased.
  • Spend quality time together: Invite her for some quality alone time. Mark it on the calendar and don’t let anything get in the way. She deserves the attention and will appreciate having it.
  • Silence the electronics – Stop the world. Put down the phones, tablets, turn off the TV and other devices to unplug from the distractions that keep you and your partner from connecting.
  • Be safe for your spouse - We need to be so careful to be safe for our spouses – to understand what might hurt them and to avoid that, and then to know what we can do to help our partners feel loved and valued and do that. 
  • Seek a balance between self and couple - The strongest marriage relationships have two interdependent partners and they invest together in the marriage relationship. Too much inseparability can be a bad thing if it deprives the relationship of the fruitfulness that interdependence brings. So make sure to engage in some good self-care as the husband and allow your wife to do the same in her personal life.
  • Consider marriage enrichment activities - Getting into an organized setting with other couples and a professional counselor can really help develop a deeper and stronger marriage. This kind of focused commitment to improving emotional intimacy is a big investment, but it brings big returns. Consider the Beyond the Broom Marriage Enrichment Series session on Developing True Intimacy. (Shameless plug)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Beyond the Broom Marriage Enrichment Series is designed for couples who want to discuss, learn, explore and strengthen their relationship with intentionality. The structured dialogue provides couples with a safe space to learn and share with one another in efforts to increase effectiveness, appreciation, awareness of strengths and improvement in potentially marriage-threatening areas.

All participant couples arrive with the same purpose – strengthen and grow their relationship in an affirming environment. Beyond the Broom recognizes that while each relationship has its unique experiences and challenges, strengthening the foundation skills of communication, intimacy, finances, and goal-setting can lead to maintaining happier, healthier marriages.

The Beyond the Broom Marriage Enrichment Series consists of 20 hours of instructional input, intensive dialogue and implementation content developed to improve the quality of marriage of those in attendance. The overall effectiveness of the group relies on the voluntary sharing of its participants, which creates a meaningful group experience for attendees and allows for a more effective exchange of ideas and information.

Each workshop is designed to serve approximately six couples, at varying stages of their marriages, who are committed to growing in their marriage and individually. These couples may arrive with healthy marriages or faced with serious challenges, but a couple in a hostile relationship that disrupts the group will be recommended to seek couples counseling.

The Marriage Enrichment Series is conducted in five monthly sessions and facilitated by Sharea Farmer, LCSW and her husband Al-Lateef Farmer. The sessions will be held at RS Counseling & Wellness Center in Cinnaminson, NJ. Each session requires a $30 registration fee and completed couples inventory before your preferred session date.

Healthy Communication - Saturday, August 26 
Learning to identify, name and appreciate our feelings and those of our spouses is one of marriage’s most difficult challenges. This workshop is designed to implement the practical steps to improve communication as a couple. More Information & Registration

Discovering True Intimacy - Saturday, September 23
True intimacy is reached only when two persons know themselves, develop as individuals, and out of an awareness of their own identity and value. In a relationship, this is achieved through a mutual understanding of the stated needs and expectations of partners and commitment to giving themselves wholly towards the fulfillment of those needs and expectations. More Information and Registration More Information & Registration

Yours, Mine, Ours - Saturday, October 21
Poor financial habits or mismanagement of a couple’s finances has led “money issues” to be the third leading cause of divorce in the United States. Learning the language to create an environment for honest, constructive conversations about finances can be the foundation for being a financially healthy and secure family. More Information & RegistrationMore Information & Registration

Fighting Fair: Rules of Engagement During Conflict - Saturday, November 11
It isn’t always easy, but couples must fight fairly for the survival of the relationship, so learning or creating do’s and don’ts during a fight is essential in maintaining a healthy marriage. Ultimately, these conflicts can be used as opportunities for growth and bring couples’ closer together. More Information & RegistrationMore Information & Registration

The G.A.M.E. Plan - Saturday, December 9
It is often valuable to consider how rewarding and fulfilling your marriage is over time and working through differences can authentically increase the gratification and intimacy in your marriage. We have developed our “G.A.M.E. Plan” to assist the intentional progression of couples. “G.A.M.E.” is an acronym for goals, affirmation, mission statement, and environment. More Information & Registration

My Top 3 Go-To Movies About Black Love 

Love Jones (1997)
I remember the first time watching Larenz Tate and Nia Long connect in what now I can only describe as a story of the new Renaissance’s man and woman. The love story explores the emotional, intellectual and physical levels of Love, making their passion and love illuminate from the screen. Tying it together through photography and spoken word only strengthens my love.

(Photo: Addis Wechsler Pictures)

Love & Basketball (2000)
When I heard they were making a movie tying basketball and love, I knew it was going to be great. Then you add a cast that included Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, simply perfection. This movie includes a scene of one the most passionate competition of basketball that mimics the true desire to fight for love through every quarter of life, in hopes to win it all..

(Photo: 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks)

Mahogany (1975)
This is one of those movies that highlight’s Diana Ross popularity throughout the 70s.  Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams’s characters are taken through a roller coaster ride in both careers and love. Billy Dee Williams, wants her to decide between her promising fashion career and him. As the feminist in me is screaming “bloody hell” to the overall plot. Honestly, this movie still holds a piece of my heart and one of the best quotes ever. “Success is nothing without someone you love to share it with!”   

(Photo: Motown Productions)

Honorable Mention:

Middle of Nowhere (2012)

This movie is one of the first love stories I’ve ever seen that allowed the female lead to have contradictory emotions; making it painfully realistic. It takes you on a journey of working black woman who has decided to put her dreams on hold to support her incarcerated husband. The realistically complicated woman goes through ups in downs throughout the movie. And with the deterioration of her marriage she develops an attraction to someone new only complicating thinks further….For more you are have to go check it out… 

What are some of your favorite Black Love Movies?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I’ve grown accustomed to receiving text messages and Facebook posts wishing “Happy Father’s Day”, even though I don’t have children and it’s widely known that I do not want children. However, by nature of the work I do, many people juxtapose the role I play in the development of young people with that of a father or father figure. I understand. I guess. Some of these messages come directly from these students and are heartfelt reminders of just how important the role counselors, advisors, mentors and others play in filling the voids so many young people are growing up with. Hell, one of my former students has called me “Dad” for the better part of ten years and he’s nearly 30-years-old. So, yeah, I get it. I’ve come to accept that those messages are going to continue to come each year and will likely increase the longer I stay in Higher Ed; what I reject are the messages encouraging me to have children of my own, imploring that I’ll be a great father or telling me that I have to want a son or daughter of my own.

Emphatically no.

I’ve known for quite some time that I didn’t want to have children and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more absolute in that thinking. There’s a litany of reasons I’ve never wanted to be a father and at the top of my list is my selfishness. I’m still at a station in my life where my wants outweigh the needs of others; I’m honest about that and okay with it. I’ve been married four and a half years and I still struggle with making sure I’m meeting all of my wife’s needs in the face of my whims and wants. I work at it daily; it’s a constant sacrifice and she has to compromise far too much to put up with me. There’s a freedom to being childless that I am not willing to trade. The ability to get up and go without pause is something I have enjoyed far too long to turn away from now. That didn’t change with marriage, because I found a partner who shares in my passions and the same freedom, who also doesn’t want children.
I think that’s the hard part for people to grasp, that my wife also doesn’t want to have children. There are people who openly ask if she made that choice because of me, but the truth is, she probably wouldn’t have dated me if I had or even wanted to have children. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Not every man wants to be a father. There are people who simply want to love one another and enjoy a healthy and successful marriage, accomplishing the goals they set, seeing the world and helping people along the way. We fit into that category, regardless of the designs people from the outside may have on our marriage. It’s always funny when we’re told that we’re going to change our minds or to wait a few years to decide, challenging our conviction on the issue.

Too late.

Two weeks ago I took the necessary step to ensure that Sharea and I wouldn’t have any biological children of our own when I got a vasectomy. The decision wasn’t hard for me to make at all; I flirted with the idea for a few years, mentioned it in a conversation with my wife and had an appointment and date for the procedure within two days. A vasectomy is the most effective birth control for men, short of abstinence and I felt it was my responsibility as head of my family to have the surgery. There are those who consider birth control a “woman’s thing”, but that devalues her and the partnership of marriage. We could’ve opted for tubal ligation, but I’m far more comfortable with surgery than my wife and the effectiveness of the vasectomy is higher. There was also the option of the having her remain on birth control, but why not free her body of the hormones distributed through her body?

The finality of the decision didn’t rest easy with my wife initially; I imagine a moment or two was needed to come to terms that this meant forever, but that’s her story to tell. I was ready, not because I was excited about not being able to have kids, but just anxious to get it over with. Having surgery of any kind generates those kind of feelings in most people, when you’re just ready to get to the other side of the anesthesia and start recovering. The pain was minimal for the first few days, more of an annoyance than anything and there was some uncomfortableness in my everyday actions for a week or so, but I’ve been through more with less at stake.

There was no change of my mind on the horizon; I’m closing in on 40 and the desire to be that old with a newborn or toddler is not appealing to me. I don’t judge anyone’s decision to have children (under ideal circumstances), so all I ask is the same consideration of my choice not to have any. I don’t feel like any less of a man because I’ve decided to remove my ability to have children. In fact, I feel more secure that I was man enough to remain steadfast in my decision and make a choice for my family going forward. It wasn’t a decision for you or your notions of the intention of marriage or anyone’s desire to be a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, this was based on the goals my wife and I made for our marriage long before we said “I do”.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

We met in 1993 through a mutual friend. We became friends instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. Years went by and we stayed close, but not so distant. He was there for the baby shower of my first born; gave the father of my child and me over a hundred dollars as a gift.

He was involved with someone, and I was too. We still kept in touch to see how each other was doing and how was the family. He never mentioned he had a girlfriend, but I mentioned, I had someone. Years went by and I happened to look in my Facebook inbox and see a message from him saying, “Hey call me.” I replied, “OK, give me a second, but first, “What’s your number”?

From then came the not-so-magical sparks. All I could think about was, what does Paul want with me? Why is he inbox me and want my number? What is so darn important? All I could do is laugh, and say to myself, I know what this fool is all about.

All of my worries came to an end on July 29, 2014 when we got married and vowed to love through sickness and health.  Through sickness and health, I shall repeat for all once again. Before we got married, we talked about kids, I explained to him my struggles and even the struggle with my very own daughter. He understood and BAM I get pregnant before we got married. Not once, but twice.

The first time was planned, but unexpected (go figure). It was in April 2013. Now let me take you all back to what’s about to happen, I have hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a condition in which a mother can conceive a child but has difficulty in carrying a child. This condition can be life threatening as well. For me it was. I have been pregnant a total of seven times before him, many of those pregnancies ending in either it was a miscarriage or an abortion. Was the abortion by choice, yes and no, it was a decision I had to make due to my condition. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) symptoms are crucial and unbearable at times. I would start to get sick at four to five weeks of conception and then just go downhill from there. I couldn’t eat, drink, or even stand the smell of my very own self. I would throw up until I started to see blood dripping in my very own vomit.

The pregnancy advanced and the sickness began. We went to the doctors, they didn’t offer me anything, I wasn’t eating, drinking, and if I tried, it came back up in seconds. I couldn’t take it, the doctors didn’t want to help, I was miserable, couldn’t stand who I was as a person, and just wanted out, even if it meant, death. This condition plays 60% on the mind and the rest physically.

I explained this all to my husband, and he understood, at least I thought he did.

I started bleeding and landed in the emergency room. My husband had to return home to retrieve his wallet, leaving me alone with the doctors. The doctors advised me that I had a high chance of losing the baby because I was bleeding and they could only find a vague heartbeat. I called my husband to explain, to tell him that I couldn’t do this anymore. He was furious, mad, pissed off, didn’t want to talk to me, he thought I was killing his first child. I thought he understood my condition, but truly, he didn’t. He blamed me for everything, even going as far as to accuse me of sleeping with someone on the side. I was already down about what was going on, feeling alone and like crap inside, but keeping it hidden with a smile each and every day.

Two weeks passed and it was time to talk. He still wasn’t trying to hear it, everything was my fault, “Why did I do that? Why him? Was it someone else’s baby and not his?” I was getting tired of being the bad guy when I had already explained my condition. I understand he never saw anything like this, but that’s not my fault.  He finally calmed down, but still didn’t understand.

We search for solutions, but they all seemed so one-sided; I was told to get my tubes tied, because I was the one with the issues not him. This was all coming from my soon-to-be husband. He calmed down and apologized, but I knew he was still hurt, this was his first time having a child at 40 years of age and by someone he truly loved.  Not to mention he’s an only child.

We worked to get over this hurdle and things were getting back to normal. It was time to start planning our wedding. Months passed and we are living a beautiful life once again and I get pregnant again. You ask why not use protection? Well, I have high blood pressure and at my age, no doctor will give me pills with this condition. I can’t do hormones, it makes me sick, so we used the ovulation method and had sex when I wasn’t ovulating.

We prayed that this will be the one, but the sickness started immediately. The nausea, the vomiting, it all came back. This time the doctor gave me medication, but none of it worked at all. I was back in the hospital, IV in my arm and a different medication that didn’t ease the sickness. I was sent home and started to get sick all over again. A few days later, I ended up aborting.

The reason why was different this time; I went to sleep and stopped breathing. I saw something bright and thought my husband was telling me to come towards him. He explained I wasn’t breathing for a few moments. I woke up and knew it was a sign. My body just can’t take this anymore. This medical condition has gotten to my body and won’t allow me to carry a baby at all.

Now, I’m about to get married to a man who has no children and is 40. What do I do? I cried most nights, thinking that he would leave me, find someone else who can carry his child, because I couldn’t do so.  But that’s not what he did. He married me; he came to understand that he didn’t want to lose his wife, that my condition was life threatening. He knew he was going be there through thick and thin, through sickness and health. I was the one regardless of not be able to have the one thing he always wanted. He did end up with the best wife ever and a great friend.

We’ve decided that my daughter is all the kid we need. We both decided that we don’t want kids, and my daughter is enough. We can now cruise the world, complete the goals we always wanted to complete and just love each other infinitely.

This was truly hard for me to share, because the pain is fresh and brings back memories. Often I would question myself, I’m a woman, why can’t I have a child and why did God punish me? No, he didn’t punish me, he gave me a beautiful daughter who I love more than anything. I almost lost her as well, but God granted my wishes and she was born healthy and on time. 

To learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum, please visit the American Pregnancy Association.