3 Steps To A Happy Relationship

I’ve spent a great deal of time working with couples who are having a hard time communicating within their relationship. One of the first questions I ask them is “Was it always hard to talk to each other”? The answer is almost always no. But over time, the inability to connect through verbal communication has faded. It is interesting to note, that I see this more in couples who are younger than 40. I believe this to be true because this demographic grew up with a mobile device attached to their hips and hands, and never really had to rely on basic interpersonal skills. And there are 3 areas that commonly cause problems for us as we try to communicate.

The first problem area is courtesy. Courtesy and basic politeness are in many cases are non-existent in my younger couples. While this can be true at any age, the art of courtesy is lacking with the 40 and younger crowd (please know that I am not making a generalization. I just see it more with these couples).

I have written about this extensively. When engaged in mindful conversation with our partner, we don’t answer text, emails or take calls. I know I am guilty of this from time to time. But both my wife and I are very good at communicating our needs when having these conversations. Just the other night as we were driving down to the water, I started to talk about our upcoming financial responsibilities. In a matter of seconds, she asked if we could please not talk about that now. That the point of going to the water was to enjoy the sunset and wildlife. In a matter of seconds, that conversation stopped, and we were able to enjoy our evening talking about more meaningful things.

By showing her respect and honoring her wishes, we were able to connect to each other and source. She stated her request. She wasn’t rude about it. I didn’t take offense to it. We had a lovely evening. Politeness paved the way.

The second area that brings couples do my door is their fighting. When two or more are gathered together, there will eventually be misunderstanding and conflict. However, if you “fight fair”, it can be a door that leads to greater intimacy. Let me try and simplify this. See the above section on courtesy and politeness. It is so important that when a difficult conversation starts, be fully present and invest in the process.

I have had couples when in the middle of a heated discussion take calls, turn of the TV set and any other thing they could do to avoid intimacy. Because that what this really boils down to. Being vulnerable and resistant to change. There are many tools out there that can help facilitate an argument. It would be helpful to research some, and have them readily available (and agreed upon) prior to a fight. It is much better to be proactive than reactive in these situations.

The last thing I want to mention is the “I’m sorry” area. So many of us have outgrown an apology. We either don’t say it. Or, we don’t mean it. You know the old saying that the best apology is changed behavior. But even before we get to that point, it starts from those words rolling off of our lips. I am sorry. And know that not every apology is an admission to guilt. You can be sorry that someone is hurting. You can be sorry that someone misunderstood what you said. The important this is say it. Give clarifications. Make adjustments. Be open. Be vulnerable and move on. It’s quite the simple process.

If you follow these 3 steps, you should be well on your way to a greater level of communication and intimacy in your relationship. When you’re polite, you will usually be met with kindness in return. If you have tools that are agreeable to the both of you prior to a heated discussion, you probably decreased the intensity by at least a third. And it’s okay to say I’m sorry and be vulnerable. If we remain closed off, the best we can expect is a relationship of little progress and superficial communication. And if you’re still reading this. I’m guessing you want more from your relationship.

The Green Man, Venus and Their Place in Modern Life

Tannhäuser and Venus – Still Showstoppers

The recently finished Tannhäuser revival at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, broke all daftness records, but is the production we shall remember. Was it the 40 hospital beds on stage for the exhausted returning pilgrims, or the 20 suits of armour that were raised and lowered randomly, throughout the 3 hours – sometimes replaced with a set of devils? Silly theatre can be so powerful!

During the overture, Tannhäuser, (played by a stunt man) is lowered the 50 feet or so from the top of the stage, waving arms and legs. He takes several minutes to descend into a sea of female flesh, albeit with artificial breasts. I assume, there cannot be a female chorus, so well endowed, with not a wobble in sight. I wondered what the women would do with Tannhäuser’s full suit of armour once he was beneath the sea of limbs. I wasn’t disappointed. During the crescendo of brass, bits of armour were thrown up from the depths and then appeared the real, exhausted Tannhäuser, ready for his domestic with Venus.

Why is Venus important to us in 2017, or why was she important in 12th century Christian Germany, or 19th century Paris? Why is she a key figure in Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser? I believe it is because she is a good vehicle for the artist to express creativity and challenge popular ideas. That is the role of the artist.

Pagans helped us to Chrstianity

We can understand why Wagner uses Venus as a dramatic vehicle, but why does St. Chad’s Church in Harpswell have William Harrington, (rector, died 1350), resting on a superb Green Man? The Cathedral in Würzburg has a Green Man overlooking God. Nicosia churches have multiple Green Men. The 13th century minstrels were fascinated by Venus.

Is there a connection? Is there an explanation?

Waldemar Januszczak has an offering I’d like to test. In his fascinating BBC4 program on the Dark Ages, he pointed out that early portrayals of Christ gave him a feminine, or at least very boyish face. Only later, with the Mary cult well established in Christianity, do Jesus depictions move toward the heroic Jupiter-face. Waldemar explains thus. Early Christianity had an image problem – how to appeal to the 50% of the population, who were women. To get around this, artists often went for an androgynous Jesus. The later, post Mary-Cult version of Jesus with Jupiter’s face, was designed to bring the pagans on board, without detaching them from their old religion.

Once one starts looking, Waldemar’s argument stands up in many scenarios.

St. George’s female side is beautifully portrayed in any number of early 15th century sculptures by Bernd Notke. The Katherine Church in Lübeck has plaster copies. One of them cannot be a mistake. George is more feminine than the princess waiting to be saved from the dragon. Is the female George another example of the boyish Jesus?

It didn’t happen in a day.

During early Christianity, there were still pockets of pagan sympathy, and belief in gods such as Venus was a staging post between pagan and full Christian. Venus helped keep new Christians in their old comfort zone. Minstrels and poets used her to express sides of their characters, that were no longer acceptable as medieval Christian dinner talk. Was an androgynous St. George a useful comforter for both genders? Why did Venus reappear so many years after her demise as a Roman goddess?

The theory is, that the middle ages were not as Christian as our history lessons have us believe. For example, the Slav King Jaczo, reigned over the area we now call Berlin Brandenburg. He crossed to Christianity in 1154. That was when, with his horse sinking exhausted into the Havel, he did a few try-out prayers to various deities. Things improved after summoning Christ and his horse was helped to the bank of the river. He decided to become a follower, but did he give up his three-headed pagan god Triglav, immediately? Probably not. We all need islands of safety within our vision, before we can take the leap.

Wagner and Venus

Time to apply Waldemar’s theory to Wagner’s Tannäuser. Wagner merged two medieval sagas for his opera. That apart, he remained (nearly) faithful to the original yarns.

Venus lived in the Venusberg, somewhere in what is now Thuringia. Tannhäuser told Venus that he wanted to leave her, because he missed the sky and birdsong. The Venusberg was subterranean, in a mountain, rather than on it, and hidden from mortals. Hold that thought. The protruding bone, which supports female pubic hair is called the mons veneris in anatomy – Latin for Mount of Venus. In the saga, men who entered the Venusberg, accepted perdition.

Let’s assume Venus and Tannhäuser were in a vast cavern, waited on by as much voluptuous flesh as a man could want to gaze upon and sample. You can have too much of a good thing – apparently. Tannhäuser, after an hour of operatic wailing, shouting and accusations, leaves Venus, and returns to the Wartburg. This medieval castle is on a mountain in Thuringia, and is where the rest of the operatic action takes place. The hall can still be visited. In the Wartburg, he rediscovers his love for Elizabeth, the symbol of Christian female purity. She is waiting to be taken and dominated by an honourable knight. Tannhäuser, a knight and minstrel, had been her dream man, before he went sampling without portfolio in the Venusberg.

Tannhäuser gets embroiled in a singing contest on the theme of true love. Elizabeth’s hand is the prize for the winner. Tannhäuser’s friend Wolfram, dutifully sings of pure love – no lust. Tannhäuser blows a gasket and tells them that a bit of lusting after flesh hurt no one. Elizabeth is enthusiastic about the idea. Tannhäuser gets carried away and admits to a sojourn in the Venusberg. He is turned out the castle and told to join pilgrims underway to Rome to see if such a sin can ever be forgiven.

Elizabeth’s Libido, in his Dreams

Nowadays the same soprano sings Venus and Elizabeth, in the same costume and make-up. We have to ask – was the Venusberg a figment of Tannhäuser’s erotic fantasy? Did he fantasise about Elizabeth’s female libido? Is Elizabeth ready to show the lustful part of her femininity? Was this a match made in the Venusberg, rather than in heaven? We never find out. Tannhäuser leaves the distraught Elizabeth to wonder what might have been. She agrees that her husband must be presentable and accepts he must go to Rome. She prays for the Pope’s forgiveness.

Stunning Redemption

Tannhäuser returns from Rome and relates Pope Urban IV’s words. He is as likely to be forgiven such a heinous sin, as Urban’s staff is, to sprout leaves. Elizabeth sinks exhausted to the floor. Wolfram covers her with a shroud. Tannhäuser wants to return to the Venusberg, Elizabeth rises from under the shroud. Now she is Venus and tries to seduce him. Wolfram holds Tannhäuser back, and prevents him approaching Venus. Tannhäuser dies, as pilgrims enter to declare the staff has sprouted leaves – Tannhäuser is forgiven and can join Elizabeth in heaven.

Accepting Sex Drive

In 19th century Europe, many men believed, if women possessed sex drive, they were whores. No one asked the question, was Tannhäuser without guilt, when Venus and he engaged in so-called, sins of the flesh. Did the staff sprout, because there was no sin to be forgiven? In the medieval version of the saga, Tannhäuser does return to the Venusberg, and the staff still sprouts. Were those poets and minstrels trying to tell us, lustful sex is not a sin? Is this why we still love those ancient stories?

We know what Wagner thought. He celebrated female sex-drive on stage, most notably in Tristan and Isolde, although he did let the love potion take the blame for Isolde’s wanton behaviour. No one is fooled, nowadays. We know Tristan and Isolde have the hots for each other, long before the love potion is administered.

Why did Wagner go for the soft ending in his version of Tannhäuser? These operas divided society. The Paris premier of Tannhäuser, (1861) was a disaster and wrecked by the audience’s protests, because the dance was in the wrong place and disturbed dining habits. Perhaps, with such an audience, the medieval ending was unthinkable. The lovers had to go to heaven, not the Venusberg!

Jean Shinoda Bolen, in her Jungian analysis of the role of Goddeses in our lives, defines Venus as the woman with serious sex-drive. I left my copy of Bolen’s ‘Goddesses in Everywoman,’ in a prominent place in my house. No visitor has managed to pass the book without stopping and having a peek. We all need a bit of pagan!

Venus goes other Places

The Tannhäuser story has inspired many works of art, literature and the occasional film (Blade Runner). Aubrey Beardsley added to the genre in the 1890s, with his thin volume, The Story Of Venus And Tannhäuser. It wasn’t printed in full until the 1960s, because no one had the courage. Beardsley died before completion. He describes Tannhäuser’s entry into the Venusberg and the high jinks thereafter. It is pure smut and great fun. Another reason we need Venus – to remind us that life is to be enjoyed and you never know what you might like until you have tried it.

I couldn’t resist Venus and Tannhäuser either. The lovers, in my novel Goddesses, role play Beardsley’s ideas. The complete novel should be a published this year, providing my courage doesn’t desert me.

Goddesses set us Free

Gods and Goddesses, are there to let us let our hair down. They allow us to act out a bit of our character, which otherwise, wouldn’t find an outlet. They appeal to the non-Christian part of us today, as they did for the early Christians 1000 years ago. Waldemar is right. They let us off the hook, but in so doing, keep us on the hook. Let off steam sometimes, is the message. A little bit of what you like, does you good.

Bolen defines women as character types, by using goddesses. If that sounds trite, read her book.

What about the Green Man?

We all love a mystery and the Green Man remains one. We have no idea of his symbolic meaning in pre-Christian society. Why was he so popular with gothic-church builders? Most mysterious, is his enduring popularity as a garden ornament. What position in our character does he personify? We don’t know, but we all like to be a bit mysterious. That is a character trait, too.

Clive La Pensee has used Beardsley’s take on the Venus/Tannhaeuser story, as a major part of his third novel, called Goddesses. He lets his two main protagonists role-play Beardsley’s action, with hilarious and ultimately, disastrous consequences. His heroine Connie, uses a variety of goddesses to achieve sexual liberation, in a way, which would have pleased Venus and Elizabeth.
His second novel – out soon, celebrates women risking disaster, to organise a hostile world to meet their needs. ‘Someone Tell Me What Is Going On!’
Clive has just released his first humorous/sad/wistful collection of poems, dealing with love in old age, Brexit, Fake News and the wisdom of youth. You can ask for your money back, if he doesn’t get a chuckle or a tear out of you.

Dating Too Long With No Success? Stop Dating and Take the Time to Understand What Makes You Fail

If you date too long and see no success, what does it mean? Well, there could be many possibilities: that you haven’t yet found your “soul-mate”; that you haven’t yet recovered from past-relationship; that you are afraid to start again, and so on and so forth.

But if might also be that you have dated too much and feel exhausted from endless trials, disappointments. That you are disillusioned; that you are unsure whether to keep on dating or not.

When this is what you feel, keeping dating might be counterproductive; it might take you no where. The reason being, that you don’t project happiness to your date, but fatigue; not empowerment, but desperation; not patience, but impatience; not self-respect, but neediness.

The problem is, that at your age you might feel that “time is short”. That if you won’t go on yet another date you might miss someone special. That reading a book or go to a movie while still not having a partner is a waste of time.

But then, if you haven’t succeeded until now, do you have any guarantees – except hope – that “next time it will happen”?

When you find yourself in such a situation, having these kinds of fears, thoughts, hesitations and disappointments, what might you do? You may want to take time off from dating and find a way to understand what made you fail until now.

When you take some time off from dating you need to do so with a strong belief that this is for the better; that this will eventually lead you to finding a partner; that this is only a pause you are taking to re-charge, re-vitalize in order to start again, more empowered and more confident in who you are.

So while you take the time off you can engage with other activities; meet other friends; stay home by yourself and enjoy your own company.

But not only enjoy your own company: devote the time to develop to understand what made you fail in your dating attempts. This you can do by developing your Self-Awareness: Looking inwards and see what makes you desperate and needy to have a relationship; realize the fears and needs that control you, such as: the fear of loneliness; the fear of being alone; the incessant need to be loved and have a partner.

Take the time to observe – in retrospect – your attempts at dating and relationships. Notice whether there are any patterns which repeat themselves: do you immediately become dependent on your date? Do you begin to suffocate your partner? Are you driven by the fear of being alone therefore trying to please your partner as much as possible, thus allowing yourself to become a victim within the relationship? and so on and so forth.

Looking inside and observing your patterns is not easy: you confront your own issues, attitudes, self-regard (or lack of); patterns of behavior; the ways in which you sabotage yourself (some of which you haven’t been aware of until now).

But looking inside is crucial for becoming empowered to find a partner with whom to develop a successful intimacy. Observing your past experiences and learning what and how to change is crucial for making the changes you need to make. Gaining insight about yourself is of uttermost importance to realizing what you have done wrong and how you can embark on the road to success.

The Agwagwa Festival: A Ghanaian Traditional Cultural Event for Unearthing Young Talents

The Agwagwa Festival is commemorated by the people of Kwahu Obemeng in the Eastern Region of Ghana. It has a long celebration record of hundred and twenty-five years! The whole concept of the event originated from the ingenuity of their early forebears to improvise a pushcart that could travel within the spaces in cocoa farms, transporting coca farmers from one spot to the other in their farms. It was also used by the young ones as a medium for entertainment while riding them after a stressful farming day. The name of the festival ‘Agwagwa’ was gotten from the sound of the traditional improvised pushcart when it was moved.

The improvised pushcart device was traditionally produced from the big and hard seeds of the local plant called Gyatofoa tree which was very common in the territories of Kwahu Obemeng in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Long flat beams were laid on the big hard seeds from the tree that served as tyres for the moving pushcart. When it was sat on, it was pulled manually from the back by others. It could move from top mountains and hills while landing on lower shores. Today, due to advancement in technology, ball bearings that have been well cushioned are used as tyres for the pushcart. Interestingly, the youth in the society has been given the liberty to experiment and provide interesting moving pushcarts with diverse designs and with any materials that they could lay their hands on. This has developed into an annual youth competition whenever the Agwagwa festival is commemorated during the first month of every year.

The annual competition has been an avenue for finding talented, creative and brilliant young members in the Eastern Region of Ghana who may not have received any form of formal education as a result of their impoverished state. The festival helps in bringing these genius young ones into the public spotlight so that well-meaning members of the society, philanthropists, funding agencies and youth aid agencies could come to their aid. Many fortunate talented youngsters have gotten such privileges and as such, have had access to formal education to hone their great skills and talents. The excellent and unique designs of the pushcarts produced by the young ones could be further developed into very interesting transportation machines. The festival is a traditional event for grooming young persons who would have wasted their talents because of poverty. Due to the festival, many of such youngsters can now have their wish fulfilled as they become future engineers and product designers for leading engineering firms.

The Agwagwa traditional festival receives very little support from funding agencies and companies. This is because it is not known by many people and agencies due to the poor advertisement and public sensitization. Therefore, the tourism industry, youth development initiatives and groups, funding agencies and well-meaning individuals must seek for ways of supporting the chief and traditional council of Kwahu Obemeng as they effectively plan and celebrate the festival. This all-important support and collaboration would help in using the festival in serving its core function which is to search for young talents and assist them to be great engineers and designers for national and global development.

Step By Step Guide To Stop Feeling Insecure In Relationships

In order to learn how to reduce insecurity, you must first begin to understand your self esteem. Self belief, begins early in life. Low self esteem is the product of your upbringing and life experiences and manifests in loss of trust, self worth and self confidence.

Feelings of insecurity are learnt along our journey when you (incorrectly) learn through negative experiences to connect negative events to being rejected.

For instance, as a child, you learn to feel insecure if you are brought up with caregivers engaging in inconsistent parenting. This happens when your parents’ or guardians’ disciplines in an inconsistent manner. This inconsistency results from parenting being mood dependent, rather than consistently being based on particular rules, norms or expectations.

At school this inconsistency is highlighted on a regular basis amongst friendships. Children are going through so many hormonal and emotional changes at school, that emotional reactions and hurt feelings occur daily, if not weekly. If you were taught to perceive these changes as simply emotional and not personal, your self esteem would stay in tact. However, often children internalise these daily rejections to mean they are not liked or unwanted. Even after children make-up (which also happens daily), they can be left with the scars of potential rejection. Children then learn early how to ‘walk on eggshells’ to avoid being rejected again.

Examples of how self doubt can manifest are as follows:

– A close friend gets angry any time you have to say “no” to doing something with her, regardless of your reason
– Your partner yells at you every time he is overtired or stressed out
– A mother in your mothers group argues against every opinion you have about parenting
– Someone close to you ignores you when you are in a group
– Your x-partner cheats on you, so you become paranoid every partner will cheat on you in the future

Reducing self doubt and worry with significant people in your life

The above points highlight negative behaviours that can lead to the development of fear of rejection. Each of these examples highlights other people’s behaviours, which were internalised incorrectly as self-blame. However, this internalisation was incorrect. The examples above would best have been internalised as external responses resulting from the other person’s personal issues. Let’s quickly dissect each example:

A close friend gets angry
This is a reflection of your friend’s issues and has nothing to do with your behaviour. You have a right to say “no” when you are busy too

Your partner yells at you
His/her moods are dictating his reactions towards you. His moods are the issue, not your behaviours

A mother in your mothers group argues against you
This is a reflection of the mother either feeling intimidated by your opinions, or insecure about your role within the group. You have a right to have a different opinion to hers

Your close friend ignores you in a group
This is either an oversight, or the other person is overcompensating for their own insecurities, or jealousy, by focussing on those who may need more work to become close friends or family

Your x-partner cheats on you
This is a reflection of your x-partner and has no bearing on you. Regardless of anything occurring within the relationship, cheating is only the fault of the person engaging in the behaviour

The Top 5 Answers To Reduce Anxiety With Your Partner

1. Rebuilding your self esteem to ensure you have the strength to cope when things go wrong and to be resilient to negative experiences

2. Questioning honestly whether someone’s behaviour is a reflection of their issues (not yours)

3. Trusting in yourself and in your instincts

4. Being open and honest with those you care about to express how you’re feeling and question inappropriate behaviour

5. Living in the world of facts, not perception. So you only act on your concerns when you are 100% confident your judgement is accurate (e.g. ask if necessary before you act).

The most important thing is to believe that insecurity is not a healthy emotion and leads to negative and destructive behaviours. It’s not your fault that you feel this way, but as an adult you have the choice of either continuing to feed this, or challenging it and overcoming in. In doing the latter you will enrich your relationships, enhance your career and live a much more healthy, happy and successful life.