5 best romantic relationship tips according to my husband

anwar

(He’s not just a pretty face)

I hear about relationship advice from women almost all the time. From men? Not so much. I decided to ask my husband for his top five pieces of relationship advice. The last one is pure gold.

  1. Be yourself– Don’t pretend to be someone who you aren’t. Celebrate your strengths but learn to embrace your weaknesses. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to show your true self to your partner. True love is based on authenticity, not pretense. This is the only way to have a truly rewarding relationship.
  2. When you so something for your partner, do it out of love-Instead of doing things for your partner with the aim of getting something in return, do them because you love them. Acts of love, no matter how simple or mundane they may be, benefit the receiver BUT they benefit the giver even more. I feel good when I do good unconditionally.
  3. Every once in a while, shake up your routine– If familiarity breeds contempt, then the best antidote to this is to engage in new activities and experiences every so often. Routine is important in establishing security but a break from routine keeps the sparks flying. Travel somewhere new, take your partner to a restaurant that you’ve never been to, go dancing, wear a new outfit to your date, etc. New experiences present an opportunity for you to see your partner in new light, making the relationship more interesting and exciting. They give a relationship extra mileage.
  4. Sex is important, but affection is vital-Great relationships are built on a foundation of great friendship. (At this point he smiles and quips: you can get sex anywhere, but love? That’s hard to find. Ha!) Sexual intimacy is of course important in almost all relationships, but I think that the feelings that you have for each other carry you through thick and thin. Sex is like a fast burning matchstick-quick to light up, quick to burn out. But a affection-a feeling of devotion and tenderness-is the slow-burning log that gives off warmth and light steadily through the darkest night.
  5. Love yourself– This, I believe, is the core of healthy relationships. If you treat yourself right, you will always treat your partner right. If you have issues with self-esteem, you will have behavioral problems which will negatively affect how you connect with your partner. Generally speaking, people who don’t love themselves are challenging to be around: they tend to be unhappier, constantly seeking external validation and affirmation. People who love themselves naturally seem to have a happier disposition and are therefore much more pleasant to be around.

What’s your best romantic relationship advice?

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My lover, my roommate

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If you’ve been reading my blog regularly or know me personally, you will have noticed that I am a sucker for all things ‘love’. I enjoy reading articles, books, and posts on this subject and am always fascinated to hear other people’s take on what the word means to them and what, in their experience, changes it from a mere noun to a verb beating with life and passion.

So when I recently came across an online article titled ‘14 Ways to Create the Best Relationship of Your Life,’ I had to take a peak. The article was good; the comments even better (nothing beats a collection of diverse voices offering different perspectives on the same topic). One comment however stuck itself like a sticky note in my head and stubbornly pleaded to be examined with greater attention:

“How about we rent a house together + split the cost & I live in one room and he lives in the “other” and we are lovers when we feel like it…He brings me chicken soup when I am sick. I bring him chicken soup when he is sick. Most of the time we just allow each other “space”…….”

My first reaction after reading this was ‘sign me up!’ It sounded like a clean and uncomplicated arrangement. What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours, and we can come to an agreement on what to share between us. The idea of having my room-my very own private life wrapped neatly in its own tissue paper and tucked carefully next to another neatly wrapped life-tasted enticingly of………freedom. It sounded so nouveau; so chic and worldly. Imagine the luxury of not having to put up with the mess, both material and non-material, of your lover. Imagine the convenience of not having to constantly share yourself with someone else!

The longer I visualized this living arrangement however, the more I started to doubt it. For one, the notion of being lovers when you feel like it kind of defeats the purpose of love itself. Is love meant to be clean and tidy and uncomplicated, or does its genuine existence come in the form of chaos, disorder, and a tangled mess of complicated emotions? Isn’t love the very definition of ‘whoever gets the privilege of sharing your worst also enjoys the privilege of sharing your best’? Despite the risk of pain that it carries, is it worth it to turn a romantic relationship into a roommate living arrangement?

I cannot profess to know the answer to these questions, but I know that the kind of love I believe in is based on the everyday, otherwise ordinary interactions with my partner. The subtle facial cues of thought and emotion, the body language that fuels chemistry…..heck, THE PRESENCE, are all that transform ‘me and you’ into ‘us.’ I am by no means advocating that we should be in each others’ faces all the times, and I happen to think that allowing each other personal space is, in fact, necessary. However if you have too much of it, your once prized tango-of-two can slowly become awkward and clumsy. Separateness can breed foreignness: the familiar can slowly evolve into the unfamiliar, and the one you thought you knew so well can gradually transform into a bewildering alien that you make love to. This is, I believe, how strangers are made in the most intimate of places.

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.
Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

-Rumi

A mother is a mother, is a mother, is a mother

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Sometimes a Mama can’t always be with her kids.  Which, in that case, makes it very hard to accept the conventional label of ‘mother’ and all the conventional images that come along with it; hugs, kisses, comforting home-made meals, bed-time stories, time-outs, and high-fives for a job well done.  You see all these images require the physical proximity between mother and child.  In a perfect world, a mother is someone that is by her children’s sides since birth; a person that is physically present in their lives and acts as the primary caretaker/nurturer/protector of her children.  But what if shitty circumstances force you to be physically separated? Is a long-distance mother less of a mother than a live-in one?

I have a friend who was separated from his mother at 5 years old. He was raised by his father and stepmother, who fortunately, was a very kind one (I think Cinderalla has given a bad rap to stepmoms).  Except for the occasional trips  that involved travelling for two days to see his mom, he saw very little of her.  Thankfully, he turned out to have a very normal childhood. He had his friends, his extended family, and a busy school life that left little time to brood over the absence of his biological mother.  Later on in his life, he ended up living in the same town as his mother and it was there that he finally got to enjoy her mothering: the hugs, the kisses, the comforting meals. Her presence.

“Did you ever miss your mom when you were growing up?” I asked him one day.

“Yes. I had my moments”, he replied.

“How did you cope without her? How her absence affect you?” I was genuinely traumatised on his behalf.

“You sometimes feel sad. That sense of longing…like a limb is missing.” His voice was laced with melancholy. But then he paused and looked up. “But then you grow up and make the best of whatever bit of your life that you have left. You make peace with your past. You learn not take anyone for granted, including your mother. She was always my mother, no matter our distance. And I loved her, no matter our circumstances.”

His mother has since died but he celebrates her every day through simple things.  He prays for her, gives charity on her behalf, talks about her to his children.  She might have been absent during his childhood but even in her death, her spirit still moves his soul. Absence, in this case, might have even made his heart grow fonder.

There is a popular Swahili saying “Sura itakavyokuwa, mtoto mwisho hurudi kwa mama.” It loosely translates to “Raise a child however you wish, but in the end he will always claim his mother.”

A mother is a mother and no matter the circumstance, she will always have a special place in her child’s heart and vice versa.  The mother-child bond is such a sacred one that the Prophet Mohammad, when asked who was deserving of a man’s finest treatment, responded “Your mother” three times consecutively, before finally saying “Your father” when asked the fourth time (Bukhari, Muslim).

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This post is dedicated to all the long-distance mothers out there.