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Communication, Intimacy, Relationships

Five Fun and Unusual Ways to Ensure Your Relationship Continues to Thrive Beyond the Honeymoon

I implore my coaching clients to utilize the honeymoon phase of their relationship wisely to firmly establish a solid foundation for their relationship.  Create beautiful, fun memories and clearly express your vision for a shared future during this time; plus take the time to develop the skills needed to be the best partner you can be. The honeymoon phase is filled with an incredible chemistry of love. These chemicals are nature’s way of heightening all of your senses to emblazon loving memories in your mind, giving you energy and endurance to stay up all night together, and to make you single focused on your heart’s desire. Studies show that taking a marriage course, relationship coaching or counseling during the honeymoon phase will strengthen the longevity of your marriage. In fact, some studies show it can reduce your potential to divorce by half. The beginning of a marriage is the best time to establish what matters most and co-create how you are going to work together as a team to get to your end goal of “happily ever after.”

Here are five fun, albeit unusual, suggestions for keeping your relationship on the path to success for the long-run:

Your Nose Knows
Proactively use your sense of smell to reinforce a positive state of being tied to loving memories together. I use an exciting bit of scientifically proven chemistry called the Proust Phenomena  when I work to anchor my coaching clients in certain positive emotional states. Psychologists have demonstrated that memories triggered by smells can be more emotional, as well as more detailed, than memories not related to smells. They have deemed this effect the Proust Phenomena, after French novelist Marcel Proust recalling his vivid childhood memories after being triggered by the smell of a madeline cookie dipped in tea. When you inhale, odor molecules set brain cells dancing within a region known as the amygdala, a part of the brain that helps control emotion. In contrast, the other senses, such as taste or touch, get routed through other parts of the brain before reaching the amygdala.

Research around the Proust Phenomena suggests that memories triggered by smells are more emotional and evocative than memories triggered by other cues. Studies also show a particular emotional association to a smell can be created by repeatedly having that scent involved when experiencing a certain emotional state. One way I suggest using this to your advantage is to create a signature scent for your intimate moments together. Enjoy the journey of finding a certain smell that has no other strong associations for either of you. I recommend using an essential oil because it can be used in so many different ways —diffusing in the air, a few drops in a bath or on your sheets, or massaged on the body. Once you have found a scent that resonates with both of you, deliberately create an emotional state of being you want to achieve when you are completely present and connected in a loving state with your partner. Describe what it feels like and work to establish that connection as you diffuse the smell in the air. Use this scent each time for the next consecutive 28 times you are intimate. After it is embedded in your memory, your partner will be able to help you quickly connect with them by diffusing your signature smell. Even before you consciously smell it, your brain will be getting you in the mindset for love.

Wire Your Brains Together
As they say in neuroscience, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. Be mindful of how this affects your marriage and note that intense, prolonged, or repeated mental/neural activity—especially if it is conscious—will leave an enduring imprint in your neural structure. Armed with this knowledge, it’s up to you to reinforce as many of those shared pathways of neural rewards with positive feelings and loving memories.

Whatever you focus on is strengthened in your mind. A fun, love ritual that engages this phenomena is for you and your love is to set your phone alarms to go off at least once during the day in sync with one another’s alarm. When you hear the alarm, take a mental break from work, childcare or whatever else you were focusing on, if you are able to at that moment or shortly thereafter, for three minutes. Close your eyes, turn off your other mental chatter and concentrate on your partner. You could choose different themes for each day of the week; maybe on Mondays, it will be how much you appreciate your love and Wednesdays it’s a sexy thought. Have fun and play with the themes. You may want to text a little sweet something after your meditative moment or save the juicy thoughts till you reunite at the end of the work day.

Another way to wire together is to learn together. Find something that you enjoy and can be passionate about together. You could take on a big project like co-writing a book or teaching a class. Or it could be a smaller, easier to accomplish task of learning something about an upcoming art theater or cultural event you are going to attend and each study an interesting component to share. You could take up a new language of a country you plan to visit. Yet another fun activity could be finding a theme around your meals, co-create your menus and try cooking new things together. The possibilities are endless, get creative and brainstorm a list of what to tackle next.

Try to Win an Oscar Everyday for Best Kiss
“A peck on the cheek says, ‘I love you,’ but a 10-second kiss says, ‘I’m still in love with you!’” states Dr. Ellen Kriedman, PhD. A relationship that started with a lot of chemistry and romance, can over time become just a sweet friendship that lacks the spark of passion. So to keep your relationship passion-filled, create a contest with your love acting as if you are in a romantic movie of your choice and kiss like you intend to win an Oscar for your acting prowess. I recommend upping the time to at least 30-seconds. You could opt to make an impression to last the whole day through by planting one on your love first thing in the morning or jump start your transition from work-brain to relationship-brain by melting into your love at the end of the day. While you are studying which kisses to emulate, happily you will also be strengthening your relationship, lowering your stress and your potential to divorce.

A study, involving 174 couples, conducted by the University of Rochester found that an inexpensive, fun and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach to strengthen a marriage could be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods—as it was shown to reduce the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years. “We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills,” said Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Simply amazing and an easy bit of marriage insurance!

Keep a “Look Forward To” on the Horizon
In the movie, Hope Springs, Meryl Streep’s character, Kay hit the nail on the head when she said she knew her and her husband were in trouble when they no longer had any “look forward to’s” in their future. Your “look forward to’s” can be little things like splurging on a special ice cream or a nice bottle of wine to celebrate something together on your next date night or a big thing like an upcoming “trip of a lifetime” to Paris. Especially if quality time is one of your love languages then you truly understand just how special creating out-of-the-ordinary moments are for you and your partner’s togetherness. If something is on the horizon, you get to experience the positive body chemistry associated with anticipating something good is going to occur. Endorphin and dopamine stimulation happens when we experience and expect good things. Anticipating positive events sustains the output of dopamine into the brain’s chemical pathways. This chemical cocktail makes you feel good and links in your brain the good feeling with thoughts of your partner.

Technology makes this easy to create into a love ritual. With fun sites like Pinterest, you can co-create boards around upcoming trips, meals you want to cook, adventurous date ideas, or things you’d love to build or manifest together. You could also start putting together lists in a Google Document or via Evernote for things like: a remodeling project, weekend getaways, restaurants and wines you want to try, places to explore, books to read, movies to see, a bucket list of fun adventures you want to do together, and special ideas for upcoming anniversaries. Again the possibilities are endless, so make “look forward to’s” designed to establish special, memory-evoking memories a top priority!

Tap into Your Inner Investigative Reporter
By keeping yourself in a positive state of mind, you will be uplifting the overall state of your relationship. Studies have shown that the base happiness level in a marriage is tied to the level of the individual who is less happy. I would hope that knowing this might instill a desire to make an extreme effort to pull your partner’s spirits up daily by working on your own levels of happiness. Of course we all feel down or sad from time to time but overall, it’s important to strive to see the world with a glass half-full mentality for the long-term health of your relationship.

If you really want to keep the positive thoughts coming, make this a part of your daily ritual. Consistently ask yourself and your partner good, thought-provoking, open-ended questions around the topics of happiness, excitement, pride, gratitude, joy, commitment and love, you’ll find that you access your most empowering emotional states on a regular basis, and you’ll begin to create mental highways toward filling up your reservoirs of positivity. Co-create with your partner a set of questions you can ask at least once a week or better yet once a day when you sit down together over a meal or before you go to bed at night.

Remember whatever you focus on, you will feel and experience on a deeper level. If you focus on the problems in your life or what bothers you about your relationship, chances are you could come up with a long list of negative things and by concentrating on those, they will not only persist but appear to grow. If you concentrate on all the wonderful mutual goals you are committed to with your partner, you’ll find that you are both consistently moving toward the result you’re after. Armed with a set of beautiful questions, designed to expand your mind to the possibilities you can create, you will be focusing on growing what matters most in your lives together!

Design Your Happily Ever After in Big, Little Steps
I hope you take some, if not all, of these steps to heart as you move forward toward building a relationship that can weather any storm and bring you more joy and love than you could ever imagine. Drop me a line if you use these and let me know how they have influenced your life together. One last parting tip: keep a one line a day journal of your loving thoughts and joyful memories for they will be powerful anchors to look back upon over the years to come.

Joy Nordstrom

Joy Nordenstrom

Joy M. Nordstrom is founder of Joy of Romance Inc., a certified matchmaker, relationship coach, wedding proposal planner and special romantic event and vacation planner. Joy emphasizes making relationship maintenance fun, sexy and intelligent by educating individuals on a practical, scientific and passionate-based approach to maintaining their romantic relationships.

Intimacy, Relationships

How to Have More Fulfilling Relationships and How to Create More Love in Your Life

By Dr John Demartini: Human behavioural specialist, educator, internationally published author and sought-after authority on maximising human awareness and potential.

Between positively and negatively charged particles is a center point of light. Between positively and negatively charged emotions is the center point of love. The center point is what every human being already is, yet elusively still seeks. True love is our ultimate objective, whether we’re aware of it or not. We may think we’re looking for something else, something material and fleeting, but even the pursuit of transient goals just leads us back to the truth of love. The purpose of all relationships is to dissolve the barriers that keep us from recognizing the love that already is and expressing the love we ultimately are.

We each have a hierarchy of values or priorities; from the things we think are extremely important, all the way down to the things we think don’t matter. Your priorities or values dictate your destiny. Anything that supports your highest values you call “good” and are attracted to; anything that challenges them you call “bad” and are repelled by.  Your values are based on the perception that something is missing, that a void exists. But actually nothing is missing, it’s just in a form you haven’t recognized.  You think you’re missing it; therefore, you seek it, and anything you think supports that search you call good and anything that challenges it you call bad. Our values determine the way in which we conduct our relationships.

There are three ways to conduct a relationship, and each one has an entirely different outcome.  A careless relationship is one in which you project and focus on your own values without considering your partner at all.  A careful relationship is when you think in terms of your partner’s values without considering your own…this one is called “walking on eggshells”.  Both are one-sided approaches that ignore the other person and create tension in the relationship.  But a caring relationship is one where you communicate your values in terms of theirs. You think of both sides simultaneously, expressing your love for yourself and each other. The definition of caring is knowing someone well enough to know their values and caring enough to express your values in terms of theirs.  Whenever something supports your values, you take away the rules, and when something challenges your values, you set rules. Nations do it, companies do it and you do it in relationships. You set up rules when your values feel threatened. Knowing both yours and your partner’s values assists you in mastering the art of communication. When you communicate with them, you want to make sure that you communicate what is important to you in a way that links with what is important to them. When someone takes the time to communicate in your values you are inspired to participate in the dialogue. When someone doesn’t communicate in your values, you switch off and the conversation becomes a monologue.

Often when we’re in a relationship, we unwisely think the other person is supposed to be like us but if any two people are exactly the same, one of them is unnecessary.  The purpose of a relationship is to teach us to love the parts we’ve disowned.  Each person has their own unique set of values and no two people have the same set.

Each person expresses love through his or her own values. A father who has a high value on education will express his love by purchasing his child a book containing information he thinks is valuable to learn. A mother who values beauty will show her love by helping her daughters or sons become more physically appealing. When we give gifts to people don’t we often give what we would most love to receive? When we honor our partner’s value system, we realize that we’re surrounded by love in forms we sometimes don’t even recognize.

So you are probably wondering how to identify yours and your partner’s values? Your life demonstrates what is truly most important to you. People will often tell you what they think is important but what they take action on every day is what is really important to them. We make time for what is important to us so if we value our relationships, we will sacrifice things that are lower on our priorities to spend time with the people we value. If however we value work and not relationships, then we will sacrifice relationships to spend our time working.

To determine your values ask yourself the following questions from The Demartini Value Determination Process™. When answering these questions, make sure your answers are what your life truly demonstrates:

  1. What do you fill your space with? Have a look at what you have in your office or in your home and see what you display in your most valued space.
  2. How do you spend your time? We always allocate time for things that are important to us so our days are divided up with our priorities. If something is not important we keep putting it off until tomorrow.
  3. How do you spend your energy? You always have energy for things that inspire you. Have a look at where you feel most vital and enthused in your day to day activities.
  4. What do you spend your money on? You will feel reluctant to spend money on things you perceive as unimportant. If something means something to you, you will always figure a way to pay for it.
  5. Where are you most organized? Everyone has areas of order and areas of disorder in their lives. The things that are important to you, you will spend time organizing.
  6. Where you are most disciplined and reliable? If something is important to you, you will be dedicated to doing it.
  7. What do you think about or focus on most? Your mind will always focus on the things that mean something to you. You may be distracted by a phone-call or a television program but your mind will constantly wander back to the area of highest importance.
  8. What do you envision or dream about most? What you envision and dream about will be in alignment with what is important to you.
  9. What do you internally dialogue about most (what you talk to yourself about most)? We all speak to ourselves and we dialogue internally about what is most important to us.
  10. What do you externally dialogue about most? Every person wants to communicate what is most important to them. If someone discusses something we don’t want to hear we will try to change the conversation to what is important to us.
  11. What are you inspired about most? We are inspired by the areas of life that mean something to us so if we value children, then we will be inspired by what children do. If we value business then we will be inspired by achievements in business.
  12. What do you set goals towards most? We will be willing to stretch towards goals that have meaning for us.

To discover what someone else’s values are, you just need to apply the same 12 questions and observe what their life is demonstrating. What do they talk about most, what do they spend their time doing, where are they most organized and disciplined, what do they spend money on and what do they fill their space with.

Once you know your values and your partner’s values, you have the key and potential to dissolving any tensions you may perceive in your relationship by simply asking how what they are doing is assisting you in the areas that are your highest values. Whenever you perceive that what someone else is inspired by supports your values, you open up to them. If you perceive that a person’s values challenge what is important to you, then you will resist them and want to change them to be more like you.

 The secret to a fulfilling relationship lies in your heart. You only require the courage to open it. Make sure you love yourself first.  If you’re not appreciating and loving the true you, it is probably not any easier for others to love you. For you to experience the affection that someone else has for you – warts and all, it is wise to cherish yourself fully. That means choosing to see yourself in 360 degrees with your unique expression of every character trait.  When you equally embrace your dark and light, your positive and negative, or both sides of your supposed duality, then you are ready to experience the truth and unity of love.  Remember, if you can’t love yourself, if you don’t value yourself and if you wouldn’t want to make love with you then how can you expect someone else to?

Dr John Demartini: Human behavioural specialist, educator, internationally published author and sought-after authority on maximising human awareness and potential.

Communication, Intimacy

Love S.O.S. for Newlyweds

By Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B.,
Sex & Relationship Author


I’m getting married next summer, but there’s a nasty issue between my maid of honor and my fiancé’s best man. They used to date (my fiancé and I actually met through them) but now they’ve broken up. It was a messy breakup since he cheated on her, they’re on terrible terms, and are both threatening to boycott our wedding if they have to stand up together. I told my fiancé it was only fair for him to ask his friend to step down (since he’s the jerk), but he doesn’t agree and now we’re arguing. What should I do? I don’t think my friend should have to stand up with a guy who treated her so badly.


Ah, I’m partially out of my league: With regard to the logistics of the ceremony, including presenting this ex-couple with options so they’re not paired together, I’d encourage you to consult a wedding etiquette specialist. These folks are experts at negotiating awkward wedding issues. Just do it soon! But now to what I think is the larger and more important issue, which is the fact that you and your fiancé are arguing over this. It pains me that lovebirds like you are being drawn into this drama. If your marriage is to last longer than the wedding ceremony, the two of you must learn to insulate your relationship from other peoples’ problems. Regardless of how this situation resolves itself, you and your fiancé should use this opportunity to have a heart-to-heart about prioritizing and protecting your relationship. That involves respecting and empathizing with each other’s feelings, compromising, and presenting a united front to friends and family. Realize that this issue will be a transitory one: your marriage, however, will last forever. If you can turn this argument into a chance to showcase the insight and skills your marriage will need to survive, you’ll be the wiser (and happier) for it.


My fiancé and I have been together for four years and living together for two. Since we got engaged last year, I’ve noticed that our sex life is cooling down. I’ve asked him about it, but he says he doesn’t notice a difference. I’m worried this is going to get worse after we’re married, since it seems that the change has happened since the engagement. What can I do to make the sex as hot and heavy as it used to be?


The bad news is that there’s probably nothing you can do to make the sex as “hot and heavy” as it was in first year that you were together. The good news is that this mild cool-down isn’t just normal, it’s also necessary if your relationship/marriage is to deepen in meaning, strength, and—yes—sexual intimacy. Sure, there may be a connection between your engagement and the cool-down, but that could be a good thing. Perhaps sealing the deal has made both of you subconsciously relax and realize that your commitment is for real. Perhaps you’re both starting to sense the gravity of marriage and it’s preoccupying you. Or perhaps your long-term relationship is simply moving out of the hormonal stage. Those are all positive, healthy changes that a couple can expect to experience. You didn’t say that you or he weren’t satisfied with your sex life; you simply said that, after four years, it’s starting to cool down. Don’t make this a bigger issue than it is. Relax, keep your perspective, and use your common sense. Sex is going to change over the years that you’re together—just wait ‘til you bring your first baby home! As long as you and your husband enjoy a mutually-satisfying sex life and keep intimacy a priority, all will be well. You don’t have to experience fireworks every night!


How do I get over my jealousy? Whenever my fiancé talks to a pretty woman (cashiers, waitresses, whatever) I feel a mixture of insecurity, anger, and helplessness. My fiancé seems to think it’s funny and puffs out his chest like it’s a joke.


Believe it or not, your fiancé’s reaction may be a good one. In my experience, men who are out to make their partner’s jealous are more subtle about it. My guess is that he’s doing his best to marginalize your jealousy because he knows it’s unfounded and doesn’t know how else to handle it. You’ve also indicated the type of pretty girls he’s talking to—cashiers and waitresses that you and he encounter in the normal course of a day—so it’s not like he’s trolling the bars at closing-time looking for “hot babes.” I think you need to cut yourself some slack here. Jealousy is a normal emotion and it’s at its strongest in the early years of a relationship. When you feel it, turn your thoughts to all the ways your fiancé makes you feel like you’re “the one.” Although some degree of jealousy is normal, you must maintain your perspective, use your common sense, and keep it in-check so it doesn’t start to consume you.



Debra Macleod is an internationally published author of five sex & relationship guides. Her sixth book will be out in 2010. She is a contributor to Cosmopolitan, Bridal Guide, Men’s Health, Playboy, and Fox TV. Having just moved to Calgary, Debra can be seen on Global TV, Breakfast Television and Shaw TV, and heard on the VIBE 98.5 fm. She is also the host of “Love S.O.S” spice-it-up intimacy seminars for women. Debra has been married for nine years and she and her husband, Don, have a son.

Communication, Intimacy, Relationships

How To Stay Married!

By: Steffany Hanlen
Personal Performance Coach

The ‘Happily Ever After’ starts now.

After 10 years of marriage I think I may have it figured out. On June 29, 1996 I thought I was committing to a person, but the truth is I committed to a process called ‘being married’.

The big question on the day of the wedding is usually “will everything go well and will the food arrive hot?” Rarely is the question be “how will the marriage be after the big day…”? I had no idea, no matter what anyone told me, that I was in for the ride of my life. That ride started the next day, June 30, 1996…

Even with all the work and details involved, getting married is easy; staying married is not so easy. As the divorce rate hits 50% in North America it seems that more and more people are taking what seems to be the easy way out of a situation that, on the day they said “I do”, was never even a thought. Now that statistic is brought up more and more as a fact of life going into this important day.

Divorce is rarely easy, so is there anything that we can do before the nuptials to at least give the marriage a fighting chance??

So, how does one stay married after the magic of the romance and honeymoon period are over? Here are 7 things that may help newly engaged couples navigate the journey into the unknown.

Begin with the end in mind! Decide how you want your married life to be, look and feel. Discuss with your partner the day to day expectations you have about what you think marriage is and how you would like to create your life. Pre-marital courses are great as they allow you to bring up your thoughts, goals and dreams with in the safety of a facilitated program. Do this as soon as you are engaged. Bring up all your goals, fears, hopes and dreams. Be brave!! Put it all out there so your partner knows who they are really getting. If you are with the right person, the truth is what will bring you closer. It is easier to stick to something long term if you know what you are getting into in advance.

Take a truthful look at the marriage of your partner’s parents. Whether we know it or like it or not, we are products of our environments. Look at all the positive and negative aspects of each others upbringing and decide which qualities you want to bring into your own married life. When your new wife ‘becomes her mother’ don’t be surprised. It happens, especially when children are involved.

Commit to the process of being married, not the other person. If you are only committed to the ‘person’ as he or she is on the wedding day, then, when they grow and change…which they will, they may no longer be the person you married.

Irreconcilable differences is the legal term for, “I don’t know her/him anymore”. People change and grow. We learn, we unlearn, we make mistakes and we can hurt each other with unsaid or unmet expectations. If you go into the marriage and understand that this person also becomes your business partner in life, make sure that you listen deeply to their goals and do not make up a story about who you want them to be. If you are committed to being married, each of you can grow and change with the support of the other. Marriage is a process; it is not the end game.

Ensure you are fully disclosing yourself. This one is the hardest. For example, if you are bringing years of debt from schooling (or a shoe addiction) it is much easier to deal with this type of thing before you get married than to have to deal with it afterwards. We have the fantasy that if he/she loves us enough they will forgive us. Maybe so, but wouldn’t it be better for the marriage if the disclosure of ‘negatives’ happened prior to a lifetime commitment. This way a choice can be made with all the information.

Know that just when you think you have it figured out, IT will all change. Life happens. Sickness, health, death, birth, moving, job loss, menopause, weight gain, hair loss… If there is a chance that anyone of these things will happen to you, then have a plan to stick it out together. Be a team, a loss of a job or a birth of a child happens to both of you now.

There is no WE! Even though it seems society is created for couples, newly weds need to understand that a couple is still made up of a ‘you’ and a ‘me’! When you say WE should do something, make sure you assign one of you to actually DO IT. If ‘WE’ doesn’t get it done, then the blame game begins. This is one of the biggest traps I have found. If I hear my husband say, WE should get groceries, I now know to ask if that means he is stopping at the store, or should I. If I don’t ask for clarification, generally WE end up both at home with nothing in the fridge. It goes both ways. Saying ‘WE’ is a cover for not having the courage to ask for what you want. It becomes a habit to say would YOU do this please?

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Your life partner is someone YOU have chosen. Sometime there are business conversations you must have. Emotions can run high so if a decision needs to be made on a sensitive topic like religion, children, money or politics, treat each other with the respect you want to be treated with. Take turns listening to each other without trying to figure out how to be right or get your own way! Also, if you find yourself in a battle of wills or arguing over things in the past, just remember, you decided that this person…and you need to get this…is the person YOU chose to spend the rest of your life with. You are still the boss of your own life and have chosen a partnership with another person who is still the boss of their own life. Your marriage is a third entity that needs to be honored and protected.

If you have entered this mature agreement called marriage with as much honesty and integrity that you have, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, give a little and love a lot!

On June 28th, the night before my wedding, I asked myself a hard question before I fell asleep. As I closed my eyes I said “If this person NEVER changes…can I commit the rest of my life to him?” When I woke the morning of my big day in the safety of my parent’s home the answer came to me loud and clear. It was “Absolutely, be a grown up, get your own needs met and take care of yourself” It was then I truly understood that I was creating the next stage of my life, with a man I loved and respected, exactly for who he was.

Gratefully we are entering our second decade of our marriage partnership and I plan to stick it out to the end. We have both changed, grown, gained and lost weight, lost hair and even a tooth or two. There have been good times and great times. The bad times, well they exist too. I am blessed that I know that if the bad times didn’t exist we really would not know how good we have it.