Sales is the profit generator of every business

Sales is the profit generator of any business.

While sales is the profit generator, improving sales is an age-old quest for every business.

 

Since time immemorial the fundamentals of sales have remained unchanged:

  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying
  • Presenting
    •   Handling objections
    • Closing

PART of THE PROBLEM:

  • Skills-gap

o   Many business owners have great products, great intentions and great academic achievements but cannot sell.

o   Many salespeople have not had formal sales training and were trained in-house by the owner or another salesperson.

o   Many sales people lack the verbal skills required to gain attention and secure an appointment.

 

  • Inner-Game

o   T Harv Eker, world famous trainer, “You can never earn more than your self-worth”. Most salespeople do not have the self-worth to become over-achievers.

o   Bob Procter, world famous trainer, “We were programmed by the socio-economic environment we were born into and have an in-built ceiling to what we will earn”. Most salespeople stop when they get to a point where they are satisfied with their income.

o   Most salespeople know EXACTLY what they need to do to make more sales, but for some reason THEY DON’T.

  • Edge-Gap

o   Many salespeople lack ‘edge’. Sass. Enthusiasm. Charisma.

o   Edge comes from having a clear vision, a clear mission, a clear USP and an inner knowing that your product or service blesses your clients.

o   Sales people with EDGE are more persistent, qualify better, see more prospects, overcome objections better and more often, and close more sales.

  • Age-old-wisdom

o   Tom Hopkins, arguably the best sales trainer in the world, claimed many years ago that the key to sales success is, “See 10 people every day and tell them about your product. Belly to Belly”. In other words, face-to-face. While we do not necessarily agree with the 10 per day, most sales people hide behind sending quotes, emailing, waiting on HO to send leads and social media.

PART of THE SOLUTION:

  • Formal sales training
  • Better sales management
  • Improved inner-game and self-worth
  • ‘Edge’ development

TAKE THESE ACTIONS TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR SALES

  1. Prospecting
    1. Start a FRANCO list – names of Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbours, Colleagues and Other who could either use your product/service or who may know someone who would be interested in seeing you.
    2. ASK more. Ask for referrals, ask for introductions, ask on social media.
    3. Call double the number of prospects you are currently calling.
  2. Qualifying
    1. Ensure that you are speaking to the decision maker who has a genuine need for your product/service.
    2. Be clear on your Unique Selling Proposition and ensure you are reaching out to your genuine target market and even better, your NICHE market.
    3. Calling to make an appointment
    4. Construct a very edgy phone script specifically designed to get you an appointment
      1. Ideally this should contain elements of the company vision, USP and benefit to the prospect
    5. Phone, don’t email
    6. Do not try to sell the product. Sell the appointment.

 

  1. Presenting
    1. Ensure that you overcome the common objections DURING the presentation and as part of the presentation. This way the don’t crop up during the close.
    2. Add some humour
    3. Be yourself – people love authentic
    4. Role-play your presentation with your upline (someone out of your comfort zone who will give you genuine feedback)
  2. Handling objections
    1. Make a commitment to handle just one more objection per sales pitch than you normally do.
    2. Get out of your comfort zone and don’t give up so quickly
    3. Make a list of the most common objections you get and role play your perfect response with your upline
  3. The close begins at the first contact and continues to the formal request, the entire process is part of the close.
  4. Make a commitment to formally ask for the order every sales pitch
  5. a commitment to ask for the order more often per sales pitch (linked to objection handling)

 

While sales is the profit generator and increasing sales the quest, there is no doubt that skills development is an important part of the solution.

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MArriage vows and the divorce rate

I am often confronted by the beauty of the wedding vows and the cold reality of the current divorce rate.

I have often wondered if in fact, the wedding vows may be part of the problem. You see, we vow to stay with our partner in good times and bad. No matter what. In a way giving them licence to do whatever they want because we have vowed to GOD to stay with them in good times or bad.

I felt inspired to write some new ones. I shared them with Jax tonight:

 

I Stephen, take you Jacqui, to be my lawfully wedded wife.

I promise to honour, trust and love you.

I promise to continue to get to know you and never to stop courting you.

I promise to communicate with you, get present with you often and spend time with you, in short, to value the partnership we are creating today.

I promise to express my needs clearly and undertake to understand and fulfil yours.

I promise to keep the home fire’s burning, always choosing you over all others and make you see by my actions that you are my number one.

Right now, I don’t know how I would react to you being unfaithful, getting into any major addictions, losing your ambition or gambling all our money away. I would so prefer not to find out.

I promise to be a beautiful balancing mechanism in our relationship and a catalyst for ongoing growth.

I take our relationship, this marriage and our friendship seriously.

I commit to enjoying the good times, working through the bad and seeing the marriage through to the end.

Above all else, I promise to be yours as we journey through the adventure called life, together.

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What if heaven is the default?

What if heaven is the default?

[this is a thought. A hypothesis. An attempt at challenging paradigmes. IT DOES NOT MEAN I BELIVE IN THE HEAVEN AND HELL MODEL] [I speak of God here as He. That does not mean I personally believe God to be a man]

Why is it that main stream religion believes that HELL is the default? If we don’t live withing a certain religious code, we go to HELL?

Why not, if you live a good life and renounce evil, we go to heaven?
Why is heaven not the default?

I have a daughter, there is nothing she could do that would make me build a fire and ut her into it – for eternity! Am I a better parent than GOD? Am I more forgiving than GOD? Is my ability to love my child greater than God’s? I THINK NOT.

In my opinion, HELL is a construct created by religion to coerce us into living the way they decided we should. It’s a fear based model.

I dont believe in a jelouse God. A wrathful God. A vengeful God. A God that must be feared. I did not fear my earthly father. Why should I fear my father in heaven?

My Father in heaven, the great architect, made me. He knows who I am, what I am, what I will do, where I will go, how I will turn out. How could He get angry with that? I’m his creation. If he gets angry with me, he is dissing himself. His own creation.

I believe HEAVEN is the default. The way to HELL is specifically choosing HELL.

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Entitlement vs Fulfillment

Entitlement vs Fulfilment

 

We certainly are living in interesting times. The world is in such turmoil. Old paradigms being challenged every day. Some violently some peacefully.

 

Currently one of the ugly words out there (especially in SA) is ENTITLEMENT. I want to share my take on this from a human-behaviour and meaning-of-life perspective.

As human beings we all seem to have entitlement issues. We believe we are entitled to married parents. To an easy life. To having both parents present in our lives. To a job, a house, annual increases and regular promotions at work. We believe we are entitled to a loving, caring spouse and a marriage that somehow just works without any effort. We think everyone must like us, that people will behave like we do. That other cultures must fit into our societal paradigm. We believe that no one SHOULD ever lie to us, steal from us or embezzle our pensions.  We believe we have a right to loyalty, honesty and fidelity from our friends, family and spouses. We believe that we are entitled to our God given 3 score and 10 years (70). That no-one should ever bury a child. We believe that our lives should just flow and the universe must just provide.

SO HOW’S THAT WORKING FOR YOU?

We are entitled to a full life. A life full of happiness and despair. Filled with ecstasy and depression. Good times and bad. Fulfilled and unfulfilled. The truth is that as humans we are entitled to the FULL ambit of life experiences. Gut wrenching grief AND moments our hearts could burst with joy. The truth is that some people will love you and others will hate you. That you will love some and hate others. The truth is that most of your achievements will come from actions that you have initialled and acted upon. The truth is that most of your failures will come from actions that you have initialled and acted upon too.

You are entitled to feedback. Negative feedback tells you that you are out of sync with authenticity. Positive feedback tells you that you are in sync with authenticity. Your mastery will come from constant tweaking, constant trial-and-error. Doing more of what works and less of what does not.

You are entitled to balance. When you are egotistical the universe will pull you down. When you are down-in-the-dumps it will conspire to lift you up. You will be arrogant and humble and then grateful when this occurs.

When you start following your internal compass and tweak accordingly, constantly improving, you start to live in a state of grace. A state of fulfilment.

When you are doing more of what you love and less of what you hate, you build your self-confidence and positive self-image. You create health, wealth and fulfilment.

When you are doing more of what you hate and less of what you love, you kill your self-confidence and create negative self-image. If you do enough of this you will probably get ill and shorten your life span (and hate life while you wait to die).

Fulfilment is a chemically induced state. It is the result of an internal chemical reaction. It is created when you live a life filled with the things you truly love and appreciate. When you sub-contract the things you really dislike doing to someone who actually loves doing them.

Most importantly, it is a state achieved by yourself for yourself. It’s not your parent’s duty. It’s not your government’s duty. It’s not your Boss’s duty. Nobody wakes up every morning to fulfil your needs. Only you can create that.

 

Stephen

What I love about you is that you speak the God Honest Truth whether people appreciate it or not. Yes, you are provocative, but that’s what forces us to grow. In this day of Political Correctness and double-speak, you are a beautiful breath of fresh air. Just the God Honest Truth. Thank you.

Charlotte Du Plessis – Founder of Woman of Substance after my talk on FULFILLMENT

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Chapter 1 of So you lost someone, now what? The journey through grief and back.

Firstly, please accept my condolences on the passing of your loved one. The fact that you are reading this probably means you are mourning the passing of someone special. I am truly sorry for your loss.

I have been performing funeral services for about 20 years now and I have been actively assisting people with grief counselling for the last 5 years. Let me start by saying that there really are no words that can take away the pain you are feeling. There is nothing anyone can do to immediately make you feel better. Grief is something you need to deal with. It is a natural emotion, a rite of passage we all go through and a real part of the healing process.

I generally do not like to do grief counselling in the first 3 months because the greatest obstacle to stopping grieving is the person feels that they owe it to their loved one to grieve for a while. And while I agree with this, there is a time when you need to heal and move on. I believe that our prolonged grieving hold those back in the next world and that while they do appreciate our caring, they hate seeing us unhappy. I am certain that one day when we pass, we will want our family and friends to recover as soon as they can.

One of the reasons I am putting this into book form is the enormous number of people that ask me for my funeral service once it is over. Instead of preaching brimstone and fire, I take everyone through a journey of ‘a celebration of life’ and then acceptance. My fundamental belief is that the world is in order, that we pass on the day we were meant to and that GOD knows what GOD is doing. Anything else will leave my families in ‘victim’ mode and is not healthy. I would rather assist you to come to terms with what has happened than to leave you feeling that it should not have and that it is a big mistake.

Of course there are degrees of sadness and tragedy. Most of the funerals I perform are for the elderly who have reached the end of their lives and are generally pleased to be released. Those are sad. When a youngster dies, that is sad and tragic. My worst funerals are when the parents of the deceased are in the chapel. That hurts. And when the spouse and children are also present…EINA! The hardest for me are when the deceased is my age and the children are my daughter’s age. That brings the reality of the fragility of life, home to me in a big way.

People often ask me how I manage to perform over a 100 funerals a year and remain sane. Part of the truth is that I balance them out with over 100 wedding ceremonies but in reality I get some fulfilment from assisting families to say goodbye in the manner they want to. Funerals also keep me humble and grounded. I appreciate life more, I appreciate my wife more and I appreciate my daughter more. Facing death weekly assists me to appreciate what I have and live life more fully.

Speaking of balance, what very few people are able to see at the time, is the beauty of the moment. People are so caring, supportive and loving. Families and friends rally together in a rare show of humanity. People gather together, often for the first time in years. Unified in their love for each other and the grief they share. It is very touching to observe and renews my trust in the human race.

In case you are wondering about empathy, I have lots. I lost my dog Toby when I was only 12 years old, my dad (to heart disease) when I was 22 and my mom (to cancer) when I was 46.

As a Universalist Minister I am blessed to be in the position to assist just about any family from most backgrounds to say good bye to their loved one. What follows is my entire funeral blueprint from which I ‘cut and paste’ as appropriate when preparing for the service. The most important question I ask the family when I meet with them is, “How would you describe the Spiritual beliefs of the deceased? Was she Atheist, Pagan, Agnostic, Christian, very Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, believer not church going, more Spiritual than Religious, Spiritualist?” Most of my services fall into the ‘Christian – believer not church going’ category. You will notice that I have drawn inspiration from many religions, cultures and beliefs in putting this together.

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Compromise and the big “R”

Compromise and the big “R”

I have spent hours and hours with hundreds of couples as well as the hundreds of hours in my own relationships and the word I hate the most is ‘compromise’.

When I ask couples what they believe the key ingredients are for a happy marriage I inevitably get ‘compromise’ amongst them. The longer the couple have been married the more I get ‘patience and forgiveness’. The newer relationships usually give me ‘honest & open communication, trust and compromise’.

Personally I believe the three most important ingredients are, commitment, courage and friendship. Commitment to enjoy the good times, work through the bad times and see this thing through. Courage to have the difficult conversations and keep each other accountable. Friendship to see you through to the end.

My problem with compromise is that someone is always unhappy. Either one is totally unhappy because they compromised 100%. Or both are half unhappy because they both compromised 50%. I also generally find that one partner generally compromises more than the other does. In fact, that partner will probably be more caring, do more for the other one and hold out the olive branch sooner and more often than their partner does.

This is all fair and well during the ‘chemistry stage’ when the testosterone and oestrogen are flying and both are working hard at showing each other how lovely they can be. The problem is that over time, the big “R”, RESENTMENT, starts to build. Dr. Demartini speaks about an under-dog and an over-dog in every marriage. Generally it’s the underdog that compromises and will start to build resentment and if left un-checked, will erupt like a volcano, leaving both partners looking at each other open mouthed in astonishment.

I often speak about Money, Sex and Power in relationships. One partner will earn more than the other. One partner will have a higher sex drive than the other and one partner will be the boss or more controlling. Over time the person who is not the boss will build resentment, especially if the other partner keeps making bad decisions.

Resentment could come from many sources. One partner spending more money than the other. One partner wanting more sex. One partner not enjoying being bossed around. One partner wanting the lights out at 10pm and the other wanting to read. One partner consistently working late and the other wanting them home. One partner having a full time job and being expected to run the home with no assistance. One partner always being the designated driver. One partner playing golf every Saturday while the other looks after the kids. One partner getting a new car every 3 years and the other getting a second hand one every 5. One of you wants a maple finish for the renovated kitchen and the other wants a cherry finish.

In my opinion, one of the most important questions you can ask before getting married is, “Is the marriage a hierarchy (a head and a neck) or is it an equal partnership?” A hierarchical marriage can only work if both partners are 100% happy with that arrangement and actually want it that way. A partnership is much more difficult but, in my opinion has more chance of working. What you DON’T want is to think you are in a partnership, only to find you are actually the neck and subservient to your spouse!

Of course, there are always situations that cannot be solved simply. For example, you love bathing together but one likes a very hot bath but the other cannot manage that heat. Or one of you loves violent movies but the other cannot stomach them. In these type of situations you will just have to accept that the bath will always be cooler than you like when you are bathing together and your partner may go to movies without you sometimes.

I have found that one of the most difficult issues in marriage is how you decide on an outcome when you are in disagreement.

My advice is this:

  • Instead of compromising, always seek an alternative that is acceptable to BOTH of you.
  • Make sure that it is not you that is always ‘winning’ and that you are a fair partner.
  • See your marriage as a 50/50 partnership where you have only 50% vote.
  • Then treat each other as equal partners.
  • When there is no acceptable alternative, determine which of you it means most to. Then let that one decide and make the decisions on that specific situation.

And remember, resentment, the big “R” always leads to volcano, the big “V” and is always unpleasant.

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I AM ALSO A VICTIM OF APARTHEID

Our programming is our greatest curse.

I AM ALSO A VICTIM OF APARTHEID. I was born into a racist system. I was programmed to believe I was superior. I was programmed to believe that others were inferior. My (well meaning) parents believed this too. My schooling reflected it. Those in power ensured I was not exposed to international opinion. I was even given (so called) biblical evidence that this was true. Changing your programming does not happen overnight. One may have an intellectual understanding of what is right and wrong and profess to be something other than what you are. Unfortunately changing who you are does not simply occur when legislation changes. We find ourselves in a God-awful mess with no simple solution. I do not know how to right the wrongs of the past, without creating new wrongs that will have to be righted in the future. I do believe that it will be our great grandchildren that will bear the true fruit of the changes. But can we wait that long?

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Managing your wedding day, on your wedding day

I cannot count the times I have uttered the following sentence:

“John and Mary, now that you have signed the register, take a moment to be together, have a hug and a kiss before you go to meet your guests, this is the last time today you will spend quality time together.”

People often ask me if I have ever had a run-away bride or groom. NO not in 20 years.

People often ask me if anyone has ever seriously objected to a marriage. NO not in 20 years.

I have had several brides call me up a week before the wedding to ask if they are making a mistake getting married. I have had several brides and grooms have a massive fall out in the days and weeks coming up to the wedding day. I have had a couple of brides and grooms having a humdinger of an argument at the wedding reception itself. I have even had a couple leave separately and almost break off the marriage just five hours after saying “I do”. I also refuse to do marriage coaching in the two months leading up to the wedding day.

You echo a million past brides when you say, “But Stephen, our wedding day should be the happiest day of our lives! It’s the day we get married. The day we have our family and friends all together in one place to witness our vows and then have a party with us!”

Here is the rub.

Planning a wedding is stressful. Having a wedding is expensive. Agreeing on every detail is almost impossible! Keeping EVERYONE happy, a fantasy.

Very often, the bride has been looking forward to and planning this for years.

The groom on the other hand, knows that one day he will be married and have some kids and has a vague perception that this will entail a wedding ceremony.

Very often the bride will want full participation from the groom. Very few men can achieve this to the required degree.

Going to a wedding expo and checking out all of the different stands, chatting to suppliers and seeing what’s new may be heaven for the bride and bridesmaid but torture for the groom.

While the bride sees a beautifully orchestrated day in exquisite surroundings, the groom wonders if the money would have been better spent on a good deposit on a house.

I suggest you simply realise your differences, accept each other and plan around it. Use a wedding budget and then agree on who does what. What you each need to do on your own, and what you agree to do together. Be patient with one another. Be kind to one another. This is about the two of you getting married. Don’t forget the Spiritual while you plan the material and physical aspects.

Now we add personalities.

Everyone wants the best wedding for you. Unfortunately, everyone has a different vision of what a perfect wedding is. Everyone will want to add their view and give their opinion and everyone is correct – for them. I strongly suggest that you get emotionally strong here. Decide with your spouse what you want. Then ask lots of people what they suggest. Then tweak what you want together. You need to let everyone know that while their input is valuable, you retain the right to take it or leave it. Thank them profusely for caring and sharing and then use what you like.

This gets tricky when you add money. This version of the golden rule is often very true. “He who has the gold, makes the rules”. If your parents are paying for most of the wedding, they may feel that they have some rights as to how it is spent. On top of that, I predict that your wedding will cost you at least 50% and sometimes 100% more than your initial estimate. It’s difficult to ask dad for more money AND ignore his suggestions!

I often get brides asking me how to handle a meddling mother-in-law. This is tricky. You want the wedding your way but have a life-long relationship with mother-in-law and her son. To be honest, I don’t know what advice to give here. This one is incredibly tricky. Here is a thought. When you get to a situation where you cannot agree, generally someone will be angry or resentful. If you do it their way, you will be resentful on the day. If you do it your way, they will be resentful. My advice; be selfish and let them be resentful on your wedding day.

I have observed that very often weddings, funerals and Christmas bring out the worst in families. They seem to magnify the family issues. On the one hand, the family rally together as a team while on the other hand, those irritating little foibles seem to re-surface. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

My friends, you cannot imagine the intensity of the wedding day. There are a million things going on. A million people doing things. A million thoughts going through your minds. A myriad of relationships tugging in opposite directions. Minister, DJ, Caterer, décor, flowers, drinks, petals, rings, photos, ID copies, candles, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, acquaintances, groomsmen, bridesmaids, hair dresser, makeup artist,  flower girls, ring bearer, wedding planner, wedding crashers and a whole lot more.

Now add all of the relationships and their requisite expectations. The bride and groom expect this to be the happiest day of their lives. It’s the day they become husband and wife. It’s all about them. They will revel in the attention of friends and family while being together most of the night. Not really! Actually, it’s also about the friends and family and they will all vie for your attention. On the way to the wedding a lot of people will comment to their partner, “Man, I wonder how long the minister is going to go on for? I hope he does not bore us for hours!” The groom and his groomsmen have a BOY relationship. They punch one another, heckle each other, play tricks and DRINK. The bride and her bridesmaids have a GIRLY friendship. The bride and groom will have a myriad of possible relationships with their parents, siblings, new parents in law and siblings in law. There could be people there you don’t know, people you don’t like, people who you wish could have made it and invariably, people who have passed before who you dearly wish were still around.

I suggest you do not add alcohol to this  too soon. Especially if you have taken a prescribed calming tablet or tranquiliser! You have probably not eaten properly over the last couple of days. The chances are you have not slept well either. If you have just a sip too much alcohol before the wedding ceremony, you may be too zonked to actually be mentally present and if you take too many tranquilisers you may even miss you own wedding even though you are present physically J. I would rather you cried through the entire wedding than look at the minister with pupils that don’t dilate!

It is also an incredibly long day. You will be up early and leave late. It could be 15 to 18 hours long in total. You will be drained on many levels but mostly physically and emotionally. Everyone will want a piece of you. Everyone will want some time with you. The wedding planner will be directing you. There will be times when you are separated. Be prepared for this.

In closing. Your wedding day is exactly that. YOUR wedding day. Manage the process, don’t get bullied, try to include everyone, accept all input graciously and realise that it’s way bigger than you ever imagined. Once you have done all the planning, let go and allow it to happen. Invariably there will be a hiccup or two. Sort them out and move on. Above all, be prepared for an incredibly complex get together and then ENJOY it together.

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5 ways to suck less at marriage

We generally suck at relationships, take that into our marriages and then actually expect them to last!

While relationships are actually paramount in our lives, the truth is we suck at them. When you look at how many relationships we have it dawns on us that they are actually rather important. We have relationships with our maker, our parents, our siblings, our teachers, fellow students, our ministers, our aunts and uncles, our grandparents, our bosses, our colleagues at work, our customers, our children and a myriad of other permutations of the above.

Now consider this. We leave our parents and our kids leave us. Our siblings usually are not our closest friends as life progresses. Remember all your friends from matric? How you promised to stay in touch? Did you? You probably don’t even really keep in touch with your best friend from school anymore. Now look at all of your ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. How many times have you left someone or had someone leave you? How many jobs have you had? How many of them started off well and then ended with you leaving? How many friends have you lost? How many deals have you lost because you messed up a business relationship?

We all know that the divorce statistics are around 50%. Half of the people who marry leave each other, and that’s after promising GOD they would stay together for better or worse, in good times and bad!

I met a couple last week to discuss marrying them. This was her 2nd marriage and his 3rd. I asked what they felt about marriage coaching and he looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you but we know what we are doing”. I just nodded sagely. In my mind they are unconsciously incompetent.

When one looks at success people, especially in business (and yes, success is different to everyone), the most successful people have a few things in common:

  1. They have a vision and a mission
    1. What is your vision for your marriage?
    2. What is your mission for your marriage?
    3. What are your long, mid and short term goals for your marriage?
  2. They do what they love, and love what they do
  3. They do what it takes no matter what, especially the uncomfortable stuff
  4. They are committed to continuous learning and improvement
    1. The most successful people on earth never stop learning
    2. They invest in themselves
  5. THEY HAVE COACHES
    1. The best sportsmen in the world all have coaches (Tiger woods has a coach)
    2. The best speakers in the world all have coaches
    3. The richest people in the world can all tell you who it was that mentored them
  1. I know one millionaire who has a health coach, a business coach, stock trading coach, a spiritual guru, a personal development coach and a relationship coach. AND HE IS A COACH (and a millionaire).

So how does one move from unconsciously incompetent (which most of us are in our relationships) to unconsciously competent or at the very least, consciously competent (which most of us are not)?

  1. Realise you could do with some help
    1. I believe that even the best relationship can be improved
    2. I have a great marriage but am always looking for ways to improve it
  2. Look into the future and see the benefits of an extraordinary marriage
    1. Improved physical health
    2. Improved mental health
    3. Improved emotional well being
    4. Lots of yummy sex
    5. A happy home for your children
    6. Better friendships
    7. More effective at work (more promotions, opportunities and money)
  3. Get some help
    1. Getting help does not mean that your marriage is in trouble or failing
    2. Working on your marriage is the greatest gift you can give each other
    3. Find someone you relate to, who is making it work and who can teach you something
    4. My “Building Blocks to an extraordinary Marriage” comes highly recommended J
  4. Agree to working on improving your marriage for ever
    1. Go to personal development classes together
    2. Develop Spiritually together
    3. Marriage is like a well-run business
      1. You have to manage it properly
      2. You actually have to be there to make it work
  • It needs constant focus
  1. You need to re-invest in it constantly (money, emotion, time, thought)
  2. It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling
  1. Committing to enjoying the good times together, to working through the bad times, to courageously having the difficult conversations and holding each other accountable, to seeing marriage as an equal partnership and to completing the journey together.

Where are you on the marriage competency grid?

Email me for a copy of my marriage competency exercise at: stephen@stephenvanbasten.co.za

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A tale of three couples

Daria and Marius

The moment Daria set eyes on Marius, she wanted him. She was not sure if it was for one night or one lifetime or anything in between. All she knew was that she wanted him. Daria was gorgeous, irresistible and generally got what she wanted. And unfortunately, what she wanted, already had a girlfriend. For a moment she hesitated. She had known Sarah for some time and while they were nowhere close to being besties, she liked her. It was just that Marius intrigued her. They had chatted often and really got on very well. They naturally hugged and kissed when they said hello and goodbye and lingered over the goodbye kiss just a bit longer than was socially appropriate. She knew he liked her, I mean, which guy didn’t drool over her after all! The energy was palpable when they were together and one could cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. Then one day it just got too much and before you knew it, they were kissing. It was glorious. And they both drowned in the beauty of the moment.

It did not take him long to break it off with Sarah and move in with Daria. It was just one of those perfect relationships. Their friends were all envious and they were soon known as the happiest couple on earth. Nobody was surprised when they announced their engagement at a lavish, rather over the top party at her place. She was absolutely loaded. Her PR business had taken off almost overnight and was an instant success. Marius was less aspiring and had certainly ‘married up’ in many ways. He could not believe his luck although there were times when he felt out of his depth. Especially with her parents who hailed from a well to do family tree and wanted for nothing. There were moments when Daria came across a bit bossy and by goodness, she was bossy a lot of the time! A small price to pay for such a beauty and for the unbelievable love they shared.

Marius could NEVER have afforded the wedding they were planning. It was fortunate that the bride’s father paid for most of it. He had insisted on paying for the marriage preparation course that they were doing though. Both he and Daria had wanted to do it. Even though they were blissfully happy and looked up to as shining examples of a perfect couple by many of their friends, they both agreed that they would do everything they could to make it last. They were committed to beating the odds and as their relationship coach had said, “You are going to spend a fortune on your wedding day (too true) why not spend some time and energy making sure the marriage lasts”. To be honest, Marius had a vested interest in the course. There were some things he wanted to discuss with Daria but was to bring them up without some backup.

Marius was a school teacher and absolutely loved what he did. He loved the kids, he loved the school environment and he loved teaching. He hated how little he earned and in contrast how much Daria earned. Her PR business was growing in leaps and bounds. He was astounded at how much her business coach charged but could not argue the value. “They are amazing” he often heard her saying. If he were to dig deep he would have to admit that there seemed to be an unspoken rule that Daria made already the financial decisions and they were only living together! Engaged but not married. Almost as if because she earned more, she had more power when it came to financial decisions. The thought of it created a tension in his stomach which he would later realise was mounting resentment. In fact, whenever it happened it reinforced his belief that she was a control freak.

Their first session with the marriage coach was so interesting and totally different to what either of them expected. They worked through the concept of difference. He used the analogy of the Yin Yang symbol. “We are all essentially different” he explained. ”The Yin Yang symbolises two whole human beings joining together to complete each other. The white dots represent where you two are the same and the black and white paisley symbols depict how you are different. You are male and female, come from different families, different pasts, and different experiences. You have different expectations of what marriage means and where you are going. You have different likes and dislikes. Where one of you has expertise, the other is probably ignorant and just like a successful company has a board consisting of DIFFERENT expertise (MD, HR, Sales, Marketing, FD, Operations) which make them a team, so do your differences complete you.”  Coach was an avid Dr. Demartini fan and had spent many hours with him in training. They then moved onto the theory of Axiology. The concept of human beings actually only being loyal to their own high values was new to them. They used Dr. Demartini’s Value Determination Model which they found at www.drdemartini.com. Clearly Marius loved and valued his ability to teach and assist the youth to create a platform from which to launch their lives. He loved it when he heard success stories from his past students. Daria on the other hand valued money and being in control of a successful organisation. She loved it when they had opened the branch in Cape Town and secretly could not wait to expand outside of South Africa. She had been away from home for a month without really missing it or Marius. The exercise of the 7 areas of life solidified who they were and elaborated on how they differed. “The course is not based on biblical teaching” the coach had explained before they started. “It’s about human behaviour. You will learn about yourself and then your partner. Then you will share with each other. After the last module, you will know yourself and your partner at a much deeper level. It’s almost speed courting!” “Wow. He was right. I had never seen myself quite this was before. It explained why I make decisions the way I do and why Marius does the things he does” exclaimed Daria. Thank you for that coach. “Well that’s the easy part done,” he replied. “Now what I want you to do is write down 10 ways that your partners values (differences) benefit you directly. In other words, how do your partner’s values assist you in life and especially in your own high values? For example Marius, how does Daria’s love of her business directly benefit you?” “Phew coach, that’s a hard one. I can only think of how often she is away from home and when she is in town she gets home late and then STILL works on her laptop into the early hours of the morning!” “I know it’s easier to see the negatives. We humans tend to do that. I understand there are drawbacks and I don’t take away from that, but what are the positives? Remember that the world is perfectly balanced and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, every cloud has a silver lining. So Marius, find the silver lining”. “OK. Well her salary allows me to earn less while I do what I love” “Yes, what else?” “Her salary allows us to live in a great home” “Yes, what else?” “Our kids go to a private school” “Yes, what else?” “We drive nice cars and have a good medical aid” “Yes. You are getting it, well done. Now tell me the benefits of her been away and working so hard” “Huh???” “The silver lining Marius, find the silver lining!” “OK. OK. ……. UM….. Help?” “What did you do when she was away opening her branch in Cape Town?” “Oh. I spent time with my parents” “Yes, what else?” “I spent time with my friends” “Yes, what else?” “Oh, I had time to mark my students exams in peace” Daria’s eyes shot up and they all laughed. “Ok. I think you are getting it. Marius, can you see that when she is away, it is both good and bad? That there is ALWAYS a silver lining?” OK guys, keep going. Write down as many as you can and before you know it, you will see exactly how you complete each other and how your respective values are a blessing to you! Marius, if you do this properly, you will look forward to her opening her next branch and being away for awhile!”

The second session was just as interesting. They worked through Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages and 5 languages of apology. Coach had asked them to go to www.5lovelanguages.com and do the exercises. “There are 5 love languages,” coach explained. “The chances are you both have a different one. Remember the Yin Yang symbology? Now, you will express love in your love language and you will feel most loved when you receive love in YOUR own love language but if your partner has a different love language, they will generally express love in their love language, not yours. My love language is Words-of-Affirmation. For me it’s simple. Just say, ‘Stephen, I love you. You are magnificent’ and we are done. Now my wife’s is trickier. Hers is Quality-Time. Aish man! I have to go shopping with her, I have to sit and talk to her and when I play golf she gets annoyed that I am with my golf clubs for 6 hours instead of her!” Daria and Marius both nodded. Having done the exercise they now knew what their love language was. Marius was also Words-of-Affirmation (coach knew this because Marius had previously mentioned how he loved hearing from his past students). Daria’s was Acts-of-Service. Coach smiled. “I secretly think my wife’s love language is actually Acts-of-Service,” he shared. Pretending to scan the room to see if she was within hearing distance. “Whenever I call to say I LOVE YOU, I end up putting down the phone with a list of jobs!!!” Marius almost fell off his chair laughing. Daria’s smile was not convincing. “I can relate to that coach. What’s it all about? I must be honest. Daria can be a bit bossy,” he had stopped laughing and looked quite concerned as he shared the last sentence, glancing furtively at Daria to gauge her reaction.  “It’s simply the way we are wired. And we are all different,” coach explained. “But before we go into that, please would you face each other, get close, get present and then tell each other exactly how your love language works for you, why it is important and give examples of times when your partner did it right. Please, I want you to be direct and explicit. We teach others how to treat us. You now have an opportunity to teach your partner exactly how you like to be loved. This is when we go out of passive love into what I call Active love. Passive love is expressing love in your love language. Active love is when you express love in your partners love language. When my wife SMS’s me during the day to tell me she loves me, I really appreciate it because it’s not her natural love language. She is actively reaching out to make me feel really loved. Likewise, when she gets home at night, I run us a bath and we sit together for an hour and I ask her questions about her job and also family stuff as these are her high value areas. That is active love.” Daria’s eyes sparkled. She loved that story. “Right Marius, get over here and let’s get started,” she commanded jokingly. “Sir, yes Sir” he responded with a mock salute and dutifully moved closer to her. We all laughed. “Daria. I love it when you talk to me. I love it when you tell me I am cute. And when you tell me you are proud of me. I love it when you introduce me so proudly as YOUR husband. When you re-assure me when I am faltering. I love it when you compliment my cooking and when you tell me I am a great lover. I love it when you say that my students are lucky to have me as their teacher.” “Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I will most certainly keep it up. Phew, and I thought that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Now I know it’s through his ears,” she quipped, flashing her beautiful smile. “I love it when you do things for me. I love it when you make the bed on a Saturday morning. I love it when you make dinner for us. I LOVE it when you check my car tyres and get them replaced when they are worn. I love it when you find us places to go away on long weekends, and book them and arrange everything. I love it when you bring me flowers and chocolates too.”  “Ah yes,” interjected coach. “Gifts came a close second in your assessment, didn’t it? Tell Marius about that too. What kind of gifts and how often?” “Oh, I just love all gifts. It showed me that you thought of me. I loved it when you bought the two coffee cups for us. The gifts don’t have to be big but they do need to be thoughtful. Don’t ever give me a gift voucher for my birthday. That’s just an absolute cop-out.” “Ok,” replied Marius, “so is that why you always take a gift when we go to friends for dinner? And always arrive with a gift for your niece and nephew?” “Yes baby, I want them to feel loved and know that I love them.” “OH, I also love it when you call me ‘baby’!” Marius added with a huge smile. “Please say that again.” “Baby, baby, baby, baby,” she crooned to his absolute delight. They were holding hands now, still facing each other and were so connected. Coach felt like a bit an intruder. “Can I top up anyone’s coffee while you spend a special moment together?” he offered, feeling totally comfortable in their home.

“If you have ever attended one of Dr. Demartini’s talks or seminars,” he continued when he got back and they had separated and were temporarily out of their little togetherness moment. “You will know about his teachings on duality. There is no person, situation, personality trait or event that is 100% positive or 100% negative. Newton’s third law states that any action creates an opposite and equal reaction. There is always balance. So your love language is also your hate language. When you are fighting, you will withhold your love. You will withhold your words and your time and your gifts. Have you noticed that when girls are angry they stop talking to you? This brings us to the languages of apology which is the same theory as the love languages. There are five languages of apology and you have one prominent one. Your partners one will probably be different. So what I would like you to do is share your apology language with your partner and then formulate a mock apology to them specifically using THEIR apology language. Please remember that an apology does not offer an explanation or justification. This is not an apology, “My darling, I am so sorry that I got annoyed with you last night but if you had not ignored me all night, it would not have happened”. That is not an apology. You are not sorry and you are actually starting a new argument. This would be better, “My darling, I am so sorry I got annoyed with you last night. I was wrong to do so. In retrospect, I could have handled that much better”. So Marius, your top two are, “I am sorry, I was wrong” and Daria, yours are, “Please will you forgive me, what must I do to make it better? Please go ahead with the exercise now.” “Do I really have to say, “I am sorry, I was wrong” when I apologise to him? It sounds so corny”. “Ha, not as corny as, “Please will you forgive me? I will never do it again!” Now that is a real mouthful.” “Yes you do,” coach answered for them both, “that is, if you want your partner to feel that your apology is sincere of course. Listen. A proper apology can transform the usual 3 days of pouting and cold shoulder to only 3 hours! If you want to be in an equal relationship with both of you practicing active love, you need to apologise graciously and quickly when you are wrong.”

They were actually sad when they got to the end of the last session. It had really been enlightening and totally different to what they had expected. “Coach, thank you. I really feel that I know what I need to do to keep Daria happy. It is great to have a united vision for the future. This was really awesome. Would you mind if I refer some of our friends to you?” “Yes, thank you.” It was Daria. “I really enjoyed the Demartini Method at the end. I now see how controlling I am and while I do see the benefits and drawbacks of this trait for both Marius and I, I am going to try to tone it down at home!” “You are both so welcome. I have loved getting to know you both better. Thank you for working so hard. I love being with couples who are committed to improving themselves and their marriages. Let’s keep in touch.”

Mary and Ken

Mary and Ken had been sweethearts forever. Not only that, they had literally been friends their entire life. They grew up next door to each other, went to the same schools and in a uniquely old fashioned way, had courted for many years before getting married. They were the same age and had been in the same classes at school except in high school where they chose different subjects for matric. Her parents had tried to send her to a different university in an attempt to break them up but she had insisted. “You really need to date some other boys” her mother had asserted. “It’s not healthy to just date one person. How do you know he is the one?” But she did know. He WAS the one and she wanted to be with him every moment she could. Because they were the same age though, she did mature earlier and so was always the one to initiate sex. She loved the closeness. She lived the intimacy. She loved the way it made her feel and also the power she seemed to have over him. He was so shy the first time she had essentially seduced him but got over that quickly. Secretly she wished that he would just come home one day, pick her up, take her to the bedroom, rip off her clothes and ravish her. Alas, the chances of that were very slim. Actually, she would settle for him initiating just once and then taking the leading role. She longed to be made love to for a change.

Next February, would be their 11th wedding anniversary and frankly, they were struggling. It was not that that they did not love each other, it was just that after 20 years and 2 kids later, they were jaded. Time seemed to have changed them both as well as allow them to get to know each other fully. They had spent so many glorious moments together. The first time they had made love as mere teenagers, the birth of the girls, the trips overseas, his steady journey up the corporate ladder with its increases and bonuses, Jeannie’s marks at school and Jamie’s ballet achievements to name but a few. Mary just missed him. She missed the courtship. She missed the intimacy. Ken was around but he wasn’t there. She couldn’t remember when last he had brought her flowers, or a Valentines gift or even opened the car door for her like he used to in the early days. While Ken had been her first. He was not her last. She was not sure how it happened or exactly when she had crossed the line. What she did know was that Thomas fulfilled many of the needs that Ken didn’t care to. They were in counselling but she had not confessed and was not intending to. When they had first chatted to the relationship coach, he had asked if both of them were committed to saving the marriage. He seemed relieved when they both answered YES. “I can assist you if you are both committed to making it work. If one of you has decided to move on it is extremely difficult. Even so, this generally takes months of work and can get quite expensive. Are you willing to do what it takes to make this work?” he asked. They were now 6 months into their sessions. It was really hard work and she had to admit, rather expensive. Why was life so unfair? Why could one person not simply fulfil all her needs? Why had things turned out so differently to what she had expected? Why had that feeling of being “in-love” dissipated, only to be replaced by feelings of despondency? On the other hand, how dare she be depressed when in reality she had everything? They both had well-paying jobs, the kids were well adjusted, they loved each other, were relatively healthy and they even got on with their respective in-laws! Had she been superstitious she would have feared been struck down for being so ungrateful.

The coach was very patient with them. She did not envy his job right now. Who would want to spend hours with 2 people squabbling all the time? The work was slow and laborious. Coach seemed to be letting them vent quite a lot. He said communication was what was really needed. “I guess any communication is better than nothing” she thought to herself. They both nodded in agreement when coach exposed them to the Yin Yang concept. “We sure are different” she mused. “And we have become more different and grown apart more and more over time”.

It was lovely when coach had asked them to remember, write down and then share what they loved about each other when they first met and started courting. He made them face each other, look into each other’s eyes, be fully present and share. Ken could not remember the last time he had looked at her this intensely. Something sparked deep down in him as he remembered how they met, how he had courted her and what attracted him to her. Mary shed a tear as he shared with her. They were so young and immature then and had never really expressed their love this directly. “I love you and I want to make this relationship work” they said to one another as per coach’s instruction. She believed him. Then they had to do the same exercise but share what they loved about each other now. This was more difficult. So much had happened over the past 20 years. They had both changed so much.

Coach had asked them so many questions. First they answered them in writing and then shared with each other. “What is your definition of love? What is your definition of marriage? Describe the perfect marriage. Describe the perfect spouse.” “My goodness,” thought Mary, “We should have done this years ago! I cannot believe how much I have learned about him today.”

“Coach” it was Ken speaking, “Why do marriages fail? We were so in love. We were infallible. What happened? Coach sat back in his chair preparing to answer this huge question. “Seriously, there are so many reasons,” he started. “Firstly there are different stages to a marriage and we need to manage each stage differently. When we fall in love there is generally a physical/sexual context to it. In my opinion, we often fall in lust first, through a chemical reaction to each other, and actually fall in love later. Many relationships fail when the couple fall out of lust back into reality and think they are falling out of love. I call this the courtship phase and jokingly call it the marketing phase. It’s when we show each other just how wonderful we can be when we are both trying our very very best 100 percent of the time!” he laughed. It was nice to have a light hearted moment. It seemed like ages since Ken had heard Mary’s guttural laugh. It was contagious and he wished she would do it more often. “What’s the next stage, coach?” he asked wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. “That would be the engagement/living together stage Ken. It’s generally easy going, congruent and lots of fun. It’s when you get to know each other and work through issues easily. Then comes the more problematic stage, the-getting-to-know-you-properly stage. This is when the first cracks start to appear. When you see each other’s good and bad sides. When the little idiosyncrasies start to bother you. You know all the clichés, toilet seat not put down, toilet roll not replaced, toothpaste squeezed from the middle not the back and so many more.” “What is it about men that they leave the toilet seat up Coach? Is it so hard to put it down after a pee?” “Men are nice and simple, Mary. When we get to the toilet, if the seat is down we simply put it up. If it’s up and we need it down, we put it down!”. “mmmmmm. Simple being the operative word,” thought Mary. “And anyway” added Ken, “if the toilet seat was meant to be down, why does it have a hinge?” Coach being male smiled. Mary didn’t. He moved on quickly, “This is the moment couples decide to stay or go. You have to get through this stage before you can move into what I call the True-Love-Stage. I sub-title this the Friendship-Stage. In my opinion, love is more like friendship than anything else. I love Scott Pecks definition of love, ‘when one expends energy for another’s personal growth’. To me, marriage is about taking someone you love on this incredible journey called LIFE. Pooling your resources and reaching out to create a more fulfilling existence while you grow together. I also love Dr. John Demartini’s definition; ‘Love occurs at the cusp of challenge and support’. You see we need both unconditional and tough love in every relationship.” “You mean marriage is not a fairy tale, coach?’ quipped Ken smiling. “Thank you Ken. No. Marriage is not for happiness alone. Marriage is for growth too.” “Ain’t that the truth!” agreed Mary shaking her head. “Well, at least I got you to agree on SOMETHING. Beam me up Scottie. My work here is done,” quipped coach and they all had a chuckle. “Thank God this is also fun,” thought Ken. He was not sure what to expect and had initially doubted anyone could help, but now he was enjoying it. “There is an interesting stage that I call, The-Tipping-Point. It happens between 20 and 30 years of marriage and is the point where you are in the habit of being married, you are comfortable with each other, any serious misdemeanours have been forgiven and one of you would really have to mess up badly to mess it up. Then finally, Growing-Old-Together, which in essence is what we are really trying to achieve with marriage.”

“The second answer to your million dollar question, Ken, is answered beautifully in Scott Peck’s brilliant book, “The road less travelled” “. Mary wrote that down and coach smiled. He loved anyone who was interested in personal development and specifically relating to marriage and relationships. He also loved the fact that she was willing to learn more at her age. “Scott Peck postulates that the phenomena of falling in love is actually a chemical reaction and a trick the universe plays on us to ensure we get naked, make love and fall pregnant. A brilliant mechanism to ensure the longevity of the human race. So falling in love is actually falling in chemistry or even falling in lust. Then when we fall out of chemical stage, we believe we are falling out of love. The chemistry stage relates to my Courtship-Phase and the falling out of chemistry relates to my Getting-to-know-you-properly stage. This is the moment you have to decide whether your roots have so entwined beneath the ground that it is impossible for you to ever part. The problem is that many people are actually addicted to the courtship phase, and for good reason. There are actually powerful chemicals that are released during this phase. Brain scans show similar activity in this phase as sugar, chocolate and cocaine activity do. Lets face it, that is a very exciting stage!” “Hey!” it was Mary, “hands off my chocolate. That is a sacred cow in this house. A girl has to have SOME pleasures after all!” [Oh my God, she thought, hoping she was not blushing. If only they knew about Thomas!]

“So Coach, why do couples stray sexually?” she asked innocently, noting the slight increase in her heartbeat. “My goodness” he replied, “You guys are certainly putting me through my paces! Once again, there are so many answers. None of them really acceptable or fully understandable. I would have to start with my good friend Dr. Demartini and his teachings on Axiology, the study of human values. As you know from the exercise when we did it, we all have a set of values. Things we love doing and things we hate doing. We essentially spend our lives trying to get more pleasure and less pain; to do more of what we love and less of what we hate. Now the key to a long lasting relationship is knowing what your partner values, knowing what value you add to your partner, knowing what your partner wants from life and from you – and constantly fulfilling those needs. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately it’s not. We grow over time. We change over time. What used to be important becomes trivial and vice versa. When we are in the courtship phase we just want to be together, touching, kissing and loving. Later on when we have a bond and two cars and the kids are in school and university, we want to be earning money and supporting the family. Our sex drives have changed, our lives have changed, we have changed. We become more focussed on ourselves and attaining more of what we love and start neglecting our partner. Then we add the fact that men peak sexually at 28ish and women in their 40’s (and whenever they are ovulating). It’s like a cosmic joke our maker has played on us. At 40 our wives are ready for the fun and games in bed and we really just want to watch the golf.” Coach silently observed both of their body language as they reacted to this but said nothing. He knew that there were rarely ever any fully innocent questions. “Dr. Shirley Glass postulates that marriage is about walls and windows” he continued. “The windows show the world that which is open to the world and the walls keep private that which should not be shared. In every case of infidelity that she researched she found that the person had made a friend of the opposite sex. Then over time, started sharing things that should have been kept sacred to the marriage. In other words, the walls became windows. The person kept the friendship secret from their spouse to protect them from jealousy and hurt. Before long, so many intimacies and secrets had been shared that the couple became emotionally intimate. Unlike their spouse, the friend is there for them. They are interested in them. They are fulfilling some need in them. And before you know it where in a physical relationship. The lesson for married couples here is that you need to realise immediately when you make a new friend, that there may be danger ahead. Stop it right in the beginning before you get attached. This is incredibly powerful and unbelievably difficult to resist, especially if you are a highly sexed person, or sexually unfulfilled at home or addicted to the courtship phase.”

“Coach, I relate very much to what you are saying. I know I am safe to share this, but I am the less sexual of the two of us. I know that Mary would love more intimacy and probably a bit more excitement in the bedroom. Is there a remedy?” “Ken, thank you for sharing that with me. It really takes courage to admit that to another man. Firstly, please be assured that you are absolutely normal and so is Mary. There is no right or wrong sexual drive. Some people want sex once a year and others every day. This is the way it is. This brings up an interesting topic. To me, marriage is a friendship and I believe the most important trait for a long lasting relationship is COMMITMENT. May I share a quick story?” “How about another coffee first coach?” asked Mary. “Sir, yes Sir!” he responded smiling, always willing to partake in his drug of choice. She handed him a cup of coffee, just the way he liked it, with fresh cream and no sugar without having to ask how he took it. It made him feel loved and appreciated. He was enjoying himself immensely. “This sure beats washing dishes at home” he commented, fully aware of his own hierarchy of values; with learning & teaching and assisting couples to improve their marriages at the top and washing dishes & shopping in busy malls right at the bottom. “Commitment,” he continued. “When Jax was pregnant, our midwife gave us instructions on preparing for breastfeeding. Apparently it’s not just like sucking your thumb. He got us to commit to seeing it through and not give up. He even gave us tips on preparing the nipples (which we stupidly ignored). It turns out that breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. Victoria was born early and weighed in at only 2.2kg which meant her mouth was small and she could not latch properly. Jaxie Pie was in pain most of the time. She ended up going for laser therapy to heal her broken nipples. But she continued regardless. When she went to work, she expressed milk to take home for the Vixta. Commitment!” “Right coach. I am on the edge of my seat waiting to find out how Jacqui’s nipples are going to improve our sex life” squealed Mary, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks. “Marriage is also a commitment,” he replied once they had all stopped laughing. “and so is sex. Commitment means keeping on keeping on regardless of what life throws you. Through good times and bad, just like you vowed at your wedding. Sometimes that means you will spend money on things you don’t want to buy, because your partner has a right to spend some of the money. Sometimes that means you will support your partner when they have made a decision relating to the kids that you disagree with. Sometimes that means you will have sex simply because your partner has a physical need even though the cricket is on. Isn’t that what friends are for Ken? Lending a helping hand to a friend in need!” Ken just nodded and chuckled. Mary nodded in agreement. She certainly did have needs that she would prefer her husband to fulfil. To be honest, Thomas was a bit of a pain at times. “I read a book called ‘The sex diaries’ recently. A psychologist asked 200 couples of various ages and lengths of relationship to keep a sex diary and email her after each time they had sex. Interestingly enough, it turned out that most women had a decrease in sexual desire five years into their marriage and felt that sex was a bit of a chore. What was even more interesting though and the point I want to make is that most of them admitted that sex was a lot like going to gym. While they rarely really felt like going, when they were there it was nice and they felt good on the way home. They admitted that when they were having sex they loved it. So Ken, I imagine that if you could commit to working at this, you would probably find you actually enjoy it. And Mary, maybe you need to look at ways of bridging the gap between the TV room and the bedroom. Will you guys take 5 minutes right now to have a chat about this please? I want you to have a candid talk about how you can have a bit more sex without making Ken feel like a piece of meat. Ken, are there any secret fantasies that could entice you to be more intimate? And ‘NO’ Mary’s sister is not going to join you!!!” “Actually, there is something,” he replied blushing slightly. “I would love to blindfold Mary sometime.” “Oh my GOD!!!” exclaimed Mary. “I would LOVE that! Oh my GOODNESS! Yes please,” she squealed with delight, her eyes sparkling. “Why have you never asked?” “I don’t know. I am a bit shy and I did not know how to approach it and what if you thought I was a pervert or something?” “Oh my darling, my darling. I love you so much.” She had crossed the room and was on his lap. His face in her hands. Kissing his cheeks one after the other. “I would love you to blindfold me!” “Right,” said the coach clearing his throat. “I think that is my cue to leave. You love birds are making me blush!” Coach smiled all the way to the car. He was still amazed at how often open and honest communication broke down even the highest and thickest walls. It had been a lot of work over many sessions, and he knew there was still a long way to go, but today was a breakthrough. Mary had given him a big hug and an even bigger thank you and coach had beamed. Words of affirmation and physical touch were his Love Languages. He smiled as he thought about most of his friends, prisoners to their bosses, chained to their computers, pretending to work at 4pm on a Friday afternoon so they didn’t get fired. “Nice way to make a living,” he complimented himself smugly as he made his way to Randburg. He had a coaching session with Francoise at ActionCoach that afternoon and could not wait to see what his Coach had in store for him today.

Tineal and John

Tineal was bored. She did not want to be here, and had reluctantly agreed just to appease her insistent friends. It had been a long year and she really just wanted to be in bed, chatting to her friends on Wattsapp. Although not really a drinker, she was quite drunk and although she felt within her a future that included a man, she was in no rush to find one. She smiled at the memory of her mother catching her having a good old snog at her 18th birthday party. To be honest she could not see what the fuss was all about. Her parents were weird as were most married couples she knew who seemed to spend most of their marriages either complaining about their spouses or actually fighting with them. She was somewhat intrigued about sex though. Some of her friends had started young and claimed it was marvellous! Well, after the first fumbling false starts anyway. Her parents never spoke about it and she had done all she could to cut short the inevitable, “Birds and the bees” talk. How embarrassing!

John was a good looking guy and a man’s man. Just one of those magnetic personalities that people were inexplicably drawn to. Unfortunately he was pissing Tineal off. “What is it with males?” she shuddered as he ran around receiving numerous HI-Fives from his mates after downing another beer in record time. Her bitter aunt had said it rather well, “Why do we have to get the whole pig when all we really want is the sausage?” Tineal shuddered again at the mental image. “OMG”, it was Jacqui who had stealthily crept up behind her, “Who is that guy?” “Some dumbass” came the bored reply. Dumbass or not, Jacqui moved toward the bar in order to ‘accidentally’ cross paths with him.

It was some weeks later when she saw him again. It was Brett’s wedding and although John tidied up well, his drunken antics later left her cold. There was an strange moment though, when he caught her eye as she was eating. The beautifully prepared beef medallions were much more interesting anyway. Tineal was not overly gregarious and could not help feeling that some of these social occasions, although important, were somewhat tedious. She would much rather be snuggled up in bed with the latest Stephanie Meyer novel or re-re-re-re-watching Mocking Jay.

Tineal was no prude but she certainly preferred being asked to dance while the guy was still sober enough to make it across the dance floor without tripping over his own feet. She humoured Greg this time as he was a good friend and she really needed something to do. Dumbass’s date was cute and they danced nicely together. “I wonder what he’s really like?” she caught herself thinking. “Lose the friends and he could actually pass as a human being with some manners” she mused. He looked directly into her eyes right then and smiled gently. It was almost as if he knew what she was thinking. It was probably just as well that she did know what flashed through his mind!

It had taken two years for the universe to conspire to put them together in the same room again. They had both grown up somewhat. “Hey, you look familiar?” he said. “Yes John” she replied wondering why she was smiling and then feeling the warm blood slowly creep up her neck and overtake her face. “You were at Brett’s wedding. Where is your girlfriend today?” Did you really just say that? She asked herself blushing even more. What has got into you? “What girlfriend? I don’t like been tied down man. So many girls, so little time” he laughed and his face lit up as he did. Hers crumbled into a scowl as she quickly turned and walked away without another word. What is it with men that they need to be such arseholes, she fumed to herself. “However, if we were to get close, I am sure I would never look at another girl again”. It was dumbass. He had followed her. “Listen man, I am sorry. Sometimes I say stupid things. Will you forgive me?” “Nothing to forgive” she replied curtly, “I asked and you answered”. “Yeah. But I lied. I don’t know why. I don’t seem to be able to think clearly when I am with you. Please, let me make it up to you. Could we meet for a drink sometime?” “I don’t know. Maybe a coffee one lunchtime or a drink after work?”

That was not the last time she would turn him down. She was simply not interested and he was nothing like the person she dreamed of being with. One of the traits she did like though was tenacity and he had it in abundance. She eventually capitulated. Not because she particularly liked him but more because she wanted to get him off her case.

It was early and a bit cold. The car journey had taken 2 hours. She was hungry and still a bit tired. Hot air balloon? Why? What? Seriously? It was noisy up there. The wind was blowing, it was cramped, there was rope everywhere and it was sooooo beautiful. My goodness. The view. What the fuck is John doing on the floor of the basket? “Tineal, we have been together for some time now. I have grown to love you. I love your family. I love Oscar (my dog). I cannot perceive of a life without you in it. [OMG. He’s proposing!!] Please would you do me the honour of marrying me?” [OMG the size of that ring – it’s beautiful. Almost as beautiful as the man at my feet on his one knee on the floor of the hot air balloon basket] “Yes John. Yes. I will marry you” and I am in his arms and we are both crying and it’s the happiest day of my life and I want to shout out to everyone that he is mine and I want to Wattsapp my friends and my mom and my dad [Oh God, what’s he gonna say?] and thank god granny is still alive, she may make it to the wedding and gosh, who will I choose to be my bridesmaids and how do we find a wedding venue and where will our kids go to school? The sparkling wine topped it off and the ring looked stunning on my finger. [I’m engaged, I’m engaged, I’m engaged to this beautiful specimen who just happens to be beaming down at me! Does it get any better than this???]

John was doing well financially. Apparently stock brokers earned very well. She just wished that he was not so focussed on work all the time. Who cares that the Dow is opening in 10 minutes? And she could not quite understand why he enjoyed gambling so much. She had joined him a couple of times but felt like a spare wheel. All of his mates were there and it was as much a piss up with the usual male testosterone pumping in abundance as it was about actually playing the tables. It was hard to tell if anyone actually won. John said that he was probably ahead in terms of winning and losing but she was astounded at how much money he was willing to risk on a single hand. And if the truth be told, she really did not like his friend Tony at all. She often caught him staring at her and she found him overly sexual in both his mannerisms and vocabulary. He simply gave her the creeps. Kevin on the other hand was quite nice although she did find him a bit controlling at times. “Beep Beep” sounded her iPhone 6S with a message from John: *Love you babe. Thank you for agreeing to marry me. I am sooooooooooooo lucky* *Love you 2 sweetheart* she replied quickly, smiling to herself *would you mind bringing picking up some bread and milk on the way home?* She could not wait to see him later and was really getting to enjoy the intimate side of their relationship. Her first time had been uninspiring and she was pleased that John was able to make it exciting and very pleasurable. She blushed slightly at how she sometimes wished it would last just a couple more minutes though. It did not seem fair. He always climaxed but then it was over (well for an hour or so at least) while she was often on the verge when it all abruptly ended.

The wedding was beautiful. The staff at Shepstone Gardens were just amazing and their preferred suppliers top notch. Everything ran smoothly except for the little incident with mother in law at the rehearsal. Luckily the minister was very experienced and handled it quickly. Of course, no one expected John to tear-up during the vows. Looking up at his handsome face, him beautifully dressed in his black suit and choking up was almost too much for her. She wished she could have just stepped forward and hugged him for a while. The minister made the day with his short, sweet and appropriately humorous message. The food was good, the alcohol flowed, the music blared and the people danced. Time stood still for Tineal and John. They simply knew that love was all that mattered and as the minister said, “Love conquers all”. What could go wrong? She remembered with another pang of annoyment how he had tried to get them on one of his ‘Relationship’ seminars. “John and Tineal” he had said, “We all know the divorce statistics. What most couples do not know is that pre-marital work can improve those odd by up to 30 percent! Please don’t leave this to chance”. Tineal could have been convinced but John was dead against it. “Bloody money making racket. What can he tell us about our relationship? I Love you baby. Our love is stronger than anything life can throw at us” he had muttered.

The birth of the twins was emotionally draining and quite frankly, an overrated experience. Tineal could not believe how she and John argued. They could not agree on the kids names, no matter whether to move to a bigger home or not. John was all about money. Money, money, money money! The drop in the stock market had almost wiped them out but that didn’t stop his gambling. He claimed he could stop at any time, but she seriously doubted it. She was not an expert on addiction but this sure looked and smelt like it. She sighed as she poured herself another glass of Chardonnay, barely considering that it was only 11am.

Over time, so much seemed to change. There were times when she wondered if she knew him at all. At other times, she was absolutely infatuated with him and he with her. She hated the down times and they seemed to be returning quicker and quicker and stay for longer periods of time. She felt resentful when John was away and often wondered what he did until 2am some mornings. Surely you can’t gamble for that long? Luckily she had the girls. She so loved being a mom and even though times were tough, she appreciated being able to be with them all day. She wished John had been there to see little Brad take his first step and hear Tlana say, “Ma Ma. Ma Ma”. There were times she despaired of the kids ever seeing their father and having a wholesome childhood. John got angry with her when she mentioned it so she generally kept quiet about it. “Why isn’t he more like me?” she mused. “Why has marriage been so different to what I expected? Why is John so different now to when we got married? My goodness, why is parenthood so much work? Why has my life turned out so differently to what I envisaged when I left school?”

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