Real Talk About Relationships and Married Life

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From Dating to Marriage- The Process with Ingram & Atiya

“From DATING to MARRIAGE”- The process with Ingram & Atiya

In this video Husband & Wife Team Ingram & Atiya discuss the process from dating into married life. Both share their experiences and give some useful coaching relationship tips.

How to Date
How To Love
How to get married
Relationship Tips
Relationship Coaching
Ingram & Atiya


In the Valley of Decision

Which road

Dear Atiya,

I’ve been in a relationship with a man for about two years now and from the day we’ve met I’ve known that I could spend the rest of my life with him. About two months ago I found out that he cheated (from him) and the woman he cheated with is now pregnant. Yes I was beyond hurt when he told me; but I reminded myself no man is defined by his biggest mistake.

Truth is he really is a good man, so I decided to stay and see if we can get through this and continue to build back what was lost due to his infidelities. It’s been two months now and it’s getting harder and harder to build that trust back. I genuinely love this man and that has never changed despite his mistakes. The only thing missing is the trust (an important element in any successful relationship).

Well, the point is “I’m scared.” I’m scared that I’m wasting my time building something that won’t stand through the test of time. I’m young (just turned 25) and people keep saying that I’m wasting my youth with this relationship that I have too much to offer to put up with him and his baggage (being that I have no kids of my own). Honestly sometimes I think that also. There are times I want to let go and then there’s times I want to try even harder than the day before. I’ve prayed about it and listened for God’s guidance but as we all know it can sometimes be challenging to discern the difference between emotionally guided decisions and spiritually guided ones.

I love this man. He has elevated me to heights I may have never reached on my own. He has taught me that love can come without/before intercourse (that’s why this hurts so bad). I’m a young woman devoid of experience. I know that I’m not immaculate (and he never requested that I be) but I try. I always do but this time around I’m questioning if I should…. keep trying.

So tell me, should I give up all that I’ve built with this man because of one mistake and important missing element…. TRUST?

– Sincerely Torn

Dear Sincerely Torn,

WOW! I feel your heart in this letter and while it is not my place to make the decision for you as to whether or not you should stay or leave, I can offer some things for you to consider. The impression I am getting from your letter is that the two years you and this man have been seeing one another, you have not had sexual intercourse with him. If this is the case, I applaud you for practicing abstinence and it demonstrates maturity, amazing strength, and character on your part. The latter (character) is what I want to address.

Now, you mention in your letter that from the day you met him that you knew you could spend the rest of your life with him. The question I would pose to you is, “Has he ever expressed the same feelings toward you?” See some can argue that because the two of you were not married, in truth he was not cheating. However, I would say that if you two were in an agreed upon monogamous relationship and it was clearly understood between the two of you that your relationship was exclusive and marriage discussions were on the table, no matter how honorable it may appear to be that he himself told you of his indiscretion, the fact remains that he was not being honest, he was misleading you, and giving the impression that he was committed when he was not. Additional questions I would ask are, “How long has it been going on?” and “Would he have told you if the other woman was not pregnant?”

There are two very critical components to any relationship, let alone a marriage. They are honesty and fidelity. See, the willingness to be honest and true to whom you say you are and to your intentions lay a very strong foundation for trust in the relationship. If you are not able to trust the person you are with prior to marriage, what type of foundation are you building? How can you build trust in a relationship when there is lying and cheating going on?

You say he is a good man. What makes him good? A man’s character is determined by what he does, and while good is relative, there are certain characteristics that most people would agree makes up a good man and honesty and being true would be two of those characteristics. This is not to say that he is “bad” because he makes mistakes. We all make mistakes. But let me be straight to the point, lying and cheating my dear are not mistakes, they are intentional behaviors, and any reasonable person would question the integrity and character of a person who chooses to operate under the premises of lies and deceit.

I call a spade a spade and although you might remind yourself that no man is defined by his biggest mistake, I agree. But infidelity and adulterous behavior is not an accident. It’s intentional deception and paved by a road of calculated lying, deceit, sneaking around, secrets, and cheating. And, to further state after you’ve been caught that it was a mistake or not meant to happen is yet another lie.

I do not buy into the hype that all men are dogs or unfaithful. I believe that every man who chooses commitment over casual relationships has the opportunity and the fortitude to be faithful to their mates. They all have the mental, emotional, and physical strength and capacity to face and overcome the difficulty or adversity of temptation courageously. The question is not a matter of ability, but rather one of the willingness to do so.

Now I am not saying do not try working it out, because many relationships bounce back after infidelity. I want you to seriously consider what you may be in for. See the “one” mistake as you call it has a lifetime of consequences, and in today’s society one mistake can cost a life. This is real talk. Your man made a choice, and the choice he made did not just impact his life, it impacted your life, the woman’s life he cheated with, and now another innocent life coming into the world. See, it may be devastating that he is bringing a baby home, but in today’s society he could be bringing something other than the “bundle of joy” and that is nothing to play around with. So when you seriously consider whether or not you should stay or leave, you want to weigh things very carefully.

Should you decide to leave, let me say this, you are not “giving up all of what you’ve built,” he did, when he made the decision to step outside of the relationship.

Should you decide to stay, again, many relationships bounce back after infidelity and some become even stronger. Who is to say yours won’t be one of those. Keep in mind that if you decide to stay, there will always be the baby, the baby’s mama, and often “baby mama drama,” particularly when you are dealing with situations such as this. In any case however, if you stay, I would recommend you and your mate go to counseling and seek support in dealing with the blended family scenario as well as support on rebuilding trust after an affair.

I know this is a very hard pill to swallow, yet in truth, the ball is in your court. Whether you stay or leave, a word of advice, keep the cookie in the cookie jar until the honeymoon. This applies to whether you will be riding into the sunset with him or someone else. Only bring home bags you intend to unpack.



Living Between Two Worlds – Married But Living Separate

I met a young woman who was recently married and only after three months of marriage, her husband had to return to his home country to tend to an elder relative. She at that time was unable to accompany her husband due to immigration challenges. The couple had only been married for six months and suddenly found themselves in the same predicament as countless other couples who are married, but living geographically separate as a result of military, employment, sick relatives, etc. This can be a very emotional and trying situation. These couples need support, inspiration, and encouragement, particularly newlyweds facing this devastating during one of the most important times in a marriage – that first year.

The first year of marriage is exciting, yet challenging. It’s a time when two people are learning about one another and adjusting to living as a married couple. When that time of adjustment and getting to know each other is usurped by an unexpected need for one spouse to go away, thus causing a separation of the unit, this can cause some additional challenges of cleaving in marriage. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t despair, remember it is only temporary and there are many creative ways to keep the marriage bed hot and the adjustment period a little adventurous making for some wonderful long-term memories and a more solid union. Lay a foundation of communication and trust; love and patience; compassion and sensitivity; creativity and imagination. Climb that ladder of success by taking five critical steps necessary to establishing an unbreakable bond. It is also key, when children are involved, to include them in the process when appropriate and during times that are set aside specifically for them.

Five Critical Steps to Keeping Your Marriage Strong

Step 1 – Build Protective Hedges

Placing hedges of protection around your marriage is about setting healthy boundaries that keep those from the outside from sowing seeds of dissension knowingly or unknowingly and about helping to insulate you and your spouse while not isolating the two of you. Ways to protect your marriage, especially during a separation include:

  • Keep the lines of communication open and practice transparency.
  • Be honest about your fears, concerns, and how you’re feeling.
  • Inform one another of your schedule and share any plans with each other.
  • Take care to emotionally bond with your spouse making him/her the first person you share exciting news with, share concerns with, ask advice from, share important information with, laugh with, spend time with, etc.
  • Avoid spending time alone with people of the opposite gender who are not relatives. For example consistent lunch at work, talking on the telephone or chatting via social media or texting, carpooling, play-dates or meet-ups. This sets up a scenario making emotional bonding possible with someone other than your spouse.
  • Have each others back. Be a true friend to your spouse. Warn one another when someone is moving in too close. Discuss when uncomfortable situations arise and create a plan of action together to address them.
  • Establish clear boundaries and discuss boundary issues with your spouse.
  • Avoid going to clubs, bars, parties or other venues where alcohol is served as to impair judgment or minimize defenses. Also, avoid intimate social-settings, which place you in close proximity to the opposite gender.

Step 2 – Block Out Competing Forces For the Greater Good

  • Blocking out competing forces for the greater good can sometimes be very difficult because often these competing forces manifest as a face that we know, love and trust. Long time friends, family members or associates sometimes in their effort to help may actually do more harm than good. Words carry weight and sometimes the weight might be too heavy compromising the integrity of the marriage, making it necessary to lighten the load. Some common scenarios include the following.
  • A Friend or Mate – Your friend of many years asks you the question, “Are you sure he will be faithful to you?” or “What if you meet someone really handsome and kind?” These statements, while perhaps are not meant to be hurtful, are actually extremely dangerous to the marriage as it has the potential to set up doubt in the mind of one spouse toward the other. In the scenario of a geographical separation, in moments of loneliness or frustration, these little seemingly “harmless” seeds can take root in the mind of a spouse who at that moment may be struggling to cope. In this case, it is important to be firm, straightforward and possibly distance this person.
  • Big Brother/Little Sister or the Home Girl/Homeboy – There is a pre-existing relationship built over time as a result of parents who were friends, you were neighbors, grew up together, or one guided the other (i.e. coach, teacher, trainer, minister, etc.). The relationship is familiar and there is a certain amount of trust and comfort. It appears to be a situation where he/she just wants to come and support your games, catch a movie, or meet at the mall. Nothing is really suspect and the constant presence of the person appears to be non-threatening. Yet, there is an undisclosed secret attraction of which you may not have been aware. Here, it is very important to establish healthy boundaries, not giving in to obligation of the relationship. A better understanding of leaving and cleaving is helpful.
  • The Damsel in Distress – Women play this game with men (sometimes subconsciously) for emotional support and comfort. A woman being a damsel in distress is constantly seeking attention and comfort. She manifests herself in ways such as regularly needing advice around husband or boyfriend issues. Something always needs fixing in her home or she is always in need of help with something. Men love to be admired, appreciated and needed. They sincerely want to help, but the ‘Damsel in Distress’ has another agenda – to get closer to you or your spouse.

Step 3 – Enhance the Romance

  • Have dinner dates and date nights with spouse via skype or other video calling methods.
  • Play online computer games together such as chess, checkers, scrabble, etc.
  • Send E-cards, love letters, emails.
  • Send postal mail, locks of hair, and fragranced articles of clothing to make psychological connections and impressions in your spouse’s psyche.
  • Call regularly and as often as possible as to imprint the voice of your spouse in the ear right to the heart
  • Say I love you often and in as many ways as possible.
  • Keep smiling at each other. Laugh together and have fun.
  • Engage in creative intimacy (Pillow talk, love talk…use your imagination).
  • Send photos, gifts, and care packages.

Step 4 – Institute Systems of Support

  • Surround yourself with healthy and seasoned married couples, mature same gender friends and/or balanced relatives who can help provide a safe emotional environment to share concerns or challenges with.
  • Start or attend a support group of other couples who are geographically separated and working to strengthen their marriage in order to help each other cope and offer healthy social outlet and activities.
  • Get counseling if necessary to help cope with the separation.
  • Spend time with relatives, no need to lock yourself up in a room or in the house; take up a hobby or skill.

Step 5 – Plan for the Reunion

  • Plan activities to help the one who had to go away to get re-acclimated back at home.
  • Plan dates which do not immediately involve sex.
  • Have exciting welcome back surprises.
  • Slowly close the space between the two of you. Remember, your spouse has been away for awhile, he/she will need time to re-adjust.

Your marriage is an investment. If you desire to get a return on your investment, do what any good investment broker would do – Protect your resources!

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