Keeping the love alive
Even with all the manuals offering advice on how to nab the perfect partner and ensure you are happy ever after, relationships remain a tricky affair.
In most cases, boy meets girl, they fall in love and once the honeymoon phase fizzles off, the difficulties set in. The bubble often bursts way before you realise your fantasy of growing old together, finishing each other's sentences and bringing each other slippers.
Suddenly you cannot tolerate his silly little habits which were once cute and made you laugh, on the other hand he is repulsed by the things you do, which once brought a broad smile to his face.
But none of this is unusual, says Ali Murray. In her consultancy she sees couples and singles who come to her on the point of breaking down, wondering what is happening to their dream relationships.
She coaches her clients on managing their relationships as well as time planning. Although she quotes textbooks now and again, Murray's advice is almost motherly and each case is unique.
She hopes to turn around the high divorce statistics and have a large majority of happy couples.
Her clients vary from 20-year-olds who are suffering their first major breakup to couples in their 70s who still need a word of advice on how to keep the spark.
What she has to offer is not new. She quotes the somewhat clichéd "communication" as the biggest downfall of most relationships. To couples, her advice is straightforward: Go back to life's basics of treating your partner with respect.
When she talks about successful and fulfiling relationships, Murray's face lights up and there's no doubt that she strongly believes they can be done. She mentions archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, as a couple worth looking up to for inspiration. On the international front, she says singer Seal and his wife, Heidi Klum, are a happy couple.
"Everyone desires happiness in their relationship. There are a few secrets to a successful relationship and they are important. Sadly most women believe that they can wrap themselves around a pole and serve themselves as chocolate mousse on a table for their partners to nibble on and hope their relationships will mend, but that is not so. The most common thing that people get wrong in relationships is communication, problem solving, romance and intimacy," explains Murray.
Many couples emphasise romance, but when that falls away they are confused and don't know what to do, she says. "We always want to work on the romance because that is the favourite part. The reality is that every single relationship goes through a lifecycle. Romance is the first phase and this can be anything from a one-night-stand to 18 months."During that time everything about your partner is cute and perfect, but then they move on to the fault finding phase and it becomes a battle of the wills - what you want versus what he wants. If communication is not strong, your relationship is unlikely to make it here.
"Unfortunately, almost 60% of relationships don't make it past this phase. Instead of dealing with problems at hand, most couples keep on looking back to the romance phase and wishing things could go back, instead of moving on. Sadly most people have extra-marital affairs during this phase because they cannot deal with it and are eager for a bit of fun in their lives."
South African dynamics also play a role in how local men and women behave within their affairs. While most people look up to the Western society for their portrayal of what intimate relationships should be, they are also held down by their traditional beliefs.
She says women dream of marriages with equality and shared roles, but most South African men hold on to tradition and don't take more active roles in the home.
"One of my female clients is a director of a large firm. At home she has a helper as well as a housekeeper, but her husband insists on her getting home to cook dinner. He refuses to eat food prepared by others and that bothers her. Hers is not an isolated incident.
"I've found that most men would refuse to participate in any home chores, but the woman would not object either. Instead, she would try to do everything, with loads of resentment. But when the same women communicate their feelings to their partners, you realise their men are not so orthodox after all.
"The reality is that the women don't ask for help, they don't know how to get their partners involved so that by the end of the evening, they have enough time to spend together and be intimate. I always tell them to go home and ask their husbands for help instead of complaining about being tired and resenting them," concurs Murray.
She also notes that couples don't play as much as they should. To cater for that she gives private dancing lessons for ladies as well as massage classes so couples can bring romance back to the home.
About the Author: I am 28 years old Russian female, working in dating field for almost 7 years and my specialty is dating articles for ChanceForLove Online Dating Service