Have you ever wondered where the true origins of holidays come from? I do, so I tend to research 'em. For instance, St. Patrick's Day? Long story short, he was a non-Irish slave who fled Ireland as a teen and then came back to teach Christianity to Irish people. And St. Valentine's Day? Legend has it that he was a man who was martyred for marrying Christian couples at a time when the emperor preferred men go to war than have a family. Pretty fascinating, right? Now watch how I'm about to tie all of this together.
Me? I'm a huge fan of marriage. That's why, whenever I hear someone say that Valentine's Day is a joke, I'm kind of like, "If there is any holiday that deserves some love from married folks, it should be Valentine's Day", just from the origin of it alone.
At the same time, I get that it's a holiday that can stress couples out because while the wife is wondering if her husband will observe it right (and by that, she usually means thoughtfully and romantically), the husband is wondering if his wife will do anything for him at all (it's not just a day for women; it's a day for couples).
If you happen to fall into this category or, your real issue this year is your money is tight, I've got a few ways that you and yours can celebrate the holiday without causing any financial drama on the back-end. As a bonus, these are the kinds of ideas that two can truly play. That way, your husband can enjoy the day rather than simply grinning and bearing it.
1.Have an Indoor Picnic
I'm not sure why the idea of putting a blanket on the ground and eating food on top of it is so romantic to so many of us, but I'll co-sign on the fact that it is. If you're an outdoorsy kind of person, I fully support having some soup, grilled cheese, and hot cocoa with your sweetheart at a park somewhere for lunch. But most of us ain't gettin' down like that in the dead of winter, so the alternative is an indoor picnic.
To pull this off, it's more about the ambiance than the food. First, make an indoor tent (Pinterest has all sorts of cool ideas; so does YouTube). Then put on some 90s R&B (you can never go wrong with that), light some scented soy candles (jasmine, vanilla, and cinnamon are all aphrodisiacs) and have some food delivered. It's simple. It's sweet. And it's totally stress-less. Just like how Valentine's Day should be.
2.Reenact Your First Date
OK, this suggestion right here only works if your first date together was a good one. So if it was, taking a stroll down memory lane is a great way to bring some of the butterflies back.
Thanks to Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and On Demand, you can find just about any movie on the planet. Or, if your first date was at a restaurant or coffee shop, if you call ahead, many managers will be more than happy to reserve the same table that you had or come up with something special for you and yours to dine on in order to commemorate where your first date has brought the two of you.
3.Eat Out on the Low
Speaking of eating out, if there is a restaurant that you adore but the prices on the menu are a little steep, see if they have a happy hour. 8 times out of 10, if you go during that time, you can get discounts on a lot of their items.
Some other tips for saving money on dining is to sign up for e-clubs, follow your favorite eateries online (restaurants are known for posting specials on IG and Twitter), and purchase discounted gift cards. It's not uncommon for restaurants to also offer an extra $10-25 cash reward if you purchase a gift card from them at a certain price.
4.Deliver Something Sweet (or Cool) to Each Other’s Jobs
I try and tell husbands as much as possible that they can earn some major points if they deliver some roses to their wife (on a day other than their birthday or anniversary) every once in a while. The same thought applies to Valentine's Day — for both men and women.
As far as what you can have delivered, the ideas are endless! A favorite bottle of wine. A favorite dessert. Chocolate-covered strawberries. A subscription service for lingerie (trust me, your husband will like getting this sent to him just as much as you would appreciate receiving it). Or, if you know your man would appreciate something that's more on the light-and-fun side, how about a classic Nintendo system or tickets to an upcoming concert or game? Include a note about how much you love them too.
Being able to show your romantic side off to their co-workers will totally make their day.
5.Cash Some “Sex Checks”
A couple of days ago, I read an article on sex coupons. When I went to Amazon to check them out, I saw something that I found to be even cuter — sex checks. Each packet includes 30 IOUs and 30 UOMEs.
If you add to these a bottle of DIY massage oil (all you need to do is mix some lavender oil with some sweet almond oil and heat it up), some edible body paint (you can buy some here or get a recipe to make your own here) and a couple of glasses of a love potion cocktail, you should be in for a really adventurous night. (Remember not to write a check you can't cash!)
6.Cook Each Other’s Favorite Meals TogetherAdd some fun to your date night!
Did you know that a lot of reputable therapists believe that a key to a couple's longevity is to cook together? It's a great way to spend quality time with one another and learn new things. There are also studies to support that cooking with your spouse reduces stress and can even lead to more and better sex as well.
Use this Valentine's Day as an opportunity to cook something neither of you has ever had before (first times for things are always sexy) or cook each other's favorite dishes. Who knows? The home-cooked dinner on the table could lead to some— eh hem — mighty fine dessert on the kitchen floor afterwards.
7.Buy Some “Breakaway” Lingerie
If you're a lingerie connoisseur, you already know that one nice piece of a lil' sumthin' sumthin' can easily run you over 75 bucks. But if you're on a budget and you want to get something new for your man to look at for the sake of Valentine's Day, there are all kinds of places where you can buy, what I call "breakaway lingerie". Literally, something that breaks away from the routine.
Arie is dope because it's got casual sleepwear, plus it features models that aren't photoshopped. Lane Bryant is cool because it's got something for the super curvy ladies (Ashley Stewart and Hips and Curves does too). If you love you some lace, LACELAB on Etsy has definitely got your back. If BDSM with a touch of romance is more your speed, Blossom Body features a nice collection. Or, if a sheer teddy is exactly what you have in mind, hit up Missguided. You'll be able to find one there
8.Stay at a Vacation House or Airbnb
If you don't want to travel out of town but you want to get out of the house, and the thought of a hotel causes you to yawn with boredom, how about a vacation house or Airbnb? You'll end up with a lot more space and, oftentimes, the costs are much cheaper too.
To be fair, out of all of the things I've suggested, this one probably falls more in the "under $100-150" range. But I still listed it because I saw some vacation home rentals in my own city for $30-50. (Home to Go is a good starting point.)
9.Make a 12-Month Date Calendar
One year, a friend of mine's husband did something on her birthday that earned him all kinds of ooos and ahhs. He bought a calendar and then strategically planned out dates for the entire year. I mean, dates that he literally thought out, twice a month, until her following birthday.
What I adore about this idea is it's a reminder that proactiveness is not only underrated but super sexy too. And you know what? Since there are studies to support that monthly dates are one of the keys to keeping a marriage together, it's a great way to show that quality time with your partner is a top priority — no matter what.
10.Update Your Wedding Vows and Frame Them
It doesn't matter if a couple comes to me for a tune-up (we get our oil changed every 3,000 miles, so why shouldn't spouses check-in with a counselor a couple of times a year?) or they are on their last leg, something that I suggest is that they write down 10-15 things that they love about their spouse and then put it up someplace where they can see it daily.
Along these same lines, it's probably a good idea to frame your wedding vows somewhere around the house too, just as a reminder that your husband is not your boyfriend and your wife is not your girlfriend. Your commitment is a lot more serious (and legal) than that.
Then, maybe alongside your original vows, post some upgraded ones too. You know, the things that you want to promise now that you know more about what marriage is really all about. Think about it — what does "for better or for worse" really mean now that you've been through some things?
Both of you updating your vows can bring some humor to your Valentine's Day; it can also be a reminder of just how far you've come and just how "in this" the two of you really are.
Out of all of the things I've shared, this one is probably the most inexpensive and invaluable.
Happy Valentine's Day, married folks!
Featured image by Getty Images.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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I'm a wellness founder who currently has no therapist. Now, don't judge me; I'm being vulnerable with you.
A few years back, I felt like my life was shifting and that I wanted to find a new therapist to help me get to the root of what I was experiencing but didn't exactly have the language for it. Almost a decade ago, I was a depressed, socially anxious Black girl in an abusive relationship with practically no friends in college. Fast-forward to now and I'm a grown woman thriving and the founder of one of the largest wellness organizations for Black women.
The shy girl I once was (and still am at times, if I'm being honest) has now led meditations at Coachella, worked with Taraji P. Henson's brand, and produced her own content on mental health and Black women's healing with Foot Locker Women! But can I tell you that deep down, there are days when I still felt like that girl who thought she was broken and unloved?
That realization made me angry; I felt like I had done so much self-work and work in therapy that feeling like that girl again as a grown-ass woman made no sense.
It felt like I was going backward, and I didn't understand why, so I figured the best thing to do was discuss this in therapy. After switching insurance, I was on the search for a new therapist, and I specified to her what I was experiencing and asked if we could work through it together. She seemed kind and supportive, and she was a Black woman, something I wanted in this next chapter of therapy and womanhood as I started therapy in my early twenties and I was now approaching my thirties.
A few weeks into our sessions, she flat-out asked me, "Why are you here?" She couldn't understand why someone as successful as me needed therapy and said to me multiple times during the sessions to follow in so many words, "You don't need to be there, I think you're fine."
Yvonne Orji Therapy GIF by Insecure on HBO Giphy
Her words immediately triggered me because I felt like it was her way of saying as a Black woman, seeing me doing well made her wonder why I needed this support. I left and never went back following that session.
That was almost two years ago. There have been times when I wanted to go back, but I'd tensed up at the thought given the traumatic experience, life will always send us experiences the way that challenge us, and I don't think that never returning to therapy is the answer. Before I even began searching for a new therapist, I processed my sessions with the former therapist and, as best as I could, sent empathy her way.
We can often think that our therapists are going to be perfect and not misstep, but they're human and flawed just as we are. Whether we admit it or not, we all walk have our own biases and ways that we see the world. Perhaps she looked at me and thought, This woman is thriving; what problems could she have? She could have gone through life with no one supporting her once she began to succeed.
As I go back into therapy, I've sat with myself, and I feel confident enough to express myself again and share what I need from them in this season as I interview new therapists. There are many articles to support how to find a therapist, but I want to support you if you're heading back to therapy after taking a much-needed break.
Figure Out Your "Why"
You want to know why you're going back and ask yourself if there is something you may need from therapy now that you didn't need before. Your needs could be the same, but as time goes by, we change along with our needs. It helps to prepare a script as you approach therapists to share, for example: "Hi, my name is ______, and I'm looking for support in ______ in therapy at this point of my life."
In this post-pandemic era, Black therapists and therapists overall are overwhelmed and overworked. I can't even begin to tell you how many therapists I know personally that have stopped seeing clients due to burnout. You might not find the therapist you're looking for overnight, and you could very well be scrolling through potential therapists, getting excited at the idea of a conversation with them, and then discovering they are no longer accepting new clients. Do not be discouraged; your therapist is out there.
Don't Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
I like to look at therapy in many ways like I look at love. And what I mean by that is much like dating; you are not going to get the experience you're looking for without vulnerability. I challenge you to be transparent with your therapist, they will only be able to help you get to the root of what you need support with if they get to know who you really are, and what you need.
I am rooting for you as you head back to therapy. Know that I am supporting you and cheering you on from the sidelines as we go back and do this healing work together.
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