Before you're tempted to roll your eyes and not read this all the way through, trust me—I've heard it all. Pretty much, not one week goes by when someone hears that I'm a marriage life coach who's never been married before and they say, "How can you offer insights on marriage if you've never been married before?"
My response to that is too long for this article. For now, I'll say two things. One, I'm not a wife but I am a child of more than one divorce. Don't sleep on what kids observe and the takeaways that they glean from their own parents' experiences. Second, being that pretty much half of all marriages end in divorce, what are folks saying? That married people know how to be married? The stats seem to say otherwise. (Just sayin')
I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that it's not so much someone's "status" that makes them worthy of speaking on certain topics. Wisdom and revelation come in many forms.
A homeless person can offer a great deal of insight on finances. A substance abuser has quite the perspective on self-control. And yes, a single individual can be quite useful in the area of marriage (I've even reconciled a couple of divorced couples along the way!).
In my roughly 10 years of being a life coach, there are a few things that I've learned about marriage. Things that have made me more resolved than ever that it's better to wait until "it"—the person and timing—is right than to get married, just so I can say that I'm not single anymore. Here's what they are:
Vows Are S-E-R-I-O-U-S
Personal vows are nice. They really are. But a lot of the wedding ceremonies where I've heard them? The couples weren't really vowing anything. Sure, they talked about how they felt and the memories that they shared, but if you're signing up to give someone a front row seat into every aspect of your life, there needs to be some "better or worse" and "until death parts us" stuff said too.
And that's the thing. A vow is serious. It's literally "a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment". Marriage is not casual. Marriage isn't even supposed to be temporary. In fact, something I oftentimes say is, "I bet if divorce were illegal, most couples would find a way to make it work." Because I agree with what Lawrence's daddy (from Insecure) said in the season three finale—a lot of relationships don't last because a lot of people don't want to put in the work to make it so.
Vowing until death is a LONG time. It's not until you are mad or tired or "not feeling it anymore". It's supposed to be until death parts you. The people who've been brave enough to have the integrity to honor what they promised on their wedding day will tell you that marriage ain't easy but it will teach you things about yourself—and about love—that you wouldn't learn any other way. That alone makes marriage well worth it.
It's More Important to Be "In Like" Than "In Love"
If you're an engaged person reading this, PLEASE do yourself a favor and COMMIT to seeing a marriage counselor or therapist at least a couple of times a year. Don't wait until one (or both) of you wants to sign divorce papers to give therapy a shot. I say that because marriage counseling is not some magical solution. It's just a way to offer up another perspective, along with some (hopefully) helpful tips.
One piece of advice that I have to offer is this—care about being in like far more than being in love; especially during the tough times.
I say that because "in love" is oftentimes feelings-oriented, and since human beings are emotional creatures, feelings are always subject to change. "In like" on the other hand is about friendship—trust, humor, mutual respect, support…liking the other person.
Whenever I have a couple who are at their wit's end, I find that so long as they still like each other, I can help get them back to being in love. When it's the other way around? Not so much. Because feelings without a foundation of friendship leaves…not much at all to stand on.
Your Sex Life (or Lack Thereof Speaks VOLUMES) About Your Relationship
I once heard someone say that good sex is 10 percent of a marriage while bad sex is 90 percent of it. Why? Because the bedroom tends to set the tone for the rest of the rooms in the house. Sex isn't just about gettin' off (although that is one of the best parts of it, no doubt!). It's also about communication, intimacy, and establishing/maintaining a real connection.
Another way to look at this is, sex doesn't "make love", sex celebrates it.
That said, listen, I don't care how much a couple claims they're in a healthy marriage. If the sex is lacking (if it's something they do once every couple of months even though they are physically capable of having it more), they're not doing as well as they should be. Not by a country mile.
All of this reminds me of what I once heard a woman who'd been married to her husband for over 60 years say. When she was asked what made her relationship with her husband so different from her other relationships, she matter-of-factly said, "We have sex. I don't screw any of my other friends."
Let the church say "Amen."
If You're a Bad Forgiver, You'll SUCK at Marriage
Reverend Billy Graham's wife Ruth Graham Bell once said, "Marriage is the union of two good forgivers." Hmph. Let me tell it, one of the main reasons why so many marriages don't succeed is because one or both people missed the entire memo on this.
No matter how awesome a person is, they are still a human being and human beings make mistakes. Not every once in a while, either. So, if you're someone who holds grudges, doesn't let go of the past, or only forgives on your terms and you're married—you probably should've stayed single.
How do you know if you are a good forgiver? You don't do the silent treatment thing. You're intentional about talking things out to come to a mutual resolve. You don't withhold affection or attention as a form of punishment. You don't bring the same stuff up over and over again. (This one is sooooo important) You forgive your spouse the same way you'd want them to forgive you.
If you're rolling your eyes at any of this and you are married? Good luck in staying married. If you're single and rolling your eyes—stay single.
Marriage Is Still Beautiful (And Relevant And Necessary)
I keep hearing that millennials are finding marriage to be obsolete. That's a shame because there is something about having a person who promised before your family, friends—and don't forget about God—that they would have your back, no matter what, until you take your last breath.
From where I sit, marriage isn't the problem. Choosing the wrong partner, having an immature concept of love, being selfish, not wanting to put in the work, being delusional about marriage—these are the real issues. (Or, as one man who'd been married 40 years once told me, "The problem with you young girls is you pick irresponsible men. I would never leave my wife, period." WHEW-WHEE.)
I don't know about you, but whenever I see a senior couple walk hand-in-hand, my heart melts. No matter what they've been through, they chose to stay. That's marriage. And to me, that is absolutely beautiful.
Sitting in countless marriage life coaching sessions has shown me that. It's taught me to honor marriage and to remain single until I can mean everything I just said. And for that, I am truly grateful.
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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. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports