What is a healthy example of love? If you really think about it, how was love shown to you growing up? Do you even know how much your childhood affected your love life as an adult? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves because, let's face it, we all want that love story we've seen on TV or in the movies—even if we aren't saying it out loud. But who's to say we are making the right moves to find not just a relationship, but a healthy one?
Whether you are team Love Jones or team Martin and Gina, how we perceive a healthy love can be based on so many things. And that is not excluding our upbringing. While love can look different for so many people, as long as we can all acknowledge that love should not feel like a challenge, then, we are on the right track. With the right person, love should be beneficial for both partners physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Periodt.
I recently chatted with someone who believes he grew up with healthy examples of love, which has helped him with how he approaches love and dating today. And that person, my friends, is actor Arlen Escarpeta. Arlen was born in Belize and moved to the United States at an early age with his mother. He pursued his acting career after college and landed his first movie role in Playaz Court in 2000. After that, he secured several TV roles including one in the legal series Boston Public, as well as police dramas The Shield and Boomtown. He also starred as Bobby Brown in the Lifetime original film Whitney.
Image courtesy of Shamayim
His most recent role is on OWN's coming-of-age drama series David Makes Man, a show created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight). The drama centers around a teenaged prodigy named David who lives in the projects but tries to navigate his way between his neighborhood and his prestigious school. A newcomer to the series, Arlen plays JG, David's brother, who brings grounding to the young man. He's a rising businessman facing an opportunity that will change him and his community forever. (If you haven't checked out this OWN series, you should. It's so good!)
For this second season, Arlen's bringing the jokes and realness, and he's making the audience feel all the feels. At the same time, in his personal life, Arlen is making sure that he is making time in his love life to be the best human he can be and exude that healthy example of love he learned about while growing up.
xoNecole: In 'David Makes Man,' we see a time-lapse between younger versions of the characters and the older version. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Arlen Escarpeta: Well, something I have learned over the years is that procrastination is not the way to go. I am still learning that now. I consider myself a healthy procrastinator. I recognize the faults of it now whereas before, I would just tell myself I have more time. Since then, I have learned I can get a lot more done when I give myself enough time in the upfront to get things accomplished. When you realize that procrastinating is not the way to go, the better off you'll be.
When you were growing up, who was the most influential person in your life and why?
It sounds so cliche and I am sure a lot of men say this, but it is definitely my mother. My father died when I was very young and my mother moved from Belize to the States. Growing up, my mom was the sole provider and she kept the whole family above water. Her tenacity, drive, faith, and her whole spirit is intertwined in everything that I do.
Do you believe that societal pressures of what a man is supposed to be have affected how men and women date nowadays?
I think the pressures of social media have definitely affected the way people approach one another when it comes to dating. Back in the day, the guy that had the best pickup line got the girl. Nowadays it's about sliding in someone's DM and hopefully, you get a response. Even though things have changed, I still believe people are still looking for that real connection with someone. It's just wrapped in a different package.
"Back in the day, the guy that had the best pickup line got the girl. Nowadays it's about sliding in someone's DM and hopefully, you get a response. Even though things have changed, I still believe people are still looking for that real connection with someone. It's just wrapped in a different package."
Did you have healthy examples of love growing up? If so, what did you learn about love that you apply to your own relationships?
I think I had plenty of healthy examples around me growing up. I am a hopeless romantic. I was influenced by TV too and would see all these romantic gestures. I'm the type of guy that will go out and get you flowers just because. I want my girl to feel special. But what I have learned about gestures is that the simple ones are just as important as the big ones. It doesn't have to be a grand scale gesture all the time. Something as simple as loading the dishwasher can be received and appreciated the same as a bouquet of flowers. My current partner taught me this as well. Love can be simple.
Another thing I have learned from healthy examples of love is knowing when to walk away in a relationship. I learned that from my mother. When my mother divorced my stepdad, she knew that she deserved more. And now she has more. It is about setting boundaries for yourself and knowing when letting go of a person is better than just holding on. You have to do what makes you happy and [know] what is a better situation for the both of you.
Is it important for you to feel safe within your own relationship? If so, what does feeling safe look like for you?
It is absolutely important to feel safe in a relationship. Feeling safe for me is me being able to say whatever I want to say and trust that my partner hears and understands me. Feeling safe is having effective communication. I know we are going to bump heads sometimes. So being able to have a disagreement with my partner one moment, talk it out, and still be able to kiss them on the forehead, later on, is healthy to me. I honestly believe that if you are not having those uncomfortable discussions in your relationship, then you are not growing.
"Feeling safe is having effective communication. Being able to have a disagreement with my partner one moment, talk it out, and still be able to kiss them on the forehead, later on, is healthy to me. I honestly believe that if you are not having those uncomfortable discussions in your relationship, then you are not growing."
Image courtesy of Shamayim
What is one thing you think a man should work on for himself before he's ready to be in a relationship?
Having accountability. Men are not always held to the highest standards and can get away with some things sometimes. So, while we are quick to judge others, we really have to look at ourselves and call out some of the things that we do. I think accountability can help men receive what they want to receive and communicate better what's on their mind when they enter a relationship.
What advice do you have for single women who may overthink what it means to impress a guy in dating?
If I am speaking just to women, single or in relationships, I would say that it is important to not misrepresent yourself and let it lead the way. What I mean is, that mask that you put on in the beginning, you are going to have to keep that up. The longer you keep that mask on, the less the man is able to really know you. I know we put on masks mainly to protect ourselves. But when you are comfortable with yourself, it is easier to be comfortable with a potential partner. So you are better off being honest and allowing them to like you/love you for who you really are.
In your opinion, what are your three best qualities that you bring to a relationship?
Just three?! I mean I have a long list! Well, I know I mentioned accountability earlier but I think it is a very important quality to have in a relationship—like being aware of what your flaws are. The other quality I have is to be able to trust. You have to trust your partner and you have to be able to trust yourself. For the third quality, I would have to say I am passionate. You need to have passion in a relationship to keep it going. Passion helps keep the spark alive.
What is one thing that people do not notice about you right away that you wish they did when it comes to love and relationships?
I come across as a "glass full" type person. But honestly, I can be a big old baby. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don't think a lot of people know that about me.
What would you say is your biggest fear about relationships?
Because I am a hopeless romantic, God forbid the relationship ends and my partner no longer views me as a good person. I ask myself, 'Are we able to be friends afterward, or do they see me as the bad guy in the end?' I never want to be the bad guy.
Even when you try to do everything right, there are still circumstances that you have no control over that could lead to a relationship ending. So, with this fear of mine, I try to remind myself it's not about being the good guy or the bad guy. It is about staying true to yourself and putting your best foot forward.
To learn more about Arlen, follow him on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Shamayim
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