Here's How To NOT Lose Yourself In A Relationship
We've all got that one girlfriend. The one who is the best friend ever when she's single, but once she gets caught up in some guy, suddenly 85 percent of our calls get pushed to voicemail, she's canceling dates at the last minute and when you do actually get around to catching up with her, she can't go three minutes without bringing her man up…again.
Then we've got those other friends. The ones who, when we find ourselves venting about our girlfriend, they chalk it up to us hatin' or wishing that we had what she did. Deep down, we know that's not the case. We're happy that our girl found love. What we don't like is the fact that it seems like every time that she does, it's at the expense of losing herself in the process. It's as if she has no real reason for living her best life if she doesn't have some dude in her life.
If you can totally relate to where I'm coming from, there are two things you should do. First, lead by example. Meaning, make sure that you're not the kind of person who is prone to doing what your friend does. You can do this by skimming this article, just to see if any of the points hit home. Secondly, forward this on to your girl. Sometimes, when we're all Anita Baker-ish (you know, "Caught Up in the Rapture" of love), we don't realize what we're doing to ourselves until someone who loves us tell us.
Show your girl some love today by bringing these points to her attention. Pronto.
5 Ways To Avoid Losing Yourself In A Relationship
1.Get into a Relationship for the Right Reasons (and Motives)
Sometimes, I'll have my television on as background noise as I write. Recently, an episode of Living Single came on. The one when Regine was dating a married man and didn't know it. When she finally found out, she stuck around a bit longer than she should have; however, when the situation ultimately blew up in her face, one of her girls (the character escapes me at the moment) said, "You keep looking for a man to carry you" to which Regine asked, "What's wrong with that?" to which Khadijah quipped, "They keep droppin' your ass."
The fact that Regine asked what was wrong with looking for a man to carry her sheds a lot of light into why 1) she probably overlooked signs that dude was married in the first place and 2) she decided to stay with him after she found out.
See where I'm going with this? If you're getting into a relationship because of what you're hoping some man can do for you and not because he will simply add to your life that is already pretty dope, you could find yourself losing yourself—whether it's your standards, your morals, your integrity, your needs…it kinda runs the gamut.
2.Remember a Good Man Loves a Woman's Sense of Identity and Independence
While binge-watching a web series called The Marriage Tour, there's an episode when one of the main characters is trying to get rid of all of his chicks so that he can commit to one woman; one of the gals' names was Tiffany. She was attractive. She could cook her tail off. And she was sooooo accommodating that she came off like a crazy psycho. Example—when she ran (literally) to warm up a plate of food that he didn't even say was cold, ole' boy looked into the camera and said, "OK. It's good to cater to your man but damn. No need to buy the cow, when she gives me all of the milk I want for free. Don't make me work for it or nothin'? She even pulls the tit out for me sometimes." (That's hilarious and sad—simultaneously.)
Keep in mind, this isn't the woman he kept around; it's the woman he left behind. It's a great reminder that a healthy man doesn't want to come into a woman's life and become it; he simply wants to add to what she's already got going on. A healthy man is really drawn to someone whose life is SO BIG and world is SO FULL that he feels honored that she would decide to "fit him in."
The cool thing about this kind of woman is, if he leaves, while it might sting a little, she's got too much going for herself for the lack of his presence to stop any show.
3.Do Some Things Totally Apart from Your Guy
Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for me to talk to single women who have a list of things that they want to do with their life. Unfortunately, they are intentionally putting those things on hold until they get into a relationship.
I want to go to Cape Town…maybe I'll do it for my honeymoon. I would love to talk a salsa class…once I get a dance partner. Wine tasting sounds fun…for a first date.
The problem with having this kind of mentality is—actually, there are two issues. One, tomorrow is not promised and yet you're choosing to put your life on hold as if it is. And two, you're conditioning yourself to think that you can't/shouldn't do certain things without a man being in your life. Then, as a result of feeling this way, once "he" does come along, you end up overwhelming him with all of these plans—things he may or may not want to do (or has already done because he didn't need a woman to do them).
Moral to the story is this—if you're already used to doing things BY YOURSELF or with your girls, then you'll still be used to living that way once a man comes along. Not only will that keep you from becoming the clingy chick, but it will also give him the opportunity to suggest some of his own quality time ideas.
It will also help you to love in a way that the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "Love in such a way that the person you love feels free." For someone to feel free, they need their space.
4.Make Him A Priority Not THE Priority
There's something about Judge Lynn Toler's delivery that makes her constantly sound like her pearls of wisdom are totally off of the cuff. Take the time I heard her say, "A man is not a plan; he's a perk." BAM!
If you've read even a couple of my articles on relationships, you know that I am a HUGE fan of them—when they are right, healthy and full of purpose. I also adore men; especially Black men. Whether we as women are in romantic relationships with men or not, they are important to have in our lives.
With that disclaimer on the table, yes, I totally get where the judge is coming from. If all we have on our bucket list is get married (and possibly have kids), that makes having a man the only real plan we've got—and that is all kinds of unhealthy. Toxic even.
When you make a man your ultimate plan, he becomes the only real priority. If you're not careful, that means he'll come before your needs. You could even mess around and turn him into your personal idol (not good). But when he's a perk, he's a great thing that happens in addition to so many others. As a result, he's a priority but he's certainly not the end all to be all. That's a good thing.
5.Embrace, Don't Force, the Seasons as They Come—and Go.
Some of us get so consumed in our relationships, we give so much so soon that we automatically assume that it will last forever, even without any evidence of that being an actual fact. Then, because we got so caught up, once it does come to an end, we're utterly devastated because although we were taking good care of the man and the relationship, what we didn't maintain was ourselves.
One of the best ways to love someone else is by making sure you love yourself. That you make sure your needs are met, that you pamper yourself and that you do things that will remind you of your worth or value OUTSIDE of the relationship that you're in.
Relationships are oftentimes a lot like seasons. They come and they go. But the one thing that will always remain a constant is you. Love you best and you will never lose yourself…should your relationship with ole' boy somehow take a turn for the (so-called) worst.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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