If someone were to ask me to, right now, off the top of my head, to list one of the most overlooked causes of divorce, I would definitely have to say that taking your partner for granted is up in the top five. No matter how close you are with your spouse, no matter how long the two of you have been with each other, when you don't take out the time to share how much you value your partner being in your life, it can start to take a toll on their feelings and, eventually the relationship as a whole.
Being the kind of spouse who doesn't succumb to this, let's be real, "potential divorce trap", requires daily effort. But if this is an area where you know you could stand to do better but you're not sure where to start, my hope is that this article can begin to point you into the right direction.
Ask. Don’t Assume.
There's a client I've got who has one of the pushiest wives on the planet. It's gotten to the point where he's kind of at his wit's end. When he asked me what I thought he should do to make her less bossy, I said, "Try and approach her in question form." What I mean by that is, "Would you mind if…?" or "How do you feel about…?" Since one of the greatest causes of the breakdown in marital unions is poor communication, based on a person's personality type (and whether they are a control-freak-in-denial or not), sometimes you have to cautiously approach someone in a way that discourages them from going on the defense—in order to get your point across and also in order to keep the peace (in your home).
Along these same lines, if there's one thing that I hear both men and women say is a HUGE pet peeve when it comes to dealing with their spouse, it's the fact that they assume that they should or will do something rather than simply asking first. Meaning, they hate that their partner acts like it should be a given that just because they want something done or desire something from their partner, that it should automatically happen. Some have even said that since that is how their partner comes at them, they make sure to say "no", even if something isn't that big of a deal, just to make a point.
It's important to remember that, just because you are with someone who pledged sacred vows to have your back, no matter what, that they are still adults with the power of choice. Therefore, they don't have to do anything. When we make it a point to make a request, we are conveying that we are perfectly aware of this fact; that we are grateful for their consideration and even more grateful if/when the request is honored.
Say “Please” and “Thank You”
If you check out the Love Chapter in the Bible (I Corinthians 13:4-8), something that it says is "love is not rude". Yet, as much as a lot of married couples profess to love each other, it's kinda crazy, just how rude they can be towards one another. An example? Do you make it a point and purpose to say "please" when asking your spouse to do something and/or follow it up with a "thank you" once they do? Even though I'm a single woman, I've got to say that, whenever someone approaches me with these three words, I am much more willing to honor their requests than when they don't. There's something about "please" that makes something feel more like a request rather than a demand and, when it's followed up with a "thank you", I feel like the person gets that complying is within my power and my power alone. "Please" and "thank you" always translate that they totally get that, and that's something that I definitely appreciate.
Speaking of appreciation, while on the surface the word means things like gratitude and recognition, a dictionary definition that I totally dig is "the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value". Showing your spouse that you not only appreciate what they do for you and bring into your life, but that you appreciate them as individuals, that is a superpower; one that's definitely underrated. Think about it—when's the last time you made time (outside of their birthday, y'all's anniversary or a holiday) that you actually reflected on your partner's qualities and then asked yourself, "What can I do to make them feel like I appreciate their value?"
This is why doing things like speaking their love language is so important. So is doing things for no reason at all like making them their favorite dinner, handwriting them a letter, planning a staycation or a weekend road trip out of the blue, praising them in front of your children, offering to give them a break from their usual household duties, etc. are all very important proactive steps to take. Everyone needs to feel like they are acknowledged for the good that they do and the good that they are. One day soon, I'll pen a piece on how to "divorce-proof" your marriage. Showing appreciation to your partner—as they do the same thing for you—most certainly tops the list.
Acknowledge What They Are Actually Doing Right
Sometimes, while I'm in the middle of a counseling session, I find myself in awe that a spouse has remained even remotely sane with their partner for as long as they have. My awe is due to one thing, in particular. Their spouse nags…and nags…then criticizes…and then nags some more. UGH. Something that you signed up for, when you looked into your partner's eyes and said, "I do" is to love them until death parts you (a great read on this very topic is "Until Death Do Us Part — For Real"). What comes with that is loving someone who is flawed and makes mistakes—just like you are flawed and make mistakes.
But you know what? If all they are in your eyes is their colossal mess-ups, why did you marry them to begin with? (More on that in a sec.) Surely, there are some awesome qualities that they also have. And, if you think really hard, surely there is at least one thing that they did today that is praiseworthy.
No one wants to constantly hear the list of their wrongs or be in the never-ending space of negativity. Grandma used to say that we can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. No what else we can "catch" by praising our partner? Someone who is willing to do even more to make us happy. Beyond that, someone who actually likes coming home to us too.
Remember Why You Married Them in the First Place
An exercise that I typically recommend every couple I work with do is write down a list of the reasons why they decided to marry their partner—and then post it in a place where they both can see it on a daily basis (whether it's a bedroom mirror, the refrigerator, or they blow it up into a piece of art and hang it up someplace in the house). Sometimes, once people settle into the reality of what marriage is really all about (if you're a believer, more than anything, it's about showing you how to love in the way that God loves you; just think about all that HE puts up with—Ephesians 5), it can be easy to forget about why you and yours signed up for something as challenging, as demanding and, if you do it right, radical as marriage. A list like this can help to remind you that no, you're not crazy for being a wife (or fellas, if you're reading this, a husband). Marriage has its difficult times, no doubt about it. But you are with who you're with for some really good reasons, right? Jot down what drew you to their mind, body and spirit. It'll be good for your "love endurance levels" and great for their self-esteem as well.
Treat Each Day As Your First—and ONLY—Day with Your Partner
November 3 of this year marks the 25th anniversary of my late fiancée's passing. I oftentimes share that while there were signs, even in our last conversation (like "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boys II Men playing and that one of the last things Damien said to me was, "Death is a part of reality"), I didn't treat our final moment together like it was our last. I assumed that the date that we made for later that day was going to happen. It didn't. He died that night in a very freak car accident, and the last thing I remember saying to him is not "I love you" but "See you later". Anyone who has lost someone close to them before will certainly vouch for the fact that nothing drives home the point that tomorrow is not promised and do not take anyone you love for granted quite like death—especially sudden death—does.
Take it from me, the pain of regret of doing just that never ever fully goes away, so please make a point to wake up, each and every morning, with a spirit of profound gratitude, first to the Most High for continuing to bless you and yours with life and then to your spouse for remaining in this thing called "life" with you, one more day.
'Cause y'all, with what life is like right through here, if having that kind of heart and mindset doesn't prevent you from taking your partner—and your marriage—for granted, I honestly don't know what will. Honor and appreciate your partner. Don't wait. DO. IT. NOW.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
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Feature image by Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood