While being interviewed a while back, someone asked me how I've been able to survive all that I've been through without losing my mind. One, God. Two, living alone so that I can have my own space to process stuff. Three, writing. Pretty much in that order. Next year will be the 20th year since I left Corporate America and decided to give full-time writing a shot and if there's one thing these past two decades have taught me, it's that I have a pattern of putting something into its proper place—which 8.9 times out of 10 equates to putting it behind me—once I write it out.
So, once I read that back-up boyfriends are a current relationship trend and discovering that irritated me to the point that I asked my editor if I could write-rant about it, I realized there was something within that needed to be resolved. And girrrrrrl is there.
I don't know what rock I've been living under, but up until a few months ago, I had no clue that there was an official term for what I must admit most of my "dating" (and yes, that deserves to be in quotes) life was like. After reading what a back-up boyfriend/girlfriend is, that's EXACTLY what I was doing—and by doing, I mean settling for—in about 75 percent of my "relationships" (again, the quotes are necessary).
What exactly is a back-up all about? It's someone who either thinks they are the main person in an individual's life even though they aren't OR they are someone who fulfills the duties of being the main one without any confirmation (or even reassurances really) from the person they are involved with.
The first category didn't apply to me much. Oh, but that last one? That last one?!
Let me create a visual for you. There's a guy from my past who I loved. Adored. Worked with even. A few times, I would attend events where he was and I would see a girl. She wasn't hanging all over him but she was hanging around. You know, kind of like she was waiting for all of his "fans" (boy, it's quotes everywhere today, chile) to leave. Her energy was strong enough that I finally asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said, "No." He had his flaws, believe you me, but lying wasn't one of them (yet), so I took it at face value.
I don't go out to stuff a ton so it took a while for this to become an issue. But a couple of months later, I saw her again. He was on stage with a shirt that I had bought him and she was in the front row filming what he was doing. At first, I was like "Whatever" but when I realized she was filming him with his phone, I was like "Hold up." I confronted him for the second time and guess what his response was? It was some trash, to be honest. "I don't have a girlfriend. I can't control what she thinks she is, though." Really, playa? OK. (Not OK…but OK.)
The way that life deals with me is, it eases me into things before just straight-up slapping me all upside my head when I don't listen. Those two conversations that I shared with you, that should've been enough to cut my losses (which really wasn't much of a loss in hindsight) and move on. But it was a loooooooong phone conversation where ole' boy talked about it not being easy to be caught up in a duality with two women (her and me) when the cold water hit me all over and down my face.
Ohhhhhhhhhh…so I'm the back-up girlfriend.
The one he can keep on reserve in case things don't work out with his main chick. I'm the one who is doing all of the things that a girlfriend does (and some things she doesn't do) but because we had the "Of course, I love you, Shellie" chat but not the "Yeah, whatever. Are we about to do this or what?" discussion, he was able to reap the benefits of my being another girlfriend without putting in the labor of being a boyfriend. Ugh. Just ugh.
The more I think about it, whoever it is that came up with the phrase "back-up boyfriend" or "back-up girlfriend" was really trying to be gentle with our feelings because what it really boils down to is us (the back-up girlfriend) being in denial and the guy capitalizing on it as best he can, for as long as he can. That's why I'm personally not big on back-ups because it's someone being used. Well, usually manipulated first and then used.
So, since I'm admitting that I've clearly been a back-up girlfriend before, many times over in fact, why does the title of this piece address back-up boyfriends instead? Because, while you might think that this kind of emotional contingency plan is something that's more popular among men, I did my research (read about it here and here). While it appears that men seem to have more sex partners than (most) women do, at least half of us—whether we're single or married—have a back-up boyfriend…someone in the wings, just in case things don't work out with the one we're currently with. These men might be an ex, a co-worker, someone we met online…anyone who we know is getting more-than-just-a-friend treatment, even if it's just emotionally; anyone who, if our partner found out, there would be all sorts of hell breaking loose.
So, why do so many of us do it? Why is having a break-up boyfriend so popular right now?
The main reported reasons are because 1) we're not totally feeling the relationship that we're in; 2) we're not getting all of our needs met, so we're using someone else in order to make up for it and/or 3) we know the relationship that we're in isn't going to last and we don't want to be alone once everything comes to a head.
And just what are some of the surefire signs that you've got a back-up boyfriend in your life?
- You're in a relationship with someone that is solely on your terms.
- There typically is a lot of emotional intimacy without much—if any—sexual involvement.
- You want the attention from the back-up, but you don't care too much about their life overall.
- No one really knows that your back-up exists or it is severely downplayed to those who find out.
- They do most of the giving while you do most of the taking.
- You might make plans, but you don't really stick to them.
- You don't want them seeing other people even though you're involved with someone else.
- You say and do just enough to give them hope without offering up any real or lasting guarantees.
If you heard a ding in your head for four or more of these eight points, you've got a back-up boyfriend on your hands and no, it's not anything to feel good about. I mean, just think how you would feel if you knew that someone was treating you as a back-up girlfriend. Is that something you would want to call your mama and brag about? Exactly.
Look, I already know that a part of the reason why I'm SMH and RME (Rolling My Eyes) about this is because I've fallen prey to this foolishness on more than one occasion. But I think what also unnerves me about it is when you've got back-ups, for whatever the reason, it doesn't help your current relationship. It either A) makes you very lazy in it or B) helps to speed up its expiration date because when you're emotionally (and sometimes physically) split between two or more individuals, it's hard to give your all to anyone. And with your time, effort and energy being all over the place, it's hard to see who really is best for you—the current, the back-up or someone else altogether.
So, while you're using the back-up, you're also wasting your own time. Back-ups might be fun distractions, but they can also lead to pretty big problems. At some point, a decision is going to have to be made and, more times than not, once it is, things don't end well. For you and the person you're with and/or you and your so-called back-up. I would know because once the reality set in of what was really going on in my own situation, I changed my number the very next day. Dude and I haven't spoken since. Treating me like a back-up cost him more than no longer being his stand-up; it ultimately cost us our friendship too.
Bottom line, not everything that's popular is right. Not everything that sounds like a good idea actually is. Life has a way of boomeranging on us—of giving us exactly what we gave to someone else, whether we want it or not. If you've got a back-up boyfriend or you're considering getting one, I hope my journey is a cautionary tale.
Get a boyfriend and keep him. Or break-up and try someone new. Operating from a clean and honest slate brings forth good karma. At the same time, you're gambling with what life decides to bring your way if you sign up for a back-up. You've been warned.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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