You know, it never ceases to amaze me that, whenever I do research on the top reasons why married couples decide to get a divorce, rarely—if ever—do I see that they stopped being friends with each other; if they were ever friends in the first place. And that is exactly why I wanted to write this article. While things like poor communication, financial challenges and intimacy issues are popular causes for marital discord and break-ups, if there is one thing that helps some couples stick it out, it's the fact that, above all else, they share a bona fide friendship.
And when you're truly friends with someone, that makes it easier to deal with the tough times as opposed to when you're not.
I promise you that, I've sat with plenty of couples who never even considered if 1) they made building a friendship a priority while they were dating/courting and 2) they didn't make sure to either establish or nurture their friendship so that they could stay out of divorce court. That's why, whether you are in a new dating situation, engaged or, most importantly, already married, I hope you'll take out a few moments of your time to read this and then ask yourself, "Am I actually friends with my boo?" or…not. Believe you me, the answer can reveal a lot about your relationship—and its future.
You Genuinely Like Each Other
I'm not big on boyfriend/girlfriend relationships (you can read more about that by checking out "Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again"). To me, it's way too much like acting married when you're actually not. When you do that too often, believe it or not, it can teach you how to get divorced rather than remain committed to the spouse you actually do end up with (think about it—you fall for someone, break-up, move on…then rinse and repeat a billion times till you're relationally desensitized). Whenever someone asks me how I plan on getting married, I simply say, "I plan on marrying a friend." And yes, it really is that simple (to me).
I can't tell you how many marriage sessions I have sat in where it's completely obvious that the two people I'm talking to don't like each other very much. Not only that but it's hard to tell if they ever did. Unfortunately, while they were dating, so much focus was put on if they love each other and where the relationship is ultimately headed, that they weren't able to chill out and build a solid and genuine friendship in the process. It's like since marriage was the goal, friendship never became the foundation. That's why, whenever a couple in trouble come to me, I don't ask, "Do you still love each other?" I wanna know if the like is still there. Do they enjoy hanging out? Do they make each other feel good about themselves? Do they have a variety of things in common with one another? If they could hang out with just about anyone, would their spouse always top the list? Do they feel safe and relaxed in each other's their presence?
The best—and by "best", I mean healthiest—marriages I know consist of a husband and wife who are the very best of homies. Out of all of their friends, their spouse is pretty much their closest one. And because of that, it makes the good days better and the hard ones easier. Mutually liking is a marital superpower. Do you and yours have it?
You Can Tell Your Partner Anything
Recently, I checked out Mrs. KevOnStage's Love Hour podcast on YouTube. This particular episode was "What I wish my wife knew, with Spiceadams and Andy Mineo". Not only was it funny (I'm not sure I've ever heard "run them cheeks" before), but it's always refreshing to hear men talk about how they feel about relationships and, more importantly, what they need in them (check out "10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Truly Understood"). At around the 48:00 mark, Andy got into how, right before marrying his wife, her shared with her that he had watched porn, even while they dated, along with how she considered that to be cheating and how it ultimately almost resulted in their wedding getting called off.
I used to work with a ministry that dealt with porn addiction (which yes, is a very real thing), so I get why his wife took the stance that she did. At the same time, though, her initial reaction is also why a lot of people choose not to share all of who they are with their partner. When they know that the consequences have the tendency to be very severe, oftentimes, they choose to keep so much of who they are to themselves (or they share it with someone else which can sometimes set the stage for emotional affairs).
Oftentimes, when engaged couples come to me for advice, one thing that I'll refer them to is "276 Questions to Ask Before You Marry". I always get the same response—"C'mon, Shellie. Almost 300 questions?!". In response, I say the same thing, "Yep." You have no idea how many people don't really know each other before they jump the broom. Or worse, one or both are withholding information out of fear of being penalized or punished if they revealed their very core.
In order for someone to vow "for better or for worse", they've got to know what the worse is. That's what engaged couples need to know. If you're married, once you said those words, a part of what truly loving someone is all about is letting them show their good, bad and ugly sides, knowing that you've totally got their back regardless. I mean, that's how you treat your (other) friends…isn't it?
You Have Fun Together
One time, while working with a married couple who were trying to heal from past infidelities (on both sides), when I asked the husband why he cheated, his answer caught his wife way off guard. "My wife is no fun anymore." The fact that she immediately jumped down his throat about how "ridiculous" she thought that reply was actually helped me to understand just where he was coming from. An indie movie that I think is super cute isHe's Mine Not Yours (starring Jason Weaver, Gabrielle Dennis and Caryn Ward Ross). When Brooke (played by Dennis) feels like she might be losing her man, Kent (played by Weaver), she asks his best friend, Doug (played by Carl Payne) what she should do. One thing that he said was, "Lighten the hell up." See, one of the things that attracted Kent to the "other woman" Mandy (played by Ross) is she liked to do things like listen to music, watch basketball games and just…hang out. Everything didn't have to be deep and serious all of the time. And because of that, she was starting to win Kent over.
I don't have one friendship where there aren't times when we don't end up having sobering conversations. But most of the time, we're laughing—cracking jokes, sharing stories, having a ball together. It's a reminder that no one wants to constantly be around a person who is acting like a parent, hall monitor or buzzkill. Yeah, people who are friends with their spouses are able to effortlessly have fun with one another. Only individuals who don't get what it takes to make a marriage work thinks that this particular point is a trivial one.
The Relationship Is a DRAMA-FREE Zone
Y'all, sometimes I'll sit in a marriage session and find myself impressed that I can last an hour with one of the people I'm talking to. And you know what? That makes me respect their spouse all the more since they've actually got to live with them. If I had to categorize the type of person who drains me the most, I'd have to say that it's the drama kings and queens of the earth. Ugh. You know the kind. They make problems where they aren't any. They are masters at blowing things out of proportion. Feelings always supersede logic and good ole' common sense. Nothing every truly satisfies them. You always find yourself walking on eggshells in their presence because you never really know what "version" of them you are going to get at any given moment.
Two friends who want a healthy relationship are going to be extremely proactive in keeping the drama to a minimum. They do this by openly communicating. By not playing mind games (like gaslighting or triggering each other). They take responsibility for their own actions. They make sure that they each feel loved and respected. Peace is the bottom-line goal of their dynamic. I've had some people that I've loved but "fell out of like" with, all because they were too dramatic for my taste. Married couples who are friends with each other, repel drama instead of embrace it; especially when it comes to their own relationship.
They Are One of Your Absolute Favorite People
If it's TMI, my bad. That's kind of how I get down. Anyway, I remember once asking an ex of mine if I was the best that he had ever had (in bed). He sat for a moment and said, "You're not the best. But you're definitely my favorite." At first, I felt some type of way, but when he explained the history of him and his best (he was her first, so you can read between the lines there) and how, if he had to choose, he'd prefer me most of the time (we were very frank with each other, so yes, I could handle his candidness), I got what he meant. When someone is your favorite, they are your preference. When someone is your favorite, they get a kind of special treatment that no one else does. When someone is your favorite, you will easily and effortlessly choose them again and again, no matter what.
I've got friends like that. Friends who, out of all of the people I know, if I had to select a person to be around, it would be them…even if I just hung out with them the day before. That's how much I enjoy their presence in my life. Spouses who are friends tend to feel just like this. While their husband or wife isn't their everything (nor should they be; only God should be seen in that light), they are a favorite—someone who is above all others because that's just how dope their partner is (to them).
Favorite friends. Should I ever get to the point and place of walking down somebody's aisle, that's what I want to be able to proudly and confidently say the love of my life and I are. Not just lovers but long-lasting friends. Just like any happy and healthy married couple should be. For better or for worse. Until death parts them.
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- DJ QuickSilva & Ashley: How To Have Fun In Marriage - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
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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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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