Something that I definitely believe that we learn to appreciate more, the older and wiser that we become, is our friends. Well, let me back that up a bit—first, we discover what it means to actually have real friends. Then, once we get them, we value them in ways that are truly indescribable.
The friends that I've got? Oh, how I adore them. Aside from the fact that I write about relationships for a living, I think that's why I'm constantly pondering ways to be a better friend to the people I truly care about. Some of those ways, I've comprised into seven different hacks. Once you're done reading these, I'm thinking that they'll mostly be common sense. Still, sometimes, we need a bit of a reminder of what we can do to maintain and nurture the connections that we've got. I hope this article can make that happen for you and your peeps.
FRIEND HACK #1: Use, Don’t Abuse, Your Friend’s Support
One of the best things about having friends—true ones, anyway—is they are there to support and encourage us, through good times and bad. There's no doubt about that. However, just because someone is down for you, that doesn't mean that you should take this kind of gift for granted. What do I mean? I've got a former friend who I had to transition out of my life because I pretty much only heard from them when they needed something—and oftentimes what they needed was to vent and then be told that nothing was ever their fault; that they were always right. Not only was that untrue but it got to be mad exhausting; especially since, when it came time for me to share, either they were only halfway listening or their time was super limited.
Something that I adore about the Bible is there is pretty much a verse for any dilemma. When it comes to this particular point, Proverbs 25:17(AMPC) comes to mind. It says, "Let your foot seldom be in your neighbor's house, lest he become tired of you and hate you." Basically, this breaks down to making sure that you don't wear out your welcome. Be sensitive to your friend's lifestyle and schedule. Learn to read the room when it comes to their energy when the two of you do connect. Also, be open to giving the kind of support that you desire. Yes, your friends should be down for you (as you are for them), but they are only human. Sometimes they need space. Definitely some reciprocation too.
FRIEND HACK #2: Speak Your Friend’s Love Language
Some of my friends are quality time people. What this pretty much boils down to is, I can't make up for not hitting them up on the phone with gifts or affirmations. No, I've got to set aside time to converse with them; preferably in person. Some of my friends are acts of service folks. It truly moves them when I retain something that they said they were doing or needing and then I take care of it for them. Physical touch friends are interesting because they don't seem to do well with respecting personal space (LOL). They wanna hug when they first see me, they touch a lot during the visit, and they wanna hug again and maybe even kiss me on my cheek or forehead before they go. For years, I used to try and get my friends to not put these kinds of expectations on me. After learning more about how love languages apply on a friendship level, I realized that how they are isn't "weird" or "wrong", it's simply how they desire for love to be expressed to them. Noted.
While we're on this topic, it's also not a good idea to simply assume that you know what your friend's love language is. For instance, I have one friend who assumed that I was a quality time individual when I'm absolutely not that (shout-out to the ambiverts). I am absolutely a words of affirmation kind of gal. Before they knew this, sometimes they would plan dates that had me on the "Yeah, I'll pass" tip, simply because I wanted to stay at home. Then they would get offended. Once I explained that a card or affirming email is more than enough, we stopped butting heads in this way. I accepted that going out was more for their benefit than mine and so we met each other halfway.
I think I'm always gonna be a fan of love languages because they really do remind you that we all need to feel loved…differently. If you want to learn more about how to speak your friend's love language, check out "This Is How To Apply Love Languages To Your Friendships". It can be a real lifesaver when it comes to making your friends feel special in their own unique and specified way. Same goes for you as well.
FRIEND HACK #3: Don’t Dish Out What You Can’t Take
THIS. ONE. RIGHT. HERE. Have you ever had a friend who feels like they can just say whatever to you, even about you, and then the moment you're like, "Hold up, sis. You ain't Jesus", suddenly they either turn mad passive aggressive or they act all bent out of shape? One of the things that I adore about all of my friends at this point (and it took some sifting to get here, believe you me, chile) is we all want to see each other grow and win. This means that sometimes we ALL have to hear some things that are difficult to take in about ourselves.
If you're someone who believes that the definition of a true friend is someone who only compliments you and never calls you out on your ish, you might want to cop some self-help books on what healthy friendships consist of. In the meantime, if you know that you're too sensitive to take rebuke or correction, how about you don't dish it out? It'll reduce the drama in your friendships by at least 30 percent. No joke.
FRIEND HACK #4: Honor the Individuality of Each Person
A wise person once said, "Embrace your individuality. Love what you love without judgment." Along these same lines, there's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." (Psalm 33:15—NKJV) Individuality is all about what makes someone distinctive, unique and a complete and total original. This means that there is no point in comparing one person to someone else because, how do two originals actually compete when they are both incomparable? When you really stop and think about it…they don't.
This is so important to keep in mind when it comes to your friendships. Each person is rare. Each person will benefit your life in ways that no one else can. Each person will cause you to think differently about some things than anyone else would. And each person is definitely not supposed to be your clone. So many people suffer in their relationships with other people because they act like their job is to "make" others become more like them. What a healthy and humble person does is accept the individuality of the people in their life and embrace how they complement them, on a person-by-person basis. They love the differences; they never seek how to alter them.
FRIEND HACK #5: Pay Close Attention to Their (Friendship-Related) Strengths and Weaknesses
One of my friends is an awesome listener but sucks at picking up her phone. That's funny to process, even as I'm typing it out, because it's like she really is the best communicator—when you can reach her. Because she's an introvert (along with her daily life demands), she just doesn't keep her phone around her much, so it really is kind of a catch-her-if-you-can or shoot-her-an-email-if-it's-dire kind of dynamic. Then I've got a friend who I can reach out to at any time. "Problem" is, there's absolutely no telling how many other things that she's going to be doing and how many times she's gonna cut me off as I'm trying to get my thoughts across.
Both of these things used to irk the entire hell outta me. That was until I decided to acknowledge what each of my friends' friendship-related strengths and weaknesses are. If I needed some really serious insight, I'll shoot my introvert friend an email to let her know that I need to speak with her sooner than later. If I just want some company, I'll hit up my friend who doesn't listen the best but is hilarious and always around.
Coming to this kind of understanding has prevented me from getting frustrated and from putting totally unnecessary pressure on my friends. Oftentimes, the universe brings us different people so that we can get certain things from each one. Assess how each friend works in your life. Thank the Lord for the strengths; try not to harp too much on the weaknesses.
FRIEND HACK #6: Mutually Discuss Each Other’s (Friendship-Related) Needs
Even though I wrote "10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins" two years ago with a New Year's Day theme, I encourage you to check it out when you get a chance. Unfortunately, some friendships come to an end, not because the mutual love and respect are missing; it's because one or both people feel like their needs are going unmet. What's really sad is the fact that sometimes, it's not that both people are incapable or even unwilling to meet the need; it's more like both individuals assumed that the other should know what those needs are.
Listen, just because someone cares, profoundly so, about you, that doesn't mean that they can read your mind or that they are spending every waking hour trying to figure out how to keep you happy. Plus, as life goes on, typically, our needs can change, so it's unrealistic to expect someone to just "figure that out" on their own.
I can't think of one friend I've got where we don't talk about what we need from each other, at least twice a year. Sometimes the needs are the same. Many times, they aren't. It's so beneficial for us both to get everything out on the table so that we can be the best kind of friend to one another. The only thing that makes that happen is open and honest communication.
FRIEND HACK #7: Expect Friendships to Transition and Evolve
Something that I'm amazed by when it comes to long-term marriages and friendships is the ability that the two people who are involved had to stay committed throughout their individual growth and transitions. A columnist by the name of Richard J. Needham once said, "You don't marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as the result of being." And you know what? This is oftentimes the case with friendships too.
One of my very closest friends? When we met, she was single and taking a long (and much-needed break) from her music career. Over the course of our 13-year friendship, she got married, had two children (who are eight years apart) and signed a deal. All of these things have caused us to have to shift things like time times when we talk and, because our lives are very different, even what we talk about a lot of the time. I've got to endure potty training updates and she's gotta listen to me talk about past dudes who are still hitting me up (chile). Because we want to remain in each other's lives, we're intentional about not just…growing apart. That doesn't mean that this doesn't require effort and sacrifice on both of our parts, though. Evolution always does.
So yeah, I'm gonna close out this friendship hack by reminding you that one of the greatest challenges in relationships is accepting that sometimes people grow at different paces and—differently period. If the love, respect, communication and clarity about the purpose that each of you serve to one another is there, you can still be thick as thieves. You can still be the kind of friends that are very special and necessary. You can still withstand (pretty much) whatever comes your way—together.
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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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