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These College Sweethearts Share Why Speaking Each Other's Love Languages Is Vital To Their Marriage

"I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable."

Our First Year

In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

Longtime loves Mychael and Rhonda met as college students at the University of Michigan, started dating in April 2007, and have been truly, madly, deeply in love ever since. Her first impression had everything to do with his height, as he towered over her at 6'7''. According to her, he had "the confidence and the swag to match." According to him, she was "the most beautiful person he had ever seen."

In addition to a shared alma mater and an affinity for the Michigan Fight Song (it was a song sang by guests during their 2013 nuptials!), Rhonda and Mychael, whom she affectionately calls Myke, also dedicated significant time to color the world with their mark in the form of travel. In the years following their wedding, they went to Napa Valley, New York, Cape Town, Amsterdam, and more.

This year marks six years in the game for Rhonda and Mychael as husband and wife, and 12 years altogether. And as of January, they've welcomed a new addition to their family, a beautiful baby girl. "We're learning to navigate what it means to be a couple for over 10+ years and what that looks like," Rhonda explained. "What do we want our legacy to be? What do we want our relationship to look like with a child?"

In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Rhonda and Mychael breakdown how they knew they were the one, love languages, and their mentors in marriage. Here's their story:

How did you know she/he was the one? Did you approach your courtship as if marriage was going to be the natural next step?

Mychael: I knew Rhonda was the one immediately and I was very direct in expressing this to her. Her being tall, gorgeous, intelligent, driven, family-oriented, charismatic, and genuinely fun (the list can go on) were qualities that I hoped for in a significant other. Because of this, I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable.

Rhonda: I knew Mychael was the one because he was very upfront and direct about our relationship, he didn't play games and was very confident when approaching me. I've never had to question his affection or love for me. Initially, I didn't approach our courtship as if marriage was the natural next step because we were so young (I was 19, he was 18) but as the years progressed, I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.

Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda

"I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable."

What was your biggest fear walking into marriage? How did you let go of those fears to enter into a union and that commitment you saw for one another?

Rhonda: My biggest fear was that we would fall into a rut and not keep the excitement and fun we had while dating. I let go of those fears through communicating with Myke and both of us agreeing that we never wanted to stop having fun together, whether we were traveling the world or sitting on the couch eating take out for the fifth day in a row.

Mychael: My biggest fear entering into marriage was the fear of the unknown. I had never been married before and dedicated myself to something as long term and permanent as marriage. Would I be the perfect husband? Would I be the perfect father? Would I be the perfect spiritual leader for my family? However, after dating for 6 years, the one thing I did know is that I loved this woman and that we would continue to grow together. Whether or not our marriage is actually perfect to the world, it's comforting to have faith that in hindsight, our marriage will be perfect for us.

What were some of the early challenges that came with merging your lives together under one roof? What was the thing you learned you liked most about your partner, and the thing you noticed you liked the least?

Mychael: My biggest challenge that came with merging our lives together was me being an extrovert and my wife being an introvert. Spending full weekends in the house watching movies and eating takeout while enjoying our personal time without our phones, was an adjustment for me. But I understood that marriage would involve compromises, and I found that I've enjoyed creating our own traditions and habits together.

I like most that Rhonda is willing to support and fight for me no matter what. Life comes with ups and downs, and Rhonda has been there in my corner through any and every adversity. The thing I like the least is her propensity to overthink things and overstress.

"I like to believe that I'm easy like Sunday morning...my cool breeze will always be good for her."

Rhonda: Some of the early challenges that came were often as a result of unspoken expectations. For example, the first few years of marriage, Myke worked at a different company and put in 60+ hour work weeks. It was difficult for me to come home and not have the opportunity to hang out with him because he was working so hard in the evening and up so early in the morning. I think this is where we started implementing our Sunday Funday of Nothingness where after church, we do nothing but hang out with each other at home, watch TV, and snack on any and everything! It was also helpful that we discovered for both of us, quality time was one of our love languages so to have that in common and know that we needed that from each other was important.

As a result of marriage, I learned that I loved Myke's enthusiasm and passion for life and people. When Myke is excited about something, you will know! This has also been difficult for me because when he's excited at 9am for the weekend, I'm not able to always share in his enthusiasm. Additionally, I'm not as vocal about my feelings so it can be difficult for me to share in his enthusiasm or passion even though I feel the same way.

How did you navigate through one another’s baggage individually and as a couple? What were some bad behaviors you had to unlearn in order to learn how to have a healthier, more stable and fulfilling marriage?

Mychael: Empathy helped me navigate through any of our baggage. I was fully aware of any baggage she brought but it was not a deterrent to us growing together. One bad behavior I had to unlearn was self-gratification (i.e. doing things I like to do when I want to do them) and by compromising with my wife, it made me and my spouse happier and as a result, made situations better. Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward.

Rhonda: We've been together for so long that any baggage that we brought into the relationship was probably a result of each other (laughs). Some bad behaviors that I had to unlearn was that Myke is a natural provider and nurturer and me leaning on him for support in any way does not negate my independence as a woman. It's me and him versus any issue that arises not me vs. him vs. the issue. We're a team and we have to tackle any challenges as a team.

Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda

"Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward."

What was it like learning to speak each other’s love language? Was it easy to become fluent and well-versed right away or did it take time to learn how the other gives and receives love?

Rhonda: It was not easy for me to speak his main love languages of touch and words of affirmation. I'm an introvert and the last person to show any physical form of affection to anyone but can always notice a difference in him when he receives his love language. It's still something I have to remind myself to do on occasion because it doesn't come naturally to me but I love seeing him feel loved so it's worth it.

Mychael: It was easy because we actively sought ways to satisfy one another and because of that, I was able to find that the things that made her feel loved may be slightly different than mine. Because I was able to find that knowledge, it made it easier for me to speak her love language, acts of service, properly.

Who is that person you call when you need to confide in someone about happenings in your marriage or if you need some sage advice? Is there anyone that was your go-to person during your first year of marriage? Why or why not?

Mychael: If there was anyone, it would be my brother-in-law, Leon. I often didn't confide in people because my marriage is between me, Rhonda, and God. Additionally, every marriage is different so I struggled with confiding in others because their marriage is different than ours.

Rhonda: I have a few go-to friends that are in amazing relationships of their own that I feel comfortable venting about small issues (i.e. Myke didn't wash the dishes or pick up his socks) but for bigger issues, it's important for us to talk to each other first and then when needed, our therapist. We started seeing therapists together this year and it has been helpful to have someone who doesn't know anything about us talk us through any major issues that may arise as well as remain confidential.

Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda

You’ve been married for almost six years, but what’s the best advice that you’ve received about marriage during your first year?

Mychael: As a man, you're not here to satisfy yourself...you're put on this earth to satisfy your family. And because you are the head of that family, you will ultimately be satisfied as well.

Rhonda: Marriage is a humbling experience. Sometimes you have to apologize when you don't feel like it, be vulnerable when you're scared, or grow when it's uncomfortable. However when you're with the right person, as I'm so blessed to be, it's worth every moment!

Featured image courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda.

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In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

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How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.

Courtship

Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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Marriage is a subject in our society that has followed women everywhere since the beginning of time. We can't even be out here living our best lives because someone, somewhere, is going to ask about it. And for single, accomplished women everywhere, the subject of marriage usually never goes away.

I think back to a tweet from Necole Kane that had me snapping with the stank face all night:

Man, listen...

We can all likely agree that for women who are out here getting to these bags and minding their business, the subject of marriage is dreaded, it's unwarranted, and it's downright rude. Or at least it can be.

Hear me out. 

Marriage rates have declined over the years and actually only continue to do so. That's mostly because years ago, getting married and having children was the expectation. But over the last two decades, those expectations have shifted, with fewer and fewer folks considering marriage a necessity. A 2017 report from the Pew Research Center found one in seven people who've never been married, don't want to get married. One in seven. And another 27 percent of people aren't sure how they feel about marriage.

Additionally, a 2019 Pew report found just 17 percent of people think marriage is essential for a woman to have a fulfilling life (16 percent for men), and three in 10 people think being married is simply not important.

This is a shift that we all see, but don't often consider. And even celebs (some married, some not) with large platforms are vocal about never planning for marriage, and showing us every day that it is absolutely OK not to. For example:

Oprah Winfrey

If we look on the scope of marriage on the infamous scale of marriage vs. success, no other woman comes to mind more than Oprah Winfrey. You see, Oprah comes from trauma. Her entire upbringing was tied to Black pain. This may or may not have had an impact on her decision to never marry her long-term partner, Stedman Graham in hindsight, but either way, that particular license is not something she wants to have.

Winfrey has been open about not being married or having children before, and she said she had no regrets about it. She told People magazine that at the time, her show required 17-hour workdays and she would return home to her dogs and to Graham. She said her partner let her be who she needed to be in the world:

"He's never demanding anything from me like, 'Where's my breakfast? Where's my dinner?' Never any of that, which I believed would have changed had we married. No question about it – we would not stay married because of what that would have meant to him, and I would have had my own ideas about it."

Not to say she never thought about it before, as she has mentioned that at one point, it was a part of her plan. As we know, this never happened and Oprah is OK with her decision.

Instead, she "got to fulfill [being a mom and wife] in the way that was best for me," which of course has been through her partnership and her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Meagan Good

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Meagan Good is the actress that we all grew up with since she was 12 years old. And although married now, she never looked to being so as a "goal." She was, or is, even unsure if kids are in her future. During an episode of Established with Angela Yee, the Think Like a Man actress said she never really aspired to marriage or to motherhood.

"I was always very much focused on my career because that's all I knew my whole life and it's what I love."

In fact, her change of heart didn't come until after she married her husband, DeVon Franklin, when she realized that she can be a mother and still maintain who she is, which she never viewed as going hand-in-hand prior.

"I can still be the true identity of who I am and I can also be a mother and be a great one. So, I've just now gotten to that place and I'll be 40 [this] year and I'm like, 'OK, it's about that time!'"

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is another culture giant who has said that marriage was never for her. And sis literally means never. When Shonda isn't taking over our screens and securing the $100 million Netflix bag, she is perfectly fine with being the Rich Auntie that we all secretly have inside. The screenwriter has previously spoken out about how she doesn't intend on ever tying the knot with someone. She revealed to Entertainment Weekly:

"I was seriously dating somebody and I was like, 'I don't want to do this.' We're all so conditioned to want it, I felt like there must be something wrong with me. But the minute I said it out loud to my family, it was fantastic. Now if somebody says, 'Are you looking for that?' I say, 'Nope, looking for a boyfriend, not a husband.' And there's a freedom to that. There's no pressure if you're not looking for it."

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes, who's starred in movies such as Training Day and Hitch, declared her disinterest in marriage during an appearance on Chelsea Lately in 2011.

"I actually think it's really sexy to be with someone in your 50s and 60s and be like, 'That's my boyfriend.' I think husband and wife is just . . . very unsexy."

In fact, like Meagan, Mendes revealed she never even wanted kids or saw herself as a mother.

"I don't wanna have kids. I love the little suckers; they're so cute but I love sleep so much and I worry about everything."

However, this all changed the moment she met her partner of over almost a decade, The Notebook's Ryan Gosling. Mendes even credits Gosling for her change of heart in regards to becoming a mom because although the couple have yet to marry, she knew he was her soulmate. Now a mother of two kids, she told Women's Health:

"Ryan Gosling happened. I mean, falling in love with him. Then it made sense for me to have…not kids, but his kids. It was very specific to him."

Whew.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling's story is the opposite as she went from overly desiring to wed, to never entertaining the thought. The Office star told Good Housekeeping:

"When I was younger, I wanted so badly to be married and have kids in a rush. I loved my parents' relationship. The way my father was with my mother when she was dying was so moving. It was such devotion. I don't know that that will happen for me, but I like it."

But sis also doesn't want you to confuse the two. She adds:

"I don't need marriage. I don't need anyone to take care of all my needs and desires. I can take care of them myself now."

The actress now has two kids, though she's not revealed with who--not even to close friends.

The evolution of marriage for women has slowly become a highly-debatable lifestyle, and the trend is only gaining steam. In fact, women who truly never aspire to marriage shouldn't be considered normalized because for some, not wanting to marry is normal. And in my best and loudest Auntie Tabitha voice: and that's they business.

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