Listen, if you’ve been rocking with me on this platform on a semi-consistent basis, you know that if there’s one thing that I’m a fan of, it’s marriage. BIG TIME. I’m so in support of it that, as a marriage life coach, my niche is actually reconciling divorces (I Corinthians 7:10-11). At the same time, because I also write for a living, I’d be ridiculous if I was out here acting like the divorce rate is still holding steady and that marriage is on a steady incline; some studies say that there’s been as much as a 60 percent drop over the past several decades.
Yeah, marriage isn’t for everyone. And with articles coming out like Gallup’s “Is Marriage Becoming Irrelevant?” and even a piece that I published on here a couple of years back entitled “Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON’T Desire Marriage?” I thought that I would step out and speak with some couples who are totally committed to one another yet have no desire to call each other “husband and wife” just to hear their side of things. Because the reality is, very few things in life are a monolith.
Anyway, 12 couples agreed to share their voices, and I must say that, regardless of the side of the fence that you may be on, they do bring up some points that are worth listening to — and, when it comes to how they choose to love their partner, they share some feelings that are irrefutable too.
*Whenever I do interview pieces, I always prefer to go with middle names; that way, people can speak super freely. This article is no exception.*
1. Riley (28) and George (35). Been Living Together for Three Years.
Riley: "My parents sucked at marriage. They're still together to this day, and they're just as toxic as I remember them. A lot of folks think I'm not married because of their example, but if that were the case, I wouldn't be living with someone, either.
"I grew up in the church, and the idea of keeping your vows to God and your spouse, I respect. I just don't want to feel like I should stay married out of obligation to those vows, so living with someone takes the pressure off. It works for me, so why change it?"
George: "I would get married if she wanted to. I always thought that women would like the security of things being 'on paper.' But since she's fine and things are running smoothly, I'm cool with this too."
2. Elanie (30) and Malcolm (32). Been Together for Eight Years.
Elanie: "I love who I'm with. I was engaged before him, and it just…marriage feels like it's going to totally switch up the expectations, for some reason. I think I feel that way because I've watched countless friends have great relationships until about a year after their honeymoon. Then there's less sex, more stress, and all kinds of new demands and expectations. We don't want marriage to kill a great relationship. Might seem weird to say, but it is what it is…"
Malcolm: "Anyone who knows how to Google knows that marriage never favors men. We get left the most and still have to pay alimony. It's just not a financially wise decision to me. Luckily, I found someone who gets where I'm coming from. She knows I've got her back, but the web of paperwork and then losing a ton of paper? I'll pass."
Shellie here: He's right. Reportedly around 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women.
3. Michelle (43) and Jaxson (40). Been Living Together for One Year.
Michelle: "If you've ever gone through a divorce before, you will totally get why I have no desire to get married again. It's not that marriage isn't beautiful when two people are right for each other; it's that 'right' is more difficult to find than people think, and unraveling your life from someone else is one of the hardest things you will do. I love love. I just don't like [that] there's this assumption that the only way to fully love someone is if you say, 'I do.' I love [Jaxson] more than I ever loved my ex. I think a part of it is because the stress is gone. It feels freer this way."
Jaxson: "My friends are all married, and they hate it. They say there's less sex, more stress, and most of them regret ever deciding to do it. That doesn't make me want to run out and buy a ring. Living together was a big decision, too, but [Michelle] hasn't switched up or expected anything more than when we were just dating. We like living kind of like we're married without all of the heavy expectations that come with it. It works for us better than marriage works for my boys, so…yeah."
4. Lydia (29) and Ezra (27). Been Living Together for Three Years.
Lydia: "I don't remember being a little girl who wanted to get married. I've never gone to a wedding and wanted to catch the bouquet. Wedding dress shopping was not a dream of mine. I dunno.
"I kind of hate that people think that all women want to be a bride or that we're incapable of romantic love unless we've got a ring on our finger. I love my man. I'm not going anywhere — unless he proposes. It's just not the way I see living my life."
Ezra: "Once I decided that I didn't want kids, I didn't see the point in getting married. Talk to a lot of men, especially Black men, and they will admit that choosing a wife is about looking for a good mom to raise children with. We want that structure for our children. That is off of the table for me, so marriage is too. I'm glad I found [Lydia] because all that matters is finding someone who is on the same page as you are."
5. Aimee (31) and Preston (26). Been Together for Two Years.
Aimee: “I don’t want a man to love me out of obligation — marriage comes with obligation. Some of my girls will say, ‘Aren’t you afraid that he could just leave one day and you get nothing?’ and it doesn’t cross my mind until they start saying that sh-t. [Preston] and I were friends before we decided to date. Living together was a natural next move. But it stops there for us. I trust him because of who he is, not because of some document he signed. We’re good.”
Preston: “I think more men should do what we’re doing! At least try it before marriage because you want to make sure you know as much as possible before jumping the broom or whatever folks are doing these days. Marriage isn’t something I wouldn’t do. I just don’t see why it’s necessary. We live together. We’re monogamous. There’s no drama. I don’t want to jinx it.”
6. Wanda (36) and Richard (42). Been Living Together for Seven Years.
Wanda: "Know what's crazy? I've been with [Richard] longer than either of my marriages lasted. I was really young the first time, and my last marriage was more about being afraid of being alone. This relationship gives me space and freedom to heal and get to know myself better. Marriage always felt like I was constantly having to prove myself. Just being with [Richard], choosing him every day, with no red tape — I wouldn't change it for the world."
Richard: "I've never been married before, so I'm not opposed to it. [Wanda] has been divorced twice, so I'm giving her the space to decide what's best for her. Living together isn't a problem; for most men, it wouldn't be. So long as she knows I'm not going anywhere, I'm good. If, at some point, a ring is what she'll need, I'm prepared."
7. Patrycia (29) and Krew (29). Been Living Together for Five Years.
Patrycia: "We're both super ambitious people, and I was raised that when you get married, your spouse comes before all else. I don't disagree with that in theory. I'm just trying to decide if that is what I want to sign up for. In the meantime, he and I are each other's biggest supporters, but because 'marriage' isn't looming over our heads, we don't feel guilty about putting our careers first. It's worked for us really well to be cheerleaders instead of spouses."
Krew: "Not one time has Patrycia ever called me upset because I'm working late. Not one time have I been mad when she had to stay a few days later on a business trip. We're like a weird version of business partners who love each other. I don't think we're together to make a family. We're together to drive us both into the highest realms of success."
8. Stacey (39) and Stephan (35). Been Together for 10 Years.
Stacey: "I guess I'm a real-life 'runaway bride.' I've been engaged twice, and about six months before the first wedding and three months before the second, I called it off. Both were great guys; that had nothing to do with it. I just think that I was programmed to think that I had to get married if I loved someone — and I don't feel that way anymore. I like my space. I don't want to share bills. At the same time, I love my man and desire no one else. All of those things can be valid, and women like me should feel okay about it."
Stephan: "I think if I were to get married, I would end up ruining it because all I'd be thinking about is what was expected of me as a husband, which could prevent me from being a great partner, if that makes any sense. Some people are so focused on word titles that they forget what it means to just love someone and have them love you back. Having the space to love [Stacey] is what's kept me in this relationship for this long. It's the best one I've ever had. She may not be my wife, but she's definitely my everything."
9. Nyla (26) and Luther (27). Been Together for Six Years.
Nyla: "What's so great about being a wife? I'm serious. I don't mean that I don't respect a woman's choice to be one. I just mean that I don't get how that's a pinnacle for so many people. If I do end up getting married, it'll be after I check off the billions of things that are before it on my list. That's why he and I work so well together — we met in college, we both have huge dreams, and we push each other to reach them. Marriage isn't one of those dreams right now. Don't see why that's a problem."
Luther: "I was raised by my father, and what he instilled in me is how to be a self-sufficient man who doesn't settle. I don't want to be a husband or have kids any time soon. If it comes to that, I know exactly the kind of woman I want and the kind of man I need to be. [Nyla] and I agree that because we both don't want a family, we don't have to worry about if we're right for each other when it comes to having one. We're right for each other as encouragers to get this money and be successful, and that is our focus. She's my best friend, and I love her. That beats the 'wife' word for me at this stage in my life."
10. Desi (41) and August (39). Been Living Together for Five Years.
Desi: "I hate the assumption people have that folks who live together are 'less committed' than people who are married. We live together. We share bills, a bed, and a life. The expense of a wedding is dumb. So is having a piece of paper that makes other people feel better about what we have going on. I've never been married, and maybe one day, I'll find it appealing. But with the divorce rate as high as it is? Hell, I think he and I are actually helping to contribute to the fact that you can be totally in love and not end up a statistic. If you're never married, you can't get divorced…right?"
August: "I was married before. It wasn't bad. This is way better, though. I got married because I was given an ultimatum; I got married to not lose my ex, not really because I really wanted to do it. With [Desi], she doesn't pressure me to do anything I'm not ready to do — that helps me to trust her more in my own time. What she doesn't know is if she wanted to get married tomorrow, we could do it because I am not stressed into choosing her. I wish more people got how big that is."
11. Erika (44) and Brice (47). Been Together for 15 Years.
Erika: "Marriage, in some ways, is the natural progression of things; I get that. I just think that it's progression for people who have the goal of getting married someday — and I don't. Believe it or not, I respect traditional marriage and gender roles in them, and that's a huge part of the reason why I'm not interested. My grandparents are happily married and traditional. My parents are too. It's a beautiful thing. I've always been a rebel, though. Why get married and make someone miserable because I'm pushing back all of the time? I'd rather just date exclusively and have my own space and peace of mind."
Brice: "I have everything I need without getting married. I think that says it all."
12. Eryn (45) and Alex (50). Been Living Together for 12 Years.
Eryn: "Have you ever asked people why they want to get married? If they're not giving you a blank stare like 'That's what you're supposed to do' or cramming the Bible down your throat, they are talking about all of the things that they expect someone else to do for them. Me? I don't want to get married because I don't have a good enough reason to do it. What I do have is a good enough reason to love a man, stay with him and be okay with that without needing his last name, a diamond ring, or something to prove that we love each other. I come home every night feeling like what keeps us together is integrity. We don't need vows because our word to each other is good enough. We are the walking example of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' We should get a welcome mat that says it."
Alex: "[Eryn] is a better woman to me than my wife ever was. She's more thoughtful. She's more supportive. And she's more generous. I used to think that you couldn't be loved the way she loves me unless a woman was married to you. [Eryn] has totally blown that theory out of water!
"Get married. Don't get married. Basically, look for someone who loves you completely and wants to live the kind of life that you do. I found that without being married, and it's made me a fan of living life…just this way."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images
- All My Single Ladies: Women Reflect On Being Single For 3+ Years ›
- 7 Things That Make Marriage Different From Seriously Dating ›
- If You’re In A Committed Relationship, Avoid These Sex Mistakes At All Costs ›
- Single Or Taken: The Battle Of The Relationship Status Is Tearing Us Apart ›
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.
The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
Featured image by LumiNola/Getty Images