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2020 Has Taken Its Toll. Don't Let It Ruin Your Relationship.

2020 tried to destroy us. Don't let it cause you to lose your relationship, sis.

Love & Relationships

Let's all take a moment to process just how long 2020 has been. Kobe died in 2020. Breonna Taylor was murdered in 2020. This pandemic put us in lockdown in 2020. Those three things alone feel like they happened at least five years ago. And shoot, that's not even touching on all of the personal challenges that I'm pretty sure all of us have experienced as well. Yeah, if ever a year tried it—and I do mean, tried it—2020 was the one. And yet, as we're just weeks away from 2021—which includes giving the crazy racist tyrant known as Donald John Trump the boot—I feel like we all can reference, what I still consider to be an Oscar-worthy performance by Derek Luke, when he played Antwone Fisher. Remember when he looked that no-good Mrs. Tate in the eyes and said, "I'm still standing. I'm still strong"? Take a bow, sis. You can concur. Hopefully, your relationship has been able to too.

If you're like "Yes, yet it feels like my relationship is hanging on by a thread", you're the one I had in mind when I decided to write this. Anyone who has been in something real, they know that even when life is good, keeping their relationship healthy and thriving can sometimes be a challenge. Oh, but when a colossal s—tshow like this year rolls around, it can really be hard to not want to just throw your hands up, say "I quit" and call it a wrap. Not so much because the feelings for your partner have changed or even that you are unhappy with your relationship; at least for the most part. It's just that, when stress and pressure are at their peak, it can be difficult to find the effort and energy to keep it all going.

King Solomon once said, "There is a time and season for everything." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) An ancient Jewish folktale is credited for the popular saying, "this too shall pass". And you know what? Both statements are absolutely true. 2020 is on its way out (hallelujah!) and if you value your romantic situation, I want to provide you with just a few hacks that can help the two of you to make it to the other side—relationship fully intact.

Separate Your Stressors

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Wanna know a clear sign that you're rocking big girl panties on the regular? It's when you know how to compartmentalize your stress. What I mean by that is you learn to separate, say, work stress from home stress, so that you don't walk into the house, screaming at your partner, not because they did anything wrong but because you've been suppressing how much your coworker pisses you off.

2020 was full of bad news, financial challenges, disappointments, messy people and negativity. I don't know about you, but there were actually some days when I thought I was gonna lose my mind because the hits just kept on coming. Sometimes, in order to regroup, I had to get really quiet and recenter myself, so that I didn't take my had-it-up-to-here-energy out on someone who truly didn't deserve it; not only didn't deserve it but someone who I needed to learn on for encouragement and support.

It's hard to make any kind of wise or emotionally mature decisions when you're under stress. So, in order to preserve your relationship—pray, meditate, journal, take a walk around the block…process what is stressing you out and why. If it has nothing to do with your relationship, don't punish your partner. If it does, share with them your feelings with the mindset of wanting to find a solution to the issue.

I'm telling you—being intentional about removing stress out of your way helps you to have a totally different perspective on things. This includes your relationship. It really does.

Stop Doom Scrolling (and Doom Talking)

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There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21—NKJV) What it basically means is the words that you speak can produce life—or death. And y'all, whenever I do tiptoe into social media to see what folks are talking about, 6 out of every 10 posts seem to be about drama, death and/or doom. I can't tell you how many times I've read something along the lines of, "This year is gonna be the death of us and 2021 is going to be even worse."

Listen, it's one thing to be realistic; it's another thing to constantly dwell on negativity. And if you do that too much, it very easily can spill over into your relationship. For instance, if all you do is sit on Twitter and read about people complaining about how worthless men are (I really wish more Black women would remove themselves from that rhetoric; at the end of the day, it profits us and our community nothing), it can be very easy to nitpick at your own partner, even when he hasn't really done anything wrong.

In fact, there are plenty of studies to support the fact that surrounding yourself with constant negativity can affect/infect your thoughts and even your ability to reason well. Not only that but negativity can do a real number on your immune system too. So, for the sake of your relationship and your overall health and well-being, set social media engagement hours, watch how much news you check out and set boundaries with the negative people in your world. 2020 is challenging enough without dwelling on things that will make your life worse, not better.

Remember Why You’re with Him

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A wise person once said, "Before you quit, remember why you started." Something that truly self-aware and emotionally mature individuals can vouch for is the fact that, if you're actually paying attention, relationships tend to teach you more about yourself than anything—your strengths, weaknesses, areas where you could stand to grow and what you truly need and want (yes, in that order) in life. Sometimes, the life lessons can be so challenging that you can be tempted to dip out of your relationship; not because you no longer care about the person or even because the relationship doesn't have far more good times than not-so-good ones. It's just that, in the midst of the day-to-day that requires to keep a relationship afloat, you can start to feel like it might be better if you were alone; especially when there are so many other things to "try you"…like this year did.

If this is what you can personally relate to, my two cents are to pull out your journal and write down all of the reasons why you got involved with your partner in the first place. What do you love about him? What do you like about him? What do you respect and admire about him? In what ways does he make you better? What do you adore that he brings out of you?

If you let 2020 be too much of your focus, all of the financial stress, work demands, family pressures and whatever else was thrown at you can make you basically downplay the fact that you've got some awesome things that are happening in your world too. Once you finish that list, you might realize that your man and your relationship are easily in the top three.

Reflect on How the Support Actually Helped You Out

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I once read an article that said an epidemic that has been happening in the midst of this pandemic is loneliness. A study that NPR conducted said that three out of five people in January of this year felt lonely—and y'all, that was before quarantining hit! One of my favorite Scriptures is found in Ephesians 4:9-11(NKJV). It says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?"

No relationship is perfect. That's because no two individuals are. Yet when you know that you know that you know that you've got someone who has your back, no matter what, it can make going through life so much easier. So, take a moment to really ponder the times when your partner has been a safe place to share secrets or even vent to. Reflect on the moments when you needed a kiss, hug or pep talk and they provided it. When did you need help or a favor and they came through for you?

Support is something that, unfortunately, a lot of people didn't have much of this year. If out of all that you had to endure, that is one thing that you can't relate to, count yourself mighty blessed. A healthy relationship in the midst of trials and tribulations is a true gift indeed.

Put More of a Spiritual Focus on Your Relationship

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This past spring, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "7 Signs You're Spiritually Compatible With Someone". In many ways, it's a complement to the piece, "Here's Exactly How To Start Protecting Your Spirit" because, while a lot of folks automatically associate "spirit" with "religion", spirit is actually about maintaining the quality of your life overall.

If you get nothing else out of this piece, please hold onto the fact that, when it comes to a lot of the married couples that I work with, a core reason why they struggle is because, not only do they not strive to uplift each other's spirit, they actually play a direct role in breaking it. Nagging. Berating. Always looking at the relationship from a "glass half empty" perspective. Never really having an affirming word to say. Or, they're out here making time for any and everything but one another which conveys to their partner that they're actually not a top priority (when they absolutely should be).

Even if money is super tight, putting forth the effort to breathe new life into your relationship—spending time with your partner, encouraging them, finding new ways to connect, admitting when you're wrong while striving to make things right, remembering to bring the Most High into the equation—is free of charge. And a relationship that has a strong spiritual foundation is one that can withstand, just about anything.

Make Plans for the Future

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Just a few days away. Y'all, we are literally only a few days out of 2020 and into a whole new year—and decade. Instead of focusing so much on how much this year has (possibly) been pure trash, set aside a day where you and yours can turn on some of your favorite music, sip on a bottle of wine and discuss what you want your next few months (or couple of years) to look like. Planning for the future is a great form of positive thinking because it helps you to remember that putting good thoughts and intentions into what lies ahead can be super empowering—very comforting too. If you'd like to put a couple's vision board together, there are several 2021 vision board apps for you to choose from here.

I'm pretty sure you're aware of what self-sabotage is. Well, one way that many people do it is by allowing negativity to cause them to make in-the-moment decisions that are based on emotion more than reason and logic. Please don't let 2020 cause you to do that to your relationship. Again, we're just steps away from all of what this year brought our way. When it comes to your partner, as I once heard a character from one of my favorite television shows once say, "Lean. Don't push." When it comes to maintaining your relationship, those are awesome words to live by.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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