I grew up in the Church. I went to Christian schools too (well, my elementary education was Christ-like; looking back, the EEOC should've come in and shut my high school all the way down). Looking back, if there's one topic that never really got discussed in either setting, it's sex. It really is sad that although the Bible has PLENTY to say about it (Song of Solomon is an entire book about it!), in my humble opinion, far too many folks do the very opposite of what Genesis 2:24-25 instructs us not to do—they attach shame to nakedness. Sad. Very sad.
That's why, whenever I do premarital counseling couples, I tend to spend at least 3-4 weeks on sexual intimacy—what you were taught about sex, your views on sex, your expectations of sex, etc. Because if you're gonna actually do what you vowed and remain with someone until death parts you, that's a REALLY LONG TIME to be sittin' somewhere sexually pissed off at least half of the time.
And yet. It happens. A LOT. Not just to couples who waited until marriage to partake, but people who felt they should "test the car before driving it too" (I'm with Meagan Good on this one—we need to drop that comparison; people are not cars). And since the importance of sex isn't explored as in-depth as it needs to be, lots of people find themselves faking it, making excuses not to do it or…yes, cheating. And you know what? All three of those approaches to sexual incompatibility are unhealthy and super counterproductive. They really are.
So, what do I recommend you should do if you and your spouse aren't as sexually harmonious as you'd like to be? For starters, consider that what's really going on may not be as much about sex as you might think. It could be a myriad of things that have created your not-so-perfect storm.
How To Deal With A Sexually Incompatible Partner
1.Ponder If It's Sexual or Emotional
There's a couple I worked with where the husband hated to give oral sex but was all about receiving it. On the surface, this is childish and selfish, I'll give you that. But counseling is about digging beneath the surface. That said, his wife misspends money, makes major decisions without his input, plays the victim when she's called out on her reckless behavior and rarely apologizes for any of this. As a result, he feels like she also is a very selfish individual (he's right), so he doesn't want to give her his all. Naturally, he's not big on cunnilingus; however, he doesn't even feel the desire to "make the sacrifice" because of how put off he is emotionally.
Do you see how, on the surface, it looks like they aren't on the same page when it comes to a particular sex act when the reality is there is a profound emotional disconnection? Whatever it is that you and your spouse are struggling with in the bedroom, don't just assume that it's sexual or physical. Sometimes, there's a deep emotional issue going on too.
2.Next, Figure Out If It's Actually About Sex or Selfishness
A lot of people frown on couples who wait until marriage to get it on, but here's something to keep in mind. When you're single and sexually active, whether you realize it or not, you tend to be pretty selfish. I'm not saying when it comes to your stamina, technique or tricks. I'm talking about your overall mentality. Single sex is about having sex solely on your terms. Married sex requires considering someone else and making compromises along the way.
Here's an example. Say that you love morning sex while your spouse prefers to have sex at night. Did you know that science is discovering that a part of what makes us morning people or night owls has to do with our genetic make-up? When you were single, you had sex when you felt like it; your partner(s) had to get in where they fit in.
Now that you're married, it's important to take your partner's needs into account.
If you like it in the morning, sometimes you might have to stay up late because they don't. If you're a night owl, sometimes you might need to sleep a couple of extra hours in order to get the job done before work. My point is this—whatever isn't happening the way that you would like, how much of it is about you wanting sex just the way you want it without figuring out if it pleases your partner or not? What some think is sexual incompatibility is really nothing short of 100 percent Grade-A selfishness. Real talk.
3.Openly Discuss How You Feel with Your Spouse
There are a lot of couples who end up throwing in the towel because they are sexually dissatisfied. That might sound shallow to some, but if there is only one person that you're supposed to have sex with for the rest of your life, GOOD SEX is important. Here's the thing, though. Something that tops the list of why spouses divorce isn't sexual incompatibility or frustration; no, it's poor communication.
I can't tell you how many couples I've worked with who are M-A-D at their spouse for not being able to read their mind as far as what their needs are in the bedroom. Their spouse should know they're bored. Their spouse should know that they are not satisfied. Their spouse should know they are faking orgasms (actually, if someone is really paying attention to their partner, they should know this one).
We all know what they say that assuming does to a person. Well, "should" is assumption's favorite girlfriend. It's not fair to be upset about something you're not talking about. Oh, and by the way, discussing it doesn't mean blaming, humiliating or berating your partner. The brain is the biggest sex organ we have. You're going to do NOTHING for your sex life by belittling your partner in the effort to get more of what you want and need from them. (This applies to what's happening in the bedroom and out of it.)
4.Also, Be VERY CAREFUL Who You Share Your Issues With
I can't remember who originated the quote, but one of my favorites is, "Complain to someone who can actually help you." To be at work or on the phone with someone who also has a less-than-stellar sex life isn't going to help you to take a more positive and proactive approach to what's happening in your own bedroom. All it's going to do is encourage you to be even more negative about your situation. Also, based on who you're talking to (and how often), it might set you up to be caught up in an emotional affair as well.
There's something else to consider when you're discussing your bedroom issues—just because you're dissatisfied doesn't mean the next gal would be. Make sure you're talking to someone who is genuinely being helpful…not just nosey. And ultimately, messy.
5.Make Sex a Higher Priority in Your Relationship
Another couple that I've worked with? They've been married for over a decade, the husband is headed towards his late 40s, and he still prefers to have sex 3-4 times a day (quickies included). His wife? She's good with having it a couple of times a month. Yep, sexually incompatible.
Some might wonder how they even jumped the broom with an issue like this not being addressed. Oh, but this is another example of how having sex before marriage can creep up on you. When they were dating, it was a long-distance relationship. So, of course, they could have sex for hours on end whenever they saw one another. But once they got married and saw each other every day, things changed. It reminds me of a hilarious comedy clip that I recently watched entitled, "Real Couples Don't Hold Each Other All Night".
Sometimes sex before marriage falsely advertises in ways we wouldn't predict.
What did I recommend that they do? Make sex a priority in their marriage; not just the physical aspect but the emotional and spiritual too. While she needed to be open to having sex more often, her husband needed to think about what he could do to make his wife desire him more from an emotional and spiritual standpoint.
Sometimes spouses aren't sexually compatible because they don't feel close enough to their partner to want to do certain things or have sex more often. Sometimes, when the other rooms of the house are handled (metaphorically speaking), the bedroom takes care of itself.
6.Put a "Sexual Needs Box" on Each Nightstand
A lot of us make relationships a lot more complicated than they have to be because we act like a want is an actual need.
Wants are what we desire; needs are what is required.
Am I saying that sex is not a need? I am saying the total opposite of that! Even the Bible says that if you withhold from your partner, you can open the doors to all sorts of mayhem and foolishness (I Corinthians 7:1-5). From a legal standpoint, some states will let you have what is called a "fault divorce". Things that fall under this category are constructive desertion, cruelty or abandonment based on a lack of marital relations (sex).
However, sex is a pretty general word. In order to have great sex with your partner, it's important to also discuss what both of your wants and needs are. What are y'all's desires vs. what is required for you to feel fully satisfied (essential)? Talk those things out, jot them down on sheets of paper, pick up a couple of boxes from Target or Pottery Barn and put those answers inside. Your answer box should go on your husband's nightstand; his should go on yours. Then make it a point to revisit what is on those sheets of paper and mutually commit to meeting one another's needs (more often).
Even if your spouse isn't the perfect sex partner, a part of what your love commitment is all about is meeting each other's needs—in the bedroom or out. If you're both determined to do that, you have a lifetime to learn how to make each other climb the walls; to make sexual incompatibility a temporary issue, not a lifelong sentence.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Chilli Opens Up About Flak She Received For Refusing To Settle In Dating And How Matthew Lawrence Has Everything On Her 'List'
Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas' dating journey displays how refusing to settle, and setting standards could lead one to find their ideal partner.
Over the years, The TLC group member had high-profile relationships with music producer Dallas Austin, with whom she shares an adult son, and R&B singer Usher.
Since then, Thomas has confirmed that she’s now dating actor Matthew Lawrence. Thomas and Lawrence, who were romantically linked in the summer of 2022 when they were spotted vacationing in Hawaii amidst the Boy Meets World star's grueling divorce with Cheryl Burke, would confirm their relationship in January 2023.
In a statement released by Thomas' representative, Christal Jordan, toPeople magazine, Jordan revealed that the couple had been dating since November 2022, two months after Lawrence's divorce was finalized. Jordan also shared that since Thomas began dating Lawrence, the singer is the happiest she's ever been.
To date, the couple has showcased their love by uploading various dancing Instagram posts on their respective accounts and talking about their whirlwind romance in numerous interviews.
Recently, Thomas opened up about her relationship with Lawrence during a virtual interview with The Tamron Hall Show. While recalling her VH1 dating series, What Chilli Wants, which aired on the network from 2010 to 2011, the 52-year-old provided information about why she set such high dating standards in the form of a list known as "Chilli's Checklist" and the steps she took to prepare herself for love.
Chilli On Matthew and Her Dating List
During the May discussion, Thomas disclosed that she wanted to show women the importance of setting standards, and although, at the time, she received massive backlash for it, she refused to settle when it came to love.
Thomas received scrutiny for her list because many thought some of her standards were unobtainable. Thomas' requirements for an ideal partner included not wanting someone that drank, smoked, or ate pork.
In addition to all those qualities, the star also wanted someone that loved God. Because of Thomas' determination to find her perfect match, the "Creep" vocalist claimed that she "waited it out."
"On my show, I always hoped that women see the importance of having high standards. I got a lot of flack from that, but I don't care. For me, I just waited it out. I'm like, 'Lord, if it happens, wonderful. If it doesn't, I'm still okay," she said.
As the topic shifted to Lawrence, Thomas raved about her new beau and shared that the 43-year-old had met all the qualities she wanted in a partner, from his physical appearance to his love for God.
"Matthew, honestly, he's the list... He is my entire list, and so I thank god every day for this," she stated.
Even though it may have taken years and several failed relationships, it is inspiring to see that Thomas refused to settle and worked on herself along the way until she found her person.
Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas’ Next Chapter & Romance With Matthew Lawrence
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