I'm pretty much assuming that we all can agree on the fact that this isn't the most pleasant topic on the planet. But when I factor in the fact that I know what it's like to choose to remove myself from toxic family members and then I add to that, an article I read that said between 12-17 percent of folks are estranged from at least one family member (personally, based on a lot of stories I've been told, that stat seems really low to be honest with you), I knew that it would be necessary to get this done; especially during a year when a lot of us have spent more time away from loved ones, just with the pandemic alone.
If you're like me and holidays aren't really your thing anyway, figuring out how to make it through the next several weeks may not be that big of a deal. But if Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve are typically the time when you see your family the most and yet, for whatever the reason, this year, you're not speaking to some or all of your folks, take a deep breath, get yourself a warm cup of tea or cocoa and let's figure out how you can get to January 1, 2021 with your heart as intact as possible, OK?
Remember Why the Boundaries Exist in the First Place
I say it often because it's the truth—boundaries are limits and yes, limits oftentimes have to be applied to family members, just like anyone else; shoot, sometimes even more. It's clear that many of us either weren't taught what boundaries are as well as we should've been or we had people in our lives who constantly violated our boundaries, whether that's physically, emotionally, mentally or even spiritually (you know, people who use religion to justify all of their foolish, destructive and erratic behavior). And so, sometimes, a season of estrangement is so we can get away from the people who clearly have a lot to learn in the area of boundaries so that we can establish the ones that are best for us and the kind of life that we choose to live.
While it's perfectly normal (and understandable) to miss your family around this time of year, it's important to make sure that you do your best to separate your nostalgia and sentimentality from the truth, facts, and reality of why you are maintaining a distance from them to begin with. Make no mistake about it—if you're currently estranged because say, you've got family members who are controlling or manipulative, they will definitely try and use that to their advantage between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That said, if you choose to engage, let it be because you're ready, not simply because it's the holiday season because, at the end of the day, a holiday is just a day and you'll still have to pick up the pieces of whatever "extra else" your family brought into your life, once the festivities are over. Boundaries are designed to protect us. The violation of boundaries is abusive. Set boundaries first. Honor them. Then make whatever other decisions are best for you, based on that.
Be Honest with Yourself About What You’re Currently Feeling
As I've done a lot of my own healing as it relates to toxic family members, if I had to put together a top five list of things that made me be like, "Yeah, we need some distance", something that would probably go into the third or fourth slot, is the fact that I was never really given the space to feel what I wanted and needed to feel when it came to the abuse that I endured or the abusers who caused it. I was always cut off or emotionally manipulated and told that whatever thoughts or emotions I had weren't "pleasing to God" or valid to them. THAT. IS. POISON. And when you're constantly around people like that, it can cause you to have a bit of an identity crisis as you try and figure out who the heck you are and what your real feelings are vs. what they tried to guilt you into feeling—or not feeling.
While estrangement can be hard, if there is a bona fide benefit to it, it's that you now have the space to figure out how you feel when it comes to why you pulled yourself away, what you would need in order to reconcile and how you feel in this very moment. It's important to factor all of this in because between Hallmark movies, holiday music and your friends constantly bringing their own families up, it can be easy to question if you should totally forget your boundaries and at least act like you and your family are close; healthy even.
Please try and avoid doing that. I know a lot of media says that the holidays are a time for burying the hatchet 'n all, yet the reality is, if you didn't feel great about connecting back in June, December 25 shouldn't automatically change anything. Honor your feelings and make decisions from there because, remember—if your family had done the same, there would be no need to read this article…right?
Watch Your Triggers
On the heels of what I just said, there's a really good chance that someone from your family is gonna hit you up, saying that it's in the spirit of the holiday season. No one can really fault them for that; however, if you do choose to answer their DM, email, text, or phone call, just make sure that you know what your triggers are beforehand. For instance, something that I've learned is a sho 'nuf trigger for me are people who claim that they are reaching out to apologize, only to really call to justify foul behavior, hoping that by the time they are done, I will excuse what they've done—perhaps even feel sorry for them for hurting me in the first place (a true narcissism trait, by the way). For years, I would fall for that BS, only to hang up and feel like they opened up my wound all over again.
Why? Because when you've been harmed by someone, it's important for them to validate that pain; they can do that by taking full ownership for their actions. That said, whenever folks find a way to skirt around this fact, all they're doing is injuring you more. And when you keep getting hurt, either it makes you angry or turns you numb. So yeah, I had to stop dealing with the ones who did that to me because they've been like that since, shoot...for as long as I can remember. This means that they've been wounding me and causing me grief for as long as I can remember as well. I had to get some space so that the wounds could heal. Fully.
I don't know what sets you off and by no means am I saying that it's a given that once you get to the root of your triggers that you also shouldn't speak or deal with whoever triggers you. What I am saying is unsafe/toxic people seem to live to push triggers, so the way to deal with them is to know yours and then set up safeguards. If your controlling mama makes you a basket case with her religious deflecting, accept that. If your sister drives you up the wall with her constantly asking for things without ever offering something in return, own that. If you've got some other family member who puts you in the foulest of moods, just 10 minutes into a conversation, admit that too. Then make two decisions. First, decide if there is a way to deactivate that trigger within yourself (because expecting them to not trigger you is, 8 times out of 10, gonna disappoint you every time). Second, if you can't deactivate it, be real with yourself about whether total avoidance is still the best route to take. After the holidays, you've still got a life to live. It would be a shame to spend months into next year trying to heal from a few short weeks of the holiday season and that family of yours, simply because you let them trigger you in a way that you know you're not fully prepared to handle. Yet.
Create Your Own Traditions
While I was growing up, my mother was pretty big on Christmas. I remember getting a fresh evergreen Christmas tree, stringing popcorn, watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and listening to gospel Christmas music while she baked. It was also pretty common for folks to come over as she made us—yes, made us—go caroling in the neighborhood. Christmas was cool. As Christmas goes, I guess. However, as an adult, I don't observe Christmas or really any holiday. No, I'm not a Jehovah's Witness; I'm just the kind of person who, once I know the backstory on something and decide I don't want to be a part of it, I tend to dip out. Anyway, that's so not the point. Once I started fading out of Christmas, for years, I would get pushback. And if there's a truth about adulthood, it's that you now have the complete freedom to live your life as you see fit, without the need for anyone's permission or approval.
While being estranged means that you won't be a part of your family's holiday-themed customs, never forget that the flip to that is you can happily create some of your own. So yeah, take this time and ask yourself what you do and don't like about the holiday season. Then make plans for observing them—or not observing them—just as you see fit. Finally.
Spend Time with Some of Your “Love Family”
Friendships have layers and levels. I will be the very first person to agree with that resolve. I liken it to Christ and his 12 disciples. One was a devil (it's Scriptural—John 6:70). Eight were his homies. And then there was Peter, James and John—the three he asked to pray with him as he was preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice (Matthew 26, John 3:16); those were his top-tier, inner circle friends—the ones he probably saw as being like brothers to him. I've got people like that in my life. Individuals who are emotionally safe, who love me like we're blood and who have my back no matter what. While the family I was born into is my "blood family", I choose to call my dearest friends my "love family".
Even if you aren't close to and/or engaging your blood family this year, if you've got people in your world who you consider to be your own love family, I am willing to be my next paycheck that they will be more than willing to embrace you with open arms and a seat at their dinner table (so long as you show no signs of sickness and bring your mask). And because you are so at peace with them, you can easily avoid all of the discomfort and drama that might arise if you try and force yourself to be in an environment where you don't really want to be…just because it's "the holidays". Trust me, love family can be a wonderful alternative to blood family, if you want to be around people yet you want to not risk conflict and issues in the process.
Understand What True Reconciliation Requires
I can't tell you, just how many Christmas movies I've seen over the course of my lifetime, where the overall message is it's this time of year when all faults need to be wiped clean, so that we can start the year anew. There's A LOT I could say to that, yet I'll leave it where I typically do when I just wanna give the Reader's Digest version of my thoughts on the matter. If you feel like you want to connect back with the family who you're not currently interacting with, do that. Just make sure that you know who and what you're dealing with and that you are clear on what reconciliation is all about.
What reconciliation is not is what a lot of republicans are trying to shove down democrats' throats right through here; it's not about enduring constant abuse and then having the burden be placed on you, the one who had to endure it all, to set things right. While yes, restoring a broken relationship does require some forgiving on the "victim's" part, don't let anyone make you feel bad for expecting some full-on repenting on the "victimizer's" part as well. Repenting requires taking responsibility. Repentance requires wanting to make amends. Repentance requires seeking what you need in order for the estrangement to cease. Repentance also requires humility.
So, if a family member chooses to reach out, stating that reconciliation is what they truly desire, keep in mind what it looks like. Don't let anyone make you feel like being flippant or dismissive is good enough. It's not. Not by a long shot.
Again, I know this wasn't the warm-and-cozy-wrapped-up-in-a-big-red-bow kind of message. Still, I hope it offered up a little bit of clarity and confirmation for those who may not be with their family this year. Being estranged doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you someone who simply wants better for yourself. Feel good about that. Even if that means experiencing a different kind of holiday season this year. One that brings peace and goodwill your way—just differently.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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I didn’t think much could get better about the blissful high that comes with oral. That was until I came across the Kivin Method.
As someone who was never a huge fan of oral sex and could largely take it or leave it, I must admit that I have started to come around in recent years. With my head thrown back, hands gripping sheets and hair, and toes curling from the intense sensations of the work my partner is putting in at my center, I now give myself over to the pleasurable act wholly and unapologetically.
When I came across a way to maximize the pleasure I receive from cunnilingus (already), I had no choice but to tap in. Who knew the key to taking oral sex to new heights was giving it a sideways twist? For those of you who might also be interested in ways to spice up the way you do oral, experience faster and stronger orgasms, or simply want to indulge in something new with your partner, the Kivin Method could definitely be the oral sex technique for you, too.
Keep reading to learn about the method that is sure to have you writhing in ecstasy in no time at all.
What Is The Kivin Method?
For the uninitiated, the Kivin Method is an oral sex technique that focuses on stimulating the clitoris from a different angle. Dubbed “sideways oral” by some, this method involves the action of giving head from a side-to-side movement as opposed to the up-and-down motion that people typically perform when giving head. (If you need a visual, this illustration is helpful.)
The difference in approach as you’re receiving head can be a game-changer in how you receive pleasure. Not only does the giving partner have access to the clitoris, but they can also access more easily the vulva and the labia, which are objectively a bigger focus in this version of cunnilingus. More access means wider coverage, and that, plus the new sensation of oral from a different angle, can heighten the way you experience oral sex that much more.
Where more pleasure flows, intense orgasms are sure to follow.
How To Do The Kivin Method
If you want to know how to do the Kivin Method, it’s actually pretty straightforward. The receiver lays on their back while the giver positions themselves perpendicular to the receiver. Their head will be facing the vulva, but instead of vertical, their face will be horizontal to the vulva.
From there, the giver can get to business, ensuring that they keep their head perpendicular to the receiver’s vulva while working on their craft. Because this technique can be more intense for some receivers, start slowly by stroking the vulva and clitoris sideways with the tongue, and allow sensations and communication from the receiver to be a guide of what you need more or less of with the Kivin Method.
Ultimately, the Kivin Method allows experimentation and unlocking what pressure, rhythm, and tricks work best for the giver and the receiver. Try implementing a finger or two, or adding a sex toy to the mix to intensify the act even further.
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