I must admit that there's an irony here. What I mean by that is it is fascinating that, since one of my passions is reconciling divorced married couples, it's a little weird that I would even be open to penning a piece about friends who may need to get a "divorce". I think a part of the reason why I somewhat support the latter kind of break-up is because, I actually tend to see more people put up with toxicity in their friendships than in their marriages. It really is interesting—at least it is to me—that someone can vow "until death parts us" to their spouse and be out in two years flat, but an individual they did not make a formal commitment to? That person can talk about them, disregard their needs and ultimately prove to be more of a foe than an ally and somehow, there's all kinds of tolerance and second chances offered up in their direction.
I could pen an entire piece on how a lot of folks are more loyal to their friends than their spouses because they aren't actual friends with their life partner and probably never were…but we'll save that for another day. What I'll say for now is this—because I know, firsthand, all of the good that a healthy friendship can do and all of the bad that a toxic one can bring into your life, I do think that sometimes friendships need to end in their own version of a divorce; divorce in the sense of experiencing "total separation; disunion"—for the ultimate well-being of both individuals. And just what are some of the indicators that you've experienced enough to let a particular friend go?
6 Signs It's Time To Let A Friend Go
1.Does Communication Suck?
If you were to ask a divorced person you know about what led to the ending of their marriage, one of the things that they would probably mention is there was a breakdown in communication. Communication is what helps two people to mentally and emotionally connect to one another, so yeah, if that isn't happening effectively, couples end up feeling misunderstood, ignored and end up growing apart.
Same thing with friendships. If you and one of your friends aren't hearing each other out, respecting each other's feelings and perspectives, are ignoring each other's vocalized needs (and triggers), are impatient while dealing with one another, and/or aren't making the time to emotionally connect, these are clear signs of poor communication. And while it doesn't automatically mean that the friendship is doomed, what it does mean is you two aren't in a good space and, if you leave things where they are, the relationship isn't going to get better…over time, it's only going to get worse.
2.Is Any Form of Abuse Transpiring?
I've been through some stuff. Believe you me. But if I were to think about some of the most emotionally abusive situations that I've been in, it would have to be with people I considered to be my friends. How do you know if one of your friends falls under this category? Manipulation is a form of emotional abuse. Users are emotionally abusive. People who make you feel like you constantly have to walk on eggshells in their presence are emotionally abusive. Individuals who aren't open to negotiating, ones who take the "It's my way or the highway" approach, they are emotionally abusive. Ghosting in and out is a form of emotional abuse. Giving the silent treatment when things don't go their way is emotional abuse. Expecting you to be there for them when they aren't there for you is a form of emotional abuse. Gaslighting you is a form of emotional abuse. I'm sure you get this gist now.
And why do so many of us put up with this type of treatment? From my own personal experiences, 1) I think a lot of us don't realize that it is abuse in the first place and/or 2) we feel like friendship is about standing by our friend, even when they are being assholes. But here's the thing about the second point—an author by the name of Darlene Quimet once said, "Controllers, abusers and manipulators don't question themselves. They don't ask themselves if the problem is them…they always say the problem is someone else." So while you're out here thinking that you're "loving your friend through their abusive tendencies", if they are textbook abusers, they're probably not even thinking about, let alone caring about, how they're acting or how it's affecting you. And when someone isn't self-aware or respectful enough of others to make necessary changes…nothing changes.
Most of us wouldn't stand for physical or perhaps even verbal abuse from a friend. But if you're constantly being taken on an emotional roller coaster ride, that's a form of abuse too. And if you bring this to your friend's attention and, frankly, they don't give a damn, this is a really good reason to strongly consider initiating a friendship divorce. Stat.
3.Is Your Friend Disloyal?
Another reason why a lot of married couples end their union is due to infidelity; you know, one or both people being unfaithful. On the friendship tip, unfaithfulness tends to come in the form of being disloyal. Disloyalty can be someone who talks about you behind your back. Disloyalty can also be someone who breaks "the codes" that are between the two of you. Some other ways that a person can be disloyal include—telling your business, not having your back when times are difficult, being competitive over being supportive (which is oftentimes a clear indication of envy), acknowledging your friendship in different ways based on who they are around (you're their bestie unless someone they think is "more important" is in their presence, then they downplay the relationship), and/or them saying or doing things that prove to be deceptive or untrustworthy in any way.
Sometimes, we'll put up with someone like this because we met them this way. What I mean by that is they treated other folks like this, charmed their way into our lives, and somehow, we thought things would be different when it came to us. But like another author by the name of Chobir Dokan once said, "If they disrespect you to your face, imagine what they are doing behind your back." You are no exception to a point like this.
It's hard to be in a relationship with anyone who is disloyal. So, if you read this part of the article and someone immediately came to mind, just keep in mind that some definitions of disloyal include treacherous, dangerous and insecure. If you want to try and maintain something with someone based on those traits, all I've got to say is good luck. Oh, and be careful too.
4.Are You the Only One Who’s Working on the Relationship?
I think it's hilarious how much Divorce Court pops up in my YouTube feed. Sometimes I watch, sometimes I don't. But when it came to a particular episode where a woman was basically being a man's wife while he was being her boyfriend, I appreciated what Judge Lynn Toler had to say about it—"Never do wife duties at girlfriend prices…the first meal I ever cooked my husband was a week after we were married…you're not giving me a ring and some security, clean your own stuff. I ain't got time for that; I've got things to do. You think I'm good enough to share your body, you think I'm good enough to have your baby—you think that he thinks you're good enough that he can trust you with his clothes and his business but he can't give you his last name? Ugh."
Ugh is right. It's commentary like this that inspired me to pen pieces like "Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again" and "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife". And, on the friendship tip, it inspired me to also write "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'". Trust me, I know what it's like to care for someone, both on a romantic and purely friendship level, and then move on those feelings without getting clarity on whether the person that I'm devoting so much of what I have to is on the same page as I am. When you don't take the time out to see if they see the relationship in the same way that you do, that is how you can end up doing most of the work to maintain it. Why? Because you value it more than they do. Plain and simple.
Coming to this realization isn't an automatic friendship deal-breaker. What should be is once you come to this realization, and bring it to their attention, nothing changes. Now we've got a real problem because, if your friend is cool with you doing 80 percent of what it takes for the relationship to remain intact, not only do they not care very much about the friendship itself, but they don't care as much about you as they should either.
And please tell me why you should remain friends with anyone who would disrespect you in this manner? Like Judge Toler said, "Ugh." Just ugh.
5.Do Things Seem to Be Getting Progressively Worse?
Some friendships, unfortunately, end up dying a very slow and painful death. The reason why is because, although we see the writing that is on the wall, we try and act like the relationship isn't getting to the point where it's proving to be unhelpful or non-beneficial to both individuals. When I think about this particular point, a former friend who stayed at least three years longer than they should have comes to mind. I knew there was a hard conversation that needed to be had, but I kept avoiding it because, since they were so arrogant and entitled, I knew that they would play the victim if I brought my concerns up.
In hindsight, I wish I had though, because if we had ended things sooner, I still would've had some level of respect for them. But because I kept allowing matters to get worse and worse, by the time I did officially dip out, I didn't even really like them anymore. I still don't. A big part of that is because I kept trying to be a friend while they kept being anything but. As a result, it made me resentful, then angry…and then abruptly done. The problem with that is it's a poor assumption that friendship divorces have to be ugly and messy. But if a relationship lasts way past its time, that's exactly how it could end up. A big ole' emotional mess.
Moral to the story—if you see your friendship is on life support, opt for quality more than quantity. End it sooner than later because the sooner that you do, the faster you can heal and open your heart to those who will be good friends in your life.
6.Have “Seasons of Separation” Never Worked Out for the Better?
One more. Whenever a married couple asks me what I think about them separating, the first thing I always say is, "If you're doing it because you need space in order to come back together and work harder at your relationship, I'm all for it." Then I recommend that they invest in the bookHope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed by Dr. Gary Chapman (the same guy who came up with the love languages theory that many of us apply to our relationships). The reason why I think it's so important to put this on record with troubled couples is because a lot of people just see separation as a step away from divorce. But really, what it needs to be is a time when two people can get the space that they need to see if and how to make their marriage work.
I think that sometimes friendships need the same thing. Several years ago, a former friend of mine and I kept butting heads so much that we took a break for several months. During that time, I really did evaluate the good, the bad and the counterproductive about us. By the time we had a chat about where things stood, I came to the conclusion that, although I would always love her, we really did need to part ways—to "divorce". It was years later before I saw her again, but when I did, there was hugging, there was catching up…there was peace. Then there was walking away from one another so that we could continue on with our lives—separately.
In hindsight, I think that our divorce is the reason why there was no bitterness and drama when we did finally see each other again. When two people choose not to communicate their feelings and needs, when ghosting transpires, that can leave real scars because, there's like an element of disregard and disrespect that's left behind. But as I oftentimes say, when two people come into a relationship together, they really should come to an agreement together if it should end as well. More times than not, this approach results in a "clean break" that still might be painful, but it also can make it easier to heal and move on as well.
Just like marriages, I strongly doubt that a lot of people go into their friendships with an ending in mind. But also, just like marriage, friendships should be healthy, fruitful and mutually beneficial. If you read all of this and that's something that you can't say is transpiring in one of your friendships, it may be time for a total separation—a friendship divorce. Think it over. Pray about it. Discuss it with your friend. If you discover that it is time to move on, there is a poetic irony here—coming to a place of accepting that you both need something different and perhaps better actually is being each other's friend. Even if that means not actually being friends with one another…anymore.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend
8 Signs That You Might Be The Toxic Friend Of The Group
Breaking Up With Toxic Friends Won't Be Easy, But It's So Necessary
5 Signs Of A Toxic Friendship That Is Secretly Poisoning Your Life
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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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What Is A 'Monogamy Agreement' And Should You Have One?
As a writer, I've gotta admit that it can get more and more challenging to tackle certain topics. Why? It's because I'm a pretty word-literal person. Yet, like a lot of people who I witness on a daily basis, who constantly move the goalposts in order to suit whatever whim they're on at any given moment, even the dictionary has a way of doing something similar when it comes to various words' definitions.
Take monogamy, for example. When I was growing up, it meant "married to one person for a lifetime." This meant that you couldn't be remarried and technically consider yourself monogamous (because you're not with the first person you said vows to). And you definitely couldn't be living with someone or in a long-term relationship and use the word. No, for you, something like "exclusive" would be more accurate (and that's actually the word that I lean into in those instances even now).
These days, though, the goalpost says that monogamy is "marriage with only one person at a time." So, while people who've had more than one spouse can now use the word, when it comes to what we're about to dive into today (a monogamy agreement), folks who are interested in those would still be far better off going with something like "exclusive" to drive their point home. That's because this topic doesn't really have anything to do with marriage…although it does approach commitment in an interesting kind of way.
Yeah, in a world that is ever finding ways to change marriage, redefine marriage or figure out how close they can get to marriage without actually getting married, monogamy agreements have entered the chat. And because we try to cover as many bases as possible, basically on the "FYI tip," I wanted to take a moment to break down what exactly they are.
Let’s Tackle Traditional Marriage First. For Clarity’s Sake.
I won't lie — even as someone who's been working with married couples for many years now, whenever I happen upon a healthy (first) and happy (second) married couple of more than a decade, I'm halfway in shock. That's because, these days, people seem to treat the sacredness of marriage like they would a dating relationship — they have a big party in the form of a wedding, pledge to God and everyone present that they're not going anywhere (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7) and that their love is patient (I Corinthians 13:4) and then, somewhere down the line, when things get rough, they end it…only to rinse and repeat.
Now when it comes to things like infidelity and abuse, that's not what I'm speaking of here. I'm talking about there are so many people acting like they are married before they actually are (a boyfriend or girlfriend is not a husband or wife) that by the time they do say "I do," they are numbed out to the fact that a marriage is supposed to be several steps up in seriousness and sacredness than a dating dynamic is.
I definitely could go on and on about how there is supposed to be a boatload of integrity behind the vows that are exchanged between two people. However, this article isn't about marriage — it's about monogamy agreements. What I will say about marriage, for now, is it's not just about if you love someone a lot. Ask any pastor, marriage counselor, or even lawyer worth their merit, and they will confirm the fact that marriage is a legal contract — that you are not just vowing sentiments and emotional promises. No, under the law of marriage, there are also certain rights and responsibilities that you are agreeing to as well. That's why people should go into marriage with a very sober and level-headed mind because they're a lot easier to get into than they are to get out of. No doubt about it.
Speaking of legalities, let's touch on marriage licenses for a moment, shall we? Because there is something about them that you actually may not know (that I absolutely think that you should).
So, What’s the Deal with Marriage Licenses and Marriage Certificates?
Although this really could get its own article, let me just say that marriage licenses definitely deserve some level of side-eye in this country. Even though history says that it started out as being a business contract in England, in America, the long short of it is racist politicians used marriage licenses as a way to keep track of interracial couples (you can read more about it here, here, and here). Yep. So, that's part of the reason why even some traditionally married couples are not super fond of marriage licenses — because, basically, the government is "regulating" the relationship on some level.
With that cleared up, just what is the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate? Good question. A marriage license is what allows you to get married in your state prior to saying "I do," while a marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married once your wedding ceremony is actually over.
Can you get a marriage certificate without a marriage license? The short answer would be "no," although couples who fall into the category of "common law marriage" sometimes are able to work around this based on what state they live in. For everyone else, getting married without a marriage license is basically a commitment ceremony. That's because, in order to get a marriage license or marriage certificate, your state's county clerk would have to issue you one.
Now, I ain't got no lies to tell you — go to YouTube, and you will see a good amount of videos (like this one here) stating that not only can you work around not getting a marriage license, you absolutely should. To that, I'll just say that one of the biggest problems with social media is everyone is a so-called expert now, even if they have no credentials to back it up. So with that in mind, if this section of the article has you tempted to go down a long rabbit hole (and I totally get it if it does), speak with some people who have actual and literal experience in the field in your state. Don't just go rogue with your own resolve (please don't let YouTube and TikTok hem you up).
Okay, So What Is This Whole Monogamy Agreement Thing About?
So, what does all of that have to do with a monogamy agreement? Well, in order to explain why some people are opting for it as an alternative to a marriage license (or marriage altogether), it was important to explain marriage licenses and certificates just so that you could clearly get what the differences are.
Now that you know, a monogamy agreement is pretty much just how it sounds: it's an agreement that is established between two people who want to have some form of a commitment to one another, yet they don't want all of the legalities that come with traditional marriage.
If you're trying to wrap your head around that, I'll explain it to you this way. You've probably heard someone say that they wish that the marriage contract could be renegotiated every few years. For instance, rather than being "locked into" until death parts us, every five years or so, they wish that they could revisit their marriage to see if they want to opt-out, change certain initial agreements, or restructure the marriage altogether. Well, for folks who are wired this way, a monogamy agreement is probably the best route for them to take because, again, although it's not a legally binding contract, it is a formal agreement between them and their partner about what each of their expectations is.
See it like an integrity agreement — no one is making assumptions about where things stand or where things are headed (hopefully); the monogamy agreement puts things in black and white so that it's all crystal clear.
And when I say "black and white," I literally mean just that. Again, although it's not a legal contract, it is a document that lays everything out so that there is no confusion. And what do I mean by "everything"? It's totally up to you and your partner, yet some of the things that people usually include are goals and values, sexual expectations, financial responsibilities, boundaries (both in and outside of the relationship), how infidelity is defined, ultimate goals for the relationship — and yes, when the agreement is up for renegotiation whether that's in a year, five years or 10.
Who Should Consider a Monogamy Agreement?
Now that you know more about what a monogamy agreement is, let's begin to land this plane with the people a monogamy agreement may be best suited for. While at the end of the day, the short answer is anyone who wants one, there's a specific reason why I decided to even broach this topic.
It's because, while it's not (yet) earth-shattering in either direction, marriage is somewhat on the decline as cohabitation is on the rise in this country. And while research continues to reveal that married couples are more satisfied with their relationship than folks who live together and many who do cohabitate, they see it as a stepping stone towards becoming spouses at some point, let's not act like millennials (and under) aren't a bit gun shy when it comes to saying "I do."
Reportedly, 56 percent of them are not married. For many women, it's because they are prioritizing their education and careers over marriage and a family. Also, some suffer from what is known as gamophobia (the technical term for having a fear of getting married), in part due to a pattern of failed relationships, being the child of divorce (divorce affects children more than a lot of people want to accept) and what getting divorced themselves could possibly cost them. Then there are those who just never wanted to get married…yet that doesn't mean that they don't believe in some form of commitment on some level.
For individuals who don't want to casually date or even just sit at the "boyfriend/girlfriend level" for years on end, monogamy agreements may be a solid fit. You can have your own version of a commitment ceremony (or not), knowing that you're not on one page regarding what your relationship is about while your partner is somewhere totally different. There's no confusion because you literally have documentation about where the two of you are.
Now, I will say this: no agreement works if two people's words are trash (LOL). Yet honestly, that can apply to traditional marriage or a monogamy agreement. I'm just putting you on to what a monogamy agreement is all about if you've been trying to figure out how to have a serious commitment without a legal contract.
No doubt about it, monogamy agreements are gaining some real traction out in these streets.
Something for the committed-yet-not-marriage-minded.
Interesting, right? Relationships always are, chile.
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