Life is interesting. The very day that I sat down to pen this piece, one of my favorite YouTube channels, The Skin Deep, premiered a new episode between two friends—Lafi and Eboni. When it comes to the topic that's at hand, I don't know if growth spurts can get any more extreme than one friend who is a new mom and the other friend who is currently transitioning from female to male. And here's the thing, y'all—no matter what your personal feelings are on transgenderism, I still think the episode is worth watching—and pondering. One reason is because it's clear that the love and loyalty between these two individuals are rock solid. Second, I believe that their personal and friendship journey beckons us all to ask the question, "What would we do if a friend of ours made a significant life change?" Deeper still, "What would we do if they made a decision that we either couldn't relate to or perhaps didn't personally agree with?"
The interesting thing about the word "growth" is increase and development can mean different things to different people. So, while you're trying to maintain a friendship with someone who may define growth in a way that is different from your own, how do you discern the differences between growing together and growing apart?
As I watched the entire episode, one of the questions that I really liked was, "How has your love changed for me over time?" It served as a reminder that none of us are the same from five years ago; we'll also be different five years from now. As you're trying to balance how to maintain your friendships in the midst of you and your friends' growth spurts, here are some tips to help you both keep your connection intact.
Know That Growth Spurts Are Completely Normal
I know, right? When it comes to the world that we live in, what does "normal" even mean? I am going with that word from the angle of growth being a standard—it is a standard for all of us to experience things that will result in us expanding, evolving and, hopefully maturing. When those things transpire, we change. As we change, our relationships change.
One of the closest people to me, when we first met, we used to spend hours on the phone, talking about basically everything and nothing. But less than a year into our relationship, she got engaged. A few months after that, she got married. We then went from always being on the phone to constantly emailing one another. After the birth of her first child, emailing got a lot less too. As her life has shifted, we've had to come up with "new normals" in order for us to still nurture our relationship. Our friendship serves as a constant reminder that, if you live long enough, folks meet new people and cultivate relationships that alter their lifestyle. It can take some real getting used to but still, it is very normal.
Accept That Growth Spurts Are Oftentimes Uncomfortable—and Unpredictable
My youngest godchild is about to enter the cutting teeth stage of her development. We can tell because, for the most part, she's a pretty chill baby. But right through here, she's sleeping more and she's also more irritable than usual. The good news is she's about to get her first set of teeth. The sucky part is she's on the way to having a few months of pain.
Most of us want our friends to thrive in life. But when someone decides to start their own business, move to a new city (or country), take their relationship to another level, totally switch career paths, embark on doing things that will be better for their physical and/or psychological well-being—while the transitions are necessary, that doesn't mean that all of the newness doesn't take some real getting used to. In the midst of the growth, some things are going to be uncomfortable and unpredictable.
So, you know what that means. If your friend already doesn't know how to feel about what they are going through, they aren't going to be the best at offering up tips on how to help you adjust to their adjusting. The key is to remember that, just like teething, growth spurts come in waves; things won't be all topsy-turvy and disheveled forever. Try and be calm, supportive and not super sensitive. Things may be a little "weird" right now, but this too shall pass.
Also Accept That They Rarely Happen in Sync with Each Other
Remember how I said that a part of what comes with friendship is learning how to know the differences between when you are growing together or apart? It's my personal belief that some of us put unnecessary strain on our friendships because we don't factor in growth spurts into the dynamic. If you just took a job out of state and your BFF takes a new career path that has demanding hours, that doesn't automatically mean that the two of you are growing apart; it may just mean that you both need to be more intentional about making sure that you schedule time to catch up. If another friend of yours recently had a religious experience that altered their perspectives and perhaps even their value systems and, at the same time, you had a different type of spiritual awakening that changed you too, it doesn't mean that you both can't still coexist—you both just need to remember to respect one another's path and be open-minded to where you both are…now.
Some people end friendships that honestly could've went the distance if they had simply realized that, although they changed individually, that didn't mean that the friendship was doomed. It simply meant that the love and mutual respect that they shared had to make room for the friendship to transition a bit. That both individuals still need one another—just maybe in different ways than they did in times past.
Know That Patience and Open Communication Are Required
I've shared before that one of my all-time relationship-related quotes is, "People change and forget to tell each other." At this stage in my life, there are only a handful of people who I've been friends with since the turn of the century. My pregnancies changed me. Heartbreak changed me. Leaving corporate America to be a full-time writer changed me. Leaving the denomination that I grew up in changed me. Learning how to set some freakin' boundaries changed me. Letting go of toxic family members and releasing counterproductive friendships changed me. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.
As I think back on all of the changes, and the people who have rocked with me throughout each of them, I know for a fact that we wouldn't have made it through if it hadn't been for their patience ("the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like") and commitment to listen to my needs as I gave them the stage to offer up their own as I was going through all of my transitions.
Real talk, some friends fall out because one or both people become impatient as they witness their friend's changes. But what my friends have shown me is when the love, loyalty and commitment are there, so long as the changes don't cause the friendship to become unhealthy, supporting your friend is the only real option you've got. And yes, that support requires quite a bit of patience and open communication. For a season, until everything settles, anyway.
Prepare for Some Things Needing to Shift Within the Relationship
One of my closest male friends is one of the most ambitious cats I know. It's like every six months or so, he's got another big idea that requires us to shift our talking schedules and it sometimes requires that I lend my support in a different kind of way. If he didn't bring so much consistency, confidentiality and outright joy to my life (because he is hilarious), it would be easy to let all of his professional changes to cause us to grow apart. But since I really do adore all of what he brings into my life, whenever he hits me up with the, "Hey, I'm on this right now", I have learned to respond with, "So, what do you need from me in this season?"
Different seasons have different purposes and needs. That goes for the weather; that also goes for relationships.
What a friend of yours needed from you last year may be totally different from what they need from you now. Same goes for you as it relates to how they relate to you. Handling one another's growth spurts can be so much easier if you're both simply willing to meet current needs rather than settling into the rut of doing what you've always done for one another. This tip alone? It can be a real friendship lifesaver. It really can.
Remember That Embracing Growth Is a Part of What Commitment Is All About
The more work that I do with married couples, the more that I admire marriage; especially when it comes to couples who have more than 10-15 years under the belt. Because man, what those marriages model to me is how much commitment is required to remain with someone who is constantly changing as you change.
I make it no secret that I am a control-freak-in-recovery and so, sometimes in times past, as certain friends would go through their own process of evolution, me not liking the changes would result in me almost punishing them for changing. It was like I was so accustomed to the predictability of things being a certain way that, when they weren't that way anymore, I would emotionally disconnect.
Being a marriage life coach has shown me that, one of the most profound ways to show someone just how "in this" you are, is to give them the space to grow while still remaining solid in your commitment to them. It's like saying, "While you're out here metamorphosing, I'm gonna be right here, having your back every inch of them way."
When people know that they've got individuals in their life who don't merely tolerate their growth spurts but actually embrace them, not only does it cause them to evolve; it evolves the relationship as well.
As the individuals grow, the friendship grows. And when both people keep that in mind in the midst of the turbulence of the growth spurts, the end result can be a truly beautiful, sacred and lasting thing. Something that all of us ultimately desire from our dearest friendships. See what growth can do?
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone "Friend"
5 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Friend
According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends
10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships
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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.
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Nelly And Ashanti Are Giving It Another Shot? Here's What You Should Know About 'Ex Reconciliation'
Okay, so if you’ve read any of my pop culture think pieces on this platform before (like here or here), you already know that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time talking like I know people who I actually…don’t. As someone who grew up in an entertainment industry home and then got my (official) start in journalism in the entertainment realm as well — let me just tell you from very up close and personal experience that nothing is a smoke-and-mirrors game quite like the celebrity world. That’s why it’s wise to not invest too deeply into it/them.
At the same time, since, for better or for worse, we do live in a culture that seems to be constantly consumed with what famous folks are doing. What I prefer to do is use certain news stories (even if they are basically nothing more than tabloid gossip, depending on the day) as personal teachable moments — and since the word on the street is saying that Nelly and Ashanti are giving it another go, I thought that topic would be a great one to tackle.
My personal recollection of them being together consists of my finding Ashanti’s visual for her single “Good Good” (damn, was that 2008?!) to be cute enough. Plus, I liked how they mostly kept everything off the grid — unlike the other relatively reunited (and does it feel so good? I can’t tell because Ben always looks so irritated) couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, chile). Anyway, beyond that, and then reading some timeline pieces on Nelly and Ashanti (a recent one is located here), there’s not much more that I can say as far as their coupledom goes.
Ashanti and Nelly during Sean Diddy Combs First Fragrance Launch for Unforgivable - After PartyJohnny Nunez/WireImage
However, when I did happen to catch a roughly hour-long Instagram post (here) on Ashanti’s page a few months ago talking about how (among other things) she used to want six kids, and now she’ll “settle for” two or three, I took that to be a subtext that she’s ready to get into something serious/substantial — and sometimes that can mean reconciling with someone from your past.
It’s kind of like a point that was made by Alec Baldwin’s character in the movieIt’s Complicated (paraphrased): “Some people should get back together 10 years after a divorce because the time apart can help each person to grow. And since you already know your ex so well, reuniting later could be the best decision ever.”
Nelly and Ashanti reportedly broke up ten years ago, so maybe they are life-imitating art. Either way, before you use them as inspiration (or ammo — LOL) to get back with someone from your own past, please ask yourself the following questions. Then be serious about the answers. Then run them by a trusted friend (or your therapist). And then, if it all checks out, proceed with extreme wisdom and logic. Because getting back with an ex is a bit like a crap shoot — it can be a real blessing or a HUGE mistake. That’s why factoring as much as possible beforehand is such a wise thing to do.
Why Did the Two of You Break-Up?Giphy
I recently got certified (and soon to be credentialed) to be a professional certified coach (a holistic one). It’s interesting because, when you’re actually learning from an ICF-accredited school, a question that actually isn’t asked in life coaching is “Why?” Why is that? Because while therapy/counseling tends to focus on the past quite a bit, life coaching specializes in asking questions that will empower you to decide what is best for your future.
In this case, though, you definitely need to take your past into account because if you don’t factor in why you broke up with your ex in the first place, it could result in you just repeating the same ish that you did before — and if that ish is centered around things like abuse (neglect is abuse, by the way), constant lying or being taken for granted, you really need to do some serious vetting to see if those things are still a present-day issue.
And yes, this is a critical point to consider because, while some people live by the motto “forward ever, backward never” or my personal favorite, “getting back with an ex is like getting out of the shower and putting the same underwear on,” not every break-up is horrific or even devastating. Sometimes it really is a matter of meeting the right person at the wrong time or the two of you really liking each other, but something just doesn’t quite “click.”
You know, it is Benjamin Franklin who once said, “All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking WHY.” And since, hopefully, you’ve been learning, growing, and improving as an individual, ever since you ended things with your ex, asking yourself why you broke up and being really honest about the answer, that can help you to see WHY you should consider trying again or WHY the past should totally be left there.
What Lessons Did You Learn? During and Since Ending the Relationship?Giphy
Everyone is a lesson. That is, if you’re humble enough to know how to be taught anything (some of y’all will catch that later). And just so we’re all on the same page when it comes to this particular point, a lesson is a practical piece of wisdom, and wisdom is something that offers insight and heightens your sense of discernment. In other words, if it’s truly a lesson — and you apply it — there will be no reason to repeat it; your insight and discernment won’t let you.
So, when it comes to your ex, what lessons did they teach you? One of mine taught me to not convince myself to be with someone just because they are a good person. Another taught me to not "be a wife" to someone who is not my literal husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife"). Still, another taught me to stop mistaking nostalgia for actual love (more on that in just a bit). The first and second lessons I learned during the relationship. The last I learned after. And because the lessons were so profound, they totally altered my way of thinking — which makes getting back together with any of those guys basically an impossibility. Wisdom won't let me.
On the other hand, I have a friend who is kinda-sorta back with one of her exes because the lesson that she learned during the relationship was because she had never been in love before, she kept playing the exhausting game of come-close-go-away. Now that she's had some therapy (and matured a bit), she and her ex are in a far better place which makes it easier to interact with one another on another level. Is it just like it was before? No. In many ways, it's better because, since my friend has less anxiety, there is less stress on the relational dynamic, which makes them able to see where things could go a lot easier for both of them.
I am a firm believer that life is one big school. Thing is, when it comes to the lessons that you need to learn, you can stay in the same class for 20 years, if need be. So yeah, when it comes to pondering about getting back with your ex, did the lessons that you already learn reveal to you that it would be a smart move or a really dumb decision?
Who Reached Back Out First? (Yes, It Is Valid)Giphy
Typically, the "Who did it first?" question leans on the side of silly and/or petty and/or entitled to me. Oh, but not in this case. And although words cannot express how disgusted I am with how Brian McKnight is displaying extremely poor (fellow) Gemini energy, he is a great songwriter, and his song with the hook, "Do I ever cross your mind? Anytime?" — let me just say that an ex who says they never think about their exes from time to time they are a bold-faced liar.
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that they care enough to reach out or that it's a good idea, even if they're tempted to do so. So, when someone actually does step out and send an email, get in the DMs, or leave a voicemail (your ex still has your phone number? Interesting), that's quite telling — although you do need to take into serious account what it all actually means.
For instance, back when my first book came out, a few of the characters (pun intended and not intended) hit me up. One was my first love. All he really did was send me an email to tell me that he read the book and that he was sorry for the role that he played in the pain of the relationship. And that he would always love me.
Now guess what part I focused on? You can check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour" to get the gist of that. As a result, for several more years, off and on, that continued to be all that my heart (the Bible says the heart is deceitful; always remember that — Jeremiah 17:9-10) honed in on. That man didn't say that he wanted to rekindle anything. He said that he wanted to apologize. Lawd, how much we can spare ourselves if we'd just learn to listen to what is being said instead of editing conversations into what we want to hear.
So, did he reach out first? Yep. Did he want anything? Not really. And from personal experience, that’s why “who reached out first and why” is something else that needs to be given some serious thought. After all, the two of you broke up for a reason…so, if they do reach back out, now more than ever, it’s important to take their words literally. If he only wants to see if you’re well, let him know that you are and leave it there. If he wants to apologize, accept this apology and tell him to take care. If he asks to see you — now that’s when trying to figure out if reconnecting, on any level, is actually a good idea.
Bottom line here don’t make something be what it’s not. Oh, and if you are the one who reaches out first…let me just say that I know a woman who got ghosted by an ex back in college, she decided to reach back out to him some 20 years later, and all they’ve been doing is dating for over ten years now (even though she wants to be married). I mean…he didn’t come looking for her; she went out looking for him — which kind of translates to me that he was fine whether they spoke again or not.
See what I mean? *Elmo shrug*
Is It Love? Or Nostalgia?Giphy
Please, please, PLEASE — if you don't get anything else from this article, get this: just like fleeting passion can be mistaken for lasting love, so can nostalgia; the definition of the word explains a lot of the reason why, too: "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."
You know, the mind is a funny thing. "Funny" in the sense that, if you lean into nostalgia, it typically will edit out all of the crappy stuff while encouraging you to focus solely on the good times. For instance, I know a woman right now who got back into something with an ex who was sending her all kinds of expensive shoes and random flowers for the first few months…just like before. Now? Now he's calling her when he's tipsy to vent about his ex-wife.
How did she get caught up in this pattern? Good ole' nostalgia, chile. Initially, reconnecting included discussing fun dates and good sex. Yet, nostalgia is kind of like a drug — it gets you really high, yet sooner or later, you're gonna crash…and that can have you feeling super low.
You know, there's not one ex who I don't have a myriad of good memories of. Yet when I bring logic, common sense, and facts into the dynamic, they all needed to be exes — and honestly should stay just that way. Just because I "love" certain things about them, that doesn't mean that I'm actually still in love with them…and why let the former cause me to overlook the latter?
Pleasant thoughts are fine. They aren't enough to go off of to rekindle a relationship, though. You are far too precious. So is your time. This brings me to the next point.
Time Is Precious: How Would Reconciling Make the Most of Yours?Giphy
It actually wasn't too long ago that I penned the piece, "Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?" for the site. One of the things that I mentioned in it is there is something known as recycling (making something new without changing its original form), and then there's something known as upcycling (taking an original thing and changing it into something totally different; typically something better). That said, if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, I recommend that you determine if it's going to be an UPCYCLE for you. Otherwise, really…why do it?
Something that I oftentimes tell people in their 20s is it really is time out for acting like that decade is nothing more than being in the 2.0 version of your teens. In other words, if you don't make wise decisions, then, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And then you'll need even more time trying to heal and recover from it all.
Personally, that's one of the things that I mourn about a lot of the moves that I made back then; I had to spend a significant amount of my 30s healing so that, should I ever decide to marry a man, I will be the helpmate that he truly deserves. And that's another reason why I'm good on my exes — I don't have another decade to throw away.
And for those of you who may struggle with taking personal accountability and so you like to romanticize your poor choices by saying things like, "Nothing is a waste of time," — no offense, but that is a damn lie. Waste literally means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander," and yes — it is quite possible (and easier than most people think) to involve yourself in something (or with someone) without getting an adequate return…in return.
When one of my surrogate mothers passed away of cancer in her late 50s several years ago, one of the last things that she said to me on her hospice bed was, "It goes by sooner than you think," and I have always kept that in the forefront of my mind. As I get older, I find myself saying, "Where does the time go?" more and more.
An ex coming back into your life could potentially be an awesome thing. "Awesome" if the two of you aren't going to be a waste of each other's time. Again, use the definition of the word as a barometer. Be honest with yourself as you do.
This Time, Be Friends First (or Again)Giphy
I've been in the couples counseling game for a long time now. And if there's one thing that a lot of married and divorced people have told me, it's that they wish they had spent more time trying to cultivate a friendship with their spouse than a relationship — because when the foundation of something is unstable, the house will eventually crumble on some level.
And this brings us back to Nelly and Ashanti — they seemed to last for a good amount of time by keeping things private the first go around, so if they are indeed reconciling, I'm not sure why they would switch up the formula now. Either way, I hope that they and you will make friendship the top priority. Why? Because the best things come out of friendships. The healthiest relationships are included.
When it comes to you and your journey, please check out articles I've penned, like "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships," "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One," "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend," "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?" and definitely "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend." Because if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, the least that the two of you need to be towards each other is hella loyal, honest with each other, and respectful of each other's feelings, needs, and even a few wants. No relationship can thrive without those things intact and every healthy friendship consists of those "ingredients."
And you won't (fully) know if any of this is the case if you're quick to jump into bed or rush into a relationship without seeing how you are as friends…first.
You know, reconcile is a really interesting word. On the one hand, it can mean "to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired." On the other hand, it can mean things like "to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable" and "to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent." And with those definitions in mind, that's what you should focus on most of all.
- Is your ex willing to "win you over" by how they (now) treat you? Are you willing to do the same?
- Would being with them bring more or less harmony into your life?
- How compatible were you before, and how compatible do you seem to be now (sans the nostalgia)?
I will never say that getting back with an ex is a good or bad idea, full stop. I'll just say that if you're going back to your past, make sure it benefits your future. Otherwise, leave it right where it's at: nothing that your present needs beyond a scroll and a click…if that much, sis.
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Featured image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images