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
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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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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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