So, if you've been rocking with this site for several years now, you might vaguely recall an article that I wrote, a couple of years back entitled, "Why You Need To Grieve Your Past Relationship." The bottom line was if you don't make the time to go through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — even when it comes to the ending of a romantic relationship, you could 1) mistake a lack of thorough and proper grieving for still loving someone and/or 2) prolong the process of healing, so that you can actually move forward.
Today, while this topic is somewhat along these lines, I'm actually going to touch on something a bit different. The reason why is because, after watching a movie where one of the female characters said, "How dare you not be the man I thought that you were in my mind," I felt it was also important to address that sometimes, we as women have a tendency to send ourselves through stress, strain and total emotional upheaval — not so much because the guy we were (or are) seeing did anything "wrong" to us or even because anything tumultuous happened in the relationship. It's simply because, if we're being really real with our own selves, we know that we wanted "him" to be someone he's not — and that is what we need to grieve so that we can know what to do next.
If that paragraph totally resonates with your mind, body and spirit on some level, let's walk through how you can grieve who you thought the man you care about was…even as you're catching on that he's not really that person at all.
Be Honest: Have You Been Ignoring Some Somewhat Subtle Red Flags?
Wanna know a sign of being a low-key control freak in relationships? When you ignore red flags under the guise of "I can change him". While this way of thinking is pretty common, I don't know if it's addressed enough, just how arrogant and presumptuous that sounds. Who are we to change anyone? That's not our job in any kind of relational dynamic. Yet when folks are of this mindset, they can be so caught up in what they think they are capable of doing — or even should do — that they will dismiss all kinds of blaring red flags.
How do I know? I used to struggle with being a control freak in this lane and it definitely caused me to overlook some stuff that I shouldn't have. And just what are some red flags that are beyond obvious ones like abuse or blatant disrespect? If you and the guy you're seeing don't want the same things (for instance, you want to be married and he absolutely does not). If you and the guy that you are seeing have different standards and values. If you and the guy you are seeing communicate poorly (like you chalk up constant arguing to being playful banter; relationships need to be peace-filled as much as possible).
If you and the guy you are seeing define things like exclusivity in dating in totally different ways. If you and the guy you are seeing are not doing a good job at meeting each other's needs. These are just some examples of what are considered to be signs of an unhealthy relational dynamic; still, so many people ignore them because whether it's fear, ego, or both, they tell themselves, "I mean, I might see that this person isn't the right fit but because I already decided that they should be, I will make them fit by trying to make them be who I want."
What a lot of folks who think like this don't realize is, the moment they've got to apply force (or even manipulation) in order to try and make something manifest, they actually need to be seen as a red flag to other people. Because y'all, it is off-the-charts crazy, just how many individuals will ignore signs that someone isn't a good match for them, believing that they will put their blood, sweat, and tears into turning them into something else and then acting like that person is the bad guy when things don't go as they planned. No one is the villain just because they didn't succumb to an agenda that consisted of trying to change them into something that they're not. And just why does this happen so often? I mean, besides the control freak thing? This brings us to my next point.
Did You Cast Him into Your Fairy Tale Without His Knowledge…or Permission?
Living for the fairy tale. Personally, I close-to-loathe that phrase. I've shared before that it's because I know that fairy tale means "a story, usually for children" and "an incredible or misleading statement, account, or belief". You know, not too long ago, someone asked me what has surprised me the most about adulthood; the first thing that came to my mind is how many "old children" there are. In this lane, the stories that are often told to children are ones that far too many adults are still using to program their own minds when it comes to romantic situations.
Is it wrong to want to be in a relationship that you can describe as amazing, wonderful, and fulfilling? Absolutely not. At the same time, when you run with phrases like "my Prince Charming", I mean, don't even get me started on how even the Bible says that "charm is deceitful" (Proverbs 31:30); for now, we can just go with…who do you know is married to a prince? And if we tie this into fairy tales, do you ever hear what happens after the "…and they lived happily ever after part" of the story? Chile, we don't have a clue what Prince Charming and Cinderella went through after their wedding day. It's like we're left to make the rest of the story up.
And that's kind of my point. If you are still leaning into a "fairy tale mentality," you also can make up narratives to go however you want. If you're not careful, you can also carry that into your relationships with men. Before you know it, you've decided that some guy you like should be some leading character with all of the traits that you created in your mind. Then, you find ways to "sway" him into fitting into those roles — oftentimes without him knowing that that's what you're up to or that he wasn't even asked to sign up to go through those kinds of emotional contortionist positions.
Hey, I never said that this article was going to be an easy one. I simply said that sometimes grieving who you thought someone was is something that needs to happen. If you know that you've been guilty of coming up with your own story and then inserting some man that you like into it, script and all, this is a reality that must be faced. Otherwise, you are more of a villain in your own fairy tale than you will probably ever choose to accept.
Is Denial a Pattern for You (Especially in Relationships)?
Those of us who work in the lane of therapy/counseling/life coaching know that it's pretty common to have clients who use a state of denial as to their front line of defense when you're trying to confront them about something. And what are some telling indicators that someone is indeed living this way? They refuse to talk about their issues (or they don't tell all of what has led up to them). They are constantly on the defensive. They only share the good stuff. They find all kinds of ways to justify their mindset, behavior, or patterns. They "edit out" what they don't want to face head-on.
One of the boyfriends from my past, I was in a lot of denial about. I wasn't really physically attracted to him. I carried 90 percent of the financial burden in the relationship. He loved me more than I loved him while I wanted different things at a different time than he did (for instance, he actually loved me enough to marry me while I wanted to get married much sooner than he did; I ignored that I didn't love him enough because marriage was such a personal priority at the time). Yet because I wanted to be cherished so badly and I had already invested so much time into us, I spent a lot of time denying what was while telling myself to ONLY focus on the good. In the long run, it wasn't worth it. Living in denial rarely is.
The thing about making denial a pattern in your life is it's directly connected to self-delusion and self-deception. So, when it comes to this particular point, if you're not sure if you're living in denial when it comes to your relationship or not, ask some of your friends what they think. Real friends only want what's best for us and because they are not mentally, emotionally, and perhaps physically invested in the guy we're with in the way that we are, they can pick up on "hold up signals" in a way that we simply cannot. Can't. Yet still, need to.
Is Whatever’s Disappointing You Deal-Breaking Material?
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?" The reason why I'm mentioning it here is that, while it might seem on the onset that my recommendation to grieve who you thought someone was means that you are to kill and bury the relationship altogether, that is not necessarily the case at all. Again, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. So, what I mean is if you are in a constant state of irritation or even frustration because the man you want or even prefer (because want and prefer are not exactly the same thing) doesn't exist even though you keep trying to make want you want or prefer to be so, sometimes you really need to face that you are 1) in denial; 2) angry; 3) using pressure, ultimatums, manipulation, nagging and/or control to bargain with him to change; 4) you might actually be somewhat depressed about your situation (a profound definition of depressed is "anger turned inward") and so 5) it's time to accept reality for what it is.
And in this case, what you really need to come to terms with is, can you ACCEPT him for who he ACTUALLY is, or do you need to accept that you both should probably part ways, so that you both can be with someone who want try to change either one of you? One of the most helpful ways to come to the decision that you need to make is when it comes to who he truly is, are you upset because things aren't going your way, or are there real deal-breakers on the table? For instance, if you told yourself that he will become uber romantic and he just isn't that guy, can you deal with that long-term? Or if you told yourself that physical attraction doesn't have to be that important yet it's affecting your intimacy with him, can you really learn to adjust, or is it not something that you can get past? Or if he's all that you want in a husband but he has stated, more than once, that he doesn't want to get married (check out "He Loves You. He's Just Never Gonna Marry You. Now What?"), where do you go from here? Like, for real, for real?
A part of the reason why it's crucial to go through the grieving process whenever someone reveals themselves to not be who we thought they were is because it's the acceptance of this fact that helps us to make wiser decisions when it comes to what to do about the relationship, moving forward. If you don't grieve all of this, you could remain stagnant. And in this case, on a lot of levels, unfortunately, that typically equates to settling.
If This Stuff Applies to You, GRIEVE.
A writer by the name of Anne Rophe once said, "Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life." To me, this is one of the best ways to bring this article to a close. I say this because, if you now know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you are grieving, not so much who a man actually is but who you thought he was, you can embrace the fact that it's not until you fully acknowledge the loss of that version of him that you can start to remake your life — whether that means coming to accept that it needs to be with him which includes the reality of the facts of what you're actually dealing with or alone so that you can 1) learn to become more honest with yourself about seeing people for who they really are so that 2) you can start dating and building with someone from a more realistic perspective.
And what should the grieving process look like?
Journal out what you've been in DENIAL about and why. While you're at it, if you know that all of this is a pattern of yours, write about that too.
Give yourself the opportunity to be ANGRY about what you've been denying so that you can get out your frustrations and not take them out on him. If this means venting to a friend or even speaking with a counselor, please do it.
Determine NOT TO BARGAIN over what you want vs. who he is. While all relationships require compromise and it's important to realize that it's rare to get everything that you want on your list from someone else (check out "The Pros & Cons Of Creating A 'What I Want In A Man' Checklist"), if you feel like you're making concessions that are going to leave you completely unfulfilled, long-term, you need to understand that aren't making the true definition of what a sacrifice is — "a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable". No one should feel like they've got to convince themselves to stay with someone else. Bargaining is oftentimes doing just that.
If you come to the decision to end the relationship, it's OK to feel SAD. Clearly, there were some good things about the person and the dynamic that caused you to stand. Internalizing your emotions will just prolong the healing process.
ACCEPT whatever you ultimately decide to do. If you decide to stay, be intentional about not trying to change him. If you decide to leave, be disciplined enough to not go back until you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you can accept him as-is; that you will only be there to support him in the changes he desires to make based on the man he needs to become vs. the man you want him to be (because that is not always or automatically one and the same).
Grieving can be hard. Shoot, harder than even that. This includes when it's tied to something like conjuring up an image in our mind that doesn't actually exist. But if you do it, you allow healing and clarity to manifest — and when you approach relationships from this space, you are more whole, you are more relaxed and you are better able to see things for what they are, not for what you want them to be. And then you can make wiser mate selection decisions from that. I know this from very up close and personal experience. So, grieve it out, sis. Grieve it all out. The pain won't last forever and you'll be the better for it. You truly will.
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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.
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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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