Recently, while catching up with one of my male friends on the phone, I teased him about how much he's been going out to restaurants for lunch, being that there's a pandemic 'n all (because Google links alert us to where it's easier to catch COVID-19. Two places are restaurants and, well, church; you're a whopping 16 times more likely to get it there!). Since I'm well aware of the fact that he and his wife have been working at home, pretty much since quarantine began, the marriage life coach in me just had to ask—"Are you out so much because you're sick of being at home with your wife all day?" He didn't even hesitate when he said, "ABSOLUTELY!". And shoot, they have a pretty healthy relationship. Imagine how all of the couples who don't have one are feeling right about now.
Actually—and on some levels, unfortunately—you don't have to wonder. According to a lot of data that I've checked out, even since the pandemic hit, the uptick on divorces has jumped—catch it—34 freakin' percent since March, with 31 percent of the couples directly citing COVID-19 (and quarantining because of it) as the cause.
To be fair, even though the pandemic has tap danced on the very last nerve of basically all of us, at one point or another, I've been in the marriage counseling game long enough to know that just one thing doesn't attribute to a marriage falling apart. Even if infidelity comes into play, oftentimes the cheating happens because a whole lot of other "snowflakes" were ignored before that "avalanche" occurred.
So, why is it that so many folks are jumping the Love Boat ship right now? And, more importantly, what are some steps that you can take to ensure that you and yours can avoid becoming a pandemic divorce statistic? I'm so glad you asked. Here are eight safeguarding tips that I hope can help you out.
1. What Was the State of Your Marriage Prior to COVID-19?
Trial by fire. I'm pretty sure that a lot of you have heard that phrase before. If there's one thing that something like this pandemic does is, it tends to bring things to the surface that might have been ignored or even overlooked before. For instance, did you know that, on average, a lot of couples only spend two hours a day together? And that includes the weekends! This means that, whatever pet peeves, communication issues or straight-up incompatibilities that two people may have, for the most part, they can avoid it getting too much to them if they are only dealing with their spouse, about as long as their favorite movie lasts, once a day.
Oh, but then came along COVID-19 to blow all of that selective avoidance totally out of the water! Now husbands and wives have to directly deal on a whole 'nother level—and many aren't hanging in very well. While it's easy to simply chalk it up to the pandemic, it's important to be more realistic than that.
Take a moment to ask yourself how your marriage was before January (when we found out that COVID-19 was headed our way) and March (when we started quarantining due to the pandemic). Were there issues that you were having way before then that you just weren't dealing with? Because I'm willing to bet that if things were good prior to this pandemic, while stress-filled at times, it would not be what suddenly made you want to call it quits.
2. Try Not to Unfairly Transfer Your Stress
One of the clear signs that we've matured into emotionally healthy and responsible individuals is when we know that we've mastered the art of not transferring stress onto people or situations that don't deserve it. What I mean by that is, say that your boss has become the absolute most (when it comes to making demands), ever since the pandemic started and that has added some additional stress and anxiety into your world. If you're working from home and your spouse is too, it can be easy to take out your irritation or frustration on them (after all, they don't sign your paycheck, so you tend to be more "reckless" with them). Be careful. If you do that long enough, it can be easy for them to start getting pissed because they're sick and tired of being your emotional punching bag. Now, all of a sudden, the two of you are thinking that your marriage is the problem when really, it's your sucky boss.
If there was ever a time when people need to learn how to make self-care a top priority, this would be it. Meditating. Praying. Going for walks. Turning off your devices after a certain time. Vegging out and watching something totally stupid on television. Video chatting with some of your friends. Having wine on your back deck. Having sex with your spouse. These are all things that can help to decrease the mental tension that you've got going on. Plus, as an added benefit, the less stressed you are, the easier it is to get to the root of what is truly bothering you, so that you can put the energy towards where it needs to actually go, rather than the closest source in your space—which could very well be your partner.
3. Remember Why You Married Your Spouse in the First Place
Listen, if y'all didn't catch a peak of Lenny Kravitz in Men's Health magazine, do yourself a big ole' favor and click right here. Anyway, one of the things that he talks about in his interview is his endearing bromance with his ex-wife Lisa Bonet's current husband Jason Momoa. Well, as I was reading another article about Jason's take on how he and Lisa are handling this time of quarantine, after 14 years of marriage, I like that he said that it's given them time to really work on them as a couple.
What's interesting about that is, the married couples I personally know who have always, for the most part, been in sync, this pandemic has caused them to come to a similar conclusion as Jason. It's not that this season hasn't come with its challenges—but divorcing? That has been the last thing on their mind. If anything, they've been trying to figure out how to make their union stronger.
If you just read that and were like, "That's sweet but I am nowhere close to feeling that way right now," take a moment to reflect on why you married your spouse in the first place. Sometimes, in order to get a grasp on how to handle the hard times, it's beneficial to reflect on some happy memories. By the way, this tip isn't just so that you can "feel better". Sometimes, after some years have passed, the very thing that once attracted you to your partner can be the very thing that makes you want to totally lose it. But if you put that "thing" into perspective, it might be just what you need to balance you out and help you grow.
So if your spouse is so much on your nerves right now that you can't see one good thing about them or staying with them, reflect on back when you were dating and what made you agree to marry them in the first place. If they're still that person, be intentional about focusing on the good. It'll pay off in the long run.
4. Be Honest with Your Partner About How You’re Feeling
It's kinda crazy that, the two people who folks seem to be the least forthcoming with, are their spouse and their therapist (if they've got one). The reason why I say that is, I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a session and one of the spouses has said something that completely blindsided the other. That's why Luther Vandross' songs "A House Is Not a Home" and Tamia's "Stranger in My House" have so much truth to them. Sharing the same roof with someone doesn't mean you are actually connecting with them. Quality time, dates, pillow talk, conversations when all electronic devices are off—all of these moments are needed in order for two people to feel emotionally close to one another.
I can't tell you how many spouses (usually, it's husbands; I'm just gonna be real with y'all) are constantly penalized for not picking up on their partner's passive aggressive behavior or hints. When your partner said, "for better or for worse" on your wedding day, a part of what they were signing up for is being able to handle your feelings, your frustrations and your fears. It's not fair to you or your spouse to suppress your thoughts and emotions. While timing and delivery are important, you'd be amazed how much can be resolved by being transparent—and then allowing your partner to do the same.
5. Minimize Your Time with Debbie (or Donnie) Downers
Any time I hear someone say, "Never take marital advice from single people", like it's a blanket rule or something, the first thing that comes to my mind (other than the fact that, other than Moses, Christ and Paul spoke the most on marriage in the Bible and they weren't married) is that the divorce rate sits at around 50/50. This means that if you're married, you probably need to be more concerned about that 50 percent of folks who are divorced and what they've got to say; marital status does not automatically make someone a great example or teacher on the topic (just sayin'). The far better resolve is to listen to people who are advocates of marriage and, more specifically, YOUR MARRIAGE. Single people read. Single people have insights on love and relationships. Single people are capable of offering up perspectives that you may have never considered before. Don't miss out because you're currently subscribing to a saying that is nowhere close to being totally accurate or reliable.
That said, whether the person is single, married or divorced, definitely make sure that they speak positivity into your life. I've got a newly divorced friend who, honestly, is more peace-filled now than he was in his marriage. However, what I've had to do is encourage him to stop rolling up in his barbershop every week, on a mission to get single men to never marry. Just because his wife was totally off-the-chain (and she really was), that doesn't mean that no one else should jump the broom.
Marriage isn't ever the problem. Choosing the right (or not-so-right) person is what poses the challenges that so many couples have.
During the trying times of your relationship, the last thing you need is bitter people, bad energy or tainted advice being constantly spoken into your space. So, if you must talk about what's going on in your relationship, speak with those who are rallying for you to stay with your partner; not those who can't wait for you and yours to break-up. Especially if it's for no other reason than misery loves company. SMDH.
6. Apply Some Real Thought to the “It’s Cheaper to Keep” Saying
Listen, sometimes you really have to take the "How can I gas myself up until these feelings pass?" approach to honoring your commitment. And divorces? They ain't cheap, chile. I know some husbands who are pushing through because they don't wanna pay alimony and child support. I know some wives who are pushing through because their state says that whoever leaves first, they end up walking away from their property (like their house).
While staying with someone because you don't want the financial stress and strain of leaving might sound shallow or even unimaginable to some, to me, serves for two great points. If you're a single person reading this, remember that marriage is a business; one that comes with a contract known as a marriage license. A HUGE part of what makes divorces messy isn't so much the feelings as the finances. And two, if you are married, one way to make sure that you're not simply emotionally jumping the gun by threatening divorce is to think about how it will affect your livelihood once you actually do. A part of the reason why I wrote the article, "What Some People Regret About Their Divorce" for this platform is because there are A LOT of people who think that getting divorced is a simple solution to a marital problem when, oftentimes, it is anything but.
Divorces tend to take a real financial toll on people, even before COVID-19 hit. If you're thinking about leaving your spouse, simply because they are "getting on your nerves", you might wanna revisit that strategy. Being financially strapped, for who knows how long, could be what ends up stressing you TF out a helluva lot more.
7. Zoom with a Therapist (If Necessary)
While I'm sure that a part of the reason why I feel this way is because I am a marriage life coach, I continue to be floored by the amount of married couples who will separate and/or divorce without getting ANY kind of counseling beforehand. When your marriage is in trouble or turmoil, it can be difficult to see things from any perspective other than "I hate this" and "I'm out". Whether it's a reputable counselor, therapist or relationship coach, oftentimes, they are able to offer up angles, tips and tools that can help you to 1) more effectively communicate with your partner; 2) figure out how to stick it out and 3) improve your relationship so that, not only do you avoid getting a divorce but you can be better than you've ever been.
Divorce is serious. It's life-altering as well. Not only that, but on your wedding day, you and your spouse took vows and vows are promises. If you love your partner but you need some help either seeing why staying is worth it or how to make your relationship elevate out of the mere "survival mode" level of things, seek out a professional. There are plenty who are willing to have Zoom meetings. It could very well be the best investment that you've ever made, marriage wise.
8. Never Forget: Seasons Do Pass
Isn't it interesting that, we learn to accept seasons? Whether you hate winter and adore summer, winter is gonna come, like clockwork; the best thing that you can do is prepare and adjust. Same thing applies to marriage. Sometimes things are gonna be awesome. Other times, eh, not so much. Yet if you know this and make peace with it, being thrilled during the good times and patient during the challenging ones can also be a real key to your marriage's longevity.
And if it's the season of COVID-19 that's testing you to no end, resolve to stay positive, knowing that this too shall pass. And if you and your spouse are committed to having each other's back rather than pushing each other away—you very well could come outta this thing with a stronger marriage rather than a pandemic divorce. Hang in there, y'all. More times than not, it's worth it if you do.
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
Featured image by Shutterstock
- Till Petty Do Us Part: How Arguing Changes In A Marriage ... ›
- Monica & Shannon Brown Are Proof That Not All Breakups Have To ... ›
- 6 Reasons Why Rebound Relationships Should Be Avoided At All ... ›
- How Men Cope With Divorce - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love ... ›
- 6 Reasons Why Rebound Relationships Should Be Avoided At All Costs - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Relationship Problems Pandemic Tips - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Monica & Shannon Brown Are Proof That Not All Breakups Have To Be Bitter - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Married Couples Dealing With Pet Peeves - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Why Rebound Relationships Are Bad - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- January Peak Divorce Time And Other Statistics - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- How to Keep Your Divorce Moving Forward During a Pandemic ... ›
- Divorce during coronavirus: Will splits soar after pandemic ... ›
- Contemplating Divorce Amidst the Pandemic? | Psychology Today ›
- The Man Who Coaches Husbands on How to Avoid Divorce - The ... ›
- Don't Let Your Marriage Become Another Coronavirus Casualty ... ›
- How to avoid becoming a coronavirus divorce statistic ›
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.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
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.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Mint Images/Tim Robbins/Getty Images