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.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Being a sexual empath shapes the orgasmic experience into an emotionally charged journey. The intense connection with a partner's energy elevates the pleasure of orgasm but may also leave a lingering sense of emotional fatigue. Experiencing a mind-blowing orgasm involves not only the physical release but also absorbing and reflecting a partner's emotions.
"Sexual empaths are people whose energetic level intensifies during sexual activity. It dramatically affects the way they connect with others during sexual experiences because they can deeply connect with their partner's sexual energy," said Kasey King, LMFT.
The exchange of energies during orgasm may involve absorbing both the ecstasy and potential negative emotions, adding a layer of complexity to the post-orgasmic experience.
King is a marriage and sex therapist located in Fort Worth, TX. She owns a private practice, Lavender Healing Center, that offers relationship, sex therapy, and healing services to clients located in Texas and Mississippi. King spoke with xoNecole about what sex is like for a sexual empath, the impact of sexual empathy on orgasm, and navigating sex with a sexual empath.
What Sex is Like for a Sexual Empath?
Engaging in sex as a sexual empath can be emotionally intense, leading to a sense of depletion. The empathic experience extends beyond physical release, often requiring a period of emotional recharge to restore balance.
"Because of their ability to absorb and give energy, sex can be euphoric but also leave you feeling empty and not in a pleasing way," King explained.
For a sexual empath, managing the emotional aftermath is essential to maintaining their well-being and preserving the depth of connection in future intimate encounters.
"Common patterns after sex are not always the same. Aftercare can look different for sexual empaths. While some empaths feel a deeper connection, others can disconnect and shut down. As a sexual empath, it may be important to discuss your post-sex desires before sex so you aren't left feeling used, and the experience is not one-sided," King recommended.
The Impact of Sexual Empathy on Orgasm
The drained sensation experienced by a sexual empath after sex extends to their orgasmic encounters. While the orgasm itself is a powerful culmination of physical and emotional elements, the aftermath leaves the empath in need of a thoughtful recovery. Their intense emotions can lead to a sense of emotional and physical fatigue.
"The exchange of their energy during orgasm is not always beautiful. You can have a mind-blowing orgasm and absorb your partner's negative energy while they are now rejuvenated. It is important to be mindful of your sexual partner's stress and emotional availability while engaging in sexual activity to ensure you are getting what you need as well," King said.
King shared that orgasms differ from other sexual empaths and can be more intense with other sexual empaths.
"Since sexual empath's energies are highly sensitive, it is easier to pick up each other's cues regarding pleasure, resistance, and anxiety," she said." Orgasms with similar energies are also more powerful and meaningful for that reason. When a sexual empath has sex with a non-sexual empath, orgasms may still occur. However, it may look different because energy is not always shared and understood. Non-sexual empaths can still provide their [sexual empath] partners with an intense orgasm because they took the time to understand what their partner needs."
Unfortunately, if a non-sexual empath doesn't take the time to understand their partner's needs, then their needs go unmet. And when the needs of a sexual empath are unmet, emotional disconnection ensues, and it casts a shadow over the intimacy in the relationship.
"Since sexual empaths feel on a deeper level and can meet the needs of their partner easily, they push their needs aside. [Sexual empaths] may fall into the role of 'people pleaser' or unintentionally sexually submissive. As a 'people pleaser,' sexual empaths can also misread the sexual experience and be left feeling foolish and unfulfilled," King revealed.
Navigating Sex with a Sexual Empath
Navigating sex with a sexual empath as a non-empath involves fostering open communication and mutual understanding. Recognizing and respecting the empath's heightened sensitivity to emotions is crucial. Prioritize clear verbal and non-verbal communication to ensure both partners feel heard and connected. Establishing trust and creating a safe space for emotional expression contributes to a fulfilling and harmonious sexual experience, allowing the unique dynamics of the empathic connection to flourish.
"As a marriage and sex therapist, I first assess a couple's sexual connectedness, then discuss their individual meaning of sex, which often differs," said King.
"In relationships where one partner is a sexual empath, practical exercises can include explaining your sexual cues because the non-sexual empath can often misunderstand them. Also, mutually engaging in non-penetrative intercourse to learn each other's needs, desires, and kinks on a deeper level," she added.
King noted that being a sexual empath doesn't necessarily mean your energy is shared equally or with a deserving partner.
"Sexual empaths can get sucked in, which may complicate the relationship. Empaths give freely yet aren't always verbally expressive. To heighten your sexual experience and have an amazing orgasm, ensure pleasure is not only expressed but understood. Know that you are deserving to receive what you give."
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