When I turned 45 this past summer, I wrote an article about what I would've told my 25-year-old self. While I did touch on a few relationship points, I think, in hindsight, that the reason why I left this one out, is because it really does deserve a write-up of its own. The reason why I say that is because, when I look back on some of the greatest sex that also turned out to be some of the most profound faux pas that I've ever experienced in my entire life, it was because of the title of this piece right here.
If there is one thing that I admire about people who wait until marriage before doin'-the-do, it's the fact that they made a formal long-term commitment before givin' it up; on their wedding night, they don't have to wonder if the feelings are real or if the person they just had sex with will be there the next morning…or even 20 years later (God willing). When it comes to all of the intensity and closeness that transpires, there's no need to try and figure out what part is physical and what part is emotional—what part they need to question and what part they can fully trust in. It doesn't matter. The love is there, the connection is solidified—great sex and a great life partner (again, God willing) are able to go hand-in-hand.
But what if you see sex differently from those who choose to wait until their "I dos"? Is there some sort of automatic way to keep from confusing good sex with a great relationship? I'm not sure if there is a ton of scientific data on that, but girrrrl—what I can share with you is a few things that life certainly taught me on this particular topic.
Ponder What Draws You to Him Outside of His Performance
My first sex partner was my first love. We were both young and didn't have a clue what we were doing. Plus, due to his immaturity, it took him a while to "sign on" to certain activities (kindly refer to "What?! Only 35 Percent Of Men Go Down? Say It Ain't So" to get what I'm talking about). I think that's why my second sex partner was able to get—and get away with—so much. Y'all, when I say that man was f-i-n-e. All tall, chocolate and freaky too. Although in some ways, we were homies, if you were to ask me what his greatest personality or character traits were, I'd have to sit on that. He was witty, I'll give him that; still, it's not like I was mentally or emotionally altered for the best by his influence or anything.
That doesn't mean that I didn't think that I was at the time. Shoot, any man you lust who is more than willing to do stuff to you that your first love wouldn't (until years later) is someone who tends to give you all of the feels; feels that make you think there is something real. But trust me, if you can't really think of too many redeeming qualities other than how he puts it down, that is your first red flag that there might not be much there other than orgasmic aftershocks masking themselves as genuine emotional attachment.
Remember Intimacy and Attraction Aren’t Synonymous
If you take out a moment to at least skim the article "The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship", you'll notice that sex isn't mentioned once. Affection is, but you can be affectionate with someone without any type of sexual activity transpiring. The reason why this is worth noting is because some people make the grave mistake of thinking that just because someone gives their stomach butterflies that it's automatically the beginning stages of intimacy. Nope. Just about every time that I see Kofi Siriboe in a pastel hue or Thomas Q. Jones in just about anything, my heart skips a beat. But I don't know them from Adam and they don't know me either.
Being attracted to someone simply means that they have some sort of quality that entices or allures. Intimacy? For real intimacy to happen, not only does it take time to cultivate, it has to go way beyond the physical. If the guy you're Jonesing for isn't someone you can share some of your deepest secrets with, if he doesn't nurture and cherish you and/or if you aren't able to say that you two have a strong friendship and spiritual bond—and get this, he is able to say that he sees you the same way—sure, the attraction may be strong…but that also might be all that is drawing the two of you together too.
Don’t Go into Sex with Lots of Assumptions
KevOnStage has a relatively new segment called "Dear Kev" that is comedy. He sits in one of his church suits, puts on a pair of glasses (even though he doesn't need them), reads questions and gives some of the worst TMI advice around. Oh, but as they say, a clock is right twice a day. In one of his latest offerings, Kev said, "When you see things through rose-colored glasses, red flags simply look like flags." Whew. Somebody sign up for that man's Patreon on that!
I can't tell you how many women have told me how upset they are because a guy they were having sex with "led them on" by making them think that they wanted a future with them. When I ask them what the man did to cause them to think that way, very rarely do they bring up him saying "I love you", him showing her off to his family and friends or him even really taking her out or talking about the future. Usually what I get is a blank stare followed by, "I mean, we've been having sex for months now." Then it's my turn to give them a blank stare.
When I once asked a male friend how so many men can have sex with women who they care absolutely nothing about, he simply said, "Do you think it's emotional for me to go and jack off in the shower? Jack off in a shower, jack off in a girl. One simply feels better but honestly, isn't always worth the headache."
That might've been hard to read, but that doesn't make it any less true. For better or for worse, a lot of men can clearly tell the difference between someone who they thoroughly enjoy having sex with vs. someone who they want to have a relationship with. Sometimes those two things are one in the same; sometimes they aren't. But what you don't need to do is be out here thinking that just because he "loves" the sex that it's a foreshadowing of him eventually falling in love with you. This brings me to my next point.
Know the Difference Between “Good to You” and “Good for You”
There's a guy who I once had a crush on who said something to me that took me a minute to really understand.
When he told me that he dug me in a lot of ways, but he didn't want to "take it there", his reason was, "I want to be good for you not to you". Translation—"If we have sex, it would probably be off the chain, but if I can't promise you more than that, it could end up hurting you in the long run. To me, that's just not worth it."
Oh, how those two little words—"to" and "for"—can totally alter a relationship. When a man is only looking for great sex, he may only care about being good to you. But if he's serious about guarding your heart, protecting a friendship and/or building something substantial, he's going to do things that are good for you. If that means queuing Janet Jackson's "Let's Wait Awhile" (have y'all seen her video boo Taimak lately? He's still fine) or even avoiding sex altogether—please remember your worth and value to know that sometimes there is true protection in that kind of rejection. If sex can't be good to you and for you, it's OK—recommended even—to take a hard pass. Or receive one.
Keep in Mind That Oxytocin Is One HELL of a Drug
As often as I have the opportunity to do it, I share a video of a woman who provides some of the straight-up insight on the physical consequences of sex that aren't discussed very often. For instance, did you know that if you have (unprotected) sex with two different guys within a few days, you will probably catch a cold because your body is made to only handle one set of sperm; therefore, it will abandon your immune system to get the other sperm out? Amazing.
The moral is this—Just because a lot of us may take a casual approach to sex, that doesn't mean that our body does. There are natural hormones like oxytocin that causes us to bond with our partner, no matter where our head may be at concerning him. That's why folks can have a one-night stand and end up damn near stalking the person the following week. They think it's an emotional connection when it could just be the oxytocin that's surging through their system. After all, they don't call it the "love hormone" for nothin'.
That said, one of my favorite quotes on hell is by an old English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes. He once said that, "Hell is truth seen too late." I can't tell you how many times an oxytocin high has caused me to not want to look at the real truth about a relationship (or situationship) that I was in. That denial caused me to send myself through some pretty hellish moments and experiences.
It takes more than sexual compatibility to make something last. If you choose to not believe that, one way or another, hell is exactly what you are headed for. If not today, someday. If not with the current guy, another one.
Avoid Deep Conversations in the Bedroom
I'm gonna be straight-up on this one. Unless you are a 16-year-old girl, I'm hoping you already know that it's a bit delusional and manipulative to wait until during sex to have first-time heartfelt and profound conversations. Just think about it—what exactly do you expect a guy to say to you when he's inside of you and you whisper, "Do you love me?" in his ear? If he doesn't and he decides to be honest with you about that, how do you expect the rest of that particular experience to go? (Hence the article "How Much Can You Trust 'I Love You' During Sex?")
I'm not saying that the bedroom is an off-limits space for verbal affirmations or emotional conversations. What I am saying is if there is something that you genuinely want to know, you should probably do it before or after sex—and not right before or right after either.
Remember in the movie A Thin Line Before Love and Hate when Darnell (played by Martin Lawrence) talked about getting some head that was so good that he said, "I love you" right in the midst of ejaculating? What he meant was I love it not her (clearly because he "passed her off" to one of his homies for a discount on a shirt). Knowing the difference is a total game-changer. It's a potential lifesaver too.
Pay Attention to How He Treats You When You Aren’t Hooking Up
Back when I wrote the article "5 Things That Are OK To Require On A First Date", some people found "require" to be too harsh of a word. When you think that time is something that you can never get back, I don't. Yes, men are grown. Yes, none of us can make them be chivalrous or honest when it comes to the answers to our questions that they give. But, at the same time, for every action, there is most certainly a reaction. If a guy doesn't meet our requirements, we are fully within our rights to not see him again.
Same thing goes for what we require before any nookie goes down. If you really want to know if you run the risk of mistaking a great sex partner for a great life partner, reflect on how he treats you whenever you're not naked or when he's not trying to get you naked. Does he take you out on dates (ones that are outside of both of you guy's homes)? Is he affectionate with you even without the need for sex? Does he call you during business rather than booty call hours?
If a guy is trying to cultivate an actual relationship, he's going to act like there is more to what the two of you have than the physical. He will initiate and be intentional about spending non-bedroom-related quality time as well. If you can't honestly say that this is what's transpiring…right. Whether you want to admit to yourself what's up or not, I've got a feeling that you know. Now what?
Check Your Own True Motives and Intentions
Sex is temporary. The experience, the feelings—all of it. That's why I am a firm believer that sex doesn't "make love"; sex celebrates love. In order for it to do that, love needs time to plant itself and grow. Moving on to my last point, if you're someone who desires nothing more than a good time, you're grown. Do you. But if you are truly feelin' someone and you're thinking that sex is going to be the "make love move" to get him to want the same things that you do—that's quite the gamble. Please rethink that strategy. It's not fair to either one of you if you're going to use sex to try and create a mental, emotional and spiritual bond. Sex shouldn't be a tool to get a man to want to be with you. It should be an experience to enjoy once you already know that he does.
I've been there when I say that a lot of us confuse a great sex partner for a great life partner because we weren't clear about our own true motives and intentions from the jump. If you want a relationship, work on building that before bringing sex into it. Because once he puts it on you, it's going to be harder to tell what's "the sex" and what's "the relationship". And sometimes, trying to figure out the difference is like trying to pull two pieces of paper that are joined by glue apart. There will be remnants and bewilderment that could take weeks, if not months, to work through. And believe you me, no matter how good the sex might be, the fall out (even if it's only internal) simply isn't worth it.
Can you have great sex and a great life partner. 100 percent. Should you use sex to try and make a great relationship happen? Absolutely not. If something lasting is what you want, let both of your emotions connect you before oxytocin does. You'll be able to trust your judgment a lot better that way. So will he.
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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. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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In 2024, there’s tons of thought and strategy that can go into dating online. While dating apps offer a convenient space to find potential partners, it’s become more complicated by the day to know just how to land a worthwhile match at all. With paywalls, roses, and Super Likes to push past while using dating apps, a common sentiment among singles is: do these apps really want us to find love at all?
Dating hopefuls are taking time to reevaluate their approach to dating as many discussions surrounding online dating are significantly influencing user behavior, particularly among Black singles. According to Jonathan Kirkland, Head of Brand and Marketing for BLK, these conversations shape the thoughts, expectations, and actions of singles and how they engage with dating platforms.
“The Black conversation shapes up the online dating world big time. We’ve seen how discussions around inclusivity, authenticity, and cultural relevance have driven more users to [dating] platforms, where they feel represented and understood,” Kirkland tells xoNecole. “But hey, it's all about personal vibes. Instead of buying into the hype, we're all about our community creating their own stories and shifting the narrative.”
How Online Dating Discourse Shapes Gen Z and Millennial Dating Preferences and Behaviors
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Across different age groups, distinct shifts in dating preferences and behaviors have been observed. Kirkland tells us that Gen Z prioritizes authenticity, social awareness, and online connectivity, while Millennials are focused on sharing values, pursuing their aspirations, and authentically representing their cultural identity.
These changes are not only shifting how singles are approaching the app, they’re influencing the flexibility in what was once seen as “non-negotiables" in long-term desires that are now becoming plausible considerations.
In a recent survey conducted by BLK, 100% of Gen Z and Millennials who participated in the study said they'd be open to starting a family with a friend. “It’s like, life's throwing them curveballs, and they're flipping the script on what family means,” Kirkland explains.
“Gen Z sees this whole platonic co-parenting thing as a game-changer for how we do families, making things more flexible and diverse. Millennials say it's all about building up your chosen family and locking down those intentional connections. Times are definitely changing.”
As culture evolves and social norms shift, these findings show that daters across generations are embodying a sense of adaptability in order to create the life they desire and love they deserve. That’s why we’ve tapped BLK’s Johnathan Kirkland to put us onto the 2024 dating trends that will help you win at love.
On the top trends singles can look forward to in the 2024 online dating space:
“One trend is ‘dawn dating,’ where you squeeze in dates before your workday kicks off. This offers a new level of convenience and efficiency,” he explains.
“And since it's an election year, get ready for 'partisan dating.' That's where singles prefer connecting with someone who's vibing on the same political wavelength. And with so many young voters more into the issues rather than the candidates, expect some real deep convos over policy matters.”
“Plus, we’re going to see more of a focus on looking after your mental health while you're dating. Platforms are rolling out initiatives to help you build solid relationships, while also prioritizing your own wellbeing,” he adds.
On the best icebreakers to hit a conversational flow with new matches:
Kirkland says that while breaking the ice can be difficult, one way to break the ice is to throw out questions that show your genuine interest. “Ask about their passions, where they love to travel, or maybe something cool they've experienced culturally lately.”
“It’s also nice to toss in a fun pop culture question, like, ‘So, are you #TeamMegan or #TeamNicki?’ It's all about getting that convo flowing.” he suggests. "BLK recently rolled out new profile prompts in our app last year to help spark these conversations. They're little conversation starters you can display on your profile, written or even voiced, so people can slide into your DMs without any awkwardness.”
On the best practices for users looking to connect with men who have aligned dating goals and avoid hookup culture:
“Be crystal clear about what you're after. And when you're scoping out potential matches, keep an eye out for those little signs that they're ready for something serious, too. Look for hints in their profiles, like if they're talking about their future goals or if your interests and values seem to click. But it's not all about what's written down. When you start chatting, keep it real and open. Lay it all out on the table early on—no beating around the bush.”
"Be crystal clear about what you're after. And when you're scoping out potential matches, keep an eye out for those little signs that they're ready for something serious too."
He continues, “Whether it's long-term love, a casual vibe, or just making new pals. No more wasting time on matches that aren't on the same page as you.”
On the advice he’d give to users who want to give dating apps another try, but are discouraged to do so:
“Let’s be honest. Dating apps are like any other technology —they're constantly evolving. So that app you checked out last year may have added new features, cool filters, and better ways to connect,” Kirkland says.
“If you're feeling a bit anxious about diving back into the dating app world, remember this: every swipe, chat, and date is a chance to learn something new about yourself. It's all about growth and discovery. Keep an open mind, but don't forget to set some boundaries and stay true to yourself. And if it all gets a bit overwhelming, take a breather.”
He adds, “Focus on some self-care, hit up your friends for a pep talk, or even chat with a pro if you need to. Because hey, who knows? The perfect match might just be a swipe away — so keep swiping.”
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