If you're married and reading this, tell me something — if you were to ask your spouse, right now, to define how you make them feel within the marriage and they could only use one word, what do you think your partner would say? As someone who has sat across from countless couples, I'll tell you something that I hear more than I ever should — "My spouse makes me feel judged."
Because I'm about to break a lot of what judgment means in just a sec, let me just say in the intro that if you currently feel like there is tension or a disconnect or some sort of lack of emotional intimacy within your relationship, I wouldn't be shocked if it has, at least something to do with the fact that, one or both of you is feeling judged far more than either of you ever should. The good news is there is something that you can do to (semi) easily redirect that energy. Let's see what that hack is.
First of All, Judging Isn’t Automatically or Always a Bad Thing
I believe I've shared before that, if there's one thing that I was over, well before it ever really began, it's how folks act like judge (which is a five-letter word) is a four-letter word (a cuss word). Usually when people want to have this conversation with me about this, the first thing I say is, "If someone tells you that you are cute, guess what? They just judged you." I mean, beauty pageants and talent shows have judges and in those instances, to most, it's all good. What people don't like is correction and/or criticism. And that usually speaks to an issue of ego.
And before some of y'all bring in the Bible on this, like so much of Scripture that gets fractionated in order to make folks feel more comfortable (for example, people quoting that God will give them the desires of their heart without adding in the part where he says delight in him first or folks saying that he who is without sin should cast the first stone without adding in the part where Christ also said "go and sin no more" to the sinner), yes, Matthew 7:1 does say "Judge not, that you be not judged." However, Matthew 7:2 swings around and then says, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
This means that you should take into account that the way you judge someone is how you will get judged back — one way or another. Besides, Luke 6:37 states, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" and Matthew 6:14-15 states, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" and still, people find a billion-and-one ways to justify why they shouldn't forgive others (hmm…). Let me stay on topic, though.
When you factor in what Matthew 7 says along with what John 7:24 instructs ("Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.") and then you stop to ponder the fact that judging literally means things like "acute discernment" (the Good Book is all over us needing to operate with discernment) along with "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion" — I don't know how you are able to make sound and wise decisions in life unless you are able to make good judgment calls. And when you're married, I'm not sure how you can effectively hold your partner accountable — as they do the same thing for you; some folks conveniently want to overlook that part — unless some "judging" is involved too.
So no, I absolutely don't have a problem with judging or being judged. What does need to go on record is the fact that anything that's out of balance is problematic. Judging is not excluded. So, let's touch on that before I get to my overall and bottom line point.
Here’s Where Judging Can Go WAY Left, Though
Anything that isn't kept in check can get totally out of hand. Judging definitely applies. In fact, that's a part of the reason why I wrote "Are You His Partner Or His Second Mama?" for this platform because, the reality is, many people don't judge for accountability's sake; many do it in order to boss people around, act like they are better than others or — most importantly — to deflect from their own issues. And just how can you know that you are someone who falls into this kind of space?
- In your mind, your feelings are the facts. About everything.
- You're inflexible when it comes to other perspectives.
- You are hypercritical.
- You're constantly correcting (yet don't want to be corrected).
- YOU. DON'T. LISTEN. TO. OTHERS.
- You expect perfection from those around you (even though you want to be excused for your own faults and flaws).
- You constantly jump to conclusions.
- You're not a safe space for folks to share their vulnerabilities.
- You are short on patience and tolerance.
- Everything is black-and-white.
- You're unforgiving.
- You make statements more than ask questions (bookmark that one).
While all of this can certainly apply to everyone, regardless of their relational status, since we're dealing with marriage today, I'm gonna focus on it from that angle. That said, although there are plenty of articles out here that vouch for the fact that poor communication, financial challenges and a lack of intimacy are reigning reasons for why many marriages fall apart, I stand amazed by how few choose to touch on just how much being overly-judgmental can tear down an intimate relationship too.
For one thing, who wants to be in that kind of space all of the time — a space that puts you on eggshells, keeps you anxious and has you totally stressed out? If there is one place where these things shouldn't exist at a very bare minimum, it's in your home and within your marriage. Also, when folks signed up for "'til death do us part", no one wanted to marry a dictator or a second parent. Indeed, some folks really struggle with understanding that their spouse is not their subordinate or their child. And third, people don't grow in a space where they are constantly ridiculed or berated and if there is one thing that marriage should do, it should help both people to flourish — mind, body and spirit.
So yes, while I do think that a certain amount of judgment — again, based on definitions like "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion" — is necessary, in both directions (don't "dish it" if you can't "take it"), in order for a husband and wife to grow, as individuals and a unit, if you know that you can check at least four out of the 12 things that I said, some things without your relationship and how you relate to your partner are totally out of wack. This means that you are doing more harm than good to your relationship and it's time to bring things back to the middle. And just how do you do that? This is where wondering comes in.
This Is Why the Act of Wondering Can Be a More Effective Approach
So, when I listed some of the signs that someone is too judgmental, do you recall how I suggested that you bookmark the 12th point? Boy, the way you can connect so much better with your partner when you make it a point to not tell them what to do or how to think (or what they are thinking) and instead, to ask questions — it really is like night and day.
Questions bring a respectful tone to the conversation. Questions bring forth clarity. Questions convey the message that you genuinely want to hear where someone else is coming from because you know that communication isn't just about you talking all of the time and not giving someone else the platform to be heard. And to me, questioning is a form of wondering because wondering is about curiosity and curiosity is about being eager to learn. And trust me, until you and your partner part (either by divorce or through death), there will always be something that you need to learn about them because they will always be transitioning and evolving.
And honestly, this is one more reason why being super judgmental can create a wedge between two people; it's because when you are constantly judging your partner, not only are you arrogantly conveying (even if it's subconsciously) that there is nothing else you need to learn about them or your relationship, you're also shutting down the path for your spouse to want to share more about themselves. In fact, when it comes to a lot of the couples that I've worked with where infidelity was an issue, having a judgmental partner (on the front end) definitely played a big role because, since the one who cheated felt like their spouse didn't want to learn more about their wants and needs, they found themselves gravitating to an individual who actually did. Yeah, that's another thing about being judgmental — it can damper your intimacy (physically and emotionally) because no one really finds that appealing or attractive.
A preventative measure to avoid all of this is to judge less and wonder more.
You know, there is an author by the name of Betty Smith who described wonder in a way that I like a lot. She once said, "Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first time or the last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory." Remember when you and your man were first getting to know each other? It was difficult to be super judgmental because everything was so new and exciting. And while it is a bit unrealistic to expect you to return to that exact mindset, what I will say is every day is new and if you are being even a little observant, you will get that within each day is an opportunity to learn something new about your partner and/or take a new approach to the relationship.
For instance, ask him instead of telling him what he thinks; then don't listen in order to respond — listen in order to grasp his feelings, insights, perspectives, wants and needs. The "wonder of it all" can help you to become more embracing and tolerant as he becomes more trusting and comfortable (and vice versa).
Listen, I know husbands who have a super judgmental wife and wives who have a super judgmental husband. What they all have in common is it takes everything in them, on a daily basis, to not leave (I'm not exaggerating either). Just something to keep in mind if you think that judging over wondering is not "all that bad". Indeed, it is and I would hate for you to — pardon the pun — wonder if you should've taken this approach a lot sooner, once you realize that it may be too late.
Judge less. Wonder more. Watch how it blesses your marriage. Truly.
For more love and relationships, features, dating tips and tricks, and marriage advice, check out xoNecole's Sex & Love section here.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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