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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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