Monica. Solange. Niecy Nash. Kenya Moore. Wendy Williams. For better or for worse (no pun intended), if there's one thing that all of these women have in common, it's the fact that they've recently experienced a separation or divorce from their spouse. And you know what? I don't have to know any of these women personally to know that this means it's been one hell of a year for them. The reason why I say that is because, no matter what causes two people who once committed their lives to one another to eventually call it quits, there is pain…there is grieving…there is adjusting in pretty much every facet of life. "Breaking up is hard to do" isn't just a line in a song (shout out to the Beverly Hills 90210 version) or a random cliché, when a marriage comes to an end, no greater words have ever been spoken.
Because this is so true, I actually believe that, if there is ever a time when true friends (and foes) reveal themselves, it's when someone is ending their marriage. Based on the conversations that I've had with women who've gone through this kind of relational transition, there are things that we, as their friends, can do right and things that we can get oh so very wrong. The statistics surrounding the divorce rate in this country is all of the evidence that you need to know that at some point or another, a friend of yours is going to end her marriage. When that happens, she's going to need your support in some very specific—and sometimes even mentally challenging—ways.
If you want to know what the proper friendship etiquette is for a time like this, here is a good place to start.
DO Make Yourself Both Physically and Emotionally Available
I've got a friend who recently took on a new job. As she was explaining just how much it was going to switch up her schedule and make it more difficult to connect during our usual chatting hours, I said to her, "We're in a good place and have been for a while. You don't need to 'babysit' our friendship." The more you settle into any kind of relationship, the more you realize this to be true. I am fine giving her as much space as she needs because, back when I experienced a devastating heartbreak, she left her phone on at all times and was prepared to meet me whenever, wherever, because she knew that I was broken, I was vulnerable and I was going through immense feelings of rejection. The last thing that I needed was to reach out to someone who said, "I got you", only to realize that they didn't.
When someone is going through a separation or divorce, they are fragile, whether they tell you they are or not. This means that they need support, in the form of availability. It might be for a midnight phone call or a matinee where the movie watches them more than they are able to watch it back. The shock and pain tend to come in waves, so you can't really have "regular friendship business hours". It really is best to prepare yourself to be on-call, both physically and emotionally, for…a while.
DON’T Pry for Information or Offer Unsolicited Advice
The amount of thoughts that are constantly running through the mind of a newly separated individual is countless. And, for a season, endless. Even when they believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is absolutely the best decision for them, they've still got to figure out what their new normal is going to look like. In the midst of making peace with their decision and planning for somewhat of an uncertain future, unfortunately a lot of people are not going to be very thoughtful. Plenty will want to know the details of what led to the break-up. Others will offer up advice that your friend never asked for. Some of what she'll hear will be rude, condescending and totally insensitive, even if the person meant well. This means that she's going to need places she can go to that won't be "extra voices" in her head that, I promise you, she doesn't need.
As her friend, it's normal to have questions and even an opinion. But do your best to hold up on those for a while. What she wants to share, listen to. What she doesn't, try and put yourself in her shoes. How mentally overwhelmed would you feel if you were in her shoes right about now?
DO Prepare for Her to Be a Bit of an Emotional Roller Coaster
I've got a male friend who is currently going through a divorce. In our two-decade-plus friendship, we've only had one disagreement. But boy, did I almost get triggered in a conversation we had a few weeks ago. In the midst of us talking, he started yelling and saying things that were pretty toxic. After about 30 minutes of tolerating his rant, I tried to talk him down; he only became more inflammatory. I was so used to him being calm, almost to the point of being nonchalant, including when it came to the end of his marriage, that how he was acting caught me way off guard.
Since then, he has good days and bad days. Shoot, sometimes he has good minutes and bad minutes. He's a bit of an emotional roller coaster, to tell you the truth. But what I have learned is to let him ride it all out; to not get on the ride with him (because what good would it do for us both to be out here unstable and unsettled?), but to be there for him as he gets off—to not expect him to be "normal" for a while. Life, as he's known it for years now, is totally changing. He needs a minute to figure it all out. Until he does, there will be extreme peaks and valleys. Separation and divorce tend to affect people in that way. By accepting that, our own interaction has been a lot smoother.
DON’T Initially Take Things Too Personally
Although no one should tolerate abuse, when your friend is going through a separation or a divorce, try and cut them a bit of slack. They are upset and humans tend to say some interesting things during emotional upheavals. She might be sarcastic, cynical or snarky. There might be moments when she implies that something was your fault or that you didn't do something "right" during her marriage. Some days when you call, she might be short and passive aggressive. Other days, she might be so rude that you wonder why you are friends with her at all.
When we're hurting, it's normal to look for answers. Sometimes that means that we're angry or we put blame on people who don't deserve it. It's not right. It's just the way that it is. It's kind of like the difference between touching someone's arm when it has a wound on it vs. when it doesn't; the reactions are going to be completely different. It's going to be challenging for your friendship with your friend to survive if you are thin-skinned right now.
If you have a non-toxic relationship with her—and sometimes, situations like this will reveal whether or not you do—while she may be lashing out a bit now, things will settle in time. Don't be her punching bag, but do be her sounding board. And whatever she says—and to an extent, whatever she does—try and not take it too personal. She's in a storm. Eventually the storm will pass.
DO Be Responsible When It Comes to Your Help and Support
It's not uncommon for recently separated or divorced people to not always make the wisest decisions during the first year or so if their break-up. They might rebound with an ex. They might spend money like it's going out of style. They may engage in casual sex hook-ups, just to make sure that they've still "got it". They might quit a job or move away with no real pain in place. While stuff like this is going on, although some people think that being a true friend is all about supporting their friend in doing whatever it is that they want to do, I don't agree with that at all. While a true friend loves and does not abandon their friend in times of transition (and sometimes even purely reckless behavior), it's not a good idea to co-sign on them doing what is proving to be unhealthy or destructive.
Something that your newly separated or divorced friend is going to need is to be surrounded around those who are balanced, responsible and can be a true sense of reason for them. When you see them doing things that are dangerous or even counterproductive, bring those to their attention. Not in a forceful or nagging kind of way, but out of love. If they are determined to ignore your warnings, try and help where you can. If they are parents, offer to watch the kids on some weekends so that the little ones aren't in the crossfire. Maybe set aside a couple of bucks to help out with a bill. Be the kind of friend that you would want her to be to you if you were going through the same thing. When a friend is going through a separation or divorce, empathy—not apathy—is key.
DON’T Pressure Her to Make Any (More) Major Decisions
Ask any separated or divorced person to go back in their minds to the first six months of their break-up and, one of the things that they'll tell you is the last thing that they need is anymore pressure. Pressure to figure out what's next. Pressure to figure out what they are going to do about their kids (if they have any). Pressure to handle all of the whisperings and gossiping that is going on. Pressure to do anything, really. Pressure triggers stress and stress oftentimes only leads to more problems. If anything, be intentional about being a source of peace and calm. Be the one who invites her to binge-watch Netflix or take a weekend road trip. Remind her that there is no rush to change her life any more than her initial decision already has. The benefit in this is, the more settled she is, the more capable she will be to do what needs to be done…in time.
DO Prepare for a New Normal. Even When It Comes to You.
When someone goes through a separation (especially if it ultimately ends in divorce), it doesn't only change their lives; it causes everyone and everything around them to shift too. For instance, if you were close to your friend's spouse, you now have to figure out what will make everyone comfortable. If your friend has a child, it's important to decide how to be a kind of support system for them too. Plus, if your friend's marriage was one that you actually looked up to, you need your own time to grieve the loss of what once was.
Again, separation and divorce are never easy—on anybody. Some days will be easier than others, including when it comes to your relationship with your friend. Through the highs and lows, try and keep in mind that, no matter how uncomfortable the season may be, in time, it will change. Also keep in the forefront of your mind that, no matter how hard things are for your friend right now, with your prayers, help and even space (as she needs it) things will get better. Things may not get "back to normal", but there will be a new normal. Although she might now see it right now, with your support, a new normal can be just as good. Maybe not immediately but eventually. Hang in there. She needs you more than you know.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
How To Support Your Loved One Through A Dark Time
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
5 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Friend
Feature image by Shutterstock
- Helping Someone Dealing With Separation and Divorce | HuffPost Life ›
- How to Support Your Best Friend Through Divorce ›
- 10 Ways To Help Someone Going Through A Divorce | HuffPost Life ›
- Dealing With Divorce (for Teens) - KidsHealth ›
- Supporting a Friend Through Divorce: 5 Things to Keep in Mind ›
- Helping Your Child Through a Divorce (for Parents) - KidsHealth ›
- Children and Divorce - HelpGuide.org ›
- How to Support Your Friend Through Their Divorce ›
- 13 Ways To Be A Good Friend To Someone Getting Divorced ›
- 18 Ways to Help a Friend Going Through a Divorce ›
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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