Not too long ago, I penned a piece for the site entitled "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?" Ultimately, I did it for two reasons. One, I think it's a topic of conversation that isn't addressed nearly as much as it should be. Secondly, although it does indeed happen, my own work with couples has shown me that, when a lot of people feel that way, it's because they realize that while they may have loved their partner, they simply didn't know enough about them before saying "I do" (hence other pieces like "10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating" and "Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him").
I say it often because it can't be said enough—going out on dates shouldn't only be about romance and spending quality time. Once you get past around the third one and you both decide that you see a potential future together (I can't tell you how many women I know who made this kind of decision all on their own; yes, you can think you are in a relationship all by yourself), the time spent really should be about getting to know each other way past the surface level.
Then, if after a few months or a couple of years, it looks like you guys are headed towards that stroll to forever, there are definitely some things that your man needs to have in place before you put on an engagement ring. For starters, things on this list that, if you take them seriously, can significantly decrease your chances of regretting marrying him later up the pike.
If I need to put all of this more plainly, I don't care how much you love a man, if he's lacking any of these things, do you, him and your potential future together a favor and wait until he gets these issues handled.
1. Clarity Concerning His Purpose
Please allow me the opportunity to use the Bible to illustrate the first two points because, whether you follow Scripture or not, I think you'll get where I'm coming from. If you read Genesis 1-2, you'll notice that before Adam was joined to his wife, there are two things that he already had—a relationship with God and a purpose/job. What this means to me is that a man is not in the position to provide, protect or lead any woman if he's not clear about why he was put on this planet. Plus, it's going to be really difficult for you to be a vessel of support and encouragement if he doesn't know what the heck he is doing with his life.
This is why I'm not big on people putting pressure on each other to get all serious in college. College is the time to figure out what your life path is going to be with as few distractions as possible. Then, once you know, it's easier to figure out who will be a great complement for you.
Your purpose, by definition, is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc." I know a few grown men who have no clue what their purpose in life is. Not only does this bother them, but they tend to get involved in counterproductive habits—lots of women, etc.— to cope with the frustration that they feel. I get it too because there's a bit of an identity crisis that comes with not knowing what you're put on this planet to do. Do you really want to marry a man who doesn't really know himself yet? Especially since, once he finds out what his purpose is, it could totally change him as a person? Don't answer right away. Give this one some real thought first.
2. Healthy Boundaries with His Parents
Even the Bible says that once a man and woman are joined in marriage, they should leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who seem to miss the memo, big time, on this. Parents are still co-signing on loans and paying their bills. Women are going behind their husband's backs to get daddy to buy them things (SMDH). And, a lot of men are mama's boys.
How can you know if your man is one of them? Does it seem like his mother is constantly at his beck and call? Does she seem to know more about his current life than you do? Does she do things for him that he really should be doing for himself (cooking, cleaning, etc.)? Does she offer you unsolicited advice without him telling her if/when she's crossed the line? Does he always seem to take her side even when she's dead wrong?
I've got a friend who is married to a mama's boy. She has told me on more than one occasion that while she loves her husband, had she known how dependent he was on his mother (and how much he allows his mother to manipulate him), she would've never said "yes" to his proposal. That's a pretty heavy statement.
A man who loves his mom is endearing. But if he doesn't have established and consistent boundaries with both of his parents, don't assume that will miraculously change after the two of you jump the broom. That's something that needs to be discussed on the front end. As soon as possible too.
3. A Spiritual Foundation
The word "spirituality" comes from the Latin one spiritus which means "breath of life". If you think about the fact that the Scripture tells us that God "breathed life" into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 2:7), it makes total sense why most of us associate spirituality with having a relationship with a higher being.
When you think about the fact that there is plenty of data to support that having a sense of spirituality makes us more humble, compassionate and forgiving, that it makes it so much easier to deal with life's trials and challenges, and that it also makes us more optimistic and self-aware—why wouldn't you want a husband who comprises all of these attributes? Someone who relies on something bigger than himself?
There's another benefit of being with a spiritual person. Author Henry Ward Beecher, "Spirituality without morality is rootless." Although spirituality is not automatically synonymous with morality (it should be but that's another message for another time), someone who makes their spirit a priority tends to be more sensitive when it comes to their conscious and life choices. This is definitely important when it comes to honoring their marriage vows on day one—and fifty years later.
4. Good Credit
I already know. This is the discussion that people try and avoid like the plague, but if they want their marriage to go smoother, they really shouldn't. According to reports, nearly a third of Americans have a credit score that's lower than 601 (although the current average for 2019 is sitting at around 695). 30 percent have bad credit. We all know that credit is important, especially when it comes to making major purchases like a home or car. Yet, you'd be amazed by how many dating or engaged couples don't share their score with their significant other.
I once heard a financial consultant say that our credit score says a lot about our character. The reason why is because if we say that we're going to do something, including pay a bill, we should keep our word; that it speaks to our level of integrity. While there are extenuating circumstances that can sometimes make this challenging, for the most part, he's right. I know the times when my credit has been jacked up, it's because of late payments or tax issues; things that I could better control if I had been more financially proactive and responsible. Ask any wife in the world and they will scream from the rooftop that you definitely want a man who is financially on top of things.
So yeah, mostly definitely, credit scores should be a topic of discussion. If his is under 700, I'm not saying don't marry him. But I do think it's a good idea to give the relationship time for him to get those points up (you too, if need be).
5. A Financial Plan
Fail to plan. Plan to fail. Since one of the leading causes of divorce is financial stress and strain, it's also a good idea to see if you're dating the kind of man who makes financial plans for his future; that he's not the type of guy who is a financially irresponsible individual. And just what does a financially irresponsible man live like? He doesn't have any money in savings; he borrows money a lot; he has little, if any money after paying his monthly bills; he uses his credit cards more than cash; if you even remotely bring financially planning or retirement up, he changes the subject; he is always spending money on things that depreciate in value (like clothes, electronic "toys" and even cars), and he doesn't give you the impression that he pays his bills on time.
The reason why a lot of this stuff doesn't matter, nearly as much as it should, when people are dating is because, for the most part, their partner's money issues do not spill over into their own world. Oh, but once you are husband and wife, they most certainly will. Daily.
It can't be stressed enough that if your man is crazy with money, you should pump the brakes until he can get that under control. You know what they say—love is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't keep the heat on. So true, so very freakin' true.
6. The Ability to “Keep House”
A couple of days ago, I was talking to a wife who has been with her husband for many years. For whatever the reason, cleaning up came up. One of the things that she said has consistently been a point of contention in her marriage is her man sucks at making up the bed and picking things up off of their bedroom floor. His lack of cleanliness in that way made it hard for her to sleep; it has even affected their sex life because she "can't relax in mess".
When I give advice to people in new relationships, if there are two rooms of their partner's house that I recommend they check out, it's the bathroom and the bedroom. If the toilet and bathtub aren't clean and/or there's a stench in the bedroom, you're going to be in for a very uncomfortable ride in marriage; even more so if he's the one with the jacked up home and, when you bring it up, he's got an "that's what I've got you for, babe" attitude.
There are plenty of studies that support that couples who do chores together are happier in their relationship. You know what else? They have more sex too. That's why I don't care how fine he is, how well he dresses, even how great of a line-up he has—if there are always shavings in his sink, his appearance is gonna fade real fast if you make him your husband and you're always the one cleaning up after him.
7. Resolved “Baby Mama” Issues
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 13.7 million single parents in the United States. Studies also reveal that 59 percent of Black American women have children with more than one father and 24 percent of single-parent homes are led by men. All of this is enough data to make this point a relevant one.
There's one guy who I once considered "forever" with. In hindsight, I'm glad that I took a pass because he had four children by two different women. With one woman, I could never really tell if they are fully over one another. With the other, because their child came from a one-night stand, there was always profound tension between the two of them. Between hearing about the "bond" with the first one and the drama with the second, it started to get draining—to the point of being a deal-breaker.
Being a stepmother is a beautiful thing because it is an awesome responsibility that a woman chooses to do. But if your man isn't co-parenting in a healthy way with the mother of his children, ask any woman who minimized the importance of that before marrying her husband. I bet she has days' worth of stories that will make you rethink getting married until he has peace and resolve—or at the very least respect—with the mother of his kids.
8. Being Civic Service-Minded
I don't know about you, but there's nothing sexier to me than a man who sees a cause and puts his own time, effort and resources into them. Not only does it display a certain level of selflessness and sacrifice, it also shows that he cares about his community and humanity, at large.
Case in point. I recently read an article about 50 Black men who were honored several years ago for the contributions that they made to their community. Keith Young teaches youth how to design and develop their own video games. Chris Rabb teaches entrepreneurship to low-income individuals. Rashuan Williams teaches youth how to care for their environment. Norman Hurns has a youth camp for young men to develop necessary life skills. Wayne Jacobs assists ex-offenders.
I have no clue what any of these men look like. I don't need to in order to already recognize something that's very beautiful about them. There's something that is just so good about a man who gives back. It can only improve the quality of your marriage if you choose a husband who has this in his character.
Tip: If you suggest to your man that he should volunteer or contribute to his community and he gives a lot of push back, don't sleep on that either. You want a man who is giving. It helps him to be a good partner for you.
9. A Desire to Be Intimate Without Always Being Sexual
I remember a wife once telling me, "Shellie, getting married isn't about sex so much as it is about cuddling. You realize that so long as you get that, you won't need sex quite as much." First, speak for yourself, sis and two, I should've asked her husband if he echoes those sentiments. Because sex is one of the main things that makes a marital union different from any other type of relationship, I 100 percent believe that it's important, exponentially so, in a marriage (see "10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important"). I also believe that if two people are physically capable of having sex and they don't, something is very wrong in the relationship (also see "What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage").
At the same time, I will say that it's a pretty significant red flag if you're in a relationship with someone who only comes close to you if he thinks or expects that sex—any type of sex—is about to go down. A man (especially a man who is preparing to be a husband) should be mature enough, romantic enough and self-controlled enough that he doesn't think that every kiss or even make-out session should result in nakedness.
Any married couple will tell you that there are ebbs and flows in sex. That's why it's critical that you get with someone who knows how to pull you close and be intimate without sex having to be on the menu each and every time he does so.
10. Wanting to Be Married Without You Prompting Him
Have mercy, y'all! Without a doubt, a HUGE mistake that far too many of us make is getting involved with and emotionally attached to a man who doesn't desire marriage when we most absolutely do. Unfortunately, a lot of us assume that just because someone is a great guy and has feelings for us that it will eventually blossom into a marital union. It's an epidemic, just how much that is absolutely not the case.
Yeah, never ever ever assume that. Personally, I am a huge supporter of someone saying three dates in that they are interested in a long-term relationship. Wait, let me be more specific; if what they mean by that is marriage, they should say marriage. Although some people say that bringing this topic up comes off as pressuring a person or desperation, what I think is it separates the men who want the same thing from the commitment-phobes.
I mean, don't you want a man who desires to marry you without any prompting on your part? If you can't say that's what you have right now, it's perfectly OK—encouraged even—to wait before hinting, throwing ultimatums or whatever other ideas you've got that you think will convince him to marry you. You deserve a man who wants to all on his own. Don't marry "him" until you know for a fact that he does.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Feature image by Giphy
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. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
Featured image by LumiNola/Getty Images