One time, while talking to a wife about some issues that she was having with her husband in the bedroom, she shared something with me that has remained in my mind, pretty much ever since she said it. "While the sex itself is pretty good, I still don't really look forward to it like I want to because, to tell you the truth, the foreplay sucks."
While some of you may have just read that and felt like her statement was a bit contradictory—actually, to me, it wasn't. Contrary to the popular belief (that is actually more like a total misconception) about foreplay, it isn't sex. Sex is intercourse; foreplay is the action that comes before it, and if the foreplay ain't right, for many of us, something about intercourse is gonna be…off. No matter how good coitus may be.
That's what we're going to semi-deep dive into today. What you should do if you happen to have a partner whose stroke game is on-point yet everything else is pretty "meh"? If that's you and you've been semi-suffering in silence, let's get you free, so that you can enjoy all-things-sexual, just the way sex was meant to be.
First of all, Sex and Foreplay Are Two Different Things.
Before we can solve a problem, we've got to properly define it, right? When it comes to what makes sex and foreplay different, I once heard a woman say that foreplay is what makes sex worthwhile.
Hmm. While I personally wouldn't go that far (I'm team both all day, every day), what I will say is, if there isn't a strong physical and emotional connection that's established before penetration transpires, that can prevent sex from being as great as it could be (even the guys that I know will personally vouch for that). This is where the act of foreplay comes in.
Remember how I said that a strong physical and emotional connection makes sex better?
- A romantic date? That's foreplay.
- You and your partner affirming one another? That's foreplay.
- Dancing to your favorite slow jams in the living room? That's foreplay.
- Sexting or even just flirting on the phone? That's foreplay.
- Cooking together? That's foreplay.
- Kissing without it immediately leading into sex? That's foreplay.
- A body massage? That's foreplay.
- Cuddling? That's foreplay.
- Orgasmic meditation (which sounds like sex but it ain't)? That's foreplay.
- Fellatio, cunnilingus, and stimulating sexual pressure points? That's foreplay. (I'll explain this point further in just a moment.)
While all of these are different acts, if there is one thing that they have in common with one another, it's the fact that they're all about spending quality time with your partner without any intercourse transpiring. Going on a date sends the message that you want to spend time with your partner without any distractions. Kissing without it always leading to sex? I don't know about y'all but to me, it conveys that you aren't kissing me in hopes that it will lead to something else; you simply enjoy the act…just because. And oral sex? OK, despite what our former president Bill Clinton tried to deflect with, technically oral sex is sex. However, I'll tell you what—while in my sessions with husbands and wives, they have both told me that some of their favorite sexual memories have consisted of when their spouse wanted to give oral sex without doing anything else afterward; that their partner wanted to please them so badly that their climax was all of the reciprocity that they needed (whew and yes!). Foreplay is physical and emotional stimulation. Sometimes it's sexual. Sometimes it's not.
So how is the actual act of sex different? If any of y'all checked out the article, "BDE: Please Let The 'It Needs To Be Huge' Myth Go", something that a wife who helped inspired the piece shared with me, on more than one occasion is, her husband was so proud of his package, that he doesn't think foreplay is that big of a deal. He's basically like the "bang-bang-bang" father in the classic movie Boomerang (RIP John Witherspoon). No romance. No frills. No real attentiveness. No intimacy (more on that in a sec). Plenty of intercourse and that's about it. And you know what? Their sex life has only continued to suffer because of it. In many ways, it's actually non-existent.
Interesting, right? The people who get foreplay seem to be more aroused and interested in copulation while the ones who go without will often take a pass on sex altogether. If not immediately, eventually. What does this really mean?
What a Lack of Foreplay Conveys.
Before going even deeper into this topic, let me just say that I get that some of y'all are a lot like my friend's husband in the sense that, just like some folks hate kissing (check out "Umm, What's Up With These People Who Hate Kissing?"), there are also some individuals who find foreplay to be a complete waste of time and totally unnecessary. Still, I am pretty sure that those folks are the exception and not the rule. The rest of us? I believe that we're all about foreplay and a lot of it has to do with the fact that many of us still associate sex with being an intimate act.
And here's the thing about intimacy. Much like the word "love" is oftentimes misused/abused, I think the word "intimacy" is too.
A one-night stand with some random isn't really intimacy, no matter how much sexual pleasure you may have gotten out of the experience. You know why? Because being intimate with someone is defined as having a warm friendship with them and being personally close to them. Being intimate with someone also speaks to sharing secrets or confidential matters, being affectionate and feeling cherished in someone's presence. Being intimate is about being valued in someone's life as you're valuing them as well. (Now do you see why I said "intimate" gets misused/abused?)
Now, are there levels of feeling this way? 1000 percent. After all, the kind of intimacy that's shared between a married couple that's been together for 45 years is going to be vastly different than the intimacy that's between two people who've been on six dates. However, the thing that's important to keep in mind is when foreplay happens prior to sex, it is an act of true intimacy. Yes, you and your partner may be sexually stimulating each other in preparation for intercourse yet it holds way more weight than that. There is something about both of you that feels warm and cherished enough to not want to rush things—you want to be affectionate with one another because of the connection that already exists.
Uh-huh Shellie. I hear you. But I've had some great sex with guys who were good at foreplay that I wasn't exactly "connected" with. Understood. One day, we'll get into the subject of how some people pretend to be intimate for selfish gain; they aren't really having sex with you so much as they're having sex at you in order to boost their own ego. Indeed, just like folks can act like they're in entire relationships, they can also act like they are being intimate with a person. Still, I'm willing to bet that the men you can reflect on who made you feel the best, the safest, the most adored—there was a connection and that made the foreplay as well as the sex so much better. In those instances, the climaxes weren't "the cake"; they were 1000 percent "the icing". Just being with you, enjoying you, and pleasing you? That was the cake. The three-tier, thousands of dollars, wedding cake kind. Especially since it's pretty common knowledge that while it takes men around 5-6 minutes to have an orgasm, it takes us somewhere around 20 minutes. A good lover isn't trying to get you on his "schedule". He's relishing everything about the privilege of being with you so…what's the rush?
How to Get More Foreplay in Your Relationship.
When it comes to foreplay (and afterplay), I promise you that I could on and on. That's how, not only good it is, but necessary I find it to be. So, what if you're currently in a relationship (or situationship) where the actual intercourse feels amazing, but the foreplay is seriously lacking? The first thing that I want to say is you deserve a lot more and better. Because something else that good lovers know is the great sex isn't about the goal of an orgasm so much as creating a mind-blowing experience, each and every time you engage.
Keeping this in mind, it's not crazy for any human to have their ego bruised a bit should you approach them about your sexual needs not being met in some way or you desiring to take your sex life to another level; however, here's another sign that you're actually with someone who cares about you as they should—if you tell a man that you desire more foreplay and share the reasons why only a complete and total ass is gonna make that be all about him and his uh-um EGO (cue Kanye and Beyoncé). Great lovers are about pleasing their partner way more than they are about dictating how and what that should look like.
So, share what you need and then seek to become the kind of lover you want. Flirt. Dress sexy. Plan couple exercises like orgasmic meditation. Talk about erogenous zones and "hot spots". Kiss without having it go immediately into something else. Work together on what it means to enjoy each other "just because". Because I promise you that the moment this is the focus, that will be the day when things get so much better in the bedroom as you find yourself asking why you settled for less all of this time.
Again, I'm all about some deep, long, intense penetration (whew, chile). Yet I can't even fathom getting to that point without at least a little bit of foreplay—because again, I know what it represents, and I know that I deserve it. And you know what, sis? So do you. SO. DO. YOU.
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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. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
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What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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In 2024, there’s tons of thought and strategy that can go into dating online. While dating apps offer a convenient space to find potential partners, it’s become more complicated by the day to know just how to land a worthwhile match at all. With paywalls, roses, and Super Likes to push past while using dating apps, a common sentiment among singles is: do these apps really want us to find love at all?
Dating hopefuls are taking time to reevaluate their approach to dating as many discussions surrounding online dating are significantly influencing user behavior, particularly among Black singles. According to Jonathan Kirkland, Head of Brand and Marketing for BLK, these conversations shape the thoughts, expectations, and actions of singles and how they engage with dating platforms.
“The Black conversation shapes up the online dating world big time. We’ve seen how discussions around inclusivity, authenticity, and cultural relevance have driven more users to [dating] platforms, where they feel represented and understood,” Kirkland tells xoNecole. “But hey, it's all about personal vibes. Instead of buying into the hype, we're all about our community creating their own stories and shifting the narrative.”
How Online Dating Discourse Shapes Gen Z and Millennial Dating Preferences and Behaviors
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Across different age groups, distinct shifts in dating preferences and behaviors have been observed. Kirkland tells us that Gen Z prioritizes authenticity, social awareness, and online connectivity, while Millennials are focused on sharing values, pursuing their aspirations, and authentically representing their cultural identity.
These changes are not only shifting how singles are approaching the app, they’re influencing the flexibility in what was once seen as “non-negotiables" in long-term desires that are now becoming plausible considerations.
In a recent survey conducted by BLK, 100% of Gen Z and Millennials who participated in the study said they'd be open to starting a family with a friend. “It’s like, life's throwing them curveballs, and they're flipping the script on what family means,” Kirkland explains.
“Gen Z sees this whole platonic co-parenting thing as a game-changer for how we do families, making things more flexible and diverse. Millennials say it's all about building up your chosen family and locking down those intentional connections. Times are definitely changing.”
As culture evolves and social norms shift, these findings show that daters across generations are embodying a sense of adaptability in order to create the life they desire and love they deserve. That’s why we’ve tapped BLK’s Johnathan Kirkland to put us onto the 2024 dating trends that will help you win at love.
On the top trends singles can look forward to in the 2024 online dating space:
“One trend is ‘dawn dating,’ where you squeeze in dates before your workday kicks off. This offers a new level of convenience and efficiency,” he explains.
“And since it's an election year, get ready for 'partisan dating.' That's where singles prefer connecting with someone who's vibing on the same political wavelength. And with so many young voters more into the issues rather than the candidates, expect some real deep convos over policy matters.”
“Plus, we’re going to see more of a focus on looking after your mental health while you're dating. Platforms are rolling out initiatives to help you build solid relationships, while also prioritizing your own wellbeing,” he adds.
On the best icebreakers to hit a conversational flow with new matches:
Kirkland says that while breaking the ice can be difficult, one way to break the ice is to throw out questions that show your genuine interest. “Ask about their passions, where they love to travel, or maybe something cool they've experienced culturally lately.”
“It’s also nice to toss in a fun pop culture question, like, ‘So, are you #TeamMegan or #TeamNicki?’ It's all about getting that convo flowing.” he suggests. "BLK recently rolled out new profile prompts in our app last year to help spark these conversations. They're little conversation starters you can display on your profile, written or even voiced, so people can slide into your DMs without any awkwardness.”
On the best practices for users looking to connect with men who have aligned dating goals and avoid hookup culture:
“Be crystal clear about what you're after. And when you're scoping out potential matches, keep an eye out for those little signs that they're ready for something serious, too. Look for hints in their profiles, like if they're talking about their future goals or if your interests and values seem to click. But it's not all about what's written down. When you start chatting, keep it real and open. Lay it all out on the table early on—no beating around the bush.”
"Be crystal clear about what you're after. And when you're scoping out potential matches, keep an eye out for those little signs that they're ready for something serious too."
He continues, “Whether it's long-term love, a casual vibe, or just making new pals. No more wasting time on matches that aren't on the same page as you.”
On the advice he’d give to users who want to give dating apps another try, but are discouraged to do so:
“Let’s be honest. Dating apps are like any other technology —they're constantly evolving. So that app you checked out last year may have added new features, cool filters, and better ways to connect,” Kirkland says.
“If you're feeling a bit anxious about diving back into the dating app world, remember this: every swipe, chat, and date is a chance to learn something new about yourself. It's all about growth and discovery. Keep an open mind, but don't forget to set some boundaries and stay true to yourself. And if it all gets a bit overwhelming, take a breather.”
He adds, “Focus on some self-care, hit up your friends for a pep talk, or even chat with a pro if you need to. Because hey, who knows? The perfect match might just be a swipe away — so keep swiping.”
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