There are two T-shirts that I wear that automatically let me know if I'm speaking to a 20-something or not. One is a shirt that has Dylan McKay on it (an original Beverly Hills, 90210 role that was played by the late Luke Perry). Another is a shirt that says, "I'm Just a Whitley in Search of My Dwayne". Whenever I'm sportin' either of those, it's pretty common for folks under 32 or so to ask me what my shirts mean. Wow. How time flies.
I thought about my second shirt when I sat down to do my Wednesday night ritual recently; one that consists of watching Queen Sugar. My props to you, Cree Summer (who used to play Freddie Brooks on A Different World, alongside "Dwayne" and "Whitley"). I'm aware of your quirky hippie role on a 90s sitcom, your comedic parts in other shows, and your voice-over resume (which is so impressive that one video takes a entire hour just to get through it all!); however, I don't recall seeing you in something that showcases your acting chops via the more dramatic side. But listen, as Nova's former professor (and lover) Octavia Laurent, you (clap) did (clap, clap) that.
Maybe it's due to my past pattern of not realizing that I have an opportunist in my path, oftentimes until it's too late, but I could sniff your agenda from the very moment you stood up to ask Nova a question at one of her tour stops. You had "get something from you" energy all over your tailored suit. But clearly, there was something in Nova that felt like you were the one who got away (at least on some level), so she took you with her on some of her other tour dates. Sometimes our nostalgia—especially emotionally and sexually—will have us longing for something and/or someone that we really should leave as a past memory. I think that's why I think I surprised my own self when I heard a loud "HMPH" come up from my belly when Nova finally said in your last scene together, "This is a sad day. I suspected but now I know. I've outgrown you." Whew.
Outgrowing someone you love, or at least once loved. That is such a heavy and complex topic that I'll have to circle back around to it another time (trust me, I will, though). But for now, when those words, that declaration, came out of Nova's mouth like the brightest light bulb moment, my mind went to the man who used to hold that title in my own world.
I'll be the first to admit that if there is one thing that I used to have a real knack for, it was picking fruit before it was ripe—you know, choosing the right man at the wrong time. Is that even possible? Oh, trust me…it is.
Sometimes someone can have all of the right qualities, but they need more time alone to mature and evolve. It is literally like eating a watermelon or a peach before it ripens; it has everything within it to be very good; it's just not fully ready…yet.
And when it came to "him", when he told me that he loved me, desired me and couldn't really see past me when it came to what he needed to do for his future (which was a part of the problem, to tell you the truth), and so he had to let me go, at least for now, because I couldn't think of one thing about him that I didn't want in a man, lover or spouse, he earned the title that so many of us have given to at least one guy—the one who got away.
Hmph. He actually held that title for about 15 years too.
That is until I got the nerve to look him up and give him a call. To this day, he's got one of the most impacting and masculine voices that I ever heard (lawd). After an eight-hour-straight convo, while I still totally understood just how and why he earned the "got away" position in my life, as he started to share with me what the past several years had been like for him, we didn't really seem to complement each other as much as we used to. His spiritual views couldn't be more different than my own. His perspective on relationships was a bit Twilight Zone-ish for me. While once upon a time, we would talk about our goals, dreams and even values without any hesitation or reservation, I found myself thinking, "Don't even get into it" in direct response to some of the things that he said. Don't get me wrong now, I'm pretty sure that the sex would've been better than ever (le sigh), but beyond the memories and the dormant passion, I'm not sure what else we would have…now.
Once we reconnected, we stayed in touch for a couple of months or so. He was just that fine, a part of my heart missed him just that much and the walks down memory lane were so sentimental that I think when it came to the phrase "the one who got away", I was so focused on "the one" that I didn't give as much credence to "away". In the midst of all of my romanticizing, I had to accept the reality that the time apart gave us both the space to become, who we were now. What catching up did was reveal to us both that while there would probably always been an uncanny connection and a bona fide chemistry, we didn't complement one another anymore.
He didn't "get away". He was simply gone. Because he needed to be. Even all those years ago.
That last part? That is why I'm sharing all of this with you. Because I know that at least 70 percent of the women reading this article have given some man the "you're the one who got away" title and position in their own life, and because I know that doing that can prevent you from fully giving your all to someone else, if you feel like there is some man who got away, ask yourself why is that. Is it based on some solid evidence that you have in your present life or a handful of memories from your past?
And if you believe it so wholeheartedly that, even you have to admit that you are a little emotionally stunted, maybe you should do what I did and look him up. If he's married or not interested, he's not the one who got away; he's the who needed to be let go. If he's interested in reconnecting, he won't be casual about it; if he clearly communicates that the last time he lost you, he'll make sure that he won't let that happen again. In fact, if that's the case, you probably would've heard from him first (some of y'all will catch that later).
But more than anything, be open to the possibility that the one who got away, got away because both of you needed him to. You didn't let him escape so much as the Universe removed him from your path because, had he remained, you wouldn't be quite the woman you are now and he wouldn't be quite the man he is now—both of you, being what you need to be, for someone else.
My friend, what life is revealing to me, more and more, with every passing day, is what is meant for us is presented to us. The love of our life is not exempt from this fact. Love doesn't "get away". At the right place and time, it comes boldly, clearly and eternally towards us, determined to never let us get away from it.
So, as someone who used to use the title, I get why you would too. Yet I hope my own experience will cause you to rethink still putting that kind of energy into the atmosphere. When it comes to the true "love of your life" and "meant to be", unless he comes and you push him away (which is also another message for another time), "the one" and "got away" don't exactly go together. The one doesn't do that. Love—and both of your life paths—won't let him.
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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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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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