If there's one thing I think most of us spend a large majority of our lives learning about, it's friendship. Think about it—the kind of friends that we needed as children looks drastically different once we enter into our twenties. Then, once we hit around 30-35, the definition changes, yet again. Why? Because as we evolve and our needs and wants shift, we tend to desire different things from our intimate connections. And you know what, y'all? Not only is that perfectly OK, it's a sign of true maturity and growth.
That's why there are certain popular beliefs about friendship that I personally can't get down with, especially at this stage in my life. I do agree with the French-Cuban-American essayist Anaïs Nin when she once said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." However, the more I grow and the bigger my world view and perspective becomes, the more I see friendship in layers as well. As a direct result, there are certain popular views on the topic that I consider to be myths; ones that I feel should be debunked as quickly as possible. Not so that we devalue the friendship, but so we can allow ourselves—and others—to embrace and enjoy true friendships as their purposes continue to reveal themselves throughout various seasons of our lives. So, what are some of the biggest friendship myths that I wholeheartedly believe need to be silenced once and for all?
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #1: There Is a Clear and Firm Definition of Friendship for Everyone
While I do think there are certain standards and boundaries that all friendships should have (see "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'", "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships" and "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend"), because all of us are unique, in some very significant ways, I don't feel we should all believe that "friend" has to be defined the same way, across the board.
A very simple definition of the word is "a bond of mutual affection", but I'll be honest—what causes me to feel fondly towards one of my friends is usually totally different when it comes to another one. To tell you the truth, a lot of the "friendship drama" that I used to put myself through ceased to exist once I stopped putting the same types of expectations on everyone across the board.
Things like a person's age, personality, like and dislikes, relational status (married folks tend to have a different kind of schedule and set of priorities than single folks do), and even their love language all play a role in what kind of friendship I am able to have with someone.
For instance, one of my friends is in her late 50s and married; I have some deep spiritual conversations with her. Another friend of mine is in her 20s and single; we bond on work-related and pop culture stuff. I don't expect my married friend to connect with me in the way that my single one does. It would be unfair for me to. Still, they both are very precious to me and fall under the category of being a friend; just in different ways and for different reasons. And I am totally cool with that.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #2: Men and Women Can Never Be “Just Friends”
OK, so I'll be the first to say that a lot of men and women who claim to be platonic are anything but (check out "The Word 'Platonic' Is Sacred. Literally."). In order for a friendship to truly fall under that category, both individuals have to have absolutely no sexual interest or desire in one another at all. Platonic speaks of spiritual love—no more, no less. So, even if you've got a male homie that you adore and would never give it up to, if he'd take it the moment you offered him some, technically, your relationship isn't platonic.
Not to say that I think platonic friendships are impossible. I've got male friends who are some of the closest people to me. But when either one of us think about being more than that, it translates as gross more than intriguing. What I mean by that is, they literally feel like family, so anything romantic or sexual is totally out of the question. Ever. And yes, to think that those types of dynamics are impossible between men and women is ridiculous. To believe otherwise is to imply that every man wants to sleep with every woman and vice versa—and that's simply not true. So yes, of course, men and women can be just friends. Male and female interaction serves more of a purpose than hooking up, getting married or procreating. People who think otherwise are missing out on the balance of energy that the opposite sex can bring into their lives. And as someone who reveres her platonic friendships, it's a damn shame that they do.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #3: Everyone Should Have a Best Friend
There is someone I know who claims to have somewhere around six or seven best friends. First of all, according to many experts, folks, on average, have no more than 16 friends total and that includes factoring in utility (work), pleasure (fun) and good ones. I promise you, the more I come to learn what a real friendship is and requires, as I follow that up with striving to be a good friend, I don't know how people have time for three friends, let alone dozens of 'em. Either way, if you're going to take the definition of "best" literally, it is literally impossible, to have multiple best friends. Best means "most" or "highest degree"; best is what causes someone to stand up above the rest.
Yet that's not the main point about this point. Because I'm someone who advocates for married people to be each other's best friend (again, because of the definition of the word), I am also someone who automatically demotes myself, whenever a close friend of mine gets married. I don't want to be seen as someone's "highest quality" over their beloved. And you know what? Living by this personal rule has proven to be really healthy.
Besides, the older that I get, the more I see the value in having good friends; in accepting that when it comes to friendships, there are levels, and again, because different people serve different purposes, having a "best" isn't really even necessary. So long as my friendships are healthy, productive and thriving, "good" is good enough for me.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #4: Friendships Are a Key Source of Happiness
Yeah. I know this one might seem odd, but just hear me out for a sec. Something that I think brings a lot of us unnecessary disappointment and even distress is trying to make other people responsible for our own happiness. While I love my friends, enjoy my friends, and have cultivated some of the best memories with them, I wouldn't say they are the source (origin) of my joy and inner contentment. To me, that is a lot of pressure to put onto any flawed human being (which we all are). Besides, if I gave them that much credit, what happens when we have a disagreement or even, they piss me off? Am I not supposed to be happy with my life anymore? Yeah, I'd rather seek happiness within and then share it with my friends. It's more beneficial, even easier, that way.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #5: The Right Friends Will Back What You Do, No Matter What
Personally, I think one of the most toxic perspectives a person can have when it comes to what they expect out of their friendships is, "If you're really my friend, you will support whatever I do." Really? So if you decide to do something that would put you or someone else in harm's way, I should cheer you on, out of so-called loyalty to the friendship? Please. I say it often because I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of people aren't out here looking for friends. What they want is a fan base—people who will "ooo" and "ahh" at every decision that they make, all the while applauding them and not challenging them when need be. The reason why I've written articles for the site like, "What A Supportive Friend Actually Does (It's Not Quite What You Think)" is to serve as a reminder that a good friend, a true friend, a real friend is going to help you to become a better version of yourself while being a safe and supportive space for you as you do so.
One of my absolute dearest friends has called me out on my ish more times than my own pride would've ever thought necessary. I can directly attribute her to a lot of my evolution too. So please don't be out here thinking that just because Facebook uses the word "friends" on its platform that everyone who follows you or likes everything you say and do is one. Don't confuse someone liking what you project online with being the standard of what you should expect from your friendships in the real world. The right people will have your back, that is true. But sometimes that means telling you when you are dead-ass wrong, asking you difficult questions and revealing to you areas of yourself that you might not see—or address—if they weren't in your life, holding up a symbolic mirror.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #6: True Friendships Are Forever
I'm a Bible follower. I make absolutely no apologies for that. That said, when you really pay close attention to the instructions for relationships in the Word, the only one that speaks of "forever" is marriage (Matthew 19:6 and I Corinthians 7:10-11 are good examples of this). Every other relationship (including children because eventually, they are to "leave and cleave" to their own spouse and family—Genesis 2:24-25) typically has seasons. This includes friendships. Nothing is wrong with that. Something that I have learned is, oftentimes people come into our lives to get us to the next level within ourselves. If two people are growing at a similar pace, it's easier to stay friends than if they aren't. Personally, I can name about five people who, back in my 20s, you couldn't have paid me to think that we would no longer be as thick as thieves…but we're not. We no longer have the same things in common. Our relational needs are different. To remain "click tight" in each other's lives would've proven to be more of a hindrance than anything else. At the same time, what growth has taught me is, when a friendship is real, when it comes to an end—or shifts—there is no need for drama or a "fall out".
When you really and truly cared about someone and they felt the same way about you, there can still be peace and love. The actual day-to-day of a friendship may no longer be necessary but what can last forever is honoring what was.
A website that I've always appreciated in Snopes. It's a place I go when I want to know if a popular story or myth has any real facts or basis to it. When I find out that something isn't true, it totally alters how I see "it". That's why I penned this piece on friendship myths. While these are only six and, to a certain extent, based on my personal opinion, my hope is that it will also challenge you to see friendships differently. Friendships are dope. Friendships are needed. Friendships are a blessing. Just make sure to take some pressure off of yourself by not expecting friendships to be everything you've heard about them. Figure out the truth for yourself…then bond with others from there.
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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 email@example.com. 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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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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