Oprah and Stedman. Beyonce' and Jay Z. Taraji P. Henson and Kelvin Hayden. Kerry Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha. Rihanna and Hassan Jameel. The late Nipsey Hussle and Lauren London. Off top, they are some of the celebrity couples who choose to keep their relationship intensely private.
I don't blame 'em either because in the day and age of social media, smartphones with cameras and folks who seem to feel entitled to everyone's business, if you truly want your relationship to go the distance—and to remain healthy and strong while doing so—keeping certain things quiet, under the radar or even confidential, can be one of the smartest things that you could ever do.
Still, there is a bit of a fine line between being private about your love life and keeping it a secret.
A secret typically implies sneaking around, being cryptic and/or taking a bit of the cloak-and-dagger approach to what the two of you have going on. If your relationship falls more into the Column B category, there are some pros and cons that come with taking that sort of approach. If you've never considered that secret relationships can be both good as well as bad, take a moment to check out why it's always a good idea to consider both sides of the coin.
PRO: It Gives You the Chance to Solidify Your Relationship
We all know what they say about opinions (everyone has one and they are just like a—holes; sometimes literally). Well, if there's ever a time when there seems to be absolutely no shortage of them, it's when folks catch on to a new relationship that exists. If you put it on social media, that gives the opportunity for exes, trolls and pure haters to put their two cents in. Even if it's not online, you've got friends and family members, on both sides, who typically choose to weigh in with their thoughts and perspectives (whether you like it or not).
That's why I definitely think that a benefit that comes with keeping your relationship on the low is you don't have to listen to incessant chatter from other individuals. You can take the time that you need to pay attention to what the two of you think, want and feel—and build from there.
Not to say that outside influences shouldn't be factored in to a certain degree (sometimes others can see what you can't or refuse to look at). But since your relationship is a secret, you can control who, how and when you let others in. That is a good thing.
CON: It Can Put Unforeseen Pressure on It as Well
Stephanie Mills once sang about not being able to go on being someone's secret lady. In another tune, Luther Vandross once asked why he couldn't tell anyone about his relationship. Xscape ("My Little Secret") and TLC ("Creep") also sang about messing around on the low. Something that all of these jams have in common is the importance of assessing motive. If you're in a secret relationship, is it really as innocent as wanting to give your situation time to grow and develop? Or is it something a bit shadier like one or both of you are married or in a long-term relationship?
Or, could it be that you are actually fine with things being out in the open, but he isn't? If this is the case, even if he isn't seeing anyone else—hiding around, not going out much or never meeting his world can start to take a toll on your self-esteem. It can have you feeling like, if he is as into you as he claims, why doesn't he want to show you off? Why isn't he forthcoming about what he has with you?
Yep. That is one of the challenges that comes with agreeing to not telling anyone about your relationship. It can start to eat away at you and put tension and strain on what y'all have going on. Sooner or later, something will have to give.
PRO: No One Will Know About Your “Downs”
Despite what Instagram and the hashtag #relationshipgoals may show you, every relationship has its fair share of trials and tribulations. The thing about social media is you are able to control who knows and sees what—and how much.
Over here, nothing irks me more than passive aggressive shots that some couples take on their social media accounts, whenever they are going through it (because they do have each other's phone numbers, right?). And so, if there is a real plus that comes with no one knowing about your relationship, it's that they will not be aware of your problems or issues. The two of you can quietly and privately resolve them together without anyone criticizing or butting in.
Although it is critical that I say this is only a perk if, what you are going through is normal day-to-day stuff, and not abuse. If you are being mistreated, in any way, your relationship is not a secret. Sistah-friend, you are being isolated. It's time to let someone know exactly what is going on. Soon, please.
CON: On the Other Hand, They Won’t Know About Your “Ups” Either
How do you feel when a friend of yours announces her engagement on Facebook? What about when you're invited to a surprise birthday party that another friend's man is throwing for her? How about when a couple that you know posts an anniversary pic on their IG? Whenever I experience these types of things, it's a reminder that good times are meant to be acknowledged and celebrated. Yet, you rob those who care about you of the opportunity to share in your joy if no one knows that your relationship even exists.
If you are naturally private or introverted, this point might not matter to you—at least, not immediately. But there will come a time when, as your girls are braggin' about how good the love they have is, because all you can do is nod and grin, you'll start to feel a little resentful that you can't say the same.
PRO: Secrets Can Be Seductive
Meeting up in undisclosed locations, being intimate with someone no one else knows about, sharing something with another person that is only between the two of you—there's something very seductive about all of that.
It's attractive. It's enticing. It's erotic. I get it. More than I get it, I've been there.
On this side of seductive, there is also something that's very "grown woman" about knowing that you don't need others to be aware of your relationship in order to enjoy it; that it's not about wanting to go public, just so you can feel some sort of validation of your worth (due to being with someone). And, there is also something sexy about not feeling like you have to share every detail of what is happening, whether it's inside or outside of the bedroom; that so long as you and "yours" are pleased, that's all the affirming or approval that you truly need.
CON: Again, Secrets Can Be Seductive
As a marriage life coach, I've certainly seen my fair share of affairs. Three common reasons that come up is a lack of consistent sex in their relationship with their spouse, someone feeling as if their partner takes them for granted and/or sheer boredom. If you've never cheated, all of these reasons might lean on the side of semi-ridiculous to you, but let me put it to you this way—the Lifetime channel would probably not exist if people weren't pulled into the lust, intensity and even drama of a lot of their movies. Same thing goes for illicit relationships; they tap into all of these feelings as well.
But if there's one more "con" to consider if you are currently keeping your relationship a secret, it's the fact that it can make it that much easier for him or you to keep another relationship a secret as well. Just think about it—you've already mastered how to limit information, sneak around and put on a poker face. Sometimes the seductiveness of secrets can make it tempting to start something up with someone else. And hey, who would know since you already know how to keep things on the low?
This point right here takes us all the way back to motive. If your relationship is a secret because you are protecting its value, that's one thing. But if it's a secret because you're doing some stuff that you know you ain't got no business doing, well, all I can say is if you sow a secret relationship, you'll probably eventually reap one. Only this time, it'll be the kind you didn't want—your man being in a secret relationship with somebody else.
Secrets aren't bad if your reasons are good. And by "good", I mean right and healthy. Choose wisely, y'all.
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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. ;)
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.
It is Eartha Kitt who once said, “Aging has a wonderful beauty, and we should have respect for that.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why, it really does get under my skin, that we live in a culture that is almost obsessed with staying young. Why? Don’t you want to grow, evolve…mature? That’s why I’m also not big on people who are damn near obsessed with looking 20 years younger than they are. Nah, personally, I think the goal of looking great for and at your age is where it’s at because, as my mother (who ages remarkably well) used to say, “I’ve earned every year. I don’t want to be looking like a child when I’m not.” (It’ll preach.)
This kind of wisdom is the type of hindsight that cannot be matched. Because again, while getting older shouldn’t be anything that any of us are afraid of or ashamed to do, wouldn’t it be great if we were more proactive than reactive when it comes to how we take care of ourselves — so that as we do age (and it is inevitable), we will age…gracefully…seamlessly…beautifully?
That’s why I took the time to ask 15 women in their 40s to share some things that they wish they had done in their 20s as far as physical beauty is concerned. Look at it as me doing a solid for any of you younger readers who really think that “I woke up like this” will last…forever. It won’t. And if you settle into that very real reality by taking good care of yourself now, the 40s will be where you actually end up looking better than ever.
*Middle names are used in all of my interview pieces, so that people can speak freely, no matter what the topic may be.*
“Some women aren’t gonna like this but, Black can crack. I see it often; especially when I look at a lot of these women’s necks — even celebrities. You can look like you’re 29 in the face but because you didn’t take care of your neck when you were in your 20s, it’s out here looking like it should be in a nursing home. That part of your skin ages and sags like everything else. I wish I had cared about that back in the day. I do now and yes young women, moisturize your neck every night and every morning. I personally use a combination of rosehip oil and lavender because they help to stimulate collagen production. Don’t wait until you have tree rings. Do it…now.”
“I wish I had taken better care of my breasts. Not [just] as far as my health; as far as their appearance. When you’re in your 20s, everything is perky and unicorns. Hit 35 and you start to notice that your girls like your feet more than your neck. Doing some exercises to make your pecs more prominent and applying some cocoa or shea butter every night are little things that can keep them youthful. Don’t wait. A breast lift is an option but those aren’t cheap. And if you can avoid paying what a used car costs to keep your breasts sittin’ high, why not do that now?”
“It might sound weird but I wish I had laid off of my protective styles more. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the point of them is to grow our hair out but that can’t happen if we’re never giving our hair a break from all of the tension that comes from tight-ass braids and twists. Now my edges are suffering and that can make you look older than you are. Those ‘Brandy braids’ are cute, girl, but so is having a full hairline. Don’t live in a protective style — your future self is screaming this at you.”
“I wish I drank less. I had a good time, trust me. But drinking on the weekends and then having drinks a couple of nights a week after work took its toll. My skin feels drier and it takes more work to keep it moisturized. These days, [I] eat edibles instead. It’s healthier and it has compounds in it that can slow down the aging process. Oh, to be young again.”
“I wish I had incorporated some sort of hand care. If anything takes wear and tear on a constant basis, it’s our hands and we’ll be out here having a beauty regimen for everything but those. Now my hands are starting to look older than I would like and so I’m having to work overtime to get rid of some fine lines and fragile-looking skin. What I do is get hand facials every couple of months. Look to see what spas or salons offer them. It makes a really big difference on your hands. Your arms too.”
“I’m the most comfortable sleeping on my side but it’s not the best for my face — anyone’s face, really. I used to hear that it would cause wrinkles but when those aren’t something that you have to worry about, you don’t care. I’m starting to see a few around my lips and so now I’m on my back more often. I’m thinking that if I had cared about this in college, avoiding wrinkles would not be on my list of concerns at this age.”
“Stay off of acidic drinks. Your teeth will age just like everything else and sodas and orange juice doesn’t help. Think about the people you know who look one way…until they smile. Then they look 10-15 years older. Go to the dentist regularly and schedule a professional whitening appointment. White teeth make you look younger. Just take good care of them. You’ll be glad that you did, if you do.”
Jaye. 44.“Gray hair is a blessing but my grandmother always told me that it can come in prematurely — and a part of what causes that to happen is stress and a poor diet. When you’re young, you don’t care about stuff like that. But let those first ones creep in around your hairline and suddenly, you’re looking for all kinds of hacks. My advice? That man, that job, and that relative that is already making you want to pull your hair out? Let them go. Your hair can’t take it. And all of that junk food you’re consuming? I still hit a drive-thru but these days, it’s more like a couple of times a month instead of during every lunch break.”
“Get your legs waxed. All of that razor shaving can cause discoloration or leave razor marks that can make your skin look older over time. Plus, it creates ingrown hairs and something about those can make you look older too.”
“Stop not taking sleep seriously. When you’re 25, you can go on four hours of sleep for days on end but it catches up to you. Sleep is what rejuvenates you and if you don’t get it, eventually you will look like it. I have dark circles that I’ve been trying to get rid of and a part of it is due to years of no sleep catching up to me. Whatever it is, it can wait until you’ve had at least seven hours. Don’t listen if you don’t want to. One day you will look in the mirror and wish that you did.”
“I wish I had spent more time outdoors. It’s no secret that Black people have more of a vitamin D deficiency than anyone else but trying to pile up on supplements when you’re older is a lot. When you’re at restaurants, eat on the patio. Sit on your back deck to read a book. Go for a walk in the mornings. I’m dealing with some hair loss stuff right now and it’s partly because I need more vitamin D. And thinning hair makes you look older than you should.”
“Waist trainers are bad for you. I wish those damn things would go away. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get that a snatched waist can take a few years off. Hell, I know that I took mine for granted back in my 20s. Snack on bananas and berries. Do some cardio even if that’s power walking through the mall. Stop drinking cold stuff so much. It might sound like a mama’s tale, but drinking things at room temperature reduces bloating. There are other things that you can do to get the curves that you want without smashing your organs. Lord.”
“I wish I cared more about my damn arms. Nothing makes you look older quicker than your upper arms not being in good shape. Get some five-pound free weights and set aside 15 minutes. Dry brush those bad boys; it’ll keep dimples from showing up. Keep them extra moisturized, so that those annoying little bumps won’t show up. And use sunscreen. The sun doesn’t know if you’re Black or not. It comes for us too.”
“Have a professional care for your skin. There are a billion things that you can do at home but an aesthetician is trained to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Facials, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels from time to time have all played a role in me starting to look younger. If I had taken preventative measures, it would’ve kept some money in my pocket because I wouldn’t be going quite as much as I do now.”
“I wish I had been more choosy about my sex partners so that I could’ve had wilder sex. Listen to Auntie here. There is some stuff that good sex will do for you and aging that no cosmetic can. Sweat out those toxins. Work out that core. Take in some of that sperm. Just do it with a man you can trust and you can be totally free with instead of these knuckleheads. Yeah, better mate selection is the beauty tip that I recommend — and stop acting like it’s a rite of passage to start this at 35. Get a good man now and sit down somewhere. So that you can lay down in peace. That’s what I’ve got for you.”
Pass the plate around for Payce, y’all. As far as beauty and maturity go, she just preached — to women of ALL ages! Amen? Amen.
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