How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
One thing I've been seeing return to my social media feed is the opportunity to travel. Since the top of 2020, the world has been trying to figure out what "catching a flight" will look like in the future. And when you travel with your bae, it is an extraordinary experience that should be on everyone's bucket list. On a baecation, you are able to unwind from the daily Zoom meetings and experience another culture together. It's also another way to really take your intimacy to another level and grow closer to your boo mentally, physically, and emotionally.
One couple who prioritizes their love for travel and love for each other are digital creators LaNaiza Kelly and Mahdi Gaines. Originally from New Orleans, LaNaiza and Mahdi met each other at work when Mahdi noticed LaNaiza around the office and attempted to get to know her. One day, Mahdi joked that whenever she was around him, that there should be a smile. This exchange turned into an authentic relationship where they'd go everywhere together, including traveling the world.
As their love for each other grew, they created their own platform, Love at First Flight, where they share their journey of love and travel. This is a couple that knows how to put the bae in baecation. After three years, LaNaiza and Mahdi are still showing up for each other through amazing global experiences and smiling every step of the way.
In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, LaNaiza and Mahdi share how their love story is based on honesty, authenticity, and unlearning bad habits.
How We Met
Mahdi: I was in marketing and she was in sales. I actually transferred over to the sales department and that's when we met. LaNaiza used to walk around with this mad look on her face. She is not a morning person. One day I asked her, "Why do you look so mad in the morning?" And she told me, "Don't worry about it." My response was, "Well, you need to make sure you smile when you're around me," and she told me she will make sure she smiles next time.
LaNaiza: Yeah, I think it was a pretty well-known thing at work that I was not a morning person, so I never looked happy in the morning. Then this guy tried to tell me to smile, and I was like, "OK." I am super-sarcastic, so every time I saw him after that I had the biggest smile on my face. That's really how things got started. It was just a bunch of sarcasm with each other.
Mahdi: Usually LaNaiza and I would hang out, but it was always with a group. But one day, we decided to go to this place called Barcadia. She came over that evening to my place and she was all dressed up. She blew my mind when she showed up. I felt I was underdressed. We had a really good time that night. It was amazing.
LaNaiza: I was a ball of nerves that night. I was actually really nervous and tried to avoid any kind of feelings toward him. I wasn't looking to be in a relationship, but he was very persistent. We hung out a lot already, but I felt that this time was different and it was turning into something more. I started freaking out. But that night was a really good night at the end of the day.
LaNaiza: I think the moment when I started to like him, I was thinking to myself, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' But I couldn't deny it, you know? I would notice myself feeling salty if I couldn't hang out with him sometimes, so I had to be honest with myself that I was ready [for a relationship].
Mahdi: It was pretty early on for me. Even when we were hanging out, I noticed that I stopped wanting to hang out as a group and more one-on-one with LaNaiza. At a certain point, I kind of knew that a relationship with her was where my mind was going. One night we were hanging out at this club and I told her, "You know what, what's going on here? I'm interested in you for real.'" I kind of laid it out on the table.
"At a certain point, I kind of knew that a relationship with her was where my mind was going. One night we were hanging out at this club and I told her, 'You know what, what's going on here? I'm interested in you for real.'"
LaNaiza: I love that Mahdi is super goofy. He has a great sense of humor and can make friends with anyone you can imagine. I really admire that about him because sometimes I can be a little standoffish. He still embraces that inner child in him. I believe that's the core of who he truly is.
Mahdi: LaNaiza has this hard outer shell that everyone knows about but she has the biggest heart ever. She cares about people, animals, you name it. That is something that really attracted me to her. Earlier on when we were dating, I noticed that soft heart. That really means a lot to me.
The "L" Word
Mahdi: I think it was a couple of months into the relationship for me. We moved so organically and I had strong feelings for LaNaiza. We were so close and she was my best friend. I could talk to her about anything even before we became a romantic relationship, so when we finally got together, it just clicked. This was everything I ever wanted and I have never felt this way about anybody. I started thinking about my future and she was the only person I wanted to be in it with me.
LaNaiza: For me, I knew I loved him but I didn't want to admit it. When I started to feel my walls coming down and I was comfortable to just be myself around Mahdi, that was when I knew. I used to never think about the future with someone and it just felt right with him. It was just one of those things where when you know, you know.
"I knew I loved him but I didn't want to admit it. When I started to feel my walls coming down and I was comfortable to just be myself around Mahdi, that was when I knew. I used to never think about the future with someone and it just felt right with him. It was just one of those things where when you know, you know."
Mahdi: What I've learned about love is that when you love somebody, you give that person the real you. A lot of people like to put up a front or try to be someone else in order to fit this ideal partner. But with LaNaiza, she is unapologetically herself. She reminds me all the time (laughs). I love that because that makes me want to be unapologetically myself too.
LaNaiza: I have learned that love is a job. It is a continuing thing that you have to work toward every day. There are times where we butt heads, but if you really love someone, you have to put in the work and the effort to keep the love alive—to show up for one another.
LaNaiza: In the beginning, we were both coming out of serious relationships. We were both in unhealthy relationships where we developed bad habits. We had to unlearn those habits in order to be with each other. We were honestly figuring out how to love essentially and learning how we would want to receive love. One habit I had to unlearn was communication. I am not good at communicating (laughs). I am very quick to express when I am angry. But for me it was learning how to express how I'm feeling when I am feeling it. Instead of holding it in and blowing up later.
Mahdi: For me, I had to unlearn a lot of things. I felt that I had to take care of everything like I did in my previous relationship, but LaNaiza taught me that I don't have to do everything. We are a team. With her, I feel like I am in a true partnership. I have never felt like this before. I remember we went on our first trip to Puerto Rico. The room was in my name and we were checking in. At first, I was going to take care of everything, but then LaNaiza stepped up and handled the check-in—honestly, better than I would have. As I watched her, I thought to myself, "You know what, I like this!"
LaNaiza: We both have busy lives, so I think it is important to carve out some time for hobbies. One of my favorite things to do is salsa dancing. It's a time for me to be social and it's also how I like to unwind. Mahdi and I spend a lot of time together so we try to carve out our alone time when we can.
Mahdi: So LaNaiza is a night owl and I'm an early bird. So I like to get a morning workout [in] at around 6 a.m. It's a good start to my morning and it helps me clear my head. Then when night comes around, I'm already tired but LaNaiza is still working on emails and things. It just works because she knows I'm out for the count anyways.
LaNaiza: I think one shared value is just being honest with each other. I think that should be the foundation in any relationship.
Mahdi: We also talk about our life goals a lot to each other. We keep each other motivated and focused on what the end goal is. We have meetings about it and everything.
For more of LaNaiza and Mahdi, follow them on Instagram @loveatfirstflight_.
Featured image via Love at First Flight
'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
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Nelly And Ashanti Are Giving It Another Shot? Here's What You Should Know About 'Ex Reconciliation'
Okay, so if you’ve read any of my pop culture think pieces on this platform before (like here or here), you already know that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time talking like I know people who I actually…don’t. As someone who grew up in an entertainment industry home and then got my (official) start in journalism in the entertainment realm as well — let me just tell you from very up close and personal experience that nothing is a smoke-and-mirrors game quite like the celebrity world. That’s why it’s wise to not invest too deeply into it/them.
At the same time, since, for better or for worse, we do live in a culture that seems to be constantly consumed with what famous folks are doing. What I prefer to do is use certain news stories (even if they are basically nothing more than tabloid gossip, depending on the day) as personal teachable moments — and since the word on the street is saying that Nelly and Ashanti are giving it another go, I thought that topic would be a great one to tackle.
My personal recollection of them being together consists of my finding Ashanti’s visual for her single “Good Good” (damn, was that 2008?!) to be cute enough. Plus, I liked how they mostly kept everything off the grid — unlike the other relatively reunited (and does it feel so good? I can’t tell because Ben always looks so irritated) couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, chile). Anyway, beyond that, and then reading some timeline pieces on Nelly and Ashanti (a recent one is located here), there’s not much more that I can say as far as their coupledom goes.
Ashanti and Nelly during Sean Diddy Combs First Fragrance Launch for Unforgivable - After PartyJohnny Nunez/WireImage
However, when I did happen to catch a roughly hour-long Instagram post (here) on Ashanti’s page a few months ago talking about how (among other things) she used to want six kids, and now she’ll “settle for” two or three, I took that to be a subtext that she’s ready to get into something serious/substantial — and sometimes that can mean reconciling with someone from your past.
It’s kind of like a point that was made by Alec Baldwin’s character in the movieIt’s Complicated (paraphrased): “Some people should get back together 10 years after a divorce because the time apart can help each person to grow. And since you already know your ex so well, reuniting later could be the best decision ever.”
Nelly and Ashanti reportedly broke up ten years ago, so maybe they are life-imitating art. Either way, before you use them as inspiration (or ammo — LOL) to get back with someone from your own past, please ask yourself the following questions. Then be serious about the answers. Then run them by a trusted friend (or your therapist). And then, if it all checks out, proceed with extreme wisdom and logic. Because getting back with an ex is a bit like a crap shoot — it can be a real blessing or a HUGE mistake. That’s why factoring as much as possible beforehand is such a wise thing to do.
Why Did the Two of You Break-Up?Giphy
I recently got certified (and soon to be credentialed) to be a professional certified coach (a holistic one). It’s interesting because, when you’re actually learning from an ICF-accredited school, a question that actually isn’t asked in life coaching is “Why?” Why is that? Because while therapy/counseling tends to focus on the past quite a bit, life coaching specializes in asking questions that will empower you to decide what is best for your future.
In this case, though, you definitely need to take your past into account because if you don’t factor in why you broke up with your ex in the first place, it could result in you just repeating the same ish that you did before — and if that ish is centered around things like abuse (neglect is abuse, by the way), constant lying or being taken for granted, you really need to do some serious vetting to see if those things are still a present-day issue.
And yes, this is a critical point to consider because, while some people live by the motto “forward ever, backward never” or my personal favorite, “getting back with an ex is like getting out of the shower and putting the same underwear on,” not every break-up is horrific or even devastating. Sometimes it really is a matter of meeting the right person at the wrong time or the two of you really liking each other, but something just doesn’t quite “click.”
You know, it is Benjamin Franklin who once said, “All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking WHY.” And since, hopefully, you’ve been learning, growing, and improving as an individual, ever since you ended things with your ex, asking yourself why you broke up and being really honest about the answer, that can help you to see WHY you should consider trying again or WHY the past should totally be left there.
What Lessons Did You Learn? During and Since Ending the Relationship?Giphy
Everyone is a lesson. That is, if you’re humble enough to know how to be taught anything (some of y’all will catch that later). And just so we’re all on the same page when it comes to this particular point, a lesson is a practical piece of wisdom, and wisdom is something that offers insight and heightens your sense of discernment. In other words, if it’s truly a lesson — and you apply it — there will be no reason to repeat it; your insight and discernment won’t let you.
So, when it comes to your ex, what lessons did they teach you? One of mine taught me to not convince myself to be with someone just because they are a good person. Another taught me to not "be a wife" to someone who is not my literal husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife"). Still, another taught me to stop mistaking nostalgia for actual love (more on that in just a bit). The first and second lessons I learned during the relationship. The last I learned after. And because the lessons were so profound, they totally altered my way of thinking — which makes getting back together with any of those guys basically an impossibility. Wisdom won't let me.
On the other hand, I have a friend who is kinda-sorta back with one of her exes because the lesson that she learned during the relationship was because she had never been in love before, she kept playing the exhausting game of come-close-go-away. Now that she's had some therapy (and matured a bit), she and her ex are in a far better place which makes it easier to interact with one another on another level. Is it just like it was before? No. In many ways, it's better because, since my friend has less anxiety, there is less stress on the relational dynamic, which makes them able to see where things could go a lot easier for both of them.
I am a firm believer that life is one big school. Thing is, when it comes to the lessons that you need to learn, you can stay in the same class for 20 years, if need be. So yeah, when it comes to pondering about getting back with your ex, did the lessons that you already learn reveal to you that it would be a smart move or a really dumb decision?
Who Reached Back Out First? (Yes, It Is Valid)Giphy
Typically, the "Who did it first?" question leans on the side of silly and/or petty and/or entitled to me. Oh, but not in this case. And although words cannot express how disgusted I am with how Brian McKnight is displaying extremely poor (fellow) Gemini energy, he is a great songwriter, and his song with the hook, "Do I ever cross your mind? Anytime?" — let me just say that an ex who says they never think about their exes from time to time they are a bold-faced liar.
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that they care enough to reach out or that it's a good idea, even if they're tempted to do so. So, when someone actually does step out and send an email, get in the DMs, or leave a voicemail (your ex still has your phone number? Interesting), that's quite telling — although you do need to take into serious account what it all actually means.
For instance, back when my first book came out, a few of the characters (pun intended and not intended) hit me up. One was my first love. All he really did was send me an email to tell me that he read the book and that he was sorry for the role that he played in the pain of the relationship. And that he would always love me.
Now guess what part I focused on? You can check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour" to get the gist of that. As a result, for several more years, off and on, that continued to be all that my heart (the Bible says the heart is deceitful; always remember that — Jeremiah 17:9-10) honed in on. That man didn't say that he wanted to rekindle anything. He said that he wanted to apologize. Lawd, how much we can spare ourselves if we'd just learn to listen to what is being said instead of editing conversations into what we want to hear.
So, did he reach out first? Yep. Did he want anything? Not really. And from personal experience, that’s why “who reached out first and why” is something else that needs to be given some serious thought. After all, the two of you broke up for a reason…so, if they do reach back out, now more than ever, it’s important to take their words literally. If he only wants to see if you’re well, let him know that you are and leave it there. If he wants to apologize, accept this apology and tell him to take care. If he asks to see you — now that’s when trying to figure out if reconnecting, on any level, is actually a good idea.
Bottom line here don’t make something be what it’s not. Oh, and if you are the one who reaches out first…let me just say that I know a woman who got ghosted by an ex back in college, she decided to reach back out to him some 20 years later, and all they’ve been doing is dating for over ten years now (even though she wants to be married). I mean…he didn’t come looking for her; she went out looking for him — which kind of translates to me that he was fine whether they spoke again or not.
See what I mean? *Elmo shrug*
Is It Love? Or Nostalgia?Giphy
Please, please, PLEASE — if you don't get anything else from this article, get this: just like fleeting passion can be mistaken for lasting love, so can nostalgia; the definition of the word explains a lot of the reason why, too: "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."
You know, the mind is a funny thing. "Funny" in the sense that, if you lean into nostalgia, it typically will edit out all of the crappy stuff while encouraging you to focus solely on the good times. For instance, I know a woman right now who got back into something with an ex who was sending her all kinds of expensive shoes and random flowers for the first few months…just like before. Now? Now he's calling her when he's tipsy to vent about his ex-wife.
How did she get caught up in this pattern? Good ole' nostalgia, chile. Initially, reconnecting included discussing fun dates and good sex. Yet, nostalgia is kind of like a drug — it gets you really high, yet sooner or later, you're gonna crash…and that can have you feeling super low.
You know, there's not one ex who I don't have a myriad of good memories of. Yet when I bring logic, common sense, and facts into the dynamic, they all needed to be exes — and honestly should stay just that way. Just because I "love" certain things about them, that doesn't mean that I'm actually still in love with them…and why let the former cause me to overlook the latter?
Pleasant thoughts are fine. They aren't enough to go off of to rekindle a relationship, though. You are far too precious. So is your time. This brings me to the next point.
Time Is Precious: How Would Reconciling Make the Most of Yours?Giphy
It actually wasn't too long ago that I penned the piece, "Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?" for the site. One of the things that I mentioned in it is there is something known as recycling (making something new without changing its original form), and then there's something known as upcycling (taking an original thing and changing it into something totally different; typically something better). That said, if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, I recommend that you determine if it's going to be an UPCYCLE for you. Otherwise, really…why do it?
Something that I oftentimes tell people in their 20s is it really is time out for acting like that decade is nothing more than being in the 2.0 version of your teens. In other words, if you don't make wise decisions, then, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And then you'll need even more time trying to heal and recover from it all.
Personally, that's one of the things that I mourn about a lot of the moves that I made back then; I had to spend a significant amount of my 30s healing so that, should I ever decide to marry a man, I will be the helpmate that he truly deserves. And that's another reason why I'm good on my exes — I don't have another decade to throw away.
And for those of you who may struggle with taking personal accountability and so you like to romanticize your poor choices by saying things like, "Nothing is a waste of time," — no offense, but that is a damn lie. Waste literally means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander," and yes — it is quite possible (and easier than most people think) to involve yourself in something (or with someone) without getting an adequate return…in return.
When one of my surrogate mothers passed away of cancer in her late 50s several years ago, one of the last things that she said to me on her hospice bed was, "It goes by sooner than you think," and I have always kept that in the forefront of my mind. As I get older, I find myself saying, "Where does the time go?" more and more.
An ex coming back into your life could potentially be an awesome thing. "Awesome" if the two of you aren't going to be a waste of each other's time. Again, use the definition of the word as a barometer. Be honest with yourself as you do.
This Time, Be Friends First (or Again)Giphy
I've been in the couples counseling game for a long time now. And if there's one thing that a lot of married and divorced people have told me, it's that they wish they had spent more time trying to cultivate a friendship with their spouse than a relationship — because when the foundation of something is unstable, the house will eventually crumble on some level.
And this brings us back to Nelly and Ashanti — they seemed to last for a good amount of time by keeping things private the first go around, so if they are indeed reconciling, I'm not sure why they would switch up the formula now. Either way, I hope that they and you will make friendship the top priority. Why? Because the best things come out of friendships. The healthiest relationships are included.
When it comes to you and your journey, please check out articles I've penned, like "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships," "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One," "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend," "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?" and definitely "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend." Because if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, the least that the two of you need to be towards each other is hella loyal, honest with each other, and respectful of each other's feelings, needs, and even a few wants. No relationship can thrive without those things intact and every healthy friendship consists of those "ingredients."
And you won't (fully) know if any of this is the case if you're quick to jump into bed or rush into a relationship without seeing how you are as friends…first.
You know, reconcile is a really interesting word. On the one hand, it can mean "to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired." On the other hand, it can mean things like "to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable" and "to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent." And with those definitions in mind, that's what you should focus on most of all.
- Is your ex willing to "win you over" by how they (now) treat you? Are you willing to do the same?
- Would being with them bring more or less harmony into your life?
- How compatible were you before, and how compatible do you seem to be now (sans the nostalgia)?
I will never say that getting back with an ex is a good or bad idea, full stop. I'll just say that if you're going back to your past, make sure it benefits your future. Otherwise, leave it right where it's at: nothing that your present needs beyond a scroll and a click…if that much, sis.
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Featured image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images