People often ask me questions about dating, love and relationships and I had an epiphany about my own single life when I was still single and dating. In my latest book, Don't Be A Wife To A Boyfriend: 10 Lessons I Learned When I Was Single, I share some of my experiences as a single woman and reflect on some of the decisions I made and the growth that took place, with the hope that I will inspire others going through similar situations.
Now, after recently celebrating seven years of marriage, I felt led to share something passionate, real and from my heart for my single sisters but in a shorter format. I don't claim to have an answer for every question, and even as a happily married woman, I'm still learning. However, I'm older now and have learned a great deal through my personal experiences and even through the experiences of others.
Of course I could go on for days, but for now I decided I'd share with you my personal top 10 list.
1. Practice self-love before you accept love from someone else.
It's difficult to love someone else if you can't first love yourself. Usually, the way we allow others to treat us is a reflection of how much, or how little, we love and value ourselves. I realized a long time ago that my unhealthy search for love was because of my own lack of self-love and self-esteem. I relied on others to do what I couldn't do for myself. Learn how to be single and satisfied, so you don't end up totally dependent on someone else.
2. Let it flow.
“Every potential date is not a potential mate." We don't have to be so serious so soon especially if it's only been a few months, let alone a few weeks. I used to think, "Oh, since the date went well then maybe he's my husband," or I would obsess about the status of our relationship only after a short time.
Sometimes we psych ourselves out of a good thing by trying to force something to happen, and sometimes it's a turn-off to guys. Just let the conversations and natural progression of the relationship flow. That's not to say that you should wait on someone forever; but if it feels right and it's flowing right, then play it cool and let it happen.
3. Don't think of him as a piece of clay that you can mold into what you want him to be.
"How can I get him to go to church?" "How can I get him to settle down?"
I'm a living witness that people can, in fact, transform their lives over time. Understand, however, we can only change those things we have the power to change. While we have the power to influence change, we can never force change.
When I first started dating my husband, he wasn't going to church or as spiritually connected to God as he is now, but I didn't harass him or force him to do anything because we all have different journeys. I just prayed for him, talked to him about certain things, and ultimately he made the decision to make some changes.
If someone keeps saying they're going to do things differently but you're not seeing the modifications, that could mean it's time for you to change your role in the situation instead of wasting your energy trying to change them. At the end of the day, if he's really into you and wants to keep you, then he will prove it to you – not just through his words but through his actions.
4. Don't expect different results using the same habits.
In the past, I found myself repeating this pattern over and over - dating the same type of guy and/or doing the same type of things. Sometimes when you're used to being treated a certain way, you start to think that's how it's supposed to be or believe that's what you deserve. But when I started dating my husband, I decided to do things differently and refused to accept anything less than what I deserved. Basically, I made him work for my love. Like they say, “the woman you want is usually the one you have to work for."
5. Make yourself a priority while you can.
6. Don't make excuses for people who need to be excused out of your life.
There are two types of people you should apply this to: 1) Dead weight – the ones who seem to stay around but constantly hurt or mistreat you or bring you down (they make more deposits than withdrawals), and 2) Pop-ups –the ones who stay running in and out of your life when it's convenient for them but they're never consistent. Unless you're content with these situations or aren't really looking to settle down, then you will find yourself hopelessly waiting or chasing. You will be waiting on them to get it together and come back, or you will be chasing after people who aren't chasing after you.
Trust me, I've had to use the "block" and "delete" functions on my phone to ensure I didn't keep falling back into the trap and answer their calls or respond to their text messages. Sometimes you have to take extreme measures when you know you can't trust yourself to resist and to show yourself, and others, just how committed you are to moving on.
7. Don't be a wife to a boyfriend.
"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
It's an old saying but it still holds true today. For some of us, it's natural to want to take care of our boyfriends and show them how good of a wife we could be if they chose us, but be careful giving away too much too soon. I used to give of myself so freely, both physically and mentally, and to people who usually didn't deserve it. Relationships should be 100/100 - each person giving a 100%. However, if you give up too much too soon without any reciprocation, then he stands to benefit the most and you risk losing everything; only to end up with heartache and disappointment.
8. Don't confuse love with lust.
Many of us have ruined countless relationships or ended up with broken hearts because somewhere along the way we concluded the presence of sex automatically meant the presence of love. Trust me, physical appeal, sex, and intimacy - they all matter, but don't allow physical attraction to become a major distraction.
I know without a shadow of a doubt, much of my past hurt and pain was due in part because I either gave it up too soon or I assumed that he would love me because I had sex with him. Sometimes, you have to discern between what feels good to you versus what is good for you. Thankfully, you get the best of both worlds when you experience real love, but that's not always the case if you're with someone who isn't meant for you. Don't overlook future necessities just to satisfy your present desires and don't confuse love with lust.
9. Nothing happens overnight. Things take time.
For some people it can take a few tries, a few months, a few years or even what may seem like a lifetime. I've learned that you can't rush love and I didn't go from being single to married overnight. I had pain before pleasure and heartache before happiness but in the end real love came along. It may sound cliche, but what God has for you is for you and if it's in His will for your life (whether married, single, etc.), it will come to pass. Through my own experience and the experiences of others, I have learned that the moment we stop worrying and looking, is usually the very moment when it happens.
10. Don't be that girl - "over thirty and worried."
There's something about turning thirty. It's like a switch goes off and tells us that we have to become obsessed and evaluate our lives and analyze the progress we've made, or lack thereof, as it relates to relationships, careers and family. I will admit that oftentimes it's brought on by the pressure of society, but sometimes we place the pressure on ourselves.
Realize, however, that you can be any age (20, 30, 40, 50 and so on) - and still have the “over thirty and worried" mindset. It's the woman who is OVERLY obsessed with trying to find a man or CONSTANTLY sad about not having one. So she finds herself desperate, settling and/or overwhelmed with sadness because she's so consumed thinking about what isn't instead of what is. We either know her, we are her or like me at one time or another we were that girl.
My mom, who is obviously over 30 because I'm in my mid-thirties and who has never been married, is the epitome of how NOT to be that girl - “over 30 and worried." What I love about her is the fact that even though she's single and she's been through a lot, she hasn't given up on love and she doesn't allow her single status to keep her stagnant. She's learned how to be single and satisfied. She's not sitting around desperately waiting or chasing after men. Instead, she stays on the go and chooses to live her life to the fullest, while still managing to give so much of herself, time and resources to help others.
Life is short. So, take a lesson from her and learn how to live, love and appreciate your life. I understand it's easier said than done when you're single and have been for a long time. I used to have my days when I would feel lonely and cry myself to sleep wondering if I would ever happen for me. I know you will have your days too and you will have your moments, but you can't stay there. Take your moment, dust yourself off and keep it moving and focus on what you do have. Besides, if you can't be happy by yourself, then you'll likely have a hard time being happy with someone else.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."May you be encouraged through my experiences and through God's word and realize that IT IS all goodand IT IS working for your good no matter what your relationship status may be.
Featured image by Getty Images
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Shonda Brown White is a bestselling author, blogger, life coach, and brand strategist. When she's not jumping out of a plane or zip lining, she's living the married life with her husband in Atlanta, GA. Connect with her on social @ShondaBWhite and her empowering real talk on her blog.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Squeeze Your Way To Ecstasy: How This Masturbation Technique Can Make You Orgasm
What if I told you that you can achieve an orgasm by simply squeezing your thighs together? Believe it or not, this technique has been known to lead to some seriously orgasmic experiences and is gaining popularity among people who want to explore new ways of reaching orgasm. There's a word for this, it’s called syntribation. The act of squeezing or rubbing the thighs together to create friction and pressure until climax.
First, let's talk about the anatomy behind this technique. The pelvic nerves responsible for arousal and orgasm pass through the thighs, so squeezing them can stimulate these nerves and send a rush of pleasure to your genitals. Additionally, the muscles in your thighs tense up during orgasm, so squeezing them can replicate that sensation and potentially lead to the real deal.
How To Do Syntribation
Start by crossing your legs and squeezing your thighs. Keep going until you feel a pleasurable pressure on your clit/glans area. Another method is by putting your hands in the middle of your inner thighs. Then cross your legs and squeeze your thighs as tight as you can. Note that your hands are not doing anything - they are just sandwiched between your thighs. Using this method will provide more pressure and squeezing sensation.
You can also practice syntribation with sex toys as long as they’re not chunky vibes and dildos. Simply place the sex toy in the middle of your thighs, and let it vibrate as you syntribate.
Is Syntribation Safe?
While syntribation masturbation is a relatively new masturbation technique, it does not pose any major risks to your physical health. The one potential risk is possibly skin irritation from friction, but that can be avoided by wearing long pants or using a cushion between your legs.
The Benefits of Syntribation
As with any masturbation technique, this one will have some health benefits, including a boosted immune system, reduced stress, glowing skin, stronger vaginal walls, and so on. Syntribation masturbation can offer a new way to explore your sexuality and achieve sexual pleasure. It can be a great alternative for people who prefer not to use their hands or fingers during masturbation.
In addition to enhancing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, syntribation may even appeal to voyeurs and exhibitionists who are intrigued by the idea of public play.
Is Syntribation Effective?
The effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person. Some people may find it more pleasurable than traditional methods of masturbation, while others may not enjoy it at all. It ultimately comes down to individual preferences and experiences. However, if you are looking to try something new and explore different ways to achieve orgasm, syntribation masturbation can be worth giving a try.
Although syntribation masturbation may sound unusual, it is gaining popularity as a way to explore new methods of achieving sexual pleasure. It’s hands-free and has no major risks. Even though the effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person, depending on individual preferences and experiences, ultimately, I think it’s worth giving it a try.
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