I know, I know. When it comes to marriage, if a couple is able to say that they've been together for more than a decade and they are reasonably cool with one another, that is almost like a minor miracle. Still, as someone who is a huge fan of the union and actually know some husbands and wives who are head over heels into one another, even 20-plus years in, I think just being "alright" in a marriage is kind of a low bar. After all, life is short and also pretty precious, so if you're going to commit to being with someone for the rest of your days, shouldn't the both of you do all that you can to make sure your marriage is more than just "good"—that it is pretty darn great?
If you're reading this and you're at total peace with your marriage and the spouse that you've chosen, salute. Yet if you're wondering about what you can do to take things up a few notches, here are seven things that can help your relationship to thrive—and then some!
1. Surprise Your Partner More Often
I don't care if a couple has been together for a couple of years or 30 of 'em, it's rare when either spouse doesn't appreciate a nice surprise every now and then. Tickets to a favorite event that shows up in their email inbox. A text that consists of nothing more than a hotel room number and a time to show up. Favorite flowers or meal that comes to the office, right out of the blue. A good marriage? That is one where both partners are thoughtful on each other's birthday and never forgets one another's anniversary. A great marriage consists of two people who are constantly trying to one-up their own selves when it comes to making their partner feel loved, appreciated and desired while oftentimes catching them totally off guard when it comes to their efforts. A wise person once said, "The best things happen unexpectedly." When's the last time that you surprised your partner? When's the last time that they've surprised you?
2. Regularly Pray/Meditate Together
The reason why I've written articles for the site like, "7 Signs You're Spiritually Compatible With Someone" and "7 Spiritual Principles About Sex That Married Couples Should Never Forget" is because I wholeheartedly believe that our spirits are involved in marriage just as much as any other part of us. And since marriage is about joining one mind, body and spirit with another's, it's so important for husbands and wives to make the time to pray and/or meditate together (preferably both).
From a scientific standpoint alone, prayer reduces stress; gives you more of a positive outlook; strengthens your faith; softens your heart (so that it's easier to forgive); keeps you humble (more on that in just a sec), and even increases longevity. As far as meditation goes, it can help to control anxiety; reduce depression-related symptoms; make you more mindful; heighten self-awareness; lengthen your attention span, and make you a kinder individual overall. With all of the benefits that prayer and meditation provide, why wouldn't you want to have these experiences with your partner?
By the way, both of these things can directly benefit your sex life too. A couple of years ago, we published an article on the site entitled, "Ashley Graham & Her Husband Say Prayer Is The Ultimate Form Of Foreplay". That same year, I also wrote about orgasmic meditation (check out "What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?"). Since "saying grace" and breathing deeply can take your sex life to another level too, hey, that's just one more solid reason to pray and meditate with your partner more often, don't cha think?
3. Operate from a Place of Humility
If there is one thing that I would shout from the rooftops of every single person (who desires to be married; not everyone does) is if you are too full of yourself to 1) admit when you're wrong and/or 2) be corrected by your partner and/or 3) offer up and apology that comes without any excuses and justifications, you have absolutely no business getting married. I can't tell you how many couples I've worked with who, while it is clear that they love one another, they are still 10 minutes away from hitting the wall (getting a divorce) and it's basically due to one thing—a lack of humility. A humble individual doesn't have to be right all of the time. A humble person doesn't constantly need to take the credit. A humble person tends to not get triggered or become provoked easily. A humble person can own their ish. A humble person loves to help others. A humble person strives for peace above all else. We're living in a world that seems to constantly encourage ego maniacal behavior. Still, if you want to keep your marriage thriving, strive for humility. You might be amazed by how far it gets you.
4. Love with All Five of Your Senses
Sight. Touch. Hearing. Taste. Smell. These are our five senses. Now my question is how often do you try and love your spouse with all five of them? I'll provide some examples. Do you constantly go to bed NOT looking a hot mess (sight)? Are you intentional about showing affection like greeting them with a kiss at the door when they come home from work or hugging them from behind when they are cooking or working on a project (touch)? When's the last time you've expressed what you like, love or find sexy as hell about them (hearing)? Can you recall when you've ordered or made them their favorite meal or prepared some aphrodisiac cocktails for the two of you to enjoy together (taste)? Do you know their favorite scent? How often do you wear it (smell)?
I know that the five love languages continue to be popular when it comes to expressing love (check out "Are You Ready To Apply Your Love Language To Your Sex Life?" and "15 Date Ideas Based On Your Love Language"). Personally, I also think it's important to come up with ways to show your love to your partner via their five senses too. It's an underestimated way to make sure that they feel loved in every way. Quite literally so.
5. Present Things in Question Form
Wanna know what will put someone on the defensive? It's when you come at them with accusations or definitive conclusions instead of questions when you're trying to gain some clarity. That said, another point that I think doesn't get brought up enough in marriage is it's a constant lesson in how to communicate effectively, how to listen wholeheartedly and also, how to literally treat someone else in the way that you'd want to be treated. I don't care how long you have known someone or lived with them, because it's a part of human nature to constantly evolve, you don't know everything about them (it's pretty arrogant and presumptuous to think otherwise).
That's why, whether it's a discussion or a flat-out disagreement, you are showing that you are open to learning, to hearing their perspective and to gaining a deeper insight into who they are by coming at your spouse in question form rather than all-out statements. If you don't believe me, ask them to communicate with you in the same way and watch how much smoother the conversation goes.
6. Have “Purpose Update” Meetings
Another tip for singles who desire marriage is, please be clear about what your purpose is. Then, once you start seeing someone, make sure that they are clear about what their purpose in this life is as well. The reason why I say this is because, in order for you to be in a long-term relationship where you truly feel fulfilled, you both need to be able to respect one another's calling in life and even be able to help, if/when needed. This is one example of how two individuals are able to actually complement each other.
I actually know a couple who's been married for several years now. Unfortunately, they've really been struggling because the wife's focus has been more on the husband just doing whatever needs to be done in order to provide. Meanwhile, the husband has become resentful because, ever since he was in college, he had specific dreams. So, what happened? He loved her and put his dreams on hold. Now he's miserable and because she never considered his dreams as being important, their union is in some serious trouble.
This is why I often recommend to married couples that they hold, what I call, "purpose update meetings". Some do it once a month, some do it once a season (four times a year) and some do it biannually or annually.
The logic behind the suggestion is to sit down with your partner, so that you can share how you feel about your purpose—along with what your short-term goals are concerning them—as they do the same. Why? It's simple. It can never be underestimated, just how important purpose is because it literally means "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.". You can be in love, have great sex and feel pretty good about your relationship. It's still headed for some really big valleys if one or both of you are not thriving in your purpose.
Mutually communicating when it comes to this is critical. It really is.
7. Let Grudges Go
There's a married couple I know who are toxic and then some. There are about a dozen reasons why I say that; however, I'm going to close with something that can easily go on the top three—they both basically live to hold grudges. By definition, a grudge is defined as being a feeling of ill will or resentment. Personally, I define them as being manipulative power plays. Then there's what an author by the name of Criss Jami once said about them. He said, "Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on."
The silent treatment. Being passive aggressive. Not letting things go until someone sees an issue the same way that you do. All of these are forms of control and no one wants to be in a controlling relationship. Needing some time and space to process things? That's human and healthy. Allowing unresolved issues to go on into infinity is really…unsound. A married couple who's intentional about resolving matters as soon as possible—even if it means seeing a therapist, counselor or coach—is a couple who doesn't take time for granted, doesn't like to be disconnected from their partner and is more about forward movement than being in a problematic hamster wheel. And a husband and wife who remain in this kind of space? Whether it's immediately or eventually, they are well on their way from going from "good" to "great" when it comes to their relationship. Salute.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
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Feature image by Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood