Typically, when people think of a nighttime routine, little children are who come to mind. Yet the reality is this is something that can be super beneficial for us as adults too. While I will be sure to put one together for us single folks sooner than later, today, I wanna offer up some tips for married couples. The reason why is simple. No matter how many husbands and wives that I work with, if there's a common thread that's among them all, it's the fact that they suck when it comes to going to bed. What I mean by that is, unless it's for the purpose of sex, a lot of them don't go to bed together and, if they do, they treat their bedroom either like another home office (laptops and work stuff all over the place) or an entertainment center (watching TV and constantly scrolling online). None of this creates a truly relaxing environment nor does it encourage couples to get in a few moments of intimacy together.
So, let's do it. Let's explore 12 ways that spouses can come up with a nighttime routine that can help them to chill out, sleep better and get closer to one another in the process.
1. Schedule in 30-60 Minutes Together. Every Night.
Around this time last year, I wrote an article entitled "7 Things Married Couples Should Do...At The END Of Their Day". One of the things I mentioned that really can't be expressed enough is the importance of carving out 30 minutes for nothing but quality time — and no, sitting in front of the television doesn't count. The reality is that couples, on average, only spend 2 ½ hours together and that includes the weekends. That's why it comes as absolutely no shock to me that some couples contemplate divorce, simply on the basis of "we grew apart". I mean, how were you gonna get closer if you don't even talk? You schedule in work. You schedule in exercise. You should definitely schedule in quality time with your partner. Making that a part of your nighttime routine is a way to make that happen.
2. Share ONE Need That You Have. THAT Day.
If needs never switched up, our spouse would be able to easily satisfy — as they do the same thing for us — on the daily. However, that isn't even close to being the case. Since no one is a mind-reader (no matter how much some people may think that there are), it's important that you and your boo are given the floor to articulate what your needs may be.
The reason why I think that this is an important part of a nighttime routine is because couples often don't get to really mentally and emotionally connect until they are doing some pillow talking (which is another reason why I think it's important for couples to turn in together, at least a couple of times a night, every week). And why did I say just ONE need? Because you don't want to overwhelm your partner, especially right before they are turning in. Stating one thing gives them enough information to be able to "take your temperature" and ponder without feeling super burdened down. It oftentimes can give them insight on how to approach you the following day as well. And vice versa.
3. Sip on Some Herbal Tea
I mean, I could list red wine here because it can help lull you to sleep (or get you pretty horny) yet at the risk of not trying to turn our readers into a lush, how about some herbal tea instead? While it's not uncommon for some of us to snack on junk food (all sugar and carbs are really gonna do is stimulate you), even while sitting in the bed, teas like chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, peppermint and kava all contain properties that will relax your nerves and calm your mind. And if you add some honey to your cups, believe it or not, it will provide your brain with enough energy to keep you from waking up (funny how that works, huh?).
4. Put on Some Music
I spend quite a bit of time just randomly researching stuff. Something that I found to be interesting is there happens to be one song that has received constant raves for making people fall asleep. It's called "Weightless" and it's by a Manchester-based band called Marconi Union (it happens to be a whopping 10-hours long, by the way). Anyway, whether it's that or some other kind of playlist that is soothing to you, even if you only listen while getting ready for bed, because soft music is scientifically proven to regulate your hormones (including your stress hormones), if you and your boo have had a hard day, listening to some music together definitely couldn't hurt.
5. Read Together
Here's the thing about this particular point. There's a study that says that spending six minutes reading before turning in can reduce your stress levels by as much as almost 70 percent. Meanwhile, the blue light that comes from your television screen can jack up your melatonin levels and make it more difficult to fall and/or stay asleep. This is just one more reason to either get or keep your television out of your bedroom. As far as reading goes, there is something very romantic and sweet about a couple who decides to cuddle up and read a chapter or two of a book together. When's the last time you and yours did that? Hmm.
6. Swap Out Your Lamp’s Light Bulb
After the two of you have read something, swap out your lamp's bulb to something that is a little more romantically erotic like maybe a purple, blue or even red. It only takes a couple of seconds and can definitely put you and your spouse into the mood of relaxing — or something-else-ing. Speaking of something-else-ing, if you're curious about which color bulb will boost your libido the most, word on the street is that it's orange. Interesting.
7. Incorporate Some Aromatherapy
Something that easily takes more of my money than it should are AirWicks. I like that I can just plug them in and not worry about having to blow them out like candles or that they will create any smoke like incense. That said, whether it's a scented plug-in, a scented soy candle, an oil diffuser, some incense or even sprinkling some essential oil onto your bedding, make sure that you incorporate some aromatherapy into your bedroom space, each and every night. It reduces stress, helps to manage pain, treats headaches and migraines, decreases anxiety and yes, can improves your quality of sleep if you do it on a regular basis; especially if you incorporate it in the way that you're about to check out in the next point.
8. Give Each Other a Hand or Foot Massage
By definition, aromatherapy isn't just about appealing to your sense of smell via plant extracts/essential oils; it's about using these things to allow them to be absorbed through your skin too. This is where a hand and/or foot massage comes in.
By rubbing on the pressure points in your partner's hand, you can help to reduce bodily discomfort and decrease their stress levels. By rubbing the pressure points in their feet, you can assist in increasing blood circulation, reducing tension, fighting depression-related symptoms, reducing swelling and promoting a better night's sleep.
This is especially the case if you rub them down with some lavender oil (7-10 drops) mixed with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or avocado oil (1/3 cup). The reason why lavender is so effective is it actually increases what is known as "slow-wave sleep" which, at the end of the day, helps to slow your heart rate down and relax your muscles. If you and your spouse take out 5-7 minutes, every night, to do this, there's no telling how much better you'll both feel in the morning! For tips on how to give a hand massage, click here. As far as the feet go, check out this video here.
9. Tell Each Other Something You’re Grateful for (in Your Relationship)
A novelist by the name of Cynthia Ozick once said, "We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." I agree because I can't tell you how many times I have looked at a couple and been like, "When is the last time you actually focused on the good about your relationship — and each other? Lawd." There are many mental health experts who say that our brains are automatically wired to see the down/negative side of things. You know what this means, right? If we want to keep a positive outlook on our relationships, we've got to be intentional about seeing the good. One way to put this into practice is to commit to not closing your eyes for the night without verbally expressing to your spouse something about them that you are grateful for. Make sure you're being sincere. Avoid adding any "buts" to the end of your statement. And don't say the same thing, night after night. You know, they say that it's hard to stay angry or irritated when you're laughing. Same point applies to when you're in a state of gratitude.
10. Turn on a Fan
OK, so I am definitely the person who will set my thermostat to 68 degrees and still have a fan on while I'm sleeping. I like the room to be cold and then to snuggle up in a comforter.
The two main reasons why I think this should be incorporated into a couple's nighttime routine is 1) the room being cooler makes it easier to want to generate some body heat (if you know what I mean) and 2) the sound of a fan can produce white noise.
White noise is dope because it has the ability to drown out any other "background noises" that might make falling asleep difficult.
11. Cuddle. Even If Only for a Little While.
If you've ever heard that it's not the best idea to get anything larger than a queen size bed when you're married, there is some truth to that. Unless one or both of you are very large or tall, choosing a bed that puts distance between you can keep you from touching while you sleep and, on some levels, that can affect intimacy. However, whether you prefer to be up under each other or to kinda do your own thing as you sleep, do make it a part of your nighttime routine to cuddle, at least for 10 minutes. Cuddling also reduces stress. Not only that but it can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, encourage candidness in communication, relieve physical pain and make you hornier. So, whether it's spooning, hugging, putting your head on your man's chest or some other cuddling position, try and get into it for a little while every night. If the two of you are naked, even better!
12. Wake Up At Least 15 Minutes Earlier to Pray Together
Even if you're not the most religious person on the planet, there's no way around the fact that many studies point to there being many health benefits when it comes to prayer. It can boost your self-confidence, make you more empathic, release anxiety, make you more positive and even increase your longevity. There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20 — NKJV) Starting off your day by praying with your partner can give you the assurance that you both are closer to the Lord while doing what can benefit your mind, body and spirit, long-term. Can't think of a better reason to make this the cap on your daily nighttime routine. Can you?
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
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"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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