"I'm your girl, you're my girl, we your girls - don't you know that we love you…"
"Girl" (one of my personal favorites) was released by Destiny's Child in 2004, and the song speaks to being there for a friend who's in a toxic relationship. Today, the importance of having your tribe and being there for each other is still a powerful and significant message considering the fact that: 17 years have passed, which means responsibilities and priorities have likely changed for many of us, AND we survived a whole global pandemic. Hence, "checking in with God, yourself, and others," is so important for such a time as this.
Throughout the pandemic, we've heard a lot about Zoom fatigue. However, when the beautiful, talented, multi-platinum, award-winning artist, and member of one of the best-selling girl groups of all-time, Michelle Williams, shows up on your computer screen, all of that so-called Zoom fatigue goes out the window.
Recently, I had the wonderful honor and pleasure of "checking in" with Michelle Williams. When Michelle first appeared on my screen, there was an effervescent glow about her. It wasn't just the fact she was rocking a glamorous, natural look, or the vibrant pink lighting that added a delicate, yet fierce, femininity to the room. Instead, it was her kind, warm, down-to-earth spirit, and her humble and genuine personality. As someone who has experienced and invested in my own mental health journey, not only could I relate on so many levels, but I was all the more appreciative for her candidness.
During our "check-in," we discussed how Michelle courageously decided to share intimate details and experiences in her new book, Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life and Can Save Yours. She also shared the importance of checking in, how she's overcome public shame, embarrassment, and humiliation, as well as how she navigates mental health in her relationships. And let me tell you...she definitely kept it real.
Getting Real with Yourself
xoNecole: Because you are such a private person, how difficult was it for you to openly share and pen your mental health journey and experiences?
Michelle Williams: So many people told me about the healing effects of writing. So, a girlfriend and I went to a cabin one weekend, and I began to write and voice everything. It was like a therapy session. As a singer, I'm used to putting everything in a voice recorder. So, writing the book wasn't different. It was very healing and very restorative.
In your book, you shared a story about how when you originally joined Destiny’s Child and were asked about your name: “Who do you think little girls want to be like? Tenitra or Michelle?” Although you chose Michelle, there was a part of you that also thought about: “...how much my feelings of unworthiness may have sprung from comments just like that one. I wonder how much influence I lost by exchanging that label.” Reflecting on that, how have you peeled away those layers and labels to truly embrace your authentic self?
Michelle: Just so people know, Destiny's Child did not make me depressed. The music industry did not make me depressed. This is something that I've been dealing with since the 7th grade but I was finally able to put a name to it by my thirties. At first I was scared to include that part because this is not a tell-all book, but based on the way it was written and the heart of the book, by now, people know Tenitra Michelle. They know I'm not out here trying to ruin my 20-year friendships with Beyonce and Kelly.
Besides, Michelle in the beginning of Destiny's Child didn't know what she was doing. So, a part of me felt like I could keep Tenitra to myself. I am Michelle, but at times, "Michelle" served as a cover-up or a mask, but it was Tenitra who was wounded and hurt. Tenitra needed the miracle and emotional healing. Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child.
"I am Michelle, but at times, 'Michelle' served as a cover-up or a mask, but it was Tenitra who was wounded and hurt. Tenitra needed the miracle and emotional healing. Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Tyler Perry Studios
We know how close you, Beyonce, and Kelly are, but how difficult was it for you to be open and honest with them about your mental health journey initially?
Michelle: Many times, we talk ourselves out of having conversations that we know we can have with our girlfriends. When I joined Destiny's Child, I know that Beyonce was really struggling with depression. Her two childhood friends were no longer in the group even though they had dreams and plans. So, I couldn't come in and be like, "You know, I'm depressed too." I wanted things to go smoothly, so I did what needed to be done. Fast forward to some years later, Bey and Kelly were getting married and having children. So, I talked myself out of talking to them. I didn't want to be a "Debbie downer." I didn't want to bring the wrong energy.
Then, in 2018, we were rehearsing for Coachella and I was newly engaged, but I felt like I couldn't go to anybody with this. I didn't want to ruin anything. That's also a trick of the enemy - he wants you to feel like you can't speak about it. His job is to "kill, steal, and destroy." So, he isolates you and makes you believe that you can't talk about it. He tries to mute your mouth because your mouth is powerful...it can open doors, build up and tear down. It can get you the help that you need. So, when I finally did tell them, their response was: "Michelle! You could've and should've come to us!" To this day and even recently, Mrs. Tina, told me, "I wish you would've told us."
For those who may not fully understand the weight of mental illness or they’re on the outside looking in and all they see is the glitz and the glam, what do you say to those who may think, “If your life is that good, then what’s there to feel depressed about?”
Michelle: You might be successful, functioning well, but there may be things that you need to process - trauma, transitions (e.g. job, move, relationship, getting married, getting divorced), and even triumphs. Everything doesn't have to come tumbling down before you go seek help. The main purpose of money is that it enables me to pay my bills on time, and now, thankfully, it enables me to get help.
Getting Real about Relationships
Sometimes, when we struggle with mental health issues and depression, we may feel like it makes us unloveable. How do you navigate and approach those tough talks with partners when you’re experiencing depression and you’re not OK?
Michelle: I've gone out with a few people a few times and you just slide the topic in there….definitely not on the first date though. It could be as simple as asking, "What do you think about this person or that person," or "What are your thoughts about therapy?" You can talk about me if you have to by saying something like, "Hey, what do you think about Michelle and her story?" Then, observe how they respond to the conversation.
Reflecting on your past relationships, what have you learned in terms of how well or difficult it was to manage your mental health in your relationships?
Michelle: I wish I had taken off my superwoman cape and shared more about my mental health sooner than later. I wish I had done that with the man that I was engaged to. I can do it now, but back then, I couldn't. I was afraid because I knew this man had been waiting for a wife this whole time and here I was about to tell him, "Uhhh, I think I'm depressed." So, once he did find out, he was crushed that I didn't say anything because he wanted to be there since he's a natural "fixer" anyway. Now, I just go ahead and talk about it because I want to see the other person's response. If their response is not a supportive one, then we don't have anything else to discuss.
"I wish I had taken off my superwoman cape and shared more about my mental health sooner than later. I wish I had done that with the man that I was engaged to. I can do it now, but back then, I couldn't."
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
On the flip side, if you’re with someone who is experiencing mental health issues, how can one be supportive?
Michelle: Check on them, and also educate yourself. My ex-fiance was supportive, but he wasn't aware or knowledgeable about certain things. I know he was crucified by a lot of people on the internet because of a past episode of our show when he asked me if I had taken my medicine. Nonetheless, we were trying to get the world to also see what this looks like (relationships and mental health), and how unfortunately, sometimes we say things that are offensive to the people we love.
Asking for Help
In your book, you talk about the moment when you finally admitted and said, “I don’t feel safe...I need help.” Was there a specific situation that led you to that pivotal moment, or do you think it was a culmination of everything you had been feeling?
Michelle: It was a culmination of everything that had transpired. It's like the game Jenga. You're stacking blocks on top of blocks, but the removal or placement of a single block can cause everything to crumble. For me, I felt the symptoms of depression, so by the time I went to the hospital in 2018, I had been feeling the symptoms for awhile, things were building, and I was in a dark place. I remember being in the bed talking on the phone with a pastor and his wife and they said, "In the morning, if you don't feel better, do what you gotta do." So, I did.
So many people struggle with asking for and getting help even privately. How difficult was it for you to experience something so private yet on a public platform for all the world to see?
Michelle: By the time I walked into a mental health facility, the shame had already left. My lip wasn't even waxed and I didn't take any clothes with me. One of the nurses went to Target and bought clothes for the duration of my stay including clothes, panties...whatever I needed. Shortly thereafter, my manager called me and said that a [certain media outlet] needed confirmation about my whereabouts since it was about to go public. So, I released a statement merely because I didn't want them to tell MY story. I wanted to control my own narrative. That's when the shame, embarrassment and humiliation came.
For someone who may be struggling right now or feeling shame about wanting to seek help, what would you say to her?
Michelle: There are a lot of reasons why people don't go to therapy, but I pray that your desperation and your wellness outweighs all of that. Let God do what he's going to do with everyone else because it's going to work out for you. Your life and your well-being has to outweigh your pride, the fear, and shame. Part of the reason why the shame left when I arrived at the mental health facility was because I was so desperate for help. Shame can't be in the same spot as desperation. As Shanti Das and her organization says, "Silence the shame." In other words, silence the fear, and let courage and bravery be amplified.
"There are a lot of reasons why people don't go to therapy, but I pray that your desperation and your wellness outweighs all of that. Let God do what he's going to do with everyone else because it's going to work out for you. Your life and your well-being has to outweigh your pride, the fear, and shame. Shame can't be in the same spot as desperation."
Social media can be a double-edged sword. How do you manage your social media intake? Do you ever take social media breaks as a way to help protect your peace?
Michelle: Yes, I'm very intentional about the follow button. I curate and follow people based on how I want my vision board to look. When someone tells you "your music changed my life," I gotta respond. I love to engage with people but there are times when I do take a break. It's healthy when you're not scrolling all day. Now, have I responded a time or two to those who aren't kind? Absolutely, but I don't do that all the time because I don't want to be known as the "clapback queen."
Checking in and Doing the Work
Besides therapy, have you explored or tried other forms of therapy or treatment?
Michelle: I've [had] a few sessions of something called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); which is a form of therapy that helps with trauma in terms of desensitizing and disarming. There's also guided stretching, diet-related factors, and boundaries. Boundaries are so important. Being able to say things like, "No, I'm not talking about this," or "No, I'm not doing this," or "No, I don't have the emotional capacity."
I also respect others and their boundaries as well; so much so that if I know I'm about to initiate a heavy conversation, I'll ask, "Do you have the emotional capacity to listen to what I'm about to tell you?"
My condolences to you as I know your dad passed away a short while ago. Would you say that your faith and the mental health work that you’ve done have helped with managing your grief?
Michelle: Definitely. My therapist was on stand-by when I needed her. Just talking to somebody helped me deal with the sadness of the loss of him; the sadness of when I call my mother, I won't hear him in the background. I'm not over it of course, but what's helping me over is the way in which he passed. At the time, my mother was singing hymns to him, but little did she know, she was ushering him into Heaven. I told my Mama (laughs), "I think God and daddy had a Zoom meeting and they orchestrated the way he tiptoed out of here like a G."
I even had hopes of him walking me down the aisle one day, but I guess he was like, "I tried. I waited, but it just didn't work out. I'm ready to go." So, I have tremendous peace about where he is and how he left.
In your book, you stated: “When we fail to check in with ourselves - aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and spirituality - we fail to live as God wants us to live. Because we fail to see ourselves as God sees us." What does checking in look like for you now?
Michelle: I started the process of "checking in" back in 2019. In 2019, I was still going through the thick of everything that happened in 2018. So it was a healing journey of everything that I went through in 2018. Checking in with myself means being aware of how I'm feeling before going to bed. Saying things out loud. Listening to music. Checking in with God centers around praying and talking to God.
Checking in with others means calling up someone as soon as I think about them, and if they don't answer, then I'll send a text. It's about being more intentional. It's also about having the courage to tell my friends, "Hey, I'm feeling overwhelmed," but also being mindful about not putting too much pressure on my friends. That's why processing things with your therapist is important.
Because you’ve revealed so much of yourself to the world, what is your greatest hope for your book and everything that you’re doing?
Michelle: I can't bare my heart and soul anymore than I already have...that's how much I want to help inspire and impact the world. My hope is that Checking In will help people get real about their mental health issues and give them the courage to seek help. Do it for you and your future. You deserve it and your future is coming. There are certain insurance companies that will cover some or all of your therapy sessions, as well as certain schools that offer assistance with getting therapy.
However, if you're out there and you can't necessarily afford therapy or don't have immediate access to resources: at least start by asking yourself, "How am I feeling?" As my cousin, Brittany - who happens to be a therapist - likes to say, "Feel your feelings." Be aware of your feelings - whether sadness, anger, grief, or whatever - because those are natural, legitimate responses to whatever's going on around you. Everyone doesn't have to be the poster child for mental health, but I want to be the poster child for seeking help.
For more of Michelle, follow her on Instagram. Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life and Can Save Yours is out now.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Featured image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
This post is in partnership with Ulta Beauty.
Gone are the days where we prioritize “the grind” over our own wellbeing. #Teamnosleep is canceled. Millennial women are prioritizing themselves and their rest above all else, and we love to see it. We’re seeing proof of this powerful shift everywhere we look, but especially in the #softlife hashtag that’s been trending all over social media. The soft life movement is all about pursuing the path of least resistance, choosing ease over struggle, and relaxing in your vulnerability.
xoNecole and Ulta Beauty have identified six beauty influencers who are fully embracing the “soft life.” They’re rejecting the notion that their worth is measured by their professional output, how many followers they have, or how hard they’re hustling. Each of these creative powerhouses has learned to make self-care a non-negotiable in their lives while walking into the fullness of their most authentic selves. There will always be a demand for more content amidst the ever-changing algorithms, but as influencers like Tiffany Renee, Caitlyn Davis, and Alanna Doherty know all too well, you can’t properly show up for others until you fully show up for yourself first.
Read all about how these six beauty influencers are approaching the soft life on their own terms.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
As a full-time content creator and founder of the college clothing label HBCU Yearbook, Caitlyn Davis is no stranger to hard work. She started gaining followers while attending undergrad at FAMU, filming natural hair tutorials for YouTube in her dorm room. From there, she steadily picked up ambassador gigs for popular online fashion and beauty brands. “[They were] paying us around $300 a month,” she remembers. “I thought I was doing something with my money. I was like, ‘What? I'm getting paid to do something that I love?’ It became a snowball effect.”
After linking up with a cousin who had just become a makeup artist, Caitlyn fell in love with the idea of creating beauty content. “Beauty just elevates your personality,” she tells xoNecole. “And because it does that, you just feel better about yourself. And when you do that and show other people and they start learning and getting better at makeup and beauty, their personality and confidence starts to elevate as well.”
Caitlyn admits that maintaining a healthy work-life balance doesn’t come easy for her. She’s a self-proclaimed workaholic who takes pride in her business. “[I’ve learned] the soft life is working hard for what you want but knowing we're deserving of the best life has to offer, including rest.” When life gets overwhelming, she turns to the great outdoors. “I go on hikes,” she says. “There’s something about being in nature, being grounded, hearing birds, the trees moving, and water [flowing] that immediately de-stresses me."
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Tiffany Renee grew up on a farm in Tennessee, where her first introduction to the world of beauty and fashion came via Tyra Banks. The smizing supermodel’s competition series “America’s Next Top Model” drew this southern girl in. “Beauty wasn't really a thing [in the environment I grew up in],” she says. “So I've got to give it to Tyra. A lot of my posing and wearing my makeup a certain way had a lot to do with Tyra and how she coached those models. As I got older and started experimenting more with makeup, I just grew to love it more and more.” Tiffany says she sharpened her makeup skills by learning one thing at a time, starting with winged eyeliner. Next brows, and then lashes. Along the way, she made it a point to develop the techniques that worked for her face rather than copying and pasting from YouTube tutorials.
After moving to Atlanta in 2012, Tiffany began to rack up followers on Instagram with her beauty, hair, and fashion content. She even created an online community called “Curl Gang,” which celebrates the beauty and versatility of natural hair. With all she’s accomplished, Tiffany says she’s most proud of shedding her tough exterior and learning to be vulnerable. “My life has been pretty tough, so that made me a tough woman,” she tells xoNecole. “In my relationships, I've always had this tough persona on the outside, but really, I'm internally very much a soft person.
“For me, taking on the soft life was doing the work to break that mold, and accept that it's okay to be vulnerable,” she continues. “It's okay to be expressive. It's okay to love people. It's not just about the tasks of my life, but more so about my well-being. I’m actively deciding not to hold onto things that make me [have to] be tough.”
Hometown: Napa, California
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Kinya Claiborne is living proof. This lifestyle influencer has a professional resume that would make any recruiter salivate. She’s worked in print, television, and radio, and has even overseen public relations for billion-dollar projects. But like all creatives at heart, there came a point in her career where she felt a calling elsewhere. “My job wasn't sexy,” she admits. “I still loved my job and I loved working in corporate America, but there was a void. There were other things that I also loved that my job wasn't fulfilling.”
Inspired by the DailyCandy newsletters she used to read in college, Kinya launched her own lifestyle magazine called Style & Society which covers fashion, beauty, health, wellness, entertainment, travel - all the things Kinya loves. What started as a creative outlet turned into a booming business. Her readers wanted to know more about her, which led her to posting photos of herself inside her stories. “I started Style & Society back in 2013. The term influencer didn't exist back then. Brands started contacting me and wanting me to do product placements and campaigns. That's how my social media following started growing. Then eventually, the term influencer came about, and at that point, I had already been doing it.”
As you can tell from her Instagram, Kinya is always well put together. Her early beauty memories include getting her hair done at the salon with her mom and wearing different lipstick colors to school. Kinya says she’s always been a girly girl. but she’s as resilient as they come. The Northern Californian survived the Route 91 festival shooting in 2017. She also lost her brother to suicide. From her perspective, being soft isn’t just about pampering yourself, but showing up for those around you. “You can't just look at someone and know how they're feeling,” she says. “It’s so important to check in, because even a phone call, text message, or just saying hello to a stranger could really change their path.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
For Taylor Winbush, presentation is everything. Embracing that belief has gotten her far. “My mom would always say ‘dress how you want to be treated,’” she says. “She would always dress up to go to the grocery store, making sure her hair was always done, and she was fresh-faced. She taught me that when you look better, you feel better.”
As a dancer and theater performer, Taylor got to hone in on her makeup skills early. “I remember even from a young age, when I used to take ballet classes, they would make you do your makeup way in the back of the mirror to make sure you'd be able to see it [far from the stage].” After moving to Atlanta in 2019 to pursue a career in acting and commercial modeling, Taylor discovered she could book more gigs if she added “content creator” to her resume. As a beauty lover, it came naturally to her, and it’s paid off tenfold.
At the start of the year, Taylor stepped out on faith and decided to work for herself full-time. She acknowledges that it’s a risk, but nothing a little discipline can’t manage. “As long as I'm doing my part, then I truly and firmly believe that God will handle the rest.”
Aside from constantly developing her self-discipline, Taylor says she’s embracing the soft life by taking care of her physical and spiritual temple. “I'm a super giving person, so I would give a lot of my time to friends and family, making sure everyone else is taken care of before me,” she says. “There's a saying that if you help someone build their sandcastle first, then what will you have left to build? I’m learning you have to take care of yourself first in order for you to help someone else.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Fashion and beauty haven’t always been a welcoming world for curvy women, but that hasn’t stopped influencer Thamarr Guerrier from accepting her rightful seat at the table. This bubbly and effervescent content creator started her lifestyle blog, Musings of a Curvy Lady, back in 2012 on her lunch break working as a nurse. “I started [my blog] as a way to promote personal style and beauty in this body of mine,” Thamarr shared on her site. “Visibility matters and you’re going to see me. I’m going to take up all the space and bring my own chair to the table.”
Thamarr’s beauty memories stem all the way back to childhood. “I was obsessed with watching my mother do her hair and makeup in the mirror,” she says. “I played dress-up in her clothes and would sneak and put on her mascara. I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to wear lipstick.”
If you peep her IG feed, you’ll notice Thamarr documents her globetrotting in head-turning looks that will make you want to book a one-way ticket to your nearest island. But it’s actually not her extravagant travel experiences that bring her the most peace. It’s the little things, like sipping a glass of wine during her skincare routine as Kacey Musgraves plays in the background. “After a shower, I always feel a little better, especially after a crummy day,” she tells xoNecole. “It’s also my favorite place to shed a tear or two. After my literal and sometimes emotional cleanse, I feel renewed. I talk positively to myself as I pamper myself with my favorite products. Taking the time and being purposeful as I go.”
Thamarr’s interpretation of “the soft life” is to live and love in a way that makes her inner being the happiest. “If it brings me peace, it’s the soft life for me.”
Hometown: Bridgetown, Barbados
It’s hard not to feel a spark of joy when you browse through Alanna Doherty’s IG page. It’s chock-full of Alanna dressed to the nines in bright psychedelic patterns. Her lush ‘fro bounces back and forth in all its glory as Alanna jams to her favorite tunes. Alanna is happiness personified, but her initial introduction to beauty was quite the opposite. “I started loving makeup and beauty products because I felt they were necessary in order to cover up my insecurities,” she tells xoNecole. “I’m finally starting to truly fall in love with them this year. I no longer need a full face of makeup to make me feel good. I’m perfectly happy going without any at all now, but love that I have the option to play with makeup. It’s more of a creative process now and I LOVE that!”
Alanna’s bold and colorful aesthetic is brave and inspiring. And when it comes to the soft life, she’s honest enough to admit that she’s figuring it out along the way. “For years I’ve been putting my own self-care behind work and I’m now starting to realize its importance in my life,” she says. “I’ve still got a long way to go but ‘the soft life’ to me would be creating the space to focus on myself and taking the time to enjoy it. I see long walks along the beach, spas, more hot yoga, and relaxing on the balcony.”
Featured image courtesy of Tiffany Renee
(Some of y’all) can hate on the Tubi app if you want to, but if there’s one thing that it’s gonna do (for free, I might add), it's bring up some memories of shows that you haven’t thought about for a hot minute. Take the Black indie seriesSexless and its spin-off,Chef Julian, for example. The realness of the writing, along with the way the shows overlap, is truly a — pardon the pun — chef’s kiss.
So much, in fact, that the character Wendy had me triggered all over again as I binge-watched both shows recently. I mean, c’mon — who dates best friends and then tries to play victim while doing so? Yeah, accountability is a lost art in both reality and fiction, in art and in life. SMDH.
As again, I watched her try and navigate through both relationships as she strived to figure out which man would truly be the best fit for her, I thought about a question that I get emailed on a semi-regular basis. When you’ve been with someone for a while, when you have deep and profound feelings for them, and when you’re not sure if you’re just being “extra” or something really is “off” in the relational dynamic — how do you know if it’s time to stay vs. when it’s time to go?
Before we get all up into this, let me just say that I’m addressing this particular topic from the angle of NOT being married. Because I personally think that the covenant of marriage is way more sacred and serious than a dating situation, I would be giving some different advice for husbands and wives. Also, I’m not including the topic of abuse (neglect included) because I’m hoping it goes without saying that if any type or level of that is transpiring, you definitely need to bring things to a swift and permanent end.
With all of that out of the way, today, we’re going to explore seven questions that you should ask yourself in the instance that you just can’t seem to “scratch the itch” on whether you should remain with your bae…because while nothing is actually “bad,” things are not as good as they used to be either. And since time is precious and you don’t want to waste it, you want to make sure that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
Are you ready to (hopefully) gain more clarity than you had before clicking on this article? Let’s do this.
1. Do I Get That Even Relationships Have “Seasons”?Giphy
Ecclesiastes 3 starts out talking about the fact that there are times and seasons for everything. And you know what? Relationships are not exempt. The reason why I’ve written articles for the site like “The ‘Seasons Of Sex’ That Married People Go Through” is because everything in this life has seasons — you know, periods when things shift. When it comes to the weather, whether we like the season that we’re in or not, we simply adjust because…what choice do we have?
Oh, but when it comes to relationships, so many of us have been conditioned to think that things are supposed to remain one way (usually the way we want it to be), without fluctuating, the entire time, that when there is a season of distance, disconnect or misunderstanding, we automatically believe it’s our cue to bounce instead of taking some time to process if it’s simply a period for communicating, maturing and learning more about our partner.
Listen, there is no way that people can grow without it affecting those around them, especially the ones whom they are closest to. So, before you decide to end things with your significant other, talk to them about what’s going on so that both of you can figure out if you’re going through an unfamiliar or uncomfortable season or if things are transitioning in a way where the relational dynamic no longer serves one or both of you.
Because I’ll tell you what — the people who have mastered longevity in relationships know that just like the weather, sometimes there are things that you have to learn to be flexible about…because even if you’re not thrilled with how certain things are at the moment, just like the weather, oftentimes, those things will change. Just like summer isn’t forever and fall comes in due time.
Plus, if you’re someone who can adapt well, there are pros and cons with different seasons, too. For instance, if this is a season when your partner is working more hours or traveling more than usual, if the goal is to get promoted or stack bread, the extra time that you have for yourself could help you to create some more long-term or short-term goals, pick up a hobby or do some self-work. Then, by the time things level back out, you’ll both be better people because of the “season.” See what I mean?
2. Did I Go into This with Unrealistic or Unfair Expectations?Giphy
I’m gonna tell you, right out the gate, what an unrealistic or unfair expectation is: If you thought that things were always gonna go your way or you were gonna get what you want right when you want it. I can’t tell you how many people have pretty much worn me out in counseling sessions, and it’s all because they thought a relationship was a catering service — that them being happy all of the time was to be the top priority and non-negotiable goal.
Something that wisdom, maturing, and self-reflection will teach you is that one of the main purposes of a relationship is to be with someone you love, respect, enjoy, trust, and can rely on to help you become a better person as you do the same for them. And no, that is not always going to be a fairy tale. In fact, I have said on many occasions that I loathe fairy tales (for adults) because I know what they mean: a story told to children and/or an incredible and misleading account. And don’t even get me started on the women who profess that they are waiting on their Prince Charming. After all, the Bible tells us that “charm is deceitful” (Proverbs 31:30).
Does this mean that you shouldn’t expect to have your needs — and even some of your wants — met? Of course, you should. Yet your needs need to make (reachable) sense. And honestly, a lot of folks could stand to ask themselves if they are able to give their partner all of the things that they expect from them (because many cannot).
So, what are some examples of unrealistic/unfair expectations?
- Expecting your partner to think just like you do
- Expecting your partner to read your mind
- Expecting love to mean that you won’t have to compromise
- Expecting your partner to give above their means
- Expecting your partner to be the sole source of your happiness
- Expecting your partner to love you more or better than you love yourself
- Expecting your partner to put their own needs in jeopardy just to meet yours
- Expecting your partner to always agree with or concede to you
- Expecting your relationship to always have good times and no challenges
- Expecting your partner to be the only one to make sacrifices
- Expecting every expectation to be met
I really was on a roll while writing these out, yet I’m sure you get the gist. Being in a relationship with another human being means that they have their own opinions, perspectives, and expectations — and they aren’t always going to match yours. And so, if you think that the sign of a healthy relationship is that they should, you really should be alone instead of trying to be with someone else. Because that way of thinking is the most unrealistic of them all.
3. Are We Incompatible or Am I Just Impatient?Giphy
When you get a chance, please read, “If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life.” In another article, I’ll be addressing why love is not enough in relationships. For now, one of the reasons why that is the case is because you can LOVE a lot of people who you simply cannot DO LIFE with. That’s why it really is important to seriously ponder if you and he are compatible or not.
To be compatible means that you share similar values, have like-minded relational goals, want the same long-term things out of life, have at least some of the same interests, and complement each other well when it comes to things like communication and meeting each other’s needs.
Listen, I’ve loved a few men in my life where these boxes did not check off, and because of our feelings for each other, we stayed together far longer than we ever should’ve.
At the same time, what if you are compatible with someone, but you’re just impatient as hell? I’ve been watching the current season ofReady to Love, and there are some women on there who are mad pushy when it comes to the clock. Personally, I don’t even know how you can hop on a show where you just met some dudes and roll up on them talking about how you want to be married by the end of the year. Yeah, it’s another message for another time, the amount of people who are tied to a goal more than a person.
Anyway, sometimes your partner can be in the same chapter as you (love story-wise) yet still not necessarily on the same page. Meaning, say that you want to be married this year, and he wants to wait until this time next year — are you contemplating ending things without considering his frame of mind? Maybe he wants to save money. Maybe he’s trying to secure some things professionally first. Maybe he wants to give you the kind of wedding (and ring) you want without relying on credit to get it.
It's one thing to end a relationship because you both want different things out of life. Oh, but it’s completely different to bounce because you’re used to folks giving into your pressure, ultimatum, or time frames. I’m not the one who thinks that a good man is hard to come by; I know many. I do think finding YOUR FIT isn’t as easy as you might believe, though.
A Canadian writer by the name of Janette Oke once said, “Impatience can cause wise people to do foolish things,” and, to that, the Good Book says that “Loveis patient” (I Corinthians 13:4). If you’re gonna end something, make sure it’s because the puzzle pieces don’t fit; not because you’re too impatient to see how the pieces will create a beautiful picture…when the time is right.
4. Do I Still Love, Like and Respect Him?Giphy
The married couples whom I work with know that I live by a certain, I guess you can call it a motto: “If you still like each other, you can get back to love.” Liking someone is about enjoying their personality, wanting to spend time with them, and having feelings that are rooted in friendship, acceptance, and appreciation. When those things are present and accounted for, all of the butterflies, googly eyes, and sheer lust that the feelings of love may provide — they can usually get you through the seasons when those feelings seem to be missing.
And respect? Listen, a lot of women get triggered by the fact that the Bible instructs husbands to love their wives while telling wives to respect — respect, not love — their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), yet you know what? If you’re gonna be real with yourself, you know that it’s hard to love a man who you don’t respect — who you don’t esteem. We’re simply not wired to trust a man who we don’t think will be a good provider, protector, and leader on some level.
Confession time: I stayed in a relationship with someone who I really liked, kind of loved, and absolutely did not respect (as a man) for quite some time, once upon a time. And all it did was make me resentful and him insecure — and that was a form of mental and emotional torture for both of us.
You’re not doing a man any favors by staying with him if you don’t respect him. And it doesn’t make sense to try and build a future with someone who you don’t like a ton. As far as love goes, love is a beautiful thing — very. All I’m saying is, like, love and respect are a package deal when it comes to how we see a man. If one of those things is missing, ask yourself why and then be honest about if anything can be done to change how you’re feeling or…not.
5. What Would Improve About My Life If I Leave?Giphy
This right here. Although this article is for people who are dating and not married, I do think it would be beneficial to put on record that, on average, somewhere between 30-40 percent of people regret getting a divorce. I think one of the main reasons is because the person you were when going into a marriage isn’t the person you are leaving it. You’re older. Dating dynamics in society have changed (and are ever-changing). You probably have a different set of life circumstances that may make dating more challenging (for instance, you may have kids now, and it takes a very special person to be a good potential stepparent).
Unfortunately, a lot of people will leave a relationship without considering this, only to have the ice-cold water of reality hit them smack dab in the face.
Now listen, I will be the first person to say that one of the major perks of dating is you don’t have to try and put the same effort into your relationship as married folks do. In fact, all of these non-engaged folks who spend months and years in couples therapy to try and make things work? Unless you’re someone who is in a long-term relationship with no desire to ever get married (check out “12 Couples Reveal Why They're Happy With A Long-Term Commitment Instead Of Marriage”), I don’t even get why you’re going through all of the trouble (or is it drama?). Some people have acted married before marriage so often, they don’t take marriage seriously enough when it finally does happen for them. SMDH.
This is where this particular question comes in. When you’re just dating, you really don’t have to hold on for dear life. You’re not “failing” if you realize that someone really is awesome — just not the right or best fit for you. And the reason why you know this is because you can actually name more than three ways that your life would get better if you left them alone.
Maybe you’d feel less stressed out. Maybe you’d have more time to focus on some personal ambitions. Maybe you’re compromising some core values that you want to get back to. Maybe they have you questioning some things about yourself that you know you shouldn’t be. Sometimes it’s as simple as maybe you’re feeling like something/one is better for you, and you know you won’t find them while you’re still…where you’re at.
This particular question really is underrated on a lot of levels because, while a lot of people are out here ending relationships on an emotional impulse, when you know that you’re leaving because you have a literal list of how your life would improve if you did dip out, that makes grieving the relationship less painful and finding closure, on some levels, less necessary (as far as dragging things out are concerned).
6. What Would Be Beneficial If I Stay?Giphy
If something (or one) isn’t making you better, it’s either keeping you stagnant or making you worse, and you know what? Neither of those are good. So yeah, it’s also wise to ask yourself how you would benefit — mind, body, and spirit — to stay where you’re at. And honestly, one of the best ways to figure out the answer to this question is to fully take in a relationship-based quote that I have shared on the platform before:
“As soon as the love relationship does not lead me to me, as soon as I in a love relationship do not lead another person to himself, this love, even if it seems to be the most secure and ecstatic attachment I have ever experienced, is not true love. For real love is dedicated to continual becoming.” (Leo Buscaglia)
When something (or someone) benefits you, they are helpful, they are useful, they are constructive. No, this does not speak to transactional dating (which is oftentimes very self-centered and mercenary); what this means is they are improving your quality of life — prayerfully, on several levels. And no, this does not mean that everything is easy all of the time, either.
Sometimes, what helps you is constructive criticism. Sometimes what’s useful for you is being challenged in ways you’ve never been before. Sometimes what’s constructive is learning how to be more flexible, understanding, and forgiving (umm, like you would want your partner to be towards you…right?).
So, just like you should ask yourself how you would get better if you left, be real about how you are becoming better by staying. This is where a good old-fashioned pros and cons list comes in super handy. If the “improve” outweighs the “beneficial,” if you know that you are not becoming more of who you need to be thanks, in part, to the influence of the relationship…well…I’m sure you get what I’m about to say…about that.
7. Have I Been Here Before?Giphy
A wise person once said, “Everywhere you go, there you are” and boy, can it be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. Something else that I’m a firm believer in is that the universe will keep you in the same “life class” for decades if needed, until you learn whatever it is that a particular lesson is trying to teach you. So, one more question: Before you decide to call it quits, how many times have you been in this same spot — the same kind of relationship? The same type of guy? The same kind of issues? The same type of break-up?
Because there is absolutely no point in abruptly chalking it up to, “It was all his fault…again,” just so you can find another man to say this about in another six months or a year. If you’ve been here before, take some time out to do some serious self-pondering as to why.
Every action has a reaction; I’m pretty sure that you’ve heard that saying at least once before — and when it comes to ending a relationship, it is most definitely true. If you’re wondering if you should, honestly, that’s already a feeling that is trying to tell you something. However, now that you’ve read all of this, hopefully, you can take some actions that you will feel at peace about…and won’t regret.
Because if you’re gonna end something, it’s a good idea to know why, so you can feel truly at peace about doing it — and yes, I’m speaking from very up close and personal experience here. Get your internal answers. Move wisely from there, sis.
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Featured image by Lyndon Stratford/Getty Images