While I write this article, my son is across the room—on a lovely Saturday afternoon—watching an episode of his favorite show. Soon, my husband will scoop him up, and the both of them will spend time together outside. But for now, his eyes are focused on a television screen while mine track words across a computer screen. Like clockwork, questions gnaw at me as I try to focus. Is he getting too much screen time while I work? Am I still a “good mom” if I’m hardly paying attention to him? Sure, we’ll spend the rest of the day together as a family, but what if I miss something important while he’s out with his dad? Why do I feel bad for taking time for myself in the first place?
The simple answer is mom guilt, and I’m certainly not the only person that deals with it.
Mom guilt is defined as any specific feeling of guilt a woman experiences in relation to her role as a mother and her ability to meet her child’s needs. It can occur at any stage in motherhood and for a plethora of reasons. Any parent or caregiver is susceptible to feelings of guilt, but I was especially curious to chat with mothers navigating guilt as they pursue their dreams, manage other responsibilities, and work in or outside of their homes.
In an interview with xoNecole, five mothers got real about their experience working through guilt, and here’s what they had to say.
Courtesy of Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson, a mother of three and ultimate boss babe, first experienced mom guilt as a college student with her first daughter.
“I was a young single mother at the time, pursuing a science degree with my newborn on campus with me. I would always have to send her to different people just to go to class or to get my work done. Not only did I not know what I was doing as a mother, but I also couldn’t give her my undivided attention. The guilt was overwhelming, but I knew I couldn’t quit and had to keep pushing for her.”
Years later, Lauren’s hard work has paid off. She runs Harbor Grace Co. with her spouse and has built their photography and production company while simultaneously growing their family. By working predominately from home over the past eight years, Lauren has found that working through the night allows her to complete tasks without distractions.
“I’ll sleep during the day when they are at school, and by the time they get home, I’m rested and ready to spend some quality time with them,” she explains.
Even though she tweaks her schedule to prioritize her children’s activities, she still feels guilty when she’s not able to focus solely on them.
“If I’m working on a big production, I’ll have tunnel vision until that project is complete. That means that I may be at home, but I’m not really present. My kids will come into my office for a few minutes to check on me, and that’s typically when the guilt starts. They’ll tell me about their day, give me hugs, and then I’ll hear, ‘Okay, well, I’ll let you finish working,’” she explains.
This guilt led her to overcompensate with material things for her children but also encouraged her to take a good look at her values.
“Mom guilt made me so much more ambitious. I am always striving for more to provide them with the best quality of life. But guilt is also like a mirror. It requires you to be more self-aware. It requires you to be vulnerable in ways you may have never been before.”
Lauren notes that balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood isn’t as difficult as it once was but acknowledges the challenge associated with having limited time for everyone.
“[The kids] were growing up so fast, and I was so busy that I didn’t really take the time that I needed to get to know this new version of them. Or I would feel as though my husband had a better relationship with them than I did, in which most cases, I would just be in my own head,” she says.
Now that her children are older, she has begun to incorporate them into her work by including them in her shoots or by allowing them to scout locations with her. When she isn’t working or spending time with her family, Lauren leans into fitness to challenge guilt. For her, working out several times a week not only relieves stress but it also provides an example for her children to prioritize self-care.
“It’s okay to need help, to take a break, and to prioritize yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill yourself up first so that you can always give them the best version of you,” she says.
Courtesy of Destini Ann
As an author, podcast host, and certified parenting coach, Destini Ann consistently delivers authentic and relatable parenting content for the masses. By sharing her own experience raising two children via social media, Destini Ann encourages other caregivers to get curious about their parenting styles.
“I love that my career involves social media! Not only is connection one of my top three values, but the other two are freedom and communication. Social media allows me to connect with my community and communicate my beliefs and parenting advice while giving me an incredible amount of freedom. The flip side of that is that if I’m not careful, I can find myself giving my children less connection, communication, and freedom.”
Destini Ann admits that working in close proximity to her children is challenging since there is less structure, and her children expect more from her when she’s present. However, she’s found a technique that works for her family.
“The oldest does well with a checklist and alone time, but my 5-year-old is all over the place. I find that leading with an abundance of connection makes stepping away a lot easier. Ultimately, I prioritize [connection] the best I can when they’re home,” she says. “I feel guilty when I’m not as connected with them. When life gets busy or I’m tired, it can be tempting to zone out. But it’s actually my guilt that snaps me back into the present most of the time.”
Though Destini Ann is intentional with her approach to parenting now, she doesn’t shy away from sharing the guilt she experienced by being a “permissive parent with very little boundaries” in the past. She also highlights an early experience with guilt after considering how arguments with her ex-husband might have affected her daughter.
“I asked myself, ‘How did this impact her emotional health, her relationship with her father, and her understanding of my relationship with him?’ That guilt turned into fear and anxiety about the future and what that might mean for her romantic relationships,” she says.
But even in the midst of experiencing guilt, Destini Ann says she tries not to allow the feeling to turn into shame.
“My guilt slows me down and forces me to reexamine my values. It gives me an opportunity to get off autopilot and ask myself tough questions [like], ‘Is this really something I need to work on, or is this just an emotion that will pass? Do I need grace or growth here? If it’s grace, how can I affirm myself and ease my emotional state? If it’s growth, what is in my control that I can change or work on?’”
For her, guilt isn’t necessarily a feeling that can be avoided but rather a tool that is best used to check in with herself. She concludes by saying, “Sometimes I need to recognize that I’m putting unrealistic expectations on myself or comparing my journey to someone else’s. Other times, the guilt is the catalyst that takes me to the next positive step on my motherhood journey.”
Courtesy of Morgan Tyler
Prior to becoming a mother, Morgan Tyler had a clear idea of how she wanted to parent. She understood the importance of taking care of herself in order to show up for her child, but guilt set in after the birth of her first child. Asking for help from family and friends became a difficult task, and she started to believe that becoming a mother took precedence over having a life of her own.
Now that she's a wife, mother of three, and a full-blown entrepreneur with a lot on her plate, Morgan has a better grasp of striking a healthy balance between her roles but still experiences guilt at times.
"I typically feel mom guilt when I have to work a lot or travel due to work. I feel like I'm not as present as I could or should be when I'm working on a big project. And when I return home, I'm exhausted and don't always have the energy to jump right into mommy-ing," she says.
Morgan cites her children as motivators for her work and prioritizes open communication with them about how her work will impact the time she spends with them.
"[I] explain to them what I have going on work-wise and pre-plan quality time with them so that no one feels slighted. I especially appreciate my husband because he gives me a safe space to share what I am feeling and helps me overcome those emotions, even if it's just to be a sounding board."
To combat feelings of guilt, Morgan recognizes that there are seasons in life that require more or less from her and believes in maximizing the seasons when she's less busy. She also challenges mom guilt by centering her faith, prioritizing self-care, and incorporating positive self-talk. She finds that waking up before her family in order to read her Bible and pray sets the tone for her day. Without it, she's more susceptible to feeling guilt and negative thoughts.
These days Morgan relies on extending grace to herself and wants other mothers to do the same. She says, "[Guilt] can bring on feelings of not being enough for our children or doing well enough at 'mommy-ing.' However, you were blessed with the assignment of that specific child, and you have everything they need. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to other moms, let our own internal narratives run wild, and let mom guilt take over, but I challenge you to identify the triggers and tackle them head-on."
Courtesy of Bridget Chapital
Bridget Chapital is no stranger to the guilt that creeps in when you're chasing your dreamsand raising three incredible humans. She recalls the end of her first pregnancy as an initial trigger of mom guilt.
"[My daughter] was full-term but underweight and not growing, so I ended up having a failed induction, followed by a C-section so that we could get her nourishment on the outside. I remember feeling as though my busy work schedule and non-stop pace might have contributed to a negative outcome for my baby, and it didn't feel good."
Unfortunately, mom guilt persisted throughout her journey of early motherhood.
"When my kids were younger, I poured all of myself into them. I would feel bad if I dropped them off at daycare when I had a day off of work or if I didn't keep up with a million and one of their spirit days at their school," she says. The older her children became, the less guilt she experienced– until COVID-19 took the world by storm.
"Right before the pandemic, I quit my full-time job in the medical research industry to start a health leadership program that teaches the fundamentals of the medical research industry to kids. For the first time in a long time, I was able to balance my work and professional lives by dropping my kids off in the morning and having seven uninterrupted hours of work, and then picking them up at 3 p.m. and having a full evening to focus on them. Once the lockdowns started, I found myself simultaneously home-schooling three kids while putting in the many hours required to launch a business. It was so stressful," she says.
Thankfully, her children – now thirteen, ten, and eight– are not only more independent, but they are also understanding of her and her husband's work schedule.
"[My kids] are very self-sufficient with getting dressed and making snacks and meals if they get hungry, so that stress is lifted off of me. But even though they would love nothing more than to watch TV or play on their tablets all day, I do feel bad if I have to work on a project on the weekend and can't spend as much time with them."
She maximizes her time with each of her children by limiting work to Monday-Friday when she can, by taking them out for solo dates, and by checking in with them. She also credits her husband's flexible work schedule and his ability to keep them busy with extracurricular activities as another factor in decreasing her mom guilt.
But in order to challenge the negative feelings associated with mom guilt, Bridget is adamant about holding fast to her identity outside of motherhood and rediscovering aspects of herself she might have set aside when her children were younger.
"It's okay to enjoy your time away from the kids. Find a trusted person-whether it's your husband, a girlfriend, or an extended family member– and when your child is with them, allow yourself to let go of the pressure of being a mom and just be yourself for a while. Put this time on a calendar and keep it sacred," she says.
Courtesy of Jade Godbolt
For Jade Godbolt, the pressure to show up and run her business was the source of her mom guilt. Prior to the birth of her first child, Jade was determined to hop back into work right away due to the belief that her business would fail if she didn't. She recalls feeling guilt when she was required to make a decision between work and her family.
"I operated from a perspective that almost forced me to always choose work because I felt like providing financially for my family was the most important thing. If you would've asked me that directly before, I would deny it. But my actions showed, whenever I would rush off to finish a project or shoot content instead of spending time with my babies, that my financial contribution meant more than my presence or attention," she says.
Jade has worked from home since becoming a mother, which is no easy feat. And though there are unique challenges to having young children at home with her while she's working, she makes no apologies about how it's perceived.
"I got used to prefacing anyone I was working with or on a call with that 'If you hear kids screaming in the background, please do not be alarmed.' I couldn't care less if anyone had an issue with it. My family will always come before work or other relationships."
In the past, feelings of guilt led her to overcompensate by buying material things or by going on trips in order to spend time together with her family. However, she notes that this season of her life calls for her to incorporate quality time with her family in her everyday life.
"I don't go out as much as I used to, and that's taken some time to get used to. The pandemic helped because I didn't feel like I was the only one at home, but now that things have begun opening up again, sometimes it is hard because it's not just an easy "yes" or "no" for me to get out of the house with three kids under three. It's a whole conversation and planning session with my husband before I can even think about going anywhere," she explains.
But instead of feeling frustrated over it, she recognizes that this season of her life is temporary and chooses to focus on the positive aspects of raising a family instead.
"The Bible says that children are a gift, and I remind myself of that, especially in the moments when they don't feel like gifts. Motherhood can have its really tough moments, but I lean on my relationship with Christ to get me through when things are smooth and rocky."
And in those moments when mom guilt appears, Jade is quick to challenge the emotion and encourages others to do so as well.
She concludes by adding, "The feeling of guilt can creep in, but it's important to address it while it's a seed so that it doesn't take root in our hearts. Freedom is available to us, we just have to give ourselves and others some grace and forgiveness to get there."
Experiencing guilt as a caregiver may not always be avoidable, but its appearance doesn’t automatically mean you’re making the wrong choices. Instead, its presence can signal just how much you care about the role you play in your children’s life. So instead of feeling bogged down by shame and guilt on your mothering journey, always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mother.
You can redefine what it means to be a “good mom” and examine the expectations you’ve placed on yourself. More than that, I hope you always remember that you are deserving of self-compassion along the way.
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Featured image courtesy of Morgan Tyler
- 12 Affirmations For New Moms ›
- How These Working Moms Find Balance Amid The Demands Of Work & Family Life ›
- I Gave Up My Career To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom, Now I’m Consumed With Guilt ›
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