So, it was about this time last year when I penned “12 Monthly Self-Love Themes That Will Make This Your Best Year Yet” for the site. And in the spirit of cultivating even more love, I thought it would be cool to create 12 themes, specifically for married couples — things that can help them to not just “stay married” but thrive and flourish within their union as well.
If you happen to be married, I’ll just put it right on out there and say that none of these themes can manifest without some real effort on you and your boo’s part. Still, if you’re serious about making your relationship more solid and fulfilling than ever, by walking through all of these months with passion and intention, you could look up at the end of 2022, feeling closer to your spouse and more resolved that you made the best decision to say “I do” than you ever have. With that said, let’s get into these themes, shall we?
If you’re a single or engaged person reading this, please take me quite literally when I say that people who are bad at forgiving have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS getting married. The main reason why I say that is because, when you choose to share such a close and intimate space (figuratively and literally) with someone else, there are going to be times, often daily, when you will have to "pardon” something that was done or said.
In fact, from a spiritual perspective, a lot of folks would say that if you want to learn how to be more spiritual, forgiveness will help you to do it because it requires patience, humility (because humble people forgive because they know they need to be forgiven) and compassion for others. And when it comes to marriage, specifically, if folks want to get REALLY real about what a lot of divorces boil down to— it’s choosing to not forgive their spouse.
So yeah, married folks, starting off a brand and spanking new year by pondering where grudges may have been held, how to forgive better, and how to move forward after forgiving your partner is definitely a great starting point for 2022.
We all know what happens during the month of February — Valentine’s Day. Although I’m personally not a holiday chick, I do dig the story about how there was a chaplain by the name of Valentine who was martyred. Why? It was because he married people illegally during a time of war because he felt that men needed wives. Anyway, in the spirit of roses, candies and greeting cards, choose to be romantic, all month long. Write love letters. Go on never-done-this-before dates. Dance in the living room. Sprinkle rose petals on the bed and in the bathtub. Have dinner by candlelight. Customize a gift basket with your man’s favorite kinds of things in them. Get lingerie in his favorite color. Have a picnic in the living room. Reenact your first date. If you can, do something every day of the shortest month of the year, that would fall into the category of being romantic. You can never go wrong with this kind of intentionality. It’s good seed into good ground.
When spring rolls around, it symbolizes newness. And whenever I think of this particular combo, the color green and a Scripture in the Bible that simply says “our bed is green” (Song of Solomon 1:16) comes to mind. Green symbolizes growth. Green symbolizes renewal. Green symbolizes fertility. Green symbolizes health, prosperity and progress. Sometimes, when a couple comes to me struggling with a particular issue, I will encourage them to get a plant and then handle the problem with the same kind of daily caring and nurturing that the plant requires. It helps them to realize how “fragile” certain things can be and how much commitment to finding a resolve is required. And so, in a month and season where all things are made new, determine to take a “fresh approach” to your relationship. Every day is new and you know what? You can be original in how you handle different aspects of your relationship every day too.
April: Expressed Emotions
You know the saying — April showers bring May flowers. This reminds me of another verse in the Bible that says “sow in tears, reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5). You know, something that I am honored about, when it comes to my male friendships, is the fact that pretty much all of them have felt comfortable enough to express themselves by crying in my presence. And when you’re a wife, your husband should DEFINITELY feel the same way. That said, sometimes the hustle and bustle of life can get couples so caught up in just making it day by day that they stop having real conversations. They don’t “take each other’s temperature.” They don’t discuss what might be going on beneath the surface. I know I’ve shared before that one of my favorite quotes is “people change and don’t tell each other.” This happens, in part, because genuine emotions are not expressed in a safe environment. That said, setting aside time, just so the two of you can talk about how you’re really feeling (so long as it’s done in a respectful manner), can never hurt because it can help you both to get clarity on where you stand — and in a marriage, that is always beneficial.
The theatrical producer Wei Wu Wei once said, “Spontaneity is being present in the present” and I couldn’t agree more! At the end of the day, spontaneity is all about acting on your impulses because you absolutely want to seize the moment that you’re in. Spontaneous people email their partner a hotel key at work. Spontaneous people have sex in the kitchen while they’re cooking. Spontaneous people buy “just because” presents. Spontaneous people go above and beyond in their partner’s love language (like cleaning the entire house if acts of service is their thing or having a massage therapist come to their home if their partner is all about physical touch). In short, spontaneous people see their marriage as an adventure and treat it as such. There is absolutely no way that your marriage can’t improve, exponentially so, if you choose to be more mindful about it. Believe it or not, being spontaneous can help to make that happen. Act on a few impulses in May. See where it gets you.
Two of the most popular months for weddings continue to be June and October. Something that happens in, pretty much every wedding ceremony, are wedding vows. Vows are promises. Vows are pledges. Vows are personal commitments. Vows ain’t nothin’ to play with. In fact, the Bible thinks so highly of vows that it says, “Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5) When it comes to this month and its particular theme, even if you got married at some other time throughout the year, use June as an opportunity to rededicate yourself to your husband and your relationship.
Print your marriage vows off and get them matted into a pretty frame. “Upgrade” your vows by building on the things that you’ve already said and then post those up where you and yours can see them on a regular basis. Formally or not-so-formally have a rededication ceremony. Do things that will remind the two of you why you chose each other to begin with and why you said the vows that you did in the first place.
July: (Sexual) Fireworks
Even if you happen to have a “normal” sex life (check out “Married Folks: Ever Wonder If Your Sex Life Is ‘Normal’?”), even if you’re not like 15-20 percent of married couples and you’re not sexless (“What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage”), even if you, for the most part, respect the purpose that sex plays in a marital union (check out “10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important” and “8 ‘Kinds Of Sex’ All Married Couples Should Put Into Rotation”), there need to be moments when you are willing to take your sex life to another level in order to avoid routine, ruts (check out “7 Signs You're In A ‘Sex Rut’ & How To Get Out Of It”) and all out boredom.
July is the month where fireworks are the most popular so why not use that as a metaphor for your sex life? Plan a sexcation. Create a new sex-themed bucket list. Try some new positions. Play around with some sex apps. Buy some new things for your sex stash (check out “15 Simple-Yet-Kinda-Buck Items To Take Sex To Another Level”). Step outside of your traditional comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many married people have told me that the thought of having sex with one person for the rest of their life isn’t the “problem” (check out “10 Men Told Me Why They're Fine Having Sex With One Partner”); it’s the idea of redundant sex that drives them completely up the wall! The good news is with some creativity and passion, this can be avoided. Use all of July to prove this very point.
There’s a married couple of over 30 years that I know who hasn’t taken a honeymoon and hasn’t taken a vacation together in over a decade (what in the world?). Every time I ask them what’s up, the wife defers to the husband while he keeps talking about all of the other things that need to be prioritized first. That’s a shame because one of the best ways for two people to spend quality time together is to travel. Even if it’s not something super extravagant that requires a passport, they should at least take a road trip together and stay at a quaint bed and breakfast in a city that’s a drive away. While I personally think that couples should take some sort of trip once a season, if you can’t do it any other time than in summer, plan to travel somewhere then. It can help the two of you to get off of the grid and really focus on each other. Do it enough and you’ll realize that travel is not a luxury; it is absolutely a necessity.
I recently read an article that said married people have higher credit scores and also quite a bit more debt than single people do. As far as the debt goes, it’s about $113,000 worth. I also checked out that two-thirds of marriages start with debt (watch how much you spend on those weddings, engaged people) while spouses feeling like their partner misspends money increases the likelihood of divorce by 45 percent. The bottom line? There’s no way around the fact that financial responsibility is a key to having a thriving relationship. So, while you should be budgeting all year long (lawd, please make sure that you do), using September as a time to be hypervigilant in this lane certainly can’t hurt. Speak with a financial consultant. Set short- and long-term financial goals. Figure out where you can stand to cut corners. Determine where and how you want to save. Become more of a financial team. Being that financial drama continues to be a leading cause of divorce, taking this step is a surefire way to do your part in “divorce-proofing” your relationship. No doubt about it.
October: Holistic Affection
A wise person once said, “Men need to be loved physically in order to love emotionally. Women need to be loved emotionally in order to love physically.” While processing this point, something that can help both genders to get their needs met in this way is affection. Affection is basically doing things that express your love and devotion to your partner. It’s holding hands. It’s cuddling in bed. It’s verbally affirming one another. It’s touching while you both are talking. It’s validating what your partner has said. It’s being proactively attentive. It’s flirting over texts. It’s kissing on foreheads. It’s giving backrubs while watching television. It’s doing things that evoke warmth and tenderness between the two of you.
Just recently, I was talking with a couple who’d been married close to 45 years about the fact that while they are great friends, their intimate life had room for improvement, mostly because they know they aren’t as physically or verbally affectionate as they should be. Take heed to what they said. Affection is foreplay, on some way levels, in so many ways.
There’s an indie Black movie that I checked out a few years ago calledIncomplete. Without giving too much away, one of the main problems that the main married couple in it had was the wife was consumed with the idea of conceiving a child; so much that things got really out of hand. Anyway, one of the things that her husband kept saying was, “Why don’t you recognize us as a family?” Y’all, something else the Bible says is when a husband and wife are joined, he is to leave his parents and cleave to her (Genesis 2:24-25). I can’t tell you how many couples go through real unnecessary drama because they happen to miss this memo.
When you get married, you are basically saying that the family you were born into takes a backseat to the family you are now in with your husband. This means you’ve got to set some boundaries with your relatives. This means you and yours need to come up with some of your own traditions. This means that neither one of you can be caught up in what your mama or his mama did in their house as a way to justify doing it in yours (even though it’s not working). Family is important. Your marriage is your family. The more time you devote to making sure that it remains healthy and intact, the better off your union will be for years to come.
According to biblical account, when Christ was born, an angel appeared to some shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Although legend has it that Christ was actually born in June (my birthday, to be exact), we know that a lot of people acknowledge his birth in December. And peace and goodwill (which is benevolence which is kindness)? Can you imagine how much better marriages would be if both people, on a consistent basis, came from a place of “How can I bring more peace to my marriage?” and “How can I be kinder to my partner?” So, in December, ponder those very things.
Ask your husband how he defines peace in a relationship. Then ask him how you can be kinder as he processes your answers to these same questions. The Bible also tells us that love is not rude (I Corinthians 13:5) and yet, I can’t tell you how many sessions I’ve sat in where husbands and wives have been the absolute rudest to one another. Be his peace as he’s yours. Be kind as he’s kind to you. Goodwill is a beautiful thing in a marriage, so end your year with as much as it is absolutely possible. It’s the best kind of way to express love. It really and truly is.
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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. ;)
Nazanin Mandi is never out of options.
About a year ago, the 37-year-old life coach and actress was navigating life after divorce and determined to experience homeownership for the first time as a single woman. She’d been married to the R&B singer Miguel for three years, following a long-term relationship that started when she was 18 years old. But, in 2022, she filed for divorce. It was certainly the most public change she made but, in reality, it was just one of many decisions to refocus and reach her full potential in recent years.
“During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been,” she says in an xoNecole exclusive.
Still, as Mandi worked to get to know herself and her needs during this new phase of life, she realized the home she’d purchased wasn’t a good fit. Overwhelmed by the echoing of her voice in the spacious home, she had a breakdown and called her cousin, who immediately suggested she lease the home and live somewhere else. “I woke up in my house, and I was like, ‘This is not it for me,” she says. “All those years, I had been accustomed to living a certain way [and] in a certain house, so I bought myself a house like [my old home]. But my family was not the same. Waking up in that house by myself, it highlighted the divorce. I was like, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do this. This is not it.’ My life has changed, so my choices need to change.” At that moment, Mandi became open to the idea that there wasn’t one set way to achieve ownership on her own.
“I feel so much better. I’m in a smaller place. My best friend lives a minute from me and I can walk to her house,” she tells me during a Zoom interview from her home one recent afternoon in early February. In the past two years, she hasn’t just been advising other people on varying circumstances, she’s also been healing herself.
"During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been."
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If supporters began following Nazanin Mandi because of her conventional beauty or the contagious, bright, white smile she often wears in many of her photos, that’s likely not the reason they’ve stuck around. Instead, she’s amassed a following based on her transparency about her own anxiety and depression, along with the encouraging messages of self-acceptance, gratitude, ambition, and humility that are often sprinkled into her social media posts.
In an era where looking at Instagram photos of models can often lead to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, Nazanin Mandi is determined to be more than eye candy. She’s food for her follower’s souls, too.
Since being recruited to model while dining at an In-N-Out at 10 years old, Mandi has worked in many areas of entertainment. The Valencia, California native has modeled for brands such as Olay, Savage X Fenty, and Good American. As a teen, she sang at Carnegie Hall and auditioned for season 1 of American Idol, making it all the way to Hollywood before producers disqualified her for lying about her age. (Mandi was 15 at the time, and contestants had to be at least 16 years old.) Mandi has acted, too, including appearing on Disney’s That’s So Raven as a teenager and on the BET+ series Games People Play and the Prime series Á La Carte in more recent years.
In recent years, though, she’s also expanded her professional goals outside of entertainment, too. After becoming a certified life coach in 2020, Mandi launched the membership platform You Bloome in 2022 with the hopes of providing wellness services to others, including her self-published gratitude journal. “I wish I had access to something like You Bloome earlier in my own life,” she writes on the company’s website. The actress, who has been forthcoming about her struggles with anxiety and depression, has never had a life coach, but credits therapy as a tool that “really, really saved me and it laid the foundation to who I am becoming.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
"I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself."
While she’s always had a nurturing personality, Mandi says her interest in becoming a life coach was inspired by the women who would message her for advice on social media. “I would answer them back. It really sparked a fire within myself to help people,” she says.
You Bloome currently has three membership tiers, ranging in price from $2.99 to $39.99 per month. The highest tier offers a motivational text message twice a week, two live, group coaching sessions per month, and more. “We get emotional. We cry. We laugh. It’s really beautiful. I’ve built close relationships with my members through this. It’s been inspiring both ways,” Mandi says of the sessions. Still, the founder says she hopes to take on more motivational and keynote speaking opportunities in the future with the hopes of impacting as many people as possible.
And, she’s hoping to do all of this while continuing to explore a career as an entertainer.
At this point in her life, Mandi says she’s gained enough perspective on modeling, music, and acting to realize what she wants to prioritize moving forward. “We are going full force with acting,” she says, noting her goal is “to book a series regular or a film that impacts my career and the world.” She plans to continue to model, too, but has no desire to pursue music.
“I don’t want any part of that because I know what that life entails,” she says. “I don’t want to tour. I don’t want to do any of that. That is not where my heart is at.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If you ask Mandi, she’ll tell you she feels most comfortable in front of a camera, but she’ll also admit that she’s recently experienced a lot of imposter syndrome when thinking about her acting career. “I think it’s a fear of not succeeding,” she says. If anything, she adds, she’s harder on herself now than she’s ever been. “There were distractions before. There’s no distractions now,” she says. “I’m putting pressure on myself for no reason.”
This is where the life coach’s own personal healing comes into play. Mandi says she’s learning recently that “slow progress is still big progress at the end of the day.”
“Currently, I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself,” she adds.
Still, one of Mandi’s strengths is that she doesn’t feel the pressure to limit herself to just one passion. From working as a life coach to pursuing acting, she has given herself grace to explore all other dreams.
“We can be allowed to be many different things in this lifetime,” she says. “As people, our identities are allowed to expand. Don’t put us in a fucking box. I cannot live that way anymore.”
For more of Nazanin, follow her on Instagram @nazaninmandi.
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It's no secret that the dating scene is different from our parents' generation, so as a hopeful romantic, many parts of me feel like I was born in the wrong lifetime. My mother often says that she feels like my husband will be a bit older than me; perhaps that was her way of telling me that she hopes I find someone more mature. But these days, between the countless podcasts debating gender roles and discussions online of who brings what to the table, finding your person can feel hopeless.
Still, people are finding love every day, so how can we go from being amongst the brokenhearted and nonbelievers? How can we get to the meat of what our needs truly are to find the love we've been searching for? Beverley Andre, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist says that the key is getting out of your own way.
Q: How can we get in our own way when it comes to relationships?
A: We get in our own way in relationships by having rigid expectations that make it difficult or impossible for someone to meet. I know this is a hot topic regarding having and maintaining standards, but there’s a fine line between reasonable expectations and creating a barrier that is nearly impossible to break through.
You have to assess the standards and see if they are genuinely in protection of you and maintain the standard of how you want to be treated, or are the standards fueled by fear and what you're really trying to do is avoid feeling hurt and disappointed, so you create this cycle where you set impossible standards that no one can meet, therefore limiting the possibility of close intimate relationships, leaving you feeling lonely and frustrated.
Q: In this dating age and era, how can we determine what our needs are versus our wants?
A: Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations, so I recommend creating a list of both. Identify your core values early on because those are your principles and qualities that matter most to you in a relationship. Those values are fundamental to your overall well-being. For example, do you want to be with someone who wants children, has integrity, and aligns on finances? Your values should be your deal-breakers that weed out people who are not in alignment.
For wants, think of physical, personality, and lifestyle traits that aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, aren’t tied to someone’s core traits, and don’t compromise your mental wellness. For instance, enjoying 100% of the same interests, specific physical attributes, and shared cultural background. As an extra measure, I recommend discussing your needs and wants with a trusted inner circle and getting their feedback. An inner circle should give you fair feedback instead of just agreeing with it because they’re within the inner circle.
"Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations."
Q: Are there fundamental needs that everyone should have or has on some level in romantic partnerships?
A: Yes, to be seen and heard. No one wants to be in a romantic partnership where they feel invisible, and their needs are met with consistent resistance just because it’s different from their partner. One of the core issues I see with couples is their inability to make space for their partner’s voice and influence. They find it difficult to see the value in what their partner is saying, especially if it contradicts their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, they register it as not being good enough and lacking merit and then get into a cycle where they inadvertently want their partner to change their minds and prove to them why they have a point.
Q: What are different examples of needs that everyone has?
Q: How can we get to the meat of what our needs are so we can in turn get better at communicating what our needs are from an empowered place versus a disempowered one?
A: Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. I often see people trying to heal these wounds in relationships with people who aren’t responsible for creating them or fixing them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving. Getting to the meat of your needs will require self-exploration, curiosity, and patience to understand why the need is even a need.
"Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving."
Q: What do you find your clients who are succeeding in relationships have done differently in explaining their needs to their partner?
A: They have done the self-work and healing to know their needs through individual and/or couple’s therapy. Most of the clients I’ve worked with never had the space to develop their thoughts around their needs. They’ve adopted their needs based on what they’ve seen in their personal lives from family growing up, movies, and now social media. Until you have a healthy relationship with yourself, where you’ve identified your needs and are meeting them, it isn’t easy to have that with someone else. You can’t communicate and give what you don’t know and have.
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