Something that I've been pretty intentional about doing, for the past few years now, is not using the word "love" a lot. For one thing, it's a far more powerful and sacred word than a lot of people give it credit for. Also, when it comes to a long-term commitment with another individual, how is it that they get the same word to describe how I feel about them as the word that I used to describe my affinity for ice cream, oxtails or Pumas? If I see my love for them in a similar light as random things, it can be pretty easy to be just about as dismissive about them too. Make no mistakes about it—words have life. We definitely need to choose the ones that we use wisely.
Something else that is wack to me? Blaming stuff that doesn't work out between flawed human beings on love. Love is beautiful. Love is pure. The Bible says that God is love (I John 4:8 and 16). So, when things go awry, it's not love's fault. It's the two vessels that are trying to learn about how to love who need to take the responsibility for how things are going or how they ultimately turn out.
When it comes to the many myths about love, to me, that is one of them—that love is painful or makes us do "crazy" things. And because I'm so fond of love (especially the more I get to know about it), I want to debunk a few other ones, so that we all can learn to appreciate, value and embrace love. The real kind. Not the one that myths and fables talk about. Ready to unlearn to relearn a lil' bit?
1. The Right One Will Be Perfect for You
Personally, I think it's kinda hilarious—and by "hilarious", what I mean is ridiculous—that a lot of people use the word "perfect" when it comes to what they look for in an individual or relationship when they aren't that themselves. While the concept, in theory, is cool (I guess), let's revisit what the word actually means. To be perfect is to be "excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement". No one on this planet will ever be that (anyone who doesn't agree has quite the ego). Besides, you're perfect and someone else is perfect, what do either of you need to be together for? You can't be improved upon…right?
One of the main reasons why a lot of relationships don't work out, isn't because mutual love is missing. It's because one or both of them have some super unrealistic expectations. For one thing, they expect perfection in areas where it's close to impossible for it to transpire. Does that mean that you settle for utter bullshishery? Absolutely not. Yet the goal is to strive to be with someone who complements you and makes you better—who actually challenges you, in many ways, to become your best self. When you can honestly say that your significant other has played a very clear and significant role in your development and that they did so without bringing a lot of drama or trauma into your world, that is when you can say someone is right for you. And right is a whole lot more impactful than perfection.
2. If You’re Not Always Happy, It’s No Longer Love
I've said this before and I'll repeat it again—this "god of happiness" that people seem to worship is gonna really cost them in the long run. The fact that so many people will leave all kinds of people, places, things and ideas, ONLY because they no longer make them "happy"? I'm sorry but that's not really how grown folks get down. Matter of fact, this also falls into the "unrealistic expectations category" because when you're happy, you're delighted and pleased and if you expect a flawed human being to make you feel like that all of the time, I've got two points to share.
One, it's no one else's job or responsibility to make you happy and two, in even the best of relationships, there are good days and bad ones. This means that you're absolutely not going to be happy all of the time. With or without someone, no one is happy all of the time.
The word that needs to be the focus is healthy. When a relationship is healthy, it keeps you mentally stable. When a relationship is healthy, it helps you to prosper. When a relationship is healthy, it also makes you stronger, causes you to feel safe and can even bring wholeness into your world. Folks who've got a few years of marriage underneath their belt can vouch for the fact that you can feel all of these ways about a relationship and still not be happy all of the time.
Yet when you get that love is more than a feeling, it's a commitment (more on this in a bit), you make peace with healthy being your bigger priority. Which gives your relationship longevity in the long run.
3. Love Doesn’t Require Sacrifice
Some of the most selfish people are in relationships—and they absolutely should not be. That said, remember how I stated within this title that I'm debunking love myths today? If you're coming from a spiritual space on any level, then you are probably familiar with the fact that God is love (I John 4:6 and 18). OK, well when it comes to people who think that love means that they shouldn't sacrifice themselves, if you are a bible believer, you know that John 3:16 speaks of God sacrificing his own son for the sake of our salvation. Yep, someone actually surrendered their life for you…out of love. Another Scripture that is similar to this is, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13—NKJV) Hmph.
A lot of us don't even want to make adjustments in order to make our relationship work, so these kinds of sacrifices seem, not only extreme but ridiculous. Yet here's my overall point—there is not one long-lasting relationship (and most certainly not a marriage) where sacrifice hasn't been required. I don't mean sacrificing your values, standards or self-worth. I mean stepping back and realizing that sometimes you've got to shift in what you're doing now for the sake of the greater goal (which is basically the definition of sacrifice). If you're not down to do that, don't put that on love. As I just shared, love is all about sacrifice. So long as it's the right kind and for the greater overall purpose. Make sense?
4. Love Matters More than Like
Love is a big deal. I won't deny that. It's such a monumental thing that it needs to serve as the foundation for your relationship. That said though, don't think for one minute that most people stay in their relationship simply because of how "in love" they are. More times than not, it's actually because they really like their partner, even when they are totally pissing them off. This is why I think it is a huge deal that long-term couples see their partner as their best friend. Someone you have things in common with. Someone you can laugh with. Someone you enjoy spending time with. Someone you trust. Someone you know has your back.
There is a particular married couple that I know who, after about a decade in, they both realized that they should've spent more time getting to know one another before saying "I do." They want to honor the vows that they made/promises that they gave and so, while divorce is not an option for them, something that they do is make sure that singles realize just how critical it is to be friends with their future husband or wife. Matter of fact, the wife tells me often that if her man was not her closest friend, she probably would've been outta there years ago. Still, she likes him. A lot. And so, the mistakes that she realizes that she made on the front end, their ever-growing friendship has gotten them through.
Might not sound like a Hallmark card. You know what, though? It's realistic as all get out. If you like who you love, it can keep you loving them. Again, a lot of folks with wedding rings on can certainly vouch for this very fact.
5. If You’re Not Jealous, You’re Not in Love
I don't know where so many people got the idea that a sign that someone loves them (and that they're in love) is jealousy. Give me a break. Before getting deeper into this particular point, let's touch on what some indications of a jealous person are, shall we? Jealous people tend to be insecure. Jealous people tend to make a lot of comparisons. Jealous people typically don't respect or accept boundaries. Jealous people always want you to prove yourself. Jealous people want to make everything be about them (in order to fill their own voids). Jealous people are suffocating (because they don't know how to give others any space). Jealous people create drama. What in the world sounds "loving" about that?
So Shellie, are you saying that if I see my man talking to another woman and I feel some sort of way that something is wrong with that? Eh. I think the answer to that question is why does it bother you? If the answers are along the lines of you think that she looks better than you or you don't trust your partner, those aren't healthy things either. One is about self-esteem and the other is about not being in as solid of a foundation in your relationship as you should (same thing goes for him, by the way). Listen, when someone chooses to be with someone else, there should be no reason to be jealous. They made their choice. If that's not good enough for you, then that is indeed problematic and worthy of doing some soul-searching about. Real talk. Chances are, you'll realize that not only is jealousy not rooted in love but what you're going through is due to either some toxicity in the relationship that needs to be dealt with or—a lack of self-love.
6. Love Is a Feeling. Not a Choice.
Being led by your feelings. Lawd. You might be surprised how many articles are out in cyberspace that talk about just how unreliable feelings are. My thoughts? I've shared before that a Scripture in the Bible clearly tells us that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9-10); so no, I am not big on "following your heart" as a life motto. However, whether you're a bible follower or not, I think something that a professor of cognitive psychology said on the topic is a pretty good way to live your life. He said, "Although there may be some truth to the claim that we cannot trust our feelings, suppressing them comes at a cost."
So, what does all of this boil down to? If you think that real, true and lasting love is built on one's feelings, you are probably never going to be in something that is real, true and lasting. Feelings are fickle. Feelings are all over the place. Feelings change…all of the time.
That's why I'm not big on people ending relationships because they don't "feel" the same for someone anymore. Before making any major moves, it's important to spend some intentional time getting to the root of WHY you don't feel the same. If it's just because your partner's been getting on your nerves lately, you probably get on his too. If it's because you're not sexually attracted anymore, you used to be, so what changed? If the relationship isn't what you expected it to be, get honest with yourself about if the expectations are realistic or not.
See love, it's where the big boys and girls play. And what they know is, whether it's a good day or a not-so-good one, every day that you wake up, you CHOOSE to be in your relationship. Choice is about being rational. Choice is deliberate. Choice is about intention. If you solely relied on your feelings when it comes to making a relationship work, trust me—you would've checked out a long time ago. You know, on one of these days when you didn't feel like hanging around. Feelings can't be trusted. Go with reason, logic, truth and facts. Make your choices from there.
7. Soulmates Are Like the Movies
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from someone who I still haven't been able to find, to this day. Whoever it is once said, "We're all looking for demons who play well with our own." What's so profound to me about that is, a part of what it means is far too often, we tend to resonate with people who validate our weaknesses rather than encourage our strengths. Yeah, that's not good.
And when it comes to romantic connections, this can apply to how people define a soulmate. Thanks—yet no thanks—to Hollywood and Disney, maybe people think a soulmate is someone who is just like them; someone who always makes them feel confident that how they are is how they should be. Yeah, naw. I've spent a lot of time researching and learning about what a soulmate is truly designed to be.
More than anything, a soulmate is someone who serves as a catalyst that brings you to your most authentic self. In many ways, I think that's a lot like being in a refiner's fire. They may cause you to ask yourself questions about whether or not you are fulfilling your purpose. They might "rub you" in such a way that you are able to see character traits that could use some fine tuning or adjusting.
They should make you feel comfortable enough to be completely real with them about who you are and who you need to become—even when it's hard to face certain things about that reality. And all of this will have moments that will not be all warm 'n fuzzy. It can actually be downright challenging. Yet since you can't help but see the growth, it's all worth it. A soulmate will help to nurture your soul. A soulmate brings you to your best self.
And that's where I want to end this. Love? It will always cause you to evolve as a person. It will better you in ways that nothing else ever could. That's not going to be an easy task all of the time. Oh, but it will so, so worth it.
With love being the best thing going out here, of course there are a lot of myths about it. Don't be so caught up in those that you don't allow yourself to be brought to the truth. So that you can experience love as it was meant to be—not what so many lies out here say that it is. Amen? Amen.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you are one of the many people who lose control over their body whenever Lil Uzi Vert's "Just Wanna Rock" comes on, here's something to note: there's much more where that comes from. Uzi's song falls in the Jersey Club music category, which is a genre that incorporates house music and hip-hop. Its roots began in the late 1990s in Newark, New Jersey, and it's finally starting to make a name for itself outside of the state thanks to artists like UNIIQU3.
UNIIQU3, born Cherise Gary, is a vocalist, producer, and DJ who grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Already involved in the arts, she naturally fell into the Jersey Club scene. Now, she is credited with being among the first women to bring the genre to the forefront thanks to her many remixes, and more recently, she dropped original tracks like "Shake The Room" and "Microdosing." She also has a radio show, Club Queen Radio, on SiriusXM.
"UNIIQ3. I mean, she definitely lives up to her name," she says. "You always got to expect the unexpected with me, especially when it comes to my music. I'm just fun. I'm free. I'm energetic, and I love to talk about confidence and feeling like that girl. You know?"
Find out more about the Jersey Club queen in an exclusive xoNecole interview below.
xoNecole: When did you know that you could make a career out of Jersey club music?
Uniiqu3: Oh my gosh. Well, Jersey club music is something that I grew up with. So it's always kind of been that second-nature sound that we hear just in the atmosphere. You know what I mean? Like living in New Jersey. That's what you heard on walking down the block, especially like after school. So yeah, just growing up. I've always heard Jersey Club, but I knew that I could make it a career when I started going to parties. I started going to parties because I was a dancer and I used to take dance class at the New York Symphony Hall downtown. It was like the performance hall, you know. I was real prima ballerina.
But being downtown, I heard all this club music. It's like, what is this? Where do they play this at? You know, because I'm listening to piano (laughs). Real, real classical. And yeah, from going to the parties, just seeing, like, how wild it was. I just saw that at the time. It was a lack of female presence on the DJ decks and I felt like the DJ really controlled the night, you know, they were like the ringleader. They control the vibe. They were on the mic, and I was just like, it's no girls. It's just all, dudes. So, you know, I was like, You know what? I'm gonna step from just being a vocalist and doing DJ drops and being a dancer to being a DJ, and that's when I kind of like saw a lane, you know.
xoN: For someone who has never experienced a Jersey Club party, what is one thing or a few things that they can expect?
U: Oh my gosh. I feel like going to a Jersey Club party because it is a very Black genre. It comes from the city of Newark. I feel like you're gonna just experience like Black culture, Black dance culture, and at its golden age, I feel like it's very youth driven, but people of all ages could enjoy it. So you're gonna experience that just like Black excellence on the dance floor behind the decks. Just the energy in the room. And I feel like you're going to just experience some really good music, like your favorite renditions of your top 40 hip hop songs, reggae songs, R&B songs because we're known for our remixes. So you're gonna hear a lot of creative remixes of your favorite songs. Yeah, and just like a very welcoming environment where you could be free. I felt like Newark is a hard place to live, even though it's turning around. I'm actually really proud of my city, but it's like made for you to get lost in it.
Photo by Margherita Andreani
xoN: Do you think with the success of Jersey Club music becoming more mainstream due to the Uzis and even Beyoncé doing more dance music. Do you think people are going back to that, like just dancing and being happy and feeling free in the clubs?
U: Definitely, I think it's really dope how Lil Uzi tapped into the club culture because he came up with it, and Beyoncé, also, she just tapped into the dance culture as well. Yeah, I feel like after the lockdown, everybody's just really wanting to go out and have the best time and just make sure that when you go out, it's, you know, intentionally a good time. So yeah, I think people are just trying to dance, make music that's fun and creative, and also just kind of take you back to a time that was good and life like the way that Beyoncé went and sample music sampling music is really popular now. So I think the way that they went and sampled dance tracks, they just kind of wanted to give people that feeling again, like, you know, of happiness. Happiness and wanting to come together; the community she's touching.
xoN: You started off as a dancer and then became a DJ, producer, and you rap as well. What is your favorite thing about being in the genre and what are some of the challenges that you've faced?
U: I feel like my favorite things about being in just the club culture. Jersey Club culture is that it's really exciting. It's forever changing. And I feel like as an artist in general; it challenges me to just want to, you know, keep reinventing, like the way that I make club music because club music was really raw at first. It was really sample bass. You know, people know it for its remixes, but now we're stepping into original club songs, and that's something I've been doing for a minute just like really learning to express myself and talk about deeper topics, and you know, the turn up let's go, booty bounce shake it to the left, to the right. You know, like some projects I really like to talk about, like love or like just being confident in yourself. Yeah, I feel like that's where club is gonna go. You know what I mean? As more artists are drawn to it these days.
So yeah, that was definitely something I love, like being able to learn to express myself on club, that was kind of a challenge as well. 'Cause I feel like at the time, people didn't understand it. But you know, I'm happy that some of my older songs that I was experimenting on trying to just do like real club songs instead of like bangers are being sampled. Like Doechii, she sampled my song, "Bubblegum," and that was on my first EP, as well as Chlöe sampling "Have Mercy," which was on my first collaboration project with my homegirl TT, the artist from Baltimore, and so it's just nice to kind of see like my older things get repurposed for new. That means like I'm a little ahead of time like I was onto something.
So I love that, and some of the challenges is definitely just being a Black woman just trying to break into the dance world. I felt like before it was really, you know, male-dominated, very white man, but now I'm starting to see like the diversity, and I'm, I'm helping do that, you know, because I like to align with people like me and let them know that dance music is Black music. We got a lot of culture rooted in that. So, yeah, I find that to be a challenge, but I feel like that's something I've been overcoming. And yeah, that's me. That's me in Jersey Club right now.
xoN: You were mentioning, like Chlöe and Doechii sampling your songs. It's kind of full circle, right?
U: Yeah, definitely full circle because I feel like those are girls that I would remix their songs as well, so I could play on the dance floor. If it's like that up to the tempo. I like to play. I like to get, we up there. We make you sweat (laughs). So that's, those are the two girls. I would definitely like remix their songs. And I've always supported, you know, throughout their careers as they're rising to stardom. So I think it's just like all in tune and I'm happy that it could kind of be since club music is like new to a lot of people. I'm happy that that could be like a cool entryway to where people could kind of dive into UNIIQU3's catalog and see what I'm about as well. Yeah, there's more room for collaboration. Like I think it's dope. Black girl magic.
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Feature image by Margherita Andreani