Life is gonna life. Although that might not be the most warm-fuzzy kind of way to start an article, that doesn’t make the fact any less true — and real. And since, as the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 3), there is a time and season for everything, including weeping, losing, mourning, and other challenges, it’s really important that we exercise compassion.
Compassion is all about seeing the stress and hard times that someone is going through and having a strong desire to reduce it in some way. It’s about extending empathy. It’s about showing kindness (more on that in a bit). It’s also about giving the kind of support and space for them to feel, then heal, then come out a better version of themselves as a direct result of whatever got them to a place of needing some compassion in the first place.
Don’t get me started on how many of us could stand to take a master class as it relates to extending compassion overall. Oh, but if there’s one “compassion lane” that very few seem to drive on through life at all, it’s self-compassion — you know, learning not to be so hard on yourself, coming up with ways to extend yourself some mercy and tenderness, doing things that will soften your heart towards your own self.
While recently reading an article on self-compassion, I peeped a line in it that said, “I am patient with the process of becoming who I am.” And honestly, I don’t know if self-compassion can be explained any clearer than that.
So, what if you’re someone who knows that you could stand to learn more about the process and practice of becoming more self-compassionate yet you’re not exactly sure where to start? If that’s what’s going on, you’ve come to the right place. While these 12 tips only scratch the surface of how to give yourself more compassion, I think it will help you to get off to a really beautiful start.
1. Do Affirmation Meditations
Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about how much they overthink. When I asked them if they ever meditate, they said, “Every day. But after like two minutes, I have to do something else.” Umm…no. LOL. Believe it or not, for meditation to be truly effective, you need to devote somewhere between 20-45 minutes — still, calm, quiet.
Here’s the thing, though. You don’t have to sit in complete silence (if silence is a struggle for you). ASMR nature sounds (like rain, ocean waves, etc.), listening to guided instructions, or practicing mantras qualify as quality meditation too.
As far as mantras go, something that I sometimes recommend to my clients is doing affirmation meditations — you know, verbally reciting positive expressions about themselves. There are plenty of studies to support the fact that repeating things over and over can literally train your brain to think a certain way and even reprogram your subconscious. If you add to that the fact that meditation also helps to de-stress you, remove anxiety, boost creativity, keep you mindful, and help you to cope with “life life-ing”…why wouldn’t you want to love on yourself this way more often?
If affirmation mediations are something that interests you, over the next few days, come up with 10 sentences that will speak positivity in your space. Make sure that they are about building your self-esteem (like “I am rare and that is amazing”) and/or cultivating the kind of reality you want to have (like “I am in my purpose and my needs will be met because of it”). The more you declare these things, the easier it will be to become confident — and that can help you to feel good about yourself…no matter what may be happening around you.
2. Spend More Time in Nature
Every couple of years, I will revisit one of my favorite books —The Celestine Prophecy. One of my favorite takeaways is how important it is to spend time in nature in order to absorb some of its energy. Since taking a walk outside, doing some journaling outdoors, or even enjoying a sip of wine on your porch after dinner can help to calm you, improve your concentration, lower your risk for heart disease and give you a good dose of Vitamin D (which is a nutrient that an overwhelming amount of Black women are deficient that actually increases the chances of having bacterial vaginosis) — it is very clear how/why being outside as often as possible is truly an act of self-care.
3. Let Yourself Off of the Hook More Often
I am a firm believer that a part of the reason why a lot of people suck at forgiving others (check out “Are You A 'Bad Forgiver'? Read This And See.”) is because they suck even more at forgiving themselves. Just think about it — there is a certain level of awareness, humility, and understanding, when it comes to the mercy that you must have, to be able to grasp that if you want to only be around people who are not going to ever make mistakes, hurt your feelings or disappoint you, you might as well prepare to be mad on a daily basis because NOT EVEN YOU can pull that off with yourself (some of y’all will catch that later).
Without a doubt, forgiveness is an act of compassion because you are literally saying to others, “I get that you aren’t perfect and sometimes I need to not punish you for that fact.” This is such a profound way to live because it also means that you know that, sooner or later, the same forgiveness that you extend to others, you will need them to grant you — that’s how relationships work. Healthy ones anyway.
And here’s the thing — a great way to get some practice in this area is to forgive yourself — to literally “let yourself off of the hook” for things that you’ve done. It’s not about refusing to hold yourself accountable and/or not accepting the consequences that may come with your actions. It’s more about not rehearsing what transpired over and over again to the point where you build up resentment, humiliation, or even anger toward yourself. Because really, what good is that going to do?
Being compassionate by letting yourself off of the hook is taking time to feel what you feel and then choosing to learn from it and move on with the full intention of doing better the next time. I promise you that the more you learn to forgive, the less suffering you will experience — when it comes to how you deal with yourself and how you interact with others too.
4. Intentionally Reprogram “Negative Biases”
A couple of years ago, I penned an article for the platform entitled, “10 Ways To Keep Social Media From Triggering You (So Much).” One of the things that I mentioned in it is something known as negative (or negativity) bias. The science behind negative bias is that we’re basically hard-wired to lean toward negativity instead of positivity. This is why, if you ask someone to name five things that they like about themselves, they will probably mention the not-so-good stuff first or if a good news story pops up in a Twitter timeline, folks will skim over that and look for the entertainment gossip instead.
Another interesting thing about negative bias is it causes us to make decisions based on negative experiences instead of positive information that we may have received beforehand. In short, negative bias encourages us to take in intel that really isn’t beneficial — just easier to process because we naturally look at life from a glass-half-empty perspective.
So, now that you know what negative bias is, you might be curious about what you can do to avoid allowing it to consume you. One thing that you can do is take breaks from negativity — people, places, things, and ideas. Another thing that you can do is intentionally fill your being with positive things — upbeat music, positive conversations, and activities that make you feel good about yourself. Also, try and learn to see situations from a positive perspective — you know, like instead of constantly asking yourself, “Why is this always happening to me?” reframe your psyche by saying instead, “How is this going to work for my good?”
Working through negative biases requires quite a bit of intentionality and effort yet when you master putting the positive over the negative, it really can make you unstoppable on so many life-related levels.
5. Set Better Boundaries
There is a motto I made up some time ago that I have been rocking with that has brought me complete and total peace for a while now — “Be okay with being someone’s consequence. Sometimes you’ll be the best lesson that they will ever learn because you were the only one who followed through with a firm consequence for their actions.”
Listen, you don’t have the time and I don’t have the keystroke energy to get into how extreme I’ve had to go on setting limits with certain people because they were insistent on violating the boundaries that I set. It had gotten to the point where even hearing their name triggered feelings of anxiety and stress and that’s because not only were they not honoring my boundaries, but other people would try and make me feel bad for setting the boundary with them in the first place (which is just another form or revictimization).
If you don’t get nothin’ else out of this article, please hear me when I say that you should NEVER FEEL BAD FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Boundaries convey limits. Boundaries are a form of protection. Boundaries are what help you to make the most out of your time, effort, energy, and resources too.
And just how can you know that you are someone who exists with healthy boundaries? Good question.
- If you don’t have a lot of toxic people in your life, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t struggle with making choices that are best for you, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t go through life feeling triggered all of the time, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you have no problem saying “no” and verbally stating your feelings and needs, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t allow people to gaslight or manipulate you, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
It’s a wise person who said that the only people who hate boundaries are the ones who have every intention of violating them once they are set. That said, never feel bad for placing limits that will help you to live your best life in a space of tranquility and harmony. After all, doing what will keep you safe is one of the best forms of self-compassion that there is.
6. Give Yourself a Head and/or Foot Massage
Something that I treated myself to a few months ago is a battery-operated scalp massager. Although the initial intention was so it would help with hair length retention, I’m also aware that giving myself a scalp massage does everything from increase blood circulation to my head and reduce tension to relieve headaches and help me to relax better before turning in at night.
Another way to treat yourself along these same lines is a foot massage. Although there’s nothing quite like booking a professional reflexology appointment, even if you warm up a mixture of a carrier oil (like sweet almond, grapeseed, or avocado) along with a few drops of a calming essential oil (like lavender, bergamot or chamomile) and rub your feet with it, applying gentle pressure to them will help to relieve tension, improve blood circulation to your feet, keep the muscles and tissues in your feet healthy, improve your quality of sleep at night and give you an energy boost during the day too.
7. Get on Some Sort of Subscription Service
A single woman was telling me recently that one thing that she hates about her relational status is her top love language is gifts and she wants to receive things from someone who she loves. “So, why not sign up for a subscription service?”, I asked her. She rolled her eyes and said, “That’s not what I mean.”
Girl, I know what you’re talking about but if you’re gonna wait for a man to send you some flowers, a bottle of wine, or your favorite self-care products — who knows when that will be? Not only that but you are actually volunteering to bring more stress and anxiety into your life by acting like you should put nurturing yourself on hold until someone else decides to do it for you.
Since these days, there are services that will mail you things on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis, why not budget to get on somebody’s list? These days, subscription services have become so popular that you can find one for make-up, hair care, clothing, jewelry, snacks, aromatherapy, plants — you name it (a list of some currently popular ones is located here, here, here, here and a list of Black-owned ones are found here)!
Hey, getting something in the mail that’s not a bill is always bomb…even if the item is actually coming from yourself. Feel me?
8. Spend Time with Your “Inner Little Girl”
As I’m currently getting certified to life coach in the area(s) of trauma, it has been…tragically wild to see how many other students have been traumatized due to having a toxic mother in their lives (past and current). I mean, you’ve already taken in so much information, so I’ll just say that if you can totally relate and there are areas where you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your mother dropped the ball as you were growing up and it has caused some “holes” in your life because of it, something that can help is to nurture those very areas of yourself.
For instance, if you grew up with an emotionally abusive mother, there is no way around the fact that it did a number on your self-esteem. And that could be why, whenever someone teases you, even if it’s in jest, you find yourself super triggered, perhaps to the point of even throwing a mini-temper tantrum — it’s a wounded space where you are still emotionally “stuck” in a way.
So, what do you do? Journal about it. Pray about it. Speak to your space people about that being a “tender area” for you, so that they can be more gentle while interacting with you. Also, ponder what you wish you had received at the time, from your mother (or whoever caused the pain), and then accept that because you are now in complete control over your space and psyche, you can give your own self those things — then do just that.
There are plenty of studies to support that wherever a person was traumatized, they emotionally remain that age until they address it and heal from it. Therapy can be one way to do it. Another is to seek out those “inner little girl” places and give her the attention — the right kind of attention — that she never got before.
9. Speak to and About Yourself Without Violence
Hands down, one of my favorite things about this season of my life is a course that I’m taking on nonviolent communication. I’m telling you, the more that I deep dive into the topic, the more I see just how VIOLENT folks are while interacting with others.
Case in point. When I asked my instructor to break down what it means to be a nonviolent communicator to someone who may not be studying it at the level that I am, she shared something with me that I’ve been telling just about anyone who will listen. She said, “Shellie, if you are speaking to someone or they are speaking to you without the following three things being present, there is some form of violence that is transpiring, whether you realize it or not: safety, respect, understanding.”
Pretty powerful, right? In communication, people should feel safe enough to be their authentic selves, should know that their thoughts and feelings are going to be respected, and that the person who is listening to them is going to do their best to understand where they are coming from. Otherwise, there is more force, aggression, and stress in the exchange than there needs to be.
So, take a moment to ponder and process. Whether it’s your personal or professional relationships, who are the people you communicate nonviolently with? Who are the ones who communicate nonviolently with you? Honestly, a part of the reason why a lot of people struggle with self-compassion is they are constantly suffering at the hands of those who don’t engage them in a way that they should require — in a way that they should also…deliver. This includes speaking nonviolently to yourself.
10. Schedule Pampering, Leisure and Sleep Time
If you can’t remember the last time that you did something to treat yourself and also to get off of the grid (which is not necessarily the same thing, by the way) and your reason — which is really more like an excuse — is you’ve been too busy or you haven’t had the time, frankly, I don’t believe you. The saying that we make time for what is important to us doesn’t have exceptions; it’s true across the board. Besides, if you don’t “have time” to pamper yourself or do something that you truly enjoy, simply because you enjoy it, that’s a bit of a red flag, wouldn’t you say?
And don’t even get me started on sleep deprivation. So many folks are walking around here being moody as hell, totally unproductive at work, and with a weak immunity…and the root cause is they think that getting five hours of sleep is actually doing something. You’re not. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you’re under 60, you need at least seven hours — not every once in a while…each and every night (if you’re over that, 7-9 is ideal).
So yes, scheduling in time for kind indulgence (pampering), relaxation and definitely sleep are sho ‘nuf acts of self-compassion. That’s why they should never be seen as luxuries; they are definitely necessities in life.
11. Learn the Differences Between Nice and Kind
I’m not big on the word “nice.” Honestly, I never really have been because it always feels so…performative to me. If you add to that the fact that even the Bible doesn’t say that “love is nice” but “love is KIND” (I Corinthians 13:4) — sticking with kind is the kind of hill that I am perfectly willing to die on.
Think about it. Being nice basically means that you’re an agreeable person and while there is a time and place for being that way, sometimes that’s how we get ourselves into situations where folks are out here taking advantage of us, where we’re not showing our genuine selves because we’re so focused on walking on eggshells or “going along to get along” and/or we end up in situations where people literally mistake our kindness for weakness (le sigh).
On the other hand, being kind is all about being gentle, helpful, considerate, friendly, and not harmful to other individuals. Here’s the thing, though — when you’re kind, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your own boundaries, needs, or feelings. You can gently set a boundary. You can help someone without it always being at the expense of yourself (meaning, you can do it when you have the time, energy, and resources). You can feel good about knowing that any grown person (family or otherwise) who tells you that taking care of you should not be as important as taking care of them is a form of gaslighting — that you aren’t harming someone simply because you won’t do whatever it is that they think that you should.
I’m telling you, when it comes to getting on the path of self-compassion, it is a real game-changer to know the differences between being nice and being kind. Try it and I’m pretty confident that you’ll see just what I am talkin’ about.
12. Toast Yourself Every Day
There really is no telling, just how many articles I’ve written (even on this platform) where I mention that I make it a point and practice toasting myself on a daily basis. Why? Well, even though I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has been a part of a formal toast before, I’m not sure how many of y’all have actually sat and thought about what a toast represents. It’s a way of wishing someone future success, happiness, and health; it can also be a way of celebrating someone’s accomplishments.
Listen, at the time that I’m actually penning this, it’s not even noon yet and I already know that I’m gonna toast myself later because I didn’t straight up cuss out someone who’s been trying me for the past couple of weeks — and yes, that is worth celebrating, chile!
The reality is that a lot of people stay in the cycle of self-induced suffering and it’s because all they think about is their weaknesses and/or shortcomings and/or mistakes and/or all of the things that they need to do that they haven’t done (which can induce stress, overthinking and feeling completely overwhelmed). Toasting yourself reminds you that although you have a ways to go, you’ve also come a long way too — one step at a time.
So, as we bring this finally to a close, determine that tonight, you’re gonna pull out a flute, pour yourself some bubbly (even if it’s sparkling cider), and verbally toast yourself for some sort of reached goal or internal triumph. It’s another way to extend yourself some compassion — in a way that you probably never thought you deserved or even needed before. Salute, sis. SALUTE.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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