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This Is Just What Purposeful Relationships Look Like

"The purpose of relationship is not to have another who might complete you, but to have another with whom you might share your completeness."—Neale Donald Walsch

Love & Relationships

A fun fact about my life is, once upon a time, I was the spokesperson for Miss Black USA. It's a long and somewhat layered tale, but I will say that I appreciated the opportunity to have my moment to answer the ever so popular pageant question, "So, if you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?" The more time that I'm on this planet and the more that I learn about human beings (whew chile), the more my answer has evolved into, "I want people to know their purpose and focus on that, so that they can thrive in it."

Purpose is all about what we were created to do. This means that if you're not living out what you were made to do, on some level, your life is gonna suck. Sorry but I don't know any other way to put it. Because it doesn't matter how much money you've got, how popular you are or how much others may deem you as being successful, none of that really matters if you're not living out what you were made for. And you know what? Once you get clarity about what your purpose is, you typically find yourself only wanting to be in relationship—which means being intimately connected to, on some level—people who 1) are also in their purpose and 2) can help you to further progress on your own.

We're just a hop, skip and jump away from 2021. If there is one thing that I desire for all of us, it's that we slide into a new calendar year being very clear about what we're designed to do and also that we make sure that every relationship we have has some real purpose to it.

You Both Know Why the Connection Exists

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To be fair, the definition of a relationship isn't just a connection; it's also an involvement or an association. That's a part of the reason why I've written articles on the platform like, "Always Remember That Friendships Have 'Levels' To Them" and "According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends"; it's because the reality is that some relationships go way deeper than others—and that is perfectly fine. However, when it comes to being in a relationship that truly serves a purpose, there needs to be a strong and solid connection. The two people involved need to be crystal clear on why they are choosing to "link their lives" together, what each other's strengths and weaknesses are (when it comes to how they can balance each other out and hold one another accountable) and how they can help one another to grow even more in their individual purpose, even if it's just through encouragement and support.

There is one particular friend that I have who is also my closest confidant. It didn't just "evolve" into that. We discussed it beforehand because, listen to me when I say that you can find yourself disillusioned and disappointed, A LOT, if you're out here assuming that someone should serve a particular role in your life instead of actually discussing it with them to see if they want that kind of responsibility (check out "10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins" and "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?"). Because we are clear on what being a confidant means, we only continue to grow when it comes to becoming a safe place to share information. And because we know that is a huge part of what our relationship is about, there is no confusion that what we say, no matter what, stays between us. Even if other dynamics of our connection change over time.

There is so much peace and understanding that comes into your life, once you know why you are doing what you do. This applies to relationships too. If you consider a particular relationship to be one of great purpose, you should definitely be able to explain why that is the case.

There Is an Undeniable Spiritual Connection

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It's kind of unfortunate that when some folks hear the word "spiritual", they automatically think "religious". At the same time, when a lot of church folks hear "spiritual", they automatically think that is low-key denouncing religion (check out "What's The Difference Between Being 'Religious' And Being 'Spiritual', Anyway?"). If you really know what both words mean, they actually can work hand in hand (even the Bible says that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans while not allowing this world to totally jack you up—James 1:27).

For instance, one of the reasons why I like the word "platonic" so much is because one of its main definitions is spiritual love. How dope is that? Even though a platonic relationship consists of two people who have no physical attraction or sexual desire towards one another, there is still a profound spiritual connection that makes what two people share extremely special and sacred.

And what "is" that exactly? Something that a writer by the name of Dr. Maya Spencer said, when it comes to what it truly means to be spiritual is, "Spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature." To me, this means that a purposeful relationship consists of two people who recognize a higher power and through that acknowledgment, they are just as concerned about how to improve the quality of other people's lives as well as their own.

If you ask a lot of married couples for the key to what not only keeps their relationship healthy but also what helps their union to last, many are going to say something along the lines of the fact that their dynamic isn't just about them; they include God and putting each other's others needs on the very top of their daily priority list.

The same thing applies to purposeful relationships overall. Both people are spiritual on their own. Both people care about the spiritual health and well-being of the other. And selflessness takes priority over being selfish. Relationships that operate within this kind of space? They are easily able to go the distance.

You Make Each Other Better

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There used to be a guy who I was absolutely crazy about. Sometimes, when I reflect back on the journey, I'm not sure how much emphasis on "crazy" that I should put on it—you know, since the famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting the same result. AN-Y-WAY, I remember some mutual friends of ours, who happened to be married, once said to me, "I see exactly why [so-and-so] needs you in his life. I'm not so sure how he benefits you, though." Lawd. LAWD.

Remember how I already touched on a purposeful relationship needing to have a clear, strong and spiritual connection? Well, here's the thing. In order for a connection to be a true one, a real one, a fruitful one, words like "join", "unite" and even "communication" must apply as well. And you can't really do any of these things from a one-sided perspective. In order for a connection to work, both people must play a consistently active role. That said, when the connection is truly full of purpose, you both need to be invested in making one another better individuals. This includes holding each other accountable. This includes respecting one another's gifts, talents, personality, needs and desires within the relationship. This includes honoring the fact that the two of you are in the position to be connected at all.

The people I know who are living out a life of purpose, they value their time in a way other people don't. A part of what comes with that is making sure that the individuals who they are in relationship with are able to leave their presence feeling better, on some level, than they were before coming into it.

When you reflect on your relationships—both personal as well as professional—can you say this about "them"? What's equally as important is, can they say the same thing about you? Being in purpose is always going to elevate you as a person. This means that your purposeful relationships will also.

Competition and Envy Are Out the Door

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Back in my sexually active days, one of the things I used to semi-jokingly say is, while some of the men in my life, I would do differently if I got a do-over, for the most part, I would probably walk around in the mall with them and not be embarrassed to run into anyone that I know while I was there (I would even introduce them—LOL). Well, kinda along these same lines, when I think about the relationships that I've currently got in my life? I'm proud of each and every one of them too. I mean, not to brag (because I don't have anything to do with the fact) but about 80 percent of them are some super bosses, on some really meteoric levels. Like, they are really out here doing the damn thing.

Sometimes, when I'm in an interview, I'll get asked if it's hard to not be in competition with folks who are so successful in my world. Honestly, it's not. For a few reasons. One, while it wasn't necessarily by design, I don't have a lot of people in my world who do exactly what I do (for the most part, that's write, marriage life coach and doula). We're all in our own lanes, so it's hard to be jealous of something that you don't even participate in anyway. Two, because my relationships have purpose, I get why each individual is in my world and, there is something so "different from me" that they bring to the table that I appreciate it more than envy it. And three, I'm too busy in my own purpose; I don't have time to be competing with anybody else.

This part could really be its own article yet please hear me when I say that it's super toxic to be in a relationship with someone who envies you or that you envy. More times than not, it usually means that either one of you is not in your "purpose lane" or one of you is greedy AF because you are too busy focusing on someone else's come up rather than your own.

Purpose has no room to wish it was something else. Life simply demands too much of it for such an unhealthy and counterproductive mindset. That's why I definitely had to include that another sign that you're in a relationship that is full of purpose is there is no competition or envy between the two of you. You're both thriving as individuals which means there simply is no need.

A Profound Level of Reverence, Regard and Recognition Is at the Relationships Core

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If you really stop to think about it, when you know that you are operating in your purpose, doesn't that already come with a level of reverence, regard and recognition to the Most High for giving you one in the first place? So, why wouldn't your relationships—the ones that you consider to serve a significant purpose in your life—also come with those three things?

Reverence is all about having a deep respect for someone and respect is about esteeming and valuing them. Y'all, it's another article for another time, the amount of relationships that end up becoming toxic, simply because while some level of mutual love and care exists, what is missing overall is respect. Regard is about having a level of concern for another person. It's when another individual takes special interest in the welfare and happiness of someone else. When it comes to this, if you've got people in your life who are only there because you're regarding them while they show very little regard for you in return, I wouldn't consider that to be a purposeful relationship. A lesson, maybe. A necessary connection? Probably not. Recognition is important too. It's all about feeling like you are truly seen, heard and considered; it's about having your needs and feelings validated as you do the same for others.

Sometimes, we can't get to the relationships that are truly beneficial for us because we're not making things like reverence, regard and recognition as important as we should. Yet if you want to be in purpose-filled connections, those three "Rs" absolutely must exist.

There Is Continual Progress

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An author by the name of Alfred A. Montapert once said, "Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress." Another wise person once said, "There are only two options: make progress or make excuses." Martin Luther King once said, "Whatever you do you have to keep moving forward." Progress keeps moving forward. No excuses.

There's a woman I know who's been dating a guy for over a decade. That actually wouldn't be that big of a deal (to me) if it wasn't for the fact that she desires marriage while he has been on the perpetual fence of if he ever wants to jump the broom or not. Whenever I think about them, the quote, "You'll never been good enough for a man who isn't ready" comes to mind. See, it's not that he doesn't care about his girlfriend; I know that he does. It's that they ultimately want different things—she wants a ring and he wants to remain single. That doesn't make him a bad guy (not at all); however, it does make you wonder how purposeful the relationship is since time waits for no man or woman—and she's waiting on a guy who may have no problem with her waiting forever (check out "Ever Wonder If Your Man Is Actually Holding You Back In Life?", "10 Single Men Shared Some Thoughts They Wish Women Would Take At Face Value", "6 Signs You're Trying To Prove Your Worth To A Man (& How To Stop)", "Here's How You Know He Won't Commit To You. Like, EVER." and "He Loves You. He's Just Never Gonna Marry You. Now What?").

Purpose makes progress. There's no way around that. When I think about my purposeful relationships, I can clearly see signs of how we've both grown as individuals and how our connection has matured and evolved as well. There's nothing stagnant about what we've got going on—we're ever-advancing, expanding and improving because that's what a part of what we're created to do, both together as well as apart.

I was just telling a friend of mine that it seems like I just had a birthday and now I'm just six months away from having another. Life is so fleeting, y'all. Too fleeting to be out here putting our time, effort and energy into people, places, things or ideas that don't have a real purpose to them. We're just days away from another year. Do yourself a really big favor and figure out if your relationships have purpose. If they do, send them a thank-you note. If they don't…well, you've got some serious pondering to do. Make sure that you do it too.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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