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 a new year. 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
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
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
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
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
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 a 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
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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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."
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"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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