It's been forever since I've had a boyfriend. Whenever people ask me when I'll get another one, my running statement is "I'm too old for a BOY anything."
There's one thing that both experience and observation have taught me, it's the fact that when you're in the pattern of getting with someone, giving your all, breaking up and then getting with someone else—it can desensitize you to the sacredness of commitment on so many levels. Then, when you actually do decide to jump the broom, whether it's consciously or subconsciously, you tend to process your husband like you would a boyfriend. If things don't work out, no problem—I'll just break up with him too.
Legally, it's not that easy. If you have children, it complicates their present as well as their future (check out "Effects of Divorce on Children's Future Relationships"). According to statistics, while approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, 67 percent of second marriages and a whopping 73 percent of third ones do. Biblically? I'll just say check out I Corinthians 7:10-11; it tends to get overlooked quite a bit.
For all of these reasons and more, once I chose to become a marriage life coach, I made sure that my emphasis was on reconciling divorced couples. It is indeed possible and, whenever it happens, it's so beautiful to see. I believe it's a lot like what Alec Baldwin's character said in the movie It's Complicated (paraphrased): "A lot of divorced people should get back together 10 years later. They were already committed and knew each other so well, but the time apart can help them to mature and grow, which will make the marriage so much better." Just something to think about.
Anyway, as a child of more-than-one-divorce and also as someone who works with divorced individuals, because I know that it can wreak havoc in ways that oftentimes aren't experienced until months or years up the pike, if you're currently married and contemplating getting a divorce yourself, I just want to encourage you to ask yourself the following six questions—first.
Have I Had Unrealistic Expectations All Along?Giphy
Ask any marriage therapist or relationship counselor and they'll tell you that one of the leading causes of divorce isn't that two people don't love each other anymore, it's that they had unrealistic expectations for their marriage to begin with.
I'll give you an example. There's a married couple that I've been working with for years now. They got married, got divorced and married each other again. For the most part, they're doing well but what I've noticed is that there are certain problems that have never gone away. The wife wishes her husband communicated more like she did (she's super-engaging while he's very direct and to the point). Meanwhile, he wishes that she were as frugal with money as he tends to be.
I've heard these issues so much that I recently said to them, "So, basically you're mad because you want your spouse to be more like you and they're not. You're trying to change them rather than accepting the differences." They agreed.
You'd be amazed how many people wanted to marry a carbon copy of themselves. Not only is that super unrealistic, it's typically counterproductive too. How do you grow by being in a relationship with someone who is just like you? How do you get stretched without any challenges along the way?
So yeah, if you're currently contemplating divorce, please ask yourself if your expectations—whether it was wanting your spouse to be your Siamese twin, that marriage was gonna be like your favorite love story or something else—not being what you wanted is the real reason why you want to end your union.
Was I Ill-Prepared for the Different Seasons of Marriage?
A book that I recommend every married couple have in their possession isThe Four Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage (if you're already separated,Hope For the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed by the same author is also good). It's a reminder that like everything in life, there are seasons in marriage. It's not always gonna be sunny and it's not only gonna be rainy either. When a season approaches that's unpleasant, sometimes all we can do is prepare and wait it out.
For the record, I'm not saying this applies to abuse. I'm speaking to the folks who thought that marriage was supposed to be happy feelings times 10, all day, every day. And yes, there are people who are just like this. I can't tell you how many times a person has told me that they are leaving their marriage because it doesn't make them as happy as they want to be. Meanwhile, their job doesn't make them happy all of the time but they still go to work and their kids don't make them happy all of the time but no one is putting anyone up for adoption. When it comes to those things, somehow, they find a way to make it work.
When marriage has an uncomfortable season, why isn't it received with this same kind of commitment and tenacity?
What Could I Personally Stand to Improve?
A wise man once said that if you really want to see yourself, look inside the mirror of marriage. There is some powerful wisdom within those words. That said, I know some of y'all aren't gonna wanna hear this but sometimes the hardest part about staying married is it reveals to you YOUR flaws. It's easier to live alone and have a biased perspective of yourself than to stick things out with your spouse and let them and your marriage refine and improve you in areas where you wouldn't have any other way.
To tell you the truth, I think this is part of the reason why divorce statistics only go up with each remarriage. Far too many people are thinking about what their ex needed to change about themselves rather than looking within to see what they could stand to improve, where they went wrong. As a result, they take their same selves into marriage 2, 4 and 10, which usually results in them having some of the same relational issues they've always had. Yeah, that's not good.
No joke, when I ask about 80 percent of the couples who are on the brink of divorce about what's wrong in their marriage, they always say what the other person needs to do differently. Very few are self-aware (and humble) enough to do some self-introspection. Be honest—what side of the fence are you standing on?
Am I Listening to the Right (or Wrong) People?
I am a marriage life coach who's never been married before. We live in a world full of on-10-skepticism, so you already know there are folks who question whether or not I'm qualified. One, I'm a child of divorce; you'd be amazed the kind of insight we have. Two, the divorce rate is pretty high; I'm not so sure half of all married people are automatically insightful themselves. Three, I have heard some of the most toxic advice on marriage given by married people—everything from telling single people to never do it to advising their married friends to manipulate, lie, control…even cheat.
I recently read that Spike Lee, Michael B. Jordan and COACH are working together on a short film project about the power of our words. It's a reminder that words can make or break us. While positive ones trigger the hormone oxytocin and make us feel strong, safe and secure, negative ones encourage us to have a fight-or-flight response to situations.
As you're processing what to do about your relationship, what kinds of words are fueling you? Are you listening to people who support marriage (whether they are single, married, divorced or widowed)? Are you paying attention to couples who are willing to share how they made it through their own hard times? Or are you constantly on the phone with individuals who are gassing you up to believe that divorce is your best option?
Be careful. Words influence us. Very much so. This brings me to the next question.
Have We Tried Marriage Counseling?
We get our oil changed every 3,000 miles. But for the life of me, I can't put together why people wait until they are 48 hours out from filing for divorce before they decide to see a marriage counselor. Marriage counseling isn't something you should do only when something is going horribly wrong; it should be a proactive measure that's taken to keep everything going right. If nothing else, choose to look at a counselor as an advocate for your marriage; someone who has the insight, tools and expertise to help you with things like communication, intimacy and getting through the rough times.
How effective is counseling? One study found that 48 percent of couples in trouble admitted that their marriage significantly improved, thanks to seeing a therapist or counselor on a regular basis (which is why engaged couples should go to premarital counseling; it decreases the chances of wanting to get a divorce). Those are some pretty good results, so if this counseling isn't an approach to your relationship that you've tried, try not to make any final decisions until you do.
What Will Divorce Actually Make Better?
One more question—and please be really candid with yourself on this one. If you end your marriage, how will that make your life better? Not easier…better. If you're a parent, I've already touched on how it can affect your child in some not-so-great ways (you can read more about that here), but it can also cause problems for you emotionally, financially, physically—the list goes on and on.
Bottom line, divorce is it's not a quick fix for anything, really. So please, before doing it, really process what you're doing. All marriages have peaks and valleys. At the same time, all divorces have unforeseen challenges and consequences. Whatever you do, please choose wisely.
Featured image by Getty Images
How Do Men Really Deal With Divorce?
What Divorce, Baby Daddies, & Kids Taught Me About Myself
Wendy Williams Takes Back Her Power And Files For Divorce After 20 Years Of Marriage
- January Peak Divorce Time And Other Statistics - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Best Marriage Advice During Hard Times - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Questions To Ask Before Becoming Exclusive - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- 9 Divorce Counseling Questions to Ask Before Parting Ways ›
- 5 Questions You Need To Ask Before You Decide To Divorce ... ›
- Are You Really Ready for Divorce? The 8 Questions You Need to Ask ›
- 16 Tough Questions To Ask Yourself Before Divorcing | HuffPost Life ›
- 20 Helpful Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Your Spouse ›
- 20 Helpful Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Your Spouse ›
- Before You Get a Divorce You Should Ask Yourself These Difficult ... ›
- 10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Starting the Divorce Process ›
- 8 Questions to Ask Before Divorce - To Couples on the Brink of ... ›
- Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Divorce ›
- 11 Questions to Ask Before Getting a Divorce - The New York Times ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images