Something that I try and do, right around this time of the year, is take an inventory of my friendships. Some folks think that it's weird, but I don't care. When you spend enough time working with married couples, and you see in a very up close and personal way that, oftentimes what tends to cause the breakdown of their relationship is either A) they aren't genuinely friends or B) even as friends, they haven't made the time to revisit the needs and expectations that they have, you learn how important taking regular relational inventory actually is. After all, the word "inventory" literally means "to take stock of; evaluate". And why shouldn't you be intentional about evaluating your friendships?
Why do I do it right around this time? There is something about the fall and winter that beckons us to think about where we are in our lives and then ponder how we want to move forward as we prepare to go into the new year. Plus, since a lot of us get to take at least a couple of days off during the holidays, this is also a good time to schedule in some quality time with the homies to make sure that everything's good.
A wise person once said, "A true friend accepts who you are, but also helps you become who you should be." If you want to make sure that you and your friends are doing these things for one another, use these final few weeks of the year to get clarity by asking the following 10 questions—and by allowing your friends to ask you these questions as well. I've done it. It's quite revelatory and beneficial. It definitely helps to bring new light and great insight into where things stand—and that's always a good thing.
1. Are You Happy with Where Things Are?
The reason why I semi-recently penned "What If You Love Your Friend...But Don't Like Her Anymore?" for the site is because, you'd be amazed how many people are stressed out over what to do about some of their friendships because that is exactly how they feel. They love their friend(s), but they don't like them very much (anymore). Once they allow that reality to simmer, either one of two things typically ends up happening—either a huge fight (and by "fight", I mean fall out) occurs, or they end up ghosting the individual.
I've been ghosted by a close friend before. It took me a while to heal from the experience, so personally, I'm not a fan of it. I feel like things can be handled so much better if some communication transpires. More importantly, proactive communication. That's why I recommend asking your friends if they are happy with where your friendship with them currently is. Not if it's perfect because it ain't, but if, overall, they find joy in the connection and contentment in the relationship. If they are, the rest of these questions will basically be a breeze. If they're not, there's no time like the present to hear why they're not so that you can see if anything can be done to change that.
2. What Can I Do to Strengthen the Trust Between Us?
My friends know that, when it comes to the things that I am convicted on, I'm a pretty black-and-white individual; that I see very little grey. I am fine being that way; it's a part of my core. But where I realize that I had to grow was accepting that everyone is not like me; that our perspectives and experiences can result in us coming to different conclusions on various matters. So, while my friends know that I'm loyal when it comes to keeping their business private and holding them down, I had to strengthen the trust bond by making them feel like they could come to me whether I agreed with what they were saying or doing or not. That, they didn't have to worry about feeling berated or attacked for expressing their own journey—even during the times when they knew they deserved better. I had to work on becoming a safer place and space.
When someone trusts you, it means they are confident in knowing that they can rely on you. When the trust between two people is solid, there is very little that they can't get through together. Trust is something that is ever-evolving. It can never hurt to ask your friends what you can do to make the integrity of your bond with them even stronger.
3. What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses in Our Friendship?
This is the kind of question that, if you're an ego maniac or super insecure, it can be hard to hear the answers to. But since one of the purposes of friendship is to help us to become better people, it can benefit you to hear your perceived strengths and weaknesses from the ones who love you most.
Here's why I say that. Recently, I had a rare "fight" with a close friend of mine. She said something, three times in a row, that triggered me to the point that I left her office and went home. I was pissed. Because, in times past, my pride would sometimes cause me to wait until the other person came to me first, and also because I'm working more and more on not letting the sun set on my anger (Ephesians 4:26), I called her as soon as I walked through my door. After a two-hour discussion, we talked about how a strength of mine is stating my needs and how a weakness of mine is sometimes taking out my triggers on the wrong people. I shared that a strength of hers is listening really well and a weakness is not always apologizing when she's wrong.
I'd venture to say that if we hadn't had that chat, we could've had an even bigger blow-up next year. It would be because I wouldn't be using this time to deactivate certain triggers, and she wouldn't be working on acknowledging her offenses. But now that we're both aware, we know how to encourage each other to be better. We know how to build up one another's strengths and help each other to grow where are weaknesses are concerned.
4. What Are Your Triggers? Do I Have a Tendency to Push Them?
On the heels of the last point, while reading an article on emotional triggers, I liked how the author defined them as being, "the surprises that we get when someone we love, or a situation, causes us to have a reaction that we haven't processed yet". When I reflect on my own triggers—and also the triggers of some people that I know—I truly believe that some people have conflict, not because of their relationship, but because they are constantly "triggering" each other. However, once the triggers are brought to the forefront, things are able to balance themselves back out and peace is then restored.
This is why, I most definitely recommend that you and your friends talk about one another's triggers. What they are, where they came from and how to avoid poking at them. Again, there's no telling how many friendships could be spared, just by having this one conversation alone.
5. What Is Something That You Wish We Would Do Together More?
None of us really "have" time in the sense that we're simply twiddling our thumbs and looking for stuff to do. But when you value someone, you find a way to make time for them. No matter what your actual love language may be, all of us need quality time, especially with our close friends. It's a great way to nurture the friendship and, to also be able to spend time together without any distractions.
Something that I like about my friendships is different ones tap into different interests that I have. Yours probably do too. Even if you're only able to get together with your buddies, once a month or, if they live out of town, once a year, be intentional about making plans to hang out. Do something for the first time together. Take a class. Go on a vacation. Do something that reminds you both that, no matter how hectic life gets, you've always got time for each other. And you want to make as many memories together as you possibly can.
6. Do You Think We Make Enough Time for Each Other?
Speaking of time, when you're like me and you're in your 40s and have never been married and you don't have children, sometimes you can find yourself doing most of the work to keep your friendships afloat. At least it can end up being that way until you bring it to the attention of the friends in your life who are married and/or have children. If you're married or a parent and you're reading this, I am confident when I speak for those who don't fit your demographic when I say, "Just because we're not 'your kind of busy', that doesn't mean that we still don't have plenty of ish to do." All people who are living out their purpose do. So, just like you've got to carve out time to hit us up, we've got to do the same.
This was the conversation that I recently had with one of my favorite people on the planet. I had to let her know that, when I looked at my phone, it had been about a month since she rang me, even though we speak a couple of times a week. After I said it, she didn't feel some type of way. She actually acknowledged that she was slipping a bit. Things have been balanced ever since.
Nothing grows when we don't spend time with and on it. And while none of us have a ton of time, for the sake of taking good care of our friendships, it's important that we do our best to make some. More than that, that our friends feel like we are making some just for them.
7. Is There Anything That Bothered You this Year That You’re Holding Onto?
A girlfriend of mine recently told me about how a girlfriend of hers forgot her birthday for the third year in a row. I'm a Gemini and we tend to act like our birthdays are national holidays, so I could definitely feel her pain. When I asked her what bothered her most about it, she said that it was the fact that, prior to three years ago, this particular friend made a huge deal about her special day. So, she felt like it was a passive aggressive way of addressing—or rather, not addressing—some hard conversations that she's had with her ever since her friend got into a toxic relationship.
When I asked my friend if she was going to discuss this with her friend, she said, "No. If she cared, she'd do better." Eh. My take on her resolve is, that's a lot to assume—the passive aggressiveness, the motive behind dropping the birthday ball, and also thinking that she doesn't care. And what's really crazy is her friend may be out here thinking that everything is perfectly fine. Clearly, it's not.
A good article on suppressed emotions brings up a very valid point—"If you don't face suppressed emotions, you'll stay stuck in getting over it mentality, and it'll become impossible for you to heal." If there's something that you're holding onto, tell your friend(s). While you're at it, ask them if they need to get something off of their chest as well. That way, everyone can go into the new year with clarity and a clean slate. No one will have to drag any baggage that came from holding stuff in instead of (respectfully) letting it all out.
8. What Do You Think We Currently Have in Common?
I'm pretty sure you've heard the C.S. Lewis quote that says, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." Keeping this quote in mind, I've got a male and female friend who I can easily stay on the phone with for hours at a time because we've got so much in common. At the same time, because I'm single, she's married and he's divorced and also because we each live in a different state and do totally different things for a living, our life experiences constantly expose us to new things too.
My girlfriend used to totally consume pop culture; now she's far more into politics. My male friend was a homebody when he was married; now that he's divorced, ole' boy is out there (in about every sense of the word!). As they shift, there are some things that we don't have in common. We're not clones of one another, so that's perfectly fine. But, the reason why I make a point to ask them what they feel that we do have in common is so we can still feel connected via those things, as we give each other the freedom to have other interests with other people too. That way, we don't feel like we're "losing" each other so much as we're celebrating each other's growth and evolution.
9. Are Your Needs Being Met in Our Friendship?
An article that I wrote on the platform that helped me to get my own self free was "Here's Why You KEEP Not Getting What You Need In Your Relationships". One of the reasons why I kept feeling deprived in some of my relationships with people is because I was expecting others to be the kind of friend that I was—to give in the way that I do, to make time in the way that I do, to be proactive in the way that I tend to be. Another key to better relationships is accepting that you are you and others are, well, them.
Once I started to voice my needs more, one of two things started to happen. Either people fell off or they stepped up. Both results were ultimately for my good. That's why, I am a huge encourager of individuals expressing their needs while asking the people in their life what they need from them in return. If the needs can be met, cool. If they can't, well, there's no time like the present to move out of the way so that someone else can—and will.
10. What Can I Do to Support You at this Stage in Your Life?
If all of us are truly taking our gifts, talents and time seriously, we're not in the same place nor are we the same person that we were this time last year. This means that some of our goals, desires and perhaps, even insights have shifted. This also means that what we needed this time last year may be different than what we require now. That is why I'm ending this piece with suggesting that you ask the close friends in your life about how you can support them in this stage and season.
Case in point. This time last year, I didn't have my latest godchild. Watching her mom, one of my dearest friends, transition from one child to two has been remarkable. It has also meant that I've needed to help her in ways that I never had to before.
When it comes to maintaining strong, healthy and thriving friendships, support is actually one of my favorite words. It means to hold up. It means to endure. It means to "withstand without giving way". Just by caring enough to ask the close friends in your life how you can support them, it will convey a level of love and care that is getting rarer by the day. Two people who support each other, in the ways that they need to be supported, are two people who can stand the test of time on the friendship tip.
Y'all, these are the 10 questions that have truly blessed my friendships. I hope they can do the same for you. Whether it's this month or the next, make the time to connect in this way. No matter how the conversation plays out, it'll be for your—and your friends'—ultimate good.
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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. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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