I'm pretty confident that if you ask any divorced person what a top five reason for the end of their marriage was, something that is going to come up is a breakdown in communication. Unfortunately, some people go into a marriage thinking that they are a far more effective communicator than they actually are (being able to speak well when you suck at listening is an example of being a poor communicator).
Others feel like their partner should be some sort of mind reader. Still others aren't the best at exhibiting patience, acceptance and a willingness to allow their partner the space to be different from them (you'd be amazed how many people feel like their job is to turn their spouse into their clone).
For these reasons and more, that's why I'm all about couples taking what I call "seasonal inventory". To set aside some time, each season of the year, to ask some vital questions—just to make sure that they are on the same page and shoot, even in the same book. While I could provide about 25 questions that are beneficial to ask, for the sake of time and space, I've listed seven.
If when spring, summer, fall and winter roll around, you make these inquiries and take them to heart, it can really do wonders when it comes to feeling close, connected and confident in your relationship with your beloved.
1. “What season do you think we’re in?”
Some of the older heads may remember the group Exposé from back in the day. They used to sing a song called, "Seasons Change" and, just like the weather, this applies to relationships too. Shoot, even the Bible tells us that there is a time and season for things (Ecclesiastes 3). The thing about seasons, though, is whether you feel like you're in the summer (typically considered to be the best season) of your life or the winter (oftentimes thought as being the worst), if you're patient enough, the season will shift. This is why it's important to 1) prepare for every season; 2) be intentional about being patient in every season, and 3) to focus on what you can learn from what each season has to offer.
Keeping all of this in mind, there is one more thing that married couples need to consider—they need to ponder if they both are actually in the same season, at the same time. Say that you're looking at your relationship from a financial perspective. If one partner feels like it's "summertime" and they're spending a ton of money while the other feels that a winter trial is coming and money needs to be saved like nobody's business, there is going to be conflict. Make sense?
There are four seasons in a year—spring, summer, fall and winter. Taking some time out, each of those seasons, to ask your partner what "season" your relationship is in, from their perspective (as you share yours, of course), that can help you both to see if you're on the same page when it comes to insight, planning and strategy. It's a hack that can spare a lot of stress and drama if you actually implement it.
2. “In what areas do you feel unfulfilled?”
The goal of happiness is gonna cost a lot of people in the long run. What I mean by that is, there's something that I've said before—if your motivation for everything that you do (or don't do) is if it makes you "happy" or not, you are going to find yourself missing out on a lot of lessons and probably blessings in this life. For one thing, happiness is fleeting and fickle; it comes and it goes. Secondly, sometimes life requires that we do things that absolutely DO NOT make us happy yet do make us better.
Are you always happy when you go to work? Are you always happy in your marriage? Are you always happy when it comes to making the sacrifices you need to make for the sake of your children? Are you always happy when you pay your bills? Are you always happy when you've got an engagement that you've committed to that you know you need to keep? C'mon. We all know that the answer to each and every one of these questions is "no". Yet sometimes things need to be done for the sake of maintaining your character, honoring your obligations and preparing for your future.
That's why, when it comes to this particular question, I'm pretty "meh" when it comes to asking your partner if they are happy or not. It really depends on the day—and sometimes the moment—when you choose to ask them. A question that I do think is pretty important, however, is if they feel unfulfilled in some area of the relationship. A definition of fulfill that I think is really important in the context of this article is "to satisfy (requirements, obligations, etc.)".
When it comes to what you and your partner need in order to feel satisfied (which is about having your desires, expectations and needs met) in your marriage, it's always a good idea to check in on those things. When you feel fulfilled, it can make the not-so-happy moments worth enduring. So yeah, it's definitely an important topic to broach.
3. “Are you good with our sex life?”
Folks who know me know that any time a married person tries to water down the relevance of sex in their relationship, they automatically get a side-eye sent their way. I say it often because it's the truth—if ANYONE should be having a healthy, satisfying and consistent sex life, it should be married folks! And so, if there is a sexless situation going on (within a relationship where both people are physically capable of copulating), that is a red flag. Sex is about pleasure. Sex is about communication. Sex is also about cultivating a form of oneness (even the Bible says that; Genesis 2:24-25 and I Corinthians 6:16-20—Message). And why shouldn't two people who pledged to share their lives, for the rest of their lives, want to partake in an act like this, just as much as they possibly can?
So, when I say that it's important to ask your partner, at least four times a year, if they are "good" with how things are going in the bedroom, it's important to state that I mean more than just one kind of good. Is your partner "good" with how often the two of you are having sex?
Is your partner "good" with the kind of sex you're engaging in (too many or not enough quickies? Is there not enough morning sex? Is sex too routine?). Does your partner feel like you're both still on the same wavelength as far as mentally and emotionally making a connection? Have they "outgrown sex" in some way? Is there something that they wish they received more—or even less—of?
I joke with married couples all of the time that, since marriage requires so much, DAILY, they deserve to have off-the-chain sex, just as much of possible! However, awesome sex typically doesn't just happen; couples have to communicate about this too. When's the last time you and yours did just that?
4. “Do you feel completely supported by me?”
Any single person who desires to be married who's reading this, please do not underestimate how critically essential it is to be with someone who is truly supportive. A supportive individual helps to hold their partner up. A supportive individual can withstand good times and bad. Another definition of support is "to undergo or endure, especially with patience or submission; tolerate". Gee, when you take all of these things into consideration, no wonder the divorce rate is still so much higher than it needs to be. Unfortunately, far too many folks want to be supported without actually being supportive in return.
Listening is a form of support. Being your spouse's friend is a form of support. Letting them know that if no one else in this world has their complete and total back, it's you? That too is a form of support.
And don't get it twisted. I have sat in the presence of many couples where either one or both people have started to build up a wall against the other and it's exactly because they don't feel very supported. That's why they talk to their friends about their marriage more than their spouse. That's why they flirt with their co-workers more than their spouse. That's why they find other ways to feel loved, cheered for and encouraged instead of seeking those things from their spouse.
Two people who support each other on the regular are two people who are able to go the distance, on so many levels. Four times a year (at least), ask your partner if they feel like you really and truly support them. Support is a superpower that goes unnoticed far too often in marital dynamics. Don't you be someone who causes you to become a divorce statistic when taking heed could've ultimately saved your marriage.
5. “What kind of dates do you want to go on?”
It really is kinda crazy, how often we all have heard—and probably said—that the same efforts that you put into getting your partner is the same effort you need to put into keeping them. And yet, so many of us do not take heed to that pearl of wisdom. SMDH. When it comes to married folks, I know this for a fact because I have counseled many who can't remember the last time they had a romantic evening, went on a fabulous date, checked something off of their sex bucket list (if they even have one) or took a sexcation. A lot of them claim that it's because life is so hectic that there's no time for such things. Uh-huh. I'm pretty sure that you were busy when you were dating and engaged too. You made the time because it mattered to you.
And here's the thing. Once you've "got" the person, if you were truly serious about the vows that you took, don't you think that you actually need to put even more effort into spending quality time with them and making sure they feel like they are your top priority than you did when you were dating?
It can be really easy to fall into the slump of crashing on the couch and watching a movie every Friday or Saturday night. Break out of that rut and bring more romance and fun into your relationship by asking your partner what kind of dates they would like to go on. Matter of fact, why not make a dating bucket list that you update 1-2 times a year? It can give the two of you something to look forward to—and that's always a good thing.
6. “Am I speaking your love language fluently?"
Y'all, it's one thing to know what your partner's love language is. It's something very different to speak it in a way where they feel like you know what it is. Case in point. There's a couple I know where the husband's love language is gifts and the wife's is quality time. Every birthday, every anniversary and every Christmas, without fail, they continue to do for the other what they want instead of what their partner requires. Yep, she plans a date where they can be all up under each other when he'd prefer a nice cashmere coat or some gold cufflinks while she would prefer to go on a weekend getaway and instead, he purchases her some thousand-dollar bag that only ends up sitting in the closet. Because of this, they both feel unheard and irritated. And again, it's because they think it's more important to give what they want instead of doing what their partner needs.
There are two main reasons why it's a good idea to ask your partner, four times a year, if they think you're tapping into their top two love languages. One, if you are, there is a good chance that you're not doing it as well as you think. Two, believe it or not, sometimes people's love languages shift because they do. So, to always be doing an act of service when they're more into words of affirmation is kinda futile. Checking in prevents this from being the case.
7. “What can I do to make you feel more secure in the relationship?”
This one? It's crucial. It also needs a bit of clarifying. One of the many reasons why people should consider going to therapy, on their own, before getting married is so they can make sure that they are as healed and whole as possible prior to jumping the broom. Otherwise, they could find themselves expecting their partner to fill voids that aren't their fault or problem. And so, when I speak of security in a marital dynamic, I am not saying that it's your spouse's job to make you feel good about yourself (when you don't even know how to do it) or to compensate for areas where you were lacking before they ever came along. Spouses are human and no one should be your savior but the Lord.
That said, where I am coming from is it's vital that your spouse makes you feel like they respect your union, that they are trustworthy and that, if anyone has your best interest at heart, it should be them. Taking it a step further, security in a relationship should also make you feel free to be your complete and total self—that you can tell your partner any and everything and you will still be loved and accepted.
Why does the question of security need to be asked more than just a couple of times a year? Because life tends to bring about things that can potentially shift one's level of personal security. Job loss. More kids. Weight gain or loss. Family or friend-related drama. Illness. Aging. Financial strain. Mistakes made. Dreams deferred. Death. The list goes on and on. And when these kinds of things happen, it can tempt someone to feel insecure and draw into themselves rather than reach out to the one who should be the most reliable in their life.
This is why it's so important that you ask your partner what you can do to make them feel more secure in their relationship with you as they do the same to you. Because the more that the two of you are able to feel confident that your partner can be depended on and that the relationship is not "liable to fail", even the really trying times, the better you both will be at leaning on each other and getting stronger as a unit. No matter what season you and/or your marriage is in.
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
Featured image by Shutterstock
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.
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 Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith went to social media to share their Thanksgiving holiday with followers. The pair were surrounded by family and friends Thursday, and both posted how grateful they were to be with the ones they loved. Yet this comes on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s whirlwind of negative opinions and critics forecasting her book would be a flop.
Despite the negative feedback she received, Worthy, Pinkett Smith’s memoir, still debuted at #3 on the New York Times’ Best Seller list on October 25. The greatest backlash she received was centered around her relationship with Smith and the fact that the two had been living separate lives since 2016.
The commentary about their marriage overshadowed the reality that this book is ultimately about her journey to self-worth and the path she’s had to take in order to get there.
Social media comments about her book tour ranged from, “Me counting all the times Jada woke up and chose to embarrass Will Smith,” to podcasts like The Joe Budden Podcast saying, “Take me out the group chat,” which was a sentiment shared by many celebrities and fans alike. Yet, a point made by comedian KevOnStage proved that even though people say they don’t want to know about the Smiths, they’re secretly interested and want to know more.
Since the Smiths were wed in 1997, people have been fascinated with their marriage, and rumors about their marital arrangement have always been a topic of conversation. People continue to speculate that the pair is gay and swingers, and even new allegations have come out that Smith and Duane Martin shared an intimate relationship at one point.
However, despite their consistent united front throughout their marriage in recent years, Pinkett Smith has borne the brunt of backlash in the couple’s relationship, from her entanglement with August Alsina to Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards to the recent truths she’s shared about the couple’s marriage in her memoir.
Individuals are consistently running to the internet to support Smith and villainize Pinkett Smith, from podcast guests saying things such as “She doesn’t like Will, she likes the lifestyle” to deeming her “mean” or "manipulative" because of her facial expressions and demeanor.
Likewise, when you have hosts of daytime talk shows such as Ana Navarro saying, “I think she’s having a relationship with her bank account,” insinuating Pinkett Smith only shared stories about Smith to increase her book sales, it begs the question of where was this same energy when Smith released his memoir?
In Will, Smith discusses both of his marriages and how, in relationships, because of his upbringing, he needed constant validation and praise from his partners to feel secure. He also shared the reality that Pinkett Smith never wanted to be married, just as she never wanted the huge estate they share in California, but he wanted to give it to her despite her feelings about it.
Smith admitted to creating this family empire that only further boosted his ego and what he wanted his legacy to be instead of actually asking his family what they wanted or needed. People praised him for his vulnerability and said his book was an inspiration.
So how is it that one book about a person’s family, upbringing, and journey to self is praised, and another is villainized? The glaring thought that comes to me is, does likability often trump accountability?
People love Smith and his “good guy” persona; he’s always been an attractive, charismatic man that people can relate to, so even when he speaks about the way he mismanaged his marriage and family, it’s seen as growth. On the contrary, because Pinkett Smith doesn’t constantly fawn over him and shares how miserable she was in their marriage, she’s the villain.
People still blame her for not stopping Smith from smacking Rock at the Oscars and share their sentiments about how she embarrassed Smith with her entanglement with Alsina. Though this is a celebrity couple we’ve all followed for years, the question must be asked, how much accountability must Black women be subjected to in relationship to their partners' actions?
Why is it that the media is more interested in the marriage between Smith and Pinkett Smith than her childhood, or the fact her memoir consists of writing prompts, meditations, and methods for other women to find their sense of worth?
Could it be that the larger society doesn’t value Black women having the tools to find their own sense of worth? Or is it that Black women are expected to accept whatever is given to them regardless of how they feel or what they want?
The exclusive interview with Eboni K. Williams (@ebonikwilliams) and Dr. Iyanla Vanzant about if she would date a bus driver seems to have a lot of people talking. You can watch her response tonight on #theGrio. Catch the full interview, here: https://t.co/ctxE0zKFWj pic.twitter.com/BhIO52T2fg— theGrio.com (@theGrio) May 2, 2023
When Eboni K. Williams shared that she wasn’t interested in dating a bus driver, the internet blew up with individuals saying that Black women need to be less selective with their dating prospects. The commentary around this conversation shed much light on the reality that this demographic is expected and invited to settle in love if they actually want a life partner.
Black women aren’t often given the space to find their joy, fulfillment, or even self-worth because of the responsibility they’re forced to acquire in order to support their families and communities. Yet, “high value” Black men speak vehemently about Black women’s masculinity and inability to submit. We’re often inundated with podcast guests sharing that they’re not impressed by our success and are uninterested in our aspirations.
Black women, from a young age, are taught to place their community first and cater to the men around them regardless of what they do or how they behave.
We see this when young girls are told to put on pants when male relatives come around, we experience it when domestic violence survivors are encouraged not to press charges against their perpetrators, and we even see it when Black women face backlash for dating outside of their race.
The way Pinkett Smith has been treated since sharing the truth about her life and journey of discovering her self-worth is another example of how the world isn’t receptive to Black women being their most authentic selves.
It’s another example we can hold up to illustrate how Black women are expected to be magical but not human.
Even with this article, I’m sure there will be many who want to argue why Pinkett Smith was wrong in her narrative, but at the end of the day, it was her story to tell, and no one has more authority to share her lived experience than her.
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.
Featured image by James Devaney/GC Images