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.
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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. ;)
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
I can still remember the look on my doctor’s face when he read back my hemoglobin levels after taking routine blood work.
“You should be in the hospital right now,” he said with a look of concern on his face. Unaware of the weakened state that my body was in at the time, I was confused by his reaction. “Your hemoglobin levels are at 7gm/dL,” he told me.
“And what are the normal levels?” I asked him, now with equal concern. “For women, normal levels are between 12.3 gm/dL and 15.3 gm/dL.”
It wasn’t long after my appointment that I started on iron transfusions, and over the four sessions, it felt like I was given an entirely new body. One with more energy, better sleep patterns, less intense periods, and no more fatigue. The surge in energy made me wonder why I went so long to make my anemia a top health priority. What would've happened had I not gone in for the routine check-up sooner?
Take iron deficiency seriously. It can affect your quality of life. #irondeficiency #irondeficiencyanemia #lowhemoglobin #anemiaproblems #anemiasymptoms #blackwomenoftiktok #hispanictiktok #tiktocdocs
What Is Anemia and Its Symptoms
Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a medical condition characterized when the body lacks enough iron to produce all of the hemoglobin necessary for healthy red blood cells (RBCs). Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Because we need oxygen to regulate proper blood flow, individuals with anemia can find themselves experiencing irregular heart rates and extreme fatigue, which can lead to serious health complications if left unchecked.
Other symptoms of anemia include:
- Cold extremities
- Pica, or the desire to eat non-nutritional foods like clay or ice
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Brain fog
- Shortness of breath
- Restless leg syndrome
There are several types of anemia, each with different underlying causes, such as nutritional deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid deficiency, chronic diseases like blood loss from injuries or medical conditions, or genetic factors like sickle cell anemia.
Anemia and Black Women
While having anemia at times gets overlooked as a serious health condition or even reduced down to “always being cold” and eating ice, it’s important for those living with anemia to understand the causes and long-term effects of this condition.
Studies show that “anemia in Black women and Hispanic women occurs 2 to 3 times more often than in Caucasian women.” While it is still unknown why women of color have a higher occurrence of iron-deficiency anemia, key factors that cause anemia, such as your body’s inability to absorb iron and low intake of essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and B9, should be taken with a great amount of care and consideration as you prioritize your health and well-being.
That’s why we’ve tapped Hematologist/Oncologist of Hematology Connect Andrea R. Dean, MD, to provide us with insight on how to manage and treat our anemia because it’s a condition worth taking seriously.
xoNecole: Are there genetic factors that make Black women more susceptible to anemia?
Dr. Dean: Black women are more susceptible to anemia due to iron deficiency, which is most prevalent in this group. Iron deficiency is commonly due to heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroids. Black women have a greater lifetime incidence of fibroids than any other group of women. This likely has a genetic component, but more research is needed.
xoN: Iron pills are commonly recommended to aid in low iron. From your expertise, what are some other supplements or treatments that can help manage anemia?
Dr. Dean: Treatment for anemia depends on the underlying cause. If anemia is due to B12 deficiency or folate deficiency, replacement of these vitamins is needed. If anemia is due to gastrointestinal bleeding, a referral for an EGD and colonoscopy is needed to locate the source of [the bleeding] and stop it. If anemia is due to iron deficiency, you can take iron pills, liquid iron solution, or intravenous iron.
xoN: What dietary changes can someone make to improve their iron intake and absorption?
Dr. Dean: You can eat green leafy vegetables and red meats to increase iron in your diet. If taking iron pills, absorption is better when taken in the morning on an empty stomach every other day.
xoN: At times, anemia and low iron can be overlooked as a health concern, but what are the potential long-term consequences of untreated or chronic anemia in Black women?
Dr. Dean: Untreated anemia can be detrimental to your health. Your hemoglobin carries oxygen to organs throughout your body. If you are anemic or your hemoglobin is low, your organs are not receiving the oxygen they need to properly function. You can pass out from being anemic, and low hemoglobin stresses your heart muscles, and some patients can experience a heart attack. Additionally, the symptoms from anemia can be debilitating and can decrease your quality of life.
xoN: Can low iron be permanently corrected, or does it have to be managed throughout one’s life?
Dr. Dean: The underlying cause of iron deficiency will determine whether it can be corrected. If iron deficiency is due to decreased absorption from H. pylori, once the bacteria infection is treated, iron deficiency should resolve. If iron deficiency is due to heavy menstrual bleeding, it will likely have to be managed until a woman enters menopause unless she seeks treatment to stop or slow down periods. If iron deficiency is due to gastrointestinal bleeding, it might have to be managed throughout one’s life if they have arterial venous malformations.
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