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. ;)
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.
The first big leap was moving to a new city and getting settled into my new home. The next big leap? Was finding community and belonging. Moving to a new city excited me! I looked forward to having my own apartment, decorating it, and exploring what the city had to offer. I also found excitement in the thought of meeting new people and expanding my connections. When it actually came down to it, I felt nervous. I heard that making new friends as an adult can be hard because we all have different responsibilities and schedules that may not align. I knew in order for me to really feel at home in my new city, I had to create community.
Having a community of people who I can share memories with, lean on in times of need, and inspire each other is something I always valued. I took a moment to truly center in on what I desired from the new friends I would make. Then I realized it all would have to start with me. I had to be centered and confident in who I was to attract who I desired to be aligned with. As someone who moved to a new city and established quality friendships, I gathered these six tips that helped me feel grounded and create community in hopes that it will help you, too.
6 tips to start building community and making new friends in a new city:
Sean Anthony Eddy/ Getty Images
Be true to yourself
Do you know who you are? If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what words would you use? In order to develop deep friendships, you must be a friend to yourself first. Know what refuels you and what zaps your energy. Self-study your habits and why you do the things you do. All this will be important to keep in mind when looking to create bonds with others. Every day there’s all kinds of people telling you who you should be, how you should act, or what you should wear. At the end of the day, the only opinion about yourself that truly matters is your own. Spend some alone time with yourself indoors or out at an event you like to truly discover who you are in this season of your life.
Pray about it
Before you step out into the world and cross paths with all kinds of people, it’s important to pray about building your community. God outlines what true friendship looks like in numerous Bible verses such as "Iron sharpens iron." - Proverbs 27:17 and “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If you desire friendships that last, pray about what you seek in friendship. I remember praying for mentally stable, happy, and whole women who moved through life with abundance mindsets. Take a moment to journal about the community you want to build and then pray on it.
Go to fun events to meet people who share your interests
Most metropolitan cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta are known to have strong young professional communities and events where you can connect with others. I highly encourage you to attend events in or near your community to see what the city is like and meet people. It’s likely that the people at the event have the same interests as you, which is a great way to start a conversation. You can start by searching for events on Eventbrite or following Instagram pages that highlight events happening in your city.
Carlos Barquero/ Getty Images
Accept that you won’t be compatible with everyone you meet
While living in your new city, it’s likely you’ll meet a variety of people. Please know that everyone you meet will not bud into lasting friendships, and that’s okay! You are uniquely created and not made for everyone. Then you’ll meet people who are good for only surface-level connections, and then you’ll have your girls who you can get deep with. I think sometimes people can look down on surface-level friendships, but not everyone needs to fully know you. That’s a privilege to have and to accept within yourself. Continue to check in with yourself and be real about who you crave to spend more time with and who is nice to see for a monthly or quarterly catch-up.
Join Facebook groups & GroupMe chats
If you haven’t used Facebook in a couple of years, it’s time to dust your profile off. Facebook Groups is a great place to join online communities for people who just moved to a new city like you. Typically, you have to agree to the group’s guidelines, and then you can join. For example, you can search for groups in the Facebook app by using keywords like women, Black girl, or [the name of your city] foodies. With the GroupMe app, you’ll have to be invited to join an already existing group. While you’re out and about networking, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re in any online groups/communities they recommend you join too.
Be friendly to folks in your neighborhood
When I first moved to my new apartment, I spent the first week walking around the complex and working in the community spaces to get a better feel of it. I was able to meet people in my neighborhood, enjoy small talk, and learn more about what the community has to offer. Step outside of your comfort zone and work in your apartment’s community space or a local coffee shop to connect with others.
Overall, you may feel alone in your new city, but I guarantee you’re not. There are other people experiencing living in a new city too, and all you need to do is find each other. I hope these tips help ease the nervous feelings you have about building a new community and inspire you to make a new friend today!
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