The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Living Single. And an at-home marriage proposal with a main character singing Jagged Edge's original version of "Let's Get Married" (good job, Randall/Sterling!). Yeah, you've got a love a show that's Black-aware enough to put these kinds of intricate details into it.
And while it's rare that I miss an episode of This Is Us, last week, after Randall left a voicemail that was the shot heard all around the world on Beth's cell ("I hope that you're having fun teaching bored housewives how to twirl better. Grow up, Beth.") and I then peeped the preview of the episode that aired last night that included Beth saying, "We've been having the same fight since we met. I'm not giving up what I love. Now what?"—as a fan of the show and a marriage life coach in the real world, I knew it was must-see TV. And it was.
Per usual, there were way too many things addressed and great one-liners to recap everything in one article (although if you put the hashtag #ThisIsUs into your favorite search engine, you'll catch a ton of what went down, blow-by-blow). But there are a few things that I do think need to be addressed. There are several reasons why I think last night's episode should be required viewing for singles who want to be in a serious relationship someday (first) and long-term committed couples who already are (second).
Here's why I say that.
Something that has always been stellar about the writing team of This Is Us is they constantly remind us that life is lived in layers; so is love. That said, if you only watched the episode featuring Randall's rude voicemail, you might chalk him up to being a selfish jerk or, if you're married and know that rudeness happens sometimes, a man who was having a really bad day (REALLY BAD). On the other hand, if you only saw Beth say that she wasn't going to give up what she loved, she might earn the same response from you.
But since the writers were kind (and thorough) enough to take us all back to the beginning of their love story, I'll be honest—I walked away from the episode knowing that they love one another but wondering how much they actually like each other. Whether it was day one or now. Because while they are committed to one another, a part of what comes with truly liking another human being is accepting that they are not like you, probably won't ever be and...being OK with that. Celebrating that fact even. Some of the core of Randall and Beth's beings? It seems to constantly get on each other's nerves. Not because anything is "wrong"...just different.
A lot of energy seems to be put into wishing the differences weren't so and merely tolerating that blaring reality.
Peep their first date, for example. Randall dressed up. He bought a bouquet of flowers (several, actually). He took Beth to a fancy restaurant. Beth was in a sweatshirt. She berated Randall for dressing up and talked about wanting nachos and ginger beer instead of the fine cuisine. Oh, and she cut the date short after saying, "It's too much. It's all too much."
You know what else I noticed about their date? Beth's father died a year before Randall's did and also—this is key—Randall told Beth that she had a love for dancing. In response, Beth shut him down and said no, her passion was architecture. Bookmark both of those points. I'll be coming back to them.
Fast forward to Randall trying to propose for the umpteenth time and Beth once again getting irritated. One of the things that she said to Randall was eerily reminiscent of her review of their first date—"I love you, but you consume things." After they went putt-putt golfing with Randall's mom and she convinced Beth that she was more than fine with her being Randall's wife, that same day, Beth did the proposal her way—at a casual restaurant with some nachos and ginger beer sitting in front of her. After Beth told Randall that he could then propose, something she declared was, "We're not gonna lose ourselves in each other. We're gonna be full people; a team." Was that a mutual agreement or a way to convince herself to marry him…then?
Fast forward again to their wedding day. Before the ceremony, Beth was wingin' her vows while Randall realized that what he wrote was (his words) "a dissertation on marriage." They then have an impromptu meeting in their bathroom and write their vows together. Something Randall says is, "You're the only thing I'm ever going to need." Something Beth says is, "The single most extraordinary thing I've done in my life, is fall in love with you." Sure, it sounds sweet, romantic and tear-jerkingly wedding day appropriate, but was it the total truth? Do any of us only need one person? Are all of us only capable of doing one most extraordinary thing?
Fast forward one more time to when Tess was a newborn. While sitting in the kitchen in the middle of the night and eating nachos, two things that Beth says are 1) "Making it work' usually means I adjust. I make it work...I have to lose something," and 2) while comparing their relationship to a bowl of chips, "You're a whole-chips-with-a-lot-of-cheese kind of person. So am I." As she looks down into the bowl at the smaller broken chips, Randall catches on and says, "What? I leave you with the crumbs? I'll never eat nachos again." He wasn't playing, by the way. He was dead serious. That's another thing that I wonder about them—how much of their cute playful banter is really more like a low-key form of passive aggressiveness because they're still learning how to hear—and I mean really and truly hear—one another. And then respond appropriately. Hopefully.
Like I said. Most things are in layers. But the reason why I think that singles and those in long-term relationships (especially engaged) couples should see last night's episode is because of what went down on the first date, especially. Ever since Randall lost his dad, it seems like he's been trying to be him; to fill his shoes and to overcompensate in ways that no son fully can when his dad leaves far too soon. And Beth? I can't help but wonder how much of her "tensed-up-ness" isn't just about Randall "being too much," but about feeling anger about losing her own father and perhaps convincing herself to do architecture over dance, maybe because it was something her dad always wanted her to do or because she felt like she needed to take care of her family in a way that no daughter should feel burdened to when her father leaves far too soon.
Cautionary tale #1—Process your childhood. Where you feel wounds, fear and/or uncertainty, heal. Have hard conversations. See a therapist. Confront your pain. Love on yourself…before looking for someone else to do it.
Next up. Randall saw Beth. He really saw her. He asked around. He paid attention. When he spoke her passion into her life at their first date, she damn near bit his head off. And so, he shut down. All these years later, Beth is ready to do what she loves and what Randall recognized way back when. However, Randall has gotten used to it being a dream deferred. Beth says it's been about her breaking the promise they made of neither of them losing themselves all along. Randall says she's reciting (his words) "revisionist history."
Cautionary tale #2—Be honest with yourself, most of all. What do you want? Who do you want to be? How do you see your future before bringing someone else into it? A part of the beauty of having a season of singleness is you can focus on you and nothing but…unapologetically so.
There were moments in last night's episode when it was implied that Randall often convinced Beth to move outside of her comfort zone or timing. Sometimes that's good for growth. Other times, it feels nothing short of being railroaded and ignored. If you're pushed into a corner long enough, even if it's by someone you love who has the best of intentions, you're gonna lash out. Healthy love? It feels like freedom.
Another point. During the current day fight that they were having, in response to Beth wanting to dance and it being non-negotiable at this point, she said, "I am not going to bend. And that's the problem. Our lives don't work unless I'm doing the bending. And we both know it." A lot of marriage counselors and relationship coaches will say that, in a relationship, you should compromise and not sacrifice. I disagree. Sacrifice simply means giving up something good for something better. The thing is, when two people are in a long-term commitment, sacrifices should be mutually agreed upon and mutually made, not always at the same time but as both individuals need them to be. Beth shouldn't always be doing the sacrificing. Randall either. And neither should say—or worse, act—like they are OK with said sacrifices when they are anything but.
Cautionary tale #3—No matter how much you love someone, you were an individual with a purpose before they ever arrived. So no, they can't be all that you need because you need to fulfill the reason why you were placed on this earth to begin with and, also no, being in love is not the most or only extraordinary thing that any of us are called or expected to do in this world. It sounds good, but it's not realistic.
As one of my favorite Leo Buscaglia quotes on love so poignantly points out, "Love is continual becoming." You need to become your best self; that is what's truly extraordinary. The man or woman who can support you in that happening, all throughout your life, that is the best kind of love story.
Randall and Beth are on quite the emotional roller coaster ride right now but personally, I like that they are being revealed in this way. It's a reminder to not look at some rom-com or scripted sitcom where a couple has no issues and say, "I want that." Instead, we should look at this beautiful Black couple, see where their missteps are, ask ourselves if we're making some of the same ones and adjust accordingly. Then rinse and repeat. As often as needed.
Randall and Beth (or R&B as Susan Kelechi Watson, the dope chick who plays Beth, calls them) are not a perfect couple with a flawless love story. They are two individuals who are learning to love themselves, their purpose and one another simultaneously. That's no easy feat. And what last night reminded me is when you're striving to be in a solid and lasting relationship, all three kinds of loves must factor in. From day one and every day that follows. By both people. Intentionally so. Otherwise, it's hard to like who you're with or your life with them or even yourself after a while, no matter how much you love them.
Thanks for the reminder, Randall and Beth. It's noted. And profoundly appreciated over here in the real world. It really is.
Featured image via This Is Us / NBC
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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. ;)
Nazanin Mandi is never out of options.
About a year ago, the 37-year-old life coach and actress was navigating life after divorce and determined to experience homeownership for the first time as a single woman. She’d been married to the R&B singer Miguel for three years, following a long-term relationship that started when she was 18 years old. But, in 2022, she filed for divorce. It was certainly the most public change she made but, in reality, it was just one of many decisions to refocus and reach her full potential in recent years.
“During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been,” she says in an xoNecole exclusive.
Still, as Mandi worked to get to know herself and her needs during this new phase of life, she realized the home she’d purchased wasn’t a good fit. Overwhelmed by the echoing of her voice in the spacious home, she had a breakdown and called her cousin, who immediately suggested she lease the home and live somewhere else. “I woke up in my house, and I was like, ‘This is not it for me,” she says. “All those years, I had been accustomed to living a certain way [and] in a certain house, so I bought myself a house like [my old home]. But my family was not the same. Waking up in that house by myself, it highlighted the divorce. I was like, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do this. This is not it.’ My life has changed, so my choices need to change.” At that moment, Mandi became open to the idea that there wasn’t one set way to achieve ownership on her own.
“I feel so much better. I’m in a smaller place. My best friend lives a minute from me and I can walk to her house,” she tells me during a Zoom interview from her home one recent afternoon in early February. In the past two years, she hasn’t just been advising other people on varying circumstances, she’s also been healing herself.
"During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been."
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If supporters began following Nazanin Mandi because of her conventional beauty or the contagious, bright, white smile she often wears in many of her photos, that’s likely not the reason they’ve stuck around. Instead, she’s amassed a following based on her transparency about her own anxiety and depression, along with the encouraging messages of self-acceptance, gratitude, ambition, and humility that are often sprinkled into her social media posts.
In an era where looking at Instagram photos of models can often lead to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, Nazanin Mandi is determined to be more than eye candy. She’s food for her follower’s souls, too.
Since being recruited to model while dining at an In-N-Out at 10 years old, Mandi has worked in many areas of entertainment. The Valencia, California native has modeled for brands such as Olay, Savage X Fenty, and Good American. As a teen, she sang at Carnegie Hall and auditioned for season 1 of American Idol, making it all the way to Hollywood before producers disqualified her for lying about her age. (Mandi was 15 at the time, and contestants had to be at least 16 years old.) Mandi has acted, too, including appearing on Disney’s That’s So Raven as a teenager and on the BET+ series Games People Play and the Prime series Á La Carte in more recent years.
In recent years, though, she’s also expanded her professional goals outside of entertainment, too. After becoming a certified life coach in 2020, Mandi launched the membership platform You Bloome in 2022 with the hopes of providing wellness services to others, including her self-published gratitude journal. “I wish I had access to something like You Bloome earlier in my own life,” she writes on the company’s website. The actress, who has been forthcoming about her struggles with anxiety and depression, has never had a life coach, but credits therapy as a tool that “really, really saved me and it laid the foundation to who I am becoming.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
"I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself."
While she’s always had a nurturing personality, Mandi says her interest in becoming a life coach was inspired by the women who would message her for advice on social media. “I would answer them back. It really sparked a fire within myself to help people,” she says.
You Bloome currently has three membership tiers, ranging in price from $2.99 to $39.99 per month. The highest tier offers a motivational text message twice a week, two live, group coaching sessions per month, and more. “We get emotional. We cry. We laugh. It’s really beautiful. I’ve built close relationships with my members through this. It’s been inspiring both ways,” Mandi says of the sessions. Still, the founder says she hopes to take on more motivational and keynote speaking opportunities in the future with the hopes of impacting as many people as possible.
And, she’s hoping to do all of this while continuing to explore a career as an entertainer.
At this point in her life, Mandi says she’s gained enough perspective on modeling, music, and acting to realize what she wants to prioritize moving forward. “We are going full force with acting,” she says, noting her goal is “to book a series regular or a film that impacts my career and the world.” She plans to continue to model, too, but has no desire to pursue music.
“I don’t want any part of that because I know what that life entails,” she says. “I don’t want to tour. I don’t want to do any of that. That is not where my heart is at.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If you ask Mandi, she’ll tell you she feels most comfortable in front of a camera, but she’ll also admit that she’s recently experienced a lot of imposter syndrome when thinking about her acting career. “I think it’s a fear of not succeeding,” she says. If anything, she adds, she’s harder on herself now than she’s ever been. “There were distractions before. There’s no distractions now,” she says. “I’m putting pressure on myself for no reason.”
This is where the life coach’s own personal healing comes into play. Mandi says she’s learning recently that “slow progress is still big progress at the end of the day.”
“Currently, I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself,” she adds.
Still, one of Mandi’s strengths is that she doesn’t feel the pressure to limit herself to just one passion. From working as a life coach to pursuing acting, she has given herself grace to explore all other dreams.
“We can be allowed to be many different things in this lifetime,” she says. “As people, our identities are allowed to expand. Don’t put us in a fucking box. I cannot live that way anymore.”
For more of Nazanin, follow her on Instagram @nazaninmandi.
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Featured image by Solmaz Saberi
It's no secret that the dating scene is different from our parents' generation, so as a hopeful romantic, many parts of me feel like I was born in the wrong lifetime. My mother often says that she feels like my husband will be a bit older than me; perhaps that was her way of telling me that she hopes I find someone more mature. But these days, between the countless podcasts debating gender roles and discussions online of who brings what to the table, finding your person can feel hopeless.
Still, people are finding love every day, so how can we go from being amongst the brokenhearted and nonbelievers? How can we get to the meat of what our needs truly are to find the love we've been searching for? Beverley Andre, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist says that the key is getting out of your own way.
Q: How can we get in our own way when it comes to relationships?
A: We get in our own way in relationships by having rigid expectations that make it difficult or impossible for someone to meet. I know this is a hot topic regarding having and maintaining standards, but there’s a fine line between reasonable expectations and creating a barrier that is nearly impossible to break through.
You have to assess the standards and see if they are genuinely in protection of you and maintain the standard of how you want to be treated, or are the standards fueled by fear and what you're really trying to do is avoid feeling hurt and disappointed, so you create this cycle where you set impossible standards that no one can meet, therefore limiting the possibility of close intimate relationships, leaving you feeling lonely and frustrated.
Q: In this dating age and era, how can we determine what our needs are versus our wants?
A: Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations, so I recommend creating a list of both. Identify your core values early on because those are your principles and qualities that matter most to you in a relationship. Those values are fundamental to your overall well-being. For example, do you want to be with someone who wants children, has integrity, and aligns on finances? Your values should be your deal-breakers that weed out people who are not in alignment.
For wants, think of physical, personality, and lifestyle traits that aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, aren’t tied to someone’s core traits, and don’t compromise your mental wellness. For instance, enjoying 100% of the same interests, specific physical attributes, and shared cultural background. As an extra measure, I recommend discussing your needs and wants with a trusted inner circle and getting their feedback. An inner circle should give you fair feedback instead of just agreeing with it because they’re within the inner circle.
"Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations."
Q: Are there fundamental needs that everyone should have or has on some level in romantic partnerships?
A: Yes, to be seen and heard. No one wants to be in a romantic partnership where they feel invisible, and their needs are met with consistent resistance just because it’s different from their partner. One of the core issues I see with couples is their inability to make space for their partner’s voice and influence. They find it difficult to see the value in what their partner is saying, especially if it contradicts their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, they register it as not being good enough and lacking merit and then get into a cycle where they inadvertently want their partner to change their minds and prove to them why they have a point.
Q: What are different examples of needs that everyone has?
Q: How can we get to the meat of what our needs are so we can in turn get better at communicating what our needs are from an empowered place versus a disempowered one?
A: Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. I often see people trying to heal these wounds in relationships with people who aren’t responsible for creating them or fixing them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving. Getting to the meat of your needs will require self-exploration, curiosity, and patience to understand why the need is even a need.
"Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving."
Q: What do you find your clients who are succeeding in relationships have done differently in explaining their needs to their partner?
A: They have done the self-work and healing to know their needs through individual and/or couple’s therapy. Most of the clients I’ve worked with never had the space to develop their thoughts around their needs. They’ve adopted their needs based on what they’ve seen in their personal lives from family growing up, movies, and now social media. Until you have a healthy relationship with yourself, where you’ve identified your needs and are meeting them, it isn’t easy to have that with someone else. You can’t communicate and give what you don’t know and have.
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Featured image by Maskot/Getty Images