I’ll never forget a quote I heard one time from motivational speaker, Tony Gaskins. He said, “Communication in a relationship is like oxygen. You need it in order for the relationship to survive.” I’d even take it a step further and add that “effective communication” is needed for a relationship to survive and thrive. You see, it’s important that we communicate our needs, our values, and our boundaries in our relationships. However, if we are not conscious of how we communicate with our partners, we can unintentionally hurt them simply by not knowing any better.
Oftentimes a lack of effective healthy communication skills comes from what was modeled to us as children. Was the environment you grew up in very volatile and hostile? Were your caregivers able to communicate in healthy ways or was there constant yelling, screaming/name calling to get certain points across? How did your caregivers respond to your needs? Was communication very passive in your household or very aggressive? Did you watch your caregivers communicate with each other in ways that were effective or did they ignore each other?
These are all important questions to reflect on because whatever we see and feel in childhood is more than likely to be replicated into adulthood because our nervous system has been trained to connect in this way. Even if communication was dysfunctional, oftentimes it’s difficult to “do better” when it’s the only template we can operate from because it’s the only thing that we know.
As human beings, we all want to be seen and heard in our relationships but we may have difficulty communicating how we feel if we are using violent phrases to elicit a caring response from our partners. At the moment, we may think our partner will finally be able to understand us, but it actually does the opposite of what we want because it pushes our partner away, creating more tension and feelings of resentment in the relationship.
The following is a list of ten phrases you should avoid if you want a thriving relationship:
1.“You always…”/“You never…”
When we speak to our partners in absolutes we are usually extremely frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed by what is happening in the relationship. When we are overwhelmed in this way, we tend to put emphasis on what our partner is/isn't doing, which focuses more on the behavior rather than the collaboration to find the solution. When we use absolutes such as “you always” or “you never,” we are speaking in extremes. In these moments, it is important that we ground ourselves with the facts. Is it true that your partner is always ignoring you or do you often feel unheard in the relationship? Is it true that your partner never listens to you? Does feeling heard by your partner help you feel more connected and considered in the relationship?
These are all requests for connection, we just have to refrain from using absolutes to get our point across. Using absolutes may point towards parts of you that may be resentful. It does not plant the seeds for resolution and effective communication in the relationship, it just plants seeds of hurt, pain, and defensiveness.
Moving forward, try to focus on what is working for you in the relationship, and what you do like/love about your partner. Start showing gratitude for the little things that you may sometimes overlook and outwardly praise your partner to show appreciation and reaffirm the behavior.
2. “Get over it.”Get Over It Hamptons GIF by discovery+Giphy
When your partner expresses a concern and you respond with, “Oh well, get over it,” it’s extremely dismissive and very harmful to the health of the relationship. Think about it: Have you ever been hurt by someone you confided in and they told you that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you feel? I’m sure this has happened to so many of us and it is one of the most hurtful and invalidating responses to our emotional experiences.
When your partner is expressing something that is hurting them, it’s important that you do not dismiss their feelings even if you disagree with them. We must learn to put our ego to the side when this happens. If we do not put our ego to the side and create a safe space for our partner to share with us, we push ourselves further and further away from creating emotional intimacy with our partners.
3. “You’re just like my _____.”
No one likes to be compared to someone else especially someone you’re most likely not too fond of. When you say things such as “You’re just like my last boyfriend” or “You’re just like my dad,” you are passing a moralistic judgment on your partner based on your past experiences rather than seeing them for who they are. Yes, our partners may have certain characteristics that remind us of a familiar relationship dynamic but that does not mean that they are “just like” that person. Your partner is a human being with their own authentic expression. When you compare them to someone you have a conflicted relationship with, you are rejecting your partner by shaming them. This in turn will create more resentment in the relationship, creating more of a wedge between the both of you.
4. “Oh no, here we go again.”/”What did I do this time?”GIF by VH1Giphy
This was actually one that I had to work on in my relationship and my therapist actually called me out on it in a couples therapy session. (The therapist calling out the therapist, I love it LOL.) Saying things like, “Oh no, here we go again" or “What did I do wrong this time around?" to your partner when they are expressing a concern to you is highly dismissive and invalidating. What you are doing is showing that your frustration with your partner's concerns triumphs over their feelings. This may not be your intention but this type of response may cause your partner to shut down and avoid the conversation altogether, which does nothing to solve the issue at hand, it just adds more fuel to the fire.
5. “You’re so stupid.”
John Gottman, couples therapist and CEO and founder of the Gottman Institute, researched and studied what he called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in relationships. Each horseman describes the four communication styles that destroy relationships, also known as relationship killers. In his studies, Gottman noticed that couples who handled their conflict conversation with contempt ended up divorcing. He concluded that contempt was the biggest destroyer and predictor of divorce and separation out of the Four Horsemen.
Contempt is when we talk down to our partners by being mean to them, insulting them, calling them names, etc. Attacking someone's sense of who they are is unloving, yet so many of us do it not because we do not love our partners, but because we were spoken to in those same ways. It becomes a cycle where we belittle our partners in the same way because we have not learned the tools to regulate our emotions.
Phrases like “You’re so stupid,” or ”You're an idiot” are harmful to the connection; if it happens for long enough, it also erodes safety in the relationship.
6. “I’m sorry, but…”sorry not sorry GIFGiphy
I don't know who needs to hear this but, “I’m sorry, but...” negates the “I’m sorry.” When you apologize, the word 'but' then counters the apology. Especially when it is usually followed by criticism or an excuse because you are most likely in a state of defense. In couples counseling, I always tell my couples to hold themselves accountable with compassion and understanding. Accountability does not mean punishment, it is simply a way to take into account what was done and acknowledge the harm that was caused by it.
When you can show compassion for the times that you may unintentionally hurt someone because you were hurting, it comes naturally to show kindness to others.
7. “I don’t care.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When we say things like "I don’t care," we are dismissing our partner's feelings. When we communicate this way, we are giving off the impression that our partner's feelings do not matter, which can trigger feelings of abandonment/rejection. This can create a barrier to connection because not only does your partner get the message that their feelings don’t matter but they also receive the message that they don’t matter.
Just like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we are social beings. We need to be heard, seen, and deeply felt in order to survive. If we think we do not matter in our relationships, it destroys our sense of belonging.
8. “Well, at least I’ve never…”season 4 netflix GIF by Gilmore Girls Giphy
When we say, “Well, at least I’ve never...,” we are deflecting in order to avoid having to take accountability. According to MindBodyGreen, “Deflection is a defense mechanism that involves redirecting focus, blame, or criticism from oneself onto another person, in an attempt to preserve one's self-image.”
I would also like to add that often this is done to relieve our own anxiety around how we are perceived. However, it is not healthy to deflect because if we are constantly looking for something or someone outside of ourselves to “blame,” we are not taking accountability for our choices and how they impact our relationships. This behavior can drive our partner away because at its core it’s manipulation.
9. “You need to relax.”
“You need to relax” is another way of telling your partner they shouldn't feel what they are feeling. Granted, how we respond to certain situations may not always match the situation. For example, if your partner tells you 'no' and you burst into anger and rage, being told to relax might be warranted in a way that isn't in most other cases. (Keep in mind that we tend to view situations through the lens of our unhealed wounds. Depending on what is triggering us at the moment will determine the lens we see it through which will then influence our reaction to the trigger.)
Nevertheless, telling your partner “you need to relax” is not going to automatically make them relax. It actually does the opposite by making them even more upset because they feel invalidated, dismissed, and unheard. Remember, it's important to respect how your partner feels even if you don’t agree.
10. "I told you so."Im Right Told You So GIF by CBCGiphy
When you say, “I told you so” to your partner, you are adding insult to injury. It’s like having an open wound and picking at it to make it worse. Your partner probably already knows they made a mistake. It is unloving to make them feel even worse by reiterating you were “right.” Instead of focusing on how you were “right,” show compassion for how your partner feels and use the situation as a learning lesson to move forward in a way that feels empowering to the relationship.
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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 face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
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