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6 Signs You're "Faking It" (When It Comes To Your Relationships)

"The realest people don't have a lot of friends."—Tupac Shakur

Love & Relationships

Whenever you hear the phrase "faking it", what immediately comes to your mind? If you said faking orgasms, listen, I'm totally with you. In fact, I actually wrote an article for the site about how I personally think that faking it is a form of manipulation (you can read it here). Oh, but there are other ways to fake it in life, chile. Other ways to manipulate people by being fake too.

That's what we're gonna unpack today. Unfortunately, because so much of our lives is filled with some level of media, sometimes, it's challenging to separate what is real from what isn't—from what it really does mean to be fake. To be fake is to be disingenuous. To be fake is to pretend. To be fake is to "conceal the real", so that you can appear more attractive or interesting to others. The problem with all of this is when something is based on fakeness, you can never really trust it because it's all an illusion; a mirage.

Today, let's pull the masks off. Let's do so by looking at some pretty telling signs that you (or someone you know) are faking it, not when it comes to coitus, but when it comes to your relationships with other people. Hopefully, if you see yourself in any of these, you'll feel compelled to break these habits, so that you can cultivate connections with those who know, respect and appreciate you—the real you.

1. “Honest”, “Genuine”, “Direct” Aren’t the Words That Are Used to Describe You—EVER

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You remember when grandma used to say that cussing is a sign of not being very intelligent? I always think about that when I come up on studies that reveal things like it's actually smarter folks who tend to use four-letter words. Know what else research says that cussing is an indication of being? More honest. While being liked by the masses has never really been a concern or goal of mine, I will say that the older (and prayerfully wiser) I get, the more I care about being known and respected as an individual rather than everyone simply "liking" me.

A big part of that is because, a lot of the people I personally know who are considered likeable, when I peek behind their curtain and they share some of their vulnerabilities, oftentimes, they don't like themselves very much. And a big part of the reason why is they are so caught up in being popular that they hide a lot of their true selves—including their views, values and even wants and needs (we'll get more into that last part in a bit). Bottom line, they are basically so into being liked that they aren't really very honest with themselves—which makes it close to impossible to be honest with the individuals around them.

It's a pretty miserable existence to have everyone think that you are awesome when you're not even revealing your authentic self—when no one really and truly knows you at all. Believe you me, it's better to have five folks genuinely like the real you than 100 folks praise the version that is fake AF.
You're grown. It's your decision. But man, I hope you'll choose what's behind Door #1. It's amazingly freeing in that space.

2. Your Connections Consist Mostly of Online Ones 

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A couple of years back, Entrepreneur published the article, "Why Everyone and Everything on Social Media Is Fake". I chuckled because it really is a trip, how much people will speak so confidently about individuals they only interact with online. It's also fascinating how people have a real knack for presenting themselves one way on IG and a completely different way in real life.

Case in point. I recently saw someone—someone who has a pretty big Twitter following—make the announcement that they no longer were going to share their personal business because people don't agree with their choices and the stress has caused them to go to therapy. It's been a while since I've had my own social media accounts, but do you get how imbalanced you can get if you spend a lot of time caring about people who you don't even really know? This person got to the point where they regretted revealing parts of their true selves simply because a lot of their random followers took issue with it. Y'all, when it gets to the point where either 1) you only present what you think people want to see online and/or 2) you shy away from being the real you because you care more about "likes" than you do about being at peace with your own self, it's time to take a social media fast or consider getting offline altogether, so that you can devote more time to cultivating real friendships.

Social media has its place. At the same time, it shouldn't be your only interaction with human beings. Actually, I don't think it should be your main one either. I don't care if it's Twitter, Instagram or Clubhouse (whew, that Clubhouse, chile), don't get caught up in the hype of keeping up with how folks present themselves online or thinking that you've got to keep up with the online Joneses. Just like the filter on a lot of those pictures are fake, so is how a lot of people present themselves—this includes how they oftentimes choose to interact with you.

3. Everyone Gets Talked About—Just Not in Their Face

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Something else that grandma used to say is, "If they'll gossip to you, they will gossip about you." While that might not be 100 percent accurate (because I actually don't know one person who doesn't gossip on some level; media basically wouldn't exist without it), it's a good thing to keep in mind in the sense that, if you're someone who is constantly talking about people, only to act totally different in their presence, that is the ultimate kind of fakeness.

In fact, I'll give you a true life confession on this. For years, I was perceived as rude because it is absolutely not my modus operandi to act as if I like you and/or things are all good if I don't and/or they're not. I'm just not the kind of person to fake the funk. So, what I've had to work on is accepting that not being someone's fan doesn't mean that I've got to make people feel super uncomfortable or even be impolite. Hmm, come to think about it, about 85 percent of my inner circle has this particular trait in common. While I get that this personality trait isn't for everyone, I actually like it because, at least, I know where I stand—at least, I don't have to wonder if they're being one way in my presence and another way out of it. And neither do they.

Anyway, please don't give yourself any brownie points if you're the person who complains, gripes or speaks ill of folks when they're not around but then you pull the "Hey girl!" approach when they're within earshot of you. If you've got a real issue with someone, it's not going to get resolved if you're not honest and upfront with them about how you feel. Also, if you're someone who is just disingenuous in this way, eventually, even your own crew is gonna wonder if you're always like this…and that wondering could turn into socially distancing themselves from you at some point. It won't be due to COVID-19 either.

There is nothing admirable about acting one way in people's faces and another way behind their back. Figure out how to make peace or address the issue. If you don't want to be fake, you can't really do both.

4. You Care More About Others’ Expectations than Your Own Needs

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Ever meet a relational chameleon? Those are what I call individuals who are one way with you and yet a completely different person with others. Matter of fact, it's kind of a toss-up when it comes to who they are gonna be at any given moment. While on the surface, that might sound like the definition of a person who is a bit off of their rocker, I've personally seen it enough in my lifetime to think it's more like someone who is A) unsure of who they truly are; B) an opportunist and/or C) more concerned about what others expect from them than what they need to receive in their relationships.

Being the kind of individual who meets the needs of others isn't a bad thing. It really isn't. Yet if you are so focused on making others happy that you suffer and/or you have no idea what your needs are and/or those needs are constantly shifting based on what you think people believe you should ask of them—while this may seem like a selfless thing on the surface, it's actually another form of fakeness.

I know a guy who's a huge relational chameleon. For instance, the way he acts around white people is completely different than how he acts around us (Black folks). He also lets a lot of BS slide with white people while being much harder on his Black friends. Know what else? He overextends for white folks because those are the ones he does the most business with. Meanwhile, he thinks that they "like" him when it's really more like they enjoy how much they are able to use him.

No relationship is healthy if only one person is doing most of the work. And something is up with the over-giving individual who doesn't confront this issue at some point. Bottomline, it's fake to constantly change yourself in order to please others. Decide what you need and be consistent with your expectations of them being met. Period.

5. You’ve Got Unhealthy Habits Because None of Your Relationships Fulfill You

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One of the things that I didn't see being a benefit of the abstinence journey that I've been on is realizing that, although I consider myself to have a pretty healthy sex drive (so did my partners, if I do say so myself), I also realize that some men got what they absolutely did not deserve. It was because I used sex (and my sexual performance) as a way of escape. "Escape" in the sense that if I wasn't getting what I wanted or needed from them outside of the bedroom, I would lie to myself and say that was happening in the bed was more than enough. Lying to yourself is a really unhealthy habit. It can also cause you to be in some of the fakest relationships around.

Are you constantly doing most of the work in your relationships, hoping that they will like you more? Do you not speak up when you feel taken for granted because you don't want to "stir the pot"? Do you find yourself acting like certain things are "fine" when they absolutely aren't because you fear being alone if you speak up? Listen, when you are in a relationship, of any kind, that is making the core of who you are worse rather than better, sometimes to the point where you don't even really know who you are anymore, this is a sign of faking it that is problematic—and counterproductive—AF. It's a bad habit that you need to break ASAP.

The relationships that you can truly exhale in are the ones where you know you aren't overextending yourself or compromising to the point of sacrificing, just to keep them around. Your tribe wouldn't want you to be unhealthy just to keep them happy. Remember that as you interact with others.

6. If You Died Today, No One Could Say They Knew the REAL You

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There's a guy I know who is awesome. Like, a really great guy. I don't know one person who would say otherwise and I've known him for well over two decades at this point. Here's the thing, though (and I've actually said it to him directly)—if he were to suddenly pass away today, even he said that probably only his brother could do his eulogy any justice when it comes to the details of his life—and he's been married for years. Why is that? Because no one really knows much beyond the surface.

It's not like he's shady or anything. It's more that he is so used to everyone thinking that he's the greatest person ever that he keeps up polite walls so that folks won't be disappointed. Lord, what a lonely existence at the end of the day because, is it worth it for everyone to so-call love you when they've only skimmed the surface?

A wise person once said, "If everyone likes you, everyone doesn't know you." One way to look at this is, none of us are everyone's "fit" and that's OK. Yet if you're so busy trying to seem like you are every person's ideal, you can find yourself never putting your guard down and letting others in. As a result, while your relationships may be pleasant, they still aren't very real.

I once read a post that said, "Being fake is the new trend and everyone is in style." While unfortunately, there may be a certain amount of truth to this, is it really worth it to not be your true self? That's not a rhetorical question. The answer is, it's not.

You've only got one life. You can be fake. You can be real. Choose wisely. You and your relationships are depending on it.

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You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

That's why when I see couples who have been married for many years, especially those in the public eye, I take every opportunity to celebrate their union with them. After all, love fades, and it can even vary from day-to-day. Friendship is the basis of all of this, it's the foundation.

And one duo who certainly understands this assignment is our dear faves, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. They have spent much of their marriage genuinely loving on each other and helping other couples along the way just by being themselves. From revealing the infamous "prayer", to showing the importance of the little things; things like date nights, or complimenting your partner openly and unapologetically.

Most recently, Boris took to Instagram to swoon over his wife in the cutest way. Shared with a screenshot from FaceTime, he asks:

"Hey Babe, can I ask you something? Can you please keep shining your light on me? Like 20,30,40 more years maybe? Feels really good. Thank you. I love you."

To which Parker responded:

"I'm gonna shave my legs. to. night. #yourenotreadyyyy"

It's the hashtags fa me.

Then there was that time that he was checking her out, and complimenting her fitness, which, *swoon*:

There's the time he surprised her on a boat and copped a few feels:

Same.

When she celebrated his latest venture as his number one fan:

When they celebrated their anniversary with a few locals and dance in the city:

All while jamming to some, which is always a vibe.

And when Boris showed her infinite love on International Women's Day:

The lovers and friends pair have said before that their relationship is not different from anyone else's and that that they have simply taken the time to do what works for them, which is having fun. Nicole even addressed it directly, offering advice by saying:

"You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it's so good on the other side. And Number 2: treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It's nothing new. Don't panic. You're going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates."

She continues:

"But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can't wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can't wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend."

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image via Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

The daily empowerment fix you need.
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In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.

Courtship

Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

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I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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