There are some experts who say that we all have six basic emotions — happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. I personally believe that a lot of us continue to stay in the emotional ruts that we find ourselves in because we don’t expand past these six when it comes to verbally expressing how we feel (for instance, are you angry or irritated? Are you sad or just tired? — you can download an emotional wheel here). What I will say is, because emotions are a human regulator, it’s always important to take moments, throughout the day, to “check-in” with your feelings to see where you’re at — and if where you are is drained, yeah…that ain’t good.
To be drained is to find yourself in a state and position where you feel…empty. And because we are, in part, emotional beings, that’s not good because being depleted affects our self-regulation and that can infect our processing and the steps that we need to take to do what’s truly best for us.
You know who knows this to be true? Emotionally draining people. Know what else? They absolutely do not care. All they can think about is doing whatever needs to be done to get their own needs — including their emotional needs — met. And if that wears you out in the process…so be it.
More times than not, these kinds of individuals are entitled, selfish, and oftentimes very emotionally immature. They don’t care about this either. That’s why it’s on you (and me) to become self-aware of our own relational needs and then to become aware of some telling signs that you are being emotionally drained, so that you can set boundaries and act accordingly.
For now, here are seven that are dead ringers that boundaries are needed ASAP.
1. You Feel Anxious at the Mere Thought of Being Around ThemGiphy
There used to be some people in my life (and by “people,” I mean relatives) who I found myself damn near hyperventilating at the mere thought of having to be around them. They were controlling. They were manipulative. They couldn’t respect a boundary to save their life. And they liked to abuse Scripture to justify their behavior.
What made it even worse was, because a lot of people around them were either just like them or henpecked to death by them, they would try and make me feel bad for not wanting that kind of toxicity around me. And so, for many — FAR TOO MANY — years, I would stay on a vicious rollercoaster of feeling peace whenever those individuals weren’t around and totally stressed out whenever they were.
Listen, when you’re in the presence of people who are right for you, anxiety should be far, far away from your emotional space. The reason why I say that is because, by definition, anxiety means things like mental distress, uneasiness, and worry — and all of this is connected to thinking that you’re going to be in some type of danger or some sort of misfortune is going to happen to you if, in this case, those kinds of individuals come around.
In other words, in the context of this article, anxiety is signaling a red flag. So, instead of you trying to suppress it, the wiser thing to do is really stop and ask yourself, “Why is it that when [insert name here] comes to mind, I feel this way?” Then really listen to yourself when the answer presents itself — and then act accordingly when it comes to the steps that you need to put into place next in order to experience less anxiety and more calm. Take whatever steps are necessary too. Anxiety is not something that you want to play with. Stress either.
2. “Emotional Vampire” Tracks When It Comes to a Way to Describe ThemGiphy
When it comes to everything that I just said, if there’s a term that would describe those people perfectly, “emotional vampire” would definitely scratch the itch. So, how do you know if you’ve got an emotional vampire in your life — I mean, beyond what I just described?
According to many mental health professionals, there are three telling signs that someone fits this particular bill:
- They constantly need attention and/or validation.
- They suck at self-accountability (and honestly, emotional self-regulation).
- They tend to stay in counterproductive — if not flat-out self-destructive — patterns.
Because of this, having them around typically results in them doing things like:
Gaslighting you — making you think that you’re insane for having the memories or feelings that are directly related to them that you do.
Being passive-aggressive — hinting around at issues instead of directly addressing them (which yes, is super draining). You know the kind: when you ask them “What’s wrong?”, they say “nothing” five times before actually getting to the point. LAWD.
Playing the victim — when you call them out on their ish, either it’s someone else’s fault or they start to act like you are bullying them by addressing what they are actually doing wrong.
Talking too much — emotional vampires SUCK at listening. Listening means that they have to let other people have the floor, that they can’t be the center of attention, and/or that they might hear something that they would prefer to ignore or avoid. That said, watch those who talk over you a lot. Not only is it disrespectful but oftentimes, they are telling you that they don’t want to deal with whatever you’re about to say (even if they know that they should).
Taking control — controlling people are draining because we aren’t designed to be controlled (or to control others). We’re adults and that means we are free to have our own opinions, perspectives, and even ways of doing things. Emotional vampires will always push back on this because, if the way you choose to live your life does not serve them in the way that they want it to, they will try and get some control over you, so that they can (continue to) manipulate you.
I honestly could go on and on with this point; however, what I will say for now is, if this resonated with you more than a lil’ bit, there is an emotional vampire in your midst and it’s time to get some distance and set some boundaries. FIRM ONES.
3. You’re Definitely “Keeping Tabs” on the RelationshipGiphy
You wanna know a clear indication that someone is manipulating and/or using you? It’s when you bring up to them that you feel like you’re the one who is doing most of the “heavy lifting” in the relationship and they come at you on some, “If you’re keeping tabs, you’re not doing ‘it’ for the right reasons.”
Chile, please stop. The reality is that if there was true reciprocity, I wouldn’t need to keep tabs. Keeping tabs is what’s revealing to me that there isn’t.
There are some people in my life who, I couldn’t “tally up” what I’ve done for them vs. what they’ve done for me if I tried. That’s how seamless the relationship is on the give-and-take tip. Then there are those who, I’m honestly embarrassed that I did so much when they offered so little in return. For example, the day ones (of reading my work on this platform) might remember my mentioning a so-called friendship where I spent thousands of dollars (yes, literally) over the years and all I got from them (again, yes literally) was a $5 ring from some museum and a packet of lip gloss…that they actually lost. I used to chalk it up to them giving differently but c’mon — thousands in comparison to 10 bucks? Nah. I was played, for sure.
Someone who takes more than they give, even when it comes to tangible things, is eventually going to emotionally drain you because you will start to feel taken advantage of — and when that happens, it will eventually take a real toll on you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
4. They Treat You Like a Makeshift Therapist (Instead of Going to Actual Therapy)Giphy
Whenever I hear or read that Black people fear therapy, there is a part of me that’s like, “Maybe some of us; however, I think more are afraid of paying a therapy bill.” Just think about it — how many people in your life seem to constantly have something that they need your insight and counsel about? Almost like they think that your main purpose in life is to act like their on-call (and not paid) therapist. SMDH.
Do healthy relationships consist of being safe spaces for two people to share, vent, process, and get (hopefully) some sound advice? 1000 percent. However, if every time that you answer the phone, the same person on the other end has some sort of issue or problem that it seems they want YOU to put more energy into solving (or resolving) than they are even willing to — that will totally get old after a while.
Besides, I tell a lot of my clients that, although relationships can be therapeutic, they are not the same thing as going to actual therapy. And so, if someone seems to be in a hamster wheel of drama or trauma and it’s getting to the point where you find yourself avoiding them because they have nothing else to talk about but their problems, it really is time to let them know that you can be a friend but they should seek a professional — because those things are not the same…because they’re not.
5. With Them, It’s ALWAYS SomethingGiphy
Back in 2015, I went on an intentional “tour” to resolve some things with certain men of my past. I actually wrote about it for the site (when you get a chance, check out, “Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour”). Anyway, the main purpose of it was to make sure that I got the FULL CLOSURE that I needed so that I wouldn’t move forward with someone new while still being “haunted” by my past. It was honestly one of the best things that I’ve ever done.
Currently, I have a friend who is doing something similar — kinda-sorta by default. There is an ex in her life who has always been able to come back in, in part, because they’ve both always felt like it was poor timing that kept them from having a long-term committed relationship. Although I’ve seen some, at the very least, pink flags about ole’ boy, because I know what it’s like to not be able to get someone out of my system until I’m personally ready to, I’ve encouraged her to be intentional about getting the answers that she needs — so that if/when she’s done this time…IT’S DONE FOR GOOD (and yes, I am yelling it).
It's a slow crawl yet it seems like she’s starting to come around, because this guy? When I tell you that he’s always in some sort of crisis or he’s always got some sort of problem or he’s always “inconsistently upset” (meaning, he goes from hot to cold in a matter of moments) about something? And here’s the thing — life has moments of hardship, trials, and tests for all of us. Still, when someone is constantly in that space, at some point, they’ve got to be willing to accept that the common denominator in it all is them.
And if someone is always drawing conflict into their life, what do you think you’re gonna be dealing with, right along with them (especially in a romantic situation)? In fact, a lot of times, they will think that treading water (if not flat-out drowning) with them is a part of your role.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” If someone’s always in some mess, you are only doing yourself harm by getting intimately involved with them. Yeah, some folks, you’ve gotta pray for and let them figure THEM out.
6. It’s Hard to Be Your Authentic Self in Their PresenceGiphy
Walking on eggshells is also emotionally draining — and this is what tends to happen when you feel like you can’t be your genuine, complete, and unedited self when you’re around certain individuals.
For the record, I don’t mean that you should ever think that you have the right to be unhinged, rude, or disrespectful. All I’m saying is if you’re monitoring your words because they are constantly getting triggered or having their feelings hurt, if you find yourself backtracking or apologizing even when you don’t think that you’ve done anything wrong, if you are holding back when it comes to expressing your own views, likes or desires — that’s too much work and when relationships require a lot of stress, striving and toiling in order to keep them going, that too is gonna tap you out.
In fact, one of the greatest indications that you have found “your people” is when you can relax, exhale and be totally, unapologetically, and authentically YOU. If that’s not currently happening — I don’t care if it’s a partner, a friend, a relative, a job, a church…whatever, you are setting yourself up to be emotionally drained…if you’re not already right there.
7. You’d Rather Be Anywhere BUT Around ThemGiphy
I’m proud of my friend circle. One reason is that they are out here doin’ the damn thing. They are thriving in their purpose. They are making big moves. Their schedules are full. And that’s why I’m almost honored if, when I call, they pick up — pretty much every time (or will follow up with a text that they will call when they can). One friend, in particular, shared why. He said, “Because I know that you’re not gonna drain the hell outta me.”
Again, when it comes to a topic like this, I could go on for days. For now, though, let’s just end it with this, if you’re avoiding someone because of how they make you feel whenever they’re in your emotional space, that’s another indication that they are probably emotionally draining you and so you need to go about the relationship differently.
Because why would you intentionally avoid someone who brings you peace, who makes you laugh, who brings encouragement and support, who helps to fill your cup rather than empty it?
Again, we’re all gonna have moments — possibly even seasons — when we’ll need people to help us through tough and trying times; this means that we need to be ready, willing, and prepared to return the favor. Yet if tough and trying are all that there is, something is…off.
Healthy relationships are supposed to be helpful NOT draining.
When it comes to yours — which is it? Really?
And if it’s Door #2 — set boundaries. QUICKLY.
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Featured image by Ekaterina Goncharova/Getty Images
- Are You An Emotionally & Relationally Safe Person To Be Around? 6 Ways To Know. ›
- On Being An Empath & Not Taking On Emotions That Aren't Yours To Carry ›
- 6 Signs You're About To Let A Toxic Person (Back) Into Your Life ›
- This Is How A Friend Can Gaslight You — And Make It Feel Like It's Your Fault ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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xoMan: Mack Wilds Reflects On When He Knew His Wife Was 'The One' & The Importance Of Being A Supportive Husband
Tristan Mack Wilds is one of those rare artists we’ve watched since childhood and continue to follow today. He was hands-down one of my favorite characters on the beloved fifth season of HBO’s The Wire and continues to grace our screen on projects like Peacocks’ Praise This and the upcoming season of AppleTV+’s Swagger.
Whether he’s giving us the perfect R&B vibe to add to “the playlist” or showing off his acting chops, it’s safe to say he has a place in many millennial women’s hearts. But it’s not just his artistry that makes him xoMan-worthy. Recently, he appeared on The Tamron Hall Show with his family and spoke beautifully about marriage and fatherhood. With a quick listen to the interview and a social media scroll, it’s clear to anyone that he loves his queen out loud, and we had to get into it.
Now, I’ll be honest. One of the first elements that drew me into their story is that they met on the set of The Wire. As a major fan of the series, the timing appealed to me; he was pretty young when the show aired, so I was curious about their journey to marriage. Wilds responded by telling xoNecole, “I think in any successful relationship, you go through ups and downs. It’s just like life or career choices. Before you can consider yourself a solidified success, God is gonna put you through tumultuous downs and super-high beautiful ups so that you can feel the emotions and ride it out until you guys understand each other’s flow.”
He went on to say that while he was filming 90210, she was in college, and they were in a long-distance relationship. Later, they split up but continued to figure each other out as they went on their separate life journeys. It took time, but eventually, they understood each other and self enough to have a child. Through this journey to marriage, they continued to discover more about life and their faults but always remained present for each other. However, he knew since the day he put his jacket on her shoulders on the set of The Wire that she was the one.
"Before you can consider yourself a solidified success, God is gonna put you through tumultuous downs and super-high beautiful ups so that you can feel the emotions and ride it out until you guys understand each other’s flow.”
That one is Christina Wilds, an author, mother, and entrepreneur in her own right, and while the two are very busy, they still make time for themselves, romance, and date nights. He just finished Snowfall (which he loved), and the couple has been super tapped intoQueen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. When he speaks about their lifestyle and fatherhood, it sounds very healthy and fulfilling. “Being a two-time girl dad has taught me to be a lot softer, not only with women but with people and myself. I'm trying every day to make a more concerted effort to be softer with my team, my wife, my family, and myself,” he explains. “Sometimes unbeknownst or intentionally, we can come off [as] abrasive. I don’t think abrasiveness solves problems, and I’m a problem-solver. I like to get things done.”
Mack Wilds Photo by Benjamin O’Dea
But the fast-paced entertainment industry has a way of not showcasing marriage and monogamy in the most positive light. There’s this narrative out there that men don’t want to pursue marriage. So I asked if he could share some advice for the fellas on commitment and settling down. Wilds says, “Well, this is not just for men, it’s for women too – especially with the summer coming in. Phones are gonna start going silent, this is the time (laughs). But I think the biggest advice I’d say for knowing when it’s time to settle down is to figure out yourself. I think a lot of people settle down too fast or slow, and it’s all due to experiences you’ve had in your prior relationships. First, figure out what you like, love, the things you like to do, and how you like to be touched. Know yourself so when you come in, you're able to give someone an instruction manual.” I thought that alone was a gem, but it didn’t take him long to drop more.
A piece of advice my father gave me years ago is to: know your friends. There are loved ones you can talk to about what you discovered in therapy, and there are friends you can talk to about the best place to grab a drink, but they’re not always the same people – and that’s okay. Apparently, this applies to marriage too. I’ve heard many individuals say that when they get into relationships, they notice they stop hanging out with their single friends. I have mixed views about this, but I was curious about Wilds' thoughts, especially since if you listen to the actor’s podcast Guys’ Next Door, you know his friends have very varied perspectives.
He responds with a chuckle saying, “There is some validity to that, but I don’t think it’s so black and white. You hang with people of similar situations, people who have been through what you’ve been through. You want to have someone that you can speak to and have different conversations. Whether it’s about children, being in a relationship, etc. You want to speak to someone who's been through it so it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. So whether my friends are single, there’s always gonna be a shift to the people that I ask for certain advice. It’s all about being around individuals that can provide the things you need. It just so happens that a lot of my single friends happen to be in this business.”
He seems to have a nice balance of it all, which must get difficult as busy as he is. But when he speaks of his recent role on Praise This, it sounds more exciting than trying. He describes it as genuinely fun. “It was amazing, we were always joking, and the music was plentiful. Everyone was cracking jokes and singing. I was glad that I could put an update to an idea of what a pastor or religion could or should be.”
Mack WildsPhoto by Benjamin O’Dea
Now he’s gearing up for the return of Swagger on Apple TV + where he plays the complicated character Alonzo. “Alonzo has come up behind the scenes. He finds his way behind the puppets to pull the strings. He makes things happen. He’s not the easiest or nicest guy. He’s the anti-hero we all need,” he says about his character.
I can appreciate the way Mack Wilds shines in his craft, but I also respect how he uses his platform to show a career in the spotlight and Black love. Both are possible.
“No one in the world doesn’t like feeling [invalidated], especially by their partner. I want to make sure my wife understands that not only am I her biggest fan, but I’m supporting her in any way I can. It’s less about my career and more about her feeling [supported] in everything that she does and that we do,” he shares.
"I want to make sure my wife understands that not only am I her biggest fan, but I’m supporting her in any way I can. It’s less about my career and more about her feeling [supported] in everything that she does and that we do."
He closed with the best piece of general and relationship advice he’s ever been given, saying, “For regular advice, invest your money. Remember it’s about assets over liabilities,” he adds a shoutout to Nipsey Hussle, Earn Your Leisure, and homies who inspired him.
He continues saying, “For relationship advice, I’d say, when it feels like you’re about to have an argument with your partner. Be quiet longer than you think you should be. Let [him] or her get their thoughts out and then respond. I promise you will have a way better conversation if you take time and don’t worry about jumping over each other. Take time, let your partner talk, repeat how you heard it, and then respond.”
You can catch Tristan “Mack” Wilds in the season 2 premiere of Swagger on June 23rd on AppleTV+.
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Feature image by Benjamin O’Dea