Should You Take A Break? Or Break Up For Good?
Taking a break. Yeah, I don't know, y'all. Don't "break babies" come out of taking breaks? OK, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. Whenever someone is dating someone else and their status update is that they are currently "taking a break", on the surface, I typically liken it to when married people separate. Although it's not nearly as serious or even consequential (a break-up is hard but ask any divorced person and they will tell you that a divorce is hard times a thousand!) oftentimes, the purpose of two spouses separating is to get some space in order to see if their marriage is still worth saving.
That's why, when I look at taking breaks in a dating relationship, I get it. Sometimes, even though you deeply care about someone, you need a little space in order to decide if you should be together or not. I think where breaks get the side-eye from me is if someone is in the kind of situation where breaks happen often or they are used as a way to do some mad shady stuff on the sly. You know the kind I'm talking about—"I mean, I slept with someone else because I was on a break." (Uh-huh. I bet.)
Feel free to chime in, but the way I see it, is if two people have been together a couple of years and one of them gets a job in another city or one of them wants to get married and the other isn't sure, a break might be necessary in order to get a fresh perspective on things. But if you are sick of hearing yourself say "We're on a break" whenever one of your friends ask you about your man, ask yourself the following six important questions. If you're totally honest in your answers, you might discover that what you actually need to be doing is breaking up. For good.
Are Your Problems a Set of Unresolved Patterns?
"Why" has got to be one of the most underrated and underappreciated (and yes, sometimes most annoying) words on the planet. I say that because asking it can help you to get down to the root of so many situations, challenges and issues. Take this break that you and ole' boy are thinking about taking, for example. Why is it necessary? Is it because your relationship has reached a plateau and you both would like some time apart to figure out what's next? That's fair. Or is it because, outside of the earth-shattering sex the two of you've been having, your communication totally sucks?
Remember what I said about married people sometimes deciding to separate for a season? How crazy would a married couple look if they did it every six months? After a while, you would be like, "If y'all can't figure out what's wrong, maybe it's time to do something else." Same thing applies to dating dynamics. If you and yours are always on a break because it's the only solution to y'all's problems that seems to work…yeah, something isn't working. This is your first indication that it just might be time to break up instead of taking a break for the umpteenth time.
Are You Upset More Than You’re Content?
Did you peep how I used the word "content" rather than "happy"? Sometimes I think that people miss out on some great things in life because they are obsessed with feeling happy all of the time. Happiness is cool, but it's also an emotion that has ebbs and flows just like anything else. So, if you call things off just because two days out of the week, you aren't happy, that would be super unfortunate.
Content, on the other hand, is important. When you are content with something or someone, it means that you are satisfied. It also means that you don't want any more than what or who you currently have—whether you're currently feeling super happy or not.
Check it. If you're in a relationship where a lot of times, you're ecstatic but sometimes you're simply chillin' in the state of contentment, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if, at least half of the time, you're upset? This means that you're not happy or content. Listen, even if you're dating someone, technically until your relational status on your tax returns changes, you are single. Why stay with someone who doesn't put a smile on your face or leave you satisfied? Break up so that you can get with someone who will (hopefully) do both.
Can You Honestly Say That Your Lives COMPLEMENT One Another?
If you happen to read my articles a lot, you know that it's not uncommon for me to "sneak" some Scripture into here sometimes. One that applies well to this particular point is Genesis 2:18 (AMPC): "Now the Lord God said, 'It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.'"
Just because someone is attractive and appealing, that doesn't mean that they are a good complement for you and your life. Your right complement will serve as your counterpart. They will make your world easier. They will enhance it, bring balance to it and add some finishing touches to it. They will truly be like the icing on your already bomb cake.
A lot of couples find themselves constantly taking breaks because, even though they truly care about one another, what they also can't deny is they don't seem to complement each other very well. How did your spirit feel when you just read that sentence? Did your gut say that it's a sign to stay and try and make things work or that it really is time to call things off?
Is There Love and Passion? Or Only One or the Other?
I'm a passionate person. I feel things pretty deeply. I go hard at everything I attempt. If you're a fellow Gemini and reading this, you know that we give our all and expect the same in return—in every room of our home (read between the lines right there, y'all). So yeah, when it comes to that complement thing that I just mentioned, it's a non-negotiable that my long-term mate would have to be a passionate person too.
But as I've gotten older—and prayerfully, wiser—there's a Benjamin Franklin quote that stays with me. He once said, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." Amen. And what reason has taught me is passion is not enough to sustain or maintain a healthy relationship. Love must be present too. Not "emotional love" but grown love that says "I'm in this. Not just during the easy times."
At the same time, I'm also not gonna settle for love without passion. I deserve both. So do you.
If you're currently considering taking a break so that you can figure out if you're getting your fill of both love and passion, that's actually a pretty wise call. But if this is now your third, fourth or fifth break because you keep trying to turn one of those into the other, can you feel me looking at you through your computer screen? Guess what I'm about to say. Right. Exactly.
Are You Staying Mostly Because You’re Afraid to Be Alone?
Months back, I penned a piece on signs that you may be a love addict (for the record, an addict, in any form, isn't a good thing; even if the addiction is love). The last sign I mentioned is "you don't feel whole unless you're with someone". I've had a couple of boyfriends where we took several breaks. In hindsight, I must admit, I didn't really keep going back because of how "in love" I was. It was more because I was saying things to myself like, "I mean, we've already been together this long. I'd hate to have nothing to show for all of that time" or "I'm not getting all that I need out of this situation. But at least I'm getting something."
What do both statements boil down to? A woman who's afraid to be alone. The ultimate lesson in all of that? You shouldn't stay in or settle for anything when your core motivation is fear.
A wife once told me that my loneliest night alone in my bed tops being in a bad marriage any day. I've counseled enough married couples at this point to totally agree with her. So, if you're constantly taking breaks because you're afraid of what life would look like if you broke up with someone, look at it this way—the minute he's removed out of your life is the moment that you can prepare for who should actually be in his place. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be alone and hopeful than with someone and semi-miserable.
How Many “Breaks” Have You Already Taken?
Break up to make up, that's all we do/First you love me then you leave me/That's a game for fools. The lyrics are from an oldie but goodie by the Stylistics. And you know what? They're right. If all that you and yours are doing is breaking up and getting back together, only to break up again, while I won't call y'all "fools" for doing it, what I will encourage you to do is think about how many times that has happened and if you're being foolish (unwise, not factoring common sense, ignoring red flags) by staying.
You've probably heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different result. That said, a couple of breaks is one thing. But it being a part of your relationship routine probably means that one or both of you are ignoring that something—or a series of things—aren't working. Maybe you're meant to be only friends. Maybe the timing just isn't right. Maybe the two of you are more addicted to make-up sex than you would've ever thought. You won't really know until you stop the taking-a-break cycle, take the plunge and break things off—yes, for good. Or at least for a very long while.
The time apart to work on yourselves will reveal far more than if you stay in the pattern. Then, either you can get together or stay together or get to the one for which this article won't even apply.
It's a win, either way, if you ask me.
Featured image by Getty Images
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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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Here Are The Best Plus-Size Resort Wear Pieces For The Season
Your destination getaway is right around the corner. Everything is nearly together – travel excursions planned, hairstyles selected, and you have found the perfect plus-size swimsuit thanks to Gabi Fresh, but what about your outfits, specifically plus-size resort wear? And no, ladies, we are not living in chaos this summer and relying on rush shipping to provide pieces that may or may not work. So, if you need options, we got you covered.
First, researching current summer trends is a great way to select resort wear options. Some of our favorite travel girlies gave us the scoop on resort trends to look out for this summer. This includes sheer, crochet, and of course, the classic all-white pieces.
Next, look for interchangeable pieces. I love to mix and match to create a look, and I want to wear items that can carry into other seasons. Luckily, finding trendy plus-size resort wear that matches these criteria is easy. So, whether you are searching for something flowy or more revealing, you won’t be disappointed because we have curated a list of this year’s best plus-size resort wear.
Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets ($39.90)
Rebdolls will always be a favorite due to their sizes, ranging from 0 to 32. Therefore, we are starting this list with the Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets These are the perfect sheer pants to add to your vacation wardrobe. It is a part of the “Intro to Summer” Collection and can be dressed up or down. These wide-leg pants are ideal for rectangle and triangle body shapes.
Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt ($39.90)
Of course, we needed the matching button-up top to match the pants. The Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt is the perfect combo with its wide-leg companion above. Whether you wear it over matching pants or as a twist-tie top with a pair of jean shorts, this shirt will not disappoint.
Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress ($24.00)
Boohoo is a hot spot for summer options and consistent sales, making them extremely affordable. Their Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress is great for relaxing at the pool or beach. The material is lightweight, and the ruched detail is flattering for all body shapes.
Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress ($34.00)
(Via Pretty Little Thing)
This is for the girlies who love a high slit. The Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress from PLT is a must-have glam piece for your getaway. Heads will turn as you walk through any resort or new destination, and it’s flattering for all body types.
Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress ($30.00)
Asymmetrical is in this summer! And adding the Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress from Cider is the statement piece to add to your plus-size resort wardrobe. In addition, an asymmetrical dress is flattering for rectangular body shapes.
Satin Duster | Orange Mix ($62.95)
(Via Divno jé)
There’s something about a duster that makes you feel like you’re gliding while you walk. The Satin Duster (Orange Mix) from Divno jé is a showstopping piece that will compliment your tank dresses, shirt, and jeans. This long duster is flattering for all body shapes.
MakeMeChic Women's Plus Size Casual 2 Piece ($40.99)
The MakeMeChic is a cute, casual addition every girl needs. You can add a cropped or regular tank or nothing underneath. The fabric is comfortable and perfect for a beach day or island excursion. Depending on how you choose to style, this set is excellent for all body types.
Gabi Fresh Swim x ELOQUII Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit ($119.95)
Gabi Fresh has done it again with her latest collection at Eloquii. This Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit is a relaxed fit, and the cinched-waist maxi dress is gorgeous. It has cut-outs and a high slit. This dress would work well with an hourglass body shape.
Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set ($47.95)
This dazzling set is ideal for any cruise, beach day, or stroll through a seaside town. The Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set gives “main character” vibes. Another two-piece set that can be worn together or separately.
Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt ($24.00)
Two fashion trends that are in this season are cargo pants and maxi skirts. And Pretty Little Things gives us both with their Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt. Style with a combat boot or heel. This is another piece that suits all body shapes.
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