Earlier this year, as the new year rang in, my Facebook newsfeed was full of old school friends and their declarations of resolutions to do better in all aspects of life. Those who wanted to focus on improving their health made promises to fork over cash for gym memberships; most wanted to better their finances so they vowed to map out monthly budgets; others wanted stronger relationships–some wanted simply to be in a relationship. I came across a status from a friend who proclaimed she was ready to be in a relationship and after I left emoji eyes in her comment section, she proceeded to text and tell me about her wishes and someone she was interested in and what #relationshipgoals looked like to her.
We briefly delved into her love life, or lack thereof, and she admitted that she wanted something that what I had. Although this hadn't been the first time she expressed this to me, nor the first time I heard it in general, I was taken aback. My relationship was nothing to aspire to as she was vaguely familiar with my history with my partner and the rough patches that are only shared on my personal blog. Why did she want to be like us? I LOL'd at the response, but made sure to let her know that long-term and more so, life-long relationships, demand that we put in work .
I strongly believe she was smitten by recent pics and posts, but failed to comprehend the trajectory from point A to Z isn't months or years of things going well. It's arguments over bills, frustrations that promises are broken, and sacrifices that call us to be selfless, to name a few. But Instagram in its totality is a filter that presents those scrolling through with a perception that things are how they look. Throw in a few hundred likes per photo and you've got validation that what you see is what you should strive for. While couples aren't uploading their personal struggles to the 'gram, it doesn't mean the things that you wouldn't qualify as #relationshipgoals aren't happening behind the scenes. In fact, I believe that this should be the year that we stop labeling couples as goals for that very reason.
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Last year spawned thousands of articles that so-and-so were the prototype of perfection in relationships. If someone posted a photo sharing pizza or their last pink Starburst with their girlfriend, it was #relationshipgoals. Memes offered insight into what was consider ideal. If a couple had matching Louboutins, cars, rings–anything materialistic–it was classified as such, but in my opinion, individuals should strive for more in a relationship.
"When you go out, and especially as women, a man wines and dines you but that could be a smokescreen. Romance can always grow out of connection but without connection, romance is a show. Everybody wants the show but everyone gets mad when the show is over, and the person you're in love with is not the person who put on the performance. Romance is fine and it's going to be there but I think real love is that consideration.
"Real love is that concern. Flowers are fine but on a day to day basis, do they care? Are they plugged in? You get so caught up in your day to day life that you can just get on autopilot in your relationship or your marriage. Just because you are with someone all of the time, you make the assumption that they're okay which is not always correct. The person right next to you, who you spend the most time with, could be going through hell and you don't know it because you haven't asked. Those small things is when you really have love and that's the foundation."
In the most recent episode of Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson's podcast, ironically titled #RelationshipGoals , Danyel introduces a series of questions called "36 Questions on the Way to Love" that “asks basic questions to promote intimacy" early on in the relationship. Some of the questions, created by psychologist, Arthur Aron, are:
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
- What do you value most in a friendship?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- What would constitute a “perfect" day for you?
Last month, she shared her thoughts on marriage with us in an interview .
“Everybody's marriage is complex regardless of how they're presenting it, but to me, it's one of the greatest relationships of life if you're lucky to have it and if it's something that you want."
In order to avoid becoming the next Tasha and Keith , it's best to moderately dig into the nitty gritty from the start so that you aren't falling for the front. Instead, we are falling for the idea of what someone could be and calling it potential because of the platforms that feed into our ideologies of what love should look like. We want a love like the Obamas, Jada and Will , Bey and Shawn , and Nicole and Boris , but when it's time to put in the effort to push through the period after the wonder years, we crack and give up because our expectations weren't met. How are can we foster healthy, long-lasting relationships with people when we compare our lives to others and pray for someone else's fairy tale?
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There are hundreds of sites that offer listicles on couples who define “relationship goals" or what constitutes things that everyday couples should strive for, but what some have forgotten is what works for some may not work for others. I once told a friend what I do to keep my man, may be how she loses hers, and vice versa. We're so quick to label everything #relationshipgoals, but aren't aware of what's happening behind closed doors. There are a plethora of celebs who live private lives and understandably so. We have so much access to the lives of others, we lose sight of the things that matter most, like that connection Franklin spoke about or the answers to those questions Danyel mentioned. We take things for
and aren't willing to dig beneath the surface because what we may uncover could shatter our dreams of
what a quality relationship is
But I don't want a relationship built on the foundation of a Sex and the City quote or formed from my perceptions of someone else's marriage. I love what many of our favorite celeb couples represent (“Black love"), disproving beliefs that our relationships are merely rooted in baby mama/daddy issues wrapped in dysfunction, but I don't know what it took to get to 20 years of marriage, or to the White House, or to power couple status. I just want to figure out my own relationship as the road to happiness for us has had its own share of flaws. I can admit that. Picking up the pieces of someone else's bond and making it my own is just a recipe for disaster, not relationship goals.
Featured image by Sky Cinema / Shutterstock.com
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find , there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecole exclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause , marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression , anxiety , like all of it, mental health challenges , all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry ’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy . If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures , and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood , her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff , which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You , which stars Anne Hathaway.
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I won’t lie to y’all — one of the most challenging things about being a marriage life coach is the fact that, a lot of times, people wait until their marriage is literally on its last leg before seeking any type of professional help. It’s like they are pretty much saying, “My marriage is a complete dumpster fire. Now get it back healthy in five sessions or less.” It’s another message for another time that therapy and/or coaching don’t exactly work that way. For now, though, let’s briefly discuss how so many unions get to that point in the first place.
Feeling (or being) taken for granted . I can’t tell you how many calls, emails, or texts I’ve received where a husband or wife is totally at their wit’s end because they feel like their spouse is not grateful for the things that they do. And when you keep on giving, and the other person isn’t appreciative, that really is the beginning of a downward spiral , one that can be hard to come back from if you let too much time pass by.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving being just a few days away (where is this year going, y’all?!), I asked 12 wives to share with me some of the not-so-immediately-obvious things that they proactively do to let the number one man in their life know that they see him, they love him, and they are oh so very thankful for him — each and every day that they “do life” together. May it inspire you to stay the course (if you’re already doing something on your own), follow suit, or come up with a way to love on your boo thang in a similar fashion as well.
*Middle names have been used so that people can speak freely*
Diane. 37. Married for 11 Years.
“If a lot of women were honest, they’d own the fact that most of the dates that they go on with their boo consist of things that they want to do more than what he does ; at the most, it’s a compromise on his part. My husband and I try and go on two dates a month: he plans one, and I plan one. What I try to do on mine is either come up with something that I know he will enjoy or at least ask him if there’s something that he would like to do. Not all of his answers are things that I like, but it has expanded my world a lot. I’ve learned about soccer. I’ve gone skydiving. I’ve definitely tried some new foods. And he feels like I care about what he cares about. He feels appreciated , so it works.”
Wychelle. 42 Married for 15 Years.
“Around every six weeks, I have a DIY pamper day at home. It’s not for both of us, it’s for my husband only. I will give him a facial, rub his feet, give him a manicure, run him a bath with some lavender oil and Epsom salt, and prepare his favorite meal while his favorite music plays. He really looks forward to those days, and I’ve found that we have the most intimate conversations then. He said it’s because his guard is totally down because I make him feel cherished during those moments. That’s why I like doing it so much.”
Astrid. 37. Married for 10 Years.
“I wish I could do it more than this, but I try to let my husband stay in bed, all day, at least once a season [four times a year]. Between our kids and our hectic schedule, even that’s close to impossible, but I will get the kids over to somebody’s house for at least a night, if not a whole weekend, so that he can sleep in, I can make him breakfast in bed, he can have sole control of the remote, we can have some what we call ‘ loud sex ,’ and he can take long naps. He literally lives for those days, and I’m happy to do it!”
Oakland. 25. Married for One Year.
“One of the ‘ wife mentors ’ in my life often says that being a Black man in this country is a very thankless position. So, I try and send my husband random thank-you texts throughout the day: ‘Thank you’ for cooking dinner last night; ‘Thank you’ for being cool about my breaking the budget on my Target runs; ‘Thank you’ for just being yourself. I usually get an ‘I love you’ reply afterwards. I love that.”
Eve. 31. Married for Six Years.
“My husband is an extrovert. I am anything but, so a way that we had to strike a compromise was to do some day or weekend trips since I’m not the biggest people person or traveler. We will take a major trip once a year, but in between those times, I’ll look for a town or city that is no more than 6-8 hours, and we’ll tour that. It helps to keep him not feeling so antsy about always having to stay close to home; plus, he says that he loves that I am willing to step out of my comfort zone that way — because he knows that, if it were up to me, I’d be home all day, every day.”
Larissa. 46. Married for Eight Years.
“I took a big leap of faith and quit my job this year to follow my passion. Our kids are in college, and we saved up enough money for the past three years for me to do it. It’s still a sacrifice on my husband’s part because he’s remaining in a position that he’s not thrilled with so that I can make my dreams happen. One way that I show him how grateful I am for the sacrifice is I purchase things that feed into his own passion projects which are all music-related. I get equipment when I can. I’m constantly sending him podcasts and videos about it. I get him concert tickets. I try to do things to let him know that this is only a season — he will be able to do his thing too…soon.”
Yvonne. 24. Married for 11 Years.
“At the end of every month, I jot down at least 15 things that I really appreciated that he did that month and I post it on the fridge. I think it’s important that he sees it and our children because they need to know that their mommy sees their father. They also need to get used to seeing what happens ‘behind the scenes’ that they might not know about — things that keep the ball rolling around here.”
Serenity. 46. Married for 21 Years.
“I don’t nag my husband, and it’s as simple as that. How many times have you heard that a man just wants some peace? In my over 20 years of marriage , I’ve learned that the best way to show a man how much you care about him is to give him what he needs, and no man needs to feel like he’s always being hounded about something all of the time. A lot of you won’t listen, but I’ve got some experience under my belt. Give that man peace, and he’ll feel like you’re thankful for him.”
Chayla. 27. Married for Three Years.
“One of the best things that I ever did for my marriage is actually something that you recommended. Remember how, during our first year , I was in some serious marriage culture shock, and you said that I should try the ‘respect challenge’ ? I grew up in the Church, and so I knew about what the Bible says about respecting your husband but no one really explained what that looks like. Once a year, I will do the challenge, and it’s like ‘pushing reset’ in a lot of ways. He feels more appreciated, and he goes out of his way to indulge me during those times.”
Lynn. 33. Married for One Year.
“Something that my parents and grandparents did is put a gratitude journal on their nightstand: one for the husband and the other for the wife. They committed to put something that they were grateful for when it came to one another, no less than twice a week. Both [couples] are still married. My husband and I are carrying the tradition.”
Athena. 33. Married for Five Years.
“I cook four nights a week, my husband cooks two, and we either go out once a week or order in. My husband is gonna eat whatever I prepare, but we’re both foodies. That’s why, once a week, I ask him for his personal request and make that. He loves that. It’s my way of showing him that I ‘see’ him, and since I haven’t grocery shopped in over a year now, it’s not stressful to do at all.”
Thalia. 50. Married for 30 Years.
“My husband and I have been going on ‘I thank you walks’ after dinner for the past 27 years or so. In the beginning of our marriage, we both were resentful because we weren’t raised to apologize or show gratitude. One day, I read an article about a couple who took thank-you strolls in order to get some quality time in and to tell each other why they were thankful for each other. They said it changed their marriage, and it improved ours too. We do it every night. It’s a tradition and, sometimes, the very best part of our day.”
Author Brené Brown once said, "I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." Just imagine how much more awesome marriage would be to so many, if they applied this to, not only being grateful for their spouse but expressing their gratitude to them. Not just on Thanksgiving but every day. I hope this inspires you to do just that.
Good husbands are a true blessing. Make sure that they know that you know it. Often.
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