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Another Woman Taught Me That Marriage Requires Maintenance

The problem wasn't my husband's loyalty, as much as my crazy ass tried to make it be.

Her Voice

My husband and celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in September. Raising a four-year-old, navigating my job layoff and his full commitment to entrepreneurship are just a few of the things life decided to throw at us in these first few years after we made it official.

After what felt like sometimes was "surviving" my marriage instead of thriving in it, it's understandable that my memory was a little foggy and I almost forgot how long we've known each other. After recalling a few random milestones and encounters that stand out in our memory, we came to the agreement that we've actually known each other for about 15 years.

Slumps or dry spells are inevitable for anyone who has been in a long-term romantic relationship, particularly when you're living with someone and find yourself going through the motions on auto-pilot most days. As great as our marriage is, there are definitely plenty of times when our connection takes a backseat to pulling overtime at work, "Back to School Nights" and trips to Target for bathroom cleaner.

When I remember the people we were when we first met, I remember us eating Johnny Rockets and laughing on my porch when he got off his late shift and making love on his pull-out couch in the living room with episodes of The Office playing in the background. In the past year or so, however, Netflix has become the main event and there's no "chillin", just starting the dishwasher before we go to bed and start another day full of responsibilities.

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However, this past summer, a series of events happened that made me look at my husband in a different way. For whatever reason, whether it was the clients he worked with or a neighbor that was being a little too nice, women (who didn't know he was married of course) started shooting their shot like they were Stephen Curry with ten seconds left in the final quarter.

He'd come home and tell me how he'd politely decline and expected us to laugh at the awkwardness of it all. But of course, I'd get irritated and want ALL the details, "Were you flirting? Did they see your wedding ring? Why aren't you wearing a big ass neon sign that says 'TAKEN'?" There's nothing quite like an outside perspective to remind you of exactly what you have, so when hubby shared with me a general contractor he was working with had asked if he could talk blueprints over Cheesecake Factory, I couldn't help but laugh before thinking, "I will cut that h*e."

It didn't help that just a few weeks before there was a female friend that he had for years who suddenly began hitting him up for love and relationship advice. On the outside I was joking, "You should have gotten us some free slices of Oreo Dream Cheesecake," or "Your homegirl can't keep a man because she's too busy posting Instagram stories." But a part of me was annoyed and felt like my marriage was being threatened.

Admittedly at first, all I wanted was for all of these chicks to miss me and my marriage with the inquiries but it did make me realize something: Maybe I wasn't recognizing exactly what I had.

Meanwhile, hubby was out maneuvering through all of the advances and attention like Keanu Reeves back-bending under bullets in The Matrix. Still, a very insecure part of me went from 0 to 10 protecting my marriage. And all I could hear was Iyanla Vanzant's voice in the back of my head saying, "A marriage can only be destroyed from the inside." It wasn't so much anything that my husband was doing to invite the attention, but my response to him being open and candid with me was to question myself and what I might be neglecting to contribute to the marriage.

Furthermore, the increased attention he was receiving brought out a jealous side of me that I never had in our relationship. We had never been the type of couple to keep secrets, sneak and go through one another's phones, or get tripped up on things we considered "silly" like Instagram follows or acting like marriage made us pull a Stevie Wonder on other attractive people. But because of the vulnerable place, I was at with career frustration and the stresses of motherhood, my imagination went wild and I tried to make my husband into Terrence Howard from Ashanti's "Foolish" video while I created problems that weren't really there.

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I recognized I was projecting my own insecurities in other parts of my life onto my marriage. My husband didn't ask me to marry him because he was looking for the Beyonce to his Jay. He wasn't expecting me to pop out a baby and then get my belly flat for the 'Gram within a week. What I began to realize was that I was unrealistically seeking perfection. I knew who I married and trusted and loved the man I knew he was, but with all the changes, and the realization that I had control issues, I recognized the subconscious pressures I was placing on myself.

I'll never forget the epiphany I had at the intersection of Broad and Poplar in Philadelphia one summer while dropping off our daughter.

A voice in my head stated: "You're finding fault in situations that aren't there because of your need to get in front of a problem and control the outcome."

By June of 2019, I had been through a new job that didn't end up working out, a rejected proposal for a short film, and a severe cut to the freelance writing income I had become accustomed to for years. With all of the rejection making it feel like the rug was being pulled from under me on a routine as regular as my menstrual cycle, a part of me wanted to predict the next problem in my life and get my defenses up. Fortunately, that problem wasn't my husband's loyalty, as much as my crazy ass tried to make it be.

My own insecurities made me overanalyze, overthink and make a few unwarranted advances from other women more than what they actually were. I also realized how much I was internalizing the toxic relationships that were taking place around me at the time. I had one friend calling me constantly to complain that the married man she was seeing was never going to leave his wife and another friend who was one "Ebony BBW" search away from leaving her boyfriend and his porn addiction. That's the thing about toxicity; if it lingers around too long it starts to seep into your own feelings and thoughts.

Even when you're making a committed effort every day, it can be easy to take the solid relationships you have in place in your life for granted.

It was funny because on my end, I thought we were doing the things that marriage counselors and life coaches would suggest. We made an effort to schedule date night at least once a month (even if date night was the predictable dinner and a movie). I made sure to keep up my appearance when I had the energy so he wouldn't start to think my satin bonnet had become my signature hairstyle. And whether it was his favorite body spray or a meal to take home for my man after happy hour with the girls, I made small gestures to let him know he was appreciated.

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But marriage requires more than child-free nights and a new hairstyle. It's about checking in and make sure your marriage is growing and adapting to the changes that take place in it. It's also about giving yourself grace and understanding the young, fly twenty-something you were when you met your partner is no longer the woman you are nor should necessarily be almost two decades later.

Over the course of a few days this past summer, my husband and I had conversations about boundaries, communication, shared goals and expectations to ensure that we were on the same page. More than anything, all the drama and distractions from the outside were a much-needed reminder of the importance of checking-in and maintaining our marriage. I also began to allow myself to start living my life, including all of its ups and downs, instead of trying to defeat it.

The thing is, with any relationship you can't expect that because you've landed a good catch, those other fish will keep on swimming and pay that person no mind. And honestly, besides a few petty arguments, something unexpected happened: I suddenly wanted to hump my husband every hour of the day.

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Maybe it was the fact that another woman wanted my man, maybe it was because the first time we had some conflict that was about our actual relationship and not who ate the last yogurt or gave the baby a popsicle before bed. It was a reminder that before kids and bills, all we had was each other and a whole lot of extra time.

Make-up sex shouldn't be the only sex you're having, but being reminded that outside of a husband, father and professional, your partner is a whole snack (and can keep his cool even when your jealousy gets the best of you) is not only humbling but one hell of an aphrodisiac.

Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Join founder Necole Kane, and co-hosts Sheriden Chanel for conversations over cocktails each and every week by subscribing to xoNecole Happy Hour podcast on Itunes and Spotify.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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