I felt empty inside. I always felt empty inside after we had been together, but this time the emptiness pooled into my heart like a black cascade of smoke before he even left the bed. Maybe I didn't love myself as much as I thought I did. Maybe it was all just a front to hide the afraid, disturbed little person that really lived inside of me.
He once told me I was like his little piano; dark and brooding, overdosed with sad, elegant beauty that kept him lost in the melodies I so often performed for him. He said my low, sultry, daunting chords haunted him. I took it as a compliment.
I knew I didn't love him. I was curious about him. I never quite understood how or why he always managed to worm his way into my most intimate places, but I knew it wasn't out of love. I did care about him deeply. I wanted the best for him. I wanted to see him prosper, fulfill all of his wild and crazy dreams no matter how extreme or silly they seemed to be.
I wanted him to be happy, and although it cost me my own sanity, I knew that in some way I brought him happiness; because I too was just as wild and crazy as he and his dreams.
He needed our long nights lost in too many glasses of wine and pillow whispers that should never have been said. He craved my attention, my ideas. He was captivated by my imagination and the imagery I provided with every word I spoke. I could make him see beyond the veil with the things I would say, and, although he'd never admit it, it was me who sparked the fire fueling him forward.
He needed that. He needed what he wasn't getting, and I was always willing to give it to him.
I was not the woman that texted his phone every hour on the hour. I never made him dinner. I wasn't checking his whereabouts or planning date nights every Friday. I never complained when we went weeks on end without seeing one another let alone speaking. I didn't need to know his friends, even though I'm sure they all knew me. I didn't expect anything from him. I was not the woman to ever curse his name and call him an asshole because he kept me up at night wondering about his secrets.
We weren't skipping down Broadway holding hands in the sunlight. We didn't get all dolled up to go to fancy dinners with overpriced menus and sommelier service. We didn't dance until the sun came up at sweaty dancehall clubs. We weren't planning baecations or visiting relatives in distant states. There were no gift exchanges on holidays. I don't think we've ever even wished each other a Merry Christmas.
We didn't do any of that, because I wasn't the woman he was supposed to do that with. I was the other woman, and I knew my place, despite however it made me feel on the inside. I was fun and as carefree as a warm California breeze in the middle of December. That's why he always came back to me. He could be himself with me.
There were no standards. No questions. It was all be and let be with me, and he needed that.
He told me he loved me once. I didn't believe him though. No one ever really loved the second option, or else they would have picked it first.
But hearing him say it entranced the she-devil that resided deep within me. Being with him only highlighted the darkness that had suffocated my innocence so many years ago, and how could that ever be love? Torture would have been a more appropriate description of what we both felt for each other.
Pure, cold, bloody torture.
I didn't want him to leave her for me. We'd never work as a real couple, and I knew that. Canoodling between the sheets at godforsaken hours of the night, we did that well. Laughing, playing, behaving as reckless as we wanted to, we excelled. But dating, being together exclusively... Well that was nothing more than a funny thought to me.
Although it crushed my pride and left me feeling deserted in a wasteland of wretchedness at times, I knew he made the right choice when he chose her. She was a quaint, demure, sweet girl. Tame. That was the perfect type of girl for him to spend the end of his days with. We never talked about her, but if we ever did, I would tell him she'd make a darling bride. I could tell that she loved him, and she would stick by his side no matter what. She believed in him, probably more than I ever could. And even if she did ever know about me, she knew that he'd never actually let her go to keep me.
I couldn't be kept.
For nearly a year, I allowed him to use up my body as his own personal little toy. I enjoyed the release. He was a stellar lover, and there were times I would have been willing to quit my day job just to f-ck him from sunrise to sunset. Climbing on top of him, feeling myself slide down on his sturdy, thick shaft and slowly rocking back and forth until the both of us exploded made me feel like a conqueror. The way he would pant and groan and squint his eyes every time he pounded deep into my womanhood, with my legs, smooth as silk, wrapped tightly around his body, made me feel like the giver of the Earth.
And every time he came, with beads of sweat falling from his forehead hotly piercing my skin, letting out that long sigh of aching absolution, I felt like a breaker of chains, a ruler, a god.
But as I lay there next to him in my bed, sex heavy in the air and sheets moist with our fluids, the shallow, sullen, gloominess would always start to creep in. He would stay the night, cuddle me even. But even that couldn't combat the hollow abyss filling me up as he wrapped his arms around me. I always snuggled up closer, as if I could unzip his skin and climb into his body, but that wouldn't get me any warmer. It never did.
A rational person would probably wonder why I didn't just stop, end things for once and for all, go about my life, and find someone who would value and recognize my worth. But I've never been a rational person. And sadly, for a long time the emptiness he left me with every time we were together felt better than the nothingness I often felt when we were apart.
Eventually, I walked away from our secret love affair. Not just because I knew it was wrong playing in the shadows of another woman's happily ever after, but because I could no longer stomach the vacancies I created in my own heart simply by entertaining him.
Despite the glamour I find in keeping secrets, I finally recognized that it was never really him that caused the emptiness. It was me allowing myself to be his second option, because I was already treating myself like the second option.
That's the interesting thing you learn about yourself when you're playing the other woman. No matter how much fun you're having or how enjoyable the ease and simplicity of a no-strings-attached relationship can be, there always comes a point when a woman is forced to think about what makes a man choose her for seconds when he already belongs to someone else. It forces you to take an internal look at yourself and ask the question:
Why am I even okay with this?
Why don't I want more?
Do I even deserve more?
My answers to that question left me feeling a lot more unfulfilled and confused than being with him ever did, and I started to realize that our story was never about what he wasn't getting that I knew I could provide. It was about what I wasn't providing for myself. It was about me being cool with tossing my feelings and emotions in the backseat all in the name of a good time and mean-girl giggles with the homies. It was all about me not putting in the time to patch up the holes in my heart left from my own past.
It was about me foolishly thinking that if I filled them with someone void of the same morals and self-respect, I wouldn't feel as bad.
When I finally stopped avoiding the root of the issue -- my behavior powered by resentment, insecurity and fear -- and took the time to investigate myself, my thoughts and my feelings, that's when I was finally able to break free from the emptiness that made me feel okay with being the other woman.
And that's the day I stopped being her.
He played his role and I played mine. I can't say what, if any, lasting impression I've made on him. But I do know the clarity and growth our time together imparted on my spirit. And for that alone I am grateful.
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Featured image via Being Mary Jane/BET
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 xoNecoleexclusive, 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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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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