Here we are. At the beginning of yet another year. And let me just say that if you and yours were able to survive 2020, you should already pat yourself on the back. I'm. Not. Playing. Still, I'm pretty sure that on your wedding day, when you exchanged your vows with each other, the goal wasn't to "barely make it"; it was to see how high the two of you could soar—together.
I'm a huge fan of marriage so I'm all about that. That's why I sat down, reflected on the sessions I had with couples last year and came up with seven things that I think can help all husbands and wives start off the new year on the right foot. Because you know what? You deserve it. Your husband does too.
1. Focus on Your Friendship
I've said it before because it's something that I wholeheartedly believe. If you are single and desire marriage, focus on establishing a friendship with your significant other more than putting a ton of energy into turning them into a potential mate. Why? So that if/when you do get married, friendship will be the foundation of your relationship. When that happens, even during the moments when you don't feel so attracted or even "in love" with your spouse, the friendship, the fondness, the like that you have for them will see you through.
This is actually why I think it's important that we learn more about what it means to have and be true friends, whether we're single or not. In the article, "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships", the traits that I listed were loyalty, honesty, protectiveness, support, compassion, good communication, respect, availability, selflessness and a safe place. Now sit and think about it for a moment—how much can a marriage really suffer if these things are intact? Are there seasons when sometimes a marital union has more highs than lows? 1000 percent. Yet, I have had some close friends and clients who literally survived the last few months of trying times within their marriage because they were able to rely on the friendship that they had with their spouse.
I tell the people that I work with often that if they are still "in like" we can get back to love because folks tend to have a much more "I got you" attitude towards their friends than they ever do towards their spouse (crazy, right?). And again, a big part of that is due to them actually valuing friendship (sometimes more than marriage). So, if you're married, the 10 traits of a friendship that I just mentioned? Strengthen those this year. In the good times, it'll make your marriage that much sweeter. In the not-so-good, it can get you to the other side.
2. Enhance Your Intimacy
The Hebrew word for intimacy is "yada". It means "to know". I always find that interesting because, in the New King James Version of the Bible, when a husband and wife would copulate, "know" is the word that was used to explain it (Genesis 4:1), for example. And honestly, when two people take vows to be with one another until one of them transitions on, I believe that a big part of what they sign up for is to be patient enough (I Corinthians 13:4) to really get to know another person for the many years that it takes all of us to grow, develop and evolve. Get to know them physically. Get to know them mentally. Get to know them emotionally. Get to know them spiritually. Get to know what makes them who they are—and who they are ultimately meant to become.
So, why did I decide to go with the word "enhance" for this particular point? To enhance something is "to raise to a higher degree". Sex within a marriage should be intimate. How can you take your sex life to another level this year? Establishing a healthier form of communication is a way to be mentally intimate. How can you be a better listener? Understanding your partner's triggers and how they came to be is one way to emotionally establish intimacy (because the fewer triggers are pushed at home, the safer everyone feels in the long run, right?). Do you do that? Could you stand to learn more about how to understand your partner? If we're doing life right, we're always spiritually going from one level to another? Are you embracing your partner's personal growth? Do you respect it, even if it differs from your own when it comes to perspective and pace?
The more I work with married folks, the more I see that a truly underrated cause of divorce is sheer boredom. People feel like they have outgrown each other because they aren't trying to enhance their union enough. Make this the year when the both of you want to enhance what you know about each other, more than you ever have. You might be shocked by how differently, in the best way possible, you'll feel about your relationship, come this time next year, if you do.
3. Discuss How You Can Help Each Other’s Purpose
Actually, as I'm writing this article, I'm emailing back and forth with a woman who said that her marriage ultimately ended because she and her former husband did not complement each other. "Complement" is a word that I like so much that I wrote an entire article about it (check out "If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life"). Y'all, if there's one area where I definitely think two people should complement each other it's when it comes to being a solid support system for each other's purpose.
Unfortunately, a lot of couples suffer because, since they didn't spend enough time discussing what they believe they are called to do on this earth while they were dating, they ended up not really understanding and/or respecting their partner's purpose after saying "I do". And that couldn't be more problematic because, no matter how much you may love someone, if they don't back you on why you were put on this planet to begin with, where can the two of you go from there?
You were created for a specific reason. Your husband was as well. Do you both know what those reasons are? Have you talked about what you each can do to help one another thrive in your individual purposes? The best marriages consist of two individuals who can really and truly see one another. A part of that consists of fully respecting the other's purpose. Some time before spring hits, sit down and talk about purposes and how you each can use your gifts, talent and time to help one another. Purpose partnership is unstoppable. It tends to last a really long time too.
4. Treat Dates As an Absolute Necessity
I know someone who's been married for going on 40 years, never had a honeymoon, and rarely goes on dates. Yet her husband? Oh, he doesn't miss an opportunity to clock in some extra hours at work. To him, work is extremely important because he needs to provide while romance is seen as more of a luxury.
Personally, I'm surprised that she didn't snap on him years ago because while I agree that a part of being a good husband is to provide for your wife, provision isn't only financial. Being intentional about setting aside some alone time to nourish, cherish and enjoy your relationship is a form of provision too. In other words, dating your spouse shouldn't be seen as a "want"; it is an absolute need if you want your relationship to flourish and thrive.
You may not have the time or money to go all-out. But there's no reason why the two of you can't cook together, snuggle up and watch a movie alone or have a picnic in the living room or in your backyard, even if it's really early in the morning or super late at night (if you've got kids). Dating your spouse conveys that you don't take them for granted, that romance is still a priority, and that you want to get off of life's grid to hang out with them. Even if it's only one time each month, make sure that you can say, come December, that you and yours went on at least 12 dates this year.
5. Establish a Solid Support System
Are there certain things that should only remain between a husband and wife? YES. In fact, I think a lot of people don't take that point seriously enough (that's my nice way of saying that they talk too much). At the same time, when I wrote the article, "Why Every Engaged Couple Needs A 'Marriage Registry'" a couple of years back, I actually believe that already-married people could stand to create a marriage registry too. Basically, it's a list of different ways that others can support you and yours from having a mentor couple to creating an encouragement team and so much in between. The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child? Chile, it also takes a trustworthy, solid and spiritually mature village to support a marriage. Get some folks who can truly hold you down in 2021. It can help to take the pressure off in ways you wouldn't even imagine.
6. Have “Plugged in” Hours
We all know that there are 24 hours in a day. Guess how many of those researchers say that we spend plugged into a device? 12. If you factor in that we need to sleep 6-8 hours and that remaining time is probably doing things like showering and preparing meals, we're basically on some sort of a device all day long. While that can make doing our jobs, networking and talking to others much easier, what really is it doing for your marriage? Not only that but what message are you conveying when you can't even put down your phone long enough to give your partner eye contact while they're telling you a story or that you can't go to bed without your laptop being right next to you?
Devices are convenient. Only to a point, though. If you are on them so much that it basically seems like they are more important to you than your partner is, something is way out of balance. This year, why not set some hours when you're plugged in and hours when things are totally off? While it might sound crazy at first, you have work hours so that you won't overwhelm yourself, right? At the same time, having hours when you're on your phone or computer can help you to focus on other things that matter. Your marriage definitely being one of them.
7. Show Gratitude. Daily.
Who wants to be in a relationship where they don't feel appreciated? Lawd. Wanna know one of the reasons why dating, engagement and the first several of months of marriage, more times than not, feels so awesome? It's because two people in strong like or love are complimenting each other, giving each other random cards and presents, bragging about each other to their friends—they are letting their partner know how truly grateful they are to have them in their lives. Unfortunately, a couple of years in and the bouquet of flowers and surprises at work seem to cease. Couples fall into a routine, that is more like a rut, which makes it easier for them to nitpick at each other rather than seek out the reasons why they still find one another to be the complete and total bomb.
It's unrealistic to expect a marriage to be on the constant "honeymoon phase" setting. Still, if you truly want to, it's not hard to think at least one thing about your spouse that you are truly grateful for. If you need a bit of help, "10 Creative Ways To Express Gratitude In Your Relationship" can hopefully inspire you.
Throughout this year, I'll be sharing some other things that can help to keep you and your man on the up and up. For now, though, as we're at the beginning of a new year, try applying these seven points. If you do it consistently, there's no telling how great your marriage can become. Happy 2021, married folks!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
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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