A couple of weeks ago, I ended up having an impromptu—count it—four-hour-long conversation with a newly engaged couple. Although the topics pretty much ran the gamut of marriage, one thing, in particular, took longer than just about everything else. What was it? House chores. More specifically, folding clothes.
As the soon-to-be husband went on and on about how particular he is about folding and the soon-to-be wife shared that she couldn't care less about folding at all, let alone doing it in a specific kind of way, I was like, "Let's make sure to talk this thing through, then. You don't live together yet, but you might be surprised how something as 'small' as a pile of clean laundry can cause two people to fall all the way out after six months or so."
It's them (and that convo) that has inspired this piece. Over the years of having conversations with lots of married couples who love each other, but do honestly wish that they had been better prepared for what they got themselves into prior to jumping the broom, here are 10 things that all singles should definitely discuss with their partner prior to saying "I do".
1. Their Partners Real Views on Politics and Religion
Recently, I had a conversation with a white male client of mine on the topic of politics and race relations that had me so fired up that I seriously contemplated not working with him anymore. I mean, hearing him talk about how white men are currently the most oppressed demographic in our country right now was enough to make me want to hang up and block my number. Then I had to remind myself that we see things through totally different life lenses, and he was saying that kind of stuff because he doesn't deal with people of color often (clearly). At least for the time being, he needs a "double minority" to educate him on some things. Life lessons sometimes come in the most cryptic forms.
I'm sharing that little tale because, while a lot of us were taught to never discuss politics and religion with others (I don't totally agree with that, by the way), that's not something that is going to fly with a marriage partner. I have friends who didn't make these things enough of a priority while they were dating and now, they are uncomfortable, if not totally pissed, because they are an activist while their spouse couldn't be more passive or empathetic, or they want their spouse to go to church with them while their husband or wife couldn't care less about religion.
Our views on politics and religion speak volumes to how we see and move through society. These two things are definitely something that you and yours should talk about. More than just on the surface or a couple of times too.
2. Their Partner’s Relationship with Their Parents
Sigh. I can't tell you how many mama's boys I know and yes, many of them are married. While they are disguised as men who simply have a deep love and appreciation for their mother, pay attention to things like how much the son financially contributes to his mom's life, how much of y'all's business that he tells her and/or if she's respectful towards you—both in and out of your presence. A friend of mine has been in counseling with her husband for years because he doesn't know how to establish healthy boundaries with his mother. As a result, his wife isn't his top priority; his mother is. That's not how it's supposed to be either. So yeah, you really need to pay attention to the dynamic your man has with his mom.
Something else that's important is having serious discussions about both of your upbringings. Not having one or both parents in the home affects a child. Being abused or neglected (which is a form of abuse) affects a child. Constantly moving (which sometimes teaches you to detach easily) affects a child. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. A child's spirit is extremely fragile.
If it is broken and not healed, it can cause that child to become a fractionated adult; one with the kind of issues that you don't sometimes see until after you marry them.
3. Their Partner’s Perspectives on Leadership and Submission
Another one of my friends has a wife who loathes the word "submit". Meanwhile, it doesn't get more Alpha male than her husband. Personally, submission is not a word that bothers me; not in the least. To me, it's not about having a lack of power; it's about directing it in such a way that makes my partnership with my husband that much more effective…supernatural even.
Unfortunately, I don't think a lot of women see it that way. The thought of submitting, on any level, totally freaks them out. The reality is if you profess to be a Bible believer, it's a biblical instruction (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18). But don't miss that as you submit to your husband, he is supposed to submit to the Lord. Otherwise, he's not going to be a good leader; he's not going to value the gift of you sharing your power, in order to make him and your marriage better.
The friend that I just told you about? He had no clue that his wife treats submission like a cuss word until after they got married. I bet you can just guess how that union is going right about now. Listen, I'm not saying that you have to see submission the exact way that I do. What I am advising is most marriages do have some level of leadership/submission roles in them. Don't assume that you and yours are on the same page on this. Instead, be very upfront and honest in discussing them. As soon as possible, please.
4. How Their Partner Handled Stressful Situations
Another couple that I know, it's all good. That is, until there a stressful situation comes up. Then the husband becomes controlling and overbearing. He doesn't listen to his wife's counsel, he's patronizing and condescending, and that pushes her to the point of screaming and throwing stuff. Yep, it's a hot mess.
A part of the reason why I really like couples who were genuine friends before they became lovers is because it's easier to see someone's true colors that way. Friends tend to see one another at their best and at their worst. This means they know how they act when things are going their way and when they aren't.
A lot of folks are wonderful to be around—until they lose their job, a bill isn't paid or they receive some type of bad news. Then they reveal a totally different side of themselves. If you and your man have never gone through some bona fide hard times, wait a while before contemplating marriage. A spouse who can't handle stressful situations is a spouse that is going to make your life miserable during moments like those (moments that are bound to happen).
5. How Their Partner Prioritized Money
SMDH. Boy, the examples just keep on coming today. There are two different couples that I've worked with, who are divorced today. A big part of the cause is related to money. It's been my observation that in a lot of marital dynamics, one spouse tends to be more, "intentional" is the word that comes to mind, when it comes to things like planning, saving and responsible spending. Then there's the other who is a lot more free-spirited. The two couples that I'm referring to, the wives were all about running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt due to impulsive spending more than anything else. Here's the thing, though—they had jacked up credit, were asking their daddy for money all of the time and were putting clothes before bills when they were single. Meanwhile, the then-boyfriends figured that everything would somehow miraculously change once their then-girlfriends married them.
I don't know what makes people think that a stroll down an aisle is going to somehow miraculously break a person's lifestyle habits and patterns.
If there is something that is concerning you now about your partner's relationship with money or there's something you know you need to get better at yourself, now would be the time to address it; not after you are husband and wife. Otherwise, there's a huge chance that you could end up…just like those now four divorced people are.
6. Their Partner’s Sex Drive
I remember an engaged woman once sharing with me how excited she was to be getting married. Being that I love all things sex, and I knew that she and her fiancé were waiting until their wedding night to do-the-do, I asked her if she was looking forward to that as well. She paused and then said, "I mean, I think my husband and I are looking forward to just sharing a bed and cuddling more than anything else. Sex isn't the focal point." Girl, please. Your man has waited for years for you and copulation isn't gonna be a focal point for him?! (I should've referred her to Dr. Myles Munroe's message, "Men Don't Want Sex, They Need Sex".)
Yet, I deal with couples constantly where, while they seem to have been able to master the other rooms of their home, their bedroom is always a point of contention. One has a higher sex drive or a totally different set of expectations than the other. And when those needs aren't met, disappointment and resentment, start to creep in.
A very important staple of marriage is sex. Whether you decide to wait until marriage or not, before you partake, it needs to be talked about. Matter of fact, if you are currently sexually active with your partner, it should probably be discussed more because, as a husband once told me, "Having sex with a girlfriend is very different than having sex with your live-in business partner." He was speaking of his wife. Those are pearls of wisdom right there.
7. Their Partner's Previous Dating Patterns
One of my friends, while she was dating her now-husband, they spoke pretty freely about their past dating experiences. Some people don't think that's wise, but I think that if two individuals are comfortable enough to do that, it speaks to a level of self-confidence, comfortability and resolve that is healthy. Anyway, her husband had two serious loves before her. When she asked why they ended, he casually mentioned that they didn't like his dynamic with his mom; they thought it was extremely codependent.
At the time, my friend chalked it up to two women being potentially bitter about the break-up. Oh, but bay-bay! Ask her now if that's what she thinks! He and his mother continue to have an extremely toxic relationship but, unlike his exes, she has a daily front row seat to it.
Hopefully, if we're all paying close attention, our past relationship will help us to learn and grow. At the same time, patterns are patterns, so it never hurts to unpack what you and your man's dating patterns have been. Better to see a red flag now and work through it, than totally ignore them and end up being blindsided—or ready to file those papers—later.
8. How Important (or Not Important) Romance Was to Their Partner
There are some husbands I know who love their wives with every fiber of their being. At the same time, they don't have one romantic bone in their entire body. Birthdays consist of a gift card that may or may not be in a greeting card. Anniversaries are when their wife can expect something functional more than sentimental. Holidays? Oh, it's a practical gift all the way. Usually one that the wife isn't thrilled with either.
If your kind of personality isn't romantic either, then this is no big deal. But if you've got a chick flick collection in your house, or your future wedding has been planned out ever since you were a little girl, trust me, you're gonna be ir-ri-ta-ted if your husband isn't big on giving roses for no reason or whisking you away for a romantic weekend a few times a year.
I've sat with couples where a spouse (usually the wife) felt neglected due to the lack of romance they were experiencing. If you know that it's a priority for you, this is something else that needs to be ironed out. If your significant other couldn't care less, well, I'll just say that until death parts you is a really long time to go without something that is so important—to you.
9. How Consistent Their Partner Was/Is
Something that's a top characteristic that I desire in my future husband is consistency. When a person is consistent, they are reliable and dependable; they don't contradict themselves; they are firm in their principles and convictions; they come from a place of truth and logic. They are steady individuals.
There have been writing gigs, friends and of course, men that I have left behind, all because they were super duper inconsistent. The gigs didn't pay when they said they would (oh, but they didn't play when it came to wanting their copy on time!). The friends were there when they needed something, but were suddenly MIA whenever I did. And the men? One man told me that whatever he said to me on a random Monday, he meant and whatever he said to me on the following Saturday is also what he meant, even if they were two totally different things. He was dead serious too, chile.
If you're seeing a lot of inconsistencies now, don't simply chalk it up to moodiness or "a phase". An inconsistent person 1) shows signs of it prior to marriage and 2) typically doesn't change without wanting to, followed by some really extensive therapy, after acknowledging it.
If you get motion sick, multiply that times a thousand, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of what it's like to deal with an inconsistent individual. You've been warned.
10. If They and Their Partner Were Truly Friends—Or Not
A while back, I wrote an article about what you should absolutely expect out of your friendships—loyalty, honesty, protectiveness, support, compassion, good communication, respect, availability, selflessness and being a safe place. This is not the kind of stuff that happens overnight (so don't be trippin' if you've been dating for a year and he's not ready to pop the question yet), and it's definitely the kind of things you should expect from the person that you want to share the rest of your life with.
You know what, though? It's an epidemic, the amount of people who absolutely DO NOT make being genuine friends with their significant other a top priority. They're so focused on wanting a spouse, that a friend isn't even on their radar. Not only is that sad, it's a potential marriage-destroyer (just ask any married person that you know).
A soon-to-be divorced individual recently said to me that he wished he had taken out more time to establish a true friendship with his soon-to-be ex-wife. He said that it probably would've kept them from getting married in the first place, because the reality of their lack of true compatibility would've come out. Or, at the very least, they would've fought for their marriage more because they didn't want to hurt the friendship. #sigh
The moral to the story with all of this is, while nothing can teach you about yourself quite like marriage can, you can actually dodge a few bullets (including marrying the wrong person), if you pay close attention to stuff like what we just before jumping the broom.
Again, just ask any married person that you know. Better yet, any divorced one.
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.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Tracee Ellis Ross On Why She Declined The Idea Of Someone Else Running Her Hair Company
Actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross recently revealed the driving force behind her desire to become the owner of her haircare brand, Pattern.
According to its site, Pattern is a haircare company that provides a wide range of products, from shampoos, conditioners, oils, creams, and many more to individuals with curls, coils, and tight hair textures. Although Pattern would launch in 2019, the idea for the company first came to Ross a decade before --in 2008, when her hit show Girlfriends wrapped-- following a brief encounter at a beauty supply store and many wanting to recreate her past looks.
At the time, those individuals couldn't achieve the exact results because limited natural hair products were offered to the public. That instance became a pivotal moment in the star's life because she spent eleven years experimenting with professionals to create products that best suit those within the natural hair community.
In a May conference with Fortune's MPW Next Gen, Ross opened up about the struggles she faced early on as an entrepreneur trying to get Pattern off the ground and why she declined the offer to have the company be run by someone else.
Tracee On Past Struggles And Why She Chose To Run Her Company
During the discussion, the 50-year-old revealed that she is Pattern's "majority owner" because the company's overall mission to cater to those in the natural hair community was built from her "experiential knowledge."
"I'm a majority owner of my company. [Other celebrities with brands] aren't the founders of the company. Often, they join a company that exists," she said. "The mission [at Pattern] is born out of my experience. It's born out of my own experiential knowledge."
Further in the interview, Ross would add that she avoided partnering with an expert for Pattern because she felt she had gained enough knowledge experimenting with products in her bathroom.
"I didn't want to partner with an expert or a 'professional' because I felt—like so many—I had become my own best expert in my bathroom because the beauty industry was not catering to us," she stated.
Despite refusing to have a partner within her company, Ross found creative ways to build it. It includes paying a chemist with her own money to bring her visions of various products to life, and sending those samples to retail stores, ultimately leading to partnerships.
The final piece that helped Ross during her journey was receiving advice from business partners on ways to improve the brand, one of which came from Ulta Beauty CEO and Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon.
The black-ish star claimed that Dillon helped her realize how she could use her celebrity status and journey to promote Pattern, which she did. Because of that, Patten has now become a favorable haircare brand among many.
Tracee On How She Plans To Use Her Company To Create Opportunities For Others
Toward the end of the discussion, Ross disclosed how she plans to use the power of being Pattern's CEO to help others.
The High Note star explained that being an owner of a company has given her access to be around other CEOs interested in what appears to be becoming more profitable, and with that, she wants to expand that access to other people.
"I know that I have access to sit at a table with a CEO in a way that perhaps another founder doesn't. And when I do that, I make sure that those conversations are not only centered around Pattern," she said. "They're centered around creating and expanding the access for all of us."
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