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12 Things You Should Do During Oral Sex (That You Probably Aren't)

Simple things that can make oral sex even better, chile.

Sex

It's my personal opinion that oral sex doesn't get discussed nearly enough. And that's pretty much my starting and finishing reason for why I'm writing this. C'mon. It's not like most of us don't indulge or engage and yet, when it comes to finding ways to make the experience more enjoyable (because a mouth simply being on another's genitalia is a really low bar), we don't seem to do as much research as we should.

It's no secret that more women climax from cunnilingus than intercourse itself (I'll expound in a moment). And it's definitely no newsflash that fellatio tends to put huge smiles on most men's faces. Still, there's nothing like going from good to great in your oral sex game, right? Something tells me that if you incorporate the following 12 tips, that is exactly what will happen.

1. Treat It Like an “Appetizer”. Not the “Meal”.

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Let's start with where our, umm, heads should be about oral sex—whether we're giving or receiving. For starters, if it's gonna be grand, it'll be both. Anyway, while I do know some people who tend to take a hard pass on oral sex for a variety of reasons (by the way, religious married folks should check out Proverbs 5:15) and I certainly say to each their own, gone should be the stigma that there is anything "wrong" or "nasty" about doing it. Besides, 75 percent of women aren't able to have a vaginal orgasm. Oh, but do you know how they can climax? Some good old-fashioned cunnilingus! The main reason is because there is so much direct clitoral stimulation during the act.

Speaking of the stigma and the "ick attitude" that so many still seem to have about oral activity, that's a part of the reason why I think that cunnilingus and fellatio should be seen as appetizers (foreplay) more than the actual meal (intercourse). Think about it. How big of a deal is kissing? Especially in an intimate relationship, it's basically a given, right? Well, oral sex is a form of kissing...kissing genitalia, that is. And when you look at it from a perspective of stimulating your partner and building up excitement for what is to come, that can take a lot of pressure off of doing it. The acts can relax you, significantly so, as you're heading into intercourse.

Appetizers are dope. They get the palate ready and prepare us to sit back and enjoy our meal. I think oral sex should be seen in a very similar fashion. How about you?

2. Shower Beforehand. Possibly Together.

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I'll tell y'all what, if there's one thing that 2020 did, it was get me super up close and personal with streaming apps. Not the ones you've gotta pay for (some of y'all have so many of those that you might as well have cable, chile)—the free ones. One of them being Tubi. Anyway, a series on there that I started watching not too long ago is Secret Diary of a Call Girl. It's…interesting. At times. Anyway, I'm bring that up for this piece because Belle (the call girl) tends to give tips throughout each episode. One of her first was this—make sure that your partner showers from the moment he steps in your door.

I promise y'all that when I see movies or television shows where folks are all sweaty or are even just coming in from work and oral sex is simulated, I semi wanna gag just like an 80s valley girl. No, no…NO. Oral sex is so much more pleasant when you know that everything is super clean and fresh down there. You can even up the excitement by taking a shower together. Whatever you do, just make sure that hygiene a top priority. For everyone's sake. And pleasure.

3. Create the Ambiance

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Whether you adore oral sex (giving and receiving), you low-key loathe it or you merely tolerate it, the overall experience is going to be so much better—and far less awkward—if the atmosphere is sexy. Use candlelight or colored LED light bulbs. Turn on some slow R&B music. Dress sexy. Bring a few pillows into the mix (when you're "propped up", oral sex can be so much more comfortable). Hit a few other erogenous zones. Maybe give each other a massage (with hands and/or with tongues).

Sometimes oral sex can feel stressful at first, usually because we're rushing into it way too fast. Slow down. Set the mood. Enjoy each other. You've got time. If you're doing it right, you do, anyway.

4. Mutually Discuss What’s Desired. Each Time.

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If you don't get anything else out of this, please hold on to this one particular point. Sometimes, we can be in a mood to receive oral sex in a different way than we did the time before. We might want more pressure applied or less. We might prefer it to be wetter or less wet. Sometimes 69 sounds like a good idea while other times, it's the absolute last thing that we want to attempt. But if we don't discuss all of this with our partner and instead, we put the expectation on them to be able to read our minds, that can make us frustrated with them—and ultimately, the act itself.

No one is saying that you have to present a—pardon the pun—full on oral presentation about what you expect all of the time. I'm just saying that whispering in his ear what you are in the mood for (followed by asking him what he would like) can never hurt. It can only help, actually.

5. Incorporate a Favorite Flavor

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I know all of us have heard that if you and your partner drink pineapple juice, everything will be right with the (oral sex) world, but that's not a complete truth. What is a fact is your diet plays somewhat of a role in how your natural lubrication as well as your partner's semen taste. This means that if pineapple juice is a part of your daily diet, it can knock some of the acidity out of both of your fluids, making them an itty bit sweeter. But if you're looking for everything to taste like a piña colada, you're only setting yourself up for failure. No food can do that.

The flip to this is if you bring a favorite sweet condiment into the mix, that can make you less—what would the word be—apprehensive, about diving in, head first (with the pun totally intended). Chocolate syrup, honey, whipped cream, frosting, flavored lubricant—all of these can be super seductive and a delicious distraction, if you happen to like the act but you'd prefer to avoid the taste of the "natural flow of things" as much as possible.

6. Use Some Ice Cubes

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Here's the sexual version of IcyHot (LOL). While you may have never thought about "pulling a Mookie" in the bedroom (the real ones know what I'm referring to), it's something that you definitely should take into some serious consideration when it comes to oral sex. For you, the person on the giving end, it can help to produce a lot more wetness which can take off the pressure to produce more saliva. Then, when it comes time to receive, the combination of hotness (from your partner's mouth) and cold (from the ice) can actually stimulate you in a way that nothing else can. It doesn't have to be plain ice either. Popsicles or some Buko Ice Candy (a Filipino kind of icy treat; there's an easy to make recipe here) can easily be added to the mix too.

7. Perfect the “Build-Up”

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One time, while in a session with a married couple, surprisingly, they both had the same complaint when it came to giving oral sex. It wasn't that they didn't like doing it so much as they felt like their partner took FOR-E-VER to orgasm. When I did a bit of deeper digging, I realized that, when it came to the act, there really isn't any wooing or seducing that was transpiring. They both would just take off their clothes and start. Not only is that not very sexy but this approach means that you have to not only "warm your partner up" with your mouth but then keep going until completion (because most of us go until completion…right?).

That's why I'm all about folks learning how to perfect the build-up. All I mean by that is there should be all about lots of kissing and caressing before oral sex begins. Shoot, even once they get to the genital region, there should be some seductive teasing by kissing/licking the hips and/or inner thighs. Again, if everyone slows down and relishes in the anticipation, by the time the act itself goes down, climaxing shouldn't be too difficult and definitely shouldn't take three television programs long. Not at all.

8. Switch Up Positions

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I don't know what makes people think that oral sex always has to consist of being in some variation of the missionary position. It. Does. Not. If you'd like a little bit of a breakdown on how certain positions can prove to be most beneficial, a few years back, we published "6 Oral Sex Positions That'll Elevate You Even When You're On Your Knees". I also like the his-and-her positions that the site Your Tango took on. You can check it out here. Sometimes, just a change in angles can make all the difference in the world.

9. Yawn. Kinda.

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Not all penises are created equal (check out "Sex Hacks For Different Kinds Of Penises (You Heard Me Right)"). That's a good thing. That said, if you happen to have a partner who has the kind of penis where you find yourself repeatedly experiencing a gag reflex, try fake yawning during fellatio. This simple hack will help your throat to open up and your tongue to flatten, so that it's easier to…take everything all in.

10. Bring in Some Lubricant

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Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we simply can't produce enough saliva or we need some help to keep our hands from causing the oral sex version of rug burn on our partner. Something that can help both of these things from being an issue is lubrication. A recipe that you might want to try consists of coconut oil and margarita flavoring. Now please keep in mind that since oil-based lubes can actually semi-melt latex condoms, this should be used when it comes to oral activity only (and after being STD-cleared because you can get one from oral too). Still, if you're looking for a way to bring more "slip" into your second or third round, an easy and tasty recipe is right here.

11. “Seesaw It” All

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There are some partners who've told me that the way oral sex happens for them is extremely compartmentalized. They do that—and then they have intercourse. There is no overlapping. What in the world? Do you know how hot it is to seesaw it? What I mean by that is to go five minutes with oral, have intercourse to the point of edging and then go back to giving—or receiving? Whew.

It's always important to remember that sex isn't supposed to be regimented. Learn to go with the flow and do whatever feels good at the moment. It'll turn you on more and make oral sex so much more erotic. And that's always a good thing.

12. Watch It All Go Down (Pun Intended)

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I know. Sometimes it all feels so good that you couldn't keep your eyes open if you tried. But a lot of times, we don't make eye contact during any kind of sex act because we simply don't think it's that big of a deal, one way or another. Oh, but it is.

Eye contact during physical intimacy conveys that you want to make a deeper connection with your partner. And, when you do it during oral sex, they are able to get more turned on by either watching what you are doing to them or seeing all of the nuances of your facial expressions while they are gracing you with their skills.

Oh, and if you really want to take things to another level, you can even tape your partner during the act. Or, if a tape, to you, is too risqué, the next best thing is to watch with the help of a full-length mirror that's directly across from you.

As you can see, these aren't so much "oral sex hacks" as tips to remind you to relax your mind, stay in the moment and—again, pun intended—take it all in. Oral sex can be unbelievable. You've just got to open up and let it be.

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You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

That's why when I see couples who have been married for many years, especially those in the public eye, I take every opportunity to celebrate their union with them. After all, love fades, and it can even vary from day-to-day. Friendship is the basis of all of this, it's the foundation.

And one duo who certainly understands this assignment is our dear faves, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. They have spent much of their marriage genuinely loving on each other and helping other couples along the way just by being themselves. From revealing the infamous "prayer", to showing the importance of the little things; things like date nights, or complimenting your partner openly and unapologetically.

Most recently, Boris took to Instagram to swoon over his wife in the cutest way. Shared with a screenshot from FaceTime, he asks:

"Hey Babe, can I ask you something? Can you please keep shining your light on me? Like 20,30,40 more years maybe? Feels really good. Thank you. I love you."

To which Parker responded:

"I'm gonna shave my legs. to. night. #yourenotreadyyyy"

It's the hashtags fa me.

Then there was that time that he was checking her out, and complimenting her fitness, which, *swoon*:

There's the time he surprised her on a boat and copped a few feels:

Same.

When she celebrated his latest venture as his number one fan:

When they celebrated their anniversary with a few locals and dance in the city:

All while jamming to some, which is always a vibe.

And when Boris showed her infinite love on International Women's Day:

The lovers and friends pair have said before that their relationship is not different from anyone else's and that that they have simply taken the time to do what works for them, which is having fun. Nicole even addressed it directly, offering advice by saying:

"You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it's so good on the other side. And Number 2: treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It's nothing new. Don't panic. You're going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates."

She continues:

"But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can't wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can't wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend."

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

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In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

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How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.

Courtship

Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

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I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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