In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between married couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
With one look at Eric and Shonda White, you can see a love that has withstood the test of time.
Their story had very humble beginnings through a chance meeting at Atlanta's Leopard Lounge one summer night in 2006. At the time, Shonda was a new transplant to Atlanta by way of Kentucky and wasn't looking for a relationship but as she puts it, "God had other plans." The spark was instant and slowly but surely, intellectually and mentally, Eric and Shonda fell for each other.
The writer/marketing strategist and the Sr. Compliance Specialist have been partners in love for twelve years and made their union official by tying the knot on September 20, 2008. It's a day Eric recalls fondly having been a calm and happy one for him. "When I saw Shonda for the first time coming down the aisle, it was surreal and spiritual," he said. "For me, it was a time of growth. When Shonda read her vows, it hit me that God ordained our union; that we have a lifetime to live and grow with each other."
This year, they celebrated ten years of marriage. And at 38 and 36 years old, respectively, Eric and Shonda are truly the loves of one another's lives. In this installment of Our First Year, the Whites break down how they knew each other was the one, early challenges in marriage, and their biggest love lessons throughout the years.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: Before Eric, I really didn't know the difference between dating and courting, but Eric showed me what courting really looked like. It sounds old school, but it's still relevant today. I knew he was the one based on how he treated me and the fact that he let me be me. I used to merely hear "I love you," but this time, not only did I hear him say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me. There is no greater sign of a man who is in love than one whose actions match his words. We were long distance, but he made every effort to come and see me every month. He would drive literally 900 miles to see me at least once a month. I knew he was serious about dating me and having a future with me. I could tell by the way he treated me - he didn't just say he loved me, but he showed me through his actions.
"Not only did he say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me."
Eric: People ask [how I knew she was the one] a lot and I honestly tell people I can't explain it. I just knew. In my heart and mind, I knew Shonda was my wife. I didn't want another man to be with her. I wanted Shonda to be my wife and I wanted to spend my life with her. I knew she was the one!
As for approaching my courtship with marriage as the goal, I did. I can't explain it, but I took my relationship with Shonda very seriously. And that was a first in my life, it was something different about her. I was at a point in my life where I wanted more than a random hookup or a superficial relationship.
Chad Lawson Photography
Overcoming Fears In Marriage:
Shonda: Honestly, being a wife was my biggest fear. I feared the unknown, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the "best wife" I could be based on what I thought a wife should be or what I saw other people doing. Little did I know, I was the one putting that pressure on myself...not my husband. Eventually, I realized that he loved me for me - not merely for what I could do for him. So, the best thing I could do was be myself.
Eric: Feeling vulnerable and trusting a woman. I always knew I wanted a friendship with my wife that would last a lifetime. I made a decision to love my wife and to do the right things to keep my marriage healthy. I let go of my fear and had faith in our union.
Shonda: You know the part of the vows where you say, "For better or worse," but our first year of marriage taught me very quickly that sometimes the "worse" comes before the "better." Our first year, we went through a lot of challenges including: natural growing pains as newlyweds, finances, recession, layoffs, having children, sex, and family grief due to the loss of loved ones. It's interesting now though because early on, we could argue, and it would last for days, but I know we've grown so much, because now we can have a disagreement or an argument, but it won't last nearly as long as it used to.
Eric: I think some of the early challenges dealt with understanding each other's habits and quirks. I accepted my wife for who she is, but I still can't stand when she chews gum! [As for tackling issues] Each marriage is different, but we tackled those issues when they occurred. I don't think there is an undiscovered bad habit (laughs). We coexist in joint spaces daily and know when we need our space. We agreed to work together regarding our finances. We have separate accounts and a joint account.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: It was a little difficult initially to learn each other's love language. Before taking the Love Languages' assessment, I used to think that he didn't appreciate the gifts that I would give him because he didn't react in the way that I expected. Realizing his love language was completely different [than mine] helped me put things into perspective. So, instead of feeling hurt or disappointed about certain things, I had to remind myself that he doesn't speak the same love language necessarily.
Eric: My love language was pretty simple. But my wife is a hard person to buy a gift for. I think we work on giving and receiving love daily. Now, we are well-versed in our love languages and I will say I have to be intentional in putting gift giving for my wife in action.
Shonda: I really had to unpack baggage from my past relationships' heartaches and disappointments and thinking that Eric was going to hurt me like the others had hurt me. Also, I had to release and relax some of my "Miss Independent, I don't need a man" habits. For example, some of the simplest things that my husband wanted to do for me - open my doors, carry my groceries, etc. - I would try to do myself. Often times, it wasn't the action itself; rather it was my attitude or my delivery when I reacted to him. At times, I made him feel as if I didn't need him or want him to help me. I would say things like, "I don't need you to do it. I can do it myself." I wasn't used to having a man in the home, so I had grown accustomed to doing mostly everything on my own since I was a little girl. I'm thankful, nonetheless, because growing up in a single-parent home helped shape me into the woman I am today. However, I also didn't want my man to feel like I didn't want or need him. Hence, I had to find a happy medium so that my man could still be the man he wanted to be for me. Just recently, Yvonne Orji posted a quote on her page the other week from a wedding she attended that said, "My greatest blessing in this life is to finally be able to take off my superwoman cape and let you carry it…" In other words, I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man.
Chad Lawson Photography
"I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man."
Eric: We have candid conversations about issues and figure out ways to address them. I had to learn empathy. I know it sounds crazy, but I had to stand in my wife's shoes sometimes to understand how she felt. I also had to learn to trust and be vulnerable. When you fall in love, you are vulnerable and to me that wasn't a comfortable feeling.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: We may not always like what our spouse says or does, but we will always love each other, and we have to be committed to fighting for each other rather than fighting against each other. I also learned that I can be a strong, black woman, and still allow myself to be vulnerable and soft at the same time.
Eric: No matter what we go through, I couldn't see ourselves without each other. We truly have a spiritual bond.
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In pursuing the goal of experiencing the best sex ever, there are three main mistakes that I think a lot of people make. One is overthinking everything; the more mindful you are during sex, the more willing you are to just relax and be in the moment, and the more fulfilling your experience will be. The second thing? Becoming sexually lazy. One of the best things about sex is it can almost always be topped — so why not try?
The couples who are always trying to make the next experience better than the last rarely are bored, nor do they end up finding themselves in a sexual rut. And the third? Not being proactively intentional about bringing all five senses into the bedroom (or wherever they choose to do it). Indeed, something that makes sex top-notch is the fact that there are super sensual ways to incorporate sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch to it.
So, let’s do this. Let’s explore five ways for each of the five senses to be stimulated in such a way that sex with your partner won’t just be “good” — it’ll truly be unforgettable!
Write a sex note. It’s probably that I’m a words of affirmation person that I wrote articles for the site like “Every Woman Should Write A Love Letter To Themselves” and “Why Writing Love Letters Is A Surefire Way To Revive Your Marriage.” Either way, there are plenty of studies out here to support the fact that your handwriting reveals a lot about your personality. For instance, outgoing personalities tend to use bigger letters while shy folks use smaller ones, and the more legible your signature is, the more confident you tend to be (illegible speaks to being more private).
Anyway, it’s thoughtful, seductive, and it reveals a very personal side of you to handwrite a sex note to your partner. It can be a story, a memory, or a fantasy. Mail it to them (even if you live together), and put it in one of their office drawers or even under their pillow. Allow them to see you in this kind of creative light.
Text a super up close or blurry pic. Speaking of seduction, no matter how many times your partner has seen you naked, there are approaches you can take that will make it feel like it’s the first time. One is to take a super close shot of a body part and ask them to guess what it is. Another is to take a super blurry one and add a message that only they will understand. It’s gonna be hella intriguing either way.
Use candlelight. If you’re someone who would prefer to have sex in the dark while your partner wants the lights on, the compromise is to go with candlelight. It’s romantic. It’s body flattering. And, if you go with some scented soy (soy burns longer) candles like jasmine, vanilla, or patchouli, the candles will create an aphrodisiac atmosphere too.
Incorporate each other’s favorite colors. Something else that I’m a fan of is color psychology (check out “Understanding Color Psychology Will Sharpen Your Lens On Life”). Not only do different colors represent different things (and can affect your mood in different ways), but wearing your favorite color can make you feel better about yourself, while wearing your partner’s favorite color can entice them all the more. Definitely, something to keep in mind as you’re out here doing some lingerie shopping (when’s the last time you did that, by the way?).
Maintain eye contact. In almost any context, maintaining eye contact with people is important. Business Insider once published an article stating that eye contact cultivates attraction, maintains a level of honesty, helps you to be more memorable, and can even make it possible for two people to fall in love. Pretty sure you can see why I added this to the “sight” list. Eye contact during sex is EVERYTHING.
Verbalize, in explicit detail, what you want to do to your partner. Wanna do some sex pregaming? Give your partner a preview of what’s to come by calling them out of nowhere to talk about all of the things you want to do the next time the two of you are intimate. It will definitely pique their curiosity. Plus, this is a great workaround for people who struggle with dirty talk (a tip: don’t overthink it; your tone of voice matters more than your actual words anyway. No, seriously.).
Play nature-based ASMR sounds. If you’re someone who likes to listen to music or sounds of nature during sex (more on that in a sec), it might surprise you to know that you enjoy something that’s a low-key sexual fetish. It’s called auralism, and it’s all about being aroused via sound. As far as nature sounds (like rain, ocean waves, wind, etc.) go, science says that hearing them helps to reduce stress, decrease pain, and it can also put you in a way better mood.
So, the next time that you’re trying to create some ambiance go to YouTube and find some nature sounds (many of them run on a loop for hours on end). It’s an unsung hack that can make a world of difference as far as your sex life is concerned.
Whisper. Speaking of ASMR, did you know that sounds like whispering can create a literal “brain orgasm” without you even laying a hand on your partner? It’s relaxing. It’s seductive. It triggers euphoric sensations. Just thought I would put that out there.
Moan. Recently, while listening to the extended mix of the throwback R&B group Intro’s “Come Inside,” I was trying to figure out how people can “fake moan” and make it sound at least semi-convincing.
Anyway, if you want to heighten both your and your partner’s sense of hearing when it comes to sexual intimacy, moaning is gonna get the job done. In fact, according to science, moaning creates vibrations throughout the body that can intensify sex and orgasms. Plus, it’s a way to let your partner know that they are meeting your sexual needs.
So, if you’re a loud moaner, awesome (check out “Ever Wonder What The Sounds You Make During Sex Mean?” when you get a chance). If you’re self-conscious about doing it, remember that you’ve got science to back up giving it a shot ASAP.
Praise your partner.I once read that whenever someone receives a compliment, it activates the same part of their brain as receiving money (no joke). That said, I can’t think of any person who would ever get tired of receiving genuine praise for their sexual performance. So, before, during, and after the deed is done, be intentional about verbally affirming your partner for the things that you thoroughly enjoyed. Watch them “return the favor” once you do.
Put his favorite scent on your pressure points. The article “Feelin' On These Pressure Points Will Give You The Best Sex Of Your Life” is all about certain parts on your and your partner’s bodies that can intensify sexual pleasure whenever they are touched. That said, imagine how much more exhilarating the touches will feel if your partner gets to smell his favorite scent in those very spots.
Out of the five senses, smell doesn’t get nearly as much attention — oh, but it should, considering the fact that various smells connect us to certain emotions and memories. Not only that but studies say that those who have a stronger sense of smell ultimately have better sex lives too.
Apply essential oils to your bedding. Keeping what I just said in mind, when was the last time that you sprinkled some essential oils on your bedding? Personally, I prefer essential oils to perfume or cologne because they are good for your health, and the quality brands, tend to last much longer. And when it comes to sex specifically, there’s something about rolling around in aphrodisiac-based smelling sheets that really is a perfect touch (check out “8 Natural Aphrodisiac Scents, Where They Go & How To Make Them Last”).
Add fresh flower petals to your bed too. Roses have had a long-standing and pretty solid reputation for being an aphrodisiac scent too. Not only that, but some people even eat rose petals because they are loaded with antioxidants. Personally, I like the soft and feminine scent that fresh rose petals provide along with how great they feel on my skin. Get all of these benefits by sprinkling some fresh rose petals on your bed. You can never go wrong by doing so.
Add an aphrodisiac scent to your hair. A few years back, I penned an article for the site entitled, “Contrary To Popular Assumption, Black Women LOVE Getting Their Hair Pulled During Sex” — and you know what? It really is the icing on the cake for your hair to smell absolutely amazing as he does it. So, whether it’s perfume, cologne, or an essential oil, don’t forget to spray or rub some onto your tresses. Whew, chile.
Put some lavender and pumpkin oil in between your thighs. I will forever shout through the proverbial bullhorn that studies say that the combination of lavender and pumpkin oil can increase the speed of a man’s erection by a whopping 40 percent! Definitely, something to keep in mind if you’ve got a partner who battles a bit with erectile dysfunction or you’re someone who enjoys immediate penetration following being on the receiving end of oral sex.
Dab a bit of the combo in between your thighs and just watch — well, feel — what happens! (By the way, you can purchase a roll-on combo of two fragrances at an affordable price by going here.)
Get some honey dust. Back in my more active days (LOL), I took a hack from Valerie Malone via Beverly Hills, 90210, when she told one of her partners that she applies honey dust to her skin so that he could lick it off. Let’s just say that if you try it, you’ll be in for a wild ride. You can cop some for yourself here.
Experiment with some “sex condiments.” Along these same lines, one time I was working with a couple who both wanted a bit of assistance without making giving oral sex less awkward. I shot them the article, "12 ‘Sex Condiments’ That Can Make Coitus Even More...Delicious” that I once penned. Why?
Basically, sometimes it can seem a bit intimidating to take in natural body fluids. One way to make it less overwhelming is to “mask” the tastes with ones that are more familiar such as frosting, chocolate syrup, or even condensed milk.
Suck on some mint candy. Even though I’ve actually read that consuming mint can lower a man’s testosterone levels and ultimately his sex drive, if you gargle some mint mouthwash or suck on a mint prior to performing fellatio, the menthol can feel hella exhilarating for him and make his orgasms even more memorable. Hey, but you ain’t gotta take my word for it. A couple of years ago, some mints called Flintts were taking oral sex activity by storm, chile: “What the Heck Are These Oral Sex Mints All Over TikTok?”.
Play around with nutmeg and cloves. Whether you decide to make a dessert with nutmeg and cloves, drink some tea with these spices sprinkled in, or you come up with some other creative way to incorporate them into your plans for the evening, nutmeg is a solid libido-booster and cloves increase energy levels and blood flow (including to your genital region) as well as increases your body temperature. Where’s your spice rack at?
DIY some dried figs. There is nothing wrong with bringing food into the bedroom. That said, next time, how about some figs? Visually, they are a fruit that’s actually used to symbolize the vagina; plus, the amino acids in them help to relax the blood vessels in your body, so that blood is able to flow freely through you and your partner’s genitalia. You can get a ton of dried fig recipes here.
Wear silk lingerie. Even though lace has quite the reputation when it comes to lingerie, a fabric that deserves a lot more attention is silk. It’s soft. It’s luxurious. And, by many, it’s considered to be the most sensual fabric there is. Also, on the practical side, silk can help to reduce hot flashes, improve your quality of sleep, help to prevent yeast infections, and improve the appearance and feel of your skin. All worthwhile selling points to keep in mind for the next time you’re picking up a teddy or baby doll ensemble.
Twist your wrist during fellatio. I enjoy Black web series. One from back in the day that I will rewatch from time to time is called Diary of a Cheating Man. In episode two, (the character) Cory gives away a fellatio hack that I can personally vouch for.
If you’re someone who is a bit skittish about giving head, something that can take some of the mouth pressure off is to use your hands more. Apply an edible lubricant and then twist your wrist clockwise and counterclockwise as you’re gently moving up and down his shaft. That way, you don’t have to do quite as much sucking (if that’s not your thing; do lick, though), and he won’t feel (quite so) gypped because of it.
Use your tongue where you would put your hands. I recently read an article (entitled “The Human Tongue Can Help Blind People 'See' The World. Here's How”) that said, “The brain can allocate tactile attention on the surface of the tongue in the same way as the hands or other modes of attention.” If you add to this the fact that, although the tongue is not the strongest muscle in the body, it is, most definitely one of the most flexible, and you add to that how warm and wet it is — it will only benefit you and your partner to substitute your tongue for your hands during foreplay…don’t ya think?
Play with each other’s belly buttons. One of the best ways to keep your partner intrigued is to not always go for the “predictable” body parts. For instance, when’s the last time that the two of you played around with each other’s belly buttons? The belly button has multiple nerve endings, it’s a fun way to tease your partner during foreplay, and it’s not uncommon for women to feel clitoral stimulation whenever that area of their body is caressed in any way. So, why not kiss, massage, or use your fingers to play around with the belly button during sexual activity? You both may be pleasantly surprised by the sensation that it creates.
Kiss during afterplay. One more. A question that I get asked fairly often is what can increase a woman’s chances of having multiple orgasms. There are several. One of them is to kiss during afterplay (which is basically foreplay after having sex). There is a lot of intel in these streets (check out “Wanna Climax More? KISS MORE.”) that cosigns on the fact that kissing is extremely stimulating.
So, even though few things top spooning naked and taking a nap after getting in a round of romping, an immediate — as they used to say it back in the day — make-out session following your first orgasm can definitely put you on the path to experiencing a second one. Try it. How could you — and all of your senses — not like it? Enjoy!
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