When you’re a writer, it’s kind of an occupational hazard to be on-10 when it comes to communication. That’s why I’m all about asking questions in order to gain clarity (check out “7 Questions You And Your Spouse Should Ask Each Other Four Times A Year”, “10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins”, “The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have” and “7 Questions You Should Definitely Ask Yourself At The End Of Each Week”). And so, in the spirit of being just a few days away from a brand spanking new calendar year and also in the honor of following along with the questioning theme, I wanted to share something that I advise a lot of my clients to do with one another — participate in, what I call, relationship inventory.
Because inventory is basically about taking out the time to see what assets are readily available, why wouldn’t this be an important thing to evaluate when it comes to our interaction with our significant other? So, one day (or night), instead of watching a Christmas movie, pour a couple of glasses of wine (or hot chocolate) and ask each other the following six questions instead. The answers you hear just might surprise you; either way, it can help you both know where you currently stand…which is always a good thing.
1. Did We Bring More Peace or Confusion to Each Other’s Worlds?
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for the site entitled, “An Extremely Underestimated Sign That You're With The Right Person.” Basically, what it touches on, are different words that define peace. I’ve shared before that something an ex of mine once said is, “A woman should be a man’s sanctuary” — and yes, before some of y’all jump in with “What about the men?”, I agree that this should go both ways. Anyway, I’ve always liked that line of thinking because not only is a sanctuary a sacred space, it’s also a place of refuge. And refuge is exactly why I’m not big on the word “vulnerable” being used when it comes to intimate relationships.
Vulnerable means “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon,” “open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.” and “difficult to defend.” If your partner is truly your place of refuge (shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc.), why would you be vulnerable in their space? If anything, you would be dependent (relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.). And in that space of interdependence, there is safety, which is a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, a lot of couples are anything but in a sanctuary space for one another. Instead, they mistake drama for loyalty, craziness for passion, and lust for love. And because of this, all they’ve got is mass confusion going on. Listen, the world is intense enough, especially for our people, to be in a relationship that is just as extreme as it is all of the time. If you and yours — BOTH — are not bringing peace to each other, more times than not, don’t ignore that. While it may not be a red flag, it is most definitely a bright and blaring yellow one.
2. Did We Become More Fluent in Each Other’s Love Languages?
Hands down, a top faux pas in romantic relationships (any relationship, really) is that people are far more interested in giving people what they want to receive rather than what their partner actually needs. Case in point. I am a big "words of affirmation" person while one of my male friends is more into acts of service. We used to clash, quite a bit because I would give him cards and compliments only to receive barely above an Elmo shrug yet when he would ask me to do minor things for him, if I didn’t have the time, at the time, he felt like I was flippantly brushing him off. After we both talked it through, he got that I felt rejected when he didn’t really care about my “word efforts” while he felt the same when I didn’t prioritize a request — especially since making requests are sometimes really hard for him to do. And so, we both learned that I was the one who needed cards and he was the one who needed me to hold him down on the “services” tip. We’re good now.
Listen, you can love someone all day long, but just like the “Does the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it?” question, folks need to feel that we love them in the way that they need to feel it; it’s not up to us to make the call on what that way is. With all of this on record, far too many people assume they know their partner’s love language. Even more, couldn’t really care less what it is. Both are problematic, so definitely discuss with your partner if each other’s top-two primary love languages were fluently spoken throughout the year. If not, a good practice for next year comes in the article, “15 Date Ideas Based On Your Love Language”. It can help to get the two of you speaking in a way that you both can be heard.
3. Are We Each Becoming Better People? Together.
I’m gonna be honest, the rap artist Fabolous continues to give me a reason to give him major side-eye (I think a lot of y’all know why). Still, I’ve gotta credit the source when I’m speaking on it and when it comes to this particular point, “Make Me Better” by him and Ne-Yo definitely comes to mind.
I'm a movement by myself
But I'm a force when we're together
Mami I'm good all by myself
But baby you, you make me better
There is a friend that I’ve got right now who, in all honesty, he was doing much better before he got involved with the woman he’s currently with. She’s manipulative. She’s controlling. And she weaponizes sex to get her own way. As a result, his other relationships are suffering and it’s even starting to infect his relationship with his kids. Yet all he tells me is they vibe well and the sex is good. Chile, please.
There really is no point in being in a relationship with someone who is only going to make you a shell of the person you were with prior to getting with them. That said, definitely, if there is one thing you and your boo should be able to say, as a direct result of being together, it’s that you make each other better as individuals. To be better is to be improved in quality, to become more complete, and to surpass who you were prior to getting involved. If you and/or he can’t say that about each other, why is that? And more importantly, why would you want to remain in something that isn’t making you greater as a direct result of its influence?
4. Where’s the Growth in the Relationship?
A quote that I really like as it pertains to personal growth is, “Real growth is when you start checking and correcting yourself.” To me, this rolls over into meaning, “Grown people hold themselves accountable.” You know what else does — partners in a relationship. Not too long ago, I was asked in an interview what I think is one of the main reasons why there is conflict in relationships. I said, “Because a lot of people think they should be coddled more than held accountable” and I will stand firm on that. This notion that someone only loves you if they tell you what you want to hear or if they don’t call you out on your ish in order to spare your feelings is so self-manipulative and honestly, pretty childish.
You can’t grow without being held accountable and the people who truly care about you will do just that. They will do it lovingly. They will do it with grace attached. They will make sure it’s delivered in a way that it can be received yet they will still do it. And when two people are able to grow as individuals, it leads to growth in the relationship overall.
That’s why, when people tell me that they have been feeling stuck and stagnant with their partner for months (or years) at a time, I encourage them to address that as soon as possible. If both of you are helping each other to thrive, the relationship should be showing clear evidence of that. No, I don’t necessarily or automatically mean marriage (that is not always the ultimate sign of relational growth; look at the divorce rate which is still holding at around 50 percent) — I mean that both people have gotten closer, both people have maintained similar values and both people want the same kind of relational future…whatever that may be.
Stagnation stinks and just about everything in life is designed to move forward. Has your relationship done that in 2021? If you can’t verbally express how your relationship has been, something is…off.
5. Have We Evolved As Friends AND Lovers?
I’m about to age myself (IDC, IDC) but there is a song from way back in the day called “Friends and Lovers”. It’s by Carl Anderson and Gloria Loring (Robin Thicke’s mama). The chorus goes like this:
So, I'll be your friend and I'll be your lover
'Cause I know in our hearts we agree
We don't have to be one or the other
Oh no, we could be both to each other
A hill that I will die on with absolutely no apologies or regrets is, if you don’t see your partner as your best friend, you should ask yourself why? I’m word-literal, so I know that best means (among other things) “of the highest quality, excellence, or standing.” If you can’t say this about the one you are sharing so much of your time, effort, and energy with if you’ve got five other people who rank over them in this area, what exactly are you doing with them? Lawd, it can’t be said enough that one of the reasons why a lot of relationships — especially marriages — fail to go the distance is because people act like their partner isn’t supposed to be one of their very closest — if not THE closest — friend (check out “Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?”).
When two people are friends, they like each other, they trust each other and they have a type of loyalty to one another that is truly unmatched. And yes, over the course of several months, when a relationship is truly healthy, both people should be able to say that the friendship has only gotten that much stronger. And what about the lover part? While I do think that physical intimacy should definitely get more fulfilling as a relationship evolves (if the intimacy is wack, something about the relationship is too; straight up), I’m gonna throw a plot twist into this.
One definition of lover is “a person who has a strong enjoyment or liking for something, as specified.” As two people become closer friends, they should only enjoy one another more and more as well. It’s not about making obligatory calls or going out on dates because that’s what couples are “supposed to do.” Because you and yours are such huge fans of one another, because you dig each other just that much, spending time together (whether in or outside of the bedroom) comes very naturally because you are lovers of each other just that much. Are you?
6. Are We Still on the Same Page?
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.” A Greek botanist by the name of Theophrastus once said, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” A Greek general by the name of Pericles once said one of my (current) favorite quotes on time — “Time is the wisest counselor of all.” When it comes to your relationship, something that time is gonna sho ‘nuf do is reveal to you and yours if you’re both, shoot, not just on the same page but even in the same chapter and book. The thing you’ve got to do is make sure that you don’t allow your feelings to overpower the facts that may be standing right before you.
What do I mean by that? Sometimes two people can love and like each other. Still, because they want totally different things out of life (one may want kids while the other doesn’t; one may want to wait a few more years to settle down while the other doesn’t; one may want to live overseas while the other doesn’t), they aren’t the best fit. Unfortunately, because of emotions, many will ignore this reality and try and “force things” which typically leads to bitterness and resentment — if not immediately, eventually.
I will never find taking relational inventory to not be essential because what you and yours thought about what you ultimately wanted out of life last year may be very different now and just because you’re together, that doesn’t mean that either of you should make assumptions. ASK. Also, listen for not what you want to hear but what is being said. Then be honest with each other about where to go…from here.
A healthy and beneficial relationship is going to complement you (check out “If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life”). Take some time out to take relationship inventory, so that the both of you can go into 2022 saying that that is indeed the case. If it is, awesome! If it’s not, making some shifts so that you both can get to who and what is right is always best.
There really is no time like the present to figure out which side of the coin you and yours are on. Before going into January, please honor each other and what you share by making sure that you do.
Featured image by Getty Images
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The Libra woman and Aries man are the divine feminine and divine masculine, coming together as one. The love compatibility between these two is one for the books. These two are opposite signs, however, their differences tend to complement each other well. This is a dynamic relationship where they know how to have a lot of fun together, but also aren’t afraid to deal with the more serious stuff that comes with a relationship.
The Libra woman is looking for her equal in love, someone who is willing to put in the same effort she is, and the Aries man sees Libra as someone he is willing to do that with.
The Love Compatibility Of A Libra Woman And An Aries Man
What attracts a Libra woman and an Aries man to each other?
There is a magnet of attraction pulling these two together, and things tend to move pretty fast in this relationship. The Libra woman is always open to love and her charming nature rarely has any challenges here. The Aries man fights for his independence and doesn’t sacrifice that unless he is completely enamored with someone.
Once the Aries man catches the eye of the Libra woman, he is typically the one to make the first move and this instantly wins the approval of Libra.
These two feel like they have known each other forever when they meet, and this spark between them doesn’t die down easily.
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What is the relationship like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The relationship between the Libra woman and the Aries man is one of balance and excitement. The Aries man tends to take on the more dominant role in this relationship and the Libra woman tends to be the more receptive one. Aries is ruled by masculine Mars, and Libra is ruled by feminine Venus. They understand they are coming from two completely different worlds, yet they also instinctively feel this underlying connection to each other and like they could be something each other needs in their lives.
The Libra woman can rely on the Aries man, and the Aries man never has to ask for the love that Libra already knows he needs.
This is a couple that is often reading each other’s minds and wanting to do a lot of the same things. However, not everything is rainbow in this relationship as well, and there are some major differences they have to overcome to make things work. One argument can lead to an explosion between these two, and addressing things when they come up rather than sweeping them under the rug, will be needed to make this relationship long-term.
What is the sex like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The sex between a Libra woman and an Aries man is adventurous. These are two cardinal signs with plenty of energy and stamina to keep things exciting in the bedroom. There tends to be a good give and take in this relationship, and their yin and yang energy benefits them when it comes to their sex life.
There is electricity felt between the two of them in this area of their life, and their power of attraction to each other is strong. These are two people who will want to do a lot of things together, including exploring sexually together.
The Aries man will have to be careful with being overly aggressive, however, as the soft Libra woman may not like this energy- it will completely depend on the two individuals at hand. The Libra woman wants to ease into things, the Aries man wants to get going right away. Learning about each other's bodies, and energy, and reading each other’s cues will help with this.
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What makes a relationship between a Libra woman and an Aries man work?
These two genuinely like each other, and that basis is a key factor for success in any relationship. The Aries man is straight to the point, direct, and inspired. The Libra woman admires these characteristics in others, as she is often herself finding her balance in this type of energy as well. Neither sign is overly emotional in a way that turns them off, and they both require a lot of the same things in a committed relationship. They want honesty, fun, good communication, passion, and to be moving towards a common goal together.
The Libra woman and Aries man don’t have a problem being real with each other and this is something they really value within the relationship. They are both very charming, and there is plenty of flirtation and attraction to keep this relationship going. Aries being the protector they are, Libra finds a sense of safety and ease in this energy, and like they have found their match. Overall, this is a well-balanced relationship and one where they don’t have a problem when it comes to compatibility or chemistry in the relationship.
What may cause a Libra woman and an Aries man to break up?
Libra is the lover, Aries is the fighter, and this energy may be tiring for the both of them after time. The Libra woman can be passive to a fault, and the Aries man who is not evolved, may take advantage of that. She will need to be careful with putting Aries’ needs above her own, creating resentment later down the road. The Aries man loves a challenge, and the Libra woman would be up for that game for a little bit, but if she is not being met in the middle, she will begin to look for other places. These two can have a difficult time keeping the peace in the relationship, and there could be a lot of arguments and disagreements here if they both aren’t willing to put their egos or self-pleasing attitudes to the side.
The Libra woman and Aries man are both more sensitive than they appear or come off as. They are also not necessarily the type to dive deep into their emotions and express them to others, even in their relationships. However, this energy can keep the relationship to a surface level than what is needed to progress and grow the relationship, and a sense of openness is required for this couple to work. Libra needs romance, she wants to be wowed. Aries needs to remember this and to always consider her love language.
Overall, this is a successful pairing. They will have their fair share of challenges in the relationship, but nothing they can’t overcome if they are willing to. The trouble will come in when it comes to the longevity of the relationship, keeping Aries excited and Libra in love. However, all in all, there is more power, attraction, and love to keep this relationship together rather than apart. No relationship is perfect, but this one is a little more blessed than most.
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