Chile. This. Right. Here. Listen, if you're someone who is counting the days until Thanksgiving and/or Christmas because you come from a totally functional family that never disagrees and totally enjoys being up under each other 24/7, first off, let me say a big ole' kudos to you. No, really. That is absolutely beautiful—and amazing. But with articles out in cyberspace like "Why Families Fight During Holidays", "Average Couples Will Fight Seven Times Before Holiday End" and "So THAT'S Why Families Fight So Much at Christmas! Strict Schedules and Cramped Conditions Cause 'Hypercopresence'", I already know that there are others who are watching the movie Soul Food on loop, in hopes that their family will be able to sit around the dinner table in peace or, they're considering going on a prayer fast in order to maintain their sanity.
Family is a funny thing; not always in a "ha ha" kind of way either. But as they say, "You can't choose your family." You also can't make grandma not ask you for the billionth time when you're going to get married or have kids, your auntie from saying something slick about your weight or sense of style, or the men in the house from trying to hog the remote. Not to mention all of the dishes that constantly need to be washed, the limited bed space, and the folks whose personalities change more and more with every cup of eggnog. Lawd.
As you're trying to get your spirit right as you head to your parents' house or you prepare to host at your own place this year, cut yourself some slack. If there is a part of you that isn't 100 percent thrilled, that's OK. You're human (plus, studies reveal that it takes the average American only four hours before they need to take a break from extended family visits). But if, at the same time, you want to exude peace, joy and goodwill as much as possible for your sake and the sake of those who will be around you, here's hoping that the following tips can bring a few miracles into your family space this holiday season.
“Time” Your Time
I'm an ambivert which kind of breaks down into being perceived as being an extrovert when actually I am more of an introvert. And this is how much of an introvert that I am. A few years ago, Nashville got some for real, for real snow (which doesn't happen a ton). Two days in, some out of town people called to check on me and get this—I had no idea that the snowstorm even happened. Right. I hadn't even gone outside in like three days. Didn't look out of the windows either. That is how much I like my spot. And since I enjoy solitude too, the rare times when people do stay over here, I've got a five-day threshold rule. During those five days, I will cook for you, take you wherever you want to go—basically be on-call. But after those five days are up, you've got…to…go. No apologies either. I know me. This means that I know what my limits are as well.
Sometimes, folks feel like they are going to lose it around the holidays because they stay with someone longer than they can mentally or emotionally handle, or they allow others to semi-wear out their welcome. If this Thanksgiving, all you can endure is Thursday thru Saturday, hey—it is what it is. Better to know what you are able to endure and everything go smoothly than to push past your limits and all hell break loose. For real, doe.
Deactivate Your Triggers
If there is one thing that 2019 has taught me, it's how to get up close and personal with my triggers so that I can better learn how to deactivate them; especially when I'm around "trigger pushers"—or when it comes to certain family members of mine, trigger stompers. If there is a part of you that wonders why you are generally a pretty chill individual, but then, when a certain cousin walks through the door or your stepmother mumbles something under her breath, you are ready to leap over the table, they could be triggering you, perhaps without you even knowing it. And since a lot of triggers stem from our childhood, that would actually make a lot of sense. Over the holidays, sometimes we're reliving things that aren't the best memories, experiences or even people on the planet; it makes us vulnerable and that can make us irritable.
You can't change your cousin or your stepmom. All you can do is control yourself. But something that can give you a real leg up on avoiding any potential drama is if you spend some time figuring out what your triggers are, who pushes them, and things that you can do to "woosah" through them instead of poppin' off at every turn.
Avoiding “Romanticizing” Toxicity
Some people in my family are toxic. Simple as that. They are so toxic, in fact, that they inspired me to write "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members". A particular relative who comes to mind is constantly bitter with a side of manipulative and controlling. For years, before I would see this individual, I would tell myself that this time was going to be different; that although the only thing that they had shown was how consistently negative they could be, somehow it wasn't going to be like that that year. Then, I would walk in their door, they'd immediate start whining about their life and then try and get me to do everything for them the entire visit, only for me to find myself all bent out of shape because I was disappointed. Again.
Y'all, this is what I call "romanticizing toxicity". Did you know that one definition of romantic is "fanciful; impractical; unrealistic"? And yes, when you're around people who are constantly showing how toxic they are, it's impractical and unrealistic to think that after years of them being this way, they are supernaturally going to be any different.
For toxic people, it has to be an act of God for anything to change. Until that happens, don't set yourself up for being let down by putting your heart in harm's way of toxic individuals. Set boundaries. Stand firmly in them. That should help you to navigate through their slick words and strange energy.
If There’s Not Enough Room…Get a Room
I've got a girlfriend whose husband's side of the family is cray-cray. So crazy that she and I discuss often that if she had really understood the depths of the dysfunction of his bloodline, it probably would've resulted in them remaining friends instead of getting married at all. And who is she gearing up to host this holiday season? Yep…you guessed it. Not for 48 hours either. It's for an entire week and some change. When I asked her how she was going to maintain her composure with all of that traffic, she said, "Girl, this wouldn't be happening at our other house. Luckily, we've got enough room at this one."
Her in-law dynamic is actually what inspired this particular tip because it reminded me that sometimes the holidays are hard simply because we need more space—both physically as well as emotionally. Space to catch our breath and our thoughts. A place to go where we won't have little people constantly crawling all over us or our great-uncle telling us the same five tired jokes for the tenth year in a row.
If you're headed to a relative's place and, when you ask about the sleeping arrangements they say something along the lines of, "Girl, there are enough couches and plenty of floor space", if that makes you already hyperventilate, it's OK if you want to get a hotel room or rent an Airbnb. I'm willing to bet that your family won't agree with me but, that's another thing that you've got to remember about going home for the holidays—you're not in high school or college anymore. You're an adult so, it's not about what they won't let you do; it's about you doing what you know is best. And sometimes, the best way to "respect your elders" is to give everyone some space. Starting with yourself.
Don’t Constantly Be at Home
Speaking of space, if you're going to your parents' place for the holidays and that happens to be where you grew up, this means that you know how to get around, right? No one said that going home meant that you had to sit in the kitchen and shuck peas or clean collards the entire time. Go to a movie. Meet up with some old friends. Plan ahead to be out of the house a little bit while you're there.
And what if you are the one who is hosting? My advice is to not feel the least bit guilty about scheduling a mani/pedi one day or "conveniently forgetting" some stuff at the grocery store that you need to run out and get a couple of times (several if necessary). Sometimes, just an hour of being in your car alone and listening to Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" or strolling a couple of laps in a mall can rejuvenate you in ways you wouldn't even imagine.
If It’s Your House, Remember IT IS YOUR HOUSE
Something else that I think can be a challenge when it comes to dealing with relatives is everyone learning what it means to respect each other. In fact, something that I referenced in the toxic family article that I mentioned earlier is while a lot of our elders are quick to want to recite "Honor your father and mother" (Exodus 20:12), they somehow seem to have really selective memory when it comes to two Scriptures that say children shouldn't be provoked to wrath (Ephesians 6:4) or provoked to the point of becoming discouraged (Colossians 3:21).
Three points here. One, you are no longer a child. Therefore, you are well within your rights to expect to not be treated like one. Wanting to be treated like an adult is not "disrespectful"; elders trying to treat you like you're not one is. Point two—provoke means "to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex". If someone is doing that to you, feel free to share the chapter and verse in the Good Book where all are instructed not to do this. And three, if you're hosting—your house, your rules.
Now, I'm not saying that if you've got no problem chillin' with a blunt and some bourbon that you need to puff-puff-pass in front of granddad or if you know your father lives for football that he should be made to watch The Best Man Holiday on loop. But what I am saying is you are the one who is paying the mortgage (or rent), so if anyone shouldn't feel like they need to walk on eggshells, that should be you. If there are house rules, share them. If folks are breaking them—even if it comes to disrespecting you and your feelings—enforce them. They would do it at their place. Trust me.
Choose Your Battles
A wise person once said, "You only have so much emotional energy each day. Don't fight battles that don't matter." Amen and amen. The relative who always has to have to have the last word? Maybe let them. The relative who always likes to tell the embarrassing story of what you did when you were 10? The sooner they tell it and laugh like they never said it before, the sooner everyone can move on. If your mom has a billion questions about the new guy you're seeing and you already know she's going to be hyper-critical—decide what to share, what to keep to yourself and leave it at that. Out of all of the stuff that I shared, I personally believe that family time can be stressful over the holiday season because we don't master the art of choosing our battles before we see everyone.
Abuse is one thing. Never tolerate that. But when it comes to the basically inconsequential stuff? Remember, even if it feels like a year, the visit is only going to be a few days. Accept folks for who they are, focus on making as many great memories as possible, and pre-plan a way to pamper yourself when it's all over. If you do these things, you should survive this holiday season, even when it comes to dealing with the relatives who always seem to want to tap dance on your very last nerve. In short, Mazel Tov. It's Hebrew for "good destiny". I'm sending plenty of that your way, so that you'll get through the holidays with tranquility and a smile. Happy Holidays, sis.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
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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 (email@example.com) 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.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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