Anxiety is something that can rear its ugly head in all sorts of places, whether it be at work, with self, or in our relationships with other people. Earlier this year, we spoke about attachment styles based on attachment theory, a concept that explores how parent-child relationships influence the way we love and form attachments in important relationships later in life. According to said theory, people form attachments in four ways: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. For a quick recap of the more anxiety-prone attachment styles – anxious-preoccupied and fearful-avoidant – check out our article, "What Your Attachment Style Says About Your Love Life". Although there were four attachment styles discussed, in this article, we want to focus solely on the ones that speak more to the anxious types.
So, we recently spoke with award-winning psychotherapist and relationship expert, Rhonda Richards-Smith, who provided some real-life tips in an effort to help women navigate through some of these attachment styles while dating and in relationships with people.
Advice To Overcome Anxious Attachment Styles In Dating
1.Be prepared to unlearn a lot of things.
Many of us carry a "false sense of loyalty and legacy" when we think about the things that we were taught over the years as it relates to all types of relationships. As much as we respect and honor what our parents or guardians taught us, we also have to acknowledge that our parents don't know everything, and sometimes the advice is not applicable to our lives.
Rhonda recalled some of the wisdom her dearly departed grandmother (God rest her beautiful soul) would constantly tell her when it came to relationships. For example, she would say things like, "Just make sure they love you. Don't worry about you loving them back." Although Rhonda knew it was coming from a loving place because her grandmother wanted to protect her from hurt and disappointment, Rhonda also learned and knew that it wasn't necessarily true or the greatest advice for her. Moreover, just because she didn't necessarily agree with the advice doesn't mean she loved her any less.
Oftentimes, "we look at the source and not the quality of what people are saying. You can love someone, respect them, and care about them, but they can still give you advice that's just not applicable to your life." Nevertheless, Rhonda encourages us "to be mindful about the messages that we take in. We have to be critical about what our thoughts and our feelings are, and make sure that they're true to what we believe versus what others impose on us."
2.Be flexible in your relationships.
There's a tendency to assume that our current relationships will be exactly like the relationships we observed through our parents and family. For example, people who were raised in a home with both parents either: strive to replicate their relationship based on what they saw, or they will do whatever they can to make sure it looks nothing like what they witnessed. Conversely, for someone who grew up in a single-parent home, there isn't as much pressure to replicate what they saw. Hence, "it allows a bit more flexibility and creativity within the relationship."
Either way, we crave what's familiar even if it was chaotic or dysfunctional. So, if it doesn't show up in the relationship, then we assume it must not be a real, healthy or it must not be love. Moreover, when the relationship starts to look different from what we saw growing up, even if that "different" is good to us and good for us, it can feel like a "betrayal when we don't adhere to everything we saw or were taught."
Nonetheless, whether we came from a two-parent home or a single-parent home or some other dynamic, the reality is that "most of our parents or family members did the best that they could with what was at their disposal, but what may have served them then, may not serve you today."
Although it may feel uncomfortable or it may require some courage, give yourself permission to release certain traditions for the sake of your relationships. Be open to the fact that your journey may look completely different, understanding that what may have worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you.
3.Be committed to doing the self-work.
Not only is it important to consider what we take in from others, but we also have to think about what we're telling ourselves, as well as how we engage with our partners. Rhonda encourages us to seek clarity and consistency, and we do that by being vulnerable with the people we're with, the people we're surrounded by, and/or even with a therapist or trusted advisor.
Personally, I relate to both of these anxious attachment styles especially when it comes to feeling as if I'm waiting for the ball to drop or someone to hurt me. It wasn't until I started going to therapy and really started to dig deeper and realized that so much of who I am and my behaviors is directly connected to the absence of my father. Now, I'm able to better manage a lot of the anxiety and those feelings of doubt a lot better because of it; which in turn, is also helping my marriage as well as how my people-pleasing tendencies show up in other relationships.
So, don't be afraid to do the work and dig deeper by having real, open, candid conversations.
4.Be intentional about engaging in mutually beneficial relationships.
No matter the relationship – lover, family, friend, etc. – there has to be mutual work on both sides. It can't be one person doing all the work. For example, "Men have to be just as invested in making the relationship work as women are" whether that's through counseling, reading books, attending seminars, or more.
As Rhonda explained, "Both partners need to have an independent level of understanding and awareness. You have to find a happy medium. Otherwise, these anxiety-filled attachment styles can lead to all or nothing or an unhealthy dependence on each other."
5.Be willing to take risks.
There are never any guarantees when it comes to life and love. There will always be a risk, but how we were raised or the things we've been told have made some of us risk-averse.
Think about a time when you were actually going to take a risk, but then, someone discouraged you from doing it. Later, you realized that they were merely projecting their fear and reservations onto you. That's why Rhonda suggests that we actually start taking more risks in other areas of our lives. We can't just be risk-takers when it comes to relationships. "It has to be a lifestyle shift. The more you take risks in other areas of your life, the easier it'll be to do in your relationships."
6.Be ready and willing to forgive.
Contrary to the Disney princesses' fairy tale endings, life isn't perfect and neither are relationships. However, having a willingness to forgive prepares you for the inevitable ups and downs that will occur in your relationship. Hence, instead of immediately defaulting to planning an exit strategy due to anxiety, fear, or the thought of someone leaving you, you're more prepared for the disappointment and more likely to take a step back and figure out how it is that you're going to forgive.
Of course, if there are major red flags or unhealthy behaviors within the relationship, then, it might be time to decide if you should stay or go. But choosing to leave just because you're scared, anxious, or worried doesn't have to be your first option.
7.Be willing to shift your mindset and focus on the secure attachment style.
Part of managing or changing these attachment styles also means shifting your focus from what you're not doing well to more of what you should be doing. It's "understanding what the secure attachment style looks like, why it's important, and why it's the healthiest attachment style" when it comes to your relationships.
As with most anything in our lives, you have to have what Rhonda refers to as a "North Star". Metaphorically speaking, the North Star helps keep you grounded and focused. It's a constant, reliable force despite whatever else is going on around you. Let the secure type serve as a your "attachment style North Star" and a reminder for what you want to strive to be - "straightforward with people…avoiding passive aggressiveness." It's a reminder to be "clear and communicate with your partner in terms of your needs, and also be receptive to their feedback."
Ultimately, the goal is to have secure attachment so that regardless of the relationship, "you can weather storms in a healthy way, maintain your self-worth, and focus your energy on what could happen in the future versus what happened in the past."
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Food is the star of the show for Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest: dinner wouldn’t be anything special without a good tablescape. Decor is a significant part of the holiday season! Garlands, pumpkins, candles, and other decor can take your Thanksgiving spread from bland to brilliant! However, we understand the stress of making a whole feast for family and friends.
We sat down with Beth Smith of Beth Diana Smith Interior Designs to learn how to create the perfect tablescape for any dinner party.
Set the Tone With Dinnerware
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“Focus on the meal you’re serving and make your dinnerware set the tone and be the highlight of the table,” says Smith. The dinner is why your community is coming together and is arguably the most crucial centerpiece. Decorative pieces are nice, but food and what we use to eat can make it much more special. Smith suggests, “I recommend the Nguka dinnerware set from 54kibo, which is stunning, unique, and beautifully made.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, The Stoke Collection by ceramic artists Althea’s Meade-Hajduk is intentionally created to visually enhance any meal experience.
Have Fun With Your Color Palette
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In the world of nude palette overload, it’s nice to see color occasionally. Color is a natural mood booster that can bring excitement to the room - or table! “Create a thoughtful color palette that is not the standard Thanksgiving palette of fall colors,” says Smith. Having fun with colors and moving away from a traditional setting can bring uniqueness to your tablescape.
There’s also no chance of your tablescape having the same color palette as everyone else on social media. Smith adds, “If pink has grabbed your attention, this dusty pink set from Our Place has different plate and bowl size options.”
Incorporate Florals Through Bud Vases or Bouquets
Who doesn’t love florals? This look is accepted year-round, not just when romance is involved. “You can’t go wrong with florals for a tablescape if you’re setting it for your family, friends, or a group of singles,” says Smith. Florals are an easy way to make any event look elevated without having to try as hard. If you’re worried about hypoallergenic guests, you can purchase artificial flowers from Amazon. Here, you can find various floral options and even create your own bouquet.
“A floral tablescape can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you may like. You can select a few bud vases and strategically place them around the table using a bouquet you bought locally,” says Smith.
Unsure of who is your local florist? Black Girl Florist is a site that helps you source local florists in your area. Click here to find a florist in your neighborhood! And if your budget is a little tighter than usual due to the holidays, Smith has a solution that will save you money altogether. Smith suggests, “You can also use dried-up branches and leaves from your backyard, which would be free.”
Elevate Your Tablescape With a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards have become all the rage on TikTok, and for good reason. Mixing your favorite meats, cheese, and grapes has made snacking visually tasteful. Smith says they can also create a fabulous tablescape - killing two birds with one stone. Smith says, “You can never go wrong with creating one large charcuterie board. This makes food the decoration interesting, colorful, and delicious!” This could be especially great for Friendsgiving, and you want to avoid cooking a turkey twice.
The beauty of charcuterie boards is creating a food palette unique to you or your guest's needs. On the flip side, we also understand how overwhelming it can be to decide precisely what to put on your board. Smith has a few recommendations that can be helpful, “You can include cheeses, crackers, and meats, but you can also add specialty items like deserts, chocolate, and truffle mustard.”
Smith refers to the Truffle Mustard by Truffiest, an award-deserving mustard infused with summer truffles from northern Italy. This mustard can be paired with crackers, cheeses, meats, and shredded turkey if you want to stay on the theme.
Build on an Artsy Vibe and Add Layers
There’s no shame in bringing it back to basics. Bring out the old tablecloth your family member gave you a few years ago; it’s vintage! “The goal is to make the table look and feel like you have everything you need and more,” Smith says. Everything you need and more can consist of four main ingredients: tablecloth, napkins, cups, and, most importantly - wine glasses. “Make the tablescape feel artistic with funky dinner napkins and tablecloths. Then, layer with oversized plates, long-stemmed wine glasses, and after-dinner cups.”
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