You ever go into a dating experience like, 'He’s great, but he needs to work on XYZ,' and before you know it, you're over his head every second you can get to remind him to work on that same 'XYZ?' Yes? Well, perfect because this article is for my lovely fixers; it’s time to dive deep into learning to discern better potential long-term partners for you!
As a recovering fixer, I’m guilty of trying to fix many men I've dated in the past, thinking if I'd "encourage" him to work on XYZ, he'd be a better partner for me. And to be honest, it wasn't healthy for me to find my worth in making him better versus accepting his character at face value. Instead, I should have been asking myself, can I see myself in alignment with him or is it better to just be friends? These are hard questions, I know, but essential ones you need to ask yourself in the earlier stages if you are looking to date intentionally based on your values and morals.
The author of Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High-Stakes Relationships, Jayson Gaddis adds, “If I do all the work in our relationship, including paddling for both of us, and you sit on your ass, we will go in circles and never reach our destination.” What's more, instead of doing the work for two, focus on the things you need to work on for yourself and stop doing work that isn’t yours to do.
If you are finding yourself constantly trying to change your partner, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1.Ask yourself, 'Why do I want to change my partner?'Eddie Murphy Ngapa GIFGiphy
As a recovering fixer, I have immense empathy for my fellow fixers reading this article because at most fixers’ core is the mindset to be of service in their romantic relationships. They often lead with acts of service being their primary love language, not realizing it’s causing more harm than helping anything.
As psychologist Kristin Davin, PsyD, states, “We often create an image of what we want our partner to be and focus on those traits that reinforce that image. However, over time, that lens shifts to one of wanting to change their partner."
Davin notes that some of the reasons for this include: "(1) By and large, women have an overly idealistic view of relationships. They want to change their partner to fit this idea. Men, on the other hand, think there is no need to change. (2) People have lofty expectations of both the relationship and their partner. So they start wanting their partner to change to meet those ideals. It rarely, if ever, works.”
She continues, “They may want to change their partner because there are things they don't like about them - that they often ignored in the beginning - but now have become problematic for them. As a result, relationship problems will evolve. And always trying to change your partner creates resentment. It is a relationship killer. They would rather focus on the other person meeting their needs, instead of looking inward and focus on how they can show up differently for their partner.”
Be aware of those deflectors; that’s a red flag when the other person is consistently focused on what you need to work on and not focusing on their growth or minimizing it, acting as if it’s minor compared to what you need to work on. Everyone’s battle is different, and that isn’t a healthy form of comparison as it shows a lack of accountability.
2.Are you dating their potential or who they are at face value?
I’m sure most people have dated a person or two based on “their potential.” But dating someone’s potential to some extent is a bit of a Russian roulette game based on the type of potential you're betting on. Some people aren’t even assessing a dating situation based on the other person's actions to make that potential a reality. The other person could be making no real progress, and then they are like, 'They’ll get there eventually.' That’s a bit unrealistic, but it happens more often than you can imagine.
As Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kevin Mimms states, “There is a tendency to point toward potential (real or imagined) as a contrast to other, more damaging behavior. It may be that the potential they see is a projection of their hopes or ideals onto this person. To interpret thoughtless words or actions as demonstrative of childhood dreams is naive but understandable.”
It's important to be aware of the fact that the potential you see for a person might not be the potential they see for themselves. This form of projection is something we can sometimes subconsciously do. Instead, learn to lead by listening to understand and discerning a person’s motives by their actions.
“There is a thin line between seeing potential in someone and living your dream out through them. They may have potential, even one very similar to your dreams, but it isn’t about them when you make their growth about fulfilling your dreams.”
3.Is building a partner by trying to change them beneficial in the long run?Fix It Fox Tv GIF by Lethal WeaponGiphy
The next time the idea of building a partner pops up, ask yourself why you want to take up that responsibility. Is there a part of you settling because you think your needs can’t be met, so you’re just trying to make this work? Are you subconsciously married to the timing you have for yourself for a relationship, marriage, kids, or all the above, making you force something that may not be for you in the long run?
As Licensed Mental Health Counselor Nicole Kleiman-Reck, LMHC, mentions, “I don’t think building a partner is beneficial since every person is unique and beautiful in his/her own way (and already fully built).” Let’s emphasize the “already fully built” part, which means there is no need for your tweaking for your personal self-gain that may not serve the person in the long run and could brew areas of resentment.
“Building a relationship with two partners is helpful, and this entails agreeing to disagree, choosing to tolerate, learning to compromise, and aiming to come to what feels like a 'win-win' outcome. It all boils down to learning to appreciate and value the different aspects that each person has to offer in the relationship, which is what makes a strong partnership based on interdependency (which is not the same as co-dependency or dependency).”
4.Introspection is key to stop trying to change a partner.
Turn inward. Building your self-awareness is essential for unlearning fixing in relationships. You may think it’s helpful in the moment, but in a long-term relationship, it will become mentally and emotionally depleting for both parties. As Davin states, “Work on yourself. The fixers are focused outside themselves and want to change and 'fix' another person rather than looking inward. Taking the time to be more introspective allows that person to question their 'fixing behavior' and what motivates them to continually engage in that behavior. It's very off-putting for the person they are trying to change."
"When we are focused on changing others, we aren't focused on what we need in a person and relationship and being honest about that but rather using our energy to change others. When we are focused on the other person, we turn our energy outwards.”
5.Understand the importance of dating people based on face value.Dont Ever Change Season 2 GIF by Living SingleGiphy
Let me explain, acceptance = peace.
As Kleiman-Reck suggests, “I think it is of the utmost importance to take people at face value and accept them based on where they are now. The thing is, you can ask someone to change, and you can inspire someone to change, but you cannot make them change. The better question is, what are YOU going to change to feel happier in your relationship (or in any aspect of life, for that matter)?” This is a tough question to ask oneself, but an essential one to train your mind back to working on the only person you can change, YOU!
“Life is too short to distract yourself from changing others. Changing your belief system on what makes a fulfilling relationship will help with acceptance and joy that is usually there for the taking.”
A healthy bond’s foundation starts and ends with acceptance. To my fixers, I know it’s not an easy fix, but it is a worthy one. Imagine a world of you just being responsible for how you show up in the relationship and not ignoring the red flags that he or she doesn’t have what you need but they have “potential.” Develop a new mindset of, "I’m not forcing anything, and I’m only aligning with people who are in a similar place as me."
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- 7 Signs You've Evolved From 'Being Chosen' To 'Doing The Choosing' In Relationships ›
- What Is 'Psychological Flexibility' & Why It's A Marriage's Superpower ›
- The Right Relationship IMPROVES Not CHANGES You ›
Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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