I’m gonna tell you what. This time last year, while everyone was out here talking about how much the new year was going to be the better, I was like, “I think it’s gonna be more like 2.0." Why did I feel that way? Because I wholeheartedly believe in the sowing and reaping process in all things and the seeds of 2020 had to “sprout up” somewhere. That’s why, with all that has been a trip about this year, on pretty much every level that there is, very rarely have I been surprised, let alone shocked. Disappointed (especially in how dysfunctional and cyclic this country has the tendency to be)? Sure. Shocked? Nah.
I’m thankful too because when you learn — and I mean, really learn — that the only person you can (and should) fully control is yourself, it prevents you from letting humans shake you too much. This includes your relationships which includes your friendships. Besides, it’s usually in times of great testing that the cream really does rise to the top — that we really do get to see who in our life is genuine and who, well, has other plans in mind.
So, as we’re in the last month of the calendar year (which is when a lot of us tend to do a significant amount of reflecting), when it comes to your own friendships, what have you learned? What (or who) will you leave behind and what (or who) will enter into this new season of another year with you — and why? From what I’ve personally experienced and also observed, here are the five greatest friendship-related takeaways that I’ve gathered that came from a year like this one.
2021 Probably Taught You: Who Your True Friends Are
You know what? It’s easy to have a ton of friends when you don’t need anything or, more importantly, when you are the main one who’s doing most of the giving. Oh, but let you be going through some ish and that’s when you really get to see what’s going on. If this year caused you to lose a job, go through some real financial strain, experience a heart-wrenching break-up, experience a health issue or scare, have some mental health issues or anything else that really challenged you, who were the people who really had your back?
It's “funny” because I have one friend, in particular, who I was catching up with not too long ago who said to me, “I used to think you were ridiculous for being like ‘I don’t call a lot of people my friend; that word is serious to me’ until I went through some stuff this year and I saw who was suddenly unavailable or who didn’t even really hear me out. Sometimes, you need tough times for folks to reveal themselves.”
Truer words have never been spoken, y’all. A true friend is going to be loyal. A true friend is going to be giving. A true friend is going to be committed. A true friend believes in reciprocity. A true friend is a safe space.
The folks who have proven to be a good friend, be a good friend back (check out “5 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Friend”) and let them know that they are appreciated. The ones who haven’t? Well, before deciding what to do with those jokers — I mean, people — check out my next point first.
2021 Probably Taught You: Friendships Have Levels
The older I get, the more I’m resigned to the fact that there is a lot of space in between certain things. What I mean by that, in the context of this article is, just because someone isn’t a friend, that doesn’t always or automatically make them an enemy. Or just because you don’t love someone, that doesn’t always or automatically mean you should hate them. That’s a part of the reason why I wrote the article, “Always Remember That Friendships Have ‘Levels’ To Them” for the site last year and “According To Aristotle, We Need ‘Utility’, ‘Pleasure’ & ‘Good’ Friends” the year before that.
This year, something that I intentionally did was get quiet around some of the people who, while they are cool ‘n all, I know that we pretty much only interact when I put in the effort. Some of them stepped up and started initiating communication more. Others, I haven’t spoken to, literally, all year long.
One of the people behind Door #2, I ran into, not too long ago. Back in the day, I would’ve dished out an attitude or mini-sermon about their communication patterns (or lack thereof). This round, I greeted them, we caught up and I kept it moving. Oh, and when they said, “I’ll call you,” I simply say, “OK” because I don’t hold them in the same space as some of the other people in my life. They’re fun. They’re funny. And I’m sure (if we can ever get COVID under control) that we’ve got a couple of more lunches in our future. But are they my inner circle tribe? Heck no. Do I dislike them because they aren’t? That’s not accurate either. They are in the in-between space.
I’m willing to bet you’ve got some folks who have revealed themselves to be this way too. Y’all aren’t in a bad place it’s just…they aren’t really who you rely on or who you will allow to rely on you. And you know what? That’s OK. Some people should just be someone you can have lunch with at work or someone you can catch a movie with on the weekends from time to time. Like an onion, the word “friend” sometimes has layers and levels. Making peace with that can only benefit you in the long run.
2021 Probably Taught You: A Lot of People Don’t Want to Be “Inconvenienced”
Back in my 20s, financially, I was all over the place. Because I wasn’t really taught any type of financial savviness (at school, at home or at church), I had to learn the really (REALLY) hard way. During that pretty tumultuous time, I had a girlfriend who used to just randomly send me checks from time to time. No special occasion or reason. Just because. And I never forgot it. Fast forward to our 40s and she’s been going through some challenges (singles, PLEASE go through thorough premarital counseling before jumping the broom; it’s never a waste of time). When she shared with me some of what was going on, I set aside a few hundred bucks, just in case she needed it. It’s not because I’ve “got it like that”; it’s because she’s my friend, she has proven to consistently be that way and when you’ve got those kinds of people in your life, you’ve got to be open to being inconvenienced sometimes (check out “Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are ‘Inconvenient’”).
Boy oh boy. In the context of relationships, to be inconvenienced is to be contacted or needed at an inopportune time or when it doesn’t really benefit you one bit. Sadly, a lot of folks are so self-consumed that they think relationships should never inconvenience them. Those of us with emotional intelligence and maturity know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. My tribe knows they can call me whenever; that if they are in distress, I’m gonna try and help them find a solution. And if they have a need, I am going to be open to being inconvenienced at times to meet it…because they have done all of these things for me.
If something that you learned this year is a lot of people who you call “friend” only wanted to hold you down when it was convenient for them, please rethink the place that they hold in your world. Life is too…shoot, much right through here for you to think that you’ve got people in your corner who are only willing to be there when it suits them. Straight up.
2021 Probably Taught You: There Is a Huge Difference Between Fun, a Distraction and Being Dependable
The flip side to the friend I just mentioned is a guy I know. Our journey is a long and semi-complex one. Yet all these years later, what I do know is he’s not my “inner circle”; he doesn’t deserve to be. Still, we do have a lot in common and when we hang out, it’s usually a good time. He’s just not really all that dependable and so, I’ve stopped expecting him to be.
Y’all, there are some people who are pure fun. There are some people who we like having in our life because they are welcome distractions (like, you might be really stressed from work and talking to them on the phone about absolutely nothing for an hour once you get home is something that you look forward to). Then there are those who, you know that you know that if you called them at 2 a.m., for whatever the reason, they would be there. If there is one thing that I hope 2021 taught — or confirmed for — you it’s that you shouldn’t automatically merge all three of these things together.
The guy who I just mentioned? The last time we met up for lunch, we talked for a good three hours. However, something recently happened in my world where I needed some assistance and when I tell you that he didn’t even cross my mind? Again, he’s not dependable like that. That doesn’t make him a bad person; that just means he’s not who I rely on. That also doesn’t mean he should be punished for that. I just simply know his place in my life — and I keep him there.
Sometimes, we fall out with folks, unnecessarily so, because we try and make them be either what they don’t want to be or are incapable of being to us. When that is the case, it’s important to step back and assess if they do indeed hold some value and, if so, how? When you know where someone stands, it’s easier to know where to lean. Know what I’m sayin’? I’m sure that you do.
2021 Probably Taught You: You Deserve the Kind of Friendships That You Need — and Your Needs May Have Changed
This. One. Right. Here. Sooner than later, I’ll touch on how, I think, we all should approach outgrowing someone. For now, what I will say is — trying times not only test us, they oftentimes change us too. And when we shift on some level, sometimes the needs that we have become different. Through open and honest communication, some friendships are able to swiftly adjust and still move forward. Then there are those where either one or both people have no interest in making necessary transitions which ultimately results in them growing apart.
If your needs have changed, don’t feel bad about that. At the same time, if some of your friends have different needs now, they shouldn’t be blamed either. It happens and it really can’t be said enough that the root word for relationship is “relate” which means (among other things) “to establish a connection.” A connection is a bond and a bond is something that holds two things — or in this case, two people — together. If nothing is holding you with someone else but time and memories at this point, it really is OK to “loosen the reins” or even release one another (check out “Why I Don't "Cut People Off" Anymore, I Release Them Instead”) — not because you’re now enemies but so you won’t become that as you both keep trying to give each other what neither of you are succeeding at doing.
Besides, giving your heart room to receive what you need at this time in your life while doing the same for a friend is one of the “friendliest” things you can do. It’s selfless. It’s loving. And it’s how we avoid letting resentment and bitterness set in.
2021 was a doozy. There is no way around that fact. Here’s to learning the relational lessons that you needed to, so that you can step into next year knowing who belongs where in your life — and why. Feel me? Sis, I know that you do.
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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. ;)
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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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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