If you've read, oh, I'd say seven or so articles that I've written on this site about marriage, I'm pretty sure you know that I am a marriage life coach. You might've also caught that my specialty is reconciling divorces. There are many reasons why. From a biblical standard, divorce isn't really something that God rallies behind (Malachi 2:16, Matthew 19:1-12, I Corinthians 7:10-11). Another reason why is, while I've never been married before (which also means that I've never been divorced either), I am a child of divorce, twice, and believe you me, children feel the effects of a broken home—no matter how much parents may want to tell themselves otherwise. Then there's the fact that marriage isn't some upgraded boyfriend/girlfriend relationship that so many people seem to act like it is. Vows were taken. Promises were made. And, if we're gonna be real about it, contracts were signed.
When you choose to get a marriage license, you've decided to make your relationship a legally binding union. In short, marriage is sacred. It's super serious too.
For those of you who are reading this who may already be divorced, this isn't to make you feel bad because, Lord, if there's something else that marriage tends to be, it's complicated. However, since I know that a lot of people are quick to jump the gun and call things "quits", only to later on regret their decision (check out "What Some People Regret About Their Divorce"), if you're someone who is really struggling in your marriage right now and the d-word has come up, more than a couple of times, I thought it would be a good idea to put on record that there is some space between being married and getting a divorce. It's called getting separated. And you know what? If you approach it from a proactive space, believe it or not, it could actually help your relationship in the long run. Here's how.
See Separating As a Way to Help Your Marriage. Not As a Vacation from It.
It's interesting because, whenever I write articles like "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?" and "So, What If You're Not Attracted To Your Husband Anymore?", there are a ton of people who read those. Off top, that lets me know that many people are really being tested in their marriage, even as we speak. That said, some of y'all might've seen the Black indie movieSecrets before. The married couple in the film got married young, the husband cheated, the wife was stressful and they ended up separating—for them, that season included seeing other people.
Yeah, that's not healthy. For one thing, separated or not, you are still married. Secondly, if anything looks like a rebound relationship, it's a married person who is seeing someone else while their marriage is in trouble. And third, separation should never translate into, "Goodie. Now I get to be out here, doing whatever I want." No, separating should be about giving you and your partner time and space to ponder what's going on in your relationship, how things went off of the rails and what you need in order to bring things back together. Sometimes it's hard to do that when you're constantly sharing the same space and getting on each other's last nerve. Yet when you separate with the mutual understanding that you're taking the time apart to see how to make your marriage better, that could actually be a good thing. Which brings me to the next point.
Be Open to Therapy (Separately and Together)
If you're single, reading this and you already know that you are a prideful person who is never willing to admit that you are just as human as anyone else which means that you've got flaws and can stand to grow, you DO NOT need to get married. After working well over a decade with couples, if there's one thing that I think a lot of them didn't go into their marriage prepared for, it was their spouse being able to hold up a huge symbolic mirror—one that reveals just how much they could stand to evolve and mature as an individual. In fact, let me tell it, that's why a lot of people end their marriage; when it gets too hard for them to have to see themselves, they move on in hopes of finding another person who will not challenge them to become a better person, quite like their former spouse did (layers, chile).
Here's the thing about that, though. Ever heard the saying, "Everywhere you go, there you are"? I believe that's why, the more times that people get married, the higher their chance for getting a divorce is (it's 60 percent for second marriages and a whopping 73 percent for third ones). And that's why I think it's oh so very important to use a time of separation to really focus on yourself. What could you have done better or differently? What was your understanding of marriage vs. what you are currently living out? What could you do to improve things?
In order to really get honest with yourself about stuff like this, more times than not, it's best to go to therapy (or a counselor or relationship life coach) alone at first—just so that you can really "get back to you". Then, after a couple of months, consider going to couple's therapy as well. I'm telling y'all, it really is tragic, just how many marriages could've been saved if this step had not been overlooked. Listen, I'm not guaranteeing that therapy will prevent a divorce; what I am saying is that it absolutely cannot hurt it. Or you. Ever.
Get Back to Your Friendship
All of the couples that I work with know that one of my most popular mottos is, "If you're still 'in like' with one another, I am confident that you can get back to being 'in love' again." The reason why I say this is because every marriage has seasons (both in and outside of the bedroom)—you know, times when a husband and wife can't get enough of each other and then other times when they close to can't stand each other. The ones who survive those moments tend to have two things in common—a relationship with God and a strong friendship.
I say it often because it's the truth. It really is crazy how much people are willing to endure in a friendship that they would've never consider in a marriage. Yet it's hard to remain committed to someone who you don't see as a true friend, isn't it? In the articles, "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships" and "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend", I outline some signs of what it means to have a healthy friendship. See how those traits line up with the relationship you have with your spouse. Sometimes, focusing on finances, kids and daily stressors causes us to forget foundational truths; ones like, if you are friends with your partner, you really can get through, just about anything. Matter of fact, if there's one thing that a lot of divorced people have told me was the last straw in their marriage, it was that they didn't feel like they were friends with their spouse anymore. Being friends with your spouse is a superpower that doesn't get nearly enough credit.
Understand That Divorce Isn’t Necessarily a “Solution” to Anything
I've had my fair share of boyfriends in my day. I have vowed to myself to never have one again, though (check out "Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again"). A big part of the reason why is because, it has been both my experience as well as my personal observation that, getting into these kinds of relationships where you act like you're married when you absolutely aren't does nothing more than prepare you for divorce. Think about it. If you've profoundly loved five men before, you put your entire mind, body and soul into all five and then broke up—what's to make you not see divorce as being that big of a deal if you are the same way with your husband? That point is for the single people.
For married folks, breaking a contract rarely makes life any better, no matter what the contract may be. Oftentimes, it simply makes life way more complicated and difficult. While I get that in some extreme cases, there may seem like there's no other option, really think long and hard about ending your marriage simply because "I don't feel the same anymore". Divorce affects credit. Divorce affects how your children see relationships (present and future) and, in some ways, the world, in general. Divorce affects things like mental health too.
Bottom line, seeing divorce as a solution to your marital problems can be quite the gamble. Don't approach it like you did your break-ups. Divorce is far more consequential than that.
Know What You REQUIRE for Reconciliation
Depending on the state that you live in, before getting a divorce, you may have to separate regardless. Y'all that "rule" doesn't exist just so that you can kick it in these streets. The intent is that the time apart will give you both some space to process, heal and hopefully reconcile. That said, while I try and do all that I can to prevent couples from divorcing, one thing that I do tend to be a semi-fan of is separation—meaning, I'm in support of it when things seem so stressful or counterproductive that trying to work together to save the relationship isn't really benefitting anyone.
Still, separating doesn't make you single. AGAIN, YOU ARE STILL MARRIED. The time apart shouldn't be about "doing your own thing" or finding someone new. It really needs to be about figuring out what went wrong, how to set things right, and what you would require in order for that to happen.
You know, I once read that 50 percent of couples that separate end up getting back together. It doesn't just up and happen, though. Real self-work is required. In other words, while separating may be about getting some space in your marriage, it's not to be treated like some sort of single's vacation. It really needs to be about making sure you both have done all that you can to make your relationship work. It needs to be about figuring out what you're willing to do and also what you would require in order to reconcile. Reconcile is a pretty dope word too. It means "to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent".
I really do hate what Disney and rom-coms have done to people. So many folks are out here thinking that if marriage doesn't look like some filtered fairy tale then it must be an absolute nightmare. Marriage is about having someone in your life who will hold you down, no matter what. Marriage is about figuring out what you and your partner's strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can come together as a unit and make each other better. Marriage is a covenant relationship too and covenants are about agreeing to come together, mind, body, and soul, to build a life together—until death parts you. Making this kind of decision is definitely not easy (not by a long shot). But if you're willing to stick it out, it really can be super rewarding.
It's all about approaching marriage from a realistic point of view. It's about accepting that you've got baggage and your spouse has baggage. You've got issues and your spouse has issues. You're not perfect and your spouse isn't either. And sometimes, the weight of all of that requires taking some time apart, just to catch your breath. Yet if during that time, you're being real and honest about what you need, you're willing to forgive your spouse (as well as yourself) for things that cannot be changed, you are open to getting back to the foundation of the relationship (friendship) and doing things that made you fall for one another in the first place (like casual dates)—you could come back together in a more realistic space and being realistic about life—including marriage—is always beneficial.
We live in a world where folks are quick to quit—this includes quit on each other. Please try and see separation as an option before divorce, OK? I've worked with many couples where, approaching it from the space that I just shared, it actually saved their marriage. Took it to another level too. And I want the same for you. Divorce is a lot. Try separating first. Chances are, you absolutely won't regret it. I mean that.
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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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Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood. We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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