I'll just say, off rip, that while we encourage comments on all of our articles, when it comes to this one in particular, when I wouldn't just encourage it; I'd deeply appreciate it. The reason why I say that is because—pause—is it just me, or is traditional marriage becoming more and more taboo these days? Although I totally get, believe and support the fact that, since each marriage consists of two individuals, every union is automatically unique in a variety of ways, it does seem like some things that used to apply to all—or at least most—relationships, simply don't anymore.
The Couple Who Sleeps Apart Stays Together
Take sleeping together, for example. Recently, we published "Larenz Tate On Why Sleeping In Separate Bedrooms Is A Must In His Marriage". I watched the interview that the piece was pulled from (what he says about our people and our community is stellar). From what I remember, Larenz said that he sleeps in another room in a joking kind of way. He also said that it was 1) because his wife is mad fertile and 2) sometimes, after decompressing from a role, the space can be good for their relationship overall. But after he got so much media attention for talking about sleeping in another bedroom, I decided to dig around, just to see how common married couples sleeping in separate beds actually is. You know what? He's not even close to being the only one who does it.
Today published an article last month citing a survey (via a company called Mattress Clarity) of 3,000 Americans.
31 percent said that they are all about getting a "sleep divorce"—you know, remaining married but not sleeping together. Not only that but 1 in 4 couples already sleep in separate bedrooms or beds.
Some of the people interviewed in that article said that it was "cool" because sleeping apart provides the chance to have command of the entire room. Plus, you can get your own space in the process. Then there are the couples who sleep apart because one or both spouses snore. A lot. And loudly. If they are going to remain sane, short of a pillow over their (or their spouse's) head, sleeping apart was the only option for them.
That got me to do some off the cuff interviewing of married couples who I personally know. When I asked a few of them if sleeping apart was ever a consideration, this is what some of them said (I'm leaving real names out on purpose):
*Allison. Married 10 Years. "Trust me, if I could get my husband to consider it, I definitely would. Between us both liking the room a different temperature and him always wanting to cuddle when I'd prefer to sleep without all of that all of the time, I'm sure I'd get a lot more rest."
*Andre. Married Four Years. "Sharing a bed is an adjustment. I mean, as much as I love my wife, there are times when you just want some alone time. We've never talked about sleeping in separate beds, but I can't say that I'd be opposed to it."
*Mark. Married 25 Years. "The Bible doesn't say that 'sex in marriage is undefiled'; it says that 'the marriage bed is undefiled'. There is something intimate and special about sharing a bed with my wife. I've never considered not doing it. Not once." (The Scripture he's referring to is Hebrews 13:4, by the way.)
*Crystal. Married Seven Years. "Why does it seem like folks are looking for more ways to not be married? Your spouse is not someone who comes over for a slumber party. A part of what comes with marriage is sharing a bedroom and a bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, if you ask me."
How Many Married Couples Actually Live in Different Homes?
See what I mean? Different people bring different views into the concept of marriage. As far as what Crystal said, although I definitely get why she feels that way, it might trip her—and a lot of other people—out that it has been reported that approximately four million married couples live apart. The reasons vary from conflicting work schedules and personal preference to one partner being incarcerated or in a nursing home. In the article that cited the sleep divorce stat, it featured couples who said they are very happy being married and not sharing a roof. Psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina said it works well for so many because, "Couples who are living apart successfully are individuals who like living alone, but still want companionship and the financial benefits of marriage." Soo…it's like dating exclusively but still getting a tax write-off? Interesting.
When I read another article on the topic, a counselor said he does it as a way to keep a couple from divorcing. He has the spouses sign a 120-day contract stating that although they will agree to live apart, physical and emotional affairs were not allowed. According to him, it worked for some of his couples. As a result of being apart, they were more proactive about spending a few nights a week together and "sleeping over" on the weekends.
Yeah. That still sounds like dating to me. I mean, as a marriage life coach who specializes in reconciling divorced couples, I dig the whole married-but-living-apart approach as a last-ditch effort before two people decide to call it quits. But for two people who aren't in marital trouble, doesn't it provide an unrealistic approach to the marital dynamic? Isn't it kind of like "playing house" or being "kinda sorta" married? And as far as what Tina said about couples living apart because they would prefer to be alone, why not just be…single?
Because honestly, a lot of what I've shared about all of this sounds a lot like another article—"More Older Couples Stay Together Because They Live Apart". It was published this past July and it features couples who aren't married but are in committed relationships. Basically, the article gets into the fact that more and more seniors are opting out of getting married or living with someone; instead, they prefer to have dinners with their significant other during the week and sleepovers on the weekend. One of the studies in the article stated that unmarried couples between 57-85 were twice as likely to live apart than together these days. All because they enjoy being together without living together.
I get that. I mean, I personally have no intentions on living with someone prior to saying "I do". But again, that's speaking to single folks and a perk of being single is not having to share your space if you don't want to. But when you're married, is it cool—and more than cool, is it realistic—to have the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities as well? Isn't actually living together a part of the marriage package?
I went back to the four people I interviewed about sleeping vs. not sleeping with their spouse. This is what they had to say on the matter.
*Allison. "Girl, I wish I would tell my husband that we should live in different houses. I think that taking girl and guy trips without your partner sometimes is cool, but living apart sounds like you're separated. It also seems like you're living in a fantasy world. If you're not having to deal with the day-to-day of being with the person you vowed to spend your life with, you're not married in its totality."
*Andre. "I haven't been married five years and already get how awesome this whole concept could be. I also think it can make you think that you're single when you're not. Being married is about sharing more than last names and tax write-offs. It's about sharing your entire world. That's hard to do under two different roofs."
*Mark. "I bet a man came up with this whole 'Hey babe, let's be married but live apart' thing. Sounds like another version of the cow vs. the milk if you ask me. When you live with someone, you really get to know them. It also teaches you a lot about yourself. Marriage isn't for selfish people. If you're down with living apart from your spouse, that sounds pretty convenient…convenient to the point of being really self-absorbed."
*Crystal. "Shellie, do you really have to ask what I think? If you don't want to live with someone, don't get married. It's as simple as that."
If you're curious what I think, I actually have a ton of thoughts on all of this. But the Reader's Digest version would probably be, if you'd be down to not live with your spouse, ask yourself why. The answers could very well reveal if you've truly contemplated all that comes with marriage. Because Allison and Andre are right—if you don't want to share your entire life, if you only want to give access to pieces and parts of it, why get married at all?
But again, I want to hear your thoughts as well; especially if you happen to be a married person who is currently living in a different spot than your spouse (and it's not due to a separation). What are the pros? What are the cons? Do you think it's a wise thing to do or do you advise against it?
Since there are currently millions of married couples who don't live together, if there's one thing that we all can agree on, to a large extent, is there is no one way to be married. Some people are making theirs work and last by choosing to ditch the tradition of living with their partner. Instead, they seem to be more in love than ever by actually choosing to live apart.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating
These 7 Married Men Have Some Marriage Myths They Want To Debunk
I'm Not Your Relationship Goals: A Word To Single Ladies From A Married Woman
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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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Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
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The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
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5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
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