Transparent Black Girl Founder Yasmine Jameelah Is Redefining Wellness For Black Women
Black Woman Owned is a limited series highlighting black woman business owners who are change-makers and risk-takers in their respective realms. As founders, these women dare to be bold, have courage in being the change they wish to see in the world, and are unapologetic when it comes to their vision. These black women aren't waiting for a seat, they are owning the table.
In this life, there's work that we choose to pursue and work that chooses us. For Yasmine Jameelah, founder of Transparent Black Girl, this work was brought on by pain, growth, and healing that empowered her to take wellness into her own hands.
It was in the early stages of college that Yasmine experienced this shift. Pulled by the incarceration of her father while experiencing abuse in a relationship and deep depression, her world was flipped upside-down. Although Yasmine didn't have the language to self-declare these hurdles as the catalyst to her wellness journey, there was one thing she knew for certain, "I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself," she says.
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
Better came wrapped in the form of therapy. She started documenting this journey on her personal blog, Meant to Be Yasmine, where she opened up about her experience in therapy and holistic weight loss with her community. Through this exchange, she noticed a common thread in how her readers would relate to her stories. "They'd always say, 'I love how you're so transparent.' It was just everyone's favorite word to describe me."
Once she noticed this communal response, it became clear that the work Yasmine was pursuing was beckoning her to expand. Soon, she realized that her lone place for healing was in purpose to honor Black women and their journey to become who they were meant to be. "I wanted to do something bigger for more than just myself." Funny how God interprets our plans.
When Yasmine started her digital community, Transparent Black Girl, the small but mighty tribe was made up of 300 followers. At the time, social media was in a shift where positive content was resonating more, and Yasmine took notice. "I just started to post these memes like, 'Me: alkaline water, my flourishing bank account, consistent men, my grandmother's prayers,'" and it caught fire. After a viral post, the platform skyrocketed in its following, and it was at that moment that Yasmine knew she had something special and timely on her hands.
Today, Yasmine is on a mission to empower Black women and men to define their wellness journey on their own terms via a wellness collective called Transparent + Black. The space is unique in that it offers an accessible and equitable ecosystem for Black people to heal. As Yasmine puts it, "With trauma, it's important to address that there's no collective healing unless we address the collective trauma that we all share as a people."
For decades, society has given Black folks molds to fit into in order to belong in certain spaces, but when it comes to mental health and intergenerational healing, Yasmine's purpose is clear, "Wellness is as multi-faceted as we are."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
xoNecole: You’ve mentioned that “you didn’t find wellness, wellness found you.” Take us back to that season. Where was Yasmine when wellness found her?
Yasmine Jameelah: The older I get, the more I realize that, in many ways, wellness was always inside of me. When I turned 18, I hit a really deep depression. My father went to prison, I gained over 100 pounds, and I was extremely depressed. And while most people spend their first few years of college having the time of their life and having all of this fun, I spent the first few years of college isolated. On the weekend when my friends would be going out to clubs, I was visiting my father in jail. While that was happening, I found myself in a really abusive relationship, and to say the least, my life was a hot mess.
What changed everything for me was therapy. I decided that I just wasn't happy anymore and at that point, I didn't really have the language to be like, 'This is a wellness journey.' I just felt like I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself. I finally decided that I was going to leave the [abusive] relationship and go to therapy. I found a therapist and that opened up so many doors for me.
Why was it important for you to place an emphasis on transparency, not only for yourself but for the women who make up the Transparent Black Girl collective?
I'm like a real-life transparent Black girl, so if anything, I think that this space has allowed me to be comfortable in that. Since I was a kid, I always felt like I shared too much, so this has been a space where I have felt power in owning every part of who I am. While I am transparent, the older I've gotten, I have become more selective about who I share with and even how I share. The days of me being a blogger and talking about so much, I don't even share to that magnitude anymore. But there is still so much vulnerability that goes into what I share with our followers and with the women that we meet when we have events in real life.
How have you found power in your transparency?
I just feel like it's given me confirmation that God made me the way that I am for a reason. I used to feel embarrassed about being so transparent. I used to wish I could be like people who were super-selective and who didn't share their feelings and weren't open books. But I think redefining Black wellness and owning who you are is a part of wellness. I went from being really embarrassed about being such a sharer to finding a lot of strength in it. The goal is to remind yourself that being a Transparent Black Girl is to allow yourself not to shrink, own who you are as a woman, embrace your inner child, and know that there's a healer in all of us.
"For one Black woman, [wellness] can be you aligning your chakras and getting into tarot cards. For another, it may be you going to church, driving the boat occasionally, and going swimming—like myself. It's important that we honor all those experiences and not make it seem like one is better than the other."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
The work you do can be heavy at times. How have you been able to find joy while balancing what you do in this space?
Although these conversations can be heavy, there are so many beautiful opportunities that you can find to heal from trauma and there is so much joy that you can experience along the way. I have recently decided that I was going to own traumatic experiences, and while they are painful, there are so many happy moments that can occur because of them. For example, because of my weight fluctuating and having so many years where I did not feel comfortable in my body, I find so much joy in twerking, owning my sexuality, and having fun trying on different clothes. That is a joyful experience for me.
At TBG, we talk about all aspects of wellness and one of those things is Black joy. One day that can look like me going out with my friends to do yoga, but it can also look like driving the boat. So just understanding that this idea that wellness is always this meditative experience, it's just not true, at least not for me. I feel like we often believe that when we have lifestyle changes that everything has to change, and I'm just like Nah, I'm always going to have balance. I'm so grateful that our community has also leaned into that too, just understanding that this is not always going to be this super meditative experience all the time and that we're going to have fun and tend to ourselves. That might look like matcha in the morning and D'usse in the evening, and that's totally fine.
In the three years that you’ve been pursuing collective healing through Transparent Black Girl, how have you been able to redefine wellness for yourself?
I think duality is so important. When I first got into the wellness space, I was seeing women that were in the space, and, while they were doing beautiful work, all I saw them posting about was meditation, and I was like, 'I don't know if this speaks to me.' Even in terms of wellness, from the get-go, it's a very white-washed space. Because it is, we don't always feel seen and accepted. It felt like I was diminishing myself just to fit in, and I decided that I was going to have confidence and lean into owning all of the facets of who I am.
Even that was a healing experience within itself: to know that I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself. That I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change. It's been such a beautiful journey to know that I don't have to filter any parts of my personality or how I show up in the world to receive God's best for me.
Last year was such a tumultuous one, one that served a great purpose, but left a lot of us fatigued socially, politically, and mentally. In that, how has your approach to Transparent Black Girl shifted?
It taught me two things and that was one, while I was building this space, I was not doing as good of a job taking care of myself in the process. While I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself, being at home during the pandemic showed me that I really needed to double down on my self-care and be really unapologetic with it. I've been doing my best to pour into me first. It's a journey, but I'm definitely getting more confident in that.
I'd also say that in tandem, while I have learned to take care of myself more, I have also learned how to dream bigger. This last year was really difficult, and I felt at times, as a single woman and spending most of my time within the four walls of my room, I felt really isolated, but I also felt really affirmed. If I made it out of this year and made it out of all of the feelings that I was experiencing, it was for a reason. And once I collected myself, it was OK to dream more and that I could have clarity about what I was building.
"I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself—that I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
How has swimming played a role in your healing and self-care practices?
I have loved to swim ever since I was a kid. I started to swim when I was about six or seven years old. My dad was really adamant about me learning to swim and just doing stuff that they said Black people couldn't do. While that was happening, I actually had a cousin the same age as me who drowned and pass away at the Jersey shore. When I got older and started to feel self-conscious about my body, I stopped swimming for a long time. I didn't swim again for over a decade.
When I got to college, I gained weight and was trying to lose it, and I injured my knee, so I had no other choice but to swim. My physical therapist and personal trainer were like, "You should swim." I still had this fear of people judging me because of the trauma that I experienced as a kid. When I started to swim again, I fell in love with it all over again. And I swim now more than I ever have. Not only did it help me lose weight, it became this beautiful experience, like another form of therapy. It's my favorite thing to do for myself. When I'm not swimming, I don't feel like myself.
Your collective, Black + Transparent, looks to address the Black community’s needs to cope with intergenerational trauma. How were you able to tackle this fear in your own journey?
There are so many layers of the trauma that we have but there are three things that, in terms of intergenerational trauma, have kept us at risk of certain things. [One] is access to doulas, as a result of slavery. If you look back in terms of doula work, how Black women are treated in hospitals, and how midwifery is still illegal in certain states, Black women were no longer allowed to practice. Also, so many Black people still don't know how to swim, and in terms of mental health services, we are still at risk more than anyone else.
When it came to deciding what I wanted to build, looking at all three of those experiences, those are three things that we are still suffering from. So I wanted to make sure that in building a wellness space for Black people that it was rooted in the real work that we desired to address. Also, [it was important to] collaborate with intergenerational trauma therapists who are open to working with families and making sure that we're able to be just as transparent with our families as we are with ourselves and our own personal wellness journeys.
"Wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
What would you say to someone who is looking to create their own space of healing, whether through a collective or even therapy, but might be a little hesitant to start?
First, you need to know that you are worthy, even if you are in the lowest place in your life right now. I truly believe that I knew that I deserved wellness when I was deep into depression and contemplating suicide because I knew that I deserved better. That in itself is an act of wellness: knowing that you deserve better than your current circumstance. I would say that you're already on the journey if you know that whatever bottom you're in right now, you know that's not meant for you. Also, be patient with yourself. Know that while there are so many wonderful resources we can use, wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you.
Join the Transparent Black Girl community by clicking here, and keep up with Yasmine Jameelah on Instagram.
Featured image by Camille Shaw
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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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What Is A 'Monogamy Agreement' And Should You Have One?
As a writer, I've gotta admit that it can get more and more challenging to tackle certain topics. Why? It's because I'm a pretty word-literal person. Yet, like a lot of people who I witness on a daily basis, who constantly move the goalposts in order to suit whatever whim they're on at any given moment, even the dictionary has a way of doing something similar when it comes to various words' definitions.
Take monogamy, for example. When I was growing up, it meant "married to one person for a lifetime." This meant that you couldn't be remarried and technically consider yourself monogamous (because you're not with the first person you said vows to). And you definitely couldn't be living with someone or in a long-term relationship and use the word. No, for you, something like "exclusive" would be more accurate (and that's actually the word that I lean into in those instances even now).
These days, though, the goalpost says that monogamy is "marriage with only one person at a time." So, while people who've had more than one spouse can now use the word, when it comes to what we're about to dive into today (a monogamy agreement), folks who are interested in those would still be far better off going with something like "exclusive" to drive their point home. That's because this topic doesn't really have anything to do with marriage…although it does approach commitment in an interesting kind of way.
Yeah, in a world that is ever finding ways to change marriage, redefine marriage or figure out how close they can get to marriage without actually getting married, monogamy agreements have entered the chat. And because we try to cover as many bases as possible, basically on the "FYI tip," I wanted to take a moment to break down what exactly they are.
Let’s Tackle Traditional Marriage First. For Clarity’s Sake.
I won't lie — even as someone who's been working with married couples for many years now, whenever I happen upon a healthy (first) and happy (second) married couple of more than a decade, I'm halfway in shock. That's because, these days, people seem to treat the sacredness of marriage like they would a dating relationship — they have a big party in the form of a wedding, pledge to God and everyone present that they're not going anywhere (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7) and that their love is patient (I Corinthians 13:4) and then, somewhere down the line, when things get rough, they end it…only to rinse and repeat.
Now when it comes to things like infidelity and abuse, that's not what I'm speaking of here. I'm talking about there are so many people acting like they are married before they actually are (a boyfriend or girlfriend is not a husband or wife) that by the time they do say "I do," they are numbed out to the fact that a marriage is supposed to be several steps up in seriousness and sacredness than a dating dynamic is.
I definitely could go on and on about how there is supposed to be a boatload of integrity behind the vows that are exchanged between two people. However, this article isn't about marriage — it's about monogamy agreements. What I will say about marriage, for now, is it's not just about if you love someone a lot. Ask any pastor, marriage counselor, or even lawyer worth their merit, and they will confirm the fact that marriage is a legal contract — that you are not just vowing sentiments and emotional promises. No, under the law of marriage, there are also certain rights and responsibilities that you are agreeing to as well. That's why people should go into marriage with a very sober and level-headed mind because they're a lot easier to get into than they are to get out of. No doubt about it.
Speaking of legalities, let's touch on marriage licenses for a moment, shall we? Because there is something about them that you actually may not know (that I absolutely think that you should).
So, What’s the Deal with Marriage Licenses and Marriage Certificates?
Although this really could get its own article, let me just say that marriage licenses definitely deserve some level of side-eye in this country. Even though history says that it started out as being a business contract in England, in America, the long short of it is racist politicians used marriage licenses as a way to keep track of interracial couples (you can read more about it here, here, and here). Yep. So, that's part of the reason why even some traditionally married couples are not super fond of marriage licenses — because, basically, the government is "regulating" the relationship on some level.
With that cleared up, just what is the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate? Good question. A marriage license is what allows you to get married in your state prior to saying "I do," while a marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married once your wedding ceremony is actually over.
Can you get a marriage certificate without a marriage license? The short answer would be "no," although couples who fall into the category of "common law marriage" sometimes are able to work around this based on what state they live in. For everyone else, getting married without a marriage license is basically a commitment ceremony. That's because, in order to get a marriage license or marriage certificate, your state's county clerk would have to issue you one.
Now, I ain't got no lies to tell you — go to YouTube, and you will see a good amount of videos (like this one here) stating that not only can you work around not getting a marriage license, you absolutely should. To that, I'll just say that one of the biggest problems with social media is everyone is a so-called expert now, even if they have no credentials to back it up. So with that in mind, if this section of the article has you tempted to go down a long rabbit hole (and I totally get it if it does), speak with some people who have actual and literal experience in the field in your state. Don't just go rogue with your own resolve (please don't let YouTube and TikTok hem you up).
Okay, So What Is This Whole Monogamy Agreement Thing About?
So, what does all of that have to do with a monogamy agreement? Well, in order to explain why some people are opting for it as an alternative to a marriage license (or marriage altogether), it was important to explain marriage licenses and certificates just so that you could clearly get what the differences are.
Now that you know, a monogamy agreement is pretty much just how it sounds: it's an agreement that is established between two people who want to have some form of a commitment to one another, yet they don't want all of the legalities that come with traditional marriage.
If you're trying to wrap your head around that, I'll explain it to you this way. You've probably heard someone say that they wish that the marriage contract could be renegotiated every few years. For instance, rather than being "locked into" until death parts us, every five years or so, they wish that they could revisit their marriage to see if they want to opt-out, change certain initial agreements, or restructure the marriage altogether. Well, for folks who are wired this way, a monogamy agreement is probably the best route for them to take because, again, although it's not a legally binding contract, it is a formal agreement between them and their partner about what each of their expectations is.
See it like an integrity agreement — no one is making assumptions about where things stand or where things are headed (hopefully); the monogamy agreement puts things in black and white so that it's all crystal clear.
And when I say "black and white," I literally mean just that. Again, although it's not a legal contract, it is a document that lays everything out so that there is no confusion. And what do I mean by "everything"? It's totally up to you and your partner, yet some of the things that people usually include are goals and values, sexual expectations, financial responsibilities, boundaries (both in and outside of the relationship), how infidelity is defined, ultimate goals for the relationship — and yes, when the agreement is up for renegotiation whether that's in a year, five years or 10.
Who Should Consider a Monogamy Agreement?
Now that you know more about what a monogamy agreement is, let's begin to land this plane with the people a monogamy agreement may be best suited for. While at the end of the day, the short answer is anyone who wants one, there's a specific reason why I decided to even broach this topic.
It's because, while it's not (yet) earth-shattering in either direction, marriage is somewhat on the decline as cohabitation is on the rise in this country. And while research continues to reveal that married couples are more satisfied with their relationship than folks who live together and many who do cohabitate, they see it as a stepping stone towards becoming spouses at some point, let's not act like millennials (and under) aren't a bit gun shy when it comes to saying "I do."
Reportedly, 56 percent of them are not married. For many women, it's because they are prioritizing their education and careers over marriage and a family. Also, some suffer from what is known as gamophobia (the technical term for having a fear of getting married), in part due to a pattern of failed relationships, being the child of divorce (divorce affects children more than a lot of people want to accept) and what getting divorced themselves could possibly cost them. Then there are those who just never wanted to get married…yet that doesn't mean that they don't believe in some form of commitment on some level.
For individuals who don't want to casually date or even just sit at the "boyfriend/girlfriend level" for years on end, monogamy agreements may be a solid fit. You can have your own version of a commitment ceremony (or not), knowing that you're not on one page regarding what your relationship is about while your partner is somewhere totally different. There's no confusion because you literally have documentation about where the two of you are.
Now, I will say this: no agreement works if two people's words are trash (LOL). Yet honestly, that can apply to traditional marriage or a monogamy agreement. I'm just putting you on to what a monogamy agreement is all about if you've been trying to figure out how to have a serious commitment without a legal contract.
No doubt about it, monogamy agreements are gaining some real traction out in these streets.
Something for the committed-yet-not-marriage-minded.
Interesting, right? Relationships always are, chile.
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