OK, so here's a fun fact. If any of you caught the piece that I wrote about turning 45 a couple of months ago, you might recall the part where it said that I've been out of church as long as I've been abstinent (which is almost 13 years now). This doesn't mean that I'm "anti-church"; it just means that my journey is different. It's as simple and as layered as that. Anyway, before I made my transition out, the last official pastor that I had was a man by the name of Calvin Roberson. If his name rings a bell to you, it may be because he is currently known as "Pastor Cal" on Lifetime's Married at First Sight (life is a trip, ain't it?).
Sometimes, it really does trip me out that he's on there, so the combination of him being an expert and the social experiment approach of the show overall, will sometimes pull me in to check out an episode. Recently, I caught one where Calvin—sorry, Pastor Cal—was talking to a guy by the name of Greg (who actually seems to be really cool) about how things were progressing with his new wife, Deonna. As Greg was in the midst of expressing the belief that he felt that he could someday "fall in love" with her, Pastor Cal interjected and said, "I don't believe people 'fall in love'; you grow in love." Hmph. That goes right in line with a quote by Albert Einstein that is on the front of one of my shirts—"Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."
I chuckled to myself when I reflected on the fact that clearly Pastor Cal—oh, and Mr. Einstein—are not big fans of the phrase "fall in love". The reason why that stood out is because I aggressively purse my lips whenever I hear people use "make love" to define the act of sex. Chile, I know some people who don't even know their partner's middle name or sexual health status who say they "make love" to them. Honestly, I think them playing that phrase on repeat can cause it to go into their psyche and result in them ultimately becoming disillusioned by their partner and by sex. Sex is and does a lot of things. The oxytocin that's in it even helps you to feel closer to your partner (it's scientifically proven). But assuming that giving somebody some is gonna make them love you…to fall in love with you? If you really and truly believe that, I believe, with everything in me, that you are in for quite the emotional roller coaster ride; one that I'm pretty sure will cause all sorts of emotion sickness. No doubt about it, turned out and in love are not synonymous. I promise you that.
So, why is it that so many people subscribe to the mindset that love is something that we fall into, sex is something that makes love transpire and/or that the love experience, overall, is something that we cannot control? I blame Disney. And Hollyweird. And Barbie and Ken dolls. And us listening to love songs while we sleep. And so much of church leadership—including the married couples in them—trying to act like they are perfect when they are anything but. And us listening to our friends more than our mentors. And many of our parents not being forthcoming about how they gave their virginity away (because no one "loses" it; we all know where our virginity went), their first love experience and what made them choose one another to make us with.
Facades. Fantasies. Straight-up lies. They all play a role in what has caused so many of us to believe that love is purely emotional (as if it has no logic or common sense attached to it); that we couldn't do anything about how we feel if we tried (and really, how many of us actually do try?).
Am I saying that we can control basic level attraction or interest? It depends on what you mean by "control". I see people—not all of the time but fairly enough—who I wink at (in my head). But as far as feeding into that attraction or interest? I can control that. I can decide if I want to approach them or not. Or, if we happen to strike up a conversation, I can control if I want them to be able to reach me after that exchange. The initial appeal doesn't have me so seduced that I can't think straight.
Or, if I go on a date with someone. I am a huge supporter of knowing what you want and what you don't want before going out with someone. I also believe that the first and second dates can help you figure out if an individual fits the bill or not (which is why I'm not an advocate of movie-going on the first couple of outings). No matter how much chemistry a guy and I may have, no matter how much charm he may turn on, since I know I'm interested in something long-term, and since I also I know at this point what will complement my life (or not), I can control how much time, effort and energy that I will pour into "him".
So, if I can control what to do with surface level attraction and even the beginning stages of a dating dynamic, why can't I control who I love? I can. And should. And do. Love comes after these things. What I do on the front end determines if I come to love someone. Or not.
There is an author by the name of Michael R. French who once said, "Falling in love is more than infatuation. It is the need to feel whole, to feel safe, to be healed, to join together with someone, heart and soul." If this resonates with you, on any level, then there is some part of you who believes that you can indeed control who you love as well. Why do I say that? Because if love to you is more than "foolish or all-absorbing passion" (which is what infatuation is), if you honor the purpose and power of love in your life and the life of those around you, if you do indeed believe that the Most High is the Source of Love ("God is love"—I John 4:7-16)—then love is so much more than a feeling.
Attraction and interest may ignite something within you, but in order to feel whole, safe and healed—that takes time. That requires commitment. That means you have to choose to remain in the presence and company of someone long enough to determine if you love them…and if they love you. And it's within that choice—a daily series of choices, actually—that you are able to utilize your control.
That's why, whenever folks tell me that they can't control who they love, they get the total and complete eye roll. To me, it sounds like a scapegoat approach to whatever decisions they are about to make (or are currently making). I'll cheat on my spouse because I can't control who I love. I will stay in a relationship that is totally beneath me because I can't control who I love. I'll make all sorts of reckless and irresponsible decisions that will put my heart and body in jeopardy because I can't control who I love. To believe that, to really and truly believe that, it is a total affront to love itself.
Love—real, genuine and pure love—has a divine calling. It is designed to cultivate you into your best self. It is totally devoted to protecting and nurturing you. It is not just physical but spiritual; not just something that makes us feel good, but something that matures us as well.
And here's the irony to all of this. When we love ourselves, we know that we can control who we love, because self-love teaches us how to. Self-love sends us red flags. Self-love reminds us that if our mind, body and soul are not in sync, something is unhealthy and imbalanced. Self-love ushers us into a knowing that if what I'm feeling doesn't teach me how to be greater than who I was before the feeling came along, no matter how subtle it may be, something counterfeit is transpiring. Self-love gives us the assurance of this because it echoes, on repeat, that love loves you and me too much to bring hurt, harm or danger our way. In fact, real love repels those things.
So, yes. I am firmly opposed to the belief that we can't control who we love because love is a choice. No matter what our eyes, hormones or innate desires may beckon us to give into, should we choose to move past initial attraction and interest, love tell us that we determine if we want to move forward or to totally pump the breaks. It expresses that because love is so powerful, sacred and purpose-filled, our temperance, intellect and acumen definitely get a vote on who we decide to love. All we need to do is give them a voice—and a vote.
So, if someone were to walk up to me right now and ask me, "Can you control who you love?" I would nod my head to convey an emphatic yes. So should you.
Love doesn't force itself upon you. It gives you permission to love who you want to love.
Now that you know this, please choose—to love—wisely.
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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 email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports