Q: Can bad sex ruin a relationship even with a good connection?
A: Dear Reader,
Yes, it absolutely can. But it doesn't have to. Sex is one of those relationship factors that people barely talk about but expect to be on the same page when it comes down to the act. You mentioned that there was a good connection between the two of you. Use that to your advantage. Hopefully you and your partner have open communication with each other and are able to talk openly about how you think and feel. Otherwise, holding your feelings in could lead to resentment towards your partner. And unresolved resentment is bad business.
There are a few things I want you to think about. How important is sex to you? Is bad sex a dealbreaker? There are some requirements that every person absolutely must and absolutely must not have in a partner. These are what I call “non-negotiables”. For example, some people must date someone of the same religion. Some people will not date someone who smokes. Think about what you need sexually and the flexibility of those needs. Also consider your partner's sexual past may be limited or she/he may have a long history of bad sex and not even know it. Here's where you come in. You can teach your partner how to please you without bruising the very fragile ego. Make it fun and creative; I'm sure you'll even learn a thing or 2 about yourself and your partner. Note that this may take some patience and a little compromise. But if you have a relationship that is sturdy, then this can been seen as a way to bond and be closer to your partner.
Reader, you are going to have to take control of the situation because you, like the rest of us, are responsible for our own sexual happiness.
Ask your anonymous questions on sex and relationships HERE!
**The following blog series is told in brief from my perspective, and only my perspective. Any names that may be used have been changed. **
There’s just no way that I can fit all of the details of life in Cameroon in one short blog post, so I’ll give a little insight into various aspects of life.
Life in Douala was interesting. Douala is the economic capital of Cameroon, so people are always up and out and hustling. Everyone is Hustle Man! My neighborhood was no different. The woman who lived at the top of my street sold bananas and cell phone minutes (no unlimited plans). The “pineapple man” was to the right, and there was a little produce shop across the street. I lived in Bonaberi, which is one of many areas around Douala. In order to get to work or other activities, I had to cross a bridge that hovered over the Wouri River. There was one way in and one way out, so you had to hope for the best if there was an accident, or if the rain was bad (especially during rainy season), or during rush hours. During traffic slow downs, you would see people walking between cars selling snacks and drinks.
The neighborhood was relatively quiet. In the early weekday mornings, I’d hear children squabbling while carrying buckets of water home from a nearby source. Later, I’d hear most of them giggling while walking to school. A chocolate plant was nearby, so outside it often smelled like my dreams. I got many a rude awakening on Sunday mornings when the minister from the church on the opposite side of the road would passionately preach OVER A LOUDSPEAKER. I never truly adjusted to that. The neighbors called me “America”, which I never liked. I just wanted to blend in!
While in Douala, I worked as a high school English, Literature, and Grammar teacher. We worked 6 days a week in this Pre-K through Grade 12 private school in Bonanjo. Though it technically wasn’t an international school, our students were from many places, such as Lebanon, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, France, and China. Being a teacher comes with inherent challenges. Let me be clear, teenagers are teenagers anywhere, so the same drama and milestones you may expect from the youth in your area happened there too. My students were always my favorite part of my day. While I was their teacher, believe that they taught me a lot too. The major adjustment came in dealing with the adults. The administration is what made the job especially difficult.
Teachers were constantly snitching on one another. My boss made a habit of docking pay due to “infractions”. We were only allowed to call one another by our last names. We were required to wear suits everyday. On top of our usual work, we were required to write and send daily reports to the boss. They had to be written in a very specific format, and were sent back filled with red comments (remember your English classes?) with a demand to resubmit the same report. Teachers were often pitted against one another, and would be interrogated by the boss when he was in town. Making friends with co-workers was not encouraged. Rumors were started that I was dating one of the male teachers there. Once, this male teacher took me and the other American teacher to a cafe because I wanted french fries. I was later questioned about that. We were consistently explaining ourselves, or being corrected. We had to stand up when he came into a room, and could sit after he acknowledged us. There’s so much more I could say, but you probably get the point. My kids, or “my faces” as I would call them, were my motivation. The fact that we depended on each other made the late nights and early mornings, the frustration, and headaches worth it. I still talk with them via Facebook; I made a separate profile page to stay connected.
Since there were no movie theaters, skating rinks, bowling alleys, or the like, I did a lot of exploration around Douala and the surrounding areas. I would ask people what they and their friends did for fun, and many people would say “drink with friends”. You could pass through the streets and see people sitting outside at various restaurants and establishments chatting and drinking with their peers. I found so much culture and entertainment through a variety of shows, plays, film screenings, art installations, and other performances. It just took a little more effort to find events, but once you made those connections with people, you were set. The nightlife was like any other city; where you have young people, you have clubs. Rue de la Joie, or Street of Joy is known for having an assortment of clubs and restaurants that people can frequent.
My favorite place in Douala was a little cafe that I practically lived in. It was in an area called Bali, and was where all of the artists, Rastas, eclectic, and creatives went. I had found my people! The cafe had a tiny menu that essentially consisted of cafe au lait, cafe au lait with rum, tea, and tea with rum. The seating was open and limited, so oftentimes you’d end up sitting with strangers. I met people from all over the world there. There were open mic nights, and lots of soul and reggae music. On some nights “Aunties” grilled fresh fish out front. If they liked you, you got a discount or extra miondo. Sometimes the stranger you sat next to didn’t share your language but you’d end up having the best conversations. On the many days I needed to escape my house or relax after a long day, that place was my refuge. Someone (I still don’t know who) saw me there and told my boss. He later questioned me about it and said that I shouldn’t be associated with “those people”. I went back the next day. I found community there, and wasn’t willing to let that go.
This will be short because there isn’t much to report! I didn’t think about dating much while I was in Douala. I didn’t plan to be there forever, and I was still trying to get some closure from the heartbreak that sparked this blog series. Cameroon does NOT lack fine men, but I wasn’t trying to date any of them. What was difficult was determining whether someone liked me for me, or for my passport. There were men who were very clear about their intentions; they thought I could bring them to my country or that we could have a baby so the child could be American. Some were married, or were already involved. Once, I decided to actually go on a date and... let’s just say that it didn’t work out. I’m sure every guy didn’t have ulterior motives, but I also didn’t make an effort to find out.
However, there was this one guy...
**The following blog series is told in brief from my perspective, and only my perspective. Any names that may be used have been changed. **
I knew I wouldn't like my boss from the second I met him. My discernment is a prayed for and practiced gift. I remember letting out a sigh to myself after he called out “Ms. Marshall?” I had JUST stepped into the Douala airport, a hot and slightly confusing place, after almost 24 hours of travel. I extended my hand towards him. He shook it and pointed to my nose stating “ You know you’ll have to take that out right?” He was pointing to my tiny nose ring. We’re 5 minutes into this and he’s already proving my gut right. I didn’t answer. Anyway, I asked to call my anxiously waiting parents to let them know I had arrived. I spoke to them briefly and told them that I’d call them again once I settled in a bit. We drove to my housing. Along the way, we made small talk and I gazed at all of the beautiful greenery and people in the various neighborhoods. Some parts along the way reminded me of Jamaica or Trinidad. We pulled off of the paved road onto a bumpy, dirt road. He had to swerve to miss tire-swallowing craters in the ground. The people walking looked into the car as they avoided the car’s direct path. Could be genuine curiosity. Or that we were in a Benz. When we approached the front gate of the house he honked, and it opened. A young woman with a skirt, blazer, and heels smiled and closed the gate behind us after we drove in. The young woman would be my roommate. I was led upstairs to a simple but spacious room in a relatively sizable house. I was then informed that a welcome dinner would be happening and that I should change. A little later, I put on the least wrinkled thing unrolled from my donated suitcase and went downstairs. My boss and a few of his friends were in the dining room that was decorated with children's’ drawings and photos of Black American and African leaders. It turned out that the home I was living in was the old facility of the academy I would be teaching in. I sat down to a table to full of food, while my roommate was going back and forth putting dishes and utensils on the table. I hoped the scurrying and heels weren’t for me. As I reached for different foods, the others at the table explained what each dish was. I was introduced to ndole, eru, pounded fufu, miondo, and more. I received a collective warning when I took a large spoonful of what I thought was sauce to go over my rice. It was pepper sauce, considered to be very spicy. I poured a tiny bit onto my plate and dipped my roasted fish in it to taste. I HAVE NEVER FELT SUCH FIRE. I tried to play it cool, but I’m pretty sure the stream of tears gave me away. It’s okay though, I recovered.
Much of the conversation around the table was geared towards learning about who I was and what I could expect from living in Douala. As we were finishing the meal, my boss said were were going to his friend’s house. Honestly, I was not interested in meeting anyone else that day. I felt like he wanted to parade his new American for his friends to see. I never saw any of the people from that day again. Alas, he and I, along with my roommate, got into the car and drove out of Bonaberi into another part of the city. The people we met were nice. I refused the food they offered ( we JUST finished eating), but accepted something to drink. You do NOT go into someone’s home and not accept SOMETHING. It’s… “unAfrican”. Ha!
If you have ever been on a long flight or changed time zones, you know that jet lag can be rough. While I was at these folks’ house, I started to get really sleepy. I was dozing off while my boss and his friends were trading stories about….who knows. I asked to excuse myself and wait in the car until they were done. Sleep hit me again as I sat in the car. I shifted slightly as I heard the car doors open and close. I jumped up, startled, when my boss’ arm grazed across my breasts as he was reaching for my seatbelt. I snatched it from him and stared into his eyes as I buckled my seatbelt. Neither of us spoke a word. I was asleep, not unconscious. He never tried anything like that after that incident, but it did not stop him from being a horrible boss. It’s interesting that he could not open his mouth to tell me to buckle up, but had no problem telling me about my existence and saying blatantly mean things to and about me. More on that later.
The first week in Douala included meeting my students, getting lost, a proposition for marriage, an argument with a taxi driver, paying too much for things, trying to adjust to the heat, and trying to learn enough French to get me to and from work. I was not provided an escort or much assistance in transitioning into the city or the culture, so I dove in and, after some bumps, lots of questions, and confusion, started to get the swing of things. This was my new home, and I wanted to get the most out of it.
**The following blog series is told in brief from my perspective, and only my perspective. Any names that may be used have been changed. **
This story begins in heartbreak. I was in a relationship for about 4 years. I loved this man y’all. We were supposed to travel the world, get married, and have squishy brown babies. We talked about the future. We helped each other with our businesses. We were gonna be the next (insert powerful Black couple here.) One day he asked if we could talk. At the end of that conversation, I was packing everything I had in trash bags and stuffing them into my car. If you asked me then, I would have said that it was was a sudden breakup. But the truth is, a steady decline had been happening before that day. Things started to feel different. There was a lot less laughter, and the good morning kisses had all but stopped. This was happening at a particularly difficult time in life. I was having family issues, medical problems, and was in a perpetual state of always having more month than money. So when the man I loved was over it, over us, I didn’t know what to think. Talk about feeling kicked when you’re already down. To be honest, I couldn’t have been the best girlfriend. I was ALWAYS stressed. I really did love him deeply, but maybe it wasn’t expressed in a way that he could receive. All of my “stuff” could have been too much, or I could have been slowing his life plans down. Either way, it was over and I was crushed. Like, cry over a pint of ice cream, play Another Star and Peachtree Blues over and over, sleep every chance I got, not talking to anyone, type crushed. Yep, I looked like some teenage girl from a romantic comedy. Here I was, really trying to love someone, and this is what happened. But, I put on a front like I was okay. I even tried talking to him a few times post breakup. It was always strange for me, but my intention was to be there for him. I emailed him once stating that I was willing to keep communication open and that I loved him. He didn’t say it back. He said we should let our communication flow naturally. (Did I get “ghosted” and didn’t know? Yikes.) I never told him about an opportunity that was presented to me while we were still together. A friend told me about an opportunity to live and teach in Cameroon and South Africa. I was excited about the possibility but didn’t consider it because I was supposed to travel the world, get married, and have squishy babies. After we broke up, this opportunity reappeared and I thought about it. A lot. I asked every friend for advice. This was an chance to jump out there and do something different. Plus, what did I have to lose? I decided to apply. There were interviews and waiting and paperwork and waiting and follow up and, you guessed it, waiting. But I was accepted. I told my parents, and let’s just say that they weren’t as excited as I. I think all they heard was “I…..move….Africa”. I decided that this was going to happen. I needed a change in my life. As one does, I made an announcement on Facebook and received lots of congratulations. My ex reached out to me wanting to meet for dinner before I departed the country. I was initially hesitant to accept. Nerves, I suppose. But I agreed to meet. I must have put on 15 different things and styled my curls at least 8 different ways before selecting anything. Of course my hair wasn’t cooperating and nothing looked right. If this was the last time we were going to see each other, I (a.k.a. my ego) wanted him to remember me. I wasn’t about to be heartbroken AND raggedy. I honestly don’t remember a lot of what was said, or even I spoke much at all during dinner. I do remember it being calm and polite; no discussion of issues or memories. The last hug goodbye was tough. The last time I saw him was on Peachtree St. wishing me well on my impending adventure.
I had been in Cameroon a couple of weeks getting settled in. I finally got a phone and decided to log into my social media to check in with people. After answering messages on Facebook, I scrolled through Instagram. I came across a photo from my ex and went to his page. One photo particularly stood out. There was a photo of a woman’s legs with the caption: her. Her? Who was this? Those weren’t my legs! At this point, we’d been apart a few months. Had he moved on already? I was confused how he could empty me out of his heart and fill it up with someone else so quickly. But like Common said “It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine.” Maybe it was that “love at first sight” thing that people talk about. But I had questions. Who was she? Where did they meet? Was she around when we were together? Was she prettier? Did I do something wrong? What did she have that I didn’t? My mind went through so many twists and turns.
I must have stewed over that for a few days before really checking myself. Why was I stressing about someone who obviously wasn’t thinking about me? I thought that maybe I should have told him that I loved him more often, or worked harder, or dressed up more. I could have done all those things and the outcome could have been exactly the same. For some reason, this was supposed to end and I had to swallow that pill. That was a nasty pill. There are cases when things end and you won’t get the answers you are seeking. Honestly, seeking answers could do more damage than what’s been done. How many of you have ever thought back on a past relationship or situation and realized that you actually dodged a bullet? What if you held on to something or someone who’s time simply had expired? How many of you HAVE held onto someone or something when your gut/intuition/obvious sign to you to release that? You cannot make someone love you or force a situation to change. So, I made the choice to let it go. It was still frustrating, but necessary for me in order to move on. After all, I was about to embark on the most interesting year of my life to date.
Part 2 coming soon...
“So, what’s your new name?”
After a word of congrats, or a request to see photos, this is the question I’ve been getting for the past 2-ish weeks. I married my wonderful husband at the beginning of this month. We are brand-newlyweds, and it’s pretty great so far.
I usually reply “It’s still Marshall, I didn’t change my name.” For those who need extra time processing, they’ll ask if his last name is Marshall too, and I’ll have to repeat that I didn’t change my name. Then some form of shade (side eye, scowl, head shake, etc.) follows. People have demanded an explanation on my choice (sorry, I left my Powerpoint presentation at home.) I’ve been told that I should change it. The first couple of times I dismissed this direct order, but then I started asking people why. I didn’t hear anything beyond a “because you should” or that it’s tradition. A lot of things were and are tradition, but that doesn’t make them correct or a one-size-fits-all for everyone. I’m sorry, but “because” will not suffice for an answer.
During our engagement, I brought the name change thing up to my then fiance. I told him my thoughts, which included compromising on a hyphenated last name if that’s what was needed. He told me that he wanted to marry ME, and that he will support what I wanted. Aaaand, that was the end of that conversation. The only two people that this deals with are already in agreeance, and everyone else is just being informed. We were set a LONG TIME AGO. According to one article, more women are keeping their maiden names for a variety of reasons. I’m the last child and if I change my name, it disappears. Plus, I like my name and I want to keep it.
One person said “Are you a feminist or something?” I don’t think I’ve ever directly labeled myself as a feminist. I’m a “support whatever a choice a woman wants to make about her body and her life” person. If that’s a feminist, sign me on up. If a woman wants to adopt her spouse’s name, hyphenate, keep her birth name, or create a new name, I’m here for it. To be COMPLETELY honest, I really don't care. Everyone’s relationship is unique, so why expect everyone to do the same, exact thing? Both of my parents walked me down the aisle. The awesome minister who married us respectfully left out the “who gives this woman away” part of the ceremony at my request. Still married. Still chillin.
What I find most disrespectful, is when people ask my husband’s last name, and say “I’m gonna call you Mrs. Thomas anyway”. I expect for my choices to be respected, like I do for others. That’s in an ideal world I know, but it’s still annoying when MY life decisions are judged or dismissed. This is where the conversation go alllll the way left. I did not ask for anyone’s opinion on this, because I was clear on what I wanted.
People are also concerned about my children (whom don’t yet exist), and what their last names will be. Everybody calm down. The kiddies will be fine. They will not collapse in despair if they have to write a few more letters at the top of their assignments.
Me choosing not to change my last name does not make me any less married, less in love, or less committed. It does not mean that I do not trust him or marriage. I realize that new people who meet us and know we’re married will assume and call me Mrs. Thomas. And I won’t be offended. As a society, we assume they folks follow the same path. But, if you DO know, I expect the courtesy of calling me by MY name.
I expected SOME changes after getting married. But this? I wasn't ready!
If you are or were married, how did you approach this topic? If you changed your name, what are your reasons? If you are not yet married, how do you plan to navigate this?
June 27th is National HIV testing day. It's purpose is to encourage everyone to know their status. Whether you are married, dating, in a "situationship", or single, you STILL need to know your status.
You know, the only way to know if you have hiv is to get tested. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 8 people infected with HIV don't know it. An estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the Untied States and that number grows by nearly 50,000 yearly. Do you know why people are always giving out statistics regarding HIV and AIDS? It's to help with realizing how close these diseases are to you. It's not "over there", it's right in our back and front yards.
I encourage you to have open dialogue with your significant others, family members, children, and friends about sex and sexuality. This is how we break down the stigma that has been consistently injecting fear and ignorance in our communities.
HIV is a preventable disease. This means that it doesn't have to be the epidemic that it has become. But we have to be proactive. Have those not so comfortable conversations. Stay informed. Take care of your health...by the way, your sexual health is just as important as all of the other parts of your overall health.
No one should be making fun of Charlie Sheen's recent confession. Regardless of what you think of his behavior, he has HIV. I don't know him, but I assume that he has the funds and support system to help him through this. However, MANY people don't. MANY people are in silence. Negative reactions are what keep the awful stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS alive. It is NOT a "promiscuous" disease or something that only affects people who sleep with others of the same sex. In fact, 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have HIV and DO NOT KNOW IT. To break it down, this means that your co-worker, friend, family member, the person you sit next to on the train, or YOU could have the virus. The only way to know is to GET TESTED. HIV is not a death sentence. People live full and productive lives with HIV. They have happy and healthy relationships with HIV. But you HAVE to KNOW YOUR STATUS. We have to dispel the myths around HIV and get educated. Stop passing judgement. Talk about sex with your friends, your children, your partners, your church. Please make your sexual health a part of your overall health. There are many free and low cost resources in many communities year round. Utilize safer sex practices, ASK QUESTIONS OF YOUR PARTNERS, and GET TESTED. We gotta know what our bodies are doing y'all. Get some knowledge so we can break the stigma.
This quick post is about why you shouldn’t trip over Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I think it can be a really sweet day where people get to express themselves in a loving and special way. However, I do think it can also be a day of pressure and anxiety for those without a significant other, or those thinking they have to be extravagant and pull out all the stops. Below is why I think we should chill on the intensity:
· Don’t have a significant other? So what? Who said Valentine’s Day has to be about romantic love? Yes, if you let media and the stores that have had pink and red hearts up and down their aisles since December tell it, it’s only about being snuggled up with your honey. I don’t know about you, but I have family, friends, and a very adorable dog that I can love and show appreciation to.
· Rose petals leading up to the bed after dining on champagne and oysters? Sure! Pizza and a binge watching session of House of Cards before the new season comes out? Sure! A quiet walk around the neighborhood? Sure! My point is, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to look like the movies. It can look any way you want. The point is that you are comfortable and feel loved with whoever you’re with. Don’t stress!
· Don’t break the bank. Just, don’t. I know people want to make their significant others feel special, but if you have to eat ramen noodles or PB&J sandwiches for 3 weeks until you can recover financially, maybe there should be some reevaluation involved. Look at the big picture and see if that new item is really feasible. Gifts are great, but you should not be strained when I’m sure your partner would love your quality time and affection. What’s more valuable?
· Is this your 1st Valentine’s Day with someone? Spending it with someone new? Nice. I’d like to encourage folks to keep the pressure to a minimum. Valentine’s Day does NOT equal I’m Guaranteed Sex Night. Nope. If that’s your intention with someone, you better state it up front! Hey, maybe the other person is down for the cause. Don’t think that someone gives you their time or money, or you spend time or money, that sex is a guarantee. Be honest and have the best intentions please.
· We happen to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th. But guess what? March 3rd, May 2nd , July 16th , October 23rd, and ALL the other days on the calendar are also Valentine’s Day! Didn’t y’all hear what Andre 3000 said? Every day is the 14th! This holiday has been so hyped that sometimes we feel we have to dump ALL of the love we ever had into this ONE day. We have 364 other days to show love too! I don’t want to take away the meaning some people have put into this day- for some, Valentine’s Day is magic. Keep that idea! I just also want to put it out there that any and every day can be magical. Spread the love around! J
· My last point is that YOU ARE LOVED. Point. Blank. Period. I better not see any of you moping around because you have SO much love surrounding you, that just one day cannot contain it! Take a second to think of the people and things you are grateful for. Feel that? That’s awesomeness. Be thankful for the love that you had, instead of being upset about the love you think you want.
Well, my friends, that’s all I have to say for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and any additional advice you’d add to my list. Have a loving Valentine’s Day, however you may celebrate it!!
The ending of my last relationship was tough on me. It came at a difficult time in my life, when I was trying to get a lot of things in order. I was heartbroken. I was sad. I was mad and confused. I thought about all of the things that could’ve gone differently.
Four years in a committed relationship meant ups and downs, and also a lot of lessons.
We, generally speaking, talk negatively about our exes. We mention how crazy she is, or how he was a dog. Rarely do I hear people talk about the positive qualities of their exes or what they learned from their ceased relationships. Of course, no one likes a relationship to end when you weren’t expecting it or weren’t ready. But, I always believe things happen (or don’t) for a reason.
My Mom regularly sends me motivational emails. In one recent email, there was a mention of having an “attitude of gratitude”. I think this can be applied to all aspects of life, including our relationships. Looking at the good in others and the good in relationships help us heal from past hurts and help us to seek healthier partnerships in the future. Yes, I went through the initial breakup feelings (see first paragraph). But after I was over those feelings, I looked at all of the things I learned and experienced. I’m grateful to say that I learned a lot from being in my past relationship. Below are a few of those things.
- Cooking! I admit it: before I met my ex, I ate like my 8 year old self, and was quite content with that. I could throw something together that was edible and decent, but he taught me the basics and some of the fanciness of the art of cooking. And I actually enjoyed it. I never knew the world of wine was so immense or how to make a black bean burger from scratch. Now I know.
- Money management: My ex was one of the most responsible people I have ever met. He had great organization and discipline when it came to money. I took the budget spreadsheet he helped me with when I moved to Cameroon, and it really helped me keep track of my income and expenses. Now that I’m back in the states, I’m able to adjust it according to my new life. It’s a motivational tool to spend less, save more, and get ahead financially.
- Business savvy: One of the most important things I learned from my ex is some business knowledge. He has a business background and was willing to go over the details of my business with me. I was challenged to think outside of the box, be creative, and be thorough in planning.
These are not the only things I’ve learned or are grateful for. These are just a few examples. Keeping that “attitude of gratitude” kept me from being bitter and wallowing in my hurt feelings. Who has time for that? Focus on the good, learn, and KEEP IT MOVING.
I’d like you to think about your past relationship. What things will you take or have you taken into your next relationship? What have you left behind? What did you learn from your ex? Share below.
Sexy people rock.