Tag Archives: relationships

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Wanna Know Why I Never Told You He Was Beating Me?

When I fled my abusive relationship for the last time (yes, I left and went back), one of the first things my well-meaning friends and family asked was why I never told them what was happening to me.

“Why didn’t you say something,” they’d ask, looking concerned and confused.  “I could have helped you. I could have done something!”

And I believe them. Had they known how horrible my life had become, I have no doubt that they would have done their best to help me. But all this happened more than twenty-five years ago. Today, I’m healed, emotionally healthy, and over it—and have the clarity of hindsight to see that my friends and family would have helped me.

But back then, not so much. Because when you’re in the thick of things, in the middle of a Hell that you’re convinced is of your own making, you can’t see anything clearly. Fear and shame consume you—they’re your constant companions. And when you look at your family and friends, you often can only see judgment and derision. You know their opinions about women who stay in abusive relationships.

Here’s the thing, though: 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4! And Black women experience domestic/intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than white women. In other words, it’s is happening more often that you realize because we don’t talk about it enough!

Consider this scenario: You have a childhood friend with whom you’ve always been close. Lately, she’s not around as much as she used to be. You assume it’s because she’s all wrapped up in her new relationship. And at first she was. When things were new, she couldn’t get enough of him. They spent nearly every waking moment together.

But back then, you still heard from her—she called you. And even though she mostly just bragged about her new love, it didn’t matter. She was happy.

Then the calls became less frequent. And when you called her, she’d rush off the phone, sounding hurried and distracted. Mutual friends casually mentioned that they hadn’t seen her in a while. “It’s her new guy,” you’d tell each other. “They’re never apart these days.”

Soon you get used to her absence, to not talking to her as often. You miss her, but you don’t want to be that friend who seems like she’s trying to sabotage her new love.

One day you bump into her at the grocery store, and you’re shocked by her appearance. She’d always been so meticulous about how she dressed, especially in public. And now she’s wearing sweat pants—she’d never be caught dead wearing those outside of the house or gym! Yet here she is, not only in sweats, but they’re stained, and she’s wearing a baggy T-shirt, her hair, usually perfectly coiffed, now pulled into a sloppy ponytail. Her fingernails are ragged and unpolished.

She looks tired.

But you’re so happy to see her you pull her into a tight hug. She stiffens in your arms, as though she’s in pain. You let go—surprised. And then you take a really good look at her face.

She won’t meet your eyes.  Her mouth trembles a little, and her lips are chapped. Is that a fading bruise on her cheek? You’re thinking. No, it must be the lighting.

You exchange pleasantries, but you can tell she’s not really engaged in the conversation. You get the feeling that she wants to leave … that she’s not really happy to see you.  You feel uncomfortable, but you can’t exactly put your finger on why.

“How are you?” You ask again, only this time you mean it.

“Fine,” she answers briskly. “Really, I’m fine. Just in a hurry. I need to get home.”

“I won’t keep you, then.”

Something tells you she isn’t fine at all. You have an inexplicable urge to pull her into your arms again, but you don’t. Against your better judgment, you ignore your instincts and send her on her way. And in your gut you know that something is terribly wrong with your once outgoing, vivacious, beautiful friend.

Here’s what you don’t know: Your friend would love nothing more than to fall into your arms and ask for help. But she won’t. She can’t. She’s too ashamed. As awful as you think she looks, she believes she looks even worse. In a relatively short period of time, her boyfriend has gotten into her head and convinced her that she’s ugly, stupid, and worthless.

Your friend no longer puts any effort into her looks because he’ll either accuse her of dressing up for some “other man,” or he’ll just tell her she looks like crap anyway—so there’s no point in trying anymore.

Sweatpants are her new best friend.

She doesn’t call anymore because she’s embarrassed by her life. That wonderful guy she bragged about in the beginning has turned into a monster. And she knows that if her friends knew how bad things were, they’d think she was just as stupid as he says she is—and maybe she is. After all, she still loves him. So maybe she’s getting exactly what she deserves. At least that’s what she thinks.

You don’t see her as much because that’s what abusers do: They isolate their victims from friends and family. They do it subtly, though. He’d never go so far as to say that she isn’t allowed to see you—that’s too direct and he’s much smarter than that. Instead he manipulates her into staying away by doing things like picking a fight with her when she comes home.  That way, the next time you invite her out, she’ll decline in order to avoid another fight. Or he’ll accuse her of loving her friends more than him. So that she’ll stay home instead of upsetting him. He uses her love for him like a weapon.

And those fights she’s so eager to avoid? “Fight” isn’t exactly the right word, not when she always ends up sprawled on the floor. At first, it was more yelling than anything. She could hold her own back then. She always did have an acid tongue. But then he became cruel, saying things that cut her to her core. And he twisted her words and used them against her.  And all the while, he was playing the wounded one who couldn’t understand how she could treat him so badly when he loved her so much. There were the accusations and recriminations, wild scenarios forged in the deep valleys of his twisted mind. Her smart mouth never stood a chance against his emotional brutality.

By the time the first punch landed on her jaw, her psyche had been beaten to a pulp. And don’t be fooled by the shell of a woman you just saw at the grocery store. She used to fight back. She even got a few good punches in, especially that first time. But he’s stronger than her. Bigger than her. He’s been throwing punches all his life and she never even got a spanking as a child, so she never stood a chance against him physically, either.

You ask yourself, If it’s so bad for her, why didn’t she say something to me? I was right there! We’ve been friends since childhood. Surely she knows that I would help her!

Does she know that, though? Does she really? Or does she look at you, her childhood friend, and remember the time you said, “I don’t understand why women stay with men who hit them”?

Remember when the Ray Rice abuse story first broke a few years ago, and you all were having drinks? Remember what you said? You said, “If a man beats me once, shame on him; if he beats me twice, shame on me. That woman was an idiot for marrying him after what he did to her in that elevator!”

Your friend remembers those words. And even though she knows you love and support her, she can’t help but wonder how she’d change in your eyes if you knew what was really happening. Understand that she wants desperately to leave her current situation, but doesn’t know how. She may also be convinced her abuser will hurt whoever does try to help her. Remember, he’s in her head, even when he’s not beating her.

Trust your instincts, though. You know your friend. And from that encounter in the store, you know that something is definitely wrong. So please, don’t be afraid to follow up with her.

Start with a phone call. But ease into it: Don’t immediately launch into how you think she’s being abused, or anything like that. If her abuser’s at home when you call, she won’t say anything of substance, anyway. You simply want to convey the message that you’re concerned and want to help. Keep your words loving and gentle—and pressure-free.

Say something like, “I know you’re busy now. But when you have a few minutes to yourself, give me a call. I’m worried about you and want to help. I love you.”  Keep the call brief, but be clear: You’re worried, you want to help, and you love her.

If she doesn’t call back right away, call her again. Keep reaching out to her, but try to reach her when you know she’s away from him. Remember, your goal is to help, not endanger her any further.

Be prepared for her denials. Shame, guilt, fear, and even worry for your safety will keep her from opening up to you. Just gently remind her that if she’s in the kind of trouble you suspect, she has no reason to be ashamed. You love and respect her, and just want to help.

The reality is that professional intervention, possibly involving law enforcement will likely be required. If that’s the case, don’t attempt to handle this on your own. The deadliest time for a woman trying to leave an abusive relationship is from the moment she thinks about leaving, up to a year after she leaves. So you must seek professional guidance from the experts. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-779-7233. Let the experts help you help her.

You need to know that an abuse victim leaves her abuser on average seven times before she leaves for good. So, even if your friend leaves this time, she may go back. This is where your friendship will really be tested. You’ll be disappointed and even angry that, after all the work you did to help her escape, she willingly goes back. And your anger is understandable.

But an abuser’s most lethal weapon is his ability to manipulate his victim’s mind. Breaking his hold on your friend will take time, patience, professional help, and a whole lot of hard work on her part. You just have to keep loving and supporting her, even when she disappoints you. 
Try to resist judging her: It will only make things worse.

It’s painful to watch someone you love suffer domestic abuse. It’s also hard to understand why women stay with or return to the men that hurt them. But leaving is far more difficult than people think. Fear, lack of financial resources, and shame are just a few of the reasons women stay (or return). If children are involved, it’s even more complicated. Many women truly have nowhere to go. Shelters fill up fast and are few and far between. And sadly, as far as we’ve come in this country with regards to strengthening laws to protect women, it’s still way too easy for abusers to track down their victims and murder them. So some women just stay, hoping to survive another day.

As friends and supporters of abuse victims, we need to be more educated about the dynamics and mechanics of domestic violence. And most of all, we need to shed our own preconceived notions about the victims. They need our support and empathy. I learned that the hard way. I used to sit in judgment of women who stayed with their abusers, too. And I stayed on that high horse until the man I loved knocked me off with a punch.

Photo Credits: Black Doctor dot com, Elixher dot com, Jet Mag dot com.

(Janice first published this article in Dame Magazine on October 29, 2014. She updated it for this publication.)

Relationship Goals by Sophia Ned-James

Don’t let all these online images of “perfect’ couples fool you, Sis. There are no “perfect” couples! That’s because couples are people, and people aren’t perfect! You only get to see the good times on social media, the happy times people choose to share. You don’t see the hard work and the messy arguments. You don’t get to witness those long, awkward silences that occur in ALL relationships.

They’re not showing you the fights about bills and money. No one’s posting or sharing pictures of the unanswered texts, the ignored calls, or the insecurities that make them doubt themselves. All relationships have tough moments, but you don’t see them because we don’t share them.

So, judge your relationship on it’s own merits and stop looking for perfection. Stop seeing #RelationshipGoals whenever you see pictures or video of that seemingly “perfect” couple. Comparing your relationship to some celebrity couple’s fabulous public display of love and romance will always leave you feeling wanting. And holding your guy to some ridiculous standards established by some jet-setting media “influencer” will always leave your guy looking unnecessarily lacking, when in reality, your guy is absolutely wonderful to you and for you.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship that’s built on love, respect, and friendship, and you’re truly getting all that you deserve and desire, then you’ve already achieved #RelationshipGoals. After all, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.

Rejuvenate Your Relationships

Spring is here, Ladies. Happy Easter.  This is nature’s time for renewal and rebirth.

Take time to rekindle and rejuvenate close relationships. Winter can be brutal on us in many ways. Cold, dark evenings can put us in a funk and sour our moods. Small problems and annoyances with people close to us can escalate into huge battles with bad feelings lingering for days on end.

As we enter spring, put away away harsh memories and feelings. Let’s throw some sunlight on our outlook. Find ways to make a fresh start. With warmer air and sunnier days ahead of us, spend time sharing happy moments with people who are important. Apologize for sharp words said in the winter and make time to connect.  Yeah – the practice of spring rebirth and renewal can seem tired and old. But, if we want to stay healthy – and sexy – it’s a ritual to keep practicing.

When it comes to intimate relationships, studies find happy couples in committed relationships have more sex.  Not sex makes couples happy. And, couples who said they had more sex also reported more satisfaction with their lives.

This finding was based on 4 studies which appeared recently in MedicineNet. Affection, sharing intimate moments and sweet talk were key factors in the positive benefits of sex that had impact after the act. If winter has dulled your relationships, take time to connect and share intimate moments. Sustain these important life fulfilling practices.

Embrace All Things Golden And Pumpkiny! Guest Blogger Lillian Ogbogoh

It’s funny how one day you are shorts deep in sandals and picnics and before you know it you’re fighting to hold on to that last bit of sunshine. Looking for every opportunity to wear those open toes wedges and sundress one last time, however, there comes a moment where you really have to kiss the summer days goodbye and embrace all things golden hue and pumpkiny! Yes, pumpkin is now an adjective,  once you kiss goodbye to summer you allow all manner of awesome things to show up. Like autumn colors in your wardrobe and soft fluffy jumpers which you can curl up in.

It’s funny haha, well more funny peculiar that this is an exact metaphor for our lives. We spend so much time fighting to hold onto things in our lives from relationships that have passed being honoring, to ideas of who we think we should be, leaving us stuck as we battle conflicting views of who we are. All of this leaves us spinning our heels and not going anywhere very quickly. Those old ideas of what makes a perfect partner are actually keeping you from finding that incredible person to share your life with.

So, as autumn unfolds, it is time to kiss things goodbye in your life once and for all, the same way you put away your summer stuff. This the perfect time to look around in your world and decide what things no longer fit in your brand new season. Sometimes we hold on to that favorite top even though we know it is moth-eaten and hole ridden. Yet we keep it for sentimental reasons.

So, it is time to get stuck in and get clearing the physical space as well as emotional space. It is time to cast a keen eye over things in your home. Do they honor the woman you have become? Would that amazing woman be wearing clothes that do not make her feel amazing and beautiful? Would she keep things in her closet saying one day when I have lost 5 pounds I will wear this? Or saying Ohh I will wait and wear this for a special occasion? Lady, every day you are alive is a celebration. But, I digress. Would she wear something that does not support her amazing body? The answer should be a big fat NO! The woman you are becoming no longer keeps mementos of former relationships reminding her of the past that was not to be. It is time to make a clean sweep and take the teddy bears and old jewelry to your local charity stores, so they can bring joy to someone else’s world.

It is also time to kiss goodbye those old beliefs. You know the ones that say you are not enough and blah! Blah, Blah….. Check out the source of those beliefs. Really examine them and find out if they are true or just your gremlins speaking?

So, to wrap this up: the same way you tuck your summer gear it is time to kiss goodbye the things in your world that no longer honor the amazing woman you are becoming.

How Do I Know It’s Really Love? ASK JANICE

Dear Janice,

I’ve been with the same guy for five years.  Just recently, a co-worker asked me how I knew I was actually in love as opposed to just comfortable.  That got me thinking.  How can I tell if it’s really love?

Cynthia

Dear Cynthia,

Let’s talk about love!

First of all, congratulations on the longevity of your relationship!  These days, five years is like the new decade!  It’s a challenge to stay together … especially in the age of social media where old lovers can be found with a click of the mouse and every stupid thing you do can end up on YouTube.  So, the fact that you’ve hung in there says a lot.

Only you can determine if it’s real love, though.  I’m sure that after five years, you’ve already figured out the difference between that all-consuming romantic lust we have at the beginning of relationships and the real thing.  At first, it’s all flowers and moonlight, candles and hand-holding.  We can’t stand to be away from that person, even for the few hours we’re at work.  We talk constantly, whether by phone, text or Twitter.

And the sex?  Nothing and I mean nothing beats that beginning-of-the-relationship sex!  Both of you treat each encounter like a performance, pulling out all your best moves and your sexiest lingerie.  And you’re both insatiable … seeming to want and need it all the time.  You screw like rabbits and can’t get enough of each other.

But, after the honeymoon is over, all those quirky little things you thought were cute in the beginning are now annoying.  You don’t feel as obligated to laugh at all of his jokes and he no longer bothers to leave the room before he farts in front of you.  Conversations are brief, only occurring at your insistence or during half-time of the game.

As for sex, it’s still good, just not as frequent as before.  You’ve seen each other’s best moves and frankly, they just aren’t as impressive as before.  And you don’t mind so much if your panties and bras don’t match before you go to bed, either.  In fact, you don’t even give your pre-sex lingerie much thought anymore.  If it’s clean, you wear it!

And yet …

He’s still the first person you think of calling when you get good news at work.  He’s also the first person you call when you get bad news.  You don’t care if you laugh so hard you snort around him; and the fact that he can still make you laugh hard enough to make you snort speaks volumes.  You may hate it when he leaves the toilet seat up or his socks on the floor, but your heart still skips a beat when you hear his key in the door after a long day at work.  He’s still the last face you want to see when you go to sleep and the first voice you want to hear when you wake up.

You may not generate the heat and fireworks like you did when you first got together, but he’s still the only one who can make your temperature rise, even if it’s just a little bit.  He knows all your hot spots like the back of his hand, and yet he still goes just slow enough to send you to your bliss each and every time.

And even though you may bicker and fight like cats and dogs, you share a certain synchronicity that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.  It’s a rhythm, a harmonic beat that only the two of you can hear.  Most of the time you’re not even conscious of it … but it’s there.  It binds you together as you weather each storm, pulling you closer as each year passes.

Yeah, it’s comfortable, too.  Kind of like an old pair of slippers or that tee shirt you sleep in and just can’t get rid of.  But it’s also comforting, providing a safe harbor from the day-to-day trials of life.  And you share a deep respect for each other, so that no matter how angry or annoyed you get, you’ll only go so far with your insults and barbs.  You’ll never really set out to hurt each other.

And that’s just a little glimpse at what real love is … so enjoy!

ASK JANICE: Should I Let Him Go Down On Me?

Woman with man behind

Janice, should I let him go down on me? All my friends tell me it’s wonderful, but I just can’t relax. Help! It’s beginning to ruin my relationship. My guy says that if I don’t let him, I’m not really giving myself fully to him. Is this true?

Cheryl in Detroit

 

Dear Cheryl,

Well, I don’t know about all that “not giving yourself fully to him” stuff.  But I will say that you may be missing out on some serious blessings, girl.  There are few things more delightful than the pleasure a well-laced tongue can bring.  Anyone who has never experienced the soul-jarring orgasm that can result from having a man go down on you is truly missing out on one of life’s mores delicious pleasures (pun intended).

Look.  Many men will lie and say that they either don’t do it, or don’t like doing it.  But they are liars!  And while there are a few selfish men out there who refuse to go “downtown” (unbelievable, I know), most men are willing to because it gives their partners pleasure, often deepening their feelings of intimacy.  In fact, many men actually like pleasuring their women orally!  So, consider yourself lucky that you’ve got one of the good guys: someone who is actually WILLING to go down on you.

Now, I will be the first to admit that not every man willing to take the trip downtown knows what he’s doing.  And there are not a whole lot of things worse than someone being down there, fumbling around, hitting all the wrong spots and missing the right ones; putting too much pressure when a soft touch is required, or not enough pressure when you’re ready to do a little grinding.  In fact, in my humble opinion, the only things worse than bad oral sex are nails on a chalkboard, people who cut me off in traffic, and telemarketers who call during dinner.

On the other hand, when it’s done well it is oh, so very good!

I am not sure why you are having trouble relaxing and letting your man pleasure you orally.  However, I suspect you may have been brainwashed like so many women into thinking that our bodies (especially in THAT area) are undesirable, unlovable and worse, un-kissable.  Such programming is often unintentional and subliminal.  After all, we are taught by advertisers to camouflage our natural scent. There are sprays, inserts, wipes … and many of us remember seeing those hot water bottle douches hanging on the back of our grandmothers’ bathroom doors.  Such images and messages can leave an indelible mark on a young girl’s mind, especially if she is naturally modest.  Maybe you’ve internalized these messages and are now self-conscious about someone putting their face, mouth, tongue and yes … nose down there.

Well, it’s time to un-learn those self-disparaging messages and embrace your body … every single, creamy inch of it!  Before you can ever really give yourself to anyone, you have to first accept yourself the way you are.

Trust me when I tell you that as long as you are clean, your man will love the smell of your essence.  Rather than a pungent odor that must be sprayed with some artificial camouflage, think of your vag as the delightful flower that it is, offering up a heady, sensual scent which is unique to you and only you.  Your scent is like your fingerprint: no one else’s is the same.  Be proud of it, show it off, and let your man enjoy it to the very last drop!

Janice

Email Janice at AskJance@suzyknew.com with your intimate question.

Emily Thorne Gets Revenge. Can You Get It, Too?

Emily's Revenge

Emily Thorne, played by Emily VanCamp,  in the US TV drama Revenge is quite sexy as she plots and executes revenge against everyone who did her father wrong when she was a child.  We see flashbacks of Emily during her childhood in juvenile detention as a bitter, rage-filled, dark-haired kid who can barely function let alone go after any one. This is in stark contrast to the current Emily, a beautiful and seemingly calm, sweet blond who executes her view of justice swiftly with no regrets.  No one guesses that it’s Emily behind all the mishaps and tragedies that take place as she gets revenge. And, she’s pretty good at it, too.

Emily’s main target is Victoria Grayson, an extremely wealthy woman who fell in love with her father and then led him to his downfall when she risked losing everything because of her husband’s ill doings.  To get to Victoria, Emily goes after her son, Daniel, and gets him to fall in love with her.

Clever.

Ever think about getting revenge this way? Could you overcome the rage and bitterness that injustice has left on you to emerge more beautiful – not to mention intelligent, calm and calculating – to plot revenge? Could you fall in love with your perp’s progeny just to get back at them?

Emily exemplifies the saying: Revenge is a dish best served cold.  But, as we all know, revenge can backfire on you. This season on the TV drama, which airs on Wednesdays, we’ll see if Emily’s revenge goes awry and begins to affect people she actually cares for – namely her childhood crush, because Emily doesn’t really care about many people. Some cracks were beginning to show as the premier season ended.

But, let’s look at this another way: The best revenge is SUCCESS. Emily may have gone a little bit off the rails on her rampage for revenge.  But, you have to give her credit for turning herself into an independently wealthy, beautiful, cunning and calm woman after being locked up for years behind bars during most of her childhood.

Is there a man out there who you believe has ruined your life? Or was it a boss or job?  Or maybe you regret a major life decision.  Take heart and pull yourself together like Emily and go after success. (No comments on how much revenge you should go after.)

SuzyKnew