Gabrielle Union appeared on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast this week and spilled some tea about her marriage to ex-NFL player Chris Howard in the 2000s.


Chris was a former running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They met at a party in 1999, were married within two years and divorced within another four. But Gabrielle says the relationship should never have moved past the “dating phase.” 

The conversation started when Dax discussed his past infidelity, saying he had “complicated” feelings about it, opening the floor for Gabrielle to share her own experiences with cheating, something she says she felt “entitled” to do.

"A part of it was like keeping up with his activities, like, 'Oh, that's what you're doing? You're going to feel this one,' and I just felt entitled to it as well. I was paying all the bills, I was working my ass off, and I felt like that's what comes, the spoils of riches."

What Gabrielle is describing fits the description of an emerging conversation in women’s circles on social media referred to as the “lick back”. Sure, women have always cheated, but the conversation around it seems to be changing. And the difference between regular cheating and getting a lick back is that it’s primarily rooted in getting revenge on someone who wronged you – in most cases, a man.

The petty part of me loves the idea of a woman getting her lick back. Sometimes women will hook up with a friend of the guy that cheated on them, sometimes it’s even a relative! But one characteristic most lick back stories share is the revenge aspect of it being very unknown. Women get their lick back in private, either to ease the pain of the initial hurt, to remind themselves that they still got it, or to make up for what could be lacking in the bedroom - essentially, seeking revenge for not being satisfied. 


I’d be lying if I said I haven’t got my lick back. As I’ve written before, I’ve been cheated on and I’ve cheated right back. Sometimes it was liberating, sometimes it was fun, and sometimes it made me feel guilty. But in the case of getting a lick back, guilt is not usually a part of the equation, which is something else Gabrielle touched on.

"I wish I had more guilt for some of that," she said, alluding to her infidelity.

It’s interesting to see her speak so candidly about cheating, considering her marriage to Dwyane Wade did not come without some major bumps in the road. The two were reportedly on a break when Dwyane hooked up with Basketball Wives cast member Aja Metoyer. Aja became pregnant with Dwyane’s son Xavier, who is now 9.

Rumours blew up back then over whether Dwyane hooked up with Aja while he and Gabrielle were on a break or whether he had actually been unfaithful during his relationship, particularly in 2017 when Aja joined the cast of Basketball Wives and gave her version of the story, suggesting that their son was not, in fact, a “break baby”.

Gabrielle opened up about this in her memoir, You Got Anything Stronger?, touching specifically on her concerns that her fertility issues possibly caused the rift between her and Dwyane, despite them both saying they were on a break due to conflicting schedules and being overwhelmed with work.


“The experience of Dwyane having a baby so easily — while I was unable to — left my soul not just broken into pieces, but shattered into fine dust scattering in the wind…I can never know if my failure to carry a child put a ceiling on the love my husband has for me,” she continued. 

Obviously, Dwyane and Gabrielle have gone on to have great success in their relationship after this situation, and even amidst some trying others. They got married after his hook up with Aja and the birth of Xavier, so it speaks volumes as to how the intention to get revenge really depends on the person, their maturity and their commitment to their current relationship. But for good reason, Gabrielle is committed to Dwyane in a way she wasn’t to Chris – and I think it’s safe to say it’s because Dwyane is a good human, a solid partner and an amazing father through and through.

In an ESPN documentary, Dwyane described his feelings towards having to break the news about Aja’s pregnancy to Gabrielle, saying he couldn’t eat or sleep knowing that the information was going to hurt her, but that he was grateful the two were able to work through it and come out of that situation together. His remorse has always been evident.

According to the National Library of Medicinepower and infidelity can go hand in hand for men and women. A survey of more than 1,500 professionals studying the relationship between power and infidelity showed elevated power is positively associated with infidelity. Why? Because power increases the confidence in the ability to attract partners. The findings also suggested that there is a common assumption that women are less likely to be unfaithful than men, which reflects traditional gender-based power imbalances that exist in society.


This is why the lick back is actually so much more than just some social media phenomenon or term to glorify women cheating. It challenges everything we know about infidelity, power and gender roles. This article suggests there is an increase in women earning more than their partners, attending post-secondary studies, choosing not to have children and more women choosing jobs that have predominantly been fulfilled by men throughout history. 

Which aligns with some of Gabrielle’s reasoning for being unfaithful in her first marriage. She stated that despite Chris being a professional football player, she was doing all the work and paying all the bills. And Chris still had the audacity to cheat on her. Would she have still gone after her lick back if he were the breadwinner, while she was a stay-at-home-wife or mother with little to no income?

Not that this is only about money, but it certainly plays a part. Dwyane is worth an estimated $170 million, Gabrielle’s net worth is $40 million net worth. In addition to him being more financially suitable for her than her ex-husband, she’s attracted to him. In an interview with Glamour, she went on record to make this clear.

“I am complimentary to the point where I am almost a little Chester the Molester-y. I think he's so delicious. Watching him get out of the shower never gets old. Never. It's not like he ever wonders what I'm thinking, but usually he's thinking, ‘She needs a cold shower!’”


There are so many factors that go in to whether a person in any given relationship will cheat, whether their partner will get revenge, and whether they will break up or stay together. But in the case of Gabrielle and Dwyane, it was a matter of maturity, understanding, communication, remorse, and most of all, commitment. And it’s obvious these two are committed to each other and their family.

Even while Dwyane’s exes haven’t been easy to deal with at all. Siohvaughn, his high school sweetheart and mother of his children has done an awful job of showing up for their trans daughter Zaya. And Aja hasn’t done herself many favours by throwing shade at Gabrielle, especially surrounding the release of her book. Having to endure all of that primed Dwyane and Gabrielle to enjoy the success and recognition they receive on a daily basis now, even if that means having to endure trying times.

“Yes, I am Baby Mama number three, a label that is supposed to be an insult,” Gabrielle wrote in her memoir.

If you ask me, their ability to overcome everything they’ve been through as a couple and her ability to redefine what is and is not insulting is the real lick back.