It's 2020 and struggle-love is no longer an option for me. While several memes and inspirational testimonies on Instagram tell us that real love requires hard work, pain, and a river of tears, Michael Jai White and his wife Gillian White are proof that marriage doesn't have to be a prison sentence.
The couple, who initially met in the late '90s, recently sat down with ESSENCE to talk about how they keep their love strong more than 20 years later, and according to them, the secret is to be your partner's friend first.
Gillian began the interview by recalling the first time she met her one-day hubby—in a way that was typical of many couples in the '90s—at the club. She explained:
"We met in 1997 at a club where a friend was having a party. Just for the record, you can meet your better half in a club. We knew that every moment spent together was just magical. That was something that we never lost."
When they met, Michael and Gillian were both recovering from divorce, but both say that their connection was undeniable. Although the two wouldn't marry until 2015, they say that they've spent the past decade-and-a-half watering and cultivating a love that could truly grow. Michael said that before his relationship with Gillian, he was unaware that his perspective on relationships was wrong AF:
"There was a time when I thought relationships had to be drama and everything took work. I think I realized with Gillian that there was a path of least resistance I always should have taken. You're lucky to have friends who don't require much labor because your chemistry just works. That's a blessing, and you don't get too many of those. I realized that's what I had with her."
A good relationship is supposed to improve you, not change you, and Michael says that Gillian did exactly that by holding him accountable for him "10 percent bullshit" allowance:
"I had to become the man who deserved her. I had work to do that required growing up completely and being the man I could be. I claim this wholeheartedly: No one has ever been with the man I am now."
Today, as partners in life, love, business, and fitness, this couple remains inseparable and say they wouldn't have it any other way. When asked if spending so much time together causes tension in their relationship, Michael had this to say:
"People don't believe us when we say it, so we just don't. Everyone asks, 'Do you guys snap at each other when things get tense?' We're the exact opposite. We work together in such a great way that being together is probably the best situation we could be in. What better person can you have beside you than your best friend who keeps you laughing? It would be harder if she were not with me."
Featured image by Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com