This Couple Reveals The Lessons They Learned In 10 Years Of Marriage

Our First Year

In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between married couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

With one look at Eric and Shonda White, you can see a love that has withstood the test of time.


Their story had very humble beginnings through a chance meeting at Atlanta's Leopard Lounge one summer night in 2006. At the time, Shonda was a new transplant to Atlanta by way of Kentucky and wasn't looking for a relationship but as she puts it, "God had other plans." The spark was instant and slowly but surely, intellectually and mentally, Eric and Shonda fell for each other.

The writer/marketing strategist and the Sr. Compliance Specialist have been partners in love for twelve years and made their union official by tying the knot on September 20, 2008. It's a day Eric recalls fondly having been a calm and happy one for him. "When I saw Shonda for the first time coming down the aisle, it was surreal and spiritual," he said. "For me, it was a time of growth. When Shonda read her vows, it hit me that God ordained our union; that we have a lifetime to live and grow with each other."

This year, they celebrated ten years of marriage. And at 38 and 36 years old, respectively, Eric and Shonda are truly the loves of one another's lives. In this installment of Our First Year, the Whites break down how they knew each other was the one, early challenges in marriage, and their biggest love lessons throughout the years.

Chad Lawson Photography

The One:

Shonda: Before Eric, I really didn't know the difference between dating and courting, but Eric showed me what courting really looked like. It sounds old school, but it's still relevant today. I knew he was the one based on how he treated me and the fact that he let me be me. I used to merely hear "I love you," but this time, not only did I hear him say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me. There is no greater sign of a man who is in love than one whose actions match his words. We were long distance, but he made every effort to come and see me every month. He would drive literally 900 miles to see me at least once a month. I knew he was serious about dating me and having a future with me. I could tell by the way he treated me - he didn't just say he loved me, but he showed me through his actions.

"Not only did he say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me."

Eric: People ask [how I knew she was the one] a lot and I honestly tell people I can't explain it. I just knew. In my heart and mind, I knew Shonda was my wife. I didn't want another man to be with her. I wanted Shonda to be my wife and I wanted to spend my life with her. I knew she was the one!

As for approaching my courtship with marriage as the goal, I did. I can't explain it, but I took my relationship with Shonda very seriously. And that was a first in my life, it was something different about her. I was at a point in my life where I wanted more than a random hookup or a superficial relationship.

Chad Lawson Photography

Overcoming Fears In Marriage:

Shonda: Honestly, being a wife was my biggest fear. I feared the unknown, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the "best wife" I could be based on what I thought a wife should be or what I saw other people doing. Little did I know, I was the one putting that pressure on myself...not my husband. Eventually, I realized that he loved me for me - not merely for what I could do for him. So, the best thing I could do was be myself.

Eric: Feeling vulnerable and trusting a woman. I always knew I wanted a friendship with my wife that would last a lifetime. I made a decision to love my wife and to do the right things to keep my marriage healthy. I let go of my fear and had faith in our union.

Early Challenges:

Shonda: You know the part of the vows where you say, "For better or worse," but our first year of marriage taught me very quickly that sometimes the "worse" comes before the "better." Our first year, we went through a lot of challenges including: natural growing pains as newlyweds, finances, recession, layoffs, having children, sex, and family grief due to the loss of loved ones. It's interesting now though because early on, we could argue, and it would last for days, but I know we've grown so much, because now we can have a disagreement or an argument, but it won't last nearly as long as it used to.

Eric: I think some of the early challenges dealt with understanding each other's habits and quirks. I accepted my wife for who she is, but I still can't stand when she chews gum! [As for tackling issues] Each marriage is different, but we tackled those issues when they occurred. I don't think there is an undiscovered bad habit (laughs). We coexist in joint spaces daily and know when we need our space. We agreed to work together regarding our finances. We have separate accounts and a joint account.

Chad Lawson Photography

Love Language:

Shonda: It was a little difficult initially to learn each other's love language. Before taking the Love Languages' assessment, I used to think that he didn't appreciate the gifts that I would give him because he didn't react in the way that I expected. Realizing his love language was completely different [than mine] helped me put things into perspective. So, instead of feeling hurt or disappointed about certain things, I had to remind myself that he doesn't speak the same love language necessarily.

Eric: My love language was pretty simple. But my wife is a hard person to buy a gift for. I think we work on giving and receiving love daily. Now, we are well-versed in our love languages and I will say I have to be intentional in putting gift giving for my wife in action.

Baggage Claim:

Shonda: I really had to unpack baggage from my past relationships' heartaches and disappointments and thinking that Eric was going to hurt me like the others had hurt me. Also, I had to release and relax some of my "Miss Independent, I don't need a man" habits. For example, some of the simplest things that my husband wanted to do for me - open my doors, carry my groceries, etc. - I would try to do myself. Often times, it wasn't the action itself; rather it was my attitude or my delivery when I reacted to him. At times, I made him feel as if I didn't need him or want him to help me. I would say things like, "I don't need you to do it. I can do it myself." I wasn't used to having a man in the home, so I had grown accustomed to doing mostly everything on my own since I was a little girl. I'm thankful, nonetheless, because growing up in a single-parent home helped shape me into the woman I am today. However, I also didn't want my man to feel like I didn't want or need him. Hence, I had to find a happy medium so that my man could still be the man he wanted to be for me. Just recently, Yvonne Orji posted a quote on her page the other week from a wedding she attended that said, "My greatest blessing in this life is to finally be able to take off my superwoman cape and let you carry it…" In other words, I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man.

Chad Lawson Photography

"I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man."

Eric: We have candid conversations about issues and figure out ways to address them. I had to learn empathy. I know it sounds crazy, but I had to stand in my wife's shoes sometimes to understand how she felt. I also had to learn to trust and be vulnerable. When you fall in love, you are vulnerable and to me that wasn't a comfortable feeling.

Chad Lawson Photography

Love Lessons:

Shonda: We may not always like what our spouse says or does, but we will always love each other, and we have to be committed to fighting for each other rather than fighting against each other. I also learned that I can be a strong, black woman, and still allow myself to be vulnerable and soft at the same time.

Eric: No matter what we go through, I couldn't see ourselves without each other. We truly have a spiritual bond.

Follow Shonda on Instagram. And click here to read past Our First Year love stories!

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