Last summer actors Michael Jai White and Gillian White said their "I dos" in an extravagant Thailand wedding affair. The couple first met over 20 years ago, but at the time they went their separate ways. But their fates were sealed. Years later, after working on their careers and dissolving their previous marriages, they reconnected and found that they could love again. Now as their one-year anniversary approaches, the couple share the lessons they've learned about life and love and their secret to blended family bliss.
How has marriage changed your almost 20-year relationship?
Michael: I think it changes for the better. There is more equity. I don't think anybody is supposed to be in sync that damn long. I try my best to explain this, but the marriage was not the pinnacle. It was a formality. I know people look toward that ceremony, but it was an occurrence that just happened along our way. We continued the bliss that we had once we just got back together.
Gillian: All of these years, we have always got along really, really well. We dated a long time ago and then we went our separate ways, but we always remained friends. It was never anything bad between us. So, us getting back together was just like it was meant to be.
What's one piece of advice you would give couples that are about to get married?
Michael: Celebrate your flaws, because that's what makes you an individual. People try to be perfect and I think that's a problem. You deny your other half the ability to love you for completely who you are when you hide your imperfections.
Gillian: I think a big thing is you've got to let go of ego. I think in relationships, a lot of people want to be right, and they want to be the ones leading things. We don't have any ego in this relationship. Whatever he's good at I let him handle it. If I'm good at something, he lets me handle it. Whatever we're good at together, we do it together. To me, it creates such a perfect chemistry, and you don't have those moments of fighting, arguing or bumping heads.
Michael: You're on the same team. Sometimes people involve themselves with trying to prove that the other person doesn't love them because of x, y, or z, which is such a waste of time. No matter what I do or no matter what she does, there's nothing that she could do that will make me think that she doesn't love me and vice versa.
How did you both overcome your divorces to make room to love each other again?
Gillian: I had to learn to let go of everything and just let myself be completely open to Michael's love, because I had to see him for whom he was and he's completely not like the person in my other marriage. I had to be open and let all of his love just consume me and overwhelm me. That's what made me a better person opposed to holding on to all of that baggage of pain and hurt. Everything I had been through gave me a greater appreciation for him.
Michael: I would never advocate for anybody to get married if it weren't for the reasons I married Gillian. I got married almost as a contract, for the sake of extraneous circumstances. It's like I gave up on the fairy tale or the ideal. Ultimately that contract did not work. I was a bit more jaded. I was the one who thought that maybe all women were crazy, which I wrote in a viral letter. As much as I thought I knew, I had no idea that a relationship could be like the one I'm in now. I have never seen nor have ever witnessed it in my life. I'm just amazed and I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.
You both have children from previous relationships, how has the process of blending your families gone for your kids?
Michael: Our daughters, early on, were just berating us about when we were going to get married. When they're together, we don't exist. Hopefully some of this goes without saying, but you have to embrace the children as if they are your children, because they are. You make sure to be very observant of every personality and whether the kids are blended or your own, you always need to be steps ahead. Know your child because what's good for one kid may not be good for the other.
Gillian: They're both seven and incredibly close. They've been like that since day one. I think when people try to force relationships it doesn't work. You just let it come naturally and I think that's what we did. We just let it happen. It wasn't like, oh you guys are going to be sisters and this is how it's going to be. Everything just kind of fell into place. When children have blended families, and when they really see how happy the parents are in this new relationship, I think it does make a difference. I think they see how happy we are. You have to realize they come from marriages of parents that didn't work out. They might have seen things when it was tense or uncomfortable. Now they see two people come together that are their parents, who are really happy, really in love, and the tension and drama is gone; I think it makes a big difference in the household and creates a more loving environment.
Michael: Our greatest compliment to date is when our teenager said that we are her #relationshipgoal. For a teenager to say that, it says something. She won't settle for less than what she's seen. I think that's one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Give them an example of how to live, and an example of how to be happy.
Best wishes to the happy couple.