Did you know that everybody’s favorite TV husband, Randall Pearson on This Is Us, is just as happily married in real life as his character is on-screen?
Emmy Award–winning actor Sterling K. Brown and his wife, actress Ryan Michelle Bathe, are among Hollywood’s newest power couples and red-carpet darlings. They also happen to be college sweethearts, proud parents and bona fide relationship goals, and their adorable Instagram posts have drawn us in closer.
But long before their love story was in the limelight, the couple, who met as students at Stanford in 1998, was focused on building a lasting and healthy relationship. Bathe, 42, says her husband’s vision was clear from the moment they tied the knot in June 2007: “Sterling told me he wanted a relationship that others could ‘see God in’ and that ‘inspired people to love each other and want to be married.’”
Eleven years of marriage and two sons (Andrew, 7, and Amaré, 3) later, they are regularly touted as a beautiful example of Black love at its finest, both in the news and on social media. “We’re honored and flattered,” admits Brown, 42. “We know what it takes to make a relationship work, but when you find somebody who’s worth it, it doesn’t feel like a chore.”
Make no mistake, there’s rarely overnight success in Hollywood, and the aspiring actors’ struggles were real. Along the way they had to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They perfected their love language and learned how to juggle industry demands years before Brown’s breakout turns in Black Panther and on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and before Bathe landed a starring role on The First Wives Club, BET’s buzzy TV adaptation premiering later this year. Being on the same page about their commitment has solidified their foundation. “We’ve closed all the exit doors,” Bathe says. “There’s no off-ramp, no laundry chute, no doggy door. We are in it, and we’re gonna ride this till the wheels fall off. I think that’s the glue that keeps us going.”
Of course, a marriage can’t be airtight without a couple learning how to work through differences. Brown credits his wife with helping them master this particular lesson. “Ry was way more versed in the art of arguments than I was, and she had to school me along the way,” he says. “If there’s something difficult, you talk about it; you argue. You may disagree, but then you reach a mutual conclusion. If we’re not good with each other before we go out into public, then we’ve gotta argue it out first.”
Bathe adds that anyone can find a love like theirs. The key is looking beyond the glow-up to see your partner for who he or she really is. “Be able to appreciate the Sterlings or Ryans in your life right now,” she says. “That’s the real goal.” Beautifully put.
This article originally appears in the February 2019 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.