When it comes to things like dating, getting married or starting a family, women don’t often hold back on sharing their thoughts, especially when we get together. But what do the fellas think? We’re passing the mic to a few happily married men for their insights on matters of the heart.

Nwigwe, his wife, Fat, and their baby daughter, Ivory, are expecting a new addition to their family.

Tobe Nwigwe, 32

Hometown: Houston
Profession: Rapper and Influencer
Married: Two years

ON BEING A HUSBAND TO HIS WIFE, FAT

“If you can honor your covenant, it just humbles you. I treat nobody else in the world like I treat Fat. The husband-and-wife relationship, it just changes you. It makes you move and operate on a different level. Before I got married, I told Fat’s mama, ‘I’m going to take care of your daughter for the rest of her life.’ Marriage provides a whole different set of principles. I think that’s what I cherish the most.”

ON UNDERSTANDING LOVE

“I thought it was supposed to be the butterflies and the ‘you hang up,’ ‘no, you hang up’ type of feeling. In actuality, love is a command. I didn’t know what love was before we got married, but right after we got married, I started being overwhelmed with thoughts of, I’m really into my woman. I’m into nobody else other than my woman.”

ON CREATING A SOLID FOUNDATION

“Most people don’t see all of that groundwork that goes into building a life-until-death type of relationship. You just see the surface and you’re like, Yo, I want that. But you don’t understand. We went through five or six years of friendship, trying to be together, a year of separation, and then coming back and submitting our relationship to God. It was a lot, but that’s what it really takes to have a solid foundation in a real relationship.”

Oliver with his wife, Codie, and their three sons,
Brooks (center) and twins Aristotle and Langston

Tommy Oliver, 35

Hometown: Philadelphia
Profession: Filmmaker, Entrepreneur and Cocreator of OWN’s Black Love docuseries
Married: Five years

ON FINDING LOVE WITH HIS WIFE, CODIE ELAINE

“It became clear very early on that there was no one better than Codie. And when I realized that, it was like, why even keep looking? Why not put all my energy into this amazing person and see if we can make this work? I don’t fall hard and fast, but as my wife says, I am incredibly decisive. I evaluate things quickly. With her, it was like, she’s incredible. She’s sweet. She’s a good person. We have similar interests and consistent values, and on top of that, she’s also beautiful.”

ON CREATING A FAMILY

“Marriage is a lot harder than people expect. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. The payoff is worth it. Being a nuclear family is something that’s really important to us. That’s why we had kids. I love the life that we’ve built and the life that we are building together—the shared memories and experiences, the things that we’re able to accomplish together. To see her flourish, to see her be an incredible mother, is a very cool place for me to be, alongside her.”

ON RELATIONSHIP GOALS

“Longevity and happiness are what it’s all about. It’s about figuring out how to be together happily. That’s the only measurement that, I think, makes sense. Those are relationship goals: to still like the person you’re with, to still want to be with the person you’re with because you choose to be with them—not because it’s the default, not because it’s the easy thing. That doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time, but overall, you are happy, and you are still one team, and every day you’re choosing that team. You’re choosing to be together.”

It became clear early on that there was no one better than Codie.

—TOMMY OLIVER, COCREATOR OF BLACK LOVE
Burns with his wife of 20 years, Jessica

Kenny Burns, 47

Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Profession: Lifestyle Specialist and Partner in Uncle Nearest whiskey
Married: 20 years

ON KNOWING JESSICA WAS THE ONE

“I was in Chicago by Lake Michigan, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do. The music business is not for me. These people aren’t like me. They’re so conniving and backstabbing.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna put my hands on someone. There have to be some repercussions.’ Jessica was like, ‘You can’t do none of that.’ She starts speaking all types of life into me. And then she said, ‘By the way, you’re Kenny Motherf–king Burns!’ And I knew right then, on that big-ass rock we were sittin’ on in Lake Michigan, that I was going to marry her. I knew when I saw her, but that just confirmed it. It was a Build-a-Bear situation. She guided me toward my superpowers. She saw the superstar in me before I saw the superstar in me.”

ON MARRIAGE BEING COOL

“I think people like my wife and me definitely show that being married is cool, that being married is sexy. It’s fly. It’s fashionable. I think that is what our generation wants. We wanted it because we didn’t see great examples of it. We had The Cosby Show and that was the holy grail for us, visually. Now we have a culture that preaches misogyny and heavy drug use. It basically tells you to be unconscious and do whatever you want to do. That’s not real life. That’s not a legacy-written life. If you follow Kenny and Jessica Burns, you see praise and thankfulness. You see family. You see luxury. I think there are plenty of examples like us out there.”

ON CREATING A BLUEPRINT

“We put one foot in front of the other and we learned. I started out being gone all the time—trying to make this money—and then we implemented the four-day rule. You leave on the first day; you’re back on the fourth. These are all things you have to be attentive to on your journey. Because staying gone all the time does what? Creates separation. Being gone a little bit of time creates, ‘I miss you. I want to see you. I can’t wait to get home.’ In a partnership, you take your learning from the past, but you implement your experiences as you go.”

Bereola and his wife, Letisha, with son Miles announced last August that they are expecting baby number two, a girl

Enitan Bereola II, 38

Hometown: San Jose and Oakland, California Profession: Author of Gentlewoman and Bereolaesque and Creative Executive Officer of SaintMiles
Married: Six years

ON WHAT ATTRACTED HIM TO HIS WIFE, LETISHA

“Her unwillingness to compromise in the presence of charm and wit. She was so grounded, confident and comfortable. I was a playboy since middle school, but I didn’t sway her. And I was so used to being able to manipulate people. She wasn’t playing hard to get—she was hard to get. She wasn’t going to fall for anybody, and I had to acquiesce to her vibe and get on her level. And I was almost forced into a friendship if I was going to have any type of relationship with her. She had a whole different type of glow.”

ON UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

“Our relationship grows because we work on ourselves every day. At a certain point, you realize that it’s you against yourself. It ain’t got nothing to do with the other person. I don’t love my wife because of anything—that makes the love conditional. I just love my wife. She can’t do anything about that. That’s a choice. It’s a decision. It has nothing to do with what she does or who she is. I love her.”

ON CREATING A SAFE SPACE

“I think the beauty of our relationship is that you have a space safe to just be you. You can take off your cool. I’d dance and sing and be hella silly, and she allowed me to be that. It felt like home and she still loved me. We talked about our secrets, our flaws, our mistakes and mishaps. There was a comfortable, safe space to do that, and she knew exactly who I was and loved me still. Before her, I thought women expected a man to come to the table with everything. She taught me that instead of trying to build apart, why don’t we build together?”

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of ESSENCE magazine

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