Monique Samuels has no regrets. The wife, mother of three, entrepreneur and reality TV star has completed her first season of Love & Marriage: DC alongside husband of 10 years, Chris Samuels. On the show, they’ve confronted some uncomfortable realities about their marriage, unflinchingly. Like when she said that if she could get married again to her husband, knowing what she knows now, she wouldn’t. Or the heated conversations had about what she needs that she’s not getting from him after all these years. And while she’s been a big target of criticism for her honesty since the series began, the beauty is all smiles during our chat, unbothered when asked about people who say she’s embarrassed and disrespected her husband on national TV.
“Yes, my delivery could have been better, but at the end of the day, I had reasons behind everything that I said and everything that I did,” she tells ESSENCE. “And Chris knows those reasons.”
“Sometimes you have to voice what you need and not be afraid of what might happen,” she adds. “Who can live life like that?”
Love & Marriage: DC certainly has been quite the wild ride for Samuels already, but as she made clear, she’s ready for round — or Season — 2. In the meantime, the beauty talked with us about being “heavily criticized” for how she communicates with Chris, where things stand in her marriage, and why she’s glad she didn’t hold back.
ESSENCE: Congratulations on the first completed season of Love & Marriage: DC. How do you feel about it now that you’re watching people’s reaction to it?
Monique Samuels: Overall, I felt it was an amazing show. It was real. We had some amazing moments. I feel like we should have had 20 episodes. I mean, for us three couples to deliver all the content that we deliver, oh man, we had so much more and I felt like each episode we could have gone deeper into it. You didn’t see much of us interacting with our families, like the kids and things like that. But we did that. I’m proud of it.
I know going into it, you said you and Chris weren’t really talking. When you signed up for the show, did you wonder, Should we be doing this? Or did you feel like, no, let’s lay it all out there and do the work? Let the people see it.
When we gave Carlos [King] the commitment and we said, “We’re going to do it and we’re going to go through this process,” we weren’t where we were when we started filming.
That was months and months prior. So as we got closer and closer to actually filming, at this point, we can’t pull back. We already got these couples committed. We gave Carlos our word and we signed the contract. You know what I’m saying? So at that moment, I remember my husband and I had a conversation and he definitely felt uncomfortable. How are we going to navigate this? And I just told him, I said, “Listen, if you expect me to get on this camera and act like everything is all hunky dory, you must not know who I am.” I said, “At the end of the day, maybe we’re going through this at this moment for a reason, but I’m going to give it my all as I always do. And I’m going to be 100% real. And who knows how many people we’ll be able to help who are in this same moment in their marriage.” So that’s how I looked at it and I didn’t hold back.
Speaking of that, people have been saying, “Oh, she can be a little softer…You talk down to him…She could be a little softer…She talks to him in a mean way.” What do you say to those people?
I look at it like they didn’t see the whole conversation. They didn’t witness the whole argument so they don’t even know what I’m talking about. I have been that soft spoken delivery. I’ve been that joking delivery, that sarcastic delivery, that “Baby, I’m crying,” I’m vulnerable. I’ve had that intimacy delivery. I’ve had all of it. And it gets to a point where you ask very nicely for the first hundred times. Once you get to 101, it might not come out as nice.
So I get what people are saying and I get the commentary that’s happening as it pertains to Chris and I, but at the end of the day, they don’t get to see all of our marriage. They’re only seeing certain parts. And most of the time that they did see, it was only what I was addressing or bringing up, not necessarily Chris addressing and bringing up anything. So it was kind of one sided when it came to what was shown on TV. So I get why they’re making those comments. That’s why I don’t even get upset. I’m like, if Chris felt like I talked down to him and I was belittling him, Chris wouldn’t be here. Chris knows I’ve given him every single thing I promised him I would give him when we made our vow 10 years ago. So what we’re arguing about and going back and forth about is the unbalance in our relationship and how there are certain things that I’ve been asking for since before we even got married that I’m like, dude, come on. So there’s a lot of factors going on and we’ll continue to navigate our marriage the way we do. But I can’t get mad at the people for commenting.
But you made a great point during part one of the reunion. You talked about how it often takes for a woman to cry to be acknowledged when she’s letting you know how she feels but then we’re expected to be so delicate when we talk to the men in our lives.
I’ve done that approach. I’ve done all of them. I’ve done the “I’m not perfect and I know there’s some things that I need to work on and I hear you when you say you need this, that and the other, but can you listen? This is what I need.” I’ve been there, done that. I’ve tried everything. And that’s probably why the delivery was so strong throughout the season because we weren’t really talking. So I’m basically like, I have to be silent because I don’t want to blow up on him. And it’s like, I’m getting more and more frustrated. And I didn’t feel like he was taking me seriously. I didn’t feel heard. I felt like he was just brushing me off for years. And at that moment, I’m just like, I’m just not going to say anything. But then that’s not good either because who wants to live life not saying anything? Especially me as much as I talk. So that’s a lie if I’m being quiet.
Once we started filming, I’m just like, I can’t just sit here. And then it’s like, he’s asking me this, that or the other. And then I’m telling him this is what I need. And when you’re giving me the same response you’ve been giving me for 10 years, it’s very triggering. It’s like, you already done told me this. And Chris’ whole, “I’m working on it. I’m working on it” is basically shut up, I don’t feel like dealing with this anymore. So I know my husband. I know when he’s saying certain things. I know what he needs. And then it’s like, I get triggered. Don’t brush me off. I don’t like it. And then it turns into what it turns into.
But now that you’ve gone through this season and you guys have had these conversations, what place would you say both are in?
I’ll say let’s get Season 2 on and popping right now so y’all can see what’s going on. They need to go and give us Season 2 yesterday so that you can capture all of this.
…I don’t know what to do with that [laughs]. Is that good or bad?
It’s interesting is what it is. When people say marriage is work, they don’t really break down what kind of work it is. I mean, patience on a whole other level. And then sometimes you sacrifice what it is that you need while you’re waiting for the other person to grow and to move and to perform. And it’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating especially if I know I’m giving everything. And it’s like, you can’t just be on the other end receiving all the time. And then when I finally put my foot down and say, “Look, this is what I need,” now you’re mad because I’m not still giving. I’m like, all right, I’m going to just sit here and wait. I’m going to sit here and wait for you to catch up.
Does having these moments now where people know you, they see you on TV, you have your businesses, you’re stepping out in your own lane, empower you to be able to speak your mind in a more forward way now?
That’s a good question. That would be something I would need to ask my husband because he makes it very clear that he’s proud of me and all of my accomplishments and he loves to see me shine. He says it all the time. But that is a real thing. When you have been the focal point of the relationship for so long and then now it’s like we both are, we’re both doing this together, sometimes that could present a challenge. I don’t think it has in our marriage. A lot of times Chris will be out and he’s taking videos of people that are just like, “Monique, we love you.” And he’s so proud so I do appreciate that from him. I do see people make this comment where they say because I have success now, it’s almost like I’m now speaking my mind to Chris and it’s not true. This mouth always been like this.
It was actually worse back then. And I have learned over the years to tone it down because my delivery…If you thought my delivery was bad on this show, I used to be so sarcastic. But yeah. I’ve always been this way. I’ve never defined myself by anything in life other than who I am. Even when I was dating Chris and he was playing in the NFL, I was never one of those chicks, “Yeah, my boyfriend play in the NFL.” Nope. Not ever. I didn’t even want people knowing, if anything. So I was always very private and just kind of did my own thing. I’ve always had businesses, always been an entrepreneur. Back in the day, I used to do real estate. I was a real estate appraiser. That’s what I was doing when I met Chris. So I’ve always been accustomed to having my own. I’ve gone through rough patches along the way, but I’ve never allowed me to be anything other than me.
How would you say that the show has helped you whether it’s your relationship or helped you grow on your own, now that you’re done with Season 1? What has been the big benefit for you?
I’ll say with the marriage, it’s pretty much, we’re still where we were. We’re still trying to navigate things. It’s not easy. When you’ve been a certain way for so much of your life, it’s hard to make changes. So I will give you that. But my biggest takeaway from the show this season has been … I’ve been on this whole spiritual journey, really trying to understand myself, what my purpose is. Why am I here? Why am I living this life? That’s been my whole journey. And I was getting a little frustrated watching the season play out and I just felt like a lot of me was removed from the show. I honestly felt like that. I felt like, dang, I’m not seeing the whole picture like I promised the audience.
And at one moment, I sat back and I thought about it. I was reading this book and it’s talking about the death of the ego. And this was the first time where I think I was so heavily criticized, but not just the criticism from the audience and the social media, it was also me looking at it. And I’m like, what? What happened? There’s more to it. Show the reason why I’m going off! So I’m getting frustrated, but then I sat back and thought about it. I was meditating one day and I just heard, Your ego has to completely be dead. It can’t just be partially dead. When you got 75% of people rooting for you and 25% that aren’t, it’s easy to remove your ego from that because people are saying good things.
But when you have a season where you feel like it’s more so negative, that’s when you know there’s a huge lesson to be learned. And I had to sit back and say, “What is that lesson?” I cannot ever operate off of what other people think, regardless of what narrative they’re given because I know me. I’ve always been a person that I will look myself in the mirror and I’m like, you know who you are. So I feel like this season really just took that whole mindset to the next level. And now I feel invincible. I feel like I don’t care what the backlash will be as long as I’m giving my all. Everything I do, I give 110% or more. I’m never going to do half talk. If I would’ve sat back and said to myself, even in my frustration, Well there are cameras around so let me talk to Chris like this. “Oh Chris, you know I’ve been asking this, that and the other.” That’s not me. That’s not me. Everybody has their limits. I’ve already done the soft talk. Y’all missed that part. So you’re going to get where I am and I’m going to give it to you as I feel it. And for that, I’m proud of myself because most people would hold back and they would change up for the camera. And then you are getting a fake version of what’s really going on and I’m not about fake. I’ve never been about it. So at least I gave everything.
Check out part two of the ‘Love & Marriage: DC’ reunion on Saturday (July 30) at 9/8c on OWN.