Montsho and Nwasha Edu have the kind of love story that will make anyone a believer. They met inadvertently 13 years ago at a car wash in their hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. After praying for the right woman, Montsho knew he’d been blessed when Nwasha walked right into his life. With so much going on in their personal lives and careers at the time, a good portion of their courtship was spent living in different parts of the country. “I knew that I was going to marry her when I met her,” he says. “There was never even a formal proposal; just an announcement to her family and ring shopping.”
They tied the knot at a local courthouse on a Wednesday during their lunch breaks, but planned to travel to Egypt a few days later for a spiritual ceremony and honeymoon with their closest friends and family present. The carefully planned trip was four years in the making. It was going to be the experience of a lifetime. That is, until everything went terribly wrong.
They were both in graduate school battling hectic course loads, Montsho’s adjudicated youth program was shut down suddenly, and he’d put off getting a passport until the very last minute. When the government found issues with his paperwork, his request was denied. With two days left before their big trip, a devastated Nwasha was forced to travel on their magical honeymoon without her husband. While vacationing in Egypt with family, Nwasha began to second-guess her decision to spend the rest of her life with Montsho. When a friendly traveler wooed her during her time of grief and confusion, she did the last thing she ever imagined she would—she cheated on her husband and began an affair that continued for months after she returned home. It didn’t end until Montsho caught her red-handed and confronted her about it. Just when Nwasha thought the guilt and disappointment she felt was tearing her apart, her husband made a shocking confession of his own. He had also cheated during their “honeymoon.” While he was left back at home feeling abandoned and missing out on the trip they’d planned together, he turned to an ex-lover for comfort and even slept with her in their home.
Most couples couldn’t repair a marriage that was seemingly broken before it had even begun, but Montsho and Nwasha wanted to fight to make it work—and they did. Today, they’re the co-founders of the Akoma House Initiative where they offer couples “a cultural alternative” to traditional counseling and therapy. They didn’t just heal their marriage; they created an even better, happier one. Their moving story was recently shown on an episode of OWN’s Unfaithful. Get to know the inspirational duo now.
ESSENCE.com: What a backstory! Do you now know how the adultery happened?
NWASHA EDU: I went on the honeymoon and tried to save face and be happy. I wanted to make the most of the trip, but as the days went by, I started to get angry because Motsha wasn’t there. Slowly, resentment started to build inside me. I felt like I had all of these signs sinking in on me that were telling me I wasn’t making a good choice. He hadn’t ever really proposed. We just got married at a courthouse, and he wasn’t on that trip with me like he was supposed to be. Somehow I’d lost my voice in our process and it hurt.
ESSENCE.com: How did you address it head-on?
MONTSHO EDU: We looked for a Black counselor in our state and finally found one, and as a result, we started to grow and address many of the issues.
ESSENCE.com: Why do you feel it’s so difficult to practice forgiveness when there’s a betrayal in a marriage?
MONTSHO: Because in the moment the violation or the offense happens, the person is holding the other person responsible for their emotional pain. When you stop that, you release the debt. We spent a whole weekend together in our room just crying and talking and forgiving one another and ourselves. People are very hard on each other because they have a hard time forgiving themselves.
NWASHA: I think a lot of times we hold on to what we believe something means even more so than what the event really is about. A lot of times we can’t forgive because of the meanings we attach to the event. With an affair, we say, my husband had an affair, therefore he doesn’t love me or if my husband has an affair, he never loved me or we have to get a divorce. A lot of things are really not connected that way. It really can be just an event that happened. Sometimes we believe that if we forgive, we’re condoning the future offense. We’re just conditioned to worry and attach negative meanings to events that make us uncomfortable.
ESSENCE.com: Do you believe in the saying: Once a cheater, always a cheater?
MONTSHO: The only experts in relationships are those that are in them. There are many things in our lives we do that we never do again. Saying that is like saying, once an addict, always an addict, or once you’re fat, you’re always going to be fat. None of that is true. Change is constant. Especially when change is connected to your true purpose. We didn’t just overcome cheating, we found each other, and there’s a difference.
NWASHA: We’re coming from an understanding behavior. We’re behavioral scientists. Every behavior is really just satisfying a need of yours. Sometimes we look at our “positive behavior” in one way and our “negative behavior” in another. When the truth of the matter is, all of our behavior is only to satisfy that void or need. You have to recognize the trigger and then you can do something completely different. Montsho was seeking comfort when he had his affair. I wanted to feel significant when I had mine.
ESSENCE.com: What are your biggest strengths within your marriage?
NWASHA: We have a sound understanding of unconditional love. We have a great comfort level. There’s nothing that’s going to separate us. We can figure anything out and there’s a sense of comfort in that.
MONTSHO: I would say our friendship and our ability to be honest with each other. We really use our relationship to develop our own personal characters. She’s the greatest tool that I’ve ever had in my life. She’s like a mirror, a wrench or even an emotional hammer. She’s my divine reflection.
The Edus are co-founders of The Akoma House Initiative Counseling and Consulting Firm based in Trenton, New Jersey and the creators of Akoma Day, a cultural alternative to Valentine’s Day. Visit their website for more information or to make an appointment.