A lot can happen in a year. For Arizona Cardinals’ safety Adrian Wilson and his wife of 10 years, Alicia Wilson, the last year has been an emotional roller coaster filled with unexpected change, unwanted drama and new beginnings.
After hitting a rough patch in their marriage, the once-happy childhood sweethearts and proud parents of three made a mutual, but tough, decision to legally separate. It was a private decision that suddenly wound up the topic of public scrutiny when reality TV star Malika Haqq, the woman Adrian dated seriously during the separation, brought reality TV cameras along for the ride.
Adrian wound up on two episodes of E!’s Khloe and Lamar. When the shows aired and news of his involvement with Malika broke, many of his fans labeled him a “cheating husband” and Malika a “homewrecker,” and rumors that he had abandoned his wife and kids started popping up all over the web.
Adrian, Alicia and Malika exchanged a few jabs on Twitter and that’s the last fans heard of the feud. Adrian reconciled with Alicia shortly afterward, and he tells us, things aren’t at all what they seemed to be on the show, and he and his wife have moved on. Reunited and feeling good, the happy couple recently renewed their vows in a lavish Hawaiian ceremony. If that doesn’t silence their haters, Adrian is hoping this interview will help clear a few things up.
Read on as Adrian talks to ESSENCE.com exclusively about what really happened between he and his wife and why he chose to fight for his family rather than return to bachelorhood.
ESSENCE.COM: Initially, what led you and Alicia to separate?
ADRIAN WILSON: I think we were kind of at a crossroads. Communication has always been a big component in our marriage, and somewhere along the line I think the communication just kind of fell apart. Once that happened, it seemed like it was just downhill from there. It was just a tough situation. I feel like it was something that we had to go through.
ESSENCE.COM: How bad were things between you?
WILSON: We were in the final stages of getting a divorce and everything being settled. She was ready to go her way, and I was going to go my way, but it wasn’t really something that we both wanted. We worked back to where we are.
ESSENCE.COM: How and when did you reconcile?
WILSON: We were separated for six months. That’s what everybody doesn’t understand. We were separated for a while. Getting back together was something that we had to talk about for a very long time. We talked some times all night long and into the next morning — talking about what needed to change. We realized they weren’t really big things; they were just things we needed to work on as a couple. There were things we needed to do in our marriage individually to make each other feel comfortable again and recognizing that I’m responsible for how she feels, and she’s responsible for how I feel. That communication was one of the main things that got us back to the point where we are now. I tell my wife more now than ever before, and she does the same for me.
ESSENCE.COM: What was it like watching yourself go on a date on reality TV and then dealing with the fallout from gossip sites and fans afterward?
WILSON: The whole episode attacked my character, and it was shown in a way that reflected the opposite of who I really am. But that’s cool; that’s what they do. Am I mad? Sure. But at the end of the day, that’s not what is most important to me. It’s no longer on my mind. I told my wife all about it and about everything that happened before the show even aired. She was well-prepared for everything — for the backlash and all that stuff. It wasn’t what it should have been, but that’s on me. It’s not on anyone else but me. But being able to get through that, and be where we are now, makes me think the experience helped us out tremendously. I think it made us stronger.
ESSENCE.COM: Looking back, did dating Malika help you better appreciate what you and Alicia have?
WILSON: I don’t think there’s anything like true love. I’ve known my wife since middle school. I don’t think there’s anything stronger than knowing the other person the way we know each other. My wife did her thing; I did my thing. We were apart. Whatever. It was never really about any other person, it was about us individually. We were able to come back together and make it work, and that was the most important thing for us. The love that we’ve always had for each other is still there, and that’s a beautiful thing. That love is never gonna break.
ESSENCE.COM: Why did you choose to renew your vows now?
ADRIAN WILSON: We never had a wedding. This is a 10-year vow renewal, but it’s our first real actual wedding. I always told her that if we get to 10 years, I’d give her her time to shine and do all the things that brides do. She was very excited about it. It’s a great opportunity and real fresh start for us. We invited the people who actually love us for who we are and who’ve supported us throughout it all. Plus, we wanted to get our kids involved and just show them that mommy and daddy have gotten back together and how important family is.
ESSENCE.COM: What message do you have for other couples who are feeling like separation or divorce may be their next step?
WILSON: I think you come to a crossroads and tough times in every relationship and every marriage. But at the end of the day, what are you doing individually to make it better? You can’t just close the door on your issues or on the person you’ve been with for so long. You can’t push things to the side, just be okay with that, and then think it won’t come up again. The problem is going to come back again, and be bigger than it was before. I don’t see anything wrong with fighting for what you have. Sometimes you lose so much more — you lose credibility with your kids, credibility with your family — if you don’t. I’m a fighter, so I say, fight for everything that you have.
Click here to see exclusive family photos from Adrian and Alicia’s lavish vow renewal ceremony.