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On paper, Terry Crews and wife Rebecca King Crews have a picture-perfect relationship: 31 years of marriage. Five kids. Hollywood success. But as the couple’s new Audible Original audio memoir, Stronger Together — an exclusive clip of which can be heard below — reveals, their relationship has been challenged by issues that would break many: miscarriage, infidelity and Crews’s porn addiction, for which he sought treatment in rehab. Together, they speak frankly at the lowest moments of their marriage, and share how, after years of treatment and therapy, they ultimately found their way back to one another.
The Crewses were just as candid and unflinching as they spoke to Yahoo Life about those dark times, and how they individually overcame them. For Rebecca, it involved a lot of crying and conversations with loved ones. For Terry, it meant pushing past the stigma of getting help as a Black man in crisis. Here they share the lessons they’ve learned, how honesty has become their form of self-care and why the actor and former football star is in bed by 7:30.
You’ve been really candid about the issues that you weathered as a couple, from infidelity to addiction. Those are issues that can take a huge mental toll. How did you get through it?
Rebecca: A trauma nurse told me that the emotional trauma is worse than physical trauma, and I think we don’t view it that way. If I could describe a picture of how I felt, it was as if someone had stabbed me a thousand times in my chest. I actually had literal physical pain in my body. As we were going through this, luckily we had a therapist that we kind of had on speed dial that we would utilize when we were going through different things. And we also had a close relationship with our pastors. Some of the first people we called were our pastors, and then we called our therapist.
And though they gave us good advice — I was given a lot of good bullet points to look at, like how to view the addiction, not to take it personal — you just do a lot of crying and screaming and yelling the first year almost. I think that having those tools kept me from just kind of falling over the edge. They kept me from abandoning my self-esteem and abandoning my hope. And those are things that we’ve kind of always kept in place — we’ve always done therapy, we’ve always had a spiritual practice, so they were there to kind of catch us so that we didn’t completely fall. But I was a little cray-cray, I’m not going to lie [laughs]. It was like dying. It was as painful as losing the baby. I lost a baby in the middle of our marriage, at six months pregnant, and it was devastating and this was devastating.
It was kind of like your worst nightmare because when you’re married to someone in the public eye, the one thing you really hope is that they don’t do anything in the public eye that embarrasses the family. And I hate to say there was a bit of Murphy’s Law there, but I can remember seeing tabloids and looking at my husband and going, “Don’t you ever do that to me.” Like, the whole stereotype, you know? But it was just very bitter and it was like bleeding on the inside. The therapy, the prayer… I mean, God is a healer, and I’ve been healed through many things and this was no different. I cried and I prayed and I talked with my friends. I had a couple [of] close friends along with my pastor, and between all of those things, you know, you get by with a little help from your friends and that’s how we got by, and it was hard. I would say it was over three years before we began to feel normal again. It’s like we were living separated but still in the house.
Terry: You have to understand a little bit about this; there were a couple of cultures at work. You’re talking about male culture, and then you’re talking about Black culture, which looked at therapy as “meh, you’re crazy.” And then in the male world culture, they’re like, “you’re crazy.” [laughs] I had two things that were that I had to fight against that have always, always been there [through] generations and friends and around in circles, because the whole point was to not admit you needed help.
The only way I can really describe it is: You fall in a hole, you can’t get out, but to just call for help is embarrassing and something to be pitied and shamed. So that’s the circle I was in, and I just made a decision to yell for help — like, to yell. And I felt embarrassed to do that. I felt less than a man to do that. People looked at me like I was crazy to do that. And I’ve faced those fears head-on, which was my salvation, which really saved my life. Going to therapy, I was going to turn around every time. In therapy, I was leaving. I was like, “I’m leaving. I’m going back to my room.” I remember going back to the room and packing my bags, like “I’m outta here.” And something said stay. Something said yell for help again.
I get choked up thinking about it again because there’s so, so many obstacles to getting help, but the only way out was through this. It was the only way that we could even salvage everything: our relationship, even myself. Frankly and honestly, if I had not gone in, I don’t even know if I would be alive today. That’s just a fact. So even beyond the marriage, it goes into my life. Like, I wonder what turn I would have taken. In hindsight now, you go “it’s clear,” but it wasn’t clear then.
We were in the dark and we were both feeling our way through a strange new world that, like she said, took about three years. There were times it was just weird in the house. Everything was strange; it was like being on another planet and trying to figure out this new way to walk and everything you knew was wrong and everything that you thought was wrong was right. Everything was turned upside down. But we did have help. We had friends, we had people to hold our hands through the hole. We had people who reached down and I just grabbed her hand and we both just grabbed and we held on until we got pulled out. That’s the best way we could describe it.
In terms of being “stronger together,” do you have any self-care or wellness rituals outside of therapy or practicing your faith that you share as a couple?
Rebecca: The closest thing to self-care together I would say is just our weekly talk. We have a Saturday morning thing where we connect, and then we do audiobooks together. But largely our self-care is done separately. Although we practice the same things; we both are very diligent about exercise. We both listen to a lot of inspirational material and motivational material and even healing. We’ve done all the Brené Brown books and Joyce Meyer… We’ve read a lot on sex addiction and on the spouses of sex addicts and co-dependence… We don’t focus so much now on the addiction side, as much as we focus on being close and making sure that we share each other’s feelings and, you know, where we are. And actually, I just recently said to him, we need to kind of recommit to [finding] some book or audiobook or something together that we could just sit and listen to together. And we just did that last night, listened to a book together. I don’t know, we probably need to brush up on that, hun.
Terry: Just to be brutally honest, you know, a lot of times when people do things together, they do things for the image and how it looks for the other person. And one thing that I learned in therapy is that I needed to get better for me — not to get better for what I’m going to get. It’s two different ways to look at this thing, where for years I was just concerned about the image. So it was like, yeah, we’re going to do that together, we’re going to do all this together so I can say, “we do all this stuff together.” But I wasn’t there. You know what I mean? And I realized that I needed to do a lot of taking care of myself for her, and she needs to take care of herself for me.
It sounds a little backwards, I know, because everyone has a big kind of image of marriage with everything being together and everybody’s together, but I’m gonna break it down. There’s one story I’ve told before, but one of the best anniversaries we ever had is when we got into an argument. We were at a restaurant and she’s decided, “I’m out.” And I was like, “OK, sweet. I’ll see you later.” She left. And I finished the meal and the whole thing. I was alone. She was alone. And then when I came home and I looked at her and she was sitting there watching TV, and I came up beside her and I remember just laying my head on her shoulder and asking, “You OK?” She said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” And I knew we would be together forever, because, for other people, that’s the end of the relationship. But to us, it was just something everyone needed. We needed a little space today; we need this time to go by [ourselves], think about who we are and think about what we need, and then we regroup. It was super-special. It was the best anniversary I ever had. It was an argument, but I felt like, wow, we’re going to do this forever. Like, there’s nothing that will ever take us out. We’ll always be there for each other. And it wasn’t scary, it was just reaffirming that we’re still here and we’re still together. It made me very, very happy.
Rebecca: I want to tell my side of that. There was a time that I would not have gotten up and left. I would have sat there pretending to enjoy this meal, and we were in a public place so we’ve got to worry about what people think. And I was angry because something I said had been misinterpreted, and it was kind of one of those nights that just wasn’t going to go right no matter how we tried it because I think we were both tired. And every time I said something, he was angry about it. And he was like, “Well, why are you bringing that up?” I was like, “OK, you know what, I’m going home.” And there would have been a time that I would have sat there, angry, ate my meal, pretended to have these little niceties with him and then resented him, and then laid in bed that night thinking, “I’m going to leave this so-and-so and I’m going to duh-duh-duh…” But I just gave up my fear of abandonment and I said, “I’m getting out of here. I’m just going to do what feels right for me right now. And I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid of losing you. I’m not afraid of you being mad at me. I’m not afraid.” And I just took the keys and went home. It was like, “I feel like after everything we’ve gone through, if you’re going to leave me because I walked out of a restaurant then good riddance.”
Terry: I have to say, self-care with us is honesty because I can tell her how I feel. I can honestly say, “You know what, I’m really tired” and she’s not gonna run away and be like, “I hate you.” And vice versa, you know? And it’s so refreshing. That kind of honesty we have, it’s really refreshing because we never wonder what the other person is thinking.
Rebecca: And for so many years, while he was hiding in addiction, I was hiding my true feelings because I was always afraid. You know, my husband had a temper. So if he flared up at me because I brought something up, I would shut up. Now, I let him have it. And if he’s like, “Honey, I don’t want to hear this right now,” I say, “I do not care if you don’t want to hear it” [both laugh]. By letting go of fear, I saved the marriage because I just went through the process of saying, “I’m not going to take any more s*** off of you. And if you don’t like it, then you leave.” And once I wasn’t afraid of being left, I discovered that he really did love me.
Final question. Terry, you famously have an ultra-productive schedule that involves waking up very early. Can you give us a quick rundown of your routine?
It usually starts at about 4 a.m. I pop up and I’m in the gym right away. That’s my self-care time. I literally am in the gym two to three hours every day. I really think about my day, I think about everything… I’m usually out of the gym probably by 7 and then there’s that whole shower and get ready for the day thing and all that stuff. So I’m kind of active and ready to go by 8, definitely. But that four hours in the morning, I covet that and I always like to do it alone. Rebecca and I don’t work out together because it’s a different thing. And, with the therapy and everything, that has become my own self-care time that I can really, really concentrate on who I’m going to be.
And then my day just goes, and you’re talking about two shows — America’s Got Talent and Brooklyn Nine-Nine — and commercial campaigns and all the other extra stuff. And then I go to bed early. I go to bed as soon as I can. If I can be in bed at 7:30, I will. Sometimes the light is still out and I’m like, “Goodnight.” [laughs] There’s no clubs, there’s no hanging out. If I’m up at 9, it’s a late night for me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.