Through Their Breakups, They Were Always Friends

Because marriage is an ever-evolving experience, we constantly shift, change and, in some cases, start over. In It’s No Secret, couples share thoughts about commitment and tell us what they have learned, revealing their secret to making it work. (Answers are edited for context and space.)

Who Sharene Wood, 47, and Guy Wood, 57

Occupation The couple own and run 5001 Flavors, a custom apparel and accessories brand that caters to people in the entertainment industry, and Harlem Haberdashery, a bespoke clothing boutique, both based in New York.

Their Marriage 13 years, 1 month and counting

The couple were married May 6, 2007 at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach before 175 guests. Mr. Wood’s oldest son was the best man. “I designed and had all of the suits custom made,” said Mr. Wood, who dressed his seven groomsman in white silk shirts and matching white dinner jackets and black pants. “I wanted a uniformed look that would be timeless rather than crazy.”

The couple have a daughter, Sydney, 12. Mr. Wood has two sons, Jordan, 22, and Guy Jr., 31, and a daughter, Brittny, 33, from previous relationships.

Sharene Barnett and Guy Wood met in 1989 at a diner in the Bronx. “I didn’t notice him, but he noticed me,” she said. “He approached me and introduced himself. He asked for my number and called the next day.”

Their first date was at a restaurant in the East Village. She liked him, but was only 18 at the time and not ready for a relationship. Her sights were set on applying to colleges. He was almost 10 years older and had two children from past relationships. So rather than date, they became friends. A year went by. She was accepted to Columbia. In 1991, their friendship evolved into dating.

“I wasn’t thinking marriage, but I realized we were very like-minded and we loved being together,” she said.

During this time Mr. Wood was approached by a record producer to start a clothing company for people in the music industry. He brought Ms. Barnett on board. By the summer of 1993, the pair moved in together. While the business was moving forward, the relationship was not. “Guy wasn’t behaving well or making good relationship decisions,” she said. “He wasn’t ready to commit. Our romantic life fell apart. Only the business was sustaining us.”

The couple broke up in 1996. She moved out and found her own apartment, and herself. “I stepped into who I was,” she said. ‘I wasn’t dating, I was enjoying my independence.” Mr. Wood saw other people. He had another child. Years went by. Both the business and their friendship continued to grow. In June 2006, during dinner at a restaurant in Harlem Mr. Wood had a sobering moment. “He said, ‘Everything I’m looking for you are. It took me a long time to realize that,’” she said. “I was so relieved and happy. I realized he’d grown into who I wanted him to be.” They became a couple again that night. Ten months later they were married.

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Mrs. Wood Guy is creative, resourceful and brings joy and energy into a room. He lights up my world. I’m very practical and rigid. I’ve given him vision and clarity around his life. He’s taught me to dream more. His carefree ability has made me less stressful and unburdened me.

When I was single, I learned I could stand on my own. Sometimes you have to pick loving yourself over the relationship. That makes it easier to come back to a relationship. We always had this human connection and I’ve always loved him. But he wasn’t my husband until he grew into it. Now that he has, life with him has been amazing.

I’ve learned friendship and love can coexist in the same place and space, that we’re strong in our own way, but together we’re more so.

Marriage taught me people really can change — and for the better. It is an evolution of self, and this other person you’re with. I’ve learned who you are when you get married is not who you are in the marriage. You have to love and trust each other in order to go to the next level of your life. Partnership is not always 50/50. There are days, weeks, even months when it’s not. Sometimes one person takes the lead. That it’s a “we,” and how does this help “we” rather than how does this help me.

In this marriage, Guy blossomed into the man and father I knew he could be. Marrying him was the right decision. I’m happy; I love this man. I love how we weathered a storm and came back together. Our breakup was part of the journey. If we didn’t take that break, we wouldn’t be where we are, and be who we are.

Mr. Wood I was very immature when I met Shay. I’d been in a lot of bad relationships. I’d been hurt. I’d been cheated on. Then I did that same thing to someone else. It took me time to realize I didn’t like who I was becoming. Shay was nothing like that. I knew I was hurting her, which is why we broke up. I didn’t want to destroy her or our friendship, especially when she was the only one who had been there for me. She was my best friend. I’d never had that before. I was waiting for her to put her foot down. And when she did I realized I needed to grow up. That took 10 years.

Since we got married, I’ve learned how to be a we, not an I. I’ve learned to stop running after the shiny stuff; to be honest with myself and with her; to step up, become trustworthy and accountable. She’s given me confidence and made me a better person. She taught me how to make a plan and to care enough to have one. She’s taught me how to be the man I’m supposed to be for her and our family, not the man the world thinks I am. I’ve learned to take a walk, rather than run away. If something didn’t go the way I wanted I was gone.

My wife was strong enough to weather the storms I created and love me anyway. I’ve never lived by myself so I never got a chance to find myself. I found myself with Shay.

I don’t need anything but my family, who I now put first. I make sure she’s good. I’ve learned that’s not hard to do. I thought it was, but I’ve learned seeing her happy is everything.

Like so many roommates, partners spouses and families, the couple and their children have been staying at home because of the coronavirus.

Mrs. Wood We’re trying to be optimistic in terms of living with the virus. We’re home trying to process and reassess everything that’s happening. It’s a lot to digest. We’re both home now, and our daughter is doing home schooling. Rather than panic, we’re trying to take it all in and remember how much we love each other. I realized I could do more with less, and be more financially responsible and resourceful.

Mr. Wood When the coronavirus started, I didn’t take it seriously. Now I do. It’s given me a greater appreciation for life and for having a close family. It’s made me hold onto my family tighter because it took me so long to get there. This has been a time of contemplation and for gratefulness.

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