“We definitely had to work really hard at being a couple because we’re both incredibly, painfully stubborn, and we’re pretty much opposites,” Shepard, 44, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story, on stands Friday…
“I was like, ‘That’s the best personality I’ve ever seen on a woman. I need to be around it,” recalls Shepard. “I want to be around it when I’m 80, but how?”
The answer was trust and honesty plus “a little couple’s therapy” — and a very meaningful compromise.
Knowing Shepard didn’t believe in marriage, the Bad Moms actress had accepted she would never be his wife.
“He has a great argument that the state having a piece of paper doesn’t mean he’s going to be nice to me and by my side for the rest of my life. [Rather], that is going to be evidenced by how we treat each other and the commitment that we make,” says Bell. “I had surrendered, like ‘Okay, well, I’m never going to get any sort of traditional marriage out of this, and that’s okay because I trust him.’ I really, really trusted him and believed that we were going to go the long haul.”
But Shepard knew how much marriage meant to Bell, and “ultimately, I was like, ‘Well, I’m doing it because my partner wants that,” he explains about proposing in 2009. “Forget the tradition or history of marriage as a concept, you knowing I was doing something that I didn’t want to do because I loved you was a big sign for you.”
After their intimate, courthouse nuptials in 2013, the couple — who often buck tradition — did feel a greater sense of security.
“It just felt more normal. We do a lot of things differently, but there’s a couple things where I’m just like, ‘God, can we not just fall inside the lines once in a while? I want to wear a pretty piece of jewelry. It’s fun!’” explains Bell. “It felt nice afterwards…
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