Terry Crews is on a serious roll these days! He is starring in FOX’s hit comedy, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine;” has several films in the can including “The Expendables 3,” “Aztec Warrior” and “Reach Me;” and he is the new host of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”
Life wasn’t always this first-rate for the former NFL star and Old Spice guy. Even as he achieved success, he tended to make mistakes that caused him career problems and difficulties in his marriage. But he was also sharp enough to understand that he was his own worst enemy, so Crews energetically tackled the work necessary to get his life on the right track.
Now, he shares those lessons, including the ups and downs of his 25-year marriage, what it takes to forge successful relationships, and what he learned that keeps the home fires burning, in written form. Crews has added the title of author to his resumé with the release of Manhood, now in bookstores everywhere from Ballentine.
“The reason I wrote the book was to show that people can change,” Crews tells eHarmony. “Everything is changeable. Everything you see doesn’t have to remain the same. When I realized that, that’s when I grabbed the wheel of my life and decided I was going to learn how to drive.”
In this interview, Crews surprisingly says that to find love, you have to be willing to go through heartbreak, taking sex out of a relationship can make it stronger, secrets can destroy it, and forgiveness is the key to success.
eH: What is the message of Manhood that men and women should get about making relationships work?
Terry Crews: The message that I feel is most important is knowing your demons, so to speak. A lot of times as adults, we tend to make a lot of excuses for our behavior. I was one of those guys. I like to tell people that are certain stages in your life: You are either a fool, a victim, or a king.
The fool stage is when you are really young and doing crazy things just to be doing them. A fool gets mad when people try to help him. I was definitely at that stage. What happens is being a fool, you mess up your life.
Then you move into the victim stage, where your life is messed up and you tend to blame everybody else. The problem with being a victim, is you never see you are a victim. You can always find, or point to someone else as the problem.
When you start to think like a king, is when you start to take responsibility for everything in your life — good and bad. For me, there were several instances. Usually, to think like a king, you have to fall from grace first. When I hit rock bottom in several areas, either financially or relationship-wise, when something wasn’t working, it made me look and say, “What’s happening here? Why am I not progressing?” Thinking like a king makes you take inventory of your whole life. In the book, I wanted people to get that in a relationship you have to always, always take inventory of what is not working.
eH: What is the biggest mistake people make in relationships?
TC: The biggest thing is it is impossible to control someone and love them at the same time. Impossible. I remember when I wouldn’t tell my wife certain things, even about myself, in order to control her. It was an attempt, by lack of information, to give her a picture and an image that wasn’t really true. That’s a big thing. That’s why I don’t think people should live together.
Intimacy is never safe. To be intimate with someone, you really expose yourself. You are at your most vulnerable. But without commitment, are you really intimate? A lot of time people put on airs, and make themselves look perfect, and make themselves look smarter, but the real deal is when someone knows all your thoughts, and knows everything that you’ve done wrong and knows all your problems, and they still love you, the relationship will go forever. Now, you’ve reached the point where the intimacy is real and it can grow from there.
eH: You read a lot of self-help books, do you think that helps understand feelings, or do you need to be of an accepting mindset before they can help you?
TC: You do. You have to. You can’t really hear things unless you are ready to hear them. It’s funny. There are things you hear all of your life that you swear are correct, until you are presented with your own thing.
The perfect example that I have is driving. Your whole life, you watch people drive, but once you get behind the wheel, you don’t know how to drive. It is one of those things where you assume you know, because you watch people do it every day of your life. But just because you’ve watched it done, does not mean you know how to do it. Until you get behind the wheel, you don’t have a clue.
That is what good self-help books are about. It’s like your eyes aren’t open until you are ready to get behind the wheel and take control of your life. A lot of people are letting other things drive their lives — and they think, they’re driving. They are letting all kinds of people determine what they do, where they go, the circle that they are in, so other people are actually driving their life. When you decide, “I need to take control of what I’m about,” all of a sudden, you’re behind the wheel. You’re, “Okay, where’s the turn signal? Where’s the gas pedal?” That is what a good self-help book will do.
eH: You talk about a sex reset, where you went 90 days without sex. What did you learn from that? Do you think others can benefit from doing something similar?
TC: Definitely. Definitely. Parents have always tended to be old-fashioned, saying, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” but no one tells you the reason why. Remember, I told you, “Intimacy is not safe. It is vulnerable.” When I went through the reset, what happened was I started to understand what I wanted, what I was about, and I had to see my wife as not a object, which is weird, because as men, we get motivated by what we see, and a woman instantly becomes an object to us if we let it. But once I took sex out of the equation, I saw her as a total, whole human being. And I loved her more.
It was a really strange revelation to me because as a man you say, “I just need sex. If you’re not giving me sex, we have a problem.” That is what society thinks. I would encourage women to never let a man see you in that way, because again, intimacy is not safe unless he is committed to you. The phrase “love is all we need,” is wrong. It’s wrong. Because you need more than love, you need commitment. Love without commitment is unfinished: It’s yin without yang, up without down. You can say, “I love you,” and you can love everybody, but unless you are committed to me, there is no way that can really become true love.
I had the commitment. I was married to my wife and what I was exploring more and more was that commitment. Sex was out of the equation. Now, I saw her much differently. Now, we talked. I have to say, as a man you wonder, “When is this conversation going to end in something?” That is what guys do. But once a man is able to see you as you really, really are without sex, then it makes the sex much more. It goes to a whole other level. I think every man has experienced that. That is part of the courtship period. I don’t believe that a woman should ever give a man sex on the first, second, third date. There has got to be a commitment. Because a man will tell you he loves you, and it’s true. He’s not lying, but the flip side is, he’s not committed to you. Until you’ve got that commitment, it’s never, never safe to do something like that.
eH: If intimacy makes you vulnerable, but you say that keeping secrets is one of the biggest problems in relationships, at what point in a relationship do you think it is necessary to reveal all?
TC: You have to take it slow. You have to take baby steps. Also, you want someone who wants you for you. The thing is, if you are a jerk, you probably have a problem anyway. Then you have to work on yourself. But if you’ve already done the work and you know that you’re a kind, giving, loving person, you should have no problem telling people your dreams, telling people your hopes, telling people what you want in life. I think that is really where it all starts and it goes from there. It is a growing process. I am actually more committed to my wife after 25 years than I was the first day we got married.
I really, really think when you are dating, it is important to be upfront and honest about who you are. The first date, no. But if you decide after several dates to start to explain who you are, every time you decide you want the relationship to get closer, you are going to have to reveal a lot more about yourself.
eH: What is your best advice for someone single and looking for love?
TC: My best advice is be the person you want. It is like business. You have to keep looking. What you look for, you want. If you want a red car, all of a sudden, you start seeing great red cars everywhere.
My wife did a great job when she was single of writing down a list of things that she wanted in a potential husband. She wrote a big list, so she knew what she wanted when she saw it. I have heard it said before that if you’re going nowhere, any road will do, but once you have a goal, you have to stay on one road. If you write down what you want out of your mate — male or female — what you are looking for, then it’s all good. If something comes your way that is a little bit different, you don’t have to rule it out. You can definitely say, ‘Hmm. This is a deviation from what I wrote before, but I am interested to go this way.” I think remain open, but also have a list of what you want.
eH: What is the hardest thing about love?
TC: The hardest thing about love is you are going to get your heart broken. There is no way around it. It is not safe. It is just a very, very hurtful thing because you’ve exposed what you are to someone else, and maybe you’ve invested, and it doesn’t work out. You can’t make anyone love you. You can’t tie a person in the basement and say, “You love me.” That’s control. The mistake that people make is they slip into control in order to not get their heart broken. You have to let it be. The real deal and the reality is that you don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to be with you. That is just the truth.
But love, your heart will get broken and that is just the way it is. You must keep trying, you must keep going. I like to say, it is almost like you are standing on a gold mine, but you have to keep digging. You dig and you dig and you dig and one day you will hit the jackpot. But you’ve got to know the gold is there. It takes faith. Faith to go for your dreams and to go for love. You might fail, but more likely than not, you will succeed.
eH: What has marriage taught you?
TC: Marriage has made me come out of myself. First of all, there are some people who are meant to be single and that is just true. But there was no way I was going to improve as a person as a single man. There was no way for me to gauge what was wrong with me. There was no one to tell me, “Hey, man. You are really messed up.” My wife has been a sounding board, a dose of reality in my life, who lets me know when I am off track. If you get on a plane from New York to L.A., and you are off by an inch, you may end up in Seattle. The thing is, my wife has always kept me on my course. She has always been, “Hey, honey. You didn’t speak to me correctly. You didn’t do this right. I didn’t feel valued when you did this.” But a man who is on his own and single, he doesn’t have anyone to tell him that he’s off. His mother might tell him. His friends might tell him, but when you’re married, it makes you a better person.
eH: Do you believe in one soulmate for each person or are there multiple matches out there?
TC: I do not believe in one soulmate. I have never believed in that. It is one of those things where you have choices. You can pick and choose. I don’t believe in the soulmate theory, but what I do believe is that once you’ve committed, that is when it all happens. That is when the souls connect. Not before. The behavior of commitment creates a soulmate. There are some of the most famous couples over the years who had huge, huge issues, but they just decided to stay. They decided to stay committed to each other. They look back and they say, “This is my soulmate,” because their souls do get united.
eH: What do you think one needs in a partner to make the relationship successful?
TC: Forgiveness. Everyone has to forgive nonstop. You have to choose not to be offended. There have been times when my wife will say something to me and I will think, “Whoa! What was that?” But if I react in a certain way, it could take it to a whole other stratosphere of pain. But if I choose not to be offended … sometimes I will look back and realize I was wrong. By choosing not to be offended, or by forgiving the other person, it just keeps everything moving right along. What happens is you get that grace, too, because you’re going to be wrong.
eH: You had a lot of advice in your book. You made a lot of the same mistakes over and over. What was your inspiration in writing it? Did you want to show people it was okay to keep trying?
TC: I wanted to show people, “Wow! It took me 40 years.” I got to another place. I am a different person now. But I also had to bust the bubble because people were like, “Terry Crews is so amazing.” My wife was over there with a big sigh, going, “No way.” I was like, “We’ve got to bust this bubble here, because nobody is like that.” Everybody is imperfect.
That’s another thing. You talk about dating, everybody brings their pain, they bring their issues, they bring all their stuff into it. The thing is, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Are you the person to deal with their baggage?” Because you will. No one is perfect and the whole idea of romance means non-reality. Once you get rid of the fantasy, it hits you really, really hard. The first couple of years of marriage are very, very intense because all the smoke and mirrors are gone and you see the person as they really are. Now you have to assess, “Whoa! What did I get into?”