Shepard admitted that he has a complicated relationship with his past behaviors because on the one hand, he has tremendous guilt and feels shame for cheating. At the same time, he admitted he was also glad he did it in some cases.
“Life’s short and it’s one trip here,” he shared. “It’s complicated for me. I’m glad I took some of the opportunities that came my way.”
Union shared a similar sentiment, admitting a little later in their relationship that she wished she had more guilt for her own infidelity, but instead thought of it as “just such a stupid relationship that should never have gotten out of the dating phase.”
“I definitely was not getting Wife of the Year Awards,” Union said of her first marriage. “I had some focus issues, you know.” She was married to NFL running back Chris Howard from 2001 to 2006.
“In our first marriage, neither one of us felt like the marriage should get in the way of our dating,” Union explained. For her at the time, it felt like a combination of trying to keep up with her husband’s behavior, and battling her own sense of entitlement.
“I was like, Oh, that’s what you’re doing?” Union shared. In response, she’d hit back with, “You’re gonna feel this one.”
But it was more than just trying to hit him with the same behaviors he was displaying. Union admitted that she also felt “entitled” to cheat because she was paying the bills and working hard in life.
“I felt that that’s what comes, the spoils of riches,” she said. “Like my dad before me, whoever has the most gets to do whatever the hell they want, is what I thought.”
Shepard said that his relationship was a little different, describing it as a “nine year open relationship.” He felt that he was always honest with the other women he would sleep with, but that in a way he was using that as a tool sometimes to sidestep ethics.
In some cases, the women understood the score and were down, but in other situations, he said he could tell that the woman wasn’t really okay with everything. “My ethics know she’s going along because it’s all she can have but it’s probably really not that cool for me to do this,” he said.
Both of them admitted that they were using these men and women to fulfill something missing within themselves. Shepard said he would sleep with women out of his league, but then if they rejected him he’d disparage them for sleeping below their league with him.
Union admitted that she was “horny for validation and having certain kinds of guys like me and want me. That made me feel like I was worthy and good and valuable and deserving.”
Her and her husband had the good fortune of being able to attend theraphy, but she said the first thing the therapist noted was that they had nothing in common except “other people … so why don’t you just go be with other people.”
When she was asked if it was different once she finally ended that relationship and began seeing her current husband, Dwyane Wade. “I think initially it wasn’t different,” Union conceded, saying that both she and Wade had to commit to themselves and do the “inner work” to heal themselves so they could be better together.
“We randomly came back around as more healed people and more open to understanding our complicity in some of the challenges that we created for ourselves,” she said.
“We are way easier to point the finger, you did this to me, you caused that, this person did this, and it’s like, okay, we’re grown,” Union added. “I’m super-grown at this– I’m 40+ at this point and it’s like, I don’t want to live like this. None of this feels good and it’s exhausting and I want a love that feels like freedom.”
Whereas before all she knew was how to invite someone dysfunctional to join her in her dysfunction, she feels that she and Wade have done the work — or are continuing to do the work — to come at their relationship from a stronger place of mental health, understanding and self-worth.
“Now we’re both free and we are free to choose ourselves and free to choose each other every day, which is a completely different sentiment,” she told Shepard.