Vance is opening up about his 26-year-strong marriage to Bassett
“Angela and I got engaged on the premiere night of The Preacher's Wife,” the actor, 63, reveals in this week’s issue of PEOPLE magazine.
“I asked her to marry me at the premiere,” Vance says of Bassett, 65. The two were wed less than a year later, on Oct. 12, 1997. “She, Whitney, The Preacher's Wife, Penny Marshall — the whole [experience] was a turning point in my life.”
Speaking to PEOPLE about his new book co-written with Dr. Robin L. Smith, The Invisible Ache: Black Men Identifying Their Pain and Reclaiming Their Power, Vance sheds new light on the 26-year-strong marriage he and Bassett have invested in.
“Everything is about her,” The People v. O.J. Simpson star explains. The Los Angeles-based pair have created a film production company, Bassett Vance Productions — and they're also parents to twins Bronwyn Golden and Slater Josiah, now 17.
Vance writes in The Invisible Ache that his partnership with Bassett, his years of therapy and his Christian faith have been integral parts of his mental health journey. His mission to own and work through his grief — a process that started with the sudden suicide of his father in 1990 — hit a roadblock not long after tying the knot with the Black Panther actress, he admits in one of the book’s most striking chapters.
“We had done nine weeks of premarital counseling,” he tells PEOPLE. “I thought I was ready for my soulmate.” But “marriage is a whole other thing that you have to commit to,” he adds. “‘Where two become one’ is a mystery.”
The transition to married life proved difficult, and soon afterward, Vance experienced what he calls “a severe anxiety attack or mental breakdown.” He remembers listening as Bassett consulted with doctors, “sitting there, tears streaming down my face, in my hospital bed.”
It was at that low point, Vance recalls, that he realized Christianity was another resource in his quest for mental well-being.
“I read the Bible five times in a row,” he reveals. “I had gone as far as I could go without reading that book. Now, I needed a word. I had tried everything else.”
Then, Vance says, “our household was ordered. Because I was still doing all the things, taking care of getting the groceries and going to the flower mart every Tuesday and bringing flowers into the house and arranging them because I know she liked fresh flowers!”
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He repeats the mantra about his relationship with Bassett: “I recognized, thank God, early on — after that epiphany — that everything is about her… Once I got in the mindset of shifting, of changing, of taking steps, [I saw that] everything was pushing and growing me to get ready for marriage.”
Reaching out for help and healing, whether that’s to a long-term partner, therapist or religious leader, is the lesson Vance hopes readers take away from The Invisible Ache. And as life has taught him, “your getting help, your admitting your wound is not you, is prepping you for where God's got for you to be in 30 years.”
After almost 30 years with his wife, he adds, “I recognize that everything that I had done was in prep mode for Angela.”
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