Ask anyone who’s gone through it—the first year of marriage can be tough. But imagine that you’re not just adjusting to a new life together in private—instead, you’re doing it on national television. That’s what Laura and Kirk Knight agreed to when they joined the second season of Newlyweds: The First Year, a Bravo reality series that chronicles four couples’ first 365 days of married life (the show is currently planning its third season with a new cast).
Through decorating disputes and a heartbreaking
miscarriage, Laura and Kirk laughed, cried, and compromised on camera at their Gallery at White Flint condo and, later, at a five-bedroom home in Rockville. Four months after their last episode aired, the Knights talked with Washingtonian Bride & Groom about what it was like sharing their experiences with an audience of 722,000 viewers—and their best lessons for couples about to embark on the marriage journey themselves.
Bride & Groom: You met on a blind date.
Laura Knight: Yes—at the Starbucks in downtown Bethesda, across from Woodmont Grill.
B&G: When did you know your partner was “the one”?
Kirk Knight (joking): I always say after we had coffee and she invited me up to her place for sex. It was then that I was like, This is the one.
Laura: He has a great sense of humor—that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him. We took things slow, and we built a great foundation. We would have dates where we would talk for hours and hours. I’d never met anybody like him.
B&G: How did you get involved in the TV show?
Kirk: One of my friends met a Bravo producer. [The producer] said they were casting the show, and my friend said, You can stop looking. I’ve got the perfect couple for you. We went through a few interviews. As [Bravo narrowed the field], we started saying, This is really going to happen. Do we want to do this?
Laura: We weighed all of the positive and negative things that could come of it. It’s not a short-term commitment. If we get halfway through the season and we decide we don’t want to do this, we’re stuck in a contract.
Kirk: You give up creative control.
Laura: They can edit it any way they want.
Kirk: Which they did, actually. It wasn’t really that bad, but after the first two episodes, I was calling the producers like, Are you kidding me? [Kirk says he was surprised by how much he was shown talking about money.] And they’re like, Just trust us, we’re creating a story line. It’ll change.
B&G: What was the filming process like?
Laura: We looked at it as an experience. I was still terrified, but I committed fully. The first day of filming, an hour before the film crew was supposed to arrive, I sat in my car and cried. I called my mom and said, What am I doing here? But then I mustered up the courage, walked in there with a brave face, and met everybody involved in the filming process.
Kirk: I was thinking one or two people would show up with a camera, but it was a full-blown production. Like 25 people come into your house. There were people outside in vans.
Laura: We didn’t have makeup. They would take the shine off our faces, but I had to do my own makeup. We had film days that were 12 hours long, so sometimes I was doing my makeup at 5 or 6 in the morning, and by 8 at night I look like hell and this is all going to be on national TV.
B&G: Did you ever avoid confrontation because you were being filmed?
Laura: Would you yell at your husband in front of a group of your friends? Certainly not. We don’t have knock ’em down, drag ’em out fights, but the first year of marriage has its own challenges because you’re thinking in terms of “we” instead of “I,” and that takes time to get used to. You do imagine that there’s going to be this honeymoon phase where everything is beautiful with a happy ending, but it’s challenging. And through those challenges, you learn how to become a better and stronger couple.
B&G: One of the challenges you experienced during the show was your miscarriage. [In “Family Secrets,” the Knights are more than seven weeks into their first pregnancy when they can’t detect a heartbeat during an ultrasound appointment. The Knights wait three-and-a-half weeks for answers, then find out they’ve lost the baby. Laura later gave birth to son Jackson in April 2015.] Tell me about coping with tragedy as a couple.
Kirk: When Laura and I met, we were both going through a very difficult time. She had lost her brother eight months prior, and that was also around when the market crashed. We both relied on each other so much during that time. We cried together and were there for each other. Later we went through the miscarriage. For both of us, when anyone is feeling bad about anything, we run to each other. That’s how we get through stuff because that’s how we did it from the beginning.
B&G: What’s your advice for couples who are getting married?
Kirk: I have the greatest piece of advice, but it’s very difficult to act on it. People react or show emotion because they are unable to communicate something. If you are honest about your emotions, it will resolve 90 percent of any couple’s fights. At the beginning, Laura would act a certain way to me, and I would ask, What are you trying to say? Just tell me. Then we would go right to the true emotion and what we were feeling, and it was easily resolved at that point.
B&G: One of the things you disagreed about on the show was Kirk’s installing a life-size knight in armor in the hallway of your home. He liked that it honored your last name, but Laura, you weren’t a fan.
Kirk: There are certain things you have to hold your ground on. Our balance is: I keep the knight, and she doesn’t like it.
Laura: But I can use it to position myself for other things I want. Sometimes there is a business aspect to marriage.
B&G: How do you know when to
Laura: If I see it’s very meaningful to him, then I have to be sensitive to that. But I would never put a knight in my house. So he can have one knight, but he can’t have a multitude of them.
B&G: He can’t have the whole castle.
Laura: Right. No armor or swords on the wall. It would just be way too much.
B&G: That’s one thing that changes when you get married—suddenly you’re dealing with somebody else’s stuff. Was anything else markedly different from your dating or engaged relationship?
Laura: The decisions became bigger and more important. It went from silly things like Do we keep this old couch or pick out something new? to questions like When are we going to start trying to have a child? and When are we going to move into a house?
B&G: Do you find it easier to have these discussions because you know you are committed to each other?
Kirk: Decisions are always difficult, but you have to have that conversation about where each of you are at. Regret and resentment are really close together, and I wanted her to be comfortable and happy looking at where our life was headed.
Laura: He takes a long time to make a decision about something, and then he’ll surprise me. All of a sudden he’ll say, All right, I’m ready for this. My process is a little bit different.
B&G: That’s what you learn over time—how to deal with the way the other person communicates.
Kirk: And it’s also knowing how the other person gets through stuff. If we have a
disagreement about anything, Laura just needs a night’s sleep.
Laura: Some people say Don’t go to bed angry. I go to bed angry, and that gives me downtime to be alone and process things.
Kirk: She’ll get that overnight, and then everything’s fine the next morning.
Laura: But I didn’t know that about myself until he pointed it out to me. You learn more about yourself, too, being married.
B&G: How do you think having your first year of marriage televised made it different from a “normal” first year?
Laura: At times we felt vulnerable, not knowing whether we would be accepted or scrutinized by our audience. But I don’t feel that it had any impact on the way we conduct our lives. Surprisingly, the cameras seemed to fade into the background.
B&G: How do you keep the excitement alive in a marriage?
Laura: You should always flirt with your spouse. Make that other person feel special and loved. Send sexy text messages when they least expect it, give them a kiss on the cheek just to show you love them.
Kirk: Buy them three dozen roses.
B&G: Kirk, is that something you’ve done?
Kirk: I always buy her flowers. And we have a lot of sex. A lot of sex.
Laura: His inappropriate humor always shines through!
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity