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Why it’s important that Alexis Ohanian always puts Serena Williams’ career first

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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“I know I’ve been successful in my career, but I’m not the one racking up the trophies.”

The details of Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian’s relationship play out like a romantic comedy.

The pair met completely by chance at a restaurant in Rome in 2015. Williams had never heard of Reddit, the online channel Ohanian co-founded, and Ohanian had never even seen Williams play tennis. One was a superstar athlete at the top of her game, the other behind one of the biggest tech startups in the world. In the immortal words of Avril Lavigne, can we make it anymore obvious?

Their schedules took a while to co-ordinate, but by 2016 they had their first date, which entailed a six hour walk through Paris on the eve of the French Open. Neither wanted to stop talking and end the date. So they didn’t. The rest, as they say, is history, involving a surprise proposal at the exact same table where they first met and the arrival of a beautiful baby girl who shares a name with her father. 

Since then, Ohanian has been one of Williams’ most vocal supporters, hiring out billboards to declare his love for his wife and using social media to proudly broadcast his admiration and awe for her both on and off the tennis court.

In a new essay, Ohanian has stressed that it is exactly this vocal and visible support of his wife that is the secret to their strong marriage.

“You have to show up. You have to be supportive. These are the things that matter,” he wrote.

This is true of romantic gestures and its true of career and work, too. Ohanian explained in the essay that his work, fulfilling and successful though it may be, has to take a backseat in favour of his wife’s career.

“I know I’ve been successful in my career, but I’m not the one racking up the trophies,” he wrote. “It helps that my wife and I both know what it takes to be successful and bring that mutual understanding, drive and relentless to the table.” 

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian at the royal wedding in 2018

He continued: “But at the end of the day, sometimes her career really does have to come first. I try to be the most supportive partner I can be and to have conversations with her about her career goals and what she can do to reach them. Most of my talks with Serena about her career have come from a place of ‘What do you want to be doing?’ or ‘Where do you want to be?’ and that’s not only in sport but in life.”

It’s this open line of dialogue, Ohanian explained, that strengthens their marriage. Both partners are on equal footing, and they know that the other will be there to support them through everything.

“I’m far from perfect, but I try to get behind her and let her know I’m there for her and our daughter, no matter what.” 

The married couple at the launch of Serena Williams’ fashion line

Not only does Ohanian support Williams, he lifts her up, too.

In an interview in January, Williams revealed that when she was single and looking for a partner, Oprah advised her to look for someone who had those qualities of selflessness and strength.

“Oprah said, ‘Never let anyone dim your light,’” Williams said. “That really stuck with me. Alexis doesn’t dim my light. He doesn’t try to dim my light. He puts me in the light, even if I don’t want to be. He pushes me to further points I never thought about. It always was something that I could see in my relationships, my light would be dimmer. Now I feel like I can shine really bright and still do everything that I want to do.”

Never let anyone dim your light. The best dating advice – hell, the best life advice – we’ve ever heard. From Oprah’s lips to your ears. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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