10/15/2007 at 11:50 AM EDT
Usher and his new wife, Tameka Foster, say they were taken aback by all the rumors that swirled about their relationship this summer – but in the end, it made them stronger as a couple.
"Ours is not a typical love story, but it is a true one," Usher tells Essence
magazine for its November issue. "Tameka and I have been fortunate enough to go through the thick of it in the beginning. We've had that opportunity to huddle up as a team, to make sure that we're clear and speak as one voice."
Usher and Foster were married Aug. 4
in a simple ceremony in Atlanta, after canceling a more lavish event in the Hamptons – and enduring speculation about their commitment to each other and the support they were getting from their families.
The couple, who are expecting a son
, were stunned by the negative press.
"It was like, wow," says Usher, who turned 29 on Sunday. "[Getting married] and having a child is something that everyone should celebrate. What's happened to us as a culture and a people?"
Foster, 37, reveals that the doubters even included some of her friends.
"Thank God I didn't listen to my girlfriends," she says. "Usher was my road dawg. I'd seen him love, and I'd watched him date women who were not worthy of him. He was so sweet, going out of his way to cater to their every need. And I'd see them not even be grateful."
She adds that their love is based on complete openness – something she hasn't experienced in her romantic life before.
"I feel totally uninhibited with Usher," Foster says. "I've never been in a situation with anyone, even as far back as high school, where there were no secrets. I know I can tell him anything and he's not going to judge me. I can finally share my dreams. And because of that, I know that man loves me."
That bond will only grow, Usher says, after the birth of their son.
"Tameka's given me one of the greatest gifts I'll ever have," he says. "With a child, now I have purpose. I understand love."