On Monday, Shepard said on his podcast that he chose Bell over taking a role on Parenthood because it would have required him to relocate to Philadelphia, something he didn't think his relationship with Bell would survive.
"Just recently for me — Kristen was the first person [that] a few years in, basically that choice was presented to me and I chose her, which blew my mind," Shepard told guest Chris D'Elia on Armchair Expert.
"I got offered Parenthood — I hadn't acted in a long time, no one was offering my anything — and they said, 'This show shoots in Philadelphia,' and I said, 'There's no way I can be in this relationship and move to Philadelphia,'" Shepard explained.
"I turned that show down — which, by the way, is certainly the first time in my life that I had ever done that... I couldn't believe I was doing it."
He noted that he "very much wanted to be on that show" and even found the idea of a "weird, separate life in Philadelphia" to be "very appealing."
Of course, fans of the NBC drama know that ultimately, Shepard played Crosby Braverman for five years — but not before other cast members had the same qualms and the network moved the show's filming spot to Los Angeles. Shepard was able to take on the career-defining role as well as maintain his relationship with Bell, 38, who he's been with for nearly 12 years.
"What's so ironic is you make a decision like that, and then weirdly, you're rewarded," he said.
Shepard and Bell, who appear on the cover of PEOPLE this week, told the magazine that they have faced many other challenges throughout their relationship.
"We definitely had to work really hard at being a couple because we're both incredibly, painfully stubborn, and we're pretty much opposites," Shepard said. The Ranch star told the story of how they met: briefly at a dinner party in 2007, and then reconnected at a hockey game weeks later where "the sparks were flying."
A few months in, Shepard said he broke up with Bell — but they reunited a few days later, after Shepard changed his mind.
"I was like, 'That's the best personality I've ever seen on a woman. I need to be around it. I want to be around it when I'm 80, but how?'" he recalled.
The couple, who married in 2013 and have two daughters, Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 4, said they had to compromise about marriage — something Shepard said he initially didn't believe in.
"He has a great argument that the state having a piece of paper doesn't mean he's going to be nice to me and by my side for the rest of my life. [Rather], that is going to be evidenced by how we treat each other and the commitment that we make," Bell explained. "I had surrendered, like 'Okay, well, I'm never going to get any sort of traditional marriage out of this, and that's okay because I trust him.' I really, really trusted him and believed that we were going to go the long haul."0comments
But Shepard said he knew how much marriage meant to Bell and decided to show his commitment to her.
"Ultimately, I was like, 'Well, I'm doing it because my partner wants that," he explains about proposing in 2009. "Forget the tradition or history of marriage as a concept, you knowing I was doing something that I didn't want to do because I loved you was a big sign for you."