While every marriage and relationship is unique, we all wish there was a marital instruction manual that held all of the answers to our questions. While we know such a thing doesn't exist, there are some lessons that can be shared across the board by people we trust who have been there, and have gained wisdom along their journey. In August, many of you reached out and asked Brandon and I to share our insight on marriage after two years of saying "I do." (Sorry for the wait!) But here are some of our insights based on the questions you sent. Thank you to all who continue to support this platform. Writing this has also helped us to pause and evaluate our practices as a couple.
Q1. How do you balance being you and being a spouse?
T: Having that alone time is really important. We make space for each other to be alone and set healthy boundaries around each others work and need for self-care. When I am working, Brandon usually goes to another room so I can focus. When he's at the Church, I tend to only check in every once in a while. I also do a lot of solo travel to connect with myself and I take time everyday to do something that brings me joy.
B: I take time everyday to pour into myself. Usually, that means waking up early, taking a walk or grabbing a cup of coffee and reflecting on my day ahead before Tiffany even wakes up. At the end of a busy day we build in at least 30 minutes for each of us to relax and let go of the day before we cook dinner and hangout.
Q2. What is the hardest thing about marriage that people don't typically mention?
It is very easy to fall off in a marriage. What I mean is that no matter how much you love each other, life gets hectic and it's really easy to settle into a lifeless routine and not nurture your relationship. Finding that time to have fun, reconnect with each other, and not just talk about work, bills, and money is really important!
Q3. What has been your biggest challenge in marriage?
Boundaries! Everyone wants a say in your marriage. Especially, when you are young and married. Your friends have their idea of what marriage should be, your in-laws and parents want to tell you what to do, and establishing those boundaries with people is important. There are also people who will try to come in between you and your spouse, especially for Brandon being a pastor, people often think their needs are more pressing than time with your spouse. It's also the boundaries around work, around social media and screen time. Sad to say, but we can be sitting next to each other, but scrolling on social media, not engaging with each other. To be honest we are still working on our rules for when and how to engage screen time.
Q4. What is your advice for wives or spouses of pastors?
T: My journey to becoming a pastor's wife is linked to my personal development. I want to be clear that this is a position I just came into, so there's still a lot I need to learn. However, I have been dating, engaged, and married to a clergy person for almost seven years.
Firstly, this is not for the faint of heart, and is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do for many reasons. One reason being you will have to become comfortable with being talked about. Good or bad, this is something I struggled with for years. I hated being talked about, but I had to develop the attitude that what you say behind my back has absolutely nothing to do with me. My job is to show love when I am present and I expect others to do the same. Secondly, don't get caught up in your husbands world. You are your own person, with your own career, passions, and life. It's important to maintain the boundaries between your own faith and spirituality versus your husband's role. Faith is a part of your identity and you are a team but you cannot let the work of ministry pull you away from your relationship with God (because it's easy). Lastly, stay grounded and remember you don't have to play the "role" of first lady. Unless you are already clergy (which I am not) you are just a member who happens to be married to the pastor. There's no need to wear a big hat and flashy church suit (unless that's your style) and lead praise and worship. At the end of the day, I am a member of the church just like everyone else. I show up as Tiffany.
Q5. Advice for men who desire marriage but still struggle with doubt?
B: There's no rule telling you that you have to be married. Marriage is beautiful and sacred, full of joy, but it's also hard and requires a level of selflessness that you don't realize until you get married. So, if you still need time to know yourself, to figure out what you need in life, then slow your roll until you are sure that you are ready to make that level of commitment. Around the second year of us dating, I knew I wanted to marry Tiffany, but I also knew I wasn't ready. I had to wait to grow up, to figure out what I was doing after graduate school, to at least have some money (because I didn't have much), and by year four I knew it was time. I had felt more grounded in my own sense of self, I began my career, and didn't feel I would be taking Tiff off her own track while trying to figure out my own.
Q6. Advice for millennials and Gen Z that want to get married?
(Millennials, y'all are old already!) As millennials and Gen Z we are concerned about being clear about our identity and self-love. It's important to have a certain level of self-identity and knowledge before wanting to enter a relationship, let alone, being married. However, marriage is a journey and Brandon and I have grown up together in our personal identities, and our identity as a couple. We joke that we've been married to two and a half different people already because we've seen each other change and grow so many times. (Brandon: I've been through every skin care, fashion, hairstyle, and career idea she's had!) Allow each other the space to grow at their own pace. (Tiffany: I've been there for every haircut, style and color of glasses, and wrestling between ministry and law school). What we've enjoyed is watching each other grow into our own person, and we're excited to see who else we'll become.
Q7. what is one thing we both enjoy and love about each other?
T: I love how kind he is. He has a very warm spirit that makes everyone fall in love upon meeting him. He is able to connect with people at every age, from senior citizens to babies (who are obsessed with him, by the way). Which makes me proud to have someone like that in my life. I also love how brilliant he is, I learn from him daily.
B: I love how safe and trusting Tiff is. She has such a glow and caring spirit that wherever we go, strangers immediately start pouring their lives out to her. She makes you feel safe, she makes you feel like you can do or become whoever you want to be just by talking to her. Her warmth and peace that radiates from her gives each person she encounters a feeling of acceptance that allows them to be themselves. She helps people to find their inner beauty and empowers them to unleash it. I would not be where I am, if it weren't for the encouragement, and the confidence Tiff helped bring out of me.
Q8. How do you plan to balance your marriage now that you are going into your purpose and career?
As for any relationship, communication and understanding is what anchors us. As we mentioned earlier, prioritizing time for your relationship and setting healthy boundaries around work is important. One rule that is central for us is that we don't talk about work in the bedroom. Our bedroom is our safe place.
Q9. How did you both overcome the challenges that have troubled your marriage so far?
We've been through a lot. The first couple of years in marriage can be challenging. We've had to adjust to living together, handling finances together, and learned how to communicate to each other in a way that wasn't triggering to the other. We endured the loss of Brandon's grandfather and a miscarriage within weeks of each other. What we've learned is that we have to lean on each other and not become enemies when the stress got high. At the end of the day, we are on the same team. Having that understanding always reminded us of why we entered this in the first place. Secondly, we prayed a lot, separately and together. Those battles were too much for us to handle and we needed God's guidance. Lastly, we try our best to get away. Whether, it's a staycation in a nearby hotel or a quick weekend trip to New York City we try to find ways of separating from the noise even if it's for a little while.
Q10. What are some key principles that have made your marriage strong?
2. Friendship (have fun together! We are friends first)
3. We cheer each other on (for everything!)
4. We encourage each others individuality (even if we don't always understand it)
5. We don't judge each other
6. Hold each other accountable (It's not all fuzzy feelings, marriage should push you to grow!)
7. Defend each other (you are your spouse's first line of protection, speak up, and draw boundaries with others)
8. Develop passions you can share together (we have blogged together, given lectures together, we travel, cook, and binge watch New York City based early 2000s rom-coms)
9. Establish shared values (Generosity and Justice are at the core of who we are together. We believe in giving generously to social justice causes, universities, and to the work of the larger Church)
10. Establish our own Rhythm (not all routines are bad! We love to travel at least once a month, attend concerts, and Saturday mornings for us are all about singing around the house, bagels, farmers markets, and getting our hair done. Sundays for us are made for worship, lunch at our favorite Eritrean restaurant, and just chilling out!)
Have any other questions for us? Drop them below in the comments
B & T