Even though I am a wedding photographer, my purpose is not only for you to have a fantastic wedding, but a fantastic marriage. with that in mind, I reached out to some couples at different stages in their marriage and asked them a series of questions so that I could get some honest answers on marriage. So, as you read their answers, you will get an idea of those wedding vows that you recite – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do you part….
Damico and Tamika offered to help me with this and words cannot express how much I appreciate their honesty and realness! As you read their answers (these are their honest answers and nothing was changed or edited), please do so with an open mind and open heart and know that with God all things are possible!
Damico Bartley and Tamika Bartley
Wedding date November 14, 2000
How many years have you been married 15 years
1. How did you meet?
Damico: I met Tamika at Texas Bible Institute in Columbus Texas. I noticed her during the “meet and greet” session of chapel at school. I approached her and simply introduced myself like an 18 year old kid would.
Tamika: Texas Bible College in Columbus, Texas
2. When did you know they were the one for you?
Damico: I walked her back to her dorm one night after a service. I had been holding GAS all night long and just couldn’t keep it in any longer. I just let it all out and waited for her response. She laughed a little and then said that I was gross, but continued to let me walk her to her dorm. I yelled out “THANK YOU JEEESSSSUS!” For some reason I knew that night that I had the woman of my dreams. I just felt so comfortable around her and felt I didn’t have to front or fake around her.
Tamika: When we broke up. Although I still loved him I was content with letting him go and truly wanting the best for him even if it meant without me.
3. What’s the one key to the success of your years of marriage outside of communication and trust?
Damico: It often sounds cliché’ but I would have to say prayer and listening to God. Whether it’s through His written word, church message, television minister or a friend who provides a word just when you need to hear it; God always speaks.
Tamika: Being friends. We were friends for 9 months before we even dated. Going to bible school was a choice we made separately to get closer to God prior to going to a university. Since we both enrolled with that commitment being made prior to meeting, we decided it was of our best interest to just be friends and accomplish the true reason we were attending Bible College to begin with. It ended up being the wisest choice for us because we turned into the best of friends and that has kept us through some tumultuous and dark times.
4. Have both parties remained monogamous? (Have either of you ever cheated) If so, how did you reconcile?
Damico: I stepped out of my marriage. It was a very long road to reconciliation and although it has been 5 years since it occurred it has taken prayer, wise counsel and faith to get us to the point that we are currently. My wife still has her moments of question, but we have been able to talk it through and truly lean on the word of God to get us through. I am thankful for God’s grace and I am grateful for His love and mercy that has restored us.
Tamika: No, I was involved in an emotional affair shortly after my husband had an extramarital affair. When I think of how we reconciled it seems to be a collage of so many things. First I cussed, threatened, screamed, and cried. In between those commas I spoke with Godly friends who I knew had a relationship with God and wouldn’t be biased or bent towards the general consensus. I also had access to previous emails and text messages exchange between him and the mistress, and even though it was heart wrenching to read and imagine, it also relayed how he tried to stop it several times. I know him well enough to know when he’s done or implying when he’s trying to close a situation without causing destruction. Then I prayed, prayed, and prayed again. Finally I started praying AND listening to God’s voice. When I could hear Him is when I knew I was ready, ready to listen, ready to start the healing process. It wasn’t miraculous, it took a lot of time, a lot of pursuing from my husband, self- reflection, counseling, and more time. To acknowledge God in this I MUST say that our marriage today is a marriage that I’ve never seen with any couple. I love my marriage, our partnership, and how we’ve been restored beyond what we were before. The infidelity was a pain that I can’t put into words but if it meant my marriage would’ve stayed the same then I’d have to elect to go through the pain again because my marriage today is one I’ve never imagined in the best way.
5. What are your goals/aspirations for the next 25 years in terms of becoming empty nesters if children are involved etc.?
Damico: We have both talked about having a community center for youth. We would love to have a foundation to help college students as they navigate through their college journey.
Tamika: Wow, what a question! We want to be debt free, with a youth recreation center, wealth to continually invest in building the kingdom of God, career wise…definitely retired but I’m certain we will still be planting and serving in our community, city, and abroad.
6. Was there ever a moment when you gave up, and were just roommates, and how did you come back from that?
Damico: We have had moments like that during the last 15 years. I think we both just came to a place where we knew that there was more to our marriage and that God had a purpose that we were not fulfilling at that time.
Tamika: Yes, of course. There are more than a few times where we just didn’t click, or you get tired of trying, and sometimes the pressure of your career alone can cause you to become distant. For us, normally my husband would step in and a few times I have initiated as well. You begin to miss who you are together, so when you’re a part from another it gets old quickly. You want what you had so you’ll break the silence to renew what was lost.
7. What advice would they give others in regards to making it work?
Damico: Pray. Surround yourself with other believers. Remind yourself of why you got married to your spouse to begin. Examine what you would be giving up and ask yourself if that issue is worth throwing away a relationship over.
Tamika: Seek God. No one knows you and your spouse like God does. He appointed the two of you for one another so if anyone can provide the answers the Creator sure can. Wise counsel is important for support, reinforcement, and strategizing. Lastly, good Godly friends. Your circle has to be solid believers who align with your vision of a healthy marriage.
8. If they could do it all over again what would they do differently to improve their marriage?
Damico: Communicate more regarding my feelings instead of holding them in with fear that my wife would not understand or listen to my heart. I would probably also save more money and make better financial decisions.
Tamika: Nothing. Everything that has happened, needed to happen. Any skipped step wouldn’t have produced who I am today. I am the best Tamika yet and it’s because of my experiences. I’m so satisfied and confident. I’m actually pretty proud of this chic right here. God exchanged my ashes for beauty and it’s truly been a remarkable journey.
9. When life got hard, how well did they know their spouse to give them the support they needed in their time of need.
Damico: I really feel like we are brother and sister at times. I really also believe that since we were friends first I was able to identify many of the things that concerned. I am ALWAYS able to tell when something is bothering her.
Tamika: I know my husband like I know myself now. No doubt. No question. I can tell by his countenance, tone, walk, eyes, and even in his stance exactly where his mind frame is. He’s my best friend, as with a best friend, you’re close so you can pick up on things that the average person can’t. Because of this closeness, I know how to provide and fill in the gaps when he’s at a low point. Ironically enough, even with infidelity, I wouldn’t allow anyone to judge, criticize, or speak against who he is. Now, I definitely did, but anyone else down casting him was unacceptable. I knew when he had given up on himself and even if our marriage wasn’t where it was supposed to be, I knew he is way too good of a man to not be at his fullest for the rest of the world. Damico, the man, the father, a leader, a role model, is a phenomenal man.
10. What do you do to stay connected when your marriage hits a dry spell?
Damico: My wife really believes in going to marriage seminars. We attend sessions at least twice a year. Jimmy and Karen Evans are a great model of how we ought to communicate and meet each other’s love language.
Tamika: Spontaneity. Throwing a curb ball in date night, changing the setting for love making, surprise pop ups or notes. Change. Breaking up the routine with something of novelty is extremely important in lighting the fire again. Regardless of how long you’ve been with someone, it can get boring and mundane. Sometimes you just have to revert to those first dates, and get your spouse’s attention again. The creative energy it takes to think of something new is fun and so well worth it.
11. Are you still as happy as in the beginning?
Damico: I would like to think we are just as happy. Sometimes I think we were happier when we had less money. I think the stresses of life and raising a family takes its toll on us but we work through it.
Tamika: Ha, ha, ha, ha. Way happier. I was happy in the beginning but I’m elated now. I love my husband and our marriage. Thank God for today. Thank God.
12. Do you do EVERYTHING together?
Damico: Pretty much…
Tamika: No. We do A LOT together but not EVERYTHING! I like hanging with my mom, girlfriends, shopping, doing “me” time. Over time I’ve learned it’s healthy for me to have my own outlet. I deserve “lady like” things, when I treat myself well then I’m at full capacity to treat others well.
13. Is one or the other the “boss”? How do you handle “submission”?
Damico: We submit to each other. I do my best to listen to the Holy Spirit as my guide to make sure I don’t put my family in a bad situation. My wife yields to my headship as a husband but knows that I value her input.
Tamika: I submit to my husband. My husband is submitted to God. Because I know he follows Christ, I don’t worry, I’m secure in his decisions. This is not without saying that I weigh in on decisions. I know about everything that is going on. I pray. I talk with Damico about everything, whether we agree or not. There are times he’ll yield to my input and there are times he will not. When he makes his final decision I back him as if I made the decision on my own. If I don’t feel good about it still, I drop it in the hands of God and I know He won’t forsake us.
14. Do you both work outside the home? How does that affect the relationship?
Damico: Yes. My job has more flexibility than hers. We have a great support group of family and friends who help out with the kids if needed.
Tamika: Yes. We both work in the same career field so that actually has proven to be really beneficial. He’s a principal and I’m a District Instructional Coach so we glean from one another. On the other hand, the demands of our job, the difficult conversations, the time consumption, and unexpected needs during the day can be draining. We are normally pretty gracious with one another when we can’t hand over a lot of attention or time because we understand what one another has endured. Communicating our day to one another helps us to be more patient with each other.
15. When you married were your long term goals exactly the same?
Damico: No. I don’t think either one of us knew we would be educators. We also wanted 5 kids. We are thankful for our 3. We both want to work with youth on a larger scale in the near future.
Tamika: Basically. We were friends before marrying for a long time based on today’s standards so we had already discussed our calling, goals, passions, and desires. Just like friends would. We knew one another’s favorite food to our inner struggles. So by the time we were married our goals were merged.
16. Have they changed over time?
Damico: Aside from our career paths, I would have to say no.
Tamika: No. Not really. I think we thought some of those goals would have been accomplished by now but life has taken us on some turns and twists that we definitely didn’t expect at the young age of 21. Now at 37, I totally understand.
17. Were you both believers when you married?
Tamika: Yes indeed. I had been saved since I was about 7-8 years old but I didn’t begin having a relationship with God until I was 16 years old.
18. Is there any one thing that has held your marriage together?
Damico: Prayer and being able to hear the voice of God. Aside from spirituality it has been our ability to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company.
Tamika: God. I know it sounds cliché, but let me explain myself. There is nothing that isn’t addressed in the bible. When I needed answers, when I was frustrated and totally rebelling against all that was right, when I was depressed, when I was perpetrating and faking it until I made it, I only had the scripture. Scripture to recite, confess, chastise, grow from, search out, depend on, and trust in, that was it. It was my compass. My mother was in a failed marriage, my friends were in damaged marriages, or their marriages never took a hit like mine, so who could I run to? Who was going to help me? Who knew me? Who knew my husband? God.
19. Anything that has caused it excessive stress?
Damico: My most recent career move has endured stressful moments due to the time commitments. The time following the affair. Financial strains in the past.
Tamika: Yes. In our 2nd year of marriage we overcame a foreclosure in our first home, which was pretty trying on us. In our 11th year of marriage, we lost a child and I had to have surgery to have the baby removed, that by far was tragic on the heart, mind, and spiritually shook me. I lost my father unexpectedly in a motorcycle accident and I’m shaking my head as I type because it was just so stressful on so many levels; financially, relatives, friendships, etc. And of course, infidelity. The one thing I was so certain of wasn’t certain anymore and that became extremely stressful for the both of us.
20. Have you ever needed counseling?
Damico: Everyday! In all seriousness we have often sought wise counsel from our pastors at times and words of wisdom have come at timely moments in our marriage.
Tamika: We went to premarital counseling and during our marriage counseling. It was really helpful. We didn’t know how to healthily communicate, disagree, argue, or cope, so that taught us that. Afterwards we begin attending Jimmy and Karen Evans Annual Marriage Conference and we look forward to it. It blesses us each time.
21. Have either ever felt “less in love” or loved less than in the beginning?
Damico: I don’t think so. I think I have been angry with my wife from time to time and with that has come frustration and resentment in certain areas of our relationship.
Tamika: Yes, I have to say maybe about 2-3 times in our 15 years where I’ve felt less in love.
22. Where do you see your marriage in 10 years?
Damico: I can honestly see it in an even more settling place. The hustle and bustle of transporting kids from practice to practice will have ended as both of our sons will be college age. I think we will be traveling more and simply enjoying life and ministry.
Tamika: In 10 years, it’ll be 25 years so I see us being just as youthful as we are today, more in love, stronger, mature, and helping others push through their 15 years.
23. Is marriage how you expected it to be when you were single or engaged? If not, how is it different?
Damico: We got married so young that don’t I had time to really think about how I “thought” it may be. It has certainly been more challenging than I ever thought it would be.
Tamika: No, marriage is not what I expected while single or engaged. It’s a lot of work. A lot of sacrifice, bending, flexing, yielding, adjusting. There are a lot of fun moments, especially in ours because we love to laugh and clown but it takes work to maintain your marriage where love reigns and not self.
24. How have you stayed together when the culture around says to leave if things get hard?
Damico: I truly couldn’t see myself with anyone else. Tamika is my best friend and I love her so much that I don’t want to see her with anyone else and I don’t want to be with anyone else. I am also very stubborn and I have often said that I never want the enemy to get the satisfaction of ending my marriage.
Tamika: I guess because I don’t care. I really don’t care about the culture around me. I consider myself to be a trendy person. I dress trendy, but I understand that it’s just a trend; temporary, short period of time, in the next 3 months I’ll have to purchase new. The culture around me follows trends. I don’t follow the culture in marriage because today, they say stay, tomorrow they say leave, in a few months, and they say marriage is for convenience. Not interested in what the culture says when it changes by the minute. Marriage isn’t trendy. Marriage is a covenant partnership. It’s the welding together of two people becoming one. There is absolutely nothing about two people becoming one that sounds easy to me. It sounds tough, sounds like work to me and that it is.
25. Have you ever felt as if you loved your spouse, but were not “in love” with them? Did you struggle with that? Did that tempt you to leave?
Damico: After I committed adultery I often felt like the marriage was irreparable. During this time I would have thoughts of leaving but would never allow those thoughts to overtake. My love FOR my wife never changed but being IN love was certainly in question during this stressful time.
Tamika: Yes. I’ve fallen “out of love” with him. I will always love him, he’s my best friend, but there were times where I thought it just wasn’t meant for us to be together. There were times where I thought we should’ve just been friends because our marriage would hit such a rocky and hard place. When it was rough, it was really rough and I couldn’t see a happy ending. Those times makes it hard to stay “In love”.