Yvonne is the pastor/founder of Restoration Temple Ministries and is a regional leader in an affirming denomination. Tiffany is the church administrator of RTM and serves faithfully with Yvonne.
How long have you been together? We have been together for 3 years, and married for 2.
What was the initial attraction?
Yvonne: I was attracted to the Spirit of God on the resonated on the inside of her. God gives us discernment but many times we are attracted to things that do not have substance. We have been conditioned and raised to look on the outside. But the very moment I saw Tiffany, my spirit leaped and I felt connected to her. When you are in tuned to the Spirit, you know. My spirit was immediately connected to her spirit.
Tiffany: I was attracted to the way she carried herself and her bold love for God. When I met Yvonne, it was evident that she loved God. I saw the spirit of God in her. I had longed for a person who loved God and had a relationship with God. Meeting her was unexpected, but I embraced it. And, I am glad that I did.
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Yvonne: We have strong communication, and we understand each other’s language. More importantly, Christ is at the center of our marriage. We are best friends, companions, prayer partners, soul mates.
Can you share more about understanding each other’s language?
Yvonne: We all have a way of communicating, and I learned what worked for her. I learned what makes her happy and sad. There were things that I had to sacrifice and compromise on. I had to learn to be very patient and that I don’t always have to talk. Listening is the key and the operative word. By listening, I learned how to prevent augments.
Tiffany: It really does help when you are equally yoked. I can say “let’s pray about it”, and that helps that we speak that same language. What's interesting is that your significant other's primary language may be completely different from yours. I’ve learned to recognize Yvonne's language and it has been key in avoiding mishaps and unnecessary arguments. We recognize the potential and we leave room for differences of opinions or judgment. I believe being equally yoked balances our languages which are both unique, but at the same time different.
Why do you think partners stop being friends?: Yvonne: I think partners miss the fact that there are different elements and components of people. People are not one dimensional; Tiffany is multi-dimensional. But, people fail to nurture the friendship, and they end up not being friends. It is important to date and meet for coffee. It is important that we talk as friends – and not discuss anything that has to do with the church or spirituality. We try to separate the elements – wife, friend, worker, aunt, pastor, etc. Tiffany is my security and I trust that what I tell her will be held in confidence. That’s a friend. Tiffany: I believe there is a lack of cultivation and nurturing the aspect of the friendship in a relationship. If people neglect their responsibility as a friend then you've lost a critical part of what ultimately drew you together. More time needs to be invested in exploring the friendship, feeding the friendship and protecting the friendship.
Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?
Tiffany: We are very attentive to each other’s position on a particular matter. We agree to disagree. We improvise when necessary. We discuss the issue, listen to one other’s position and we decide what will be the best decision for us both. We pray together on a daily basis, and we ultimately seek God for His solution.
Yvonne: When dealing with challenges, many couples go outside of their relationship. The misconception is that somebody else has the solution. There are times when we disagree but then we pray for discernment. Instead of hearing from others, we first try to hear from God. Tiffany: We have a room in our home and whatever we discuss in the room, we leave it there. We don’t take it to other rooms. Also, it is important not to rush to resolution; it’s ok to take your time to process stuff for yourself. If you don’t, you are utilizing someone else’s perspectives instead of your own. Yvonne: That’s why open-minded communication is so important. Be open with your individual feelings. You are an individual first.
What is the hardest challenge you have encountered as a couple?
Tiffany: The hardest challenge is having a church because I have to ensure that I maintain balance between Yvonne my wife, and Pastor Harrison. To do that, we make sure we pray and communicate. Sometimes, we have to spend time away from the church too.
Yvonne: The hardest challenge for me was being married and trying to start a family. We are both up in age, and the biggest challenge was trying not to be a pastor during the conception process. I wanted to be just another woman walking by her side during the process. I was able to let go of what always works for me and just be there for her. I wanted her to see me as a friend – not her minister, her pastor or her wife. I wanted her to see that I was someone who could face challenges and pain with her. Learning how to be her friend brought us closer together as women. I was able to sense every thought, emotion, etc. It was a challenge for me but I realized that sometimes she needed my presence, not a word.
Tiffany: The hardest thing I have encountered is realizing her purpose, calling and destiny is far greater than the scope of our marriage. God joined us together so that I can lift and propel her to her destiny. The adjustment to her being in high demand was difficult and challenging. However, once God revealed what my purpose was in assisting her, while not losing my own identity, helped me to manage the trouble and turn it into an opportunity.
As a pastor and as a leader in a major spiritual community, what role does spirituality play in your relationship? Yvonne: We are both equally vocal when it comes to spiritual significance. Within the Church, I am her Pastor. Outside of church, she is my Pastor. She keeps me spiritually focused; she makes sure I am spiritually prepared. I look to her for guidance. I always need for her to refill my cup when runs it empty from pouring out to others.
What does that mean to be her pastor?: I am the pastor and her shepherd. She is the congregant. She entrusted me as a wife, but also entrusted me with her soul. I am there to teach and disciple her. At home, she’s my pastor because every pastor needs a pastor. Tiffany is my wife and she is able to pour into me. She is there to give me encouragement because a being a pastor is a very lonely place. I am her pastor because of the level of accountability that she holds me to. But, she lets me know that I am Yvonne at home first.
Tiffany: I am always eager to pour back into her spiritually because she constantly pours out to the people of God. I look to her to guide me spiritually as my Pastor. However, I am responsible to give as much to her, as she gives to the people. Even If you have been given an assignment, you must maintain your personal relationship with God. I believe that before you lay hands on others, you have to make sure your own hands are clean first.
Tiffany, how do you deal with female parishioners who are inappropriate? There will always be people who come to church for the wrong reasons. Sometimes I feel that people get blinded because she is very friendly and generous. She has a pastor’s heart. I never feel threatened and I know that attacks are always there. But God protects us from many things. You will always have people who will try you but you have to learn to love them anyway.
What role does sensuality play in your relationship?
Yvonne: Sensuality is extremely important. We realize that we are triune beings. We have to ensure that we live a well-balanced life. We are attentive to each other’s overall needs. It is a very integral part in the overall health of our relationship.
Some churches have difficulty connecting spirituality and sexuality. What is your perspective? Tiffany: Some pastors think that they are so deep and so close to God that they don’t believe that their spouses are important. Some same-gender loving pastors have internal struggles dealing with what the Bible says. Their spouses actually become just companions and they don’t engage in sexual activity.
Yvonne: Some Christians feel that sex is taboo. If sex is talked about in a way that is classy and healthy, it is ok. You first must be comfortable with who you are. Some struggle with internalized homophobia and that’s unfortunate. God wants us to be in good health and that means maintaining quality and healthy relationships. Old school people hid sex from us, but that part of a relationship is also important.
How do you keep romance in your relationship?
Yvonne: God has naturally created us with feelings, sex drives and the need for intimacy. God created us to satisfy those desires. We are very romantic – we have candlelight dinners, go out to eat, etc. We do little things too – we text creative, private and personal messages to each other. I believe that intimacy is not just sex. It is what leads up to the sex. I want Tiffany to always know that I think that she is sexy, beautiful, etc. We try to remain intimate to keep the flames going.
Tiffany: It is absolutely important to have romance in your relationships. It makes the marriage healthy and it helps to feel loved. Yvonne brings me flowers, edible arrangements and draws my bath. In our relationship, we both do for each other. There is no role-playing.
What advice would you give to other couples?
Yvonne: Each individual should be his or her own individual. Develop a vision for your relationship. Attempt to answer the question “Why did God put you together?” What is your responsibility to the community? The world? The Church? Make sure you define your own purpose, and destiny. Make sure to define what God expects from the relationship. Always remain open, honest and transparent with one another.
Why do you think transparency such an issue in love?
Yvonne: A lot of us have been so hurt, so disrespected that our current partners are receiving the backlash. Some relationships could last if people were totally healed from the prior relationships. If we spent time healing from the scars, pains and wounds, our relationships could survive. Sometimes we approach people with our guards up; sometimes we push people away. We don’t take the time to ask “who am I” and “what are my weaknesses”. Tiffany: You can’t be afraid of what your spouse will think of you. You can not be afraid of their response. People are afraid to be transparent because they don’t want to look weak or scared. They are scared that their partner will point out a character flaw. To be transparent, you can not be afraid of losing that, you got to be honest.
What did you have to learn to be successful in your relationship?
Tiffany: I had to learn to be submissive. In my past relationships I was always very independent. I am the oldest of five children, and I always had to take the initiative. I was used to doing things on my own. I had to learn that I didn’t always have to be in control. I understand that Yvonne is the pastor, and I trust her because I know that she trusts God. Being that she follows God, it is easy to be more submissive. As long as she is accountable to God, I can go along with her. But there are times when I have to ask God to help me. I ask God to help me be patient and help me with things that I don’t understand.
Yvonne: I had to learn that finding someone who loved God more than they loved me was important. My other relationships were difficult because of that. I had to learn how to love unconditionally. Unconditional love is what God requires, and that is what I have with Tiffany. I also had to learn to let go. What I have learned about partnerships is that God will send someone to cover your weaknesses so it was important for me to value her voice, place, etc. It is important that I respect her ability and give her opportunity to walk in her power. Her discernment is important to me, and I value and trust her. I know that she will say the right things and I appreciate that.
What has your relationship taught you most about yourself?
Yvonne: That I was unaware of true love. I really didn’t believe that someone could love “more” than I love. My relationship has taught me that I was afraid of “real” love. God had to reveal to me that it was okay to be loved unconditionally.
Tiffany: That I am equipped for the gift that God has given me in Yvonne.
What does “equipped” mean to you? I didn’t just marry Yvonne. I married Yvonne, the minister who has a ministry and a responsibility to God’s people. God really equipped me for this because I have been in the church for so long. I understand that this a whole lot bigger than I thought. I sometimes ask myself the question, “am I equipped for this?” But, I know that God has equipped me and to God be the glory!
What one word describes/characterizes your relationship?
Yvonne: Fruitful! Every marriage should glorify God, because every marriage is a ministry. When you have authentic relationship, and are open an honest, the relationship will be healthy. And when the relationship is healthy, it allows growth. I always ask myself “What can God get from this?” because if a relationship can enhance or help, it is worthy. I recognize that Tiffany and I are role models and we know that people are coming behind us and watching us. I don’t want same-gender relationships to become statistics so I understand that Tiffany and I are on assignment. We want to change perceptions about same-sex relationships, so we have to be public.
Tiffany: Spiritual! God is the head and if God wasn’t part of our marriage, there would be no marriage. We have different personalities and characteristics, but we know that God is a part of it. If God wasn’t a part of it, we would not have seen each other. This is the best relationship that I have been it. I have the most fun, feel the most loved, and give the most love. We are built for each other. It is not always easy, but God works on our behalf. It is definitely a ministry and I feel blessed.
You can also find Tiffany and Yvonne at:
Restoration Temple Ministries: http://www.rtmnyc.org
Look for Yvonne’s soon to be released book: The Pain, The Process & The Promise
(Interview conducted and written by SharRon Jamison)