Everyone has up and downs in their marriage. We do too. Don’t believe everything you read on FaceBook that implies everyone besides you has the perfect life. This is a classic case of you comparing your INSIDE with everyone else’s OUTSIDE. Don’t compare, just be deliberate about being the best you can be — both as individuals and as a couple.
We are Brad and Tami Miller. We have been married for over 30 years. We are friends. We are a team. We have decided to remain committed to each other for life NO MATTER WHAT because there is a lot riding on our marriage – probably yours too. We have worked very hard at having a great marriage and have raised some pretty incredible kids too! Having a great marriage has become something we are pretty good at. And, teaching others to have great marriages is something we are very passionate about.
In the beginning…
We met when we were kids, Tami was just 12 and I was 13 years old. Our older brothers were good friends so we met kind of by accident because of them. We had a “puppy love” kind of crush on each other for a short time, but high school was waiting for me (Brad) and there were lots and lots of girls there for me to flirt with! We went our separate ways, but always remained friends. In fact, sometimes when I would have relationship problems, I would go to Tami for advice. That seems so funny now.
Tami dated several guys through high school and one of them lasted nearly two years. I also dated in high school and was in one exclusive relationship for about 3 years. Tami and I would both tell you that the people we had these long-term relationships with were really great people and, fortunately for us, there were no huge regrets from these relationships. But, something was still missing. So separately, Tami and I both broke up with our significant others. Keep in mind that while Tami and I had remained friends, we had no idea that the other was breaking off a long-term relationship.
Since I was now single, I started to think more about my long-time friend, Tami. I sincerely wondered how she was doing. Thinking that she was still in a relationship, I contacted her and asked if we could catch up as old friends. That was honestly all that I intended.
Tami agreed to get together with me to catch up, so we planned an afternoon to go to the beach together. This was a very common place for us to hang out with friends since it was only 45 minutes away from home and there were often others from our high school and neighborhoods hanging out there as well. What happened next caught me completely off-guard.
Even though I had not seen Tami for a while, I remembered exactly where she lived. I agreed to drive us to the beach, so I drove to her house to pick her up. When she answered the door, something happened. This was something I had never experienced before and I can only explain it one way, Cupid shot an arrow straight through my heart! It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Later that same day, I found out that Tami was no longer in a relationship. And she found out, of course, that neither was I. We truly had an amazing day together and, as odd as it sounds, I was becoming more enamored with Tami by the minute. We talked a lot about the plans and dreams that each of us had for our futures and by the end of that day, we had planned out the next week or so together. We officially started dating on that day. It was June 25, 1981.
We dated for nearly 4 years and finally got married on April 20, 1985. We were in love and life was good.
In the first 4-5 years that we were married, life was almost magical. We spent lots of quality time together, we made a home together, excelled in our careers, and more. As much as we wanted the magic to last forever, it did not.
After the magical years came the dark years. This is when we realized that we were short on tools to manage the normal issues that arise in a marriage. Neither one of us came from a family that stayed together, so we didn't know what working things out and staying together looked like. We also realized that we had never experienced the benefit of good marriage mentoring, either in our own families or the families around us. This is the kind of mentoring that happens naturally when you come from an intact family and your parents had a healthy marriage. Not perfect, of course, but healthy. Neither one of us had that and we knew that we needed some help.
The good news is that we were part of a church community where healthy marriage mentors could be found. So we did the only thing we knew how to do, we reached out for help. And by this time, we were desperate. Our pastor and his wife were about as authentic as any two people we have ever met and all these years later, they still are! Even though Tami and I had lots of challenges to work through, we also had some people who were modeling a good marriage for us, who were encouraging us, and who would never give up on us. And if they refused to give up on us, we couldn't give up on us either, right?
We worked very hard in those early years to get things back on track. We went to just about every marriage conference we could afford. Family Life used to do weekend marriage enrichment retreats in our area and we went to quite a few of them. We read marriage books. Lots of them. Maybe all of them. There really was not one thing that we did or read that got us back on track towards a healthy marriage, rather it was the all of the little things we did.
"Doing lots of these little things consistently became the big thing that made a difference for us."
By the time we had been married just 10 or 12 years, we were already feeling the relief from leaving those crazy hard years behind us. We had certainly learned a lot, and chief among what we had learned was that we did not know as much about marriage and relationships as we thought we did on the day we married. There was certainly more to having a great marriage than marrying someone you loved deeply and letting things fall into place. The reality is that if husbands and wives are not intentional with marriage, very little will "fall" into place. More likely than that, things in marriage will drift or fall out of place if we don't have the skills needed to prevent this from happening.
We continued to raise our two daughters who grew into adults that we are very proud of. They are the kind of people that you would want to work with, live next to, and be friends with. Our oldest daughter married her high school sweetheart and seems to be doing much better at this point in her marriage than we were. We would like to think it was partly due to the fact that we closed that marriage mentoring loop by working so hard and staying together. Our kids saw our marriage worked out, day after day, in our home together. Did they witness marriage perfection? Nope. Did they witness two flawed individuals who worked really hard to have a healthy marriage? Yes, they did. In all of our years on this planet and with all that we've done, a great marriage and family is our greatest accomplishment!
We have officially been empty-nesters now for over 4 years and you know what? It feels like a honeymoon again! We adore our daughters and miss them in our home, but raising kids is hard, demanding work. I always say that "parenting isn't for cowards or sissies." If you have kids, you know this to be true. So here is our message to all who are weary from marriage and parenting: Do the hard work of parenting while you are raising a family, but never sacrifice your marriage. Marriage must come first if you want to be a great parent. It is the foundation of your family and if you are intentional and stay together, you just might discover a second honeymoon in your future. We sure did!
At this point in our lives, Tami is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Clinical Director at a group counseling practice. She helps some of the most challenged marriages learn to work things out and thrive. It is truly an amazing thing to witness. As for me (Brad), after 26 years as a professional firefighter, I retired in 2013. During those years, I count myself blessed to have helped many of my firefighter friends with their marriages. I was able to counsel and encourage these friends to have better marriages and families by discovering what it takes to make things work. Tami and I also served on staff at our church for nearly 20 years where we were able to pour into other married couples as well. Currently, I am helping daily in our group counseling practice by managing things behind the scenes. I still love to help others in life and marriage and that's precisely the reason why Tandem Marriage was born.
For Tami and I, Tandem Marriage is the next chapter for us where we will write books together, teach others together, and enjoy every minute of it – together.
In our new book, Ready to Surrender - Poor Communication in Marriage is a Battle You Can Win, we said that everyone must learn how to:
Believe in your marriage.
Invest in your marriage.
Delight in your marriage.
We have learned how to do this, and we hope you do too.
Tandem Marriage is where we can help you learn to ride through life… together!
Let us know how we can serve you, it would be an honor.