Honoring Black Marriages and Families
About the Guest
Lamar and Ronnie Tyler, founders of the website "Black and Married With Kids" realized that making a blended family work was more difficult than they initially thought, but they were determined to persevere. Fed up with pervasive negative images of black marriages in the media, the Tylers tell why they started their website, which promotes positive images of marriage and family in the black community.
Lamar and Ronnie Tyler were fed up with pervasive negative images of black marriages in the media. So, the Tylers started their website, which promotes positive images of marriage and family in the black community.
Honoring Black Marriages and Families
Bob: When Lamar Tyler met the woman who would be his future wife, Ronnie, he was not all that concerned about whether they could blend their family, since Ronnie already had children from another relationship. Lamar was worried about whether the marriage would actually take root.
Lamar: My fear was more about whether we could make this happen—not the family happen. I don’t know—maybe we’re the only ones that ever thought that way, but my focus was a lot more on the marriage. I was thinking that, “Okay; the kids—whether they’re onboard now or not, they’ll kind of get onboard throughout the process.” [Laughter] That really was like, “Okay; yes.” Where were you guys a number of years ago when we first got married? It’s so funny now.
Bob: [Laughter] This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll meet Lamar and Ronnie Tyler today—hear a little bit about their relationship, about their marriage, and about the video that they have produced for blended families.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I have to tell you—if you are speaking at a conference or an event, and you bring some of your books or your resources and make them available—and you have to order extra because the demand that first day is so great that you have to ship some extra in—you feel pretty good about that.
Dennis: You do. It happened last September at the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry that we had at Focus on the Family®’s headquarters, along with 360 leaders of blended ministries/stepfamily ministries in the local church. We were excited to co-host that with Focus on the Family. One of the couples who spoke at the event, Bob—personally, I am real excited about—because they want to build black families.
Bob: This is a husband and wife who live in Atlanta, Georgia. They work together as filmmakers. They’ve done a number of documentaries, and their most recent documentary is called Blended. They took a look at the challenges facing blended families, not just in the black community, but in the body of Christ overall. In fact, Ron Deal, who heads up the blended family ministry, here at FamilyLife, appears as a part of this documentary.
We asked Lamar and Ronnie Tyler to come and share their story and to tell us a little bit about this documentary. When we got done, we said, “Now, we have a number of copies available in the back,” and we sold out like that. They had to order in—I don’t know—a couple hundred more, and they sold out of those as well! There was a great demand for this film.
Dennis: Well, they do great work; and frankly, they’re touching a nerve, Bob, that desperately needs to be addressed and met in the local church.
Let’s listen as you interview them, live, at the Summit on Stepfamily Ministries, back at Focus on the Family®, last September.
Bob: Tell everybody a little bit about your background. Both of you were involved in IT before you met one another; right?
Bob: So what were you doing?
Ronnie: I was a project manager for IBM. I did that for 17 years before we started working together.
Lamar: Yes; and myself, I was the IT manager at Foxfire, in DC—a television station.
Bob: And how did your paths cross?
Ronnie: Just through mutual friends—I came to visit her one day in the DC area, and he was at her home. She was having a little get-together at home.
Bob: Was this a set-up? I mean, was she trying to set you up with him?
Ronnie: Not really. He was not—we have a blended family—so he was not really paying me any mind. I think I had my baby with me or something. [Laughter]
He was over talking to the other young ladies, and I was holding my baby. [Laughter]
Lamar: It was love at first sight—
Ronnie: It was love at first sight. [Laughter]
Lamar: —for Ronnie.
Bob: —for Ronnie—I got it. So, did you notice her at this get-together?
Lamar: Yes; definitely, I did notice her. And then we met, again, at a different event—I guess maybe a few months later.
Lamar: At the time, I had a traveling job, and I knew—at the time, I was living in Newport, Virginia, down near Hampton and Virginia Beach. I knew I had a trip coming up to Norfolk in a few months; so I said, “Hey, when I come to your city, I would love to go out—take you out to dinner or something.” We did that and the rest is history.
Bob: Were you not at all cautious or put off by the fact that she was a mother of two?
Lamar: You know, I wasn’t; because actually, I grew up as a child of divorce, with a single mom, who raised three sons. I kind of grew up in that environment; so it really didn’t bother me. I know some people say, “Well, I don’t want to date someone with kids.” That really wasn’t an issue.
Bob: Since you got married, you’ve added two more to the family; right?
Bob: So you now have four kids.
Bob: Who’s taking care of them right now?
Ronnie: His mother.
Bob: Okay; God bless your mother; right? [Laughter]
And something in those first years of marriage caused the two of you to say, “We need to address issues related to marriage and family, particularly in the black community”; right?
Ronnie: Right. So, yes—well, you know, Lamar worked at the Fox station. He was doing websites and things for them. He came home one day and he said, “Ronnie, I think we could do our own website / our own blog that we would have full control over—and not red tape and things.”
We sat down and we thought, “Well, what would be a topic that we both would be interested in writing about over the long haul?” Marriage was that. We both were really passionate about marriage. We noticed that, when we announced that we were getting married, people weren’t exactly happy about it. They were like rolling their eyes, “Are you sure? Don’t do it!”—you know.
Lamar: “Don’t make the same mistake I did.”
Ronnie: “Don’t make the same mistakes that they did.”
Ronnie: We really wanted to promote a positive image of marriage, within the African-American community in particular. We just felt like those images needed to be out there. When you thought about marriage—and you thought about the African-American community—if you weren’t thinking about The Cosby Show, what are you thinking about, as far as images that are out there and prevalent? There are more negative images. We wanted people to see that “Yes; African-American couples are married—they’re happy, and there are black men in the families, and they are taking care of their children, and they’re happy to be taking care of their children.”
We started our site—blackandmarriedwithkids.com—in 2007. It really took off. We had people writing in to us and saying: “You know what? I’m happily married. I don’t see any other couples like us represented in the media,” or “My parents have been married for 20 or 30 years, and you never see or hear people talk about that.” I think that’s why it really resonated with a lot of people in our community.
Bob: You both came from situations—you grew up in a divorced home.
Bob: Ten years’ previous relationship—two kids—was there not some fear before the two of you stood and said, “I do,”—“Can we really make this happen?”
Ronnie: I—well, go ahead.
Lamar: I would say I think my fear was more about whether we could make this happen, not the family happen. I don’t know—maybe we’re the only ones that ever thought that way—but my focus was a lot more on the marriage. I was thinking that, “Okay; the kids are here; and whether they’re onboard now or not, they’ll kind of get onboard throughout the process.” [Laughter] That really was like, “Okay; yes.” Where were you guys a number of years ago when we first got married? It’s so funny now. [Laughter]
Ronnie: But seriously, I never thought about it. The term, stepfamily/blended family—it just never even crossed my mind. I mean, I was happy. Lamar was a good guy and things were working out. When we were dating—they seemed to like him when we were dating—so—[Laughter]
Bob: Were the first years tough?
Ronnie: They were very tough. They were very tough. I mean, we were really blindsided by blended family issues.
You know, first of all, we were a new couple. I had never been married—so I didn’t even have the benefit of having those lessons learned—as far as like: “I wouldn’t do these things again,” No; I didn’t—this is my first marriage. Also, I pretty much took care of disciplining my kids myself. I didn’t share that—I didn’t have any thoughts to run across with anybody else and to actually have his input sometimes.
It was tough—I didn’t want to hear his input. I was very defensive—I thought: “How could he say these things about my kids? He doesn’t even have kids. What is he talking about? He doesn’t know.” So things like that were running through my mind. I didn’t necessarily voice those; but as a biological mother, I really thought those things sometimes. Or I thought: “Is he really…? Why is he…?” He is stricter than me. I really just figured that, once we started having kids together—
—but before we had kids together, I would think, “Is he like that because of my kids?” We just have different disciplining styles.
Ronnie: So there’s just a lot that goes through your head as a biological parent. “Can anybody else relate to that, or am I the only one?”
Lamar: Everybody’s quiet—I was like, “Maybe it’s just us.” [Laughter]
Ronnie: Because, I’m sitting here, thinking: “I love my husband and I want to listen to him, but then I love my kids. As a biological mother, I want to make sure I’m doing great by my kids.” And he had his own perspective as well.
Bob: Thoughts like you were having can be the seeds that take a marriage down.
Lamar and Ronnie: Yes.
Bob: Why didn’t it take your marriage down?
Ronnie: We got committed to each other. I mean, it got bad—we were arguing over discipline, we were having issues, coming together as a new couple. Again, we were a new couple—we had to learn how to communicate / we had to learn how to come together, as a couple, in addition to having a ready-made family on top of it.
Lamar: Unfulfilled expectations.
Ronnie: Yes; so we really became united. We really joined together as a united front. I mean, I remember we had this huge argument one time. Lamar just came and he was like: “You know what? We’re not seeing, eye to eye; but I love you. We’re going to work this out.” And that really turned it all around for us—just our commitment to each other.
I think, also, we just became really united, in front of the kids / in front of like extended family that may or may not have been onboard, and may have been naysayers, or whatever. But I felt like once we came together and once we showed them that: “You’re not going to break them up. You’re not going to break them apart,”—people really stopped challenging us as much.
Lamar: And when she talks about that, she’s talking about people outside of our marriage and the kids; because the kids will want to break you up, and people outside of your marriage will want to break you up as well. I think that’s one of the things that is missed a lot of times.
You know, we’ll hear about outside influences around your blended family. I think, a lot of times, the perspective is that these outside influences are rational people—and some kind of perspective is that these are people that want the best for your children. I think they have their own agendas / their own things going on.
Sometimes, you have to try to have a rational relationship with irrational people. They’re sending things through your kids into your home / into your lives. Like Ronnie said—we really had to come together and say: “You know what? We’re keeping this marriage together. We’re going to do what we need to do in order to come together, and we’re not going to give up.”
Bob: Some people need to write down what you said, which was, “We’re not seeing, eye to eye; but I love you. We’re going to make this work.”
Lamar and Ronnie: Yes.
Bob: I mean, just saying that, as you said, that was kind of like, “Okay; now, we’ll figure out how to make it work.”
Lamar: It was definitely the first step.
Bob: Did you recognize the naysayers to kids and the outside influences? Did you know, “These are people who are not for us”?
Lamar: Eventually, I did; because it will come back to us that they literally would say, “She shouldn’t be with him,”—
—they made it very clear. But then, there were still other ways that we didn’t, because there were people who would come to me and say, “You know what?”—you know, talking about our son—“He needs a strong, male figure like you in his life, and his dad isn’t there. We’re so glad you’re here.” But then, later on, we would find out they were telling him: “Well, guess what? He’s not your dad, so he doesn’t have the right to tell you what to do.”
Really, they were sowing seeds of discord into our child—which, looking at it later, I really felt bad—because, again, under the guise of, “We want what’s best for him,” when you send a child in with those directives and that mission, and then it seems like he’s just acting those things out, it just sent our family to a bad spot.
Bob: Is there an expectation in the black community that marriages probably aren’t going to work?
Ronnie: I don’t know if it’s an expectation, particularly, just in the black community; but I just feel like more and more people need to see marriage as work.
I feel like people are getting disheartened. They’re not seeing it—you’re seeing a lot of generations of single parenthood—so they’re not seeing those examples. That’s really what our mission is—is to really, really put those examples out there to show people that: “Marriages can work. If you do have problems, divorce is not always the option. You can work them through and you can come through stronger.” People just aren’t seeing that.
Lamar: We’ve done screenings of our documentaries. We’ll have someone stand up in a Q&A and say: “Hey, I’m single; and I don’t want to get married. Is it a problem?” Then, when we probe a little deeper, oftentimes we may hear, “Well, I don’t want to get married; because I’ve never seen successful marriages.”
Like Ronnie said—once you start to look at generation after generation of just single parents, single parents, single parents, and then you look in communities where maybe there are a lot of marriages. There aren’t a lot of things for you to really reflect on and say, “That’s the great part of marriage.” That’s why we do what we do with Black and Married with Kids.
That’s why we make actual documentary films—so that someone can sit down and say, “Okay; here’s a man—a strong man—talking about the benefit of marriage.” Because no matter who you are, across any culture, nine times out of ten if you see marriage portrayed in the movies, in the news, in the newspapers, it’s all negative. It’s all about, for men—you’re losing your freedom, you’re losing your life, you’re losing your livelihood. It’s important for us, at all stages, to put these positive images out in front and really market marriage.
Bob: Tell us about—that’s great; isn’t it? [Applause] You’ve done a number of documentaries.
Bob: Tell us about the films you’ve made.
Lamar: Yes. So, we’re just now releasing our sixth film, which we’ll talk about in a second.
Lamar: The whole thing—like I said, we started out—we wanted to provide positive images of marriage and parenting in the African-American community, because we knew that there were millions of married African-American couples that basically get ignored when you turn on the television or open up the newspaper, as if they don’t exist.
So, like Ronnie said, we created our first documentary—even though I worked at a TV station, I had no previous experience whatsoever of holding the camera or shooting anything. I bought one from a friend just to do some things on the website; and we got this crazy idea: “Let’s do a documentary film.” I was going to hire a guy; but I was like, you know: “How is it going to work? How much is it going to cost? Am I going to make the money back?” You know, “If we make money, stuff won’t be funny then,”—all those types of things.
Ronnie—she really instilled in me: “You know what? We have a camera. I think you can do this.”
Lamar: So for the next two weeks, I went out—interviewed couples and pull together a few experts. We made our first film—screened it in Washington, DC. We were living in the DC area at the time—screened it in Washington, DC. We had a 160-seat theater. I was hoping that 60 people would, at least, come; but we sold that 160 out. The media and press came out. Then, from there, we just took that money—reinvested it, made the next film, bought better cameras / better quality equipment.
So, you know, it’s just been a process of creating films that show that, “Hey, couples face issues.” So when couples sit down and they watch it, they say: “Guess what? I’m not alone.
Lamar: “I’m not the only one going through this. Somebody else went through it. Not only did they go through it, but they made it through on the other side.”
Once couples see that and they know, “Okay; somebody else faced the same thing,”—sometimes—“the worst of what I’m going through and they made it,”—guess what? It gives them a little bit of hope. When they get a little bit of hope, that’s when we turn them over to people like the people in this room for the resources. [Applause]
The thing about our movies is they’re not workshop-based films. They make you laugh, they make you cry, and it’s a low barrier of entry to get people out to see it.
Bob: So tell me—tell me about this one.
Ronnie: Okay; so this one is near and dear to us. It’s called Blended: The Unspoken Truth About Stepfamilies. It has the same purpose as all of our other films. We really wanted to talk to experts, as well as real couples, and wanted to get that message out there—
—that: “Although you’re struggling in your blended family, there is hope. You can come through on the other side,” and that “Your family can be stronger than ever.” We went around the country and talked to experts—one being Ron Deal, of course.
Ronnie: How can you have a movie without Ron in it?
Ronnie: So Ron Deal. We talked to experts as well as couples. We just tell their story; and hopefully, it can be touching. We want people to make sure they have their tissues out when they’re watching it; but at the end of the day, we want to inspire couples to get help; because if those couples in the movie can do it, then you can too.
Bob: And I know that marriage issues are cross-cultural, but I also know that cultural issues play into marriage and family. As you think about the black family in America, and about marriage, and about family, are you encouraged or are you discouraged about where we are today?
Ronnie: Yes; I’m both. I’m definitely discouraged—I mean, definitely what you see on the media and what’s playing out—it affects the family.
It definitely impacts us, as African-Americans, in this country. However, I am encouraged, because the more that we do our work with blackamericans.com—the more couples that we meet / the more black couples that we meet—the more people like Joyce and Julius and other folks out there that are just like warriors for marriage, and that do have happy marriages, and that are married for a long time—so I’m definitely encouraged.
Lamar: And I would say I’m encouraged, too; because we get to see, firsthand, the couples that you don’t see through media / you don’t see through the press. We have over 300,000 people visit the website every month. Our Facebook® page, I think, is up to 520,000 people now.
Lamar: So the perception that in the black community—black marriages and how they regard them / people don’t want marriage—we talk to singles. Actually, one of the largest sections of our site are actually singles who want to prepare for marriage and who say:
“I’ve seen divorces around me. I want to know what’s going on with marriages.” They come to read our marriage articles. We actually try to segment them and send them emails just for singles. They say: “No; keep me on the marriage list too, because I want those stories.” So we see both sides.
Bob: Wow. I can see why Ebony thought you were the coolest black family in America. [Laughter] This is great! [Applause]
Bob: We’ve been listening back to a conversation that I had with Lamar and Ronnie Tyler at the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, back in Colorado Springs, back in September. It’s encouraging to us that more and more people are starting to say: “Maybe the Bible can help us with relationship issues. Maybe there are answers in what the gospel has to say about life and relationships.”
Dennis: I think there are a lot of people today in various stages of brokenness. Some are single, some are married, and some are in blended/stepfamily situations. Everybody needs help / everybody needs hope.
Everyone needs someone to come alongside them, put their arm around them, and say: “You know what? We have some proven solutions that will, not only nurture your soul and your spiritual condition as a follower of Christ, but it’ll equip you as you raise your children and as you send the next generation out with the message of Christ to their generation.”
Bob: We mentioned earlier that one of the things we’re doing this fall is hosting a national live stream event called Blended & Blessed™, where Ron Deal and other speakers are going to gather together. This is on Saturday, April 29th. It’s going to be hosted in local churches, but it can be live-streamed at home if you’d prefer to do that. They’re going to be focusing in on the five keys that are crucial for healthy stepfamily marriages. The event is free to host / it’s free to attend. You can find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com about how you can host an event like this, how you can attend an event, or how you can watch it at home on the live stream.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for information about the upcoming Blended & Blessed live-stream event. Also look for information about the DVD that Lamar and Ronnie Tyler have put together called Blended: The Unspoken Truth About Stepfamilies. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. This would be a great documentary to watch together with other stepfamily couples and then start a small group Bible study. Go through Ron Deal’s Smart Stepfamily material, or launch a stepfamily ministry in your church with this documentary as the way to get things going. Again, it’s called Blended. You can order it online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, whatever is the condition of your marriage—if you’re in a blended marriage, you’re in a marriage where things are thriving, maybe a marriage where things are rough right now—our goal, here at FamilyLife, is to help your marriage be all that God wants it to be. We believe the Bible has the answers for the issues you face in marriage. The Bible teaches us how to be dispensers of grace to one another, how to love one another unconditionally, how to forgive one another when we sin against one another.
Here, at FamilyLife Today, we seek to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family through these daily broadcasts, through the resources we create, on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, at the events we host, like the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. All of these things are designed to help strengthen your marriage and your family.
We appreciate our Legacy Partners, who really are partners with us in this ministry—people who believe that marriage and family is important / people who believe that a resource like this daily radio program is important for your community.
The Legacy Partners are the folks who provide the financial backbone for our ministry. We couldn’t do what we do without them.
Maybe you’ve been a long-time listener and never became a monthly Legacy Partner. Maybe today’s the day for you to do that. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And whether you choose to become a Legacy Partner today or simply to make a one-time gift, we’d like to say, “Thank you for your support,” by sending you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, Moments with You. It’s a devotional guide for couples. It’s our thank-you gift when you donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today and request the daily devotional. Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today at Post Office
Box 7111, Little Rock; AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how we can raise kids who are grateful for what they have rather than kids who keep thinking they’re entitled to things that they don’t have. How do we raise grateful kids in an entitled world? Kristen Welch is going to join us tomorrow to talk about that. We hope you can be with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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