The chances of catching Simone Jones Tyner and Colby Tyner engaged in a screaming match are so slim that even their 8-year-old daughter, Journey, has asked her parents “if they ever argue.”
“One of the main things we do is talk to each other in love,” Simone explains. “We never curse at each other, dredge up anything from the past or yell.” The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable has been vital to keeping the Tyners’ 12-year marriage moving in a healthy direction. “We watch other people argue and ask ourselves, ‘How can you say that to somebody?’” she adds.
By no means are they perfect, says Colby, who stresses that mastering friendly fighting didn’t happen overnight. “It’s been built over a long period of time,” he admits. “We have differences, but we don’t yell and scream. We lay our issues on the table and discuss it. We have to see things on a higher level at all times, especially when you have kids. They are watching all the time. What will they take from you?”
Journey has no doubt learned that even in the midst of a disagreement, there’s always room for laughter. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a fight and one of us will say something funny, and we just start laughing,” says 41-year-old Simone. “We get through stuff because of our open communication, our sarcasm and jokes,” adds Colby.
It’s that shared sense of humor that helped them develop a friendship while working together at Philadelphia radio station Power 99. Forty-five-year-old Colby, who’s currently vice president of programming at Radio One, was working as an on-air personality when Simone became assistant promotions director. “I thought she was pretty, witty and very smart. I love that. I have always been attracted to a strong woman,” reveals Colby.
They remained strictly platonic work friends, spending a great deal of time together attending a slew of work events, until one day Simone extended a special invitation.
“We worked so closely together, and even when we were out socially, it was work,” recalls Simone, who runs her own marketing and event planning company. “I asked him out to lunch on Saturday, and it was the first time we were out together when we did not have to be.” They continued to spend more time together outside of the office, and it became obvious that their friendship was blossoming into something more.
Colby was clearly into Simone, but he’d just broken off an engagement less than six months prior, and was hesitant about getting involved with someone new. “He was adamant about not wanting to be in a relationship. I mentioned I was going out with someone else, and that’s when it all changed. Now all of a sudden he was interested in a relationship with me,” Simone remarks, laughing.
The two officially became a couple in 1996.
While workplace romances have long been deemed a faux pas, Simone and Colby took great precautions to draw a line between their personal and work lives. They kept their four-year relationship a secret the entire first year they dated.
“I was a very public person and well known around the city for being on the radio,” says Colby. “We kept things extremely professional. Whatever happened outside of work stayed outside of work. Nobody had a clue we were dating.” Simone says, “Carrying yourself in a professional manner makes a big difference when it comes to dating someone at work.”
As their relationship grew, so did their careers at the radio station. In addition to being on the air, Colby also transitioned into management, while Simone was promoted to marketing director. Unlike in Colby’s past relationships, juggling a busy work schedule and a relationship was never a source of contention for the pair.
“He didn’t have to deal with a lawyer or a nurse who didn’t understand why he had to be in a club ’til one in the morning, or why women would come up to him. I totally got it. We understood each other,” Simone explains. “Before Simone, it was hard to be in a relationship when you have all these things going on outside of the relationship,” says Colby. “That’s probably why for many years I had to change myself a bit to make them happy. And who wants to do that? It’s never an issue with Simone.”
“I chose, and still choose, not to spend my time worrying about what he is out here doing,” says Simone. “He doesn’t complete me. He is the center of my world, but I also have other things going for me. If you don’t have trust, what do you have?”
Before tying the knot, the couple broke up twice while dating. Following their first year together, with the honeymoon period coming to an end, Colby was getting cold feet about taking their relationship to the next level. “He was the first guy I cared if he came back or not after we broke up. I never felt like that about anybody. I didn’t want to lose him, but I loved him enough to let him go. I know it’s the corniest thing ever, but I did,” says Simone.
Colby remembers it like this: “I needed to go through those things to realize she was the one and I’d be stupid not to spend the rest of my life with her. I made a very smart decision and proposed.”
The wedding was intimate and the couple wrote their own vows. There’s one line from Colby’s heartfelt declaration of love that Simone will always remember. “He said I brought him closer to God,” she reveals. Finding a life partner who was spiritually inclined had always been a must for Simone, but Colby had no interest in religion. “My religious upbringing wasn’t much,” he says. “My mom was Jewish and my father didn’t go to church. Previous girlfriends would drag me to a church or a mosque, and I just found it boring.”
While Simone never pressured him to attend church, one day Colby decided to tag along. “The pastor was very interesting and he connected with me,” says Colby. A couple more visits led to Colby actually joining the church. “I got more clarity in my life. Looking back, I realized instances where God was present even though I wasn’t calling on Him. He was calling on me and helped me move in the right direction. It was Him who delivered Simone to me.”
The Tyners spent five years as a married couple building their life and travelling before Journey was born. Despite excelling at her job and winning awards and accolades, Simone made a conscious decision (after years of working in radio) to quit her taxing job to focus on her family.
“My mom was single and worked a lot, and I wanted to be there for my family,” she says. “I don’t think the ‘traditional family’ is right for everyone. But if it’s something you really want, you have to work for it the same way you do that next promotion or job.” Simone decided that launching her own company would allow her more time for Journey. “The fact that I am able to be mentally and physically present and in the moment with her every day means more to me than any award.”
Colby and Simone are big believers of the Intentional method of parenting. “Our parenting statement is that we aim to raise a child that gives to the world as much as she takes,” explains Simone. Journey has been volunteering and fundraising since she was 5. “A great example of that would be my daughter’s decision to use her birthday to help children in other countries gain access to fresh water. In lieu of gifts, she is asking family and friends to help her raise $2,500 for water.org during the month of April,” adds Simone, who blogs about her parenting approach at herlifeinspired.com.
Getting Journey immersed in community service has also inspired Simone to become a better person. “I’m doing things I could never imagine doing, because I’m trying to be an example for her,” says Simone. For instance, when they lived in Cleveland, Ohio, she launched a Dr. King day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Two years ago now, it’s currently the largest day of service in Cleveland, with 800 volunteers taking part last year.
The Tyners’ parenting style is a far cry from how they were raised.
Although her mom was very nurturing when it came to discipline, Simone says her mom was strict. “My household was a ‘do as I say’ household. I’m encouraging my daughter to speak her mind,” says Simone, who recounts a time when Journey told her she didn’t like the tone she used when asking her to do certain things.
“We talked about it. There was no way I could imagine going to my mother and saying that. I would have been picking myself off the floor. If I want her to speak her mind, I can’t pop her in the face if she says something I don’t like. That’s a mixed message. If you are encouraging free thinking, you have to be open and willing to hear it,” says Simone.
As for Colby, he describes himself as a “loner” growing up. His parents divorced when he was 2, and he divided his time between Philly and New York. “I know my parents loved me, but they were too busy and focused on other things to pay me much attention,” he says. “I want Journey to feel loved, take that love and transform it into a positive attitude and a giving spirit. We encourage her to believe she can change the world. That’s the legacy all parents want to leave their kid.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn't always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at [email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she's not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she's writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and her blog, Fringueuse.