People want to see T.I. and Tiny together.

The fortunate result of all the well-marketed “dime bags to riches” fodder that has helped fuel the popularity of their VH1 reality series The Family Hustle is that people are actually inspired by and invested in their relationship.

Scores of fans look at the couple and think about the possibilities for their also not-so perfect lives because, money aside, the duo has dealt with some very real issues such as blending families, losing elderly parents and incarceration.

Still, one thing we haven’t seen much of on the show is a topic that’s been blasted on all over social media — and likely one of the core causes of their rift — infidelity.

Despite building a small empire on the notion of being in a happy, somewhat traditional marriage, the Harris’ never seem to actually be just a duo; there’s always a third, or fourth, party looming.

Back in 2014,  T.I. famously brawled with professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. after an exchange of words, which allegedly stemmed from photos of Tiny with the Mayweather clan. Many folks vilified Tiny, accusing her of carrying on a relationship with the boxing champ and celebrated T.I.’s bravado for engaging in fisticuffs with “Money Mayweather” (which was actually dangerous). But that tiny drama has seemed to overshadow the years of rumors of T.I.’s unfaithfulness towards his wife (blog posts accuse the superstar rapper of extracurricular activities).

The reality is that each couple creates their own set of rules of engagement, outlining what does and doesn’t work for their relationship. Still, there are some core, some may even say old-school, tenets that even the most modern unions must maintain to ensure a relationship has life, friendship and love. Ultimately, it’s up to every couple to determine whether they are willing to put in the work to sustain their team. Those going through rough patches should consider this:

1) Re-visit Respect.

When folks are mad, disappointed or hurt by their partners it’s easy to start engaging in intentionally disrespectful behavior — after all the offending party should be punished, right? But when does it stop?! Unfortunately, this kind of behavior tends to have a snowball effect with each mate’s actions upping the ante. Lovers looking to revamp need to call a truce, and mean it. Each party must commit to treating the other in a manner that doesn’t undermine his or her mate’s security in the relationship. To start, try treating the other as a friend you genuinely love, and forgive.

2) Exchange Open Heart Apologies.

Even when friends do something wrong, there is an underlying belief that those actions lacked a malicious intention. Additionally, there is a willingness to put forth effort to make — and maintain — amends. Saying you’re sorry requires humility and opening up your heart to accept your partner’s apology and move forward requires vulnerability. Be willing to give both.

3) Be Okay, With Things Not Being Okay.

Reality shows are edited — so are movies and sitcoms. In real life, rough patches can last more than a few days or weeks. The important thing to know is that both you and your partner are making some effort (even if it isn’t equal at the same time) and that there is enough value in the relationship to weather the storm.

4) Spend Time Together, Alone.

Balancing work, kids, extended family and self-care can leave little time for actually nurturing a romantic relationship. Think beyond sex and develop rituals that help strengthen your interpersonal bond with your partner. Take walks or exercise together. Create time to reinforce your connection as friends.

5) Open Up About New Needs.

What we want, or will accept, can change over time. It’s important to be honest with your mate about how you are evolving. Now that doesn’t mean that he or she will be on your exact same page and you’ll be totally in sync. However, if he or she is committed to helping the relationship grow there will be an understanding that there are new values, dreams and habits that must be explored.

S. Tia Brown is the Lifestyle Director at EBONY and a licensed therapist. Most important, she believes in love and the promise that it gives. Follow her @tiabrowntalks.



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