Bitter. That’s the one word used to describe Mary Mary star Tina Campbell. Many would say she has the right to be. In the June 2013 issue of EBONY magazine, Campbell revealed that she recently learned her husband of more than a decade, Teddy Campbell, had been unfaithful.
Sadly, it wasn’t a one-time thing.
In the subsequent months—and while the cameras of her hit reality television series, Mary Mary—rolled on, she discovered that her soulmate cheated regularly, and with many women. After bouts with depression, suicidal thoughts and destructive behavior, Mrs. Campbell is now happily married (yes, to the same man) and sharing the lessons she learned through a new album and book, both due out this spring. Her biggest aha? Her husband’s infidelity represented a mutual failure in the relationship. Find out why.
EBONY: Last season on the show, it was revealed that your husband has cheated continuously throughout your marriage—even with one of your employees. The first thing folks want to know is how forgave a serial cheater.
Tina Campbell: At first I was like, “this ain’t never going to work and I don’t want God to fix this.” I was like, dang, everybody? Have I just been blind and stupid the whole marriage? I damaged a lot of things. I attacked him physically with things. My intentions were to kill him. I was praying to God and listening to the demons at the same time. The pain of what was happening made me feel like I needed to get him back. I was conflicted for a year.
But as I prayed, my bad days became less and my good days become more. Love is powerful. I’m not a silly woman. I’m not a woman lacking discernment. But I had to understand what his responsibility was and what my responsibility was. I would have been known this if I was paying more attention to my husband.
TC: I can be honest and say I loved my husband, but I ignored and emasculated him. A man doesn’t want to feel like he’s nothing to the woman that he thinks is everything. Ultimately, I decided to reconcile because I believed my husband was better than what he was doing. I believed he was screwed up in the head and had some things he needed to deal with. I believed he had to come clean so we could try to become friends—which we never were.
EBONY: You were never friends with your husband?
TC: We were passionate lovers but never friends; that’s the honest truth. We dated for four years and were together for 12 before this happened, but we weren’t friends. If Teddy walked into the room, I would cringe up like the Lord just walked in. We had crazy passionate sex out the gate, but we fought as hard as we loved. We made up and broke up. There were always massive arguments and passionate love.
EBONY: That seemed to have worked for a while. What do you think changed in your relationship?
TC: Between children and career, I lost sight of my husband being one of my greatest passions. I would get to him when I could. I wasn’t aware of how selfish I was with that. Now my husband had boatloads of issues; it’s not like cheating was the only thing, and I was this huge problem. But I had to see how I contributed. I was extremely controlling, selfish and capable—which can be intimidating. And I was ballsy about it. I pushed and got what I wanted and considered him after that. That did not make for a happy, healthy relationship. We maintained this passion, but there was the underlying sentiment of, “We aren’t friends and you aren’t treating me right.” I guess my outlet was my career and children. His was what y’all found out.
EBONY: Speaking of what the public found out, so much was revealed on the show. How did you begin working towards forgiveness?
TC: He had to be blatantly honest with me about everything. I said, “I want to forgive you, so you have to tell me every single thing that I’m forgiving.” So he did, but that made it harder because I had to process all of these details about my husband and other women.
EBONY: Most folks would frown on hearing the sordid details. How did that help you heal?
TC: I think one of the biggest factors in us becoming true friends was him giving me all the dirt. He had to confess who he was, but also what affected him and how he got to the point of hiding instead of dealing with life with me. He told me what drew him in the earlier and later stages. Why it went on so long. Why it spiraled. Why someone who worked for me. His fears. How he felt about things I said that I thought he didn’t care about. A lot of women don’t realize how much your man cares about what you say, what you think about what he does. Our words greatly affect them. In him pouring out the contents of his heart and sharing things you don’t want tell someone, I began to trust him.
EBONY: What about moving forward? How do you not worry every time you’re apart?
TC: We spent months in counseling. I watched my husband change. I believe he wouldn’t bare his soul if he didn’t want to be together. I trust what God has done. I trust that this happened because of our hard work and commitment. I trust that we will no longer have an issue and not discuss it, like we did for the first 12 years. He even went to the extreme of reaching out to everyone on copy, with me cc’d, confessing how sorry he was that he shamed God and his family.
EBONY: How has this changed your approach to the marriage?
TC: I don’t choose to live my life thinking about what can go wrong. Do you know how miserable I would be? I had every code and he gave me access to everything he owned. I chased that for a little while and figured out this is stupid and beneath me. I don’t choose to live my life worrying. I chose to believe that if he loves me, and we didn’t do all of this to go backwards, that I can’t stay in a negative space. So I don’t chose to discourage him. I do trust him. I don’t check behind him.
EBONY: How has therapy and prayer changed the way you interact with each other?
TC: We maintain the practices of what we did to get here. We had months of therapy. We maintain a friendship, and that blows me away. In the past, we didn’t laugh together. We didn’t kick it. Every time we had a conversation, it turned into an argument. We took offense to each other and never talked through things, we fought through things. I had three go-to friends in the past, but now I talk to Teddy and he talks to me. We share. We say the stuff that women and men don’t want to say. We pray together regularly. We constantly date each other. He chooses not to think I’m nagging and difficult. He chooses to hear my heart now. You stop looking at your greatest love as your enemy. We just practice being in love every day.
EBONY: Practicing that love has also transitioned into business. Tell us about it.
TC: Our careers didn’t mix in the past. As we were going through a healing process, we started collaborating on music. He’s [executive producing] my record, out this spring. He’s an incredible musical guy. I also wrote a book that complements the album and it will be out later this year. Out of this, I have a theatric presentation that my husband is part of called An Evening with Tina Campbell. The first one I did, 200 couples came out that were dealing with the same thing. A lot of men came up to Teddy and asked why he put himself out there like that and his response was, “I ruined my family and I was going to die trying to get it back.” He made it right. If you want to become friends, you have to bare your soul, be honest about what you did and why you did it. Maybe it’s sexual, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s coping skills.
EBONY: What do you want to tell families grappling with this now?
TC: My stuff was bad. Nine years. The same amount of chicks year after year. And I had to find out on TV, so I’m embarrassed. Choose to be disciplined. Choose faith. We tell people you don’t have to throw your marriage away.