As the wife of controversial rapper DMX, Tashera Simmons has been in the media spotlight for years, whether she liked it or not. When the currently estranged couple took public exposure to the next level by joining the cast of VH1′s reality show Couples Therapy, they had no idea where the journey would take them.
Tashera has been opening up recently about her troubled relationship, which has spanned over two decades, through teen marriage and a six-year separation. Inspired by her own journey, Simmons is penning a book to lend strength from her experiences to other women.
Marred by verbal abuse, Tashera’s life has definitely been a struggle, but is mental/emotional abuse any worse than physical abuse? Did friends or family ever tell her to get out? What makes a woman stay with someone who is abusive to them? What advice would Tashera give to anyone who is coping with similar challenges in their relationship?
Read on as Tashera Simmons tells UrbLife.com about the long battle to survive abuse, and why faith and love for herself has ultimately won the war.
You have made a huge decision in putting your relationship challenges out in the public with this show. Talk to us a little about that decision, and why you felt it was important for you and DMX to do this for yourselves.
Tashera Simmons: Well, to be honest with you, he’s the one who approached me with the show. I didn’t want to do it at first because I already know… We were separated for six years when he asked me to do it, and I was already on my way out the door. Like, I was so happy in the place that I was, and I didn’t feel like getting on TV because I already know how he can be, and I didn’t want to humiliate myself anymore than I feel like he has already in the public.
But he called back the following week, he said he had a lot to talk about and he was going to be good. So I prayed on it, and I thought about it, and a lot of women in that week would just come up to me or Facebook me and say they were so inspired by my story, my strength and how I did it. I am in such a good place…
I know I was in an abusive situation, but for a long time I didn’t feel that it was, because it wasn’t physical. But after being out of the situation for six years, I realized that I was in a mental and verbally abusive relationship, and I made it out with my mind, my sanity. It’s just hard to be in a relationship like that, and then it was just triple hard to be in a public relationship and someone that’s a celebrity. And to endure and get through all of that with flying colors, and I never had a breakdown…
I’m always positive, always trying to help other people, I’m like the therapist for all of my friends. I felt like I was anointed in this area from God. I felt like I needed to go on TV. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew there was a chance that what you saw [in the debut episode] would happen, and I felt like I could help other women, and that they could learn from my situation.
[Throughout the series] it’s going to unravel. I only went on there at first to inspire other women and to get a check, I would be lying if I didn’t say that! [laughs] I was hoping not to expose too much, but I knew the chances that I was taking, and at the end of the day I didn’t feel I was going to come off as the bad guy, and I felt it was worth the shot.
With the mental and emotional abuse, I’ve been through it before. I know a lot of women have been, and sometimes it is hard to rationalize when you are in the middle of it, because you are so in love you don’t realize is that these words are just killing you inside consistently.
How did you come out of it with your sanity?
TS: You know what? To be honest with you, the love I just have for myself. It was my kids that really really helped me, ‘cause I was just sitting in it, feeling sorry. Me and X met at 11, we got together when we were 18, and he was never really that bad [then] as he was throughout the years.
When he got into the industry is when he got worse, his drug problem got worse, attitude. It started taking everything out of me. And I knew it wasn’t me. It was like no one was saying “no” except me. Everyone was saying “yes” and I was saying “no”. So he just started spazzing on me, and it didn’t matter who he did it in front of.
I don’t know if you are spiritual, but I never turned to drugs, I don’t even drink. How I got out of it? I started calling my pastor. I said, “This has got to be a demon,” because he really did a 360 on me. When he got into the industry, I was just like, “This isn’t the person I fell in love with.”
When that [explosion] happened that first [episode of the series] it brought back so many memories because… I don’t play around. Once I told him I didn’t want to deal with him anymore, and he can call the nannies and he could call my oldest son or whoever to get in touch with the kids, but I didn’t want to have anything to do with him I meant that.
It was hard. I went through two years of just… I was depressed, but at the same time I was in church every Saturday, Bible study every Tuesday, like I went hard for God once I told him it was over, and that’s what gave me the strength. It was God’s hold that gave me the strength to come out of it and say, “Tashera, you deserve better and you can’t help this man. He doesn’t even love himself, because I know there is no way you can love somebody and treat them like that and talk to them like that, in front of the kids.”
Did you have friends or family that stepped in and said, “I don’t like how he treats you”?
TS: I was abandoned as a child and I raised my brothers and sisters, so I was like the mother, so one of my sisters would always [ask] me, “Why did you do it? You don’t deserve this.” To be honest I never talk to girlfriends like that. I just watch other people’s relationships and it’s like… I’m the type of person, I have to take my own advice.
I don’t want to throw X under the bus, because I still say to this day the good outweighs the bad, because we had a lot of good times. It’s just the bad was bad where days would just be like, “This shit ain’t worth it,” but I never really talked about it with girlfriends because they weren’t any better…Not saying they were in abusive relationships, but you know how you have to go learn on your own?
There could be an element too where people were looking at his celebrity and were scared to tell you.
TS: You’re right, because I wouldn’t get it at all. The only people who would say something was my sister, like my family members and it would be very light. Now I can speak openly about it, because the first episode [of Couples Therapy] is out. I don’t want to give too much away. You see how Angelina [Pivarnick] and Vienna [Girardi] were sitting in a room and he just busted out with that? It was pretty much like that – sometimes with family or friends – where people would just be like “Ok, that was unnecessary.”
A lot of [his behavior] came I think with his drug addiction. Because when he’s totally sober, remember that was the first day they showed [in the debut episode] where he was aggravated by numerous things. He couldn’t drink, he couldn’t smoke, he couldn’t do a lot of stuff.
So he was just aggravated, and then he just kinda spazzed out… even with the part: “You knew I never wanted to get married”. He’s never said that to me before.
I’m not just saying that, he’s not the type of guy for you to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do. You can’t make that man do anything he doesn’t want to do. That wasn’t just for fun or for TV, it was just like I’m not fighting fire with fire. I felt like I’m not getting ready to go there with him. Because it would only escalate and got worse, and it was like I don’t really care at this point.
When you’re use to so much verbal battering you do get immune to it. After a while it’s just like “you know whatever, ok” A normal person would react by fighting back. An abused person would just sit there and like “Keep it coming. What else, what else, what else?”
TS: You’re right, I’m telling you! I haven’t been around him six years when we went there, and in my brain I was like, “Yo Tashera, this shit is crazy!” I’ve been living a normal life for six years, and then to come back to that, it took a lot for me not to say anything, but I knew it might’ve went somewhere else and I’m not about to play myself like that.
What is some personal advice you would give someone who is in a verbal mentally/emotionally abusive relationship about how to stay positive, keep their sanity, and how to get out of it?
TS: You know what? A woman that’s in it, you just have to walk away for real. Now me, and this is because I’m not in it anymore…I didn’t know I was making the right decision when I walked away. I just did it because I was just like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” But now, after walking away, I would definitely recommend a woman who’s in a verbally abusive relationship that you have to think about yourself and your self worth.
First of all, I would thought [at the time] if I spoke out I figured they would say I’m a “bitter ex-wife” because of everything that happened. Everyone was like, “X loves Tashera to death,” and I think he does love me to death, but you don’t talk to somebody that you love like that. I don’t know what kind of love he has for me or maybe he just doesn’t love himself.
You’ve got to see how everything unravels [on Couples Therapy]. X has a lot of issues, I mean a lot of issues… I do love him as a friend, but I’m not in love with him anymore. Once I got out of that relationship, I was just like “I will never ever do that to myself again.” But at 18-years-old… Had I came on with him at 25 or 30, I don’t think I would have put up with that.
[In our taping] he actually does apologize in tears. But I don’t know if they are trying to show what I’ve dealt with for years, and then show how I turned it around.
I will say from a viewer’s perspective that they will, because that is good television. Knowing what you’ve been through, some viewers are going want to know that he did apologize or we might hate him, you know? And we want to get apologies.
TS: That’s what I’m saying. I was like, “Damn, I hope they don’t do him that bad” because he actually did [apologize]. It’s just so much damage already. I just was over it, but I would definitely tell women in that situation to know yourself worth and don’t deal with that.
What have you personally taken away from the experience with this show – whether you have resolved some things, closed some doors, or even just bettered your self-worth and knowing you were right about the decisions you’ve made?
TS: You said it all. I def had closure doing the show. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I dealt with X over half of my life. I met him when I was 18 – I’m 41 right now – I was with him half of my life, so what it was the best thing that ever happen to me doing that show, because I thought I was over that situation, but when I got back I did the therapy and got a lot out. I took closure and it was a new Tashera that left there, trust me. It was life-changing.
I’m honored that you took your time to talk to us about such an important issue, because I grew up in a cycle of abuse. My mother and grandmother were abused physically, and I wasn’t abused physically, but I was abused mentally and emotionally… and I can’t tell you which one is worse.
TS: I asked a woman, a counselor, and she said both. But for some reason I feel like the mental and verbal is, because those usually scar women, where at least with the physical it goes away… but who the hell wants to be beat?
I don’t feel being with anyone right now, because I need to get me right first. But I haven’t lost hope, I don’t think I’m ever going to meet somebody like X. I think he’s definitely one of a kind. He’s like a charmer, at the same time he’s like a demon. I’ll tell you one thing I learned from this, I know how to spot somebody like him if they do come into my life!
Follow Tashera Simmons on Twitter @TasheraSimmons
Watch Tashera Simmons on Couples Therapy, which airs on VH1 every Wednesday at 9pm EST / 8pm CST