Working together improves BYU faculty couple relationships

Ed and Mary Lynn Cutler are both professors in the BYU Humanities Department. They said working together positively affects their relationship. (Mary Lynn Cutler)

Research from the International Journal of Stress Management suggests couples who work together may handle stress better because of the support that comes from their spouses, both at home and in the workplace.

Two BYU faculty couples couldn’t agree more.

BYU professors Ed and Mary Lynn Cutler and Jeff and Tammy Hill said working together as BYU faculty positively affects their marriages.

A positive influence

Mary Lynn said work gives her a deep connection with her husband.

“It occupies a lot of our conversation,” Mary Lynn said. “We know and work with the same people. It’s fun.”

Mary Lynn said BYU’s College of Humanities, where both she and her husband teach, is an important part of the Cutlers’ lives.

“It’s really important to our social lives,” Mary Lynn said. “We share similar interests. It’s such a positive connection.”

Jeff also said teaching in the BYU Family Life Department with his wife, Tammy, positively affects his marriage. Jeff is a full-time professor and Tammy is an adjunct faculty member, spending most of her time as a marriage and family therapist.

“What we learn at work truly blesses our family life,” Jeff said.

Years of experience

Both faculty couples use their life experiences to give students relationship and marriage advice.

BYU senior Maddie Grant took Tammy’s marriage preparation class this semester. Maddie said Tammy’s experience makes her a great teacher.

“She’s very open about the difficulties she’s been through, which helps you feel comfortable and actually trusting of her advice,” Maddie said.

Jeff and Tammy Hill were married on October 6, 2006. Now they both work in BYU’s School of Family Life, where they teach students about marriage and family preparation. (Tammy Hill)

Tammy said her and Jeff’s children trust their parents’ advice because their parents teach the same principles in their classes.

“The kids believe us,” Tammy said. “They think, ‘They actually know what they’re talking about because they teach this all day.'”

Mary Lynn advises students to celebrate holidays as something that will benefit their families.

“Use (them) as excuses to have some downtime,” Mary Lynn said. “Make it special.”

Tammy advised students to put down their phones and give people their attention.

“I don’t think the Savior is going to have a cellphone,” Tammy said. “I don’t think he’s going to say, ‘Just a minute, I’m busy.’ He’ll be there 100 percent. We need to learn to be like that with each other.”

How they met

Jeff’s first wife died from cancer. While grieving, Jeff wrote an article in the Ensign about how the principles from the Family Proclamation helped his family through that very difficult time.

Tammy, who was recently widowed at the time, read his Ensign article.

“I remember thinking how good our Father in Heaven is to his children to help us prepare for hard things,” she said.

Tammy Hill said she thought she and Jeff would just be good friends at first. They have now been happily married for almost 11 years. (Tammy Hill)

Tammy said she received an impression twice that night to write the Ensign to express her gratitude for the article. She said the next morning, it became an “urgent prompting.” She wrote an email to the Ensignwhich the editor forwarded to Jeff.

“I had been very discouraged,” Jeff said. “When I read that comment, it was like the clouds dispersed.”

Jeff sent an email back to Tammy thanking her for her comment. They communicated back and forth through email for a few days.

“It was like talking to my best friend immediately,” Jeff said.

Tammy and Jeff met up for a date after days of emailing and talking on the phone. Jeff took Tammy out to lunch and to a play for their first date.

Jeff and Tammy Hill went to Central Park in New York City during their courtship. Tammy Hill said being together helps them “smile (their) way through life.” (Tammy Hill)

“I was so nervous,” Tammy said about their first date. “I just thought he was the perfect man, with a perfect wife and eight perfect children. What could he see in me? I’m just normal.”

Jeff said it was like love at first sight.

“I always thought that ‘love at first sight’ stuff was baloney,” Jeff said. “But I looked over at Tammy, and she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen in my life. There was such an attraction.”

When they got in the car to go home, Tammy noticed the smile lines around Jeff’s eyes.

“I looked at those smile lines and felt so attracted to who he is,” Tammy said. “I thought, ‘He has smiled his way through life.’ That is Jeff in a nutshell. He’s very optimistic — he does smile through life. Those smile lines are so beautiful to me.”

Jeff and Tammy have now been married nearly 11 years.

Ed and Mary Lynn met when they were both missionaries in Seoul, Korea.

Ed and Mary Lynn Cutler began dating soon after Mary Lynn returned home from her mission in 1987. (Mary Lynn Cutler)

“He was definitely my favorite elder,” Mary Lynn said. “He is a hilarious human being and a great story teller.”

Although Ed didn’t realize it, he called Mary Lynn the very hour she returned home from her mission to ask her on a date.

“I was excited to go out with him,” Mary Lynn said.

Ed and Mary Lynn went on their first date to BYU Homecoming.

“We’re BYU people through and through,” Mary Lynn said.

She said she and Ed really “hit it off” and began dating seriously after their first date.

“Six or seven months after that, we were married,” Mary Lynn said.

Ed and Mary Lynn have now been married almost 30 years.

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