After almost two full seasons on the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Drew Sidora and husband Ralph Pittman get it — their marriage has not looked the best. But despite the communication issues and spats that have played out on the show, talking to them outside of cameras, they seem quite solid. They’re easily in agreement, cheerful and most importantly, committed to making things work. “We’re always pushing through,” the actress and singer says.
“I think people don’t get to see the layers of our marriage and who we are fully. Especially Ralph, people might watch it and say, ‘Well, why is she married to someone like this?” Sidora tells ESSENCE. “But you don’t see the other sides of him. He’s an incredible father. He is very affectionate. He will give the shirt off of his back to someone. He’s extremely giving, extremely caring, God fearing.”
“I hope, as people continue to watch and we are on, that people will learn a lot more about us and see the other side,” she adds. “We laugh, we joke, we’ve got chemistry.”
Pittman, agrees. But he can admit that seeing the way he comes off to other people — including viewers who accuse him of constantly gaslighting Sidora — has been eye-opening. He doesn’t think they’re wrong and says his approach could in fact use some work.
“I’m like, ‘All right, who am I and how am I showing up in the world?'” he says. “I feel like you never really have a chance to see how you look and how people actually look at you. But with reality TV, it’s actually giving me a chance to see, ‘You know what? I can see I probably was a little too hard here,’ or, ‘I could probably lighten myself up in this particular instance.'”
He adds, “Maybe sometimes, I may be too short fused. Maybe sometimes my East Coast personality is shining through way too hard. What can I do to adjust and become a better version of myself? How can Ralph become the best version? Not only as a husband, but actually as a role model.”
Both parties have seen the ways they’d like to improve by watching themselves on TV. For Sidora, she is working to listen more. Pittman would like to talk less while being more precise with the things he’s trying to articulate. And they have moments they’ve watched that in hindsight, they would have loved to have done differently.
“I think that I could have done something different when I was explaining why I left and went to Tampa,” he recalls of the controversial moment in Season 13 when he left home unannounced and was gone three days in Florida. “My focus was on the reason why I left, and Drew asked a very straightforward question: ‘Where did you go?’ In my mind, that wasn’t the most important thing, but I wanted to give Drew what was important to me, and I think that was also one of those telltale signs that I wasn’t listening to what my wife was asking for.”
“I think one more is definitely the dinner,” he adds of the incident in Season 14, a romantic evening he planned gone sour. “I think, once again, that was another situation where I was trying to do something and I put myself and what I wanted the night to be above what Drew wanted it to be. By me doing that, the night ended up going left because I was more so concerned about my feelings versus hers.”
As for Sidora, she too would have handled things at that dinner differently.
“I learned there’s a time and place to have conversations, and although that conversation was important to me, because I really was at a place where I was ready for change and I was tired of the lavish vacations and the gifts and all the fancy dinners and really just wanted to get back to the basics…for his effort and his heart and his intention, I definitely sat back and said, ‘I probably could’ve just enjoyed it,'” she says. “That was a miss for me, and I was like, ‘I wish I could take it back, but it happened.’ But it definitely, for the future, it put me in a place to just be more present and just enjoy the good times, and focus on the bad times when those do come.”
The couple don’t regret being open and vulnerable on the show. For Sidora, who people knew the face of from her many roles in shows like That’s So Raven, The Game and films like White Chicks and the VH1 TV movie CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, that was the whole point.
“People may know me for the characters I portray, but never really get to see me as a human being, as a wife and a mother and seeing the not-so-good moments. I wanted to be extremely vulnerable so this was my chance,” she says. “This was me doing something different and opening up my world and my life to share, hoping to just identify with another woman out there or inspire another woman out there. I feel like, for that reason, I am here.”
And while they’d love for a fuller picture to be painted of their day-to-day lives, from the “silly moments” to the literal sweet music they make together (including a song they currently have out called “Already Know,” which he produced), they’ve benefitted from opening up their world for people to get to know the Pittmans.
“It’s caused us to face issues and held us accountable to really get into counseling and really do the work because, like Ralph said, you don’t want to keep showing up in the world like this,” Sidora says. “I actually find it therapeutic at times. Even the relationship between my mom and Ralph, they’ve worked through a lot of their issues because of the show. And I think we’re able to have a lot of tough conversations on camera that we may not have had, so I’m thankful for the opportunity. And I think it’s been overall great, especially for our family, which is most important to me.”
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” airs Sundays at 8pm ET/PT on Bravo.