Strengthen Relationships – Part 3 

Most of my family felt I was blindly rushing into marriage, but they didn’t know what I knew. They didn’t know about the Groom’s Cake Incident. From their perspective I was going to marry someone underneath me, less than I deserved. I owned a home, two cars, and a boat. I had a college degree, a steady career, and I made good money. He was unemployed and had a broken leg when we became engaged.

Was I blindly rushing into marriage?

Jeff owned his own painting business; he was a painting contractor. However, as what happens to many self employed people, he didn’t have income insurance to protect him in the event he became sick or injured, so he did take quite a hit when he was recuperating from the broken leg.

After he recovered, he went back to work with a vengeance. We decided to pay for our own wedding and not ask my parents, especially since they had just covered my first wedding six years earlier. So he worked doubly hard, to pay for my 1 carat marquis diamond engagement ring, the ceremony, reception, and honeymoon.

Settling into married life.

After the honeymoon we settled into our new married life. Jeff wanted to become a professional bodybuilder and I supported him in his dream. So I agreed to work and support him while he trained in the gym and pursued his goal. He stopped painting full time, yet did take on small jobs from time to time.

Working as a manager for Trader Joe’s was not an easy job. The normal schedule was five days per week and a 10 hour workday. But when problems arose, or if it was a holiday week like Thanksgiving or Christmas, forget-about-it; that typical 50 hour work week would easily change into 6 days per week and a 12 hour day. And let me tell you, standing on your feet for 10 – 11 hours a day, running around, lifting, squatting, packing, and carrying heavy things; after work, I was tired.

Household responsibilities.

When it came to responsibilities around the house, all I asked of Jeff was to take the trash can out to the street on trash pick up day every week and to mow the grass every other week when it needed to be cut. Some weeks this gets done and sometimes it doesn’t. After it happens a few weeks in a row, I start to think maybe my family was correct. Maybe Jeff married me for my money, and didn’t really love me after all.

This is what led to our first near divorce. I began to feel as if I was being used. After all, I’m working full time to support him and he can’t even keep up his end of the bargain, by taking out the trash and mowing the lawn. When I bring it up, he says, “I know, I know. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

About 1 year and 4 months into our marriage, we get pregnant. Our gorgeous daughter brings us much joy. Things are fine for a while, but then I start to feel overwhelmed, used, and unappreciated. I don’t feel he loved me when he married me.

Questioning my choice.

This occurs about the same time Trader Joe’s plan to expand out of California for the first time and into Arizona. I agree to be one of the managers to open the new stores in the Phoenix metro area. This means I need to find a place to live. I sell my home in Cali and buy one in Phoenix.

Buying a brand new home requires I travel to Phoenix to select the flooring, carpet, cabinet, and counter-top options. I go alone, because I’ve decided I don’t want to be married anymore. I’ll style the house according to my design ideas, and do so for my daughter and I.

Wake up call.

Somehow the reality of the situation and losing his daughter, wakes up my husband. He acknowledges his irresponsibility and vows to change. I believe him and agree to try again.

I don’t treat him very kindly after this. Even though we reconcile, deep down I fear he cannot change. I’m still distrustful of his love. Does he really love me? Did he ever? I place some demands on him to appease my doubts. I tell him he must go back to college and get an education.  He does. He’ll do anything to keep his daughter.

Pregnant again.

We move into our new house and I’m already pregnant with our son. My husband was trying to get me pregnant so I would stay married to him. It works. It does influence my decision to stay. Our son is born in February of 1994.

During this time my husband starts working as a landscape designer and salesman for the 2nd largest landscape construction company in Arizona. He does well. He becomes their top salesman month after month and the money he’s making is very good. So good that we buy a custom motorcycle and a Ferrari.

Money, no matter how much, cannot make a marriage happy.

Even though we are both earning fantastic salaries, we spend very little time together. He works long days, sometimes staying awake all night to design a plan. I’m still gone 60+ hours away from home when I’m working.

On New Year’s eve of 1994, I make a special date with my husband. I say, “You and me, New Year’s eve – 9 pm. I’ll cook a prime rib roast, put the kids to bed, and we’ll have a romantic dinner by the fireplace.” We have the date – Drink champagne and eat dinner by the fire. Just before midnight we conceive our 2nd daughter and fall asleep. Of course we didn’t know we conceived her at the time, but soon a few weeks later, we learned we had.

The stress level was building rapidly.

It was undetectable, yet growing. The stress in my husband’s life was also quite intense. Rather than being able to recognize what was happening and talk about it, we started blaming each other.

I was over worked, over stressed, and needed help. We did have a live-in nanny who took care of the children, cooked, and cleaned for us, which helped a LOT! However, much of the day to day household responsibilities remained. Grocery shopping, paying bills, maintaining the swimming pool, doing yard work, car & boat maintenance still remained. And it all fell on my shoulders.

I ask for help.

I asked him to pay the bills. Write the checks and mail them. He didn’t want to. “It wasn’t a time consuming job”, he reasoned, “plus you’re better at it than me”, he said. I needed help doing yard work and taking care of the pool. He wouldn’t do it. His solution, “I’ll hire someone to do it.” In his mind that was the perfect solution.

As I look back, that probably really was the best he could do. He drove to pick up and return the nanny each week and that was a 2 hour round trip every Friday and Sunday night.

The gap widens.

As the stress continued to grow and lack of effective communication skills to use, the distance between us grew wider. We were both unhappy, had unmet expectations, felt it was the other person’s fault, and saw no solution to the problem. We argued a lot and didn’t resolve the issues. I felt angry most of the time, and didn’t treat him well. He was fed up with not feeling loved and wanted out.

During our 7th year of marriage, he tells me he wants a divorce. I’m blindsided and devastated.  I want to see a counselor, he doesn’t; but he agrees to go with me anyway – out of courtesy for my feelings.

Rebuilding after wanting to divorce.

Thank goodness, we met with the perfect counselor. He never told us what to do or what was wrong with our marriage. He asked questions. Skillfully crafted questions, designed to help us recognize that we were in love and that we did want to try and make it work.

This began the process of re-building our relationship. Things went well for several years.