Our Children Destroyed Our Marriage!

Sounds like the lead for an afternoon talk show, doesn’t it?  Well, it could be.  Every day, all over America, immature two-year-olds are doing and saying things that break up marriages.

What do I mean?

Every one of us has a two-year-old living inside.  The great qualities of this two-year-old are he loves adventure, she uses her creativity to paint, decorate, solve problems at home and at work, he initiates fun, and finds amazing solutions to persistent problems.

But when this two-year-old isn’t given it’s own way, watch out!  He throws a tantrum.  She gives him the cold shoulder.  He recruits his friends and family to be on his side. She uses sarcastic humor to belittle him. They both either yell or endure days of silence.  These behaviors erode whatever love brought them together.  If unchecked, these inner two-year-olds tear apart the fabric of a marriage.

Like every two-year-old, the one inside needs a loving, wise parent to give him a time out when he’s about to do or say something hurtful.  She needs firm control when she’s about to cut loose with biting criticism.  Both need to sit in a corner to calm down when their behavior is about to become disrespectful rather than constructive.

Time outs for inner two-year-olds prevented a lot of damage for one couple this week.  When she said, “I need a time out,” he just said, “OK” and left her alone rather than pressing to continue their conversation.  When he called a time out on himself, and went into the other room to vent his frustration, she didn’t take it personally, but let him yell into the air, just glad it wasn’t at her.

When the air was cleared, and both “kids” had calmed down, they had several sane, calm discussions over the next few days that moved their marriage firmly back into the “loving, and working together peacefully” arena.

This couple was tired of suffering through the chaos and destruction experienced when their two-year-olds were allowed to “act out” in their marriage.  They are both developing their inner, wise, loving parent who will intercept an about-to-lose-control inner child before he or she does damage.

No one wants to act like, or live with a two-year-0ld out of control!  If you’re tired of cleaning up the mess left in the wake of your two-year-old’s tantrums, you can exchange that behavior for loving alternatives, just like my smart clients did this past week!

They learned these skills in MODULE SIX of the Millionaire Marriage Club along with support in their coaching appointments.  You can also purchase a mini-course entitled, “Maintaining Respect 24/7” from my website page under “The Club.”

Wishing you all the love and respect in your marriage (and other relationships)  that you desire and deserve!

 

 

 

Hopefulness Turned to Disillusionment? Krystel Can Help!

Note from Nancy:  I am so excited to introduce to you Krystel Doudera, my new associate coach!  Krystel and her husband Earle  did a massive amount of work on their own marriage with amazing results.  Now she is dedicated to bring those same transformative results to other young couples who want the marriage of their dreams, but don’t know how to achieve it.  Here is her story:

 Although we were high school sweethearts, we waited to get married until after we finished college. We both secured stable jobs. We went through premarital counseling. We read every book, blog, and article about marriage suggested to us. We even interviewed several couples asking for advice or “secrets” to a long-lasting marriage!

Yet on the day we returned from our honeymoon, we had our first fight. And it was ugly.

Thus, began our cycle. We were so full of love when we were happy with each other, but when we disagreed, our poor communication and disrespectful behaviors tore at our hearts and our dreams resulting in hurt, regret, withdrawal, hopelessness and finally, passive acceptance.

We got plenty of good advice, but had no idea how to implement it.  How could we have the happy soulmate marriage we wanted?

Enter Nancy Landrum, a wise coach who taught us how to communicate RESPECTFULLY even when we disagreed.  Once we fully committed to using these new skills, we never had another fight and soon resolved our differences.

Now these powerful skills enable us to successfully navigate every new life-stress including welcoming a new baby!  We enjoy treating each other with respect 24/7 and have consistent love and peace between us.

I am excited to teach you these same skills that transformed our relationship.  You deserve to have the marriage you thought you were getting when you said, “I do!”  Use the calendar link below to schedule a complimentary appointment with me.

Appointment with Krystel

Or you may prefer to call or email me:

424-382-4787  krystel.doudera@gmail.com

 

 

Fertilizer and Respect: What Do They Have in Common?

If you’ve been following me for very long, you know I love to garden.  I have a few house plants that have thrived for more than 20 years.  My rose bushes are flourishing.  My sunflower plants are about twelve feet tall.  My yard has been called “an oasis,”  or, “a park.”  Why is this?

I adequately water for my dry climate, but I also fertilize regularly.  Water is essential, but even with enough water, plants won’t thrive without fertilizer.

Lately I’ve noticed something about the couples I coach.  Some of them struggle along, doing their best to use some of the tools they learn from me.  But others make astounding progress in transforming their relationship from mediocre or unhappy to loving and secure again.  The difference is how consistently they use the skills that enable them to be respectful to each other 24/7.

Love thrives in a medium of respect.  Without respect, love withers, limps along, or dies.

So how is Respect given?

  1. By using respectful, non-attacking language and behaviors.
  2. By keeping your agreements, including those of your marriage vows.
  3. By choosing to vent anger privately and safely, not at your partner.

Does this sound ideal?  It is!  However, many of us come to marriage with great intentions, but without the skills needed to nurture our love with a foundation of respect.

All of us have an immature two-year-old living inside.  She comes in handy when planning a party.  He is delightful when playing with his children.  But when a two-year-old’s anger gets triggered, he will not react with respect.  She will fight back with biting words.  Two-year-olds ruin a lot of marriages!

You would not allow your two-year-old child to run unrestrained into the street.  Neither should your inner two-year-old be allowed the freedom to do or say hurtful, disrespectful things to retaliate when hurt or angry.

Just as children sometimes need a time-out to calm down, you can call a time-out on yourself to calm your inner two-year-old down so you can come back to deal with the conflict as a mature adult.

Need help learning how to do this?  You may now order the Respect 24/7 module separately from the Millionaire Marriage Club.  This mini-course maps out the steps for managing the two-year-old within so that you can maintain respect with your partner 24/7!  Consider this cost-effective and powerful mini-course online at https://nancylandrum.com/the-club

Wishing you plenty of fun and play with your inner two-year-old as well as effective adult supervision when anger is triggered!

How Are Your Plans Coming Along?

Is your life looking like the blueprints you had in your mind ten or twenty years ago?  Is your marriage living up to the dreams you had for it?

Or are you suffering with a marriage or relationship that isn’t matching your plans?

“When life doesn’t match your blueprints, you suffer.”  I’m sorry I don’t remember where I picked up this statement, but isn’t it the TRUTH?!

When my body isn’t in the shape I want…When my partner doesn’t act lovingly toward me…When my child doesn’t live up to the potential I see in him or her…When my income isn’t what I’ve dreamed of…When… (fill in the blanks.)

And then perhaps you want to shoot the friend who says, “Everything works out for the best,” Or the spiritual leader who says, “We are providentially given the lessons we need to learn,” or, “Life is a school with lessons custom designed for each of us.”

I’ve had a few lessons that I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy, (if I had one!)  There were times when, truthfully, I just wanted my life to be over.  Sometimes THIS life is just too hard…too unbearable.

I’ve been widowed twice.  I’ve had major challenges in relationship to my children and step-children.  I’ve gone through a few seasons of financial strain.  My body has broken down and periodically caused me great pain, both emotionally and physically.  I’m experiencing aging…and facing what might be seen as the final decades of my life.

And yet, every tough season, every lesson learned, has delivered or brought me closer to my childhood dreams of (1) enjoying a loving, peaceful relationship with the love of my life, (2) having five children, (3) participating in loving relationships with each of them, and (4) writing books to help others have loving relationships.  The bonus has been my practice of personally coaching couples and seeing an online course published to help those, and other couples become more loving.

What were your life blueprints?  What areas of your life look like a building plan gone awry?  Who are you blaming for “mistakes” that have brought you a life that is a disaster in some area or another?

If you (or I) are suffering, it is because we long for a perfect construction being built according to our blueprints.  When our life doesn’t match our plans, we suffer.

I have the advantage of looking back and appreciating how perfect the lessons have been that I needed to achieve my childhood dreams.  I still have circumstances I don’t particularly like, but I am not fighting them as desperately as I used to.  So, what am I doing instead?

  1. I express gratitude for every lesson…sometimes through gritted teeth, but GRATITUDE.
  2. I look for and expect to be given teachers, guides, skills that will enable me to move through the suffering to a solution that works for me.
  3. I trust that there is a Guiding Force, the Universe, God who is orchestrating a PLAN that is perfect for me…and supporting me as I do my best to cooperate with my journey.
  4. I celebrate every success: each time that I choose food that is healthy for me, each coaching session where couples are excited about less hurt and more love because of skills I’m teaching them, every loving interaction with a family member or friend, each offer of help or evidence that I am, indeed, being guided.

I can’t help with many things that may be causing you pain, but if your marriage or love relationship isn’t matching your dreams, call me.  I may be able to show you how Jim and I achieved the marriage that matched our blueprints!  We’ll start with a complimentary appointment to see if your needs match my skills…and if they do, we’ll work out a plan to move toward enabling your relationship to come closer to the dream blueprint you had in mind!

https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

The #1 Way to Kill a Relationship (or Business, or Life!)

Recently a respected friend suggested I read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.  I ordered it.  It came.  When I thumbed through it and discovered many pages of small print, I set it aside.  “Not now.  Maybe later.”

Yesterday I opened it to the section on business.  I barely made it through the true examples of well-known business leaders who made an initial big splash in recovering a failing company, but failed to prepare the company for ongoing growth, and so, ultimately failed in their mission.  The cause was what she terms as a “fixed mindset,” meaning “Only I, the Leader, knows what is best for this company.”

These were compared to less lauded business leaders who faced a failing company with the desire to learn, grow, identify issues, listen to team-mates, create a learning, encouraging mindset…and who ultimately led their team to recovery and profit.  An “open mindset” is eager to hear another’s opinion, listen to feedback, and make adjustments

This was sort of inspiring, but I have a hard time relating to an executive of a multi-billion dollar company like Chrysler, GE, Enron, Chase-Manhattan Bank.

This morning I opened the section about relationships.  NOW she began speaking my language!  My late husband and I believed, and taught, that SoulMate Relationships are created…earned…not born.  (See our book,  How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage.)

Carol says it this way, “…people with the fixed mindset expect everything good to happen automatically.  …sort of like it happened to Sleeping Beauty, whose coma was cured by her prince’s kiss, or to Cinderella, whose miserable life was suddenly transformed by her prince.”

In relationship, as in business, parenting, and life, Carol says, “In the growth mindset, there may still be that exciting initial combustion, but people in this mindset don’t expect magicThey believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences.  But those with the fixed mindset don’t buy that.”

In my twenty-five years of coaching couples, as well as painfully learned in my own relationships, a fixed mindset believes that “if we love each other, we shouldn’t have to work hard.  We should just be able to talk to work things through. A great, lasting relationship should just come automatically from our love.  If my partner loves me, he/she will give me what I need, understand me, accept my foibles no matter how irritating they are, etc., etc., etc.”

Couples with a fixed mindset blame each other for problems, label each other as “selfish, stubborn, unfeeling, lacking empathy, abusive and incapable of change.”  Each sees the other as stuck in a “wrong” position that makes no sense, isn’t reasonable.  Each sees him or herself as “right, reasonable, and justifiably wronged.”  They eventually see the relationship as “impossible, doomed, deserving of dissolution.”  These fixed ways of viewing a partner or relationship are guaranteed to produce unhappiness, and ultimately failure.

It was my challenge as a wife in a very conflicted relationship to open my mind to new ways of saying things that were less inflammatory and new ways of seeing my husband rather than labeling him as “wrong.”  I needed to look at what I was contributing to the hostile atmosphere that had begun to consume our relationship…and be willing to learn and change.

As a coach, it is my challenge to help couples who are stuck in a “fixed mindset” about each other and their relationship to open up to new possibilities, new communication skills, new ways of viewing each other and the future of their relationship.  I must create a vivid picture of what they can have if they are willing to learn and change.

Back when computers were a new phenomenon, a term was coined describing what computers could…and couldn’t do for us.  It was “garbage in/garbage out.”  I find that true in relationships, as well.

The good news is that when you learn better communication and conflict management skills, and are then willing to contribute those skills to the relationship, you will soon enjoy the results of a more loving, supportive, mutually nurturing relationship that you will gladly be a part of “until death do us part.”

Click on Ask Nancy about Coaching.  Coaching available world-wide.

The BIG ISSUE

This is the one that triggers instant anger, simmering resentfulness, and eventually feelings of hopelessness about the quality of your relationship.

On the surface each of you wants the issue resolved YOUR way…the BEST way!  Right?

When I tell my couples that conflict is the doorway to greater intimacy, they respond various ways…” No way!”  or, “You’ve got to be kidding!” or, “This lady is a kook. Let’s get out of here!”

Krystel dreams of traveling with her husband.  She’s an adventurer.  She’s already visited a few countries and loves the diversity, the challenge of finding her way around, the fun of meeting new people.

To Earle, her husband, these dreams sounded like nightmares.  He likes safety, seclusion, predictability, the comfort of sleeping in the same bed every night.

Totally incompatible wants…right?

They had a Skilled Discussion about this issue.  (A Skilled Discussion is one in which she has the chance to express her feelings, desires, concerns while the he listens with the intention of truly understanding.  The Listener puts himself in the partner’s point of view, seeing, feeling, and understanding the needs of the partner.  Then they switch roles.  It’s a very structured, safe way of discussing the HOT ISSUE.)

For the first time, Earle understood the depth of her desire to travel…not by herself (which she admitted she was not afraid to do) but with the love of her life…him.

Krystel, for the first time, understood his need for safety, comfort, structure.

After understanding each other’s needs at a much deeper level, they were ready to brainstorm ideas that would meet her need to travel with him, and his need for a home base.  Now they were on the same side.  They felt a soft desire to meet the needs of the other rather than just remaining stuck in their incompatible desires.

They came up with several modes of travel that would meet both of their needs:  1)Rent a cottage in a foreign country for two weeks.  He has a home base from which he’d be happy to explore the area with her.  2) Join a group tour where the schedule is planned and predictable.  3) Use a hotel as a home base where he can stay put as much as he wants and she can go to the local street market and explore…but be together for meals or certain events.

A Skilled Discussion is designed to work like a seat belt and shoulder harness…a bit confining, but designed to keep you both safe as you discuss the HOT ISSUE.   As you each feel safe in the controlled structure of a Skilled Discussion, you both share the needs underneath your respective opinions about the only way to resolve your HOT ISSUE. The vulnerable exposure of your needs softens your partner’s feelings toward you.  You are both soon willing to look for resolutions that meet your partner’s needs as well as your own.

Successful resolutions of the HOT ISSUE only work when it meets both person’s needs.

This process ignites hope where before there was only disbelief that a mutually agreeable solution could be found.

Best wishes for solutions that end every HOT ISSUE for you!


P.S. Do you find it hard to imagine a mutually agreeable solution to your HOT ISSUE?  Let Nancy teach you how to have a Skilled Discussion that will create willingness in each of you to find a solution that meets both of your needs.  https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Let’s Fight! We’ll have fun!

Who in the world ever suggests that?  Who would want that?  Fights are exhausting.  It takes time to recover your balance.  It feeds emotional separation.  It rarely results in a lasting solution.  Yet how often are you fighting with your beloved?

Or, on the other extreme, how often do you avoid an issue, trying to escape the conflict?  Only to have it blow up anyway…

Every time there is a fight and the issue is unresolved (you may shelve it from exhaustion but it is not resolved) the emotional distance in the relationship increases.  Every time words are said in anger or you lie to prevent a conversation about an issue, a brick is added to the wall between you. 

Jim and I had the same fight for seven years before we found the help we needed.  Some couples indulge in the same fight for many more years than we did, (although we might have gone on much longer if we didn’t get help…or call it quits.)

The first time I say this to clients they nearly gag:  “Conflict is the doorway to greater intimacy.”

Are you saying, “Not hardly!” or “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “Sounds like some kind of psycho-babble to me!”

Yet when Jim and I used better communication and anger management skills we grew emotionally closer and closer…and finally, motivated by that closeness, we agreed on a resolution to our issue.  It was never an issue again.

I have found that the part of couple’s coaching that I enjoy the most is helping them resolve conflicts.  I love witnessing the magic of love reignited, trust rebuilt, and hope re-infusing the relationship with confidence that, with better skills, they really can resolve anything.

If you are discouraged by recycling the same old fights…if you long to feel the love for each other that you had in the beginning…if your deepest desire is to find a solution to that ugly issue that keeps diverting your attention…call me.

Let’s start with one complimentary consultation…it’s on me.  Book a time on my calendar that is convenient for both of you.    I’ll have a couple requests that you can complete ahead of time in 15 minutes.  Then we’ll talk.  Bring your biggest issue to the table.  I’ll do my best to help you navigate through it to either resolve it on the spot, or make significant progress.  Don’t allow even one more fight to rob you of the joy of your love!

I know it’s hard to bare the warts of your relationship to anyone, but what if this is the first step toward ridding yourself of the warts?

PS: Make the appointment today.  You both deserve to be happy.  I will show you the path to help you get there!

Are You or Someone You Know Considering Divorce?

For a few agonizing moments, that option was on the table for my late husband Jim and me.  It felt like a bottomless chasm had opened up in front of us…one that if we didn’t find a way over, would swallow us and our family whole.

The fighting was endless.  The pain unbearable.  The conflict seemed irreconcilable.  Words like hopeless, helpless, desperate described our feelings.  In addition, we were each full of anger and self-righteous confidence, saying by our behaviors, “My solution is the right one!  Why don’t you understand that?!”

After exploring several possibilities, without success, we finally found a coach who taught us a few simple skills that turned our marriage around.  And in a relatively short period of time.

I so believe in the transformative power of the stories of us and other couples who used these skills to safely reach the other side of the chasm.  If you are struggling like we were, or even just dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage, I want you to know there are simple changes you can make that will enable you to experience the marriage of your dreams.

Recently I offered you a free audio copy of my book, “How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a Soul-Mate Marriage.”  Some of you have not yet taken advantage of this gift.

So here’s a sneak preview to give you a taste of what you are missing…the first three chapters are linked here.  You can listen with your computer or download them to your phone.

Can you listen to these chapters without getting hooked and ordering the entire audio copy from Audible.com?  I dare you to try!

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

There’s treasure here…don’t miss it!  Click this link to order your free, complete audio copy of “How to Stay Married & Love It!” Order Book Now

PS: If you want to confidentially discuss your marriage issues with me, schedule a phone appointment by clicking on this link to my calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakwithNancy

Confessions of a Lead-Footed Driver

Yes, that’s me.  I constantly battle my impulse to drive too fast.  I’m supposed to enjoy the journey…but I just want to get there!

I think it started after my young husband unexpectedly died.  I was twenty-three years old with two baby boys.  I just wanted to escape my life.

The cure came when my youngest refused to get in the car with me.  I was mortified to realize my driving frightened him.  I made a deal with him.  “You’re in charge of the speed.  If you’re scared and want me to slow down, just say so and I will.”  He did.  And I did.

In the years since then I’ve used other tools to curb my need for speed.  As soon as I owned a car with cruise control, with relief I turned control over to that amazing gizmo that would automatically maintain the speed.  All I had to do was summon that moment of responsibility and set the cruise control to match the posted speed for that highway.

And then I discovered books-on-tape (and then books-on-cd!)  I LOVE stories.  I LOVE books.  Now I could be occupied and entertained while maintaining a legal speed limit!  Wonderful!  And my local library had hundreds of books from which to choose!  For free!

Next I found Audible.com…a limitless treasure trove of authors and titles from which to choose for only $14.99/month.  I’m totally hooked.

Sometimes the books are favorite mysteries by authors like C.J. Box and his Joe Pickett series (a game warden in Montana that solves all kinds of interesting crimes.)  And sometimes the books are inspirational like Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver (encouraging total dependence on the grace and generosity of God to direct my life) or Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo (inspiring creative thinking as applied to my business.)

  • In 2017, thanks to the generosity of a local radio station’s recording booth and my neighbor Reena’s editing talent, my signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage was added to Audible.com’s library!

If you’re ready to hear a great story and learn helpful relationship skills while you resist driving too fast, or endure grid lock with more grace, or be educated and entertained while cleaning the house or mowing the lawn, click this link to download one of the best relationship resources you’ll ever hear PLUS get one month’s free membership to Audible.com!

“How to Stay Married & Love It!” audio book

When you download this book you will have me personally sharing with you the priceless lessons that my late husband Jim and I learned while transforming our marriage from daily fights to consistently peaceful loving!

OK…I guess I must report that I still tend to drive with a lead foot, but I manage my predilection for speed by faithfully employing the cruise control…and listening to a fabulous assortment of books to make driving time entertaining and productive.  Ready to join me?

Order Book Now

A Step-Couple Back from the Brink

This is one of the most inspiring step-couple stories I know of.  Although it’s long, the drama of their experience will grip you and not let you go until you get to the end…

Gavin and Pamela first met in the 5th grade in 1980 and quickly became best friends. Even when they went to different high schools they made time to hang out together on weekends. When they graduated from a Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies class in March 2010, they had been married for four years. They each had two children from previous marriages. This interview was conducted about six months following the beginning of their implementation of stepfamily guidelines.

Pamela: Gavin (with his then girlfriend who became his first wife) came to my first wedding when I was 23 years old. Although several family members and friends expressed their concerns about my choice, I went through with my marriage to Tom (name fictitious). Abusive behaviors began only two weeks after the wedding. It began with name calling and throwing things, graduated to breaking things, then to hitting me, pulling the telephone cord out so I couldn’t call police.

It continued with financial tyranny and infidelity with my best friend. He made sure we only owned one car and prevented me from attending school. He wanted total control. Our son, Dakota, was born in ‘93 and Amanda in ‘95. They were three and five years old when I left with a police escort after he’d chased me around with a buck knife.

I met Cole (fictitious) on line, a firefighter from Alabama. He seemed very kind. He came to Missouri to visit me and the kids. He and my parents really liked each other. My Dad suggested to me that I marry him on a Friday. We married on the following Monday, packed up our belongings and drove away in a U-Haul. My Ex surrendered his parental rights to avoid child support payments. My dad convinced Cole to adopt Dakota and Amanda because the court wouldn’t allow me (the mother!) to have sole custody!

My marriage to Cole was never very intimate. He liked that I was raising his kids for him, even home schooling them. He brought a check home and spent every night he was home drinking in the garage. He eventually reunited with a high school girlfriend and said he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. He just moved out. Neither of us was sorry. He gave me 6 ½ years of safety. It helped me regain my balance after being afraid for my life with Tom.

Gavin: In my early twenties I was not living according the faith that was important to my family. I made decisions based on how I felt and what I wanted. I met Carol (fictitious) at Cal State Bakersfield and married her in spite of her noticeable problem with drinking. During our first few years she attempted suicide several times. We split before our son Terry was a year old. One night about 10 p.m. I was sitting in my apartment when I got an urgent, sick feeling in stomach.

I drove straight to where Carol was living. I could hear the car running in the garage. When I opened the door, she was unconscious. I turned the engine off, called 911 and found Terry in his crib with a suicide note. I took custody of Terry at that time. I thought I had it all together but was really immature. I was making great money and changing diapers but was a dad on the fly.

I met Cali at an escrow company while I was making good money in the mortgage business. There had been no real change in me. My family was telling me I was out of my mind. Even Pam tried to warn me. Cali quickly became verbally and emotionally abusive to two-year-old Terry. One time he dropped a piece of rice on the table and she freaked out. She’d throw his toys in the trash. She repeatedly said, “He’s not part of our family.”

Meanwhile Terry’s mom had gone through counseling and re-hab. She wanted to spend time with Terry—reconnect. I wanted Terry to know his mom, so I shared time with her even though I had custody. Cali was so rejecting and abusive with Terry that when he was with me I’d take him to my dad’s or a hotel.

Cali and I were expecting. The birth was difficult—a C-section—so I was very active in taking care of Anisha during the first several weeks while Cali was recovering. I felt very bonded with her. Cali became even more abusive to Terry saying, “Now we have our family.”

Things got pretty crazy. She wouldn’t allow any photos of Terry in the house. If we were in conflict when I had to leave for a business appointment, she’d lay on the hood of my car so I couldn’t leave. If she got off and I drove away she would call my phone hundreds of times in 20 minutes. One time I smashed my phone in frustration. The court would not allow her to be present during any time I spent with Terry.

She convinced me to let her drive up to Lompoc to pick up Terry. I gave in. We picked him up. On our way home she began to be angry. She wanted a reaction from me and I wouldn’t give engage. She turned on Terry and began screaming at him. “I wish you were dead! You’re the reason we’re in so much trouble!” I reached back to calm Terry. When we got home I packed a few things and left. I was so tired. I began praying, “God, please help me!”

Anisha was only 3-4 months old when I left with Terry. I was so bonded with her, but because of her age, the judge only allowed me two hours per week. I left the courtroom sick to my stomach. It took a week or two to regain some focus. I knew that as she got older I’d get more time. I was a single dad uninterested in another relationship. I was just doing my job, spending some weekends without kids and some with kids. I was just plodding along. I became more stable, returning to my faith.

About three years went by. I was not looking for another partner. I was resigned to being a single dad. Three years went by. There was not one person I could imagine wanting to see until Pamela emailed me out of the blue. We had not been in touch for six or seven years.

Pamela: A friend saw Gavin being interviewed on television for his mortgage business. I looked up his company’s website. I had no idea whether he was still married, so I just sent a general, “How are you?” email, not even sure if he would answer.

Gavin: I was sitting at my desk at work. It was a shock to open Pamela’s email. I replied, “I’d like to come see you and see how you’re doing.”

Pamela: We hugged and cried and had a great visit. He came out again….and again. I knew he was serious because he’s afraid of flying and I was still in Missouri.

Nancy: Why did either of you think you could have a sane marriage after these horrendous relationships?

Pamela: The only thing that sounded familiar and comforting was our friendship. Gavin was the only person I knew for sure loved me in the whole world and I knew I loved him. We both thought we were finally going to do it right!

Nancy: How long did it take to realize it wasn’t going to be easy?

Gavin: When we returned from our honeymoon I was facing two court battles, one each for Terry and Anisha. Terry’s mom was drinking again. She was neglecting him. Once he called me crying. She ripped the phone from him. I was trying to get him protected. Cali took us to court for everything about Anisha. One thing would get resolved then the next week I’d get court papers regarding something else.

Pamela: Add conflict between Gavin and me to the mix. We were fighting over the parenting of our children. Gavin is very structured in the way he parents. I am far more relaxed. Gavin’s family told him to leave me. When he refused, they broke off all contact with us. We were spiraling downward. Very little could be discussed. We had fights in front of the kids, about the kids. We had no dates, no time for us. Everything had become a competition. My kids had had no contact with their adoptive or biological father since 2005.

Gavin: In 2007 after my last court appearance with Terry’s mom she won back the right to share custody. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with brain cancer. A court mediator was appointed to watch over him. I was given full custody of Terry because his mother’s health had deteriorated. He moved in with us in 2008. Carole and her parents cut off all contact with us. We’ve tried through many different channels to find out how Carole is. We don’t know if she’s alive or dead.

Cali tried to move Anisha to New Jersey—precipitating a court battle which we won. Thousands and thousands of dollars had gone into court battles—paying attorneys right and left. Meanwhile the economy tanked and I lost my mortgage business, two rentals and a million-dollar home. My car was repossessed. We couldn’t afford to put gas in our family car. We moved twice.

Pamela: We knew we still loved each other underneath all the chaos, but we’d lost trust in each other. Both of us had been in insane relationships for so long. Yet, we both believed that God was with us individually and still had a good plan for our lives. We also had our memory of our very solid friendship as children. Even though we’d lost each other for a while, Gavin was the only one I’d shared deeply with. He was a safest place I’d ever known.

Gavin had been going to church before we reconnected. We got involved in a Sunday School class. Nobody knew what going on in our home, but, thankfully, we were there when things got really bad in the Fall of 2009. One couple came over the night of our biggest fight around Thanksgiving when the kids called the police. They recommended we see Pastor Dave Carder. Two days later we saw him, but he said, “There are no classes for you until early February.”

Gavin: In January the church had a preview of all the marriage classes offered for Spring. On the way there we had a big fight and Pamela said to turn the car around and take her home.

Pamela: I heard a strong voice inside saying, “Turn around and get back there!” We did. At the preview, we heard a woman talking about her experience in a stepfamily. She (Nancy Landrum) was promoting Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies class. We related to everything she said. The minute the meeting was over we went to her and poured out how desperate we were for help.

Gavin: Although the class didn’t start for four more weeks, Nancy had experienced the desperation of hanging on by her fingernails, hoping for help. She agreed to see us a few days later. After listening to each of us describe what was happening from our respective points of view, she asked if we were ready to take steps for immediate relief. We would have done anything at that point! We loved each other and were heart-broken that we couldn’t seem to make our marriage work. Without doing something differently, we were teetering on the brink of another separation.

Pamela: She described the guideline recommended for stepfamilies who have conflicts over parenting. We would go back to single parenting our respective children. The step-parent would not comment or criticize the bio-parent’s children or parenting methods. We would agree on a few simple house rules by which everyone in the family would abide. It hit me hard. When I told Nancy that I just wanted a man who would love my children, she replied, “It’s too late to have a nuclear family. That time is gone. You’re in a stepfamily now and most stepfamilies only succeed by functioning with different dynamics than first families.”

Gavin: But we were so desperate we’d do anything to stop the fights, so we agreed. No commenting or criticizing of each other’s children or parenting decisions. We’d focus on rebuilding relationships with our own children.

Pamela: Over the next few days it was like a magic pill had been dropped into our home. The fighting immediately stopped! The calm was like a breath of fresh, cleansing air after being in a smoke-filled room! But I also grieved the loss of my first-family dream. I grieved the loss of a loving father for my children. I cried off and on for two weeks.

Gavin: A few weeks later we took the class. The first full Saturday of class went by so quickly! We were learning how to hear from each other’s point of view. We heard each other with deep empathy, learning to Show Understanding. It was transformational! (Showing Understanding is the listening skill for the Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies curricula.)

Pamela: I learned why my communication methods were creating and escalating conflict. I learned how to say, “I feel hurt when you….” rather than “You are so thoughtless!” That day and in the evenings to follow we grabbed and used every skill and concept that was presented in class. We were so determined to have peace and save our marriage and family that we practiced constantly. We put into practice the Problem Solving Skill with issues that had been hot topics for four years, such as how much money we spent on our respective children.

Gavin: We’d have to call time outs sometimes, but we were successfully talking about things that we’d tip-toed around in our efforts to avoid more fights. Decisions were being made that satisfied both of us. We’ve been successful in following through with our plans. Every successful Skilled Discussion is a miracle that we celebrate!

Pamela: The love we knew was buried under everything all along has returned in force. We’ve gone on romantic dates! We have rediscovered why we’ve been friends through all of these years. The kids have calmed down. The whole family had been divided in half, but now relationships between the kids are healing. There is laughter in our house again!

It felt like the solution to change back to single-parenting was a bomb that dropped in the middle of our family. Everything flew in all directions. Our expectations had been so unrealistic. Now we know that stepfamilies often require thinking outside the nuclear family box. We’re slowly figuring out how to put our family back together in ways that work for us and our children.

Gavin: Right after the class we thought everything was fixed, but in the months since then we’ve realized that a lot of damage was done during all the chaotic years. Now we are taking things one step at a time. As we and the children feel more secure, layers of issues are surfacing that require us to continue using our skills and stepfamily guidelines. We’re doing a better job of listening to our children. Now that we’re not busy being defensive with each other about our parenting, we’re becoming more attentive to the needs of our children. We’re more realistic about the fact that our stepfamily issues will continue to be a challenge, probably for the rest of our lives. Our children will continue to need our love and support as they move into adulthood with the wounds from their childhoods. We hope that they will follow our lead by learning these skills to make their first and only marriage succeed. We pray that they will stop the legacy of divorce with all its pain and chaos that Pamela and I have handed them.

Pamela: The great news is that the kids are living with a model of a healthy marriage for the first time in their lives! Gavin and I are absolutely sure now that we will stay together and love each other until parted by death! It feels indescribably safe to have that security!

Gavin: We are committed to helping other stepfamilies find the miracle we are experiencing. We recently co-taught a class with Nancy where couples thanked us for sharing our story! We are sharing our story anywhere asked and with anyone who will listen. Even relationships with our extended families are being healed. Finally we are seeing some positive purpose for all the years of pain and misery. We are not only giving our children a safe, loving, respectful home environment but are helping other hurting stepfamilies find what they were searching for when they married. We are richly and truly blessed.

Nancy Landrum has been teaching communication and stepfamily skills for many years.  If you would like a no-obligation appointment with Nancy, set it up by using this link to her calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakwithNancy