Finding Me, Keeping Us

Cheryl Montgomery
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I married my high school sweetheart. We welcomed our first daughter right after graduation and a son a year-and-a-half later. Essentially, we were playing house and neither of us knew what we were doing. I was a stay-at-home mom, while my husband worked odd jobs trying to make ends meet to pay for our tiny, rundown apartment in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

Though we continued to struggle financially, we each started to attend college in hopes of giving our children a better life. Eventually, my husband landed a stable job, and shortly after, we moved into a 3-bedroom house in a nicer part of town. Unfortunately, the marital issues we had been experiencing did not cease to exist along with our financial challenges. Instead of fighting about money, we were constantly fighting about the amount of time we spent together. The more time I requested he spend with me, the more he retreated from our relationship by going out with friends, playing video games, or staying late after work. As this cycle progressed, the loneliness I was experiencing became overwhelming, and my need for attention was replaced by resentment. My insecurity in our relationship bled into every other relationship I had, and my self-esteem took a heavy hit.

After three years of marriage, we amicably divorced, shared custody of our kids, and remained as friendly as we could, for the children’s sake. This was the first time I had been alone as an adult. My identity as a 21-year-old woman was entirely intertwined with being a mother and wife. When my children would go on visitation with their father, I did not know what to do with myself. In time, I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got a part-time job, made new friends, went out after work, and continued going to school. As cliché as it sounds, I was trying to find myself.

After two years apart, the relationship between my ex-husband and I began to change. Following a trip to the Phoenix Zoo together as a family, we decided to give our relationship a second chance. We moved slowly this second time around, wanting to make sure that this time,  things would be different. We remarried in 2013, and at the beginning, things were blissful This was until old habits began to resurface. I wanted time, and he would retreat into solitude. I would share my emotions, and he remained stoic.

Soon after we remarried, I decided to pursue nursing school. This endeavor was short-lived, but that is a story for another time. Later that year, I enrolled in a creative writing program at our local community college. At my first portfolio meeting, my professor loved my short stories and suggested I turn them into a novel. A few times a week, we met after class and plotted out my novel in progress, Questioning the Universe. It was this newfound confidence and my diverted attention that caused a huge shift in my marriage. While busy creating my own little literary haven, I unintentionally called off my personal chase for his undivided attention; it was his turn to pursue me.

When I started my master’s in Family Dynamics, the pursuer-distancer dynamic sounded all too familiar. I was the pursuer that chased reassurance, and he was the distancer who needed space and independence. I have found that in my relationship, the chase itself is not the problem, but rather when we fall into the cycle in which the chase is born. Tension within a relationship occurs when a partner locks into one role, but when we switch up these roles, that is when the sparks fly. The start of a new chase always begins with the same fire we felt 17 years ago when we first fell in love.  

I joined the Official team because I am deeply passionate about their mission to preserve and strengthen relationships. The Official app is designed to revitalize established relationships with daily check-ins, curated dates, and a safe space to express emotion. These tools help build a healthy foundation so any relationship can thrive. What is broken can be mended, and my successful marriage is proof of this. When one dedicates themself to their partner and is willing to get up every morning and work together to better their relationship, success is possible.

If my story sounds familiar, please read my article Breaking the Cycle with Official, for a more in-depth look at the pursuer-distancer cycle and how Official can help.

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