Jamie Soucie figured she and Kyle knew what marriage was all about. Hadn’t they been married before? This time, Jamie says, “I figured marriage would be easy.”
Each had been divorced for more than two years when they met at work. Both were ambitious, confident, and focused on building careers. And each had a 6-year-old child from a previous marriage: Jamie, a daughter, Abagayle; Kyle, a son, Gage.
“We had so much fun,” Jamie says, recalling how they would all go riding in Kyle’s prized Jeep. With similar backgrounds and values, and kids who really liked one another, what could go wrong?
After dating for eight months, Kyle and Jamie agreed that marriage was the next step. Kyle believed that he had simply chosen the wrong spouse the first time around. His mindset was, “Find that right person and things work out happily ever after.”
But less than a year after exchanging vows, happily-ever-after morphed into an elusive dream. And “so much fun” plummeted into what Jamie described as miserable failure.
The first year of marriage
Although Jamie and Kyle Soucie married with starry eyes, they were like many people entering a second marriage. They did not fully understand their “baggage” —the problems that caused their first marriage to fail.
For example: Jamie and Kyle were both set in their ways when they married. Jamie had been a single mother for two years and was quite able to manage her daughter and her finances. Kyle had been a single parent for five years; he was used to making independent decisions. When he tried to lead his new family, Jamie felt like she didn’t have a voice if she didn’t get her way. She believed that a submissive wife was the equivalent of weakness.
Kyle, who loves anything to do with adventure, was drawn to Jamie because, unlike his ex, she had seemed to understand his love for action and the outdoors. So he was surprised when, just a year after saying “I do,” Jamie had changed to, “I don’t have time to do that.”
And there was one more factor in both Kyle’s and Jamie’s first marriages that they could not escape: They each had a child. Actually, that’s not so unusual today. In fact, about one-third of all weddings in the U.S. form stepfamilies.
When the Soucies promised life-long love, they entered the blended family world. “We were not just being a married couple,” Jamie says. “We were also being parents.” They found themselves juggling their new life together with ex-spouses, schedules, and children who often felt that their parents were not giving them enough one-one-one attention.
Kyle’s son Gage visits every other weekend, “And then I go down and see him on Wednesday night,” Kyle says, “and then I get him all summer.” Abagayle, on the other hand, is with her mother four nights a week.
With such busy lives, the Soucies rarely have time for themselves. Blending two families into one was much harder than they anticipated. This became more evident when Jamie made an announcement in November 2008. She was pregnant.
Needing a larger home, Kyle and Jamie put their house on the market. It sold quickly and they temporarily moved into the basement of Jamie’s parents’ home. “It was just hard,” Kyle says, and Jamie agrees: “We felt like we had no autonomy. We had nowhere to escape to. It just wore on us.”
Their new child, Garrett, was born in August 2009, and a week later the Soucies moved into their new home. Then, about a month later, Jamie returned to work.
In less than 18 months life had changed dramatically for Kyle and Jamie. From divorced to married. From single parent with one child to married with three. Their life was filled with a myriad of responsibilities—including two work schedules, court-ordered visitations, church, school, activities, and picking up the baby at day care by 5:15 p.m.
And because Garrett didn’t sleep through the night, Jamie had little rest. She compared Kyle to her first husband, who regularly got up with Abagayle. Kyle kept snoozing, and this caused a lot of arguments. “I was exhausted,” Jamie says. “I had nothing left for Kyle.”
Things got even worse when Jamie suggested that Kyle sell his treasured Jeep to get a more practical vehicle. He remembered how he had sold his dirt bikes and other adventure vehicles to buy his first house during his first marriage. He feared he would lose everything once again.
Jamie says that the first months after Garrett’s birth as “laced with cruel arguments, threats of divorce, and silence.”
Disapproval and resentment
Although things were not good on the home front, both Jamie and Kyle were flourishing at work. She was getting raises and establishing a strong career. Kyle was thrilled when he was chosen for an elite program.
But Jamie didn’t like the travel required for the program; sometimes he would be gone for a week. To her, when Kyle was away from the house and didn’t have to deal with the kids, he was on a vacation.
Jamie also says that she resented Kyle leaving her “to go play,” while she had to not only work, but also take care of three kids and a house. “I didn’t know if he really understood what I dealt with when he was gone every month.”
Kyle sensed her disapproval when he came home from out-of-town trainings or when he left the home on his off hours for some type of outdoor adventure. He was the kind of person who expected his wife to be waiting at the door to give him a big hug and kiss. Instead, he felt like Jamie could care less if he was home.
Day after day, Jamie’s actions reminded Kyle of his ex-wife; his life of adventure was being suffocated. And day after day, Jamie felt more and more taken for granted. In the back of her mind, she knew that divorce was always an option.
“We had a lot of the baggage from the huge transitions and the challenges during the first year of our marriage that we hadn’t learned how to deal with,” Jamie says, “and it just felt like … impending doom.”
One last try
After a particularly heated argument in February 2011, Jamie decided that her marriage was over. It won’t be that hard to be single again, she tried to convince herself.
But the following day, a Sunday, her cell phone rang while driving the kids to church. It was Kyle. He had called from work, saying that he was taking a leave of absence from his special team. He wanted to devote more time and attention to what he called their “situation.”
A man who worked with Kyle talked with Jamie one day after church. “He was astounded at Kyle’s gesture,” Jamie says, “and encouraged me to consider what Kyle’s decision meant—that he would give up something he loved to get things right with me.”
In her heart, Jamie knew that divorcing her husband would only multiply her troubles. The children would be devastated. Could she really put her daughter through one more failed marriage? And what about Gage and the baby? Even if she divorced Kyle, he wouldn’t be out of her life. So before she called it quits, she decided to give her marriage one last try.
A good friend told her about FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. So she went to the FamilyLife website and located one the following weekend in nearby Colorado Springs. Kyle just happened to have that weekend off.
The Weekend to Remember
There wasn’t much conversation during the Soucies’ three-hour drive to Colorado Springs. Jamie kept telling herself that her husband had a lot to learn. “In my mind it was going to take a miracle.”
But something amazing happened during the very first session of the getaway. Jamie recognized that she had brought flawed thinking from her first marriage into her second. She had believed that building a good marriage required the 50/50 plan—she would do her half and her husband would do his. She had been keeping score, listing in her mind every single thing that she did and every single thing Kyle did not do. Now she knows that plan would never work.
Kyle says that he was in tears after that first session. He had not really cared about what was going on in his wife’s life. The dominant theme in his life, he realized, was himself. As husband and father in the household, he says, “my needs should come last and up until that point they weren’t.”
After that night, the Soucies longed to know how to fix their relationship. The answers they needed came when the getaway continued.
Trying to control
Jamie learned that Kyle was a gift from God, “and that I had not received him as such.” And she understood that her role of helper in the marriage is honorable. “That the helper encourages her husband to lead the family. … That my role is equal to that of my husband’s role, but it is just different.”
She realized that she hadn’t allowed her first husband to lead and was repeating that same pattern with Kyle. “I actually had been trying to control my first and second marriages.”
Kyle understood that he is accountable for his family and that a husband and his wife have unique but equal roles. He also discovered a reason why there had been so many arguments at home: He and Jamie communicate very differently. He’s more direct than his wife, “I am the ‘land the plane’ type of guy. I like the facts.”
But the most important change began when Kyle saw his need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Kyle hadn’t been able to solve his problems in either of his marriages on his own. “Up until that point I felt I was the one who was in control. … I was struggling.” If God had a plan for his life, he realized, “I need to listen and start to know Him.”
Following the getaway, the Soucies’ boss asked them to tell the staff about their Weekend to Remember experience. And after they told their story, many of their colleagues spontaneously donated money to provide getaway scholarships. (In the last year, this fund enabled 12 more couples to attend.)
Determined to succeed
Today Kyle and Jamie are fully committed to one another and determined to be among the 40 percent of second marriages that succeed. They know that marriage will never be easy, but unlike their first failed marriages, they now have the relationship tools they need.
Jamie understands her value as a wife and mother. She also recognizes the importance of prayer and now strives to be her husband’s “best cheerleader.”
Kyle says there’s a lot less stress in his home. “Nothing is ever perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what it was. Every day I just have to remind myself of why I do the things that I do and [ask], ‘Will it glorify God?’”
Having just returned from their second Weekend to Remember, Jamie says, “I have wanted many things: successful career, beauty, material things.” Now, she says, “I want nothing more than to know my God and what He wants for us.”
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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