Rebecca and Alonzo Cahoon live in Cedar City, Utah, with their four kids — three from Alonzo’s previous marriages and the youngest, their 13-year-old daughter, a product of their own. They have been married for 20 years and run a relationship counseling program together where they dish out the hard-learned advice they’ve discovered as they worked through their own marriage woes. After they had their daughter together, Rebecca felt she lost her own identity to motherhood, and their marriage struggled. But through honesty and communication, the two managed to create a better marriage than they had before they had kids. Here, Rebecca and Alonzo talk about the conversations they had during the hard times – and why their marriage (and sex life) is better today than ever.
Rebecca: Having our own kid was a huge recalibration of our relationship.
Alonzo: When we decided to commit in the relationship and to get married, Rebecca became a different person. And then, when we decided to have a child, there was an entirely other set of rules. Life changed.
R: I wasn’t expecting my personality to shift; that how I acted and behaved and showed up to the relationship before we were married would be so different than it was afterwards. And I wasn’t expecting that would shift again after we had our daughter.
A: We had shared custody over my first three kids from my previous marriage, so when Rebecca married me, she became an instant mom. My children were little, ages 8 to 4. So, there were definitely plenty of opportunities for Rebecca to learn how to parent. But she was a totally different mom being a mom to those kids than she was when she had a child..
R: When I became a mother, my priorities shifted completely. I just became completely absorbed in being a mother. It created real hardship for us. My husband felt like he completely went to the back burner, he felt like he was there to work and take care of us and that’s it. He wasn’t getting any attention whatsoever. That wasn’t just something that he made up. It was real. It took several years for me to see it.
A: When we talked, it was more about finding what we weren’t doing for each other and what we didn’t like about what was going on. We had gotten to a point where we were sleeping on separate ends of the house. It wasn’t going well, and I’d seen that pattern before — because I had been married before. It looked as though we were headed to the direction of a divorce.
Using my infinite wisdom, I thought, “I am going to find out what the hell is wrong with women.” I devoted three months of studying everything I could possibly find about the female species and the female hormones and as I collected all of my data, and started comparing at it, and looking at my first wife, my second wife, and my current wife, I found the only common denominator in all three of those situations was me. That felt like a slap in the face.
I decided I was going to do something different. I decided to work on me. I wasn’t going to do anything other than figure out how to be the best husband and provider that I could be. I sat down and I said, “What are all the things that I absolutely love about this woman? What am I grateful for about her?” When I first sat down to do that, it was really sobering. I sat there for 45 minutes and I’d only written three things down and of those three things, two of them had to do with sex. It was an eye-opener..
R: Our sex life is probably better now than it’s ever been. As we have evolved in understanding the differences between us, I understand how important sex and intimacy is for him and for myself. We make time for it. It’s a part of our regular life. It’s more passionate now because our connection is stronger. It’s a regular part of our everyday life.
Back in the days when our daughter was very young, we were sleeping on other sides of the house. He was expressing that he had needs that were going unmet, and I didn’t want to hear any part of it. I was giving her all of my attention — I didn’t understand what he needed. I didn’t understand why it was so important.
A: There was a period of time where we tried to dive in and figure it out and all we did was point fingers. Whose fault was it, that type of thing. We started thinking about the beginning of our relationship. When you look across the room, and you see someone, and you’re attracted to them, you start a relationship, you have no idea who they are. Yet, you create this fantasy in your mind. We started re-creating that fantasy. In fact, we frequently embellish to one another during our intimate times of what that imagination and fantasy would be, in a safe place, knowing that this level of communication and connection is what creates that spark and magic for us. Our sex life is better than it was in the beginning. In the beginning, I was in lust with my wife. What we have today is backed up with the fact that we love each other. There are times that we make love; and quite frankly, there are times we fuck. It’s creating that on purpose.
It’s getting excited about the fact that this is the only person on the planet who knows everything about me, and she’s chosen me. She volunteers herself freely. I need to choose to see that and see that the magic of each one of the lines that have been created over the past 20 years.
R: We’ve surpassed the point of just making the marriage work. Now we want it to be the very, very best. We’ve kind of come full-circle — we realized that we have the ability to create an amazing relationship, and so it’s really just about stepping into what we need from each other. Sometimes I’m feeling adventurous, so I decide we need to have a weekend getaway, and we make that happen. Our kids are old enough now that we can do that. But even not too long ago, when we realized how important that was to keep that connection alive with us first, we just made it a priority. Dates had to happen. We’d already gone down the other road.
A: Part of our issue was internal battles that Rebecca was having about parts of her that she felt like she had lost when she became a mom. About every two weeks, she would go through this cycle of feeling like she needed to get away. So we just started scheduling, every two weeks, even if it’s just overnight, we do something that feeds that side of her. We put things in place to remember that she’s not just a mom.
We found that if you’re not doing something to work on your relationship every day — not some days, not once in a while, every day — it’s just like going to the gym. If you want to have a body that looks like it was chiseled out of granite, you’ve got things you’ve got to do.
I still get up early, sit down with my journal, and write down everything I’m grateful for about her. I ask, “What did she do for me today that I didn’t notice?” And then Rebecca started doing that with me. We started trying to understand each other. That was a really big shift. Yes, it’s important to be parents, but we’re also setting an example of what it means, and looks like, to have a relationship. If the kids are the priority, they’re going to have struggles in their own relationships.