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Just after their seventh anniversary in 1985, married life changed dramatically for Cheryl McClary and Jim Montgomery. Jim had finished his medical residency in Memphis, Tennessee, and landed a position at a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Cheryl, a lawyer, had to quit her job for the move. Shortly thereafter, they found out they were expecting their first child. "I tried unsuccessfully to find legal work while I was pregnant," Cheryl recalls. "I missed the job I had loved so much in Memphis, and I missed my old friends. All I did the first year in Asheville was cry. The worst of it was that Jim didn't listen when I told him how miserable I was."
For his part, Jim admits that he wasn't as sympathetic as he could have been: "I didn't think she had any reason to be unhappy," he said. "She was going to have a baby, I was making good money, and we had a nice house." Cheryl's mood didn't improve when their son, Clint, was born and she returned to the workforce. "Jim was more focused on his job than his family," said Cheryl. Things went from bad to worse seven years later when her second pregnancy required five months of bed rest. "I couldn't go to work," said Cheryl. "I was bored and lonely. But Jim wasn't supportive at all. He even went off on a trip abroad that we had planned together and left me at home!"
Cheryl waited until after she gave birth to their son, Wyatt, and then issued an ultimatum: "I told Jim he could either meet me at the counselor's office or at the divorce lawyer's office." Jim reluctantly agreed to go to counseling with J. Michael Hester, PhD, a pastoral counselor in Asheville. We recently caught up with Cheryl, 51, and Jim, 50, to find out how they're faring.
Jim: Dr. Hester helped me realize that I have "an antenna problem." I don't pick up on Cheryl's emotional needs. I have to pay more attention to what she says.
Cheryl: Jim is so thoughtful and romantic now. Every anniversary he takes me away for a long weekend -- we're like honeymooners again!
Jim: And every night we spend at least a few minutes alone together sharing thoughts and telling each other about our day.
Cheryl: He unplugs the phone, turns off the computer, and I get his undivided attention. Last January during one of those talks, I told him I was sad he was going to Las Vegas alone for the international Shot Show. [Jim's an expert marksman.]
Jim: Before counseling, I wouldn't have heard how upset Cheryl was. But this time I asked her to brainstorm with me about how we could solve the problem. The Shot Show was over Valentine's weekend, so we decided to go together and renew our vows at the Chapel of the Bells.
Cheryl: I called it our Shotgun Wedding! It was the perfect way to show how much our relationship has grown. We've never been happier.