One of the most common reasons for divorce is irreconcilable differences. In other words: “We just grew apart.” The promise many couples make to one other slowly dissolves without intentional communication and investment in the relationship.
Falling in Love
Michael and Lorraine Ragsdale were “matched” through an online dating website in 2006, and their attraction quickly became evident. The couple met in person after a couple of weeks. “Although we didn’t have a lot in common at first, we enjoyed being around each other,” they said. Michael also immediately connected with Lorraine’s son, Jeremy, who was three years old at the time. The three became a family in 2008, and have welcomed Lauren (6 years) and James (21 months) since the wedding.
At a Crossroads
Slowly, Michael and Lorraine grew apart. “We both lacked commitment to our relationship,” they said, “Simply put, working at our marriage was no longer a priority.” Michael and Lorraine had reached a critical crossroads: let go of their marriage or make one last effort to revive it. They knew the relationship was struggling to survive. “I guess you could say the spark was gone. The things that first attracted us to each other became non-existent.”
The couple ended up at an Oxygen for Your Relationships seminar held at Fort Drum, New York.
The Moment Everything Changed
Seven years had worn down the marriage, but five minutes at Oxygen awoke hope for Michael and Lorraine. One of the exercises during Oxygen is to spend five quiet minutes looking into one another’s eyes. Both agree that this was the best moment of the entire eight-hour seminar. “It was an emotional experience that connected us in a way that we hadn’t felt in a long, long time,” they said. “It was more than a breath of fresh air; it was life-changing.”
As they continued, new revelations shed light on the couple’s differences. The two discovered each other’s Flag Page countries, which explained how they both preferred to communicate and engage with the world. They also learned their “talent families,” which illuminated their natural gifts in categories like relationships, creativity, leadership, task completion, etc.
The final hours of Oxygen proved to be life altering. The couple discussed the role of forgiveness in their relationship. “The seven steps to ask for forgiveness was powerful and something we desperately needed,” they said. “On that day, we made the choice to forgive each other and move forward in our relationship.”
A New Commitment
Michael and Lorraine have used the lessons they learned in Oxygen for their daily lives. They renewed their commitment to each other and agreed to do everything within their power to have a marriage that honors God, one another, and their children. “Our relationship is definitely better, and it’s still a work in progress,” they said, “And, with your help, we can keep going!”
Rick: I was playing basketball when my friend introduced me to Tiffany. I felt a connection to her right away that grew over time.
Tiffany: It was very rocky the first two years. We had a lot of trust issues. When he came home, I felt relief at first, but then the questions and accusations would start on my part because I didn’t trust him.
Rick: Things continued to spiral downward. We were unhappy with each other. We criticized each other about everything.
Tiffany: I felt like I was going crazy. I felt like there was no point to being pregnant with his child. I thought for sure I was going to be a single mom. Then, I heard about the Oxygen seminar and I told Rick this is our last chance to try and fix things.
Rick: During the seminar, Michael Johnson, our facilitator, instructed us to take five minutes to gaze into each other’s eyes without saying a single word. It was very humbling. It brought a lot of stuff home.
Tiffany: There was a lot of pain at first. But, things happened during the seminar that completely changed us… that completely changed everything. I started getting a lot of hope and feeling love from Rick. I felt wanted by him for the first time ever.
Rick: I’ve personally taken a lot more of a leadership role when before I was more passive. Now I’m engaged in church, and I’m part of a men’s group. I put my family’s needs and wants before my own.
Tiffany: I feel dramatically different. I feel like there’s hope now. And with Stronger Families, we have resources. We have someone we can call on. I think the support is the number one thing we have needed. I have faith that things will continue getting better.
Love didn’t come at first sight for Nelida Lozoya. A friend first introduced her to Anthony Lewis in December 2001. They shared a few dates, but didn’t spend much time together until Anthony’s accident. “He fell 17 feet from an air assault training course,” Nelida recounted. “He had surgery, and was not able to move back to the barracks.” She offered him a place to stay.
As roommates, the two saw a lot of each other. “I fell in love with him little by little,” Nelida said. “We had our share of struggles, but I saw his commitment to his job. I saw him get up every morning to go to physical therapy. He did not allow his injury to hold him back. I knew I was in love when the highlight of my day was seeing him walk through the door in his camouflage.” Anthony agreed: “I fell for Nelida after spending so much time together and realizing that she was the Bonnie to my Clyde. She would do anything for me and I’d do the same for her.” The couple married less than a year later, in October 2002.
Keeping the Peace
Three months into the young marriage, Anthony was deployed to Iraq. He returned a different man; his PTSD dramatically changed the mood of the marriage. Arguing became a daily occurrence. The supportive partnership turned into a battle between opponents. When divorce seemed to be the only option, the couple sought help through Oxygen for Your Relationships.
“I expected to hear a lot of man bashing and how my PTSD has ruined everything I love,” Anthony said of his expectations for the Oxygen seminar. “It was totally the opposite – supportive and very informative.” The couple learned tools to help them communicate, forgive one another, and resolve conflicts. “I learned that having a strong marriage doesn’t mean you are never going to disagree or have problems,” Nelida said, “but the tools have made a difference in how we respond to issues.”
The couple later participated in a second Oxygen seminar to refresh their knowledge.
. “Our marriage has made a 180o turn,” Anthony said. “It has brought us back together as a team. Thank you, Stronger Families!”
My wife, Ketryna, and I have been married for nearly 10 years now, with a 7 year old daughter, a 5 year old son, and a baby girl due this month. Although I wish I could say our marriage has always been perfect, I have to admit that it hasn’t.
We experienced major marital issues in the first year of our marriage, which we were thankfully able to work through with counseling. I frequently felt disrespected and Ketryna often felt unloved.
After a few years on the Seattle Police Department, we saw our marriage was struggling again due to many new reasons. Our son was born a week before I started the academy, and I was also learning to deal with stress, lack of sleep, and shift work on First Watch.
Communication began to break down and arguments became more frequent in our marriage. We found one of the root issues was balancing work and home life. I was failing in this area and usually putting my job first.
After additional counseling and going through the Oxygen For Your Relationships seminar at the Bellevue YMCA, we were able to work through the difficult times. My wife is again my best friend, my biggest supporter, and now I truly feel respected at home. I consider the commitment I made to my wife on our wedding day just as important as the oath I took upon being sworn in at the SPD.
Although I never felt as if we were going to get divorced, we have experienced many severe highs and lows. Now, through our commitment and the training we received, we have learned how to maintain a strong and healthy marriage. We all want to leave behind a great legacy. Ultimately, that’s what’s most important.
Unlike many couples who go through Oxygen, Michael and Tiffaney agree that their marriage wasn’t in crisis. Two years ago, the couple fell in love after meeting online and quickly united their families, including two daughters from prior marriages. “When we met, we had an immediate, strong connection,” Tiffaney said. “We were married in six months.”
Life sped up for the couple, and with the birth of their third daughter, the couple began to notice that they were struggling to communicate effectively. “There is no doubt that we love each other, but we seem to speak different languages,” Michael said.
When conflicts arose, the couple often agreed on the big picture and values, but chose the wrong words to speak to one another. As a result, they weren’t sharing their ideas clearly. Often, one or both of them would walk away frustrated. Busy work schedules complicated their efforts to untangle the knots in their differing communication styles. “Some days, we have so much going on that the last thing we are thinking about is our relationship and one another,” Tiffaney said.
When the couple heard about the Oxygen seminar and the topics that were going to be addressed, they decided to sign up. The Flag Page assessment revealed the source of their trouble: Michael and Tiffaney come from different Flag “countries” and speak different “languages.” Through the Oxygen training, they are learning to translate what the other is saying and have even posted their Flag Pages on their bathroom mirror as a reminder.
“He (Michael) is from ‘Control Country,’ so when I give him too much information without hitting the major points, he now reminds me of his home country. That helps me to be more concise, and he, then, can better understand and follow my train of thought,” Tiffaney said. Likewise, Michael is learning to share his thoughts slowly and calmly, and allow Tiffaney time for discussion.
The couple agreed that their differences aren’t bad, but when issues arose, they were grateful for the tools and knowledge that Oxygen gave them. “The Oxygen seminar was relevant, fast paced, interactive, and motivating,” said Michael, “Hands down, this was the first seminar of my entire career with the Marine Corps – over a decade – that I enjoyed.”
Rick Pak joined the Army after high school. He deployed to the Gulf War, then spent six years in the National Guard. His experience in combat showed that he wanted to be a minister. He graduated from seminary, and served as an associate pastor at a local church, but he had a heart for soldiers and wanted to return to the Army. He served two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now stateside, he uses his own experiences to help soldiers cope with the stress of juggling combat deployments with family life at home. His two daughters were not as warm with him when he returned home. They ended up bonding over a love of Transformers. Having trouble adjusting as husband and wife? Pak’s advice is to have each spouse plan a date night. He took his wife to a gun range. She took him for a pedicure. He shares stories like these during Oxygen seminars he runs to help soldiers reunite with their families.
This year, CH Pak took a new assignment as chaplain for basic training candidates at Fort Benning, GA. Now he shares his experiences with a new group of soldiers. As one of the first trained Oxygen facilitators at JBLM, it’s exciting that he is able to take the program with him to Ft. Benning. He’s already taught one Oxygen couples seminar this year and has plans for more. Thank you, CH Pak for being an Oxygen Champion!