When Cheryl and Todd Huff met in 1995, both were reeling from bad relationships and found solace in commiseration. Cheryl was in the midst of a messy divorce, and Todd, already divorced, was breaking up with a live-in girlfriend. Each also had a son starting kindergarten and faced similar parenting challenges. After premarital counseling to sort out the lingering effects of failed first marriages, the pair wed in 2001.
"I thought we'd dealt with our emotional baggage," says Cheryl, 40, "but Todd was still afraid to open up." Todd, 36, acknowledges that he avoided Cheryl by going out to bars at night, a habit that was a natural extension of his sales job at his father's Goodyear dealership. Cheryl, who worked at the dealership herself, was stuck in the evenings being a solo parent of her son, Tim, now 13, and Todd's son, John, also 13, who lived with them on alternate weeks. "I got no support or companionship from Todd," she says. "I was getting angrier and angrier."
In sessions with Lynn Davies, LCPC, a marital counselor practicing in Towson, Maryland, Todd admitted that "getting dumped twice had destroyed my faith in women." Davies encouraged him to voice his fears to Cheryl, who reassured him of her unwavering commitment. Davies also got Todd to understand that "I had to stop acting like a single person," he says.
When Cheryl became pregnant in 2002, Todd reaffirmed that he was "a family man at heart." The couple continued counseling until the birth of Connor, now 2. During that time, Todd finally stopped worrying that Cheryl was going to abandon him. For her part, Cheryl was thrilled to have Todd home at night, fully involved in the children and the marriage. We checked in with them recently.
Todd: I'm glad I got up the nerve to take one more chance on love.
Cheryl: Me, too.
Todd: For a while, Cheryl was afraid I'd revert to my old ways and start hanging out at bars. But once I committed to being a real husband and father, that was it.
Cheryl: I did wonder if the change might be temporary. Maybe he was just trying to humor me. But Todd clearly wants to be with me and the boys.
Todd: I'm so in love with Cheryl. Looking back, I don't think I was ever really in love before. This is the real deal. And I'm crazy about our sons and more determined than ever to be the dad Tim needs.
Cheryl: In fairness, Todd wasn't the only one who was gun-shy. I may not have been going to bars, but I held back emotionally, too. After what I went through the first time around, I was afraid to be honest about my feelings. But the closer Todd and I grew in counseling, the more I realized that this was the relationship we'd both been waiting for.
Todd: Definitely. We hit the jackpot this time. We trust each other. That's what marriage is all about.