After a Painful Split, a Functioning Family

In Unhitched, couples tell the stories of their relationships, from romance to vows to divorce to life afterward.

Rebecca and Drew Kuntz of York, Pa., divorced after five years of marriage, with each realizing that they were incompatible from the start.

Date of marriage April 24, 2012

Date of divorce May 2017

Age when married Both 35

Age now She is 44; he is 45

Occupations Ms. Kuntz is a human resources consultant. Mr. Kuntz is a facilities manager at an apartment complex.

Children A daughter, 12

Where did they grow up? He, in rural Biglerville, Pa., in what he described as a close and happy family. However, now his parents, nearing 70, are divorcing. “I’ve had to consider whether my childhood was as idyllic as I thought,” he said.

She, in Cleveland. Her parents split when she was 2 and she was raised by her father and a stepmother. From the age of 8 to 14 she had no contact with her mother. “A traumatic childhood,” she said. Her father divorced and remarried several times. She now has no contact with either parent.

How did they meet? They met in 2003, when she returned to Cleveland after five years in the Air Force. He was the supervisor at her apartment building, and they became friends. In 2006, she married another man whom she divorced a year later. By then she had moved, but she and Mr. Kuntz remained friends, and in 2007, after her divorce finalized, they became romantic.

What drew them together? “He’s a good-hearted, really nice and safe person, and he wasn’t broken,” she said. They both felt a strong physical attraction. “She is a confident woman and very straightforward, we had a lot of fun together,” he said.

How were the early years? Both say they were fun. He played in a heavy metal band, and she attended all his gigs. “It was the stereotypical whirlwind of passion and excitement,” he said, “but always with a tinge of turmoil and an element of butting heads. I don’t think we were ever really on the same page.” The two argued a lot. “My priorities were about myself,” he said. “Playing in the band came before anything else. I may have denied it at the time, but my actions spoke louder than my words.”

First signs of trouble? In 2008, she became pregnant unexpectedly. When their daughter arrived, Ms. Kuntz was in college full time earning a master’s degree in human resources and labor relations. She grew resentful because she was home alone a lot. “I felt weighted down by responsibility, like I was the only adult,” she said. “I felt jealous of Drew’s ability to come and go.”

He added, “I thought I could navigate the band, the relationship, my job and fatherhood, but I couldn’t.”

Why did they marry? They had been together five years and they wanted to offer their daughter stability. The year they wed, they moved closer to his family in Pennsylvania. “I wasn’t entirely happy, but I was trying to make the best of it for our child,” she said.

Of their decision to wed, he said, “I loved Rebecca and thought love was all that mattered. Also, I was a very entitled man, I didn’t think I had to work to have a good relationship.”

Did they try to work on things? Yes, to a degree. They went to therapy a few times. But then he began an emotional relationship with another woman.

“I never imagined myself as someone who would look outside the relationship for comfort, but I was trying to fill the spaces that weren’t being filled,” he said. “I never consummated anything, but it eats at me to this day.”

She recognized her behavior was a cause for his emotional infidelity. “We were both culpable for his affair,” she said. “I wasn’t being a great partner, my resentment caused him to seek attention elsewhere.”

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Who asked for the split? She did. In September 2016, they went to Alaska for his 40th birthday and it was evident then that the relationship was over. “I knew Drew would be deprived of true happiness if we stayed married,” she said. “I was a little mean and a little broken and I no longer wanted to bring him down.”

It did not come as a surprise to him. He was tired of walking on eggshells, he said. They stayed together as roommates for a few months before he moved out. “The fight in me was gone,” he said.

How did their daughter react? After some initial tears, she went with the flow. “I never wanted to do this to our child, but she took it with ease and has been entirely resilient,” she said.

Did they feel stigmatized? Both say no. “Staying together seems less normal than getting divorced,” she said, noting the multiple divorces of her parents. He found it challenging to tell his parents, who were more upset than he had been.

How did they fare financially? They were financially stable and each was mostly autonomous when they decided to divorce. Both agreed to co-parent their daughter without court intervention, and that there would be no spousal or child support.

“We made it work for our daughter,” he said. “To this day we haven’t argued over money,” he said.

How did they move on? She felt unburdened of a marriage she said she’d long ago checked out of, and began dating casually right away. For six months he was depressed, but then began dating about a year after their split. Each is now in a relationship. “Drew’s partner is happy and upbeat and a perfect match for our daughter,” she said.

They have spent holidays together as a family; he and she live about three miles from each other and share custody of their daughter. “We’re fair to each other and also flexible,” he said. “We try to keep it easy for everybody, including our daughter.”

What would they have done differently? “I wish I’d had the ability to communicate with the skill I have now, instead of trying to shove a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “We would have pulled the plug earlier and been more honest.”

She said she “would have treated him nicer. We both went through growing pains to be the people we are now. I was much harder on him than he ever deserved and that wasn’t cool.”

What is life like now?

There is very little drama in their lives, both said. “I am thankful for what we have now — it’s beautiful that we get along so well,” he said.