North Huntingdon couple hopes 2nd time’s a charm for marriage
At her first wedding, Kelli Floder got some unexpected words of wisdom from her paternal grandfather.
“It’s gonna be tough,” her Pap said.
Not exactly what a young couple wants to hear on their wedding day.
Eight years later, Jason and Kelli Floder know the truth of those words better than ever. “I don’t think it registered with me at the time what he really meant, but he’s right: Marriage is not easy. It’s probably the hardest thing,” she said.
This Valentine’s Day, the North Huntingdon couple are looking at their relationship through the bitter experience of a failed first marriage, separation and divorce — and a reunion that they hope will last.
The Floders met in 2004, when Kelli was 18 and Jason was 23. Within a week of meeting, they moved in together. They bought and renovated a house, adding stress to an already fraught relationship.
Jason, who is now 35, proposed to Kelli on Christmas Day 2007, and they got married in a church ceremony in Irwin on Valentine’s Day 2009. They moved into another house with their three dogs. Although they were starting a new life together, they admit now that the marriage did not have deep roots.
“We both kind of did our own thing. We didn’t do a lot of stuff together,” said Kelli, 30.
A carpenter for a home renovation business, Jason proved himself handy at home. But he became consumed with projects around the house, including finishing the basement, and grew distant from his wife. On Sundays, he neglected dinner with his in-laws so he could watch football games.
“When I’m doing something, like a project on the house, I just forget about everything else,” Jason said. “That was through our whole relationship.”
In November 2013, as their feelings of alienation grew, they had their daughter, Ava. The joy of new motherhood became tainted by creeping postpartum depression, Kelli said. “It was just like this empty feeling that wouldn’t go away,” she said. “It took me probably two years before I even realized that that’s what caused us to split.”
The combination of Jason’s lack of communication and Kelli’s depression put an unbearable strain on the marriage, the couple said. “I’d be crying, and he’d be like, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine,’ ” she said.
Kelli abruptly moved out in January 2015, and the couple split custody of Ava 50-50. Jason kept the house, and the time apart gave him a lot of time to think about the way he’d been, he said.
“Obviously, communication is huge. I lost control of that,” Jason said. “I lost track of letting her know how much I loved her.”
Meanwhile, Kelli got professional help for her depression, even as she nursed a “hatred” for Jason. “I just kind of blamed him for how I felt, but really it was me. I needed help. I blamed him for that emptiness that I felt,” she said.
After more than a year of separation, the couple finalized their divorce in March 2016.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Kelli sent Jason a text message in October asking to talk. The two met the next day and decided to get back together.
“I never saw it coming,” Jason said. “If you want to talk about hitting the lottery or getting back together with her, I thought I was going to hit the lottery first.”
Kelli said she realized that she had made a mistake in leaving. “I just said, ‘I need him back in my life.’ He was the man that I always could go to. He was my home. I hated him for so long. I guess I forgave him for how he treated me and forgave myself for the postpartum and everything,” she said.
The couple remarried Dec. 23, 2016, at their home. Kelli’s best friend’s brother, an ordained minister, officiated at the 10-minute ceremony.
Both sets of parents and Kelli’s sister were in attendance.
“It was a shock to some people,” Kelli said, “but our family was ecstatic.”
The couple now looks on the separation and divorce as a blessing in disguise.
For one, they say they make communication and honesty a priority.
“Now it’s like a mature relationship, where we both will listen to each other and we’ll talk to each other,” Kelli said. “I don’t think we’d have the relationship that we have now if (the separation) did not happen. He wouldn’t have changed, and I wouldn’t have changed.”
Kelli said she came to realize the truth of her grandfather’s words, that marriage takes “work and time and understanding and forgiveness. … We learned a lot about ourselves and how to be better people and a better husband and wife.”
Jason said he still watches football on Sundays, just not as much. He realizes that if he has to stop a home improvement project, he can return to it later.
“He actually wants to spend time with me now,” Kelli said, “which is kind of cool.”
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280 or [email protected].