But at times James’s carefree attitude about life caused Raquel a great deal of stress. At one point, when a deal on a house fell through, the family was homeless for about three months, living with friends at one point.
“When we didn’t have any place to live my wife asked ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘We’re going on a vacation,’’ recalled James. “We went to the beach for a week. Before leaving, we put in an application for a house and it was approved.”
The family bought a house in Arlington, Va., where they still live today. Their financial woes continued, not helped at all by James’s lack of planning and saving. He was a hard worker, often holding four jobs. Yet, he made abrupt decisions alone without conferring with Raquel.
“It was difficult for me to shed a lot of my old habits and grow and become a father to my children,” James admitted. “My focus was being able to afford a certain lifestyle…”
Finally, there was an incident that just pushed Raquel over the edge and she made up her mind to leave James.
He quit his full time job without telling her, and then while he was playing basketball he broke his Achilles and spent a night in emergency surgery. That morning, Raquel, busy getting the children ready for school, assumed James was working—until she got to work and her boss told her he had called.
Raquel was searching for her luggage when James came home and finally confessed, “Oh, I quit my job. I’m starting my own business.”
Said Raquel, “I told him, ‘People don’t do this without checking with their spouses.’”
James had decided to start a business selling copy machines and he didn’t let a broken Achilles and a cast stop him. He knocked on so many doors and made so many “cold calls” that he wore a hole into the bottom of his cast. Meanwhile, a friend told him about Landmark Forum, an intensive three-day, self-development program, and James attended. What he learned shifted his thinking and pointed to areas where he needed to change, a process James committed to.
He desperately wanted Raquel to attend the program too. James recalled, “I said, ‘I love you and if you want to leave I’ll give you a divorce. But before you leave I paid for you to go to this class.’”
Raquel went. The course plus some marriage counseling put the two back on track.
“You can’t stay the same,” said Raquel. “We knew we hadn’t met our potential, individually, as a family or as a couple. I noticed he was making better decisions, involving me in them. It was a huge, huge turning point.”
“It changed us to just being better people. A whole new world opened up,” said James.
Today, James still has his own business, a document management company in Washington, D.C. Raquel works in the payroll department of a Washington major law firm. Their youngest child is in college. The other four children have already received college degrees. They have three grandchildren.
“They have never given up on each other,” said the oldest child they have together, their daughter Leilani, 28. “They’ve become better friends and a better couple as a result of it. I’ve been married two years and with my husband for nine years. I got my commitment to my relationship from the example of my parents.”
“What has kept us together is hope,” said James. “I would say knowing that you haven’t reached your limit. Each of us individually hasn’t reached our limit. We still feel a lot of fire and ambition in what we can do individually—and together.”
“I’m actually still in love with my husband and I’m still attracted to him,” said Raquel. “Now, it’s not just physical, it’s what he’s about and how he is with the family and people. He has helped me grow, helped me find my own confidence and courage. He’s truly my best friend.
“Even in almost 28 years of marriage my stomach still flutters when I see him.”