Dec. 19, 2021
Eve After Eden: A Self-Defined Woman
By Jemi Lassiter
Squire and Pamela Newsome are the co-founders of Building Better Marriages, LLC. They have documented their journey to building a healthy marriage in their book, “Lovescape: Changing the Landscape of Your Marriage”.
This week, I met with Pamela Newsome. She is a First Lady, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and the co-founder of Building Better Marriages, LLC. Through the company, she and her husband provide marriage counseling to help engaged and married couples enrich their relationships and overcome challenges.
Pamela is a familiar face with a friendly smile and a welcoming presence. When she asks, “How’s your day going?” You really do want to tell her how your day is going.
We were scheduled to talk about her journey to self-love after divorce. I expected to interview the woman I had seen almost daily for the last six years. That woman is not here. This week, I met the Pamela behind the titles, degrees, makeup, and always-dressed-to-impress public persona. I am introduced to the side of her few ever get to see, let alone meet, and I am unprepared.
Who she is after Eden is just as important as how she is after Eden.
Pamela Newsome rebuilt her life, found her voice, and fell in love all over again after Eden.
At 21 years old, Pamela married the man of her expectations. He was financially and professionally stable as well as a great fit with her family and friends. When he proposed, there was no question she would say yes.
“I got married young. It was almost like a fairytale,” said Newsome. “[My idea of marriage] was based on stories I would see on t.v. or movies with the white picket fence. So, I went in being young and looking at it from the wrong perspective. I knew I wanted to be married but I didn’t look at the purpose of being married.”
They moved to Florida for a his career as a pastor and welcomed a baby girl to their family. Life moved so fast that it seemed like in
a blink of an eye, Pamela found herself alone for the first time in her adult life. Away from family and friends, she had no one to turn to for help, advice, or just a moment of fun in a safe space.
They found a church to fellowship which eased the feeling of loneliness and Pamela began working full time. She seemed to have the ideal life. In fact, Pamela worked hard to present that image to their community and their extended family. Unfortunately, the image and the reality were not the same. She was struggling to find her voice and her footing in every area of her life except her career.
“What I thought was I had to do it alone. I’m married. I’m a mom. I’m an adult. I can do it on my own. That’s what I thought at the time,” she explained.
For eight years she held together the perfect image of a happy family. Then, her husband had an opportunity to earn his bachelor’s degree at a university in the District of Columbia close to both of their families. Although hesitant to uproot her family, she agreed and the family moved from Florida to the Greater Washington-Metropolitan Area to stay with his parents.
Unable to transfer her job role to the area, Pamela had to quickly find a new job. While her husband was in school, she would have to be the sole provider.
There were times in her marriage where she struggled with the decisions being made for their family. This move was one of them. While she objected, she also acknowledged that her husband was the head of their household in God’s eyes and she wanted to be obedient to that belief.
“Pam has always been in relationship with God,” said Newsome’s younger sister Darlene Jackson. “She walks in that realm. That 100 percent [sustains] her.”
After pushing back once or twice, she grew tired of the fights with her husband and simply silenced her own objections. If she went along with his plans, things were easier in their home for everyone. But, every time she did that, her voice became quieter in their marriage until she did not have one at all.
“I felt shutdown,” said Newsome. “I didn’t give myself time to process who I was and what I wanted. I just continued to live that [life] because this is what I’m supposed to do. This is what a wife and a mother is supposed to do; not realizing I can still do those things and still be Pam. I’m not happy. I’m not where I want to be. I don’t have an identity outside of everyone else.”
While her husband earned his degree, Pamela supported the family. She worked full time, paid rent to her in-laws, covered private school tuition for two children, and provided for the other financial needs of their family while still cooking, cleaning, and filling the role of a dutiful wife and mother.
“I was in survival mode,” Newsome explained.
Her retelling of this time in her life weighs on her. She sounds exhausted rattling off the list of responsibilities that fell to her while supporting her husband’s goals. She began to resent him.
“I think I had some resentment because he had a goal and I didn’t,” she admitted. “I went through a kind of withdrawal in my marriage — emotionally, physically, mentally, all of those things.”
Over the years, resentment turned to disconnecting from each other and feelings of being unworthy of affection or attention.
As the pressure of being the breadwinner mounted, Pamela and her husband began to have more arguments. She had thoughts of leaving but stayed for her children. They welcomed a third child, their first son, and Pamela continued living what she thought married life was supposed to be.
Then, something changed. Someone saw her, really saw her. With him she felt worthy. She received the attention and affection she had missed for so long in her marriage.
“There was infidelity,” said Newsome. She paused before she finished her thought. “…On my part. I cheated. I’m not proud of it. By no means am I proud of myself for that. [My husband] found out.”
He began to question her every move. He wanted to know where she was going, who she was with, why it took so long to run that errand or pick up this child from an afterschool activity. When her job as a facility security officer required her to answer phone calls at odd hours, his suspicions and line of questioning were unbearable.
“I couldn’t move. I was afraid to move. I looked it like I brought this on myself so I had to suck it up and deal with it. I did this to myself by doing that,” she explained. “I looked at it like I had to do this to keep peace where [he and I] weren’t constantly fighting.”
They sought counseling together with a minister in Clinton, MD and laid out the challenges being faced in their marriage. Both sides were given a chance to talk while the other listened.
During Pamela’s time to speak, her husband continuously interrupted her which prompted the minister to reiterate that this was her time to speak unimpeded by her husband’s point of view.
“That gave me the freedom to express that I don’t know who I am. I’ve just been this mother and this minister’s wife,” said Newsome.
After the counseling session, her husband refused to return for additional sessions. Their lives went back to an uncomfortable normal for years with questions and his suspicions.
Remembering that time in her sister’s life frustrates Jackson.“Either you are going to forgive someone or you’re not. The cruelness is you holding them in unforgiveness but you won’t let them go. She came to [my door] many years after experiencing that.”
An argument year’s after that marriage counseling session forced Newsome to make a decision.
“Something happened. There was some blow up,” she said.
This time, she had to go. Staying was more than she could bear.
This version of marriage was not for her. This version where she cooked, cleaned and tended to her husband’s every need. This version where she was the doting mother to three children. This version where she was defined by others but still did not know who she was outside of marriage and motherhood. This was not marriage.
“I left and went to my sister’s in D.C. I told her everything and all that I’d been feeling and going through,” said Newsome.
Jackson remembers that night well. Their parents were going on a cruise to celebrate his parents 50th wedding anniversary with them. Pamela called her to ask if she could stay with her. Without hesitation, Jackson said yes.
“She showed up at my door at 2 a.m. with her suitcase,” said Jackson. “I could see the pain. She had made a 20 year decision that night. Seeing her like that broke my heart.”
“It just got to be too much,” said Newsome. “I didn’t know who I was before I got married. [I didn’t know] what marriage was and what the commitment of marriage was at that time.”
At 31 years old, Pamela was separated, moving forward with a divorce and starting life over.
“The kids stayed with their dad,” explained Newsome. “It would have been unfair to take them from their house and everything that’s familiar to my sister’s one bedroom apartment.”
She took turns with her then-husband picking up the kids. Pamela read to her youngest child most nights before bed. For her, leaving them with their dad was the hardest part.
“I was working in Virginia. I lived in D.C. They lived in Maryland,” she said. “I would get off work, go to [Maryland] and get the kids. I’d stay there. My son was the youngest so I’d make sure homework was done, they were in bed, and then I would go home in the evening. I’d try to do that three or four times a week just to keep normalcy. There’s one night I remember. I was reading to my son. He looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, when are you coming home?’ That still bothers me. Even now.”
The memory of her son’s question is the first one she shared with me that brought tears streaming down her face.
She tells me how guilty she felt for leaving and not being in a position or place to have made her marriage work. This was not the life wanted for herself and certainly not her children.
Her son’s question was confirmation of one of her worst fears: Her separation and pending divorce were affecting her children as well.
Pamela grew up in a broken home, experiencing divorce for the first time as a 10 year old and vowing not to make the same mistakes as her parents. Now, in her 30s with three children, she had not kept her word to herself. Worst of all, she put her children in the same position she was in as a child.
Her sister and then-husband suggested she seek counseling as she struggled to understand where it all went wrong.
Even getting the help she needed came with a penalty. According to Pamela, her then-husband began to tell her children that she was crazy and unwell.
Despite the hit to her character, Pamela moved forward with counseling and had several sessions.
“I remember one of the sessions, [my therapist] had me hold up a mirror and he asked me, ‘Who do you see?’ I said I see myself,” said Newsome.
She told her therapist all of the physical aspects of herself that were reflected in the mirror. There was makeup, her hairstyle, her facial features but she had not answered his question.
“He said, ‘But, who do you see underneath the exterior of Pam?’ I just broke,” recounted Newsome. “I just saw brokenness. I didn’t see a person. I saw shattered pieces and he says, ‘That’s where we need to start’.”
Following the sessions, her then-husband would call her therapist to find out what was discussed. Her therapist declined to answer his questions. However, Pamela realized that, even after all that she was sacrificing, there was still a control dynamic to their relationship that had to be broken. She was not going to be the same woman he had known. Pamela was evolving and getting to know herself.
Jackson remembers the evolution of her sister from the time she stayed with her until she moved out on her own.
“While here, she had a safe space,” said Jackson. “She would work through some things by cleaning… and, you gradually start to see the light come on. She worked hard and got a second job to provide for the kids. She got courage and got her own apartment. I didn’t want her to leave,” laughed Jackson.
Pamela’s use of cleaning to process emotions was an unexpected benefit to Jackson. A self-acknowledged messy person, she could come home to a clean apartment on any given day, several times a day.
“It bothered me at first,” said Jackson. “I’d put a cup in the sink and she goes to wash it right away. I’d start to [fuss] at her about doing that and she’d give me this look and I knew she was working through something while washing that glass.”
There was another unexpected benefit for Jackson. For the eight years Pamela was in Florida, their relationship as sisters languished. Only speaking occasionally on the phone or seeing each other during holidays, Jackson had the chance to relearn her sister as her sister learned herself.
“You could see her coming into her own and getting stronger,” Jackson said of the time spent living together.
About a year and half after being separated from her husband, her divorce was made final.
“The day that I walked out of the court, after signing the final papers, I got in the car and I broke,” said Newsome. Her mother and sister by her side, she said she finally felt free.
“It was just a release. I can breathe when I want to breathe. I can laugh when I want to laugh. I don’t have to adhere to someone that tells me when I can and when I can’t.”
For 15 years after her divorce, Pamela explored her likes and dislikes. She worked to rebuild her relationships with her children as a renewed and self-defined woman. She set new boundaries and practiced maintaining them in all of her relationships so that she would not lose the woman she had worked so hard to find.
“I have a voice. I can have an opinion. I can say, ‘No’. I don’t always have to agree. When I was married the first time, it was like I couldn’t have an opinion even though in my mind and in my heart it didn’t feel right.”
She remarried in 2014 to a man with whom she felt respected, free to be herself, and safe.
“The bad, the ugly, God still loves you no matter what you have done. I’d asked for forgiveness. I kept asking for forgiveness and one day it just hit me. He had already forgiven me. I just hoped He’d give me another opportunity and He’s given me Squire,” said Newsome.
A divorcee himself, he understood how easy it could be to have an image of marriage that is unattainable. Instead of repeating past mistakes, they chose to be honest and upfront with their expectations. They took care to consider each others feelings before they spoke, worked through issues, and truly put God at the forefront of their marriage.
They documented their path to marriage and the lessons they learned in their book, “Lovescape: Changing the Landscape of Your Marriage”.
Together, they have a blended family of six adult children and two grandchildren.
While both sets of children were accepting of the couple dating, marriage was another story. They were not onboard.
“Although five out of our six children attended the wedding, none of them wanted to be a part of the bridal party,” said Newsome. “Talk about devastating! Now, we’re good. Our kids eventually came around.”
They make it a point to have regular date nights so they never lose focus of their marriage.
“Every Friday night is date night,” said Newsome. “Before getting remarried, my grandson would spend the weekends with me. That changed and it was so hard to tell him that he couldn’t come over Friday nights. Saturday was fine but Friday nights? Man, that was tough. I don’t think the kids got it at first but, again, with time they came around. We had to let them adjust. Now, they ask us what did we do for date night.”
On the other side of divorce, Pamela is happy and at peace with her past. She knows who she is as a woman in God. She also has the confidence to express herself, uses her voice and shares her story as a way for other women to learn how to maintain their identity while married.
“I had to go [into relationship] whole in God, in Him, so I could project that to people. I had to understand how to sit alone with God. It’s a growing process that’s not about where I want to be but about where God wants me to be. It’s not a fun journey but it’s real,” said Newsome.
She credits her first marriage with teaching her what she can accept and what are dealbreakers. She also sees her faults.
“I learned from things I didn’t do that I should have done [back then]. I saw things I should have received but didn’t. It helped me grow as a woman and to be [comfortable with] having standards,” said Newsome.
“She’s bright and radiant now” said Jackson. “She looks at the mistakes. She takes them down off the shelf to remember the lessons and then she puts them right back and moves on. She doesn’t stay there. I saw her make relationship decisions and move on [while dating]. If she didn’t move on, she wouldn't have Squire.”
Jackson only has great things to share about her new brother-in-law and they all relate to how he loves her sister.
“The consistency. The kindness. The romance. Those are the things my sister needed and still needs. She gets that with him,” said Jackson. “It does my heart good to see her happy. Some people never find their happiness. She put in the work and I’m glad to see her enjoying her life.”
“I think going through the fiery furnace to be who I am as Pam, as Squire’s partner, I think it allows me to be more defined in this relationship,” said Newsome.
* "EveAfterEden: A Self-Defined Woman was originally published December 19, 2021 on Medium.com.