Holly Coutts didn’t get married thinking she would eventually get divorced and raise four young children by herself.
However, in 2009, that’s the twist that her storyline took.
“I found myself starting over,” she says. “I had these four children who needed me, and I knew we were on our own.”
She had sole custody of the children and her ex-husband moved out of state, so co-parenting wasn’t an option.
She needed help and she found it with her parents, Ron and Charlene Olson.
A Word of Advice
Although Holly Coutts knows every single parent’s situation is unique, she also believes there are patterns and resources that can help families find a new normal.
“Be patient,” she says. “Things will get better, but sometimes it takes longer than you plan. A strong support system — family and friends — will allow you to be more patient.”
Staying close to a solid set of beliefs has helped Holly, as well.
“Rely on your spiritual beliefs,” she says. “For me, my Heavenly Father has been a real blessing in my life. Whatever your beliefs are, anchor in them. Divorce is a process — not an event.”
Her parents were on an LDS Church mission to Hong Kong at the time of her divorce and they immediately offered their Lindon home to Holly and their grandchildren. The Olsons have continued to house the Coutts for the past seven years while Holly has worked to rebuild the family.
“My parents are the best,” Holly says. “They understood my situation and didn’t hesitate when I needed their help.”
Also giving Holly a leg up was the bachelor’s degree in family science she earned from BYU. Living with her parents allowed her the emotional, physical and financial freedom to go back to BYU and finish a master’s degree in marriage, family and human development.
“I knew I couldn’t find a job that could support us with a bachelor’s degree in my field,” she says. “I really needed to go to graduate school, so I jumped in as quickly as I could.”
Now, Holly utilizes the support of extended family to allow her to work full-time at Turning Point, which is housed at UVU and offers resources and assistance to adults in transition, often because of divorce.
While she isn’t yet where she would like to be in life (her parents’ basement wasn’t Plan A), Holly and her children are making strides toward financial and emotional recovery.
“Staying in an unhealthy relationship is really, really hard, but so is divorce,” Holly says. “I have never doubted the decision, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t really hard times.”
Her oldest child, Justin, is serving an LDS Church mission in Arizona, and her three younger children (Ryan, 18, Katie, 14, and Ashley, 12) are optimistic about how far they’ve come and what the future brings.
“When the divorce first happened, I hated it,” Ryan says. “I never thought I would get used to it. But, now, I understand it more and we’re getting to a good place.”
Katie says things keep getting better.
“We get to move on in life,” she says.
Ashley is grateful that the divorce didn’t completely separate her from her father.
“We still have a relationship with our dad,” she says. “He calls and we see him a few times a year. But, we also have our mom and grandparents who are looking after us every day.”
In fact, despite what she’s been through, Holly believes strongly in the institution of marriage.
“I teach my children that I am the anomaly,” Holly says. “Marriage works. I show them all the great examples of strong marriages they have around them. I have siblings who are married and great examples to my children.”
These lessons are sinking in. Ryan knows he’ll start his own family someday.
“My parents’ divorce doesn’t affect that,” he says.
Holly appreciates her children’s attitude through the difficult time, and she also knows they need her full attention at this point in life.
“I dated a few years ago, but I have seen the research and know that it’s difficult to introduce a stepparent into a teenager’s life,” she says. “That’s already a time when children push boundaries. I made the decision to put that part of my life on hold. I haven’t dated for 18 months — that window has closed temporarily. I would like to get remarried someday, though.”