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'The Good Fight' a raw portrait of actress Jana Kramer's marriage to ex-NFL player Mike Caussin

Kurt Anthony Krug  |  Special to The Detroit News

Singer/actress Jana Kramer wanted to control the narrative.

That’s why the Grosse Pointe native and 2002 graduate of Rochester Adams High School, 36, and her husband, former Washington NFL tight-end Mike Caussin, 33 – both hosts of the podcast “Whine Down” – wrote “The Good Fight: Wanting to Leave, Choosing to Stay, and the Powerful Practice for Loving Faithfully” (HarperOne $26.99), which was recently released.

In it, the couple talks about the ups and downs of their 5-year-marriage, which has included everyday struggles such as careers, insecurity, money, as well as infidelity and addiction. Yet they have remained together through love and forgiveness, learning to fight for each other and their marriage. In 2016, when Kramer – the “One Tree Hill” alumna who will star in Lifetime’s “A Welcome Home Christmas” on Nov. 7 – was a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” her publicist warned her that Us Weekly was publishing a story about how Caussin was unfaithful to her with the headline, “Married to a Sex Addict.” Other media outlets, including People Magazine, would later chronicle their story.

“For me, it was about changing the narrative and putting out something that could help other people, because our story was out there already. It was about… trying to normalize that relationships go through hard times. It’s not easy, but there’s certain things you can learn from each relationship and your own to come out the other side – fight for each other, not against each other,” explained Kramer, who lives with Caussin in Nashville, Tennessee. Together, they have two children, Jolie, 4, and Jace, 1.

When “The Good Fight” debuted, it was No. 3 on the Amazon best-seller list and received mostly positive reviews, Kramer said. Her greatest wish for this book is the hope that people can relate to it and learn techniques to become a healthier person all-around, as well as save relationships that are in trouble.

“I’ve been flooded with a bunch of DMs about how it’s helping readers become better friends, better communicators, and how they don’t feel as alone in their own situation. Overall, I’d say it’s been received pretty (well),” said Kramer. “I hope that we can write another one, continue on the journey of being open and honest and encouraging other people to do the work.”

This marriage is the first for Caussin and the third for Kramer, whose parents divorced when she was a high school freshman. Previously, Kramer was married to Michael Gambino – who was 17 years her senior – in 2004, whom she divorced after several months. Gambino abused Kramer and was convicted in 2005 of attempted murder. After his release from prison in 2010, he committed suicide in 2012.

On Dec. 22, 2009, Kramer became engaged to actor Johnathon Schaech (“That Thing You Do!”), her co-star from 2008’s “Prom Night.” The two were married on July 4, 2010, in Michigan. This was the second marriage for both. However, they separated about a month later and their divorce was finalized in June 2011.

Following her divorce from Schaech, Kramer met follow country music singer Brantley Gilbert at the CMT Music Awards in 2012. They became engaged in January 2013 but ended their relationship in August of that year.

However, Kramer doesn’t consider her marriages to Gambino and Schaech actual marriages.

“The first one, I knew the guy for two weeks and he ended up trying to kill me. The second one, we were only married a week,” said Kramer. “This (third marriage) is my first marriage as I say in the book, because I’m actually doing the work and not running away from a bad situation.”

Kramer and Caussin met on Twitter in August 2014. Per the book’s introduction, they said “I love you” after 10 days of knowing each other. After three months, they moved in together. After six months, they were engaged – on Dec, 2, 2014, specifically, which was Kramer’s 31st birthday. After 11 months, they were married on May 22, 2015. “It was a love like we never imagined,” wrote Caussin. On Jan. 31, 2016, their daughter Jolie was born.

However, Caussin cheated on Kramer. The couple separated as a result. Caussin entered a rehab program for sex addiction, which was the root cause for his infidelities.

“I want to be very clear about something: Society has had the nerve to call sex addiction a ‘married man’s excuse’ to which I say (expletive),” wrote Caussin. “Addiction is not an excuse at all, and I make sure to never use it as such. However, it is an explanation.”

Kramer admitted in the book that she had her shares of “flings and flirts” herself during her time on “DWTS” when she was separated from Caussin, something she was reluctant to write about because she didn’t think she did anything wrong and didn’t want to look like the bad guy. In the end, however, she knew what she did was wrong and decided if she wanted to give an honest, accurate accounting of her marriage, she had to include it.

“I justified my actions in my mind just as I suppose Mike had done all along, too,” she wrote.

Further, Kramer stated “DWTS” only prolonged their suffering.

“I was just trying to focus on me at the time and my daughter,” she said. “I wanted to have fun. That definitely put us a few months back from doing the work (to heal the marriage). At the time, I didn’t even want to dive into it because I knew it would be painful, hard work – and it has been ever since.”

The reason why she remained with Caussin after learning of his infidelities was their daughter.

“She was 4 months old at the time,” said Kramer. “I didn’t want his mistakes to dictate my future and the future of my daughter. Definitely that was the beginning factor. That, and he was willing do his work and change and grow.”

After being separated for about 7 months, they reconciled. In December 2017, they renewed their vows.

“We renewed our vows, which – hopefully – we’ll renew again since there’s better times now,” said Kramer. “It’ll be nice to renew them now.”

In April 2018, they went public about his struggles with sex addiction. On Nov. 29, 2018, Kramer gave birth to their son, Jace.

Both attended couples therapy – and still do, something they will never stop doing, Kramer said. They also attend individual therapy.

“I had to do my own work,” she said. “I had to go to therapy, where I learned to cope and deal with the traumas and triggers… learned how to communicate better, learned how to react – all the things therapists can help me with.”

For their marriage to work, both of them have to be on the same wavelength, which they are, she said.

“Mike didn’t want to lose his family,” Kramer said. “He had a few slips along the way. Overall, he didn’t want to lose his family and everything he wanted, too. He had to become a better version of himself, which he’s working on daily.”

She spoke candidly about learning to trust Caussin again, which is a daily process. Admittedly, some days are better than others.

“It’s hard, but if your partner’s being good and showing building blocks, then over time it can get better and trust can be restored,” said Kramer. “Today, I trust him. Tomorrow, I’m not sure. It’s a day-to-day thing.”

One technique Kramer emphasizes is fighting for her marriage, not against it, which has helped them both tremendously.

“You don’t treat each other like the enemy. You listen, you communicate better, you don’t react in a certain way, you don’t push certain buttons that you know will affect your partner,” she said. “We all have our right to stay and our right to leave and our right to an opinion. For me, I knew what I wanted for me and for my daughter. Now if things happen again, I’m out. There’s only so much I think a person can take. I can walk away with my head held really high. The people who doubt me, it’s not their life to live – it’s mine. And I’m happy with the choices I’ve made.”

'The Good Fight: Wanting to Leave, Choosing to Stay, and the Powerful Practice for Loving Faithfully'

by Jana Kramer and Michael Caussin

HarperOne, $26.99