When “I Do” became “I don’t”: A Florida love story in 11 podcasts

A couple who met at USF launched a podcast that promised to make sense of love — then, after eight years of episodes, split.
Chase Kosterlitz and Sarah Byrne, the hosts of the "I Do" podcast, with their daughter Stella.
Chase Kosterlitz and Sarah Byrne, the hosts of the "I Do" podcast, with their daughter Stella. [ Chase Kosterlitz and Sarah Byrne ]
Published April 19, 2022|Updated May 9, 2022

It sounded like an inspired idea. And for a few years, maybe it was.

They were in their 20s, newly engaged, eager to make their marriage wonderful, to make it last.

“We should make a podcast,” Sarah Byrne told her fiance, Chase Kosterlitz, in 2014.

They would interview experts — therapists, counselors, psychologists. As hosts, they could ask anything, learn to nurture their own relationship while helping strangers navigate theirs.

“Let’s do this for us,” Sarah said.

They had met five years earlier at a bar as students at USF-St. Petersburg. Sarah had studied marketing; Chase anthropology. Together, they figured out how to produce a show.

They called it I Do.

Every week, they uploaded a new episode — sometimes two. For 30 minutes at a time, they explored things they thought might bring them closer. “Signs you’ve found the right partner.” “How to keep the spark alive.” “Why married sex is better sex.”

They formed a Facebook group, “Love Tribe,” started an online course, “Spark My Relationship,” hosted a couples’ retreat in Oregon that featured romantic hikes, intimacy workshops, whitewater rafting and “relationship-strengthening exercises.”

Chase taught paddleboarding. Sarah secured sponsors. Soon, more than 350,000 people were listening, and the show started paying their bills.

They became, their website boasted, “The #1 marriage & dating advice podcast on iTunes.”

Then, after a few years, hopeful topics turned dimmer. “How to save your relationship.” “Avoiding fatigue in a long-term relationship.” “When love is not enough.”

Last fall, after 13 years together, and after putting themselves on stage for eight, they aired Episode 317.

“So we have some important news to share with you,” Chase began. “Sarah and I are getting a divorce.”

· · ·

Sarah and Chase don’t talk about themselves much in the episodes.

But if you listen in order, sift through all the advice, you might see signs of shifts in their relationship.

Making the podcast was supposed to help their marriage.

Sarah said, “Maybe it hurt.”

The homepage for the "I Do" podcast as seen on April 18, 2022.
The homepage for the "I Do" podcast as seen on April 18, 2022. [ ]

EPISODE 1: The importance of loving yourself to improve your relationship

March 14, 2014 — Seven months before their wedding

They were recording from their home, then in San Diego, still struggling to figure out audio equipment, planning their October vows.

“Is there any advice you’d give an engaged couple?” Sarah asked their first guest. She sounded eager, excited.

“Make sure you’re not making your partner responsible for your happiness,” said author and relationship expert Dr. Margaret Paul. “Learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings, your own needs, your own happiness.”

“That’s great advice!” Chase chimed in. “We’re going to start doing it today.”

EPISODE 9: Secrets to a happy, long-term relationship

April 1, 2014 — Six months before their wedding

Chase and Sarah started getting more comfortable with interviewing, taking turns asking questions. Sarah booked most of the guests. Chase interjected more often.

There are five ingredients relationships need, said Dr. Pepper Schwartz, an expert on the topic: respect, apologies, affection, gratitude — and novelty.

“New restaurant, new place to walk, a new adventure together,” she said. “People get bored pretty quickly.”

“Well, we’ve been together five years,” Chase said.

Then he wanted to talk about sex: “What’s the biggest issue for young couples?”

“Generally a lack of desire. One person wants more sex than the other,” the expert said. “They’re feeling resentful, and the other person feels resentful because they don’t want to be pushed.”

Sarah waited a second, then said, “I know every couple is different. But is there a normal?” She giggled. “I mean, is there a recommended amount for a healthy relationship?”

Depends, the expert said. “Two or three times a week is not unknown for young couples.”

“What is some advice for couples where one is wanting it more?” Sarah asked.

“Put it in a positive light,” the expert said. “‘I desire you so much.’”

It takes honest communication, she said, and often compromise.

“I love it!” Chase said.

“Not bringing up the hard stuff is not going to help,” said Schwartz.

Chase laughed confidently. “Well, Sarah hasn’t told me I’m a bad kisser yet, so…”

EPISODE 12: How to divorce-proof your relationship

April 10, 2014 — Six months before their wedding

Every 13 seconds, a couple in the U.S. gets divorced — that’s 4,600 every day, psychotherapist Dr. Deborah Hecke told Chase and Sarah.

Infidelity, lack of communication and money play major roles. But, the expert said, the biggest reason is that people look to their partners rather than themselves to make them feel whole.

“I. You. We. All three must be nourished simultaneously.”

Sarah and Chase had never been to counseling, alone or together. “Do you recommend couples receive therapy?” asked Sarah.

“Yes,” the expert said, if there are issues that won’t go away. “Check in with each other, intentionally: How are we doing? … Be painfully honest and really listen.”

EPISODE 35: How to save your marriage

June 19, 2014 — Four months before their wedding

This episode could have been called: Beware of children.

“Sometimes couples really lose sight of each other once there’s a baby,” said divorce attorney Morghan Leia Richardson, who also is a divorced mom.

Sarah and Chase were busy planning their wedding, setting up a GoFundMe for their dream honeymoon. They had no plans to get pregnant. Yet.

But they had questions. “Is it usually couples with babies that have these issues with the sex cycle? Or couples more with toddlers?”

“It’s a mix,” said the lawyer. “I have a lot of clients with toddlers and preschoolers because by then they’ve fallen into that cycle, and one of the partners is really unhappy because their relationship has turned into something about the child — not what they had.”

Before you get married, Richardson told the couple, talk about babies and budgets. And for couples getting divorced, she advised, put the kids first. “Shield them.”

Chase paused, then got uncharacteristically personal. “That’s hugely important,” he said, “coming from a family that divorced when I was 13.”

EPISODE 53: We’re back!

October 7, 2016 — Two years after their wedding

Maybe they got distracted on their long honeymoon. Maybe the baby took up too much time. Maybe they were so happy that, after 52 episodes, they thought they had gleaned all the advice they needed.

The last podcast before their wedding was: “How to put the fun back in dating.”

For the next two years, they didn’t record anything.

When they finally did, for their first podcast as husband and wife, they didn’t invite an expert. This time, it was about them.

“The wedding was kind of a cliche: ‘It’s the best night of your life,’” Chase said.

“But it was!” said Sarah, sounding hurt. “Besides the day our daughter was born.”

“Well, I hope to have better nights,” Chase countered.

They honeymooned in South Africa, drove 3,000 miles across the country. The day they got back to St. Pete, she learned she was pregnant. They moved into a two-bedroom house.

“The podcast got pushed to the side,” Sarah said. “But I kept checking stats. We had 35,000 downloads the last month alone. I think that’s good?”

“The more people we’re reaching, the more impact we’re having,” Chase said. “We need to get it going again for ourselves. Our relationship is strong. But we could improve. We can always do better. We’re committed to at least one or two episodes a week. Maybe if we can get a nanny…”

Sarah cut in, surprised. “Oh, no!”

Stella was 14 months old but had seldom been left with a sitter.

“We’ll also have episodes on parenting,” Chase said. “You have a kid, it’s going to affect your relationship. It’s going to make it stronger. And it’s going to put stress on it. Everything has changed.”

EPISODE 61: How to save your relationship

November 15, 2016 — More than two years after their wedding

The podcast’s title seemed to offer hope. But Chase shifted the question.

“Today we focus on how to know if your relationship is worth saving,” he said.

He addressed their guest, psychologist Julia Colwell. “What is the number one indicator that a relationship is not healthy, is not fixable?”

The expert paused. “It’s usually when one person comes in and they’re just done, out of gas. I ask people two things: Are you still learning something? And: Do you think there’s any movement happening instead of spinning our wheels?”

When Sarah didn’t reply, Chase jumped in.

“So they say opposites attract,” he said. “I like to deal with conflict, have the thing resolved. Sarah likes to wait a bit on it. So we have to figure out a way to find a compromise. I’m like, let’s talk about it.”

“I’m like, give it a break,” Sarah said.

Give each other 15 minutes to cool off, Colwell recommended. Try meditation, take a walk, put on music, dance to disengage your mind. “Have a squirt gun fight,” the expert said. “It’s impossible to stay mad.”

Sarah remained silent. Chase changed the subject, wanting more. “We’re happy. We’re going along. But why not try to be happier?” he asked. “I’m always trying to improve, raise the bar of our relationship. It’s easy to get complacent, not rock the boat. But it’s like a thousand little pin pricks. Over time, you’re going to bleed out because you’re not being true to yourself.”

They had been married two years.

“Enjoy the newlywedness as much as you can,” advised the expert. “Have as much great sex ... Of course, you have a baby now …”

Chase forced a laugh and said simply, “Yeah.”

EPISODE 152: Create a thriving marriage

June 20, 2018 — Almost four years after their wedding

Think of marriage in phases, counselor Dale Sadler told them. The worst among them is divorce.

Above that is the “conflictual” phase, he said. “Your spouse is the enemy. You don’t feel loved.”

Chase interjected. “What steps can people take to break this pattern?”

Counseling, said Sadler. “You must be motivated to want to work on the relationship.”

“What happens if you have a partner who is resistant to change?” asked Sarah.

“You have to communicate your needs,” said the expert. “You deserve to get something out of your marriage.”

The “detached” phase describes a couple living as roommates.

“That’s an interesting phase because it’s not characterized by shouting or direct conflict,” Chase said. “There’s almost an absence of communication. It’s easy in a long-term, committed relationship to go on auto-pilot. People change. It’s as simple as how you like your chicken cooked.”

“All the way,” Sarah chimed in.

“All the way?” Chase repeated snidely.

She seemed to be talking about chicken, but he clearly took umbrage.

In the “working” phase, the expert said, you’re business partners — especially when you have children. “You’ve got to make the marriage a priority,” the expert said. “Even if it’s only on the weekend.” The top phase he calls “thriving.” You love the other person and do things for them. Give each other space. Have long hugs.

And if you’re not there, he said, “Act like you love your spouse — even if you don’t feel that way. Express love, and the feeling will follow.”

Silence hung for a second. Then Chase took the microphone. “So don’t sit and wait,” he said, stating rather than asking. “Start acting and you’ll start to see the change you want to see.”

EPISODE 244: Love is not enough

April 1, 2020 — Five years after their wedding

They had moved to Costa Rica. Their daughter Stella was 4. Their website offered a new five-day couples appreciation challenge — and several new sponsors.

“What’s going on, guys?” Chase said, sounding upbeat.

“Hey, Love Tribe!” Sarah said brightly. “Thanks for joining us today!”

They introduced Mark Manson, a bestselling author who writes about hope, love and relationships. “Life is very messy. And complicated,” he said. “Even for people who really love each other, it can be destructive. Maybe you need a little more than just loving someone to make it work.”

He didn’t know that Chase and Sarah had been seeing counselors — together and alone. He had no idea that Chase had recently told Sarah he wanted to split up. Or that after recording 244 episodes of relationship advice, their marriage was beginning to end.

They didn’t let on to their listeners.

The author asked how long they’d been together. Sarah answered quickly, “11 years, yeah.” Then she addressed her husband. “And I don’t know if I’d climb Machu Picchu again for you.”

“For me?” Chase snipped.

“I was trying to impress you, so …” said Sarah.

The expert stayed quiet.

“When we first get together with someone, we’re bringing our best selves,” Chase said. “And as we get comfortable with someone, it slowly slips away.”

EPISODE 317: How to have a peaceful divorce or separation

September 8, 2021 — 1.5 years after they separate

They didn’t update their website. More than a year after they moved into separate houses, it still said, “We are in love. We’ve also been together 11+ years.”

They weren’t sure how to tell their audience, or how listeners would react. I Do was their livelihood.

But recording podcasts about relationships had become awkward when they had to steer around the looming divorce.

Chase announced the news. Then Sarah spoke. “You guys might be totally in shock,” she said. “So we hope you all stick around to just hear us out and let us share what we’re going through.”

She said they’re still friends, co-parenting their daughter, planning on recording another podcast each week. “Chase will continue as the primary host while I work more on the production side,” Sarah said.

She didn’t say that Chase’s new girlfriend didn’t like him working with his soon-to-be ex-wife, so silencing Sarah had been the compromise.

They didn’t really explain to their audience what happened, or why.

“We’re still committed to learning about relationships,” Chase said. “We’re still committed to applying that advice to ourselves and our future relationships.”

Their guest, psychotherapist Lissy Abrahams, said struggling couples need to continue to respect each other.

Chase’s question took a turn. “What would you do with someone who’s threatening you: ‘If you do this, I’m going to take the kids or house?’”

“We have to be careful not to trigger fight or flight,” said the counselor. “If we treat each other with respect, it’s harder to trigger those reactions.”

An ad popped in for CBD-based aphrodisiacs. Sarah lauded the arousal it awoke in her. “You’ll thank me later,” she said.

After the ads, Sarah asked, “What happens when maybe one parent is not taking as good care of themselves, and the other parent has to step in to help that person and also make the best decision for the child?”

If the counselor knew she was walking on eggshells, she didn’t show it. “We can’t change someone else,” she said. “There’s a limit to how much control or influence we can have on someone post-separation.”

“But there are so many details,” Chase said. “Stella just turned 6 and she needs to get to school and we have to be on the same page about what she’s supposed to be reading at home, her diet…”

“Well, I guess the first question is: Were you on the same page living in the same house?” asked the counselor.

Chase said, “Right.” Sarah didn’t say anything.

EPISODE 333: How to stay in love

December 29, 2021 — One week after Chase filed for divorce

Their parenting plan requires them to live within 15 miles of each other. Their houses, now, are a half-mile apart. Sarah has Stella 65 percent of the time.

Sarah gets to keep her wedding ring and all the podcast revenue through this year. She budgeted $150 a month for counseling.

Chase didn’t stipulate costs for further therapy. But he asked for $189.11 each month for child support. And he’s the sole host of the show.

The first episode after they filed for divorce: How to stay in love.

Chase introduced Dr. Helen Fisher, who advocates a “biological approach to improving relationships.”

“Sex is good for you,” Chase started. “So sometimes, instead of hashing out the argument about who’s taking out the trash for the 10th time, maybe you guys just need to have a good date night and have sex.” The doctor laughed. “Sometimes when we’re at an impasse,” she said, “we should just go hiking.”

And sometimes, she said, relationships hinge on the ability to overlook what you don’t like.

EPISODE 339: Surviving your breakup

February 16, 2022 — Two months after Chase filed for divorce

Chase talked more now, shared more about himself.

This episode was almost an hour long, twice the usual length.

“I really enjoyed this conversation as someone who has recently dealt with a couple of big life transitions,” Chase said. “I actually still love Sarah very much, but there’s a lot of grieving to do. You can’t love deeply without having your heart broken.”

The expert, psychologist Suzanne Lachmann, said breakups are like deaths, triggering similar stages of grief — then, finally, the start of acceptance.

“That’s the beginning of getting to feel more hopeful, which I know you’re looking forward to,” the psychologist said. “You have to be patient with yourself.”

Chase spoke slowly, almost apologetically. “It’s important for me,” he said. “I am human, feeling those same things. And even though we’ve done close to 400 episodes on relationships, I’m still trying to get advice.”

· · ·

So what really happened?

Just before Valentine’s Day, during a Zoom interview from Costa Rica, Chase and Sarah sat side-by-side on a sunny patio, fielding questions instead of asking them.

“We started dating when we were 21, and over 12 years our relationship evolved,” Sarah said. “We grew and changed a lot. We wanted something different out of our partners.”

“We were young,” Chase said. “You think you want to be an astronaut, then that’s no longer what you want to do. We changed and realized…”

Sarah cut him off. “Our love for each other was less romantic.”

“More of a friendship,” Chase said.

“We both craved wanting that passion and desire for our partner that was lacking,” said Sarah.

Maybe they spent too much time together: marriage, business, baby.

Maybe they didn’t spend enough time as a couple alone.

Did they, after so many episodes, have advice to give?

Sarah paused, then nodded. Put your marriage first, she said. “Once we had our daughter, we didn’t make time for our own relationship. Every adventure we had was with Stella. We didn’t take a vacation without her.”

After all these years, diving back into the dating scene is hard, Sarah said.

Chase jumped in, as if on cue.

“If there are any great guys out there, really, Sarah is a great catch.”

Editor’s note

We listened to 15 episodes of the I Do podcast, recorded over the last eight years, then selected excerpts from 11 to trace the arc of the couple’s marriage. The transcriptions are heavily edited. All quotes come directly from broadcasts. We interviewed the couple and reviewed their divorce filings in Pinellas County court.