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Jon and Kate: Descent into Divorce

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A relationship expert's advice to Jon and Kate: practice what you promised at your recommitment ceremony.

Dr. Michelle Golland: I have worked with enough couples and heard enough stories to know when I am witnessing the downward spiral of negativity and criticism, and the descent into divorce. I am sad to say that too many couples find themselves in this situation. Unfortunately, this is what I have seen with Jon and Kate.

With all the hoopla and commentary surrounding Jon and Kate's life, I decided to immerse myself in their marriage -- or at least, in what we see of it on TV. I went into the archives to hear them answer questions about their thoughts on marriage, how they met, etc.... I listened to the wedding vows they each wrote for wedding number one, and I watched the recently televised Hawaiian renewal of their vows.

What I would say to Jon and Kate starts with the two things I tell all couples who come to see me:

jon and kat gosselin renewing vows

1) I am going to fight harder for your marriage than you are, because you have lost perspective and are living in an unconscious marriage.

2) I will tell you what I think and you may not like it very much. There will be times when each of you don't like me, or don't like what I am saying to you.

What I try to do with my clients is help them live in a Mindful Marriage. This is a marriage where you fully understand each other's history -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and you are each working for the betterment of the other. This is not easy, and it can take a lot of work to achieve this level of connection and understanding, but it is well worth it for you as an individual, a couple, and as a family.

I would like to truly try to help Jon and Kate by understanding how their marriage has run off the road and into the swamp of disappointment, resentment, and anger. I have read all the stories about Kate's criticism and controlling manner (and of course, her famous hair), but I see Kate as a victim of her own unconscious drives that have overrun her, her husband, and her family. I have also read the opinions of those who think Jon needs to "man up."

Jon and Kate married at the age of 22 and 24, respectively. They both have seemed to focus on this age difference as significant, although in reality it is not that large at all. So begins the setup for Kate to claim that she is the responsible one in the relationship, while Jon gets to play the part of the fun jokester. She is the parent, while he stays the child.

In Jon's original wedding vows, he thanks Kate for "accepting" him for who he is and believing in him. He promises to be her "provider." Kate talks about his free spirit and the joy that gives her. As any of you who watch the show know, Kate rarely likes his free spirit, doesn't accept him for who he is, and probably doesn't believe in him much anymore.

This is a sad reality, but what I think most impacts their marriage are Jon's unfulfilled dreams. He himself shares that he really never had the chance to find a career path, thus he hasn't fulfilled his "provider" role that was so important to him. He has become Kate's reluctant sidekick, while she has found her passion and her career as a celebrity, author, and mentor for other mothers. By allowing Kate's career to take over the family, Jon has lost the space to develop a separate sense of himself as a man, father, or husband. He is only defined by those around him.

In the renewal of their vows, Kate said, "I promise to love you more, speak more gently, and be more respectful and sensitive to your needs." Excellent, Kate -- but now comes the hard part: actually doing what we say. In the promo for the first show of the fifth season, I could see the depression oozing from Jon and the fear Kate has of losing the show and her lucrative and fulfilling career.

She thinks it's great that Jon can stay home with the kids and get paid for it. He does not, and when he tried to share his feelings about it, Kate cut him off and "told" him what he feels. Being sensitive to her husband's needs would instead entail seeing how this show and her own difficulty in allowing Jon to be himself is going to help usher in the end of their marriage.

Jon is not innocent in all this. He has been quietly and passive-aggressively colluding with this setup, because for a while, it worked. It allowed him to avoid looking at himself and his lack of career or accomplishments. It helped him numb out to his feelings of failure, but as we have witnessed, his coping skills are now ineffective and it is the dawn of a new day.

my advice to jon

So here is my advice. Jon: stop rolling your eyes and stop backing down to Kate. This is not the time to have an adolescent rebellion, but to have a real shift into who you are and who you want to be in this life. Provide for your family; get to know yourself and your passions. Stand up and be the man you know you can be.

Kate: realize your controlling coping skills were very helpful and necessary as a mother dealing with eight infants and very little help. Your life has changed, however. The landscape has evolved, and your ways of coping are now damaging those around you. You have found your passion. Go forward with it, but free Jon to become who he needs and wants to be.

As a relationship expert, I believe we come together as couples to heal, challenge, and understand our past, create our best future, and become our most fulfilled selves. I truly believe -- whether there has been infidelity or not -- that Jon and Kate have the opportunity to make their marriage work. They need professional help and time to heal the wounds of the past and create the mindful marriage I hope they both desire. I wish them courage, self-reflection, and hope during this very public challenging time.

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60 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kim May 26, 2009, 9:05 PM

Finally, someone that gets it! I totally agree with the good doctor.

Anonymous May 26, 2009, 9:50 PM

I loved what you wrote here. This is so hard to watch, and thank you for working with other couples as they go through this. It’s so sad. So much is at stake, and I feel like it’s so fixable.

Here’s something I wrote about it as well, it’s moved me much more than I thought it would:

I wish them well!!

VickiJ May 26, 2009, 10:08 PM

Well said. However I do believe the producers have to take the majority of the ownership for this situation. Jon and Kate have enough to deal with just raising their family - the producers and crew were witness to all that was happening and how it escalated. They show no compassion in editing the shows to suit their purposes - of course the family need money - you can see from their early story it was going to be such a struggle financially on top of the struggle to just get through every day. Having people pay you to do what you have to do anyway was an easy yes for them but with no time, not much sleep and no awareness of what was evolving the production team should have intervened. Now they are in a no win situation - someone neutral needs to step in who has no financial interest. I feel so sorry for them them.

Anonymous May 26, 2009, 10:22 PM

I think you nailed it! I hope so much that these two decide to work on their marriage before they decide to quit.

MomC May 27, 2009, 6:57 AM

My husband and I went through some difficulty. Our marriage counselor said things very similar to this. I actually think it is very true in J&K’s circumstance too (from what we see).
I totally disagree with VickiJ. The producers of the show offered an incredible opportunity to the Gosselin family. It is how we take advantage of our chances that defines who we are. How we handle the good and bad defines our character and can not be blamed on outside forces.

Cheryl May 27, 2009, 7:50 AM

Well, they were BROKE and needed this show to survive. I heard they get $75,000 per episode. I would not want 8 kids so they can have it! I watched the show and it nearly made me cry. I feel sorry for John even though I do like Kate. I am a lot like her~not the hair!

Dave May 27, 2009, 8:07 AM

Unfortunately, this post may earn me the title of most insensitive man ever but here goes.

One: this type of behaviour does not appear overnight, it has always been there. So, why now, after all these years does this happen? Wouldn’t the pseudo-“paparazzi” that follows them around, after the cameras stop rolling on the TV show’s production, have picked up on something long, long ago?

Two: Imagine this, the new season is just around the corner and it is time to generate some buzz. This happens all the time on Television, Music, & Motion Pictures. If we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture of their lives and not that 1 hour a week that somehow “gives” many viewers the perception that they know who the stars of a TV reality show really are, then they will see that things are NOT how they appear on Television. Please think of one word when you think of all this mess: RATINGS

Remember, a motion picture not so long ago that had the whole world talking and even “threatened” to rock a religion to its core because of the buzz being generated. In the end, that movie was a work of FICTION. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that all of this may be staged for your viewing entertainment.

As for the poll here, I think the good people here forgot to include an answer: It’s all a publicity stunt, Jon & Kate are doing alright.

ashley May 27, 2009, 8:18 AM

Dave, you are probably right!!

Melissa Multitasking Mama May 27, 2009, 8:31 AM

Now the doctor needs to offer her services to Jon and Kate and they need to take her up on it- this is definitely a marriage worth fighting for!

Erin May 27, 2009, 8:42 AM

First of all, I have to say that placing blame of their marriage failing on producers, crew, anyone besides the two people responsible for the marriage is part of the problem with our society and probably part of the reason our divorce rate is so high. Taking ownership of their actions and the state of their marriage is the first step.

There is always going to be someone looking to exploit someone when there’s money to be had, but we as individuals are responsible to protect our marriage and our children. Exploiting your marriage and children on television to make a few bucks isn’t protective.

While I agree that it was a good way to make some $$ to raise 8 kids, many people would say that if you can’t afford to raise kids without making millions of dollars, it might be a good idea to rethink it. Of course that horse is already out of the barn for John and Kate, but I would hope that their show and the way that their average problems have played out publicly will serve as a cautionary tale for others.

What I think is ridiculous is how this minor marital issue is front page news on People Magazine. Do you have any idea how many friends I have that have problems in their marriage or have gotten divorced? John and Kate are not unique and there’s nothing that complex about their situation. I feel that if they were truly interested in saving their marriage, it’s time to pull the plug. Yeah, they probably stand to lose millions, but like all of us, the time comes where you have to make hard choices. Most men in John’s situation would be out working two jobs, so it CAN be done without the show’s income. We’ll see how serious they are about saving their marriage and keeping the family intact.

Stephanie May 27, 2009, 8:43 AM

I think it is sad for the whole family. Yes, they are both to blame, and they both need to work on their attitudes towards each other. They have 8 children and that needs to be the priority over their childish issues. I think it said a lot about Jon when he pulled up to their birthday party in a 2 seat sports car, don’t you? But Kate also needs to stop playing the martyr. Regardless of anything, I am sure Jon had some say as to whether or not to enter into this show, and also whether or not to quit his job. I don’t fault them for wanting to do the show like so many people do. They did what they had to in order to give their kids a good life. Now those kids will all be able to participate in the activities they want to, be able to stay healthy, and go to college. Who cares if Kate looks different than she did in the beginning. She was able to lose weight, get in shape and feel confident and comfortable in her own skin after having 8 children. I think that is great.
Bottom line, they chose this life, they have to deal with all it brings, good and bad. Nobody said it would be easy.

And to the people that are out there telling stories about them, (Kate’s family, the brother of the teacher) do you people not think about these kids? This all goes out into the internet world for them to be able to read one day, and whether it is true or not, they shouldn’t have to read these disgusting stories. Is it worth what ever you are getting to hurt these innocent kids?

CK1 May 27, 2009, 8:51 AM

The doctor is so right! Jon is passive and Kate has to be in control. Kate treats Jon like he has no feelings and is one of her children. He is not allowed to wear the pants in the family and be a role model to his children. She wears the pants and what Kate says GOES! Unfortunetly, she has driven Jon away by disrespecting him and not allowing him to be a man. To be THE MAN of the house. She has degraded him and now she will have to live with the consequences. On the show, Jon said he DID NOT cheat on her but I am sure going to hang out with people who are a bit more accepting of him was a relief. He needed to feel like a man again and not the child that Kate portrays him to be. This is a classic problem in a marriage. Seen it many times…Ladies let your husband’s make decisions for your family. Let him take care of the family. If he is lazy and won’t then get marriage counseling but DON’T degrade him as a man. The one thing Kate has never gotten is that she married a MAN not a child. She has spent way too much time trying to change him rather than accept him. There in lies the problem. And now she is angry at him. Ironic isn’t it?

Tamika Washington May 27, 2009, 9:01 AM

You know, I kind of agree with Dave on this one. This whole thing may just be a publicity stunt. Monday night’s show received over 10 million viewers, its highest ratings ever! However, I remember when the show first started and just seeing how Kate often times belittled him on camera I was thinking to myself that one day that poor guy is going to get fed up.
The show was always featured on Talk Soup with the host Joel always saying that if that woman kept it up then one day “Jon and & Kate Plus Eight” would turn into a new show called “Jon Minus Nine”.

sherri May 27, 2009, 9:15 AM

i don’t believe its any ONE person to blame for this mess with Jon and Kate and i do agree if they could only see threw the smoke and media bull ….. they can be stronger from all of this,get back together Jon and Kate plus EIGHT.

Anonymous May 27, 2009, 9:18 AM

Amen Doc, I look at Jon and even though I’m no where close to being a therapist I see someone in the depths of depression! I know that in todays world divorce doesn’t have the stigma that it used to but don’t fool yourself it can have a devastating effect on children and their future relationships. Kate, before this mess occurred seemed to be so angry. I hope they both put their childrens needs above any financial gains that this show has given them. You both need to remember what made you fall in love with each other in the first place. I think that reality celebrity narcissism has risen it’s ugly head! They both need to acknowledge fault and truly forgive each others shortcomings and committ to their family. Couples therapy and individual therapy would hopefully uncover whatever kaos was and is in their past and present and learn to cope and thrive as a family and couple.

Carolyn May 27, 2009, 9:34 AM

This was really great! I hope Jon and Kate read this as well. I don’t really blame either one specifically for what has happened. I think it was a combination of things that the Dr., has pointed out here, that has led to this unfortunate event. Another unfortunate thing is that since the whole “Octomom” situation is out of control still, Jon and Kate will become more paparazzi prey in order to sensationallize a trouble marriage that involves multiples. Hopefully, we all can take a higher road and back off from them and let them deal with this with their children without prying eyes, ears, and cameras.

MomC May 27, 2009, 9:36 AM

Dave - I do not find your comments insensitive at all. Your thoughts were exactly mine, until I tuned in to the premiere. After watching the premiere though, I no longer think it is a publicity stunt. Merely because Jon and Kate do not seem to be great actors, and there seemed to be genuine anger, loathing and distrust on that set.
Secondly - I wish people would stop bringing up a sports car as “proof” that Jon checked out. They make a lot of money now. They have the van/bus. Probably a second car or SUV too. Why does having a sports car make Jon guilty of something? We have a car that doesn’t really fit a car seat. I am pretty sure it is not an indication of how we feel about our kids.
Which brings me to my third point. Surely, they have made enough money now for the kids education and basics. However, quitting the show would seem to make a drastic difference in the Gosselin’s lifestyle of extras. I imagine trips, new clothing and the like would probably become a thing of the past. Is the family ready for this? These kids have been on camera and receiving “perks” since birth. I imagine Jon and Kate consider this every time they think about ending the show. The perks do not just end for the parents. They end for the kids too. Not sure that that would be easy to take away from your kids. No matter how much better off they may be, as a family, in the long run. Think of every time you have to say “no” to your kids because you can’t afford it. Now mutilpy by eight for about 12 years. Not saying it is right, but would be hard to djust to “normal” after being very fortunate for so long.

Leeza May 27, 2009, 10:01 AM

Originally ,when TLC had a vision and plan for “Jon and Kate Plus 8”, they definitely weren’t imagining what would happen with Kate being given all the power and authority, and Jon losing the little bit he originally had in his marriage.Kate thinks she’s entitled to making ALL Jon’s decisions, including Jon not having a career (staying at home being “house husband” is Kate’s directive not Jon’s choice).Imagine if Jon had a job to go to for 8-10 hours a day!He would regain his self esteem and his position as husband,Father and Man (not 9th child)He would feel so validated.Now, he wakes up in the morning with a “to do” list sitting on the kitchen table written by the BOSS!While she’s already gone for the weekend book signing appearances.Kate writes, P.S.-Just make sure you are home for taping the show next Monday.TLC hopefully now realizes that they unknowingly created the monster (KATE).TLC needs to unplug the “power source”(KATE), before everything really explodes!The dynamics on the show of Jon and Kate are deeply troubling and severely dysfunctional for viewers of any age to observe! Viewers need and deserve “healthy and highly functioning”loving relationships in families to view.I don’t even watch the show anymore,I watch shows that make me feel GOOD!

Suesbooks May 27, 2009, 10:08 AM

This is an excellent analysis by Dr. Golland, very believable and very well written.
However, as some have mentioned, it is good for ratings. Everyone is talking about it and now more people are watching. Taking this to a different level, couldn’t they do a storyline where he is out there looking for a job? The grass is not always greener on the other side. It would show how difficult it is to find a job when you don’t have experience or a job history. Maybe he could go back to school. The show can still go on. They have enough nannies and help. Jon doesn’t need to stay home if he really wants to go out there and make a career for himself. Jon, decide what you want to do and go for it.

Rikki May 27, 2009, 10:24 AM

I have loved Jon and Kate from the beginning. And despite all the hoopla surrounding their marriage, I still do. DR MICHELLE-I think you hit the nail on the head with everything you said. And thank you for not attacking either one of them, like so many people tend to do. As I watched the premiere, I felt so saddened because I so vividly remember their vow renewal show (it made me cry) and it seemed like a whole different world. I think they both need to step back and look at their relationship from the outside. They would both realize their part of what has happened to their marriage.
I think they should call you for counseling! Great post!

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