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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
Anonymous May 27, 2009, 11:03 AM

I definately agree with the doc. I want them to be able to move on. I can see the heart break in Kates eyes and I hear it in her voice. She needs someone who really loves her to be honest with her and to help her with her personal issues. Sometimes people in the lime light have yes men and women all around them just to get what they want. If someone would just step like Britney Spears’ family did. She may see some change and be a little more easy. I love this show, i love to see thriving, loving, happy family’s. I have learned so much from Kate. Please kate open your heart. So many moms need you. May 27, 2009, 11:11 AM

Thank you for these words. This is why I don’t watch shows like this Jon and Kate. What we are seeing is what was predictable. I’m glad I haven’t wasted a second of my time on it. Well until reading your wise post!
I love the Mindful Marriage concept. That’s the best way to describe a good marriage relationship. THANK YOU!

Rene  May 27, 2009, 11:35 AM

I agree with the Dr. Now if Kate will stop and listen if for nothing else but the children. they are the ones that will be able to read about this for years to come and the older girls are acting just like her with their attitudes and no one seems to try to stop this. Kate needs to stop and look at the film she has alot of issues, like the projects, the way she doesnt want anyone to be seen on the screen but her even the kids are starting to have less air time than Kate and her complaining about the kids and hurtful remarks to your husband is just terrible, give him a break. Jon stand up and tell her she has 5 minutes to get the kids in bed. That made even me mad when she said that a million times on one show. and I am alone the other million times is a Pity party. Want to know the feeling of being alone? try being a single mom with a dead beat dad and getting laid off, having to go to the food bank to feed you children, hoping they dont get sick or hurt before you can find another job to get them on insurance.Matching outfits are not the most important thing in the world.

belinda May 27, 2009, 12:02 PM

its sad to see this split up. i have watched jon and kate plus 8 since they first started and i always thought that they were a cute couple. kate a strong fine woman. but the way she treated john was so humiliating sometimes. i thought she treated him like a kid and when she would tap his face during interviews was stupid. kate you are a strong person i know this will be hard for a while but you will be ok. john i suggest you be a man and act like one. you are a father of 8. i know you were not in it just for the money. i’d like to see where you both go from now, so i will keep watching….thanks belinda single

mother of 5

Anonymous May 27, 2009, 12:44 PM

I agree completely with Dr. Golland. She hit the nail right on the head. I will also state that long before the show existed and the babies started coming, even the twins, that Kates’ behavior is the more dominant one with Jon playing the passive-agressive role, which he may of very possibly grown up playing all his life around his female family influences. I will also state that if Kate is a true Christian as she preaches to be, she would know that as the “helper” of their marriage relationship, the wife needs to show and give her husband the respect and honor that he should have as the leader of their home. I do believe they can save their marriage, but they BOTH have to want to first and practice what they preach as the good doctor states in her article. Only time will tell, and unfortunately, it’s always the children who get caught in the middle. With their problems and possible split being aired on TV, it’s not long before all the kids’ friends and their families start asking them questions about it or making comments. I would suggest that they come to an agreement to take a break from the show to work on their relationship in private, which I would view as the priority.

trina May 27, 2009, 1:03 PM

excellent and well-balanced article. bypasses the typical platitudes like ‘they need to communicate more’ and focuses on *how* they should communicate. i do wish, though, there’d have been a choice in the poll regarding who’s to blame for the problems in the marriage when it’s clear from the analysis in the article that both jon and kate have contributed to the tension in their family.

rukidding May 27, 2009, 1:18 PM

who is buying a book written by this woman and what could she possibly contibute that is so interesting to actually sit down and read? The fact that she has 8 kids doesn’t make her a &^%$’n genius and now a cookbook coming out????what is wrong with the american public. What a waste of time : (

Kristin May 27, 2009, 1:43 PM

Dr. Golland’s observations and advice for Jon and Kate are fantastic. It has me wondering — does anyone know if Jon and Kate have considered seeking marriage counseling? Also, is there any way to see if Dr. Golland’s heartfelt and brilliant advice could be sent directly to Jon and Kate in hopes that they might really read it and give it some serious thought? I really hope and pray that their marriage can be saved. What a beautiful family. All families have troubles…it’s never too late. It’s time to stop hurting these nice people with all the mean gossip and start trying to help in any way possible.

Jo May 27, 2009, 1:55 PM

I love the show. I hope that Jon and Kate can work things out. Maybe Kate should stay home a little more and Jon go out and get a job. They are making great money with the show. They have a nice house and 8 great kids. But Kate also gave up her career as a nurse. I hope things work out.

TXMOM May 27, 2009, 2:04 PM

Here are two educated people with a monumental task to raise 8 kids with individual needs and a small fortune for the physical ones. The money for college seems to be there if managed well. As far as their show goes, it has taken a turn far from they way it was intended. Kate is very skilled, bright, and organized. With so much to be done,
her hard edge of control and harsh words
critizing John do not work in marriage.
She shows him no respect as an adult. He
is so beaten down with depression, he is miserable. His passive aggressive behavior does nothing towards a resolution. The doctor is right on about this situation. With John’s wanting an escape from Kate, it does not seem he will want to stay married to her. The show as titled will make no sense. Maybe enough money will have been saved to support the kids. They are used to vast amounts of money now… Maybe Kate can be an RN in some health related business. Maybe if John does something investing his part of the money in his IT career as a business. He badly needs to be a man with all of the respect that comes with it. Cameras are not for a normal life.

anonymous May 27, 2009, 2:51 PM

Wow Dr. Golland, your pretty good but all this great advice won’t help unless they are ready to take a good look at themselves and stop blamming the other person for the sad state of their marriage.

~Kalya~ May 27, 2009, 2:52 PM

Well, i for one am sad to hear that things are not going so well for them both right now. I hope that they can work this out for the best! Its so sad to see people get divorced, i understand that sometimes its needed. all i can say to Jon and Kate is i wish you both the best and i hope you can work through the tough times.

Terrie May 27, 2009, 3:42 PM

Does anyone remember that Kate went back to work full time as a nurse after having 6 babies ? She quit her job to take care of the babies full time. However from day one of this show you don’t find Jon coming in from work asking if he can help with anything, so she yells,JON,JON ! Only to get an aggressive and irritated, WHAT ! I always got the feeling Jon wanted to have the fun with the kids thereby he acted like one. He always acted irritated when asked to help. Children are a full time job for both parents. One that should be done with love and without force. As for the truth of this or not, I too want to know why if they have been before the cameras all this time, there’s never been problems before. However,people can change in an instant. I don’t think cheating on a spouse is acceptable in any situation. I’ve been on the receiving end 5 times. But I loved my husband and we worked though our problems. Now 36 years later, we’re still together. But I know the damage it can do to a marriage but love can heal a multitude of sin. I hope they will find a way. My way was with God as my strength. When my husband came decided to walk with God as well, we began to walk together again.

Deanne May 27, 2009, 7:58 PM

I believe the good doctor has hit the nail squarely on the head! I DO NOT believe that this is all a publicity stunt. Raising a large family is very tough. I have 9 kids and it has been extremely challenging to my marriage. Yes, we have gone to therapy as a couple more than 3 or 4 times and it has been a godsend to our marriage. Jon & Kate need to pull themselves away from the fame and into therapy for their marriage and for those precious kids. when these two became parents, the shift of concern no longer centers on Jon & Kate. The concern should be Jon & Kate + 8….God willing, they will get help before its too late.

blurb May 27, 2009, 8:45 PM

Unless this couple ends the reality show nonsense their marriage doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Marriage is hard enough as it is - fill the house with a camera crew and it’s a blueprint for disaster which is exactly what’s happening. And the idea that Kate believes she was actually more mature because she was a couple of years older than her husband when they got married just points out how immature she actually was. They need to end this ridiculous show if they want to have a marriage and a family. Are the two of them mature enough to do that? I’m betting no.

Anonymous May 27, 2009, 10:26 PM

I sure hope Jon and Kate read this. Everything you wrote seems to fit them exactly. I love watching the show, and am praying they work things out. For themselves and their beautiful children. Your advise could be priceless for them!

VickiJ May 28, 2009, 7:40 AM

We get the show in Australia a bit late - I just watched two episodes from last season and the tension was paramount with Kate crying after revisiting the hospital and NICU and talking about how little they knew about what was ahead of them. They both looked exhausted and almost robotic, detached and very sad. The problems that everyone is talking about with Kate being more controlling were there right from the start - however magnify that many times over with the addition of eight children. Kate has been the brunt of people’s dislike and scrutiny however I feel Jon needs to step up and take responsibility for his family as well. You teach people how to treat you and if he didn’t like her control he needed to stand up for himself. Strange though how most people don’t like a dominant female - yet one of them had to be super organised and less sensitive to allow the family to cope with the magnitude of the parenting responsibilities. I admired her in the beginning for her ability to take charge and not fall in an emotional heap, however now that is the trait most people find unattractive in her. She is a strong woman, she is blunt, she knows what is needed - Jon is a nice guy, most people seem to favour him - however he does seem to be in his own world and waiting to be told what to do - if he didn’t like it he should have dealt with it early on, rather than check out of the situation and rather than Kate having to deal with him as well she let him go as long as he was involved in the family. They could have remained a family unit for the kids but they did not count on their ‘celebrity’ which suddenly took over and people who have never watched the show putting their opinions forth based on the tabloid stories. I don’t really understand the criticism of Kate in terms of her working so much when Jon was at home with the kids - if the tables were turned and it were Jon writing books and travelling to signings and appearing at functions would they tell him to go home and look after the kids? I still think that if you go from difficult financial times with eight kids to financial reward doing the same job but once a week or so someone films you - then the choice at first would be easy. They both look so emotionally drained perhaps they don’t have the ability step back while they are parenting and say no to the money which helps pay their bills. I thought perhaps the producers could say in the best interests of the kids - no more filming of the family as such until counselling has been done and all parties agree as to where they go from here. I think they are on a treadmill they can’t get off - perhaps instead of talking to the media if her brother and his wife are concerned they should try an intervention with both family, counsellors and production company rather than air their dirty laundry.

JM May 28, 2009, 10:16 AM

I agree with VickiJ, that this throws strong women into aprons and barefoot in the kitchen. As women we should be supporting Kate, especially since she has managed to run a efficient house, have happy healthy kids and still manage to build a career for herself. I applaud her. Yea, is she a little bitty, I think this is due to build up of frustration with Johns lack of initiative or volunteering to help and always having to be asked. Think about it his true colors are showing now, don’t you think that this childish behavior was happening all along in some form? Yes most likely. Now is he a man behaving like he wants or is trying to earn respect… dont think so… is he showing good decision skills.. nope… is he acting in the best interests of his family?….Showing his coping skills by cheating, bar hopping… don’t you think he made similar childish choices before.. most likely. So the appearance of a bitting cranky wife, humm. wonder why. So women I for one will not throw stones at Kate but will offer a hand…… and heart felt support..

kt May 28, 2009, 2:24 PM

This comment by Leeza said it all….

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!
- Leeza

Drea May 28, 2009, 4:38 PM

You made A LOT of great points.
They are missing a big point together tho as a couple… At the end they kept saying “its about the kids.. its abt the kids, im hear for the kids, etc..” they never once mentioned being there for each other! Marriage is not about your kids. it is to a sense… you become parents.. your kids are your everything.. but you were married to that man and that woman… you are to put them before your own needs (like the Bible states very clearly, and if im not mistaken they are both christians?)…

Kate is not putting Jon before her needs obviously.. she is very disrespectful in how she speaks.. At 1st I thought it was because she HAD to be in control of the situation since she was with the kids all day… but that isnt the case now… she is just down right rude to Jon… and shows no respect for him.. My husband has told me very clearly how respecting him makes him feel more like a man than the best sex in the world LOL. He wants respect…. he wants me to lift him up… encourage him. I have yet to see Kate do that on the show.

Jon tho was foolish in his actions and he is reaping what he sows as well. He should of put his foot down regarding the show… if he didnt think it was in the best interest of the family, as the man he should of said no. After all if he doesnt consent the cameras cant be there, correct?

Both of them need marriage counseling together… and need realize just being there for the kids wont save their family or marriage…

Great post! I hope they read it!!

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