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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 29, 2009, 4:56 PM

I highly doubt that they are reading any of these posts. Do you really think that Kate will want to be an RN, now, after all this publicity? It is just so sad. They need a shift in priorities, now, to save their marriage, but do you really think that either one of them wants to give up the money and the fame that they have now? So sad! May 30, 2009, 3:52 PM

I agree with everything, except the show is called “JON and Kate plus Eight” so without Jon, Kate does not have a show.

Treasia May 31, 2009, 12:32 AM

Bravo for saying what needs to be said. Jon needs to man up and go for what he wants in a career and Kate needs to back off, continue with her life and family and give Jon some support.

If you are treated like a stray dog eventually that stray dog will stray away.

Erica June 22, 2009, 12:15 PM

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Even if these thoughts don’t reach Jon and Kate, I am glad you have posted them. All married people need to remember to be “mindfully married.” Thanks again for posting this for all to read.

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