I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately, as is common for anyone heading into, well, marriage. Like almost anyone heading into a marriage, I believe this is forever, and I want it to be "til death do us part." However, with divorce rates as they are, it's obvious that even the best intentions and greatest dreams and plans go awry. So what happens? What changes? Some of my theories, with Jon and Kate as my case study:
- People change. People are always changing. I think people have a very specific, concrete idea of Who the Person Is That I Am Marrying, and as long as that person stays exactly the same, then we'll be good. But they won't. People's political views will change. People's religious beliefs sometimes change. People's attitudes toward certain activities will change. Do you love that person for who they are at their core, or for their attributes? Certainly attributes can be part of WHAT you love about someone, but if you strip away some of those characteristics, do you love who is at the center of it all?
- People manifest their true colors over time (and we can finally see it). From what I can tell, this is definitely part of Jon and Kate's issue. Jon seems more passive and easy going, Kate seems more proactive and demanding. These have probably been their personalities all along. And maybe, for a while, this dynamic worked. But (and this cannot be discounted) they put their lives on display, on TV, and the peanut gallery started to offer opinions about each of them -- Kate was controlling, Jon was a wus, etc. And they probably started to see these attributes of each other as well, and started resenting the other for it. Jon started acting out to create his "identity" because he didn't have as much power in the household as he wanted. Kate started airing her grievances in a public forum.
- Not supporting the other. I read the interview with Kate a couple of months ago in People. This part was memorable to me:
That Kate and Jon disagree is no surprise to fans of their show, in which Kate is often shown nagging, berating or snapping at Jon for failing to perform one task or another. But for all the times she's been shown as abrasive, Kate says she'd been doing her best to support her husband as he grew disenchanted with their increasingly high-profile life. "I've walked through this with him for six months," she says. "First he said he's unhappy, he needs a career. 'Great,' I said. 'Go get a part-time job. Volunteer at the girls' school, at our church, do whatever you want.' Never happened. So I said, 'Go back to school! You wanted to finish your degree? Now is the time!' Yeah, that never happened. Originally, we'd speak together on the weekends. But then he was saying, 'I don't like to speak, you do most of the speaking anyway, why don't you just go?' So I started carving him off engagements so he could stay home with the kids. That worked well, for a while. But then it was, 'Well, I need help.' Okay, we found a lovely girl and she started helping. And then it was, 'I can't live in this neighborhood anymore.' So right around that time, we
moved. Every complaint he's had I've tried to fix. But the bottom line is, choose happiness or don't. Nobody can make you happy except yourself. And I don't really feel he is happy."
So what's the issue here? She's not really supporting him. She's trying to motivate him, but probably not in the way that works for him. She's continuing to tell him what to do. I wonder if she ever asked him what he needed in order to achieve his goals, rather than passing judgment on him for not doing things. I understand that from his side too, he needs to take action rather than just complain about issues, and that really what needed to happen was for both of them to work together to figure out what would make them both happy, rather than her portraying herself as a martyr to his happiness.
- Divergent goals. Jon and Kate clearly have different goals, and the most obvious way this is manifested is with their handling fame. Kate loves it, Jon is not a fan. Of course, as a couple you're going to have different aspirations, and sometimes ones that conflict with each other. The best way to deal with it is to talk about it and figure out something that can work for both of you, rather than demand that someone subsume their desires for the purpose of "harmony." Again, that's just a recipe for resentment.
- Too much, too soon. Jon and Kate got married at 22 and 24, respectively, and they had their first children when Jon was 24. He was 27 when the sextuplets were born. I'm not saying that everyone who assumes responsibility so young can't handle it; however, it's probably good to take a hard look at yourself, and determine what you really want so that way you won't -- wait for the magic word -- resent the other person for being part of something that robbed you of your desires and ambitions. My theory? They achieved some wealth and fame, the world opened to them more, Jon realized he'd really missed out on the carefree, sometimes debaucherous single 20-something existence, and now he's clunkily and ill-advisedly trying to recapture it, despite the real responsibilities he has to his children. I think in her way, Kate is doing the same thing, and her desire for fame and publicity is more important than keeping her marriage together (otherwise, WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU TALK TO PEOPLE about your crumbling marriage before you've even filed papers?). I think without jobs, both have lost their idea (and perhaps, the pride) of being the responsible parent, because the show is what provides, and the children are what drive the show. So in short, the dynamic got all screwey, and now Jon and Kate are behaving like irresponsible children themselves.
- I can't quite describe this one in one sentence, but I think it happens to many, many couples who become famous, or where one (or both!) achieve a lot of success individually (at work, for a hobby, having lots of friends, being the life of the party, etc.): they start comparing the attention that they get from the media, from fans, from their work, their kids even, to the attention they are getting from their significant other. Your wife/husband cannot compete, and cannot win in this battle, because you are creating a false dichotomy. One person cannot provide what thousands can. It's not your spouse's job to provide all of the attention you need, and certainly not an equal amount of attention to the fame machine. And you can't be jealous of the attention your partner is receiving for either their accomplishments or just for whatever stroke of luck led to them getting adoration from outside sources.
Usually the showering of attention leads you to crave it, to want it more. But your partner is supposed to be the one to keep you grounded and centered, and to let you know that once whatever it is that's put you in the spotlight has gone away, they will still be there to love you, and that they don't...it's a theme...resent you for your success. The flipside is that even if you're the one recieiving all the fame, and enjoying it, you want to be giving to your partner's needs too, and supporting and encouraging them in their perhaps more modest successes, or simply the ones that aren't as publicly acclaimed.
I'm sure there are many more complicated elements to this discussion, and I may revisit it. But I think the overarching theme is that when love and dreams turn into resentment, it turns your partner into your enemy, and it's hard to survive that without initiating some major changes, and sometimes, changes that are impossible to make. I hope by recognizing the potential for these situations, I can avoid them.