Tom and Katie’s Marriage is Over – Was this Mission Simply Impossible?
The big relationship news today is that actress Katie Holmes has filed for divorce from her husband, actor Tom Cruise, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ and filing for custody of their daughter Suri.
Already speculation abounds about why Katie wants to end the relationship; most comments point to Tom’s dedication to Scientology and the attendant restrictions imposed by his religion on both Katie and Suri. Nicole Kidman, his previous wife and mother of their two adopted children, apparently also found Scientology’s beliefs and practices stifling.
Already the press is aligning with Katie, pointing the finger at Tom as the bad guy for imposing his beliefs on Katie and wanting his daughter to be raised in his religion. The press seems intent on dividing the camps – defining good guys and bad guys.
As a relationship and marriage counsellor who works with couples in crisis, it is my job to be impartial and not take sides, no matter what seems to be going on. Unless you sit in a room with a couple and watch how they interact, what defenses each uses, what coping strategies they employ to manage their anxiety; unless you’ve actually been with them objectively, you simply cannot know where the truth lies.
My years of relationship counselling with couples have taught me to look – not at the individuals – but at the relationship dynamic itself. Every relationship goes through very clear stages of development and crisis happens when the couple hits a stage through which they cannot navigate. This happens not because they are bad people, but because they simply cannot see where they are stuck and why.
I find in my relationship counselling work that once a couple can be shown how and where they are stuck and become willing to accept that they each play an equal and opposite role in the stuck-ness, they can be helped to do the necessary work to move beyond the impasse and begin to experience the connection that mature love can provide.
As young lovers with hopes, dreams and fantasies of what a relationship should be, we buy into the romantic delusion that the purpose of a love relationship is to make us happy. As we mature, we learn – if we are not completely asleep – that the purpose of love is to wake us up – often rudely.
For whatever reason, today is the day that Tom and Katie woke up. What they decide to do with this awakening will of course determine the future of their child, Suri. How they manage themselves in the process will determine the future of their integrity.
Will they walk through this crisis with love or fear? Will they be accountable for their equal parts in the breakdown of the relationship? Will they each slow down, take stock and examine how they ended up here after all that has happened? Will each of them have the maturity to take a long, hard look at self only, acknowledging and admitting their part in the problem, gaining self-awareness from the process and learning something about love.
Or will they walk away, bitter, angry, resentful and blaming, fighting over who now gets to control Suri’s life?
Relationships are not easy and they are not for the feint of heart. But who among us can resist the call to join, mate, and partner up for life? The promise of love everlasting is so intoxicating that the idea of it not lasting forever is unthinkable.
But there is a problem with the Jerry Maguire School of Love and here it is:
When Jerry declares “You complete me” to his girl, we are staring right at the ticking bomb, because anyone incomplete enough to expect that a lover will complete them, is truly setting their relationship up for failure. It’s no one else’s job to complete anyone. That is each individual’s work to do and is what we are supposed to be doing in life, love and relationships. It’s called differentiation and you can only avoid it for so long in relationships.
Sadly most people only learn this after the fact. Those who don’t get it go repeat the pattern with a new partner, expecting different results. In some circles, this is considered the definition of insanity.
This is a time for Tom and Katie to ask themselves the question – what was my motivation for getting into this relationship in the first place? The degree to which they can each be honest about their intentions is the degree to which they will each find peace at its close.
And as always, the most clarity comes when we ask not “Why me?” but rather “What is this for?”
It is my ardent wish that both Tom and Katie walk away from this most painful lesson and stay awake – wide awake – with their eyes and hearts wide open.
Here’s wishing them well, from Love Done Well
Relationship Counsellor for Couples and Singles