Bethenny Frankel: Working Hard to Beat the Odds and Save her Marriage

There are few celebrities who catch my attention or admiration in recent years. Bethenny Frankel is the exception.  She is a strong, self-reliant woman who endured the turmoil of family dysfunction, parental substance abuse and divorce, eating disorders, and the absence of her father. By all reports, Bethenny’s father abandoned her mother when she was four years old and they were estranged for most of her life. Admitting that she hungered to reunite with her dad, legendary Belmont Stakes horse trainer Bobby Frankel, she approached him before his death in 2009. Sadly, he rejected her offer saying she didn’t exist for him.

Do you ever wonder how someone, like Bethenny, who has endured so much personal pain, can bounce back? How is it that she can so optimistically work at her second marriage – defying the statistics that say her marriage is doomed to fail? After all, the internet is full of studies telling us that adult children of divorce (ACOD’s) are at a much greater risk for divorce than their counterparts from intact homes. Likewise, 65 to 70% of second marriages end in divorce compared to 50% of first marriages.

So let’s look at Bethenny’s story for clues about her resilience. She is an inspiration to me and many daughters of divorce who strive to overcome the legacy of divorce in their own lives.

From a young age, Bethenny didn’t allow her parents’ divorce and family chaos to define who she was. In fact, she is one of the most successful television personalities with several reality shows and a hot new daytime talk show to prove it. In addition, after graduating from a culinary institute, she wrote two best-selling cookbooks, launched a workout DVD and website, and invented a celebrated line of cocktails – Skinnygirl – which she reportedly sold in 2011 for an estimated $100 million.

Where does she get the courage to work on her marriage when there is so much pressure on Hollywood couples to be self-indulgent and give up on commitment? Perhaps one of the keys to Bethenny’s success is her willingness to be vulnerable with her fans and her husband Jason Hoppy.  Bethenny has openly discussed her struggles with intimacy and communication during their two year marriage.  Certainly, children raised in divorced homes learn the hard way that marriage isn’t a sure thing. It takes hard work and a commitment to stick with your marriage for the long haul if you grew up in a fractured family.

In a recent interview in People magazine, Bethenny put her vulnerabilities out on the table in her usual straightforward fashion. “In Hollywood people just bolt. They go for the bigger, better thing. But I don’t want to run,” she said. “I don’t have a back-up plan. Jason’s a great father and an amazing partner. Without him, life as I know it wouldn’t happen.” Deep in her core, Bethenny embraces the belief that she deserves to be loved – in spite of her disruptive childhood and failed first marriage.

So what can we take away from Bethenny’s courageous struggle to save her marriage and overcome the legacy of divorce? First, it’s important to take on an attitude that your marriage or committed relationship is worth saving. Like Bethenny, you can develop marital endurance and work on ways to revitalize your connection such as a weekend retreat or date night. Keep in mind that ACOD’s are more prone to divorce because they consider divorce as an option to resolving conflicts with their partner.  Marriage experts agree that it’s a good idea to adopt a problem solving attitude and to blame the relationship when problems arise rather than each other. Also, model your relationship habits after couples who are happily married. I make a point of studying couples who have endured hardships and come out the other end. Lastly, try to accept each other with your imperfections and don’t take love for granted.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”



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