When I wrote a blog about Bethenny Frankel several months ago, I marveled at her strength, resilience, and determination to save her marriage. From a young age, she seemed to rise above her family background to become one of Hollywood’s most successful television personalities, with several reality shows and a hot new daytime talk show to prove it. What I’ve always admired most about Bethenny is her honesty and ability to show vulnerability in front of an audience.
Bethenny’s recent appearance on the Ellen Show on January 8th was yet another example of her ability to be candid and to wear her heart on her sleeve. Revealing to Ellen that she feels like a failure since her split with Jason Hoppy, she shed real tears saying “I feel like a disappointment to all of you, and I feel like a failure.”
While I’m far from a celebrity and I’m not going through a divorce, I can relate to Bethenny’s feeling of failure and her need for approval. For most of my life, I’ve been stuck in “The Approval Trap” and fearful of losing the approval of others. Although I’ve mostly recovered from this tendency, remnants of my former people pleasing self linger and tend to surface when I feel mistrustful. I sense that Bethenny may be too focused on seeking the approval of her fans. What I’ve learned in the last decade is that I’m not obligated to meet the needs of others. That’s their responsibility and only I know what’s best for me.
When I watched Ellen interviewing Bethenny, I became acutely aware of my own sense of failure when my marriage ended in 1995. To say that I identified with Bethenny is putting it mildly. I wanted to reach across the screen and huge her and tell her “It’s okay, you’ll be all right.”
Most of all, I want Bethenny to know that she’s not a failure because her marriage is ending. It takes two people to make a marriage work. Just because her marriage failed, it doesn’t mean she’s a failure. I also want her to know that being raised in a divorced family may make her own breakup that much harder to bear. Since divorce runs in my family, I know all too well the pain that divorce brings. Like many adults raised in a divided home, I desperately wanted my marriage to last and did not give up easily.
In her poignant book, The Love They Lost: Living with the Legacy of Our Parents’ Divorce, author Stephanie Staal identifies several relationship patterns among adult children of divorce. She coined the term “nester” to describe a person who eagerly enters into a committed relationship with high hopes of finding the love and security they didn’t receive as a child due to the breakup of their parents’ marriage.
Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that many daughters of divorce are nesters. Like Bethenny, many women raised in divorced homes strive for more permanency for themselves and their children. Consequently, experiencing divorce as an adult can be especially difficult for us as we strive to have a different kind of family. One with less heartache. One where our child will be spared the pain of divorce that we endured.
In closing, I admit that I took Bethenny’s recent announcement hard. Maybe it felt a little too close to home. Anyway, I feel a strong urge to announce to Bethenny and her fans that we’re not failures because our marriage didn’t work out. We don’t need others approval and we will be more than okay.
Believe in yourself, Bethenny, and work on self-acceptance. You are worthy of love and all that life has to offer. It’s crucial to remember that there is nothing wrong with you because your marriage ended. It simply wasn’t the right relationship for you. Your daughter, Bryn, will be fine too – if you continue to devote your love and attention to her well-being.
I’d love to read your comments or hear your divorce story. Write to me on the bottom of this blog or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”
Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW