In my teaching we often use celebrity situations to examine why marriages and family life fail.....
A note to those who read my blog: When one elects to become famous, the scrutiny of his or her life is intrusive and invasive. But the events disclosed do provide Teachable Moments in what makes a family succeed and what choices, if continued, will erode trust and destroy family health. In my teaching, students learn as much from discussing choices and directions of those who are famous as they do from text books. And so for this purpose, the following fictitious letter from Catherine Zeta-Jones to her husband, Michael Douglas ......I welcome your thoughts on this and more important, I hope you will discuss the questions at the conclusion of my post with family and friends.
Dear thoughtless Michael,
Your recent Guardian interview shows a horrific violation of trust and mutual respect, necessary in every successful family. Your irresponsible words have shamed me, us, our family. They violate the marriage vowels we have taken. Your lack of judgment makes me feel that I should stay in the hospital, under the covers (and perhaps even under the bed) indefinitely. It also makes me see the kind of thoughtless, immature behavior that could cause your ex wife, Diandra, to have acted so vindictively toward you.
Sure, it is no sin to like oral sex. What modern gal doesn't. But I would prefer when I am seen or photographed that there are no thoughts or headlines, such as "Getting Dolled Up for Cunnilingus." Or even worse! For you have implied to the world that I carry the HPV virus. Remember I am a person who went to court when the press got hold of private photos which I thought made me look fat. How cruel and thoughtless can one be!
Interestingly, you neglected to speak of the HPV dangers when engaging in fellatio, singling out cunnilingus; (and the dangers of this transmission in both acts are rare). When asked if years of booze and drugs contributed to your throat cancer, it would have been menshy and mature to use this golden opportunity to show remorse for your years of drinking and drugs, as well as infidelities. Then you would have been a terrific role model. Instead, you childishly deflect responsibility, blaming me for what we share for my pleasure.
There is a tape of precisely what you said. And no, I will not consider appearing with you on a Barbara Walters Special to show that you were misquoted and I can overlook your devastating lack of judgement.
As you well know, I had a horrid time living with you all dressed up as Liberace. Yes, we are both actors. But you had no understanding of how unsettling it was to hear your voice in an on target depiction of a man, who though very talented and capable of kindness (in order to get what he wanted), was actually a self centered monster. It hit too close to home and actually stung when you said you had comfort in character during angry scenes because you have been married. I have never viewed our private and personal marital conflicts to be based on manipulation and a callous disregard for another's privacy, individuality and vulnerabilities.
Yes, the world thinks that I am in the hospital because I need my meds for bi-polar illness regulated, and that is true. But I am finally recognizing the stress of living with one who can show such insensitivity toward those he has said he loves.
Please don't expect me home anytime soon. You have the gift of good looks, and you are an excellent and charismatic actor. But, as a husband to be trusted to safeguard the deeply personal parts of our life together, you have a great deal to learn. I plan to stay away while you decide if you are ready to grow up, respect marital intimacy, and regard family members as more than photo and TV ops to promote the way you want others to think of you.
Remember that this letter is fictitious, presented for teaching and learning only. Using this public interview to learn from, following are relevant questions for thought and discussion about marital trust and success in family living:
1. How do you feel about Catherine's reaction to Michael's interview?
2. Are there some conversations about one's life involving a partner that should never take place? If so, does Michael's interview fall into this category? If so, why? If not, why not?
3. Does this interview violate marital trust? If so, how?
4. Think of your life experience and what you have seen and learned. When one acts as Michael has, could there be reasons for this thoughtlessness? If so, what could they be? Could he be trying in some way to pick a fight or get back at his wife for something? If so, are there wiser ways to make a point and deal with disappointment and anger, rather than acting it out?
5. Have you seen difficult problems in a marriage discussed and resolved?
6. Is forgiveness always possible? Please share reasons for your response and examples.
7. Should Catherine leave Michael? If so, why? If not, why not?
8. Can extreme thoughtlessness be one way that a partner can provoke the other to leave? Have you seen examples of this? If so, what are they?
9. What other issues may be a "back story" to Michael's interview? Can he be angry about other things? If so, do you have any ideas about what?
10. Can there be healing after this kind of experience in a marriage? If so, how can it occur? If not, why not?