When Do Mr. and Mrs. Nicolas Cage Seek Help or Divorce?

05/04/2011 09:04 pm ET | Updated Jul 04, 2011
  • Dr. Jane Greer SHRINK WRAP by Dr. Jane Greer - Marriage and Family Therapist, Author, Radio Host

One of the things that concerned me when I read about Nicolas Cage's recent arrest in New Orleans after he was reportedly arguing with his wife over which house they were renting is that whatever did or did not happen, the incident is now registered (officially and unofficially) as domestic violence. That is a big charge, a big label to be put on something. Another thing being talked about is the actor's drinking. Police reported that he was "heavily intoxicated" at the time of his arrest.

In a marriage or a relationship, trouble can come under many different headings: physical abuse, emotional abuse, alcohol abuse. Often these abuses are intertwined, and it can become hard to know which is the biggest or underlying problem. In the case of Nic Cage, alcohol seems to be behind it. Whatever the situation may be, whenever I hear the words domestic violence or domestic abuse it tells me one thing: the people in the relationship have two choices -- seek help or get out. All indications of domestic abuse must be taken seriously and treated seriously. Most people think there is no choice but to get out when there is abuse going on, and that might be necessary, especially if your spouse won't take ownership of the problem. But, if the person who is perpetuating the difficulty is able to acknowledge it and can be open to getting help, then that can also be an option. If supporting and staying with your spouse is the way you want to go then it is crucial that you get the help you both need, otherwise the clock is ticking on the road to divorce.

The moment abuse appears in any form, especially physical, I would encourage everyone to take action. There are two important things to keep in mind while doing that. The first is to avoid labeling the obstacle as your partner's alone. If you accuse your partner of having a problem, I almost guarantee he or she will refuse to get help. Instead, simply say things have gotten out of control for the two of you and you need help. If you present it as a complication you both have -- which, in fact, is the truth no matter who is the instigator -- you have a much better chance of working through it together. People tend to let it fester, thinking if it happens again then they will do something about it. However, it's really vital to address the conflict on take one so you never have to get to take two. The longer the situation goes unchecked you remain at a greater risk for continued abuse.

The second thing to keep in mind is what I call the art of the ultimatum. Generally ultimatums don't work. If you tell your spouse to get help or you will leave, or to stop drinking tomorrow or next week or you will move out, you will most likely remain stuck in place, continuing to tread in that unsettled and sometimes scary water. Instead of making it about what your partner has to stop, make it about what you have to do. Explain that you can no longer live with the consequences of the physical and/or emotional abuse, both of which are often a byproduct of alcohol abuse. Turn your message around to be that if your partner won't go for help to learn how to stop the abusive behavior that is the choice he or she is making. Explain, then, that the only choice it leaves you with is to end the relationship and get out because it is too dangerous and painful for you, and staying would leave you at risk.

It is so easy to stay in a bad situation, or to make excuses for your spouse. But if you find yourself here, you must pay attention and use this as an opportunity to take action, get help and change things for the better. While everyone wants to stand by their man, like Mrs. Cage, let's hope this is her wake up call so she does not remain caged in by her husband's problems that compromise her own well-being, but instead seeks the help they both need to get back to a healthy, abuse-free marriage.