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Karen Thalacker Headshot

Pity Party? Cry-A-Thon? Maybe, But Cut Kate Some Slack

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Remember the little boy in The Sixth Sense who saw dead people everywhere? Well, I am a divorce attorney and I see dead marriages everywhere. Okay, maybe not dead but definitely heading toward the white light and in need of emergency care. Whether it's in my office, my church, or the grocery store, my divorce radar is always working. I have been wrong on occasion but my assistant claims that I know a couple is getting divorced before they do.

My divorce radar had been working overtime on Jon and Kate Gosselin for several years. My kids were big fans of the show - even preferring their re-runs to Spongebob. I was hoping I was wrong and that the producers were cutting the show to produce maximum drama. But his sulking and her sharpness combined with the stress of living in the public eye were like watching a car accident in slow motion. As the marriage deteriorated and the tabloids descended, I told my children that they could not watch the show any more. I could see them grieving the loss of the marriage as if it were happening to someone close to them. It just didn't seem right to any of us that millions of people were watching this marriage disintegrate and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

When the Gosselins separated, the whole country chose sides. My children were definitely on "Team Jon." I was not. Within minutes of the divorce announcement, Jon had already violated two hard and fast rules that I set out for my clients.

Rule One -- no dating. It seems a little harsh but it is good advice. I want my clients to focus all their energy on concluding their marriage in a respectful way. Any effort that is expended in the furtherance of a new relationship makes my job harder. Jon has, perhaps irreparably, damaged his credibility with those closest to him and also damaged how the public perceives him. No one -- not even Jon's girlfriend -- wants to play with "Team Jon."

Rule Two -- no talking about the case in public. I tell my clients to choose two or three trusted friends and family members to vent to and that is it. To everyone else in the world, my clients say, "It's hard but I'm getting through it." There is no discussion about our legal strategy. There is no bad-mouthing the other party.

Kate, on the other hand, is fine on Rule 1 and showing some improvement on Rule 2. In watching her interview with Natalie Morales on TLC, I finally had a glimmer of hope that Kate was going to make it through the divorce a stronger and more balanced person.

Not everyone agrees with me. David Zurawik, television critic for the Baltimore Sun, was disgusted by the whole event calling it a "pity party" and a "cry-a-thon." While he may be accurate, the same could be said at some point for most people going through a divorce. Whether it's the Gosselins or your next door neighbors, there is a lot to feel bad about when a marriage ends. And whether critics like it or not, we as Americans appear to be "all in" when it comes to the Gosselins.

I, for one, hope that people cut Kate a little slack. However annoying she may be to people like Zurawik, there is no denying that she is grieving the loss of her family. She is working through her loneliness and, even though she is waking up in the middle night, she is getting out of bed in the morning.

Kate seems to making progress on several fronts. Her apologies do not include "but" as in "I'm sorry but ..." She appears to be taking responsibility for whatever part of the demise of the relationship belongs to her and is coming to terms with the fact that the failure of the marriage is theirs to share.

But, in my experience, there is one huge step that Kate needs to take. That step is creating a new life for herself -- a life that doesn't involve Jon and also doesn't involve her children on reality television.

Kate is not the only person who has had to do this. My clients may not be on television but creating new lives is just as challenging for them. Their families and their communities have seen them as Tom and Susie Plus Two or Mike and Janet Plus Four. The end of their marriages has been no less traumatic than the end of Jon and Kate's. The only difference is that the pettiness, bitterness and immaturity in my clients' marriages happen behind closed doors and Jon and Kate's happen on national television.

So how does Kate create this new life? How does any newly divorced person do this? They ignore the critics. They feel all the emotions. They grieve what could have been. They forgive their spouse. They forgive themselves. And then they let go. For Kate, she can't let go if she continues to hold out hope that her children will be on television again. She has to have enough confidence in herself to make it without them. When she can do that, she will not only find some happiness, she may just inspire millions of people to do the same.