Couples Therapy Episode 3 – When Winning a Battle Creates a War

Alex and me in Group Therapy
Couples Therapy S02E03
Photo courtesy of VH1 ©

After spending four years on a certain other reality TV show, on the one hand it’s refreshing to be on one where there weren’t producer driven machinations driving the story, but on the other, this show is in many ways, far more uncomfortable to watch, as the scenes with Alex & me are raw, unfiltered and sometimes a tad too revealing. But I am the guy that once sang “I Am Real, I Say What I Feel” and in Episode Three, for right or for wrong, I certainly did that.

Each week Alex & I are taking turns at blogging on the VH1 site and Alex’s blog this week’s can be read here. Dr Jenn Berman’s thoughts on this week are also posted over at VH1

Watching the beginning of the episode (which was mostly this clip), I certainly understood Nik & Shayne’s difficulties with being away from their 8 month old daughter, Press. It was hard enough for me to be away from our kids for that long but at least our boys are now old enough that we can speak with them on the telephone or Skype with them, which we did daily. But it was the way the emotion was manifested in both Nik & Shayne that told us most about their personalities. Shayne is dramatic, both facially and by throwing her limbs and head around in sweeping movements; whereas Nik is quieter, stoic and well….a guy. His much less overt reactions shouldn’t be taken as any indication that he’s less affected by being away from Press, like most guys he just sucks it in and withdraws. I am glad though that Shayne climbed back off the ledge and decided to stay and continue working on their marriage.

The group session was on how notoriety has impacted our lives, and when it was our turn to speak we talked about the many pitfalls that we’d found along the way. It was back in July 2006 when we were first cast on Housewives and August 2007 when we finally signed on the dotted line. As I said last night ‘if I knew then what I now know, I can’t be certain that we would have signed up for this life’. Yes, we were lambs to the slaughter. Yes, we were used & abused but ultimately it was our signatures on the contract that allowed all those things to happen, and so that’s no one else’s fault but ours. I should have done more due-diligence but Alex & I are adults and can only blame ourselves for the mistakes we made by signing on.

So, that’s why I mostly talked about our children, as they, at 1 & 3 years old, were non-consenting participants in Housewives; Alex & I signed their contracts which allowed the producers & editors to throw them to the lions. It’s almost 5 years ago since our oldest son stuck something in a burger; yet just this morning that scene is still being used against us on Twitter as evidence of our bad parenting. It’s irrelevant to them that the footage that was shown was the same couple of seconds from three different cameras that was made to last longer by using the footage from all three of those cameras consecutively. It’s irrelevant that an overtired boy, who should not have been out at 10pm at night, was then taken out of the room by Alex and given a ‘time out’ and scolded. It’s irrelevant because if the viewer doesn’t see it then as far as they’re concerned ‘it didn’t happen!’

I know that many of you are questioning why we are on television complaining about being on television? And to that I’d answer that if we had thought that our Couples Therapy experience would have been anything like the RHoNY one, we would have run a mile. Plus the fact is, whether we like it or not, we can’t turn back the clock and wipe the last five years out of people’s conscience and however much we try, the genie just doesn’t go back in the bottle. So here we are, getting some great guidance in dealing with issues on our own relationship, hopefully acting as a cautionary tale to others who might want to taste Reality TV fame, and thirdly, keeping our kids off TV all at the same time.

There’s not much that I can say about Courtney & Doug’s situation, as it was presented in the group session. I’m not a therapist and as a layperson I don’t quite understand what a therapist can do to help bridge their enormous age gap. A 34 year age difference is huge but it’s exponentially larger when it involves a 16 or 17 year old girl and a 50 to 51 year old man. At 30 & 64 years, to me it still seems an insurmountable difference but at least a 30 year old woman has a lot more life experience and maturity than someone 14 years her junior.

Todd’s (TooShort) evidently been a player and mid-life has caught up with him. I know that speaking with him one-on-one he’s ready to slow down; have a kid to play ball with, and a woman to share his life with. Clubbing with pretty young things until all hours of the night might be fun in isolation but I wouldn’t imagine long term it’s at all fulfilling.

JoJo, oh JoJo! Here’s a guy with a major problem of denial with his other major problem alcoholism but he has a fantastic & supportive wife, Tiny who’s just not sure what to do any longer about his addiction. The only evidence of JoJo maybe not being in denial is that coming into the CT house he would have known that his alcoholism was going to be a factor in resolving his & Tiny’s issues and so perhaps he’s not totally in denial and just wanted that added push from someone like Dr Jenn.

The other two scenes with Alex & me in them both involved us bickering and the second reached a full on argument causing Alex to storm off & slip. Dr Jenn tweeted during the show, much as she’d said to my face – that I need to NOT focus on semantics and details.

In a nutshell that’s what arguments between Alex & I had become for me. A win at all cost debate where I’d attack the weakest link in Alex’s statement and beat that down, thus not resolving the underlying cause of the disagreement but just ‘winning’ a particular battle. A marriage is not and shouldn’t be a war but at times I was treating it like one. Since CT, I’m getting better at changing my behavior and I have the five therapists, and Alex, to thank for that.

During last night’s episode you might have noticed that VH1 announced that Couples Therapy would be moving to Sunday’s at 9pm. That’s the big night for Cable TV, so please make sure you tune in this Sunday to see what happens in episode 4, as we approach the half way point of this second series.

If you’d like to know what else we’re up to in real time, please follow us on Twitter @SimonvanKempen @McCordAlex as well as on Facebook. For more on us & our family see our website. Until Sunday!

14 Responsesto “Couples Therapy Episode 3 – When Winning a Battle Creates a War”

  1. mark harmon says:

    You’re gay, right?

  2. Stephanie Napoleon says:

    Simon, I am a RHONY fan and can not recall for the life of me the scene you are referring to where your little guy “stuck something in a burger”. Was this the infamous dinner where the kids were a little rambunctious?

  3. Dharma says:

    Thank Simon, we all love to see the truth in our behavior at times its easier and others its harder. To be honest as honest as people are if you working in a reality show based on admistering pain to others (as on Bravo is)those behaviors become a way of being. One might not want to be that but it happens. Now dont get me wrong I am not stating you do this or not, I am stating it happens. So after leaving that and being with each other and the rest of the world be not shocked when you might not be able to understand or hear your partner… good show and great job!!! Hi to Alex…

  4. ELAINE LEIRER says:

    I like the fact that you recognize the dynamics of your disagreements with Alex. You mentally extract the weakest part of her statement and attack it instead of the meat of her upset. The solution to this might lie in correcting your behavior but it will not resolve itself until you find out WHY you do this. Why must you view a discussion as a contest.

  5. Geri says:

    You said “…if we had thought that our Couples Therapy experience would have been anything like the RHoNY one, we would have run a mile.”

    It was widely reported that, after your RHoNY contracts were not renewed, you attempted to stay on the show, through “harnessing the swell of viewer support” etc.

    This seems like a case of the lady doth protests too much”

    • Geri,

      It was widely reported that, after your RHoNY contracts were not renewed, you attempted to stay on the show, through “harnessing the swell of viewer support” etc.

      Many things are written on the internet and many are not true. Your statement quoted above is one of them.

      Best

      Simon

      • Geri says:

        Thank you for your response – I realize you do not have to respond or even post all the comments, so my hat is off to you on that one. Let me ask a follow up question, if I may: are you stating here, that there was NO attempt on your or Alex’s part, or anyone working for or with you (i.e an agent, etc) to stay on the show, or negotiate with Bravo?

        BTW – I agree re: your comments about how your children were portrayed and I don’t doubt that editing can make a situation look worse, but the thing that bothered me about your son attacking Jason’s burger was not your son’s behavior, but your statement, which was something along the lines of “Oh well Jason you have boys so you understand” (or something along those lines).
        I don’t hold a little boy responsible for behaving badly way past his bedtime, but I would blame the parents if they did not try to fix/replace something their child destroyed.

        • The facts are that we were both offered paid contracts to return sporadically throughout the 5th season but we turned them down. As for the burger incident, when you’re filming it’s a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The 1st season edit was deliberately done to make us look foolish (I am pretty sure we were cast to be the ‘pretentious ones’). Although we didn’t know it at the time we were on a hiding to nothing and whatever we did could have and most often was designed to make us look stupid. That’s the ‘magic’ of television and we fell into the trap. My last comment regarding the burger incident is that there is an awful lot of the footage that evening that that you did not see and just because it didn’t air doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That particular dinner could have been edited to make the whole evening look completely different. Think of any 3 hour dinner party that you’ve attended and then imagine if just 10 minutes of it was shown to strangers. Now, pick the worst 10 minutes and imagine how you could look and remember that the audience isn’t seeing the other 2 hours & 50 minutes and getting context.

          • Geri says:

            Thank you for your response. However (and respectfully), I don’t think you answered my question. My question was – “are you stating here, that there was NO attempt on your or Alex’s part, or anyone working for or with you (i.e an agent, etc) to stay on the show, or negotiate with Bravo?”

            My point being that, you have “dissed” RHoNY at every turn. Why did you try to stay on if it was so horrible? And, if I am mistaken and you did not attempt to negotiate to stay on, my apologies. But, just because you turned down “sporadic repeat appearances” does not mean you did not try to stay on full time.

            I am not trying to belabor the point, but I feel that, rather than pull a Jill Zarin (whose appearance on WWHL was just sad) and diss the show and try to get people to boycott, or write in, (not that you did these things – Jill did) you should take the high road and acknowledge the good things the show did for you (invites & front seats at fashion shows, the salary, etc. etc). It just seems that someone has the taste of sour grapes in their mouths and I think you are better than that.
            As far as the dinner with the kids – your boys seem like perfectly normal, well adjusted, polite young boys. And I can see how editing can twist the facts. But for you to say “we were made out to be the pretentious ones” is a tad disingenious. Some things you said were pretenious. Own it. We all say and do ridiculous things at times. Don’t blame the editing.
            I’ll say one thing for Jill – she came right out and said how much the show meant to her.

            You seem like a totally different person on this show, which leads me to wonder – which is the “real” Simon? The “joined at the hip” husband of RHoNY or the kind of rude guy on Couples Therapy. Just be real. Come on, you even sang a song about it. A lot of this Couples Therapy seems fake and manufactured.

            PS – Did you ever see that video of Doug and Courtney (right after they married) and she was licking her lips and making all these weird faces during thier interview – classic!

  6. Anna says:

    I also commend you for trying to fix the problems you may be having. In this episode I think you were “off the mark” labeling everything that Alex said bothered her “her problem” not yours. Other than that best of luck to you both.

  7. Karen says:

    Simon, great blog! Alex as usual called it like it was on VH1′s site too. I really support you guys going on TV to fix this and show others what happens after the cameras turn off and what some of the repercussions are for those who choose to show their lives to the world. WHY some grown person would JUDGE a child’s behavior is beyond me, I thought your kids were funny and full of life. Not robots scared to move because you guys would beat them once the cameras were off. If you want to see bad parenting and ill behaved kids watch RHWNJ and the Guidice kids…telling their parents to shut up, name calling, ect…You guys may have (by accident) let Bravo use your kids to create drama, but you can tell you try very hard to give them a good life and teach them manners. I challenge anyone with small kids to go on TV and never have a “moment” hell I cant get thru the grocery store checkout at times with out a kid tantrum! I hope you guys fix the issues you are having and think you a brave to once again face the cameras as real people. That was the issue on RHW, you and Alex were being real people…not characters, so all the fake (I’m looking at you Jill, LuMann) people tried to tear you down. Good luck!!! Cant’ wait to tune in Sunday!

  8. Jenny says:

    Aside from the reason (decision to be on reality tv and the aftermath), I think you and Alex represent what a lot of couples go through under tremendeous stressors (financial, jobs, etc.) and I feel many will be able to relate to fighting about fighting and not really even knowing what you are fighting about and it really not evening mattering. I think it’s just pent up anger, resentment and guilt that got stifled for too long. Too many people wake up to find themselves at this point in their relationship. I find the others on CT will also have an effect on people (substance abuse, age difference, etc.).

    A really great show. Kudos to you and Alex!!

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