Sometimes on reality TV shows we look so far inside a person, we become uncomfortable. The normal format of Starting Over with six women trying to restart their lives is looking deep enough within, but with the boot camp of four couples seeking to start over in their relationships, I feel like a voyeur at the end of each show. It becomes just so … intimate … as we get to know every detail of their lives.
One of the reasons Simon and Kacie don’t get along is because of their cultural differences, although he doesn’t see it that way. He thinks he acts chauvinistically because that’s just how he is; he thinks it has nothing to do with being Pakistani. He wants her to not show a lot of skin because her body is his, because he married her. Anyone else but me seething?
Kacie says she has been really submissive to him, but Simon disagrees, yet they do agree on the definition of it. At least they have that. Maybe it’s just me, but I would want to figure out why I need to let myself be controlled like that. There has to be some reason why she allows this.
The only time Simon drops his chilly exterior is when the subject of his daughter comes up. Iyanla lays it on the line and asks Simon if he would want his daughter to marry a man that treats her the way he treats Kacie. And of course, he doesn’t. At least he’s honest enough to admit that.
Simon is a loner in every sense of the word. He always walks away and sits alone by himself, yet never in a real healthy way. Iyanla talks to him at one point about it and they decide the reason why he isn’t good with expressing his emotions is because he never learned how to. Isn’t that every man, though, or just the men in my life?
Iyanla tries to get to the bottom of this and wants to find out why Kacie said earlier she lives in a perpetual state of terror. Kacie starts to break down, and Iyanla has to tell Simon how to comfort her. As assumed by all of us Kacie admits to a difficult childhood. She grew up in foster care, and when she was six, she was molested. There is something she sees in Simon’s eyes that remind her of her molester.
When all four couples go out salsa dancing Simon refuses to go out on the floor even, and just stands alone. He makes comments several times a day that he doesn’t want to be in the Starting Over house. It really makes me wonder how Kacie even got him there to begin with. Why would this private guy ever have agreed to putting his life out there for everyone to see?
In a lesson of trust, the four couples draw randomly to see whether the husband or wife will be blindfolded while the other guides them to and over an obstacle course set over water. Simon tries to pull himself along even though he can’t see, instead of allowing Kacie to guide him. Later he has no choice but to sit and listen to her words as she tells him how to cross the course.
A problem arises when Kacie calls home to check on their daughter who is staying with Simon’s sister. Kacie finds that the other family members are upset because Simon’s sister isn’t bringing their daughter around to visit. Simon wants to just remove his daughter from his sister’s care altogether, but Kacie doesn’t feel that’s right being that Simon would be going back on his word to his sister. For the first time, we see Simon really, really try. He gets out his notes from a lesson with Dr. Stan on how to communicate better and searches to figure this one out.
When this still won’t work, Kacie and Simon call for a meeting with Iyanla. Simon doesn’t want to tell Iyanla what the problem is, yet still expects her to help solve it. How he figures this will work is beyond me. Eventually when he does explain, Iyanla tells him he is flat out wrong to change his original instructions for his sister to watch their daughter. Iyanla says the rest of the family will just have to deal with it if they can’t see her when they want to.
Iyanla notices Simon likes to pout and tells Kacie he acts like a spoiled brat when he doesn’t get his way. Kacie realizes it’s her fault for always giving him what he wants. It’s clear how far away he is from “getting it” when he later says if Kacie would just let him be, it would be easier for him to do his own thing. Your own thing isn’t working, Simon, that’s why you’re here.
Cheryl thought she knew why her and Troy were here, but changed her mind. She constantly demeans Troy and cuts him off, and never fully trusts him. They had been been in the Air Force, but it was Troy that fought in Desert Storm. When he came back, things just weren’t the same. There was a distance between them.
They never say why they made the following move, but I suspect they were trying to spark their ailing love life. Cheryl and Troy found their way to a chat room together. Later, Troy would go in chat rooms by himself and chat with women, but that was as far as it went, never on the phone and never in person. Cheryl, however, moved in with a guy she had met in a chat room, and their son stayed behind with Troy. Later, Cheryl found her way back home to her son and Troy.
Both Troy and Cheryl admit to putting their son first before the spouse, and putting their son in the middle of their relationship. Iyanla calls this a huge responsibility for a little boy. Imagine, when things aren’t going well, this boy now has no choice but to blame himself.
When they did the backpack challenge and loaded their backpacks up with the sandbags representing their disrespect of each other, it was interesting that Troy noted Cheryl crying, saying in all their years together, he’s only seen her cry three times before. As emotional as I am, that just floors me. They were separate while he was in the war, they’ve had a child together, she has left him and come back, and he’s only seen her cry three times before? In a commitment ceremony they couples have later, they each release each other of their disrespect backpacks. Recommitting herself to her husband, Cheryl does not cry. Maybe she should have asked for it in writing like Kacie.
When Dr. Stan is playing basketball with the guys and getting a good workout, he discusses proper communication techniques with them. He said communicating is like playing basketball because if you don’t look and listen you’ll lose. Troy says when Cheryl doesn’t get what she wants she becomes a martyr offering to do everything on her own. When Dr. Stan asks how he communicates he doesn’t like that she does that, he says he just tells her to pick him up some beer while she’s at the store. This bad communicating earns him 10 push-ups under Dr. Stan’s guidance.
In a group discussing, everyone had talked about their expectations for their married life. Cheryl and Troy had different expectations over her working and finances. Later as they talk about it privately, and get it worked out, they are talking so close. Eventually they do hug at the end, but Cheryl still doesn’t cry. I don’t know what, but I want to see that. Their harmony doesn’t last, though, as when they go out salsa dancing later, he steps on her foot and she gets mad and leaves the floor in disgust.
The group discussions continue to get Cheryl to look at her relationship with a different pair of eyes. Discussing how their core needs drive their fears, Rhonda tells them many times their core needs are brought about because of what they learned to need from their parents. Cheryl says she didn’t come from a loving family. With a bunch of girls in the family already, they were hoping for her to be a boy, and her sisters joked and called her Little Earl all the time. She realizes now that she is Little Earl in her marriage as well, feeling she doesn’t belong. That’s just horrible, and I can’t imagine what her sisters are thinking watching this, knowing that their joking led to this. Cheryl is now seeing she has more problems with herself than she has with Troy.
Nearly all of Lou and Jennifer’s issues go back to their families as well. After they met, she followed him into working in a hair salon with him. This represented in her a break from her father’s rule. She had worked with him before, and he wanted her to become an attorney like him. She only worked for the salon for a year before giving it up to go back to working for her father.
Lou was so sensitive in their early years together, and she loved that part of him. He joined a band and Jennifer didn’t think they were being managed properly, so she took over and embellished the control freak side of her. This was the beginning of their child/parent relationship. He would act tough now, instead of sensitive, and she would tell him what to do like he wished his mother had.
Offered the chance to “drag Lou through the mud” again, she won’t do it. Rhonda gets a mud pit set up. And binds up Lou, giving the rope to Jennifer. She tells Jennifer to give it a good yank and drag him into the the mud. She refuses to do it, she gives up control to him for the first time. It sounds simplistic, but it is very moving to see her give that up.
Not that Jennifer always had the upper hand. Playing a secrets game one night, when asked the one thing he would have done to hurt her the most, Lou says the most profound was when he broke her hand in a fight. He shoved her very hard and it broke. He calls that a real low point. Well, I would say so. I’d also call it abusive.
Lou seems to move back and forth between that old sensitivity. When they are salsa dancing they are connecting, almost sexual with it, and she says it’s like how they were ten years ago. The next day after Michael admits that his brother is gay, and Simon admits his sister is gay, Lou says as a hairdresser he is used to “fruitcakes.” He also says if his daughter ended up gay, he hopes she’s only be sort of gay. I’ll leave you to think your own on that, I don’t think it requires a comment from me.
Jennifer has some darkness in her life she hadn’t talked about before, between leaving her father’s rule and escaping to Lou. When doing the blindfolded obstacle course, it becomes extremely hard for her. Her first husband had pushed her in the water at one point, and she’s afraid to trust Lou, for fear of him doing that to. Eventually she puts her trust in him, and he doesn’t let her down.
Meeting later with Rhonda in the backyard, Jennifer and Lou see this huge elephant pinata. Rhonda says it represents the things they want to avoid in their relationship. They each write down things they feel it could be representing, and both of them agree that their parenting issues are right at the top of the list. They talk back and forth about it, and come to agreements on Jennifer’s time with their daughter and Lou’s place in her life. They acknowledge and validate each other’s point of view. Rhonda gives them the other issues to go over on their own and encourages them to beat down that huge elephant before them with sticks.
Respect and Communication bracelets had been passed out to everyone in the house. They were encouraged to give them to their spouse when they felt they had earned the respect or communication. None have been exchanged, but Jennifer takes this opportunity to give her Communication bracelet to Louie. A little while before, he had got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. The first time, she had asked him.
Michael and Jaclyn aren’t even married yet, they’re smart enough to know they have to clear the hurdles in their relationship first. However, oddly enough, they did feel it was right to build a house together. They must not see that as commitment. They have been dating for two-and-half years. As they share pictures of their life together, there’s a picture shown of Jaclyn looking gorgeous in a swimsuit with a number on her. She says this is from a bathing suit competition she entered.
Jaclyn can’t look back on the bathing suit competition fondly, though, as it was a week after Michael had cheated on her. She admits she was trying to do something to make her feel good about herself. Things got even worse for her a few months later when she was raped. She met a guy in a bar, went back to his place, passed out, and the next thing she knew he was on top of her, forcing himself on her.
Michael is obviously not without his issues either, as there is a reason somewhere for why he cheated in the first place. Iyanla meets with Michael privately, and he reveals when he was twelve, his parents divorced and he became the parent to his dad. He made dinner and took care of his siblings, doing all the adult things his father should have. Iyanla informs him his assignment is to make breakfast and dinner for everyone in the house until further notice. Meeting with Jaclyn, Iyanla tells her she needs to restore his confidence and wants her to find a way to demonstrate to him that she loves him.
The next morning Michael doesn’t make breakfast, and Iyanla calls him on it. He tells her he figured the point of the assignment was for him to notice that he is always taking care of others’ problems and that he feels he has to do it. He thought it was about standing up for himself, so he is now standing up for himself and deciding he doesn’t need to do that. Iyanla says that’s great, but next time have the realization and keep doing the assignment until he is told not to.
Dr. Stan meet with Jaclyn and Michael and wants to get to the bottom of why Jaclyn keeps punishing Michael, making him feel guilty for one incident that happened over a year ago. She admits to being afraid that if she stops, he’ll stop loving her. He says he doesn’t know how much longer he can take it though. she knows how to stop, but says she’s not sure if she wants to as it would take a leap of faith on her part.
Jaclyn wonders if it has to do with the rape, as she thinks he sometimes blames her for putting herself in that position. Dr. Stan asks how much of their relationship is devoted to the cheating and the rape. They admit it’s way too much. They have done counseling before, it sounds like, but Jaclyn said she doesn’t feel recovered. When they are intimate with each other and she closes her eyes, she sees her attacker. Dr. Stan asks her to put herself in the box she has placed Michael in. At some point he will leave. She will be right, but alone.
The next morning, Jennifer sneaks into Michael’s bedroom, leaves a note for him and snuggles with him in bed. It’s her assignment to find a way to demonstrate to him that she loves him.
When they are talking about their cored needs driving their fears, and realizing it all comes from their parents, Michael says when Jaclyn belittles him, he hears t he same things his mom used to say to his dad before they split up. He has grown up to see that his feelings aren’t as important as everyone else’s.
Iyanla tells Michael that if he doesn’t learn to respect his mom, he won’t ever have a good relationship with a woman. He has to clean it up with his mom to go forward from here. Iyanla puts him in handcuffs and asks if he is willing to let Jaclyn go. He says he is. She tells him to think about forgiving his mom and forgiving himself and goes to get Jaclyn. Iyanla then has Jaclyn hold a leash attached to the handcuffs. She says she is ashamed of herself to be holding him like that. Michael finally opens up and says he is willing to walk away from this if this is how he has to live.
Perhaps all these couples are living in a perpetual state of terror, not just Kacie. Lou broke Jennifer’s hand once and is jealous of his daughter, the computer and the dustbuster for taking time from his wife. Troy lived through Desert Storm then came back to an altogether different type of war with his wife. Michael is afraid of having a relationship like his parents’ and Jennifer is afraid of trusting him again. I am hopeful for all these relationships, but I think Simon needs to step up to the plate.
Agree or disagree? How do you feel about these couples? Email me at LauraBelle@realityshack.com