Coverage on the Tom Cruise – Katie Holmes divorce has been in the news as of late. As much as many would feel for a mother and her desire to provide what she feels is best for her child, and perhaps we even agree with her parenting philosophy (or as much as we think we know as a public looking in), if we were making the decision as to which parent receives full legal custody versus another, can we approve of a request for full legal custody due to religious differences? Or, does that seem wrong somehow?
If one parent has a strong belief, as does the other, and each feel the other’s philosophy is wrong, what can you do as a parent to assure your child is raised under the philosophical belief system that you have? Well, the only way is to marry someone with similar beliefs. Okay, okay, that is in hindsight. There are those couples of who over time one parent changes their philosophy over the course of their marital life span. In the case of Tom and Katie, Katie knew. Katie converted to Scientology. Not unlike many who are in love, and even perhaps in awe of and/or infatuated by another, what we know does not stop us from proceeding further into a future with another due to all of the other qualities we see before our eyes, and how being with that person makes us feel. Also, an important point to note when it comes to love and then when it comes to choosing to get married, what we know versus what we experience while living the reality of what we now truly know, because we are living it, is two very different realities.
One could see how a religious and thus lifestyle philosophy, although different from one another upon meeting did not stop the passion between this man and woman. Well, how could you blame Katie- it was her childhood crush, a super star she was awed by wanted her! I am being mildly sarcastic here. We make choices everyday, and when it comes to desire, passion, and love sometimes our choices work out and sometimes they do not. So, what is a person to do if they genuinely feel that their spouse’s religious belief system is not a healthy influence on their child? As we see, that person files for a divorce and tries to gain sole custody. Is it as simple as that – many may wonder.
As a marriage and family therapist, through my 19 years of counseling individuals, couples, families, adults, and the youth population, I have seen many times where parents have differences in their philosophical belief system about raising their children. If we start to view religious values and beliefs as worthy of who gets to make legal choices for one’s children versus not, we are entering very tricky territory, dangerous ground indeed. This psychotherapist/ marriage and family therapist is concerned.
When it comes to religion and marriage, it is extremely challenging for couples who hold different philosophies to have a happy marriage that stands the test of time. Simply being born one religion versus another in and of itself does not infer marital challenges will take place with religion as the forefront cause. Rather, when one person within the unit has a strong religious belief system that is intertwined with one’s philosophy about life, self, health, marriage, parenting . . . that would infer that it will become a problem within the couple unit if the partner does not hold the same philosophies.
Let this be a lesson to everyone, when choosing who to marry, very important factors to consider includes: what is their value system, their life philosophy, their marital philosophy, their parenting philosophy, their religious belief system, and what does that mean in terms of; self, marriage, and parenting. Even then, when all of this is considered, you still may not know for sure what your future holds, but you sure can narrow it down to increase the chances that upon evaluation you are closer to knowing if this package is a good fit for you. Again, can we blame her- this is Tom Cruise after all: hard working, strong, attractive, manly, top of his game, passionate, a super star. And these are just a few of the surface qualities we as the public see. We can only imagine that the same passion and high energy he puts into what seems to be everything that he does, perhaps he puts that into his love relationships as well. We do not know, but that is indeed what many would theorize. In some cases one’s work passion translates into all one’s loves, in other cases one’s work passion does not translate into all of one’s loves. We cannot know what goes on behind closed doors. What we do know is what is being reported and that is that Katie wants a divorce due to Tom’s parenting philosophy which is in opposition to hers, and it is based on his religious belief system. Perhaps she has great examples that many agree with, Scientology is certainly not for everyone but it is not for us to judge. It will be for someone to judge as she is requesting sole legal custody.
However this journey plays out for Tom, Katie, and Suri, it will not be easy for any of them. Divorce is heart breaking. When you get married you think this is the love of your life, your now and your always. To be confronted with the possibility that the life you thought you were going to have is not exactly what it is, that is hard even for the rich and oh so famous. A child experiencing parents in conflict, also, not so easy.
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Warmest of wishes and supportive thoughts for Tom, Katie, Suri, and the many others who are going through a family and personal challenge to journey through this life challenge and find within themselves and one another the answer that allows for emotional health and wellness for all.