In the March 31 episode of A&E’s Surviving Marriage, Josh and Alethea are on the verge of divorce after 18 years of marriage and three children together. Josh blames Alethea for his misfortunes and lack of success. Alethea is done with Josh’s controlling ways and craves independence. With their children all about to leave the house, will they stay together?
Hey, look! I’m sticking with this Surviving Marriage show through good times or bad, through sickness or health, richer or poorer, etc. At least until a younger, sexier, wealthier reality show comes along.
I trust that if you’re reading this, you get the gist of this show’s business. But if not, take our remedial course in Cleburn and April to catch up.
Alethea and Josh’s journey starts with Alethea puking over the side of the boat. Then they’re made to swim a quarter-mile to shore in some seriously choppy waves, which throw them up against the rocks. I suppose drowning them together is one way to save their marriage.
Their red bags contain various tools for their hike a half-mile up a cliff and through four miles of dense jungle. There’s a map that only Alethea can use, and a GPS that is for Josh’s eyes only.
It’s shocking to me that a couple who wears matching Mickey/Minnie pajamas could have marital turbulence. Is there no hope for any of us? Alethea and Josh’s relationship began where all great love stories do — at a Pizza Hut in the early 1990s. “Alethea, she completes me,” says Josh. And now I want to puke over the side of a boat, too.
Alethea wanted to be a lawyer, but then she got preggers at age 17 (Hmm. I see a pattern forming here.) Josh wanted to be a business tycoon, but then he got laid. Afro Man was gonna go to work but then he got high.
Alethea says Josh became jealous and controlling. The only people Alethea talks to now are her husband and her kids. Psychologists call this disorder “parenthood.” Alethea is looking forward to when her daughters are out of the house and she wants to hit the reset button.
Arriving at their camp, their first challenge is to have Alethea be in charge of building the “shelter,” which is just a bunch of bamboo and a sleeping bag. (The therapists make the couples’ first night especially rough, so they get zero sleep and are ornery and gross and delirious.) Josh doesn’t like taking orders from Alethea, and she eventually gave up being an active participant in their lives. The shelter construction goes pretty well, and Alethea is feeling empowered.
Then Josh starts talking about his feelings. “I’m angry that I know you got pregnant on purpose,” Josh says. “You did it on purpose. You trapped me.” Yeah, that’ll do it. Alethea has been carrying the guilt for that decision she made 22 year ago, and Josh has been holding that over her.
Next up is the cleansing exercise, in which they strip down and go into the cold water (“Oh my God! My nuts went into my throat.”). Then Josh must ward off an attack by a small crustacean. Then the yell what they hate about each other. It’s the Airing of Grievances! Then they slip on the slimy rocks.
“If we don’t solve it here, it’s over,” Josh says, putting way too much significance on this thing. It’s not like what happens on Surviving Marriage is legally binding.
The next exercise involves burning the past, in which they write their regrets and disappointments on pieces of bark and then throw them into the fire.
Alethea says her biggest regret is getting pregnant, which must make her kids feel really good.
In the morning, Alethea is all smiles and sunshine. Josh is all weepy. “I love her. I have loved her since the day … the day I met her [at the Pizza Hut when she was 16].” Dude, if you’re serious about this, stop with all the “you trapped me” B.S.
Then comes the independence/separation exercise. The red bag tells Alethea that she’ll be spending the night alone. The twist is that Josh doesn’t know this, and his red bag tells him that Alethea has “chosen” not to return to the camp. He thinks that Alethea has abandoned him. Josh builds a fire, and then yells self-depricating abuse at it.
And then there’s the sappy letter writing/reading. Josh has a come-to-Jesus moment and admits to Alethea that he’s been a lousy husband and friend. And, yeah, they’re going to stick together.
Dr. Colleen says, “Ironically, for us to have a really healthy bond in our marriage, we have to cultivate the person that we’re meant to be.”
Back at home, Alethea finds her own circle of friends, and Josh finds a more fulfilling job.
The morals of the story: Give your spouse some space. And always wear a condom before intercourse with Pizza Hut waitstaff.