The Gosselins' Marriage Ended 10 Years Ago: How Kate Overcame the Shocking Split
One decade ago, Kate Gosselin‘s world was turned upside down.
In 2009, Kate and her then-husband Jon Gosselin were starring on the hit TLC series Jon & Kate Plus Eight with their eight children: twins Mady and Cara, now 18, and 15-year-old sextuplets Hannah, Leah, Alexis, Joel, Aaden and Collin.
While the series documented the pair raising their young, growing brood together at their home in Pennsylvania, it was also the avenue which Kate and Jon chose to reveal one of the most difficult decisions of their lives: divorce.
After a decade together — and a year since they’d renewed their vows for their ninth anniversary — Kate, 44, filed for divorce from Jon, 42, in June 2009. With an hour-long special broadcast that month, Jon and Kate publicly announced that they would separate on the same day they filed for divorce in a Pennsylvania court.
“Over the course of this weekend, Jon’s activities have left me no choice but to file legal procedures in order to protect myself and our children,” Kate said in a statement. “While there are reasons why it was appropriate and necessary for me to initiate this proceeding, I do not wish to discuss those reasons at this time, in the hope that all issues will be resolved amicably between Jon and myself. As always, my first priority remains our children.”
Jon released a statement of his own. “This afternoon, Kate filed for divorce. Our kids are still my number one priority. I love them and want to make sure they stay happy, healthy and safe. My job is being the best, most supportive and loving father that I can be to my kids, and not being married to Kate doesn’t change that.”
“This will be a difficult transition for all of us,” Jon’s statement continued, “but Kate and I will work out a schedule that enables our kids to have plenty of quality time with both of us at home in Pennsylvania. In terms of my marriage, it’s no secret that the past six months or so have been very difficult for Kate and me. We are no different than other couples and parents who are facing a crossroads in their marriage. I am of course deeply saddened that we are divorcing.”
The divorce filing came two months after cheating allegations swirled around Jon.
On April 19, 2009, when Kate was out of town promoting her book, paparazzi snapped Jon leaving a local bar at 2 a.m. with a then-23-year-old woman, Deanna Hummel, whose brother later claimed she’d been having a months-long affair with Jon. Subsequent photos showed Hummel sunbathing, with others, at the Gosselins’ 24-acre spread in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.
Though both Hummel and Jon vehemently denied any infidelity, Jon did acknowledge that his nights out while his wife was away were the result of “poor decisions and bad judgments” and said he was “sorry for putting my family in this awkward position.”
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Speaking with PEOPLE in her May 2009 cover story, Kate admitted that she and Jon had been privately struggling for months.
“I don’t know that we’re in the same place anymore, that we want the same thing,” she said. “I’ve been struggling with the question of ‘Who is this person?’ for a while. I remember where I was the first time I heard her name. It’s one of those things where you can try to make it go away, but there’s blaring, red flashing lights.”
The pair found sudden fame after a documentary about their life with multiple babies became an instant hit. Though Kate previously worked as a nurse and Jon was a network engineer, they devoted their time exclusively to the show, which filmed year-round in their home. “We don’t have a backup plan anymore,” Kate said at the time. “We’re caught, because this is our job.”
According to Kate, the success of the show drove a wedge into their marriage.
“I have always made more money than Jon,” she explained. “That doesn’t bother me at all; it all goes into the same pot. But it obviously, at this point, really matters to him. He hates to speak, he doesn’t write, he doesn’t do public appearances — all those things I love. And now he’s resenting me for it. My point is I could care less if this all died tomorrow, for my sake. It’s for my kids. I feel if we put ourselves out there, it’s got to be worth it, for them. For a while I was saying we’re not just on different pages, we’re in different books. But now I think we’re in different libraries.”
Kate said she’d been doing her best to support her husband as he grew disenchanted with their increasingly high-profile life.
“I’ve walked through this with him for six months,” she said. “First he said he’s unhappy, he needs a career. ‘Great,’ I said. ‘Go get a part-time job. Volunteer at the girls’ school, at our church, do whatever you want.’ Never happened. So I said, ‘Go back to school! You wanted to finish your degree? Now is the time!’ Yeah, that never happened. Originally, we’d speak together on the weekends. But then he was saying, ‘I don’t like to speak, you do most of the speaking anyway, why don’t you just go?’ So I started carving him off engagements so he could stay home with the kids. That worked well, for a while. But then it was, ‘Well, I need help.’ Okay, we found a lovely girl and she started helping. And then it was, ‘I can’t live in this neighborhood anymore.’ So right around that time, we moved. Every complaint he’s had I’ve tried to fix. But the bottom line is, choose happiness or don’t. Nobody can make you happy except yourself. And I don’t really feel he is happy.”
Asked if she believed her husband’s claim that he did not cheat, Kate said, “I don’t think I know if I believe him. I don’t think that I know the whole truth, and to be very honest, I don’t know that I ever will. My gut instinct says he’s mad that he got caught. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into all that behavior. ”
Jon explained that his partying was due, in part, to the long days he spent as a stay-at-home dad while Kate traveled. But Kate was quick to point out that even when she was not at home, she was in constant contact with her children.
“I’ve been doing major emotional support of my kids,” she explained. “All the spare time I have, I am talking to my kids on the phone. They’re all pretty oblivious to what’s been going on. Which is a huge blessing. They attend a school where nobody really cares about the tabloids, so I don’t feel like any of this is going to impact them … not yet, anyway.”
She admitted: “He has a lot of anger. I have a lot of anger too, and sadness. But I have to keep it in check, for the sake of our kids.”
Kate, a self-professed “control freak,” was forced to learn how to cope with a life that was thoroughly out of control.
“I was powerless to stop this,” she said of Jon’s behavior once she left town. “I was already on him, saying, ‘What are you doing? Where are you going? I don’t understand.’ But I’m not there; I don’t have a say. Do I prefer that he was feeding them pizza instead of the organic meals I prepared in advance? No. Do I prefer that these people I do not know are at my house? No. It’s a huge disappointment to me. I’m really suffering. He’s made bad choices. Things that I would never ever choose for the father of my children to do. Going out late, being in bars with women until 2 in the morning, buying a car without even talking to me about it.”
Kate noticeably bristled at any suggestion that her tightly wound temperament somehow drove Jon to act out. “Oh, it’s still my fault, for heaven’s sake,” she said, rolling her eyes at the media spin. “It’s like, ‘No wonder! Look at her!’ and they show the most horrendous clip. But everyone is responsible for their own actions, no matter what. I did not cause this. It’s ridiculous, really, it’s pathetic. Are you kidding me? I drove him to that? Please. I’m not going to say I’m perfect. My horrible moments, I’m not proud of those. But even so, I should not be blamed for the decisions that he’s made.”
Those decisions were what she struggled with as she contemplated what was ahead.
“I’ve screamed out loud. I’ve wanted to strangle him,” she said. “What makes me the most angry is that all of these choices he made, they’re going to affect our children’s future. I don’t want them to look back and see him as this person. I just feel like he’s a different person, like he’s not the same anymore. Somewhere along the line, he changed his focus. I don’t know why,” she shared. “Because my focus hasn’t changed. ”
Ultimately, it was Kate who took legal action when she filed for divorce, though she maintained that the decision to part ways was not something she fully wanted — rather, it was Jon who was pushing for it.
“Jon has been asking for this for a long time,” she said months later, in her July 2009 PEOPLE cover story.
“He does not want to be married to me anymore. No questions asked, he went and hired a lawyer and said, ‘You’d better get one.’ So I did. I never would’ve made that step; I never would have done it. But I did, because he told me to do it,” she said.
At the time of the filing, they agreed to rotate in and out of the house while the children stayed put, an arrangement not unlike how they’d been living while Kate was traveling for book signings or speaking engagements or while Jon went skiing or to visit friends.
“It’s technically not that much of a change,” she conceded.
And yet, it was hard for her.
“I’ve only not been here while I was working, and Jon tried to compare that and make it seem like when he was away, it was the same as when I was away, which doesn’t add up,” she said. “Bottom line: He wasn’t here. And he hasn’t been here. But now he’s going to have to be here more for the kids, and the kids are happy about that. They’re thrilled that Daddy is going to be here this weekend. The hard part is that now I have to leave, and not for work. I’ve got to go find somewhere else to be. I’m not sure where I’ll go. But it’s good. When I’m wandering around the country alone, I’ll just know that they’re happy that he’s here. So there’s that.”
Still, after months during which, she said, Jon would barely speak to her, the breakup was, to some degree, “a relief. I’ve been living in a pressure cooker for a long time.”
“On a good day I feel relief. On a bad day I feel failure,” she said, her voice breaking and tears welling in her eyes. “I’ve never quit anything in my life. It feels like I’ve failed. It’s hard. This is the first war I’ve fought alone. Really, really alone.”
Kate said there was no defining moment that led her to conclude her marriage was broken. “It was event after event after event where I came to realize: This is not the same person I married,” she said. “I remember just looking at him and thinking, ‘I wouldn’t choose to marry that exact person right now … so why am I here?’ Our goals don’t match up anymore, our dreams don’t match up, our ideas don’t match up.”
And yet, when the time came to formalize the separation, Kate was devastated. “I curled up in a ball and I sobbed,” she said, shuddering. “I couldn’t breathe; I was hyperventilating. I was scaring people who were calling to check on me, because I couldn’t even talk. I said, ‘I’m done, I’m done, I’m so done. I’ve held it together, I’ve been strong long enough, I’m done.’ I just sat here and sobbed and sobbed. I’m bracing myself for more days like those; I’m not silly. But I’m determined to get through them.”
To hear Kate tell it, her marriage might have been flawed from the start.
“I think that for the past 10 years, I was operating under the belief that marriage is forever. So I exhausted myself trying to do everything and make everything be okay, when maybe it just couldn’t,” she said. “I don’t hate Jon. He’s lost, he’s confused. I don’t look at him 100 percent of the time with horrible anger and animosity. He’s the father of my children. My dream and my hope is that we can share holidays and birthdays and, for the kids, have it be peaceful. All of those times that we can pull together and drop our issues at the door, it just benefits our kids.”
Six months after the filing, the reality stars’ divorce was finalized, and Jon and Kate were legally restored to the status of single persons.
“I am very relieved that our divorce has been finalized, and I look forward to the New Year, focusing on the children,” Kate said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE in December 2009. “On behalf of myself and my legal team, I want to express my deep appreciation to the Judge and his staff, as well as to the arbitrator, for resolving this case.”
She added: “This has been a challenging transition for all of us, but I am confident that we will move ahead with the important task of restructuring our lives.”
In the time since their split, Kate has learned to navigate life without Jon. Even still, the relationship’s dissolution was a shock years later to Kate, who told PEOPLE in 2016 that her ex-husband transformed suddenly while they were still married.
“I really would have thought he’d have been here for the long haul,” Kate said seven years after their marriage dissolved. “The weirdest thing is that overnight he became a different person.”
Kate said Jon began buying motorcycles and cars, and staying out late.
“People closest to me thought I was crazy and making it up,” Kate said. “When they saw it for themselves, they were like, ‘Whoa.’ They saw the proof – and then I saw all the letters from women saying, ‘I’ve been there, too.’ ”
Jon remains estranged from twins Mady and Cara, though he attempts to maintain a relationship with them by annually wishing them a happy birthday via social media.
In August 2016, Mady and Cara told PEOPLE that they weren’t speaking to their father, who had spoken about them in the press.
“He makes it seem like we’re being kept from him, which is insane,” Mady said. “He should maybe spend some time thinking about why we don’t want to see him, and maybe realize that if he ever does want a relationship with us, talking about us on TV is not the way to make that happen.”
“He doesn’t even know us,” she added about Jon, who is dating longtime girlfriend Colleen Conrad. “How can he dare to talk about us?”
Now, as both Mady and Cara prepare to begin college this fall, Kate is also preparing to begin a new journey of her own: dating!
“I started picturing myself sitting in a rocking chair, knitting, and words like ‘old maid’ and ‘spinster’ started to come to mind, and I realized that no, I don’t want that to be my fate,” she previously told PEOPLE of the series.
Though she admitted her life is “very complicated,” she doesn’t want that to hold her back. And when it comes to what she’s looking for in a match, Kate said she’s “open.”
“I do want someone with a set career, who is confident,” she said. “A grown-up with their own life, their own agenda, who knows who they are. If someone travels for work, that would be great, because I’m used to being on my own and being self-sufficient.”