I’m So Mad at Joel on Parenthood I Could Scream: When a Marriage Partner Quits

“I’m so mad at Joel on Parenthood,” my husband said to me out of the blue. And I couldn’t agree more.

The Parenthood television program on NBC has been a hard-hitting family drama for several years. Last year they tackled breast cancer and its impact. This year, they’re approaching how a marriage breaks down.

Joel & Julia on Parenthood – Photo Credit

Julia and Joe have been running through a rough patch. Julia, who used to be a high-powered attorney, is now a stay at home mom. Joel, who used to be in that role, is ramping up his construction business. These two characters are obviously moving in different directions, and it’s showing in how they are separating from each other. Joel is putting his energy into his work. Julia finds a friend with a fellow male parent who is also floundering as a stay-at-home dad.

As Joel continues to shut out Julia, Julia finds herself attracted to her male friend and the two end up sharing a kiss. She immediately realizes her mistake and tries to cut off communication with the parent. But when Joel finds out about the kiss, he tells her there’s something wrong with her. Julia suggests the two of them go talk to someone, but Joel accuses Julia of having something wrong with her and that she’s the one who needs to go talk to someone. (Serious red flag here, folks!) In the end, Joel announces that he is simply done and wants to move out.

And this is when my husband Scott told me he was seriously mad at Joel.

As a wife, I do wonder if my point of view is skewed toward the female characters on this show. I can often sympathize (and sometimes empathize) with how they must experience life. So it’s always interesting to hear the male point of view from my husband.

What left both of us steaming mad is the thought that one of us might actually behave as Joel is acting. Scott and I have been through some tough times, just as any marriage does, and it never occurred to either of us to just hightail it when the going got rough. As Scott said, he felt Joel was just copping out of the situation rather than dealing with the real issues at hand…. the two characters are growing apart through faults on both of their parts.

It takes two to tango, and rarely is someone clearly to blame. Often, both parties have a hand in how the marriage has broken apart whether they see it or not.

A good friend of mine once told me he knew his marriage was over when his wife announced she was unhappy so he needed to go to counseling to fix himself. She had had an affair and wanted him to fix whatever she blamed as the reasons she cheated. Talk about being disconnected from reality. But the simple fact is, despite her obviously unrealistic expectations and misguided puffed-up image of herself, my friend readily admitted that he played a part in the destruction of the marriage.

He said he saw the signs that she was self-centric and couldn’t see past how life specifically affected her. But he was young and madly in love. He just didn’t think about that stuff and what it meant trying to build a full life with someone. After they got married, as an old-fashion Southern boy, he expected her to be a traditional house wife. She cooked. She cleaned. She stayed home to take care of their daughter. He worked and traveled for work at that. I have to believe there was a growing resentment on her part the more he was absent and the less involved he was with their daughter. He was a loving father but not an active dad.

By his own admission, when the two of them got divorced he didn’t even know how to properly brush his daughter’s hair. He had to admit to himself that he wasn’t as involved as he had convinced himself he was. He also admitted that he had overlooked serious red flags before he got married because he was in love. That’s what love does, right? But picking a life partner should be taken with more seriousness. Be in love but make sure they’re the right person to build a life with.

So as the Parenthood character Joel continue down this destructive path, we’ll have to watch to see if he pulls his head out of his butt and puts in the work to help resurrect and save the marriage. If he puts in the good fight and the marriage can’t be saved, that’s one thing. But to just walk away without even trying… well, that’s just beyond sad and pathetic.

If you haven’t seen Parenthood, I can’t tell you how much my husband and I love love love this show. Check it out on iTunes: Parenthood Season 1

Read some of my other posts on marriage:

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  1. says

    Your headline grabbed my attention immediately because while I think Joel is being a little extreme, I’m not that mad at him. At all. To be clear, I’m a girl’s girl all day long but I also recognize betrayal immediately.

    Julia betrayed their contract by abruptly quitting her job. No discussion, no warning–boom. She upset the apple cart that had been their agreement and arrangement for years. I know why she did it, what mother wouldn’t want to be with their kids more especially when faced with a very demanding job where either home or work is going to suffer irreparably when you’re focused on the other. I get it.

    But, she made a unilateral decision that affected all of their lives. THEN, she went out of her way to try to manage Joel and his career, hounding him about what he needed to do in order to be successful in his negotiation with his new partner–emphasizing that his future income was so vital to their family. While I understand her angst, there wouldn’t be so much pressure on that deal had Julia not quit her job.

    Then she turned to the other parent because she was confused and lonely and out of her element as a stay-at-home mom instead of turning to her husband. It’s true that Joel wasn’t around as much but how many times did we see Julia rushing off to work when Joel needed something from her. When he was struggling with the slights of a being the stay-at-home dad.

    And finally, the coup de grace, when he asked her had anything happened with that guy, she flat out LIED to his face. At that moment I KNEW he wouldn’t forgive her when the truth came out. I firmly believe that had she come clean in that moment when he was desperate to know the truth from her, he could have handled it better. He would have been hurt and upset but he wouldn’t now look upon his wife as a cheater AND a liar.

    So again, while I think he is being extreme with checking out and then moving out, I totally get it. I’m willing to cut him lots of slack with this one.

    And thanks for providing a space for me to talk about this. None of my friends watch the show!! :)

    • says

      I definitely see your points, Patranila. She did mess up. But those are reasons to talk and communicate. Not shut down and shut out. And let’s not forget that Joel has been quick to do that — from ignoring Victor’s school issues to denying how he’s being treated (and losing serious margin) from his business “partner.”

        • says

          I saw his stance on Victor’s school issues as more of denial about what was actually happening because he didn’t want that outcome for his son rather than him ignoring it. It was the same with making Victor stick out his softball attempt and his reading. Joel is a stay-the-course guy when it comes to Victor, remaining consistent with a child trying to adapt to a new situation.

          Again, I agree he should be staying and talking but I see a man at the end of his rope because she went outside their marriage and then lied about it. I firmly place the onus on Julia because she was the one having a problem adjusting and she chose to delve deeper into a relationship with another man instead of turning to her husband. Major problem with her not staying and talking.

          As for the negotiation, Joel was in the weaker position and frankly didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver. He needed the gig more than she needed him to do it. There are thousands of contractors but only one development. Sometimes you just have to play your position until that position changes. And if she hadn’t quit, the margins wouldn’t be as direly important.

          And I love a good debate!! :)

    • tookie says

      I have to point out that Julia told Joel the truth he didnt just find out about it. If you want to point out lies how about the Raquel storyline. He had her in the house baking cookies while his wife was at work,after she tried to kiss him. He got caught. He was drunk and out to dinner with peete and yet again got caught in a lie.

      For all we know more happened with Raquel then what he said because we never as an audience saw the interaction. For all he knows Julia was kisses by Ed and that was it.

  2. says

    I don’t watch Parenthood, but have heard great things about it. It takes two to tango. Marriage is seriously hard work. Both people have to work at it. So many people think divorce is the only option and give up way too easily. I have been with my husband for 24 years. We are high school sweethearts. So we grew up together and endured all the milestones that come with going to college, graduating, getting real jobs, and even maintaining a long distance relationship. We were together 13 years before we even got married. It will work, if you work at it.

    • says

      I agree. You have to be willing to do the work. One person can’t do it all by herself.

      BTW — There aren’t many television shows I would say someone really ought to watch — but this is by far one of them! :-)

  3. Natalie says

    What annoys me so much about this is that the same thing DID HAPPEN TO Joel! Remember that super flirtatious mother who was practically obsessed with him? I can’t remember her name, but she totally kissed Joel …. and he (supposedly) pushed away. He took a while to tell Julia about it, and she forgave him. In fact – she let their daughters take a class together after the incident. I love Joel’s character on the show — and I think he and Julia are adorable together … but he is being a total hypocrite. Such a double-standard!! AGHHHHH!

  4. Sadie says

    Completely Disagree. Joel has accumulated an insane amount of clout over the seasons. He’s super-dad, super-husband, super son-in-law, super brother-in-law, super-person, and a super man. Joel has also put up with a lot over the years from his overbearing wife and her family. From disregarding his feelings and opinions during the whole Zeek and Camilla affair debacle in season 1 (when she told him outright his opinion on the subject matter was unwanted and wouldn’t even be considered) to season 3 when Julia announced they were trying to have a child without discussing it with her husband first (like he clearly asked) to quitting her job without so much as a word to her husband beforehand in season 4. Joel took it all in stride because he believed that at the end of the day love and mutual respect would sustain them and his wife would rise to the occasion if the roles were reversed. Well, the roles did reverse and Julia fell flat. She refused to supply him with the same amount of support, care, and understanding he provided for 8 years. She was clearly uncomfortable with his professional success, and sabotaged him at every turn. Incessantly calling him during the day because she couldn’t handle her own children, barging into his place of business/causing a scene, and spewing personal information in front of his superior. On top of all this, she kisses another man and discusses her children’s well-being with him (taking his opinion on the matter into far more consideration than her husband’s), doesn’t tell him for weeks, and only divulges her indiscretion after a fight ensues between her husband and this other man at an event. Forget a separation, I would have demanded a divorce.

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