I've never been a huge fan of Tori Spelling, but millions of others are and they love her. Her reality series with husband Dean McDermott broke records for the Oxygen network and remained in production for a solid eight years.
But comments from Spelling in a preview of a People article releasing Friday made me sit up and take notice. The exclusive is a celebration of her fifth child, a boy born March 2, but also gives some frank insight into the fight to save her marriage after McDermott cheated in 2013. The more I read up on her, the more I realized girlfriend knows a thing or two! Let’s allow her to help us look at a side of feminism that doesn’t get discussed enough: lovingly holding men accountable.
Spelling married McDermott after they met on a film and immediately cheated on their previous spouses. It almost seemed comical the way they declared their magnetic love, married and put their world on display (in six books in addition to the shows.) From the distance of my comfy living room, she always struck me as a little desperate for attention.
But she told People that despite her heartbreak during this recent scandal, she never thought about leaving. “Everyone was saying, ‘Divorce him! Why is she staying with him? That is weak. But my gut instincts just shut it all out, and I said, ‘I love this man. If there is a way to work it out, I want to try to do that.’” That’s interesting, especially in a culture like Hollywood and from someone who’s already shown a tenuous commitment to the institution of marriage.
As I trolled through clips of her series, I liked that Spelling owns her decisions (including the bad ones), works hard and seems to value friends and family. I could see the way she leveraged those characteristics to do something incredibly important to save her marriage. Believing that her husband could be better, she demanded that he rise above his own low expectations and then supported and participated in that effort. The result is a mutual respect engendered by a safe and loving friendship.
When we hear of a guy’s bad behavior, it’s easy to say that men are dogs and move on, but that’s too simplistic. Painting men as Neanderthals is the equivalent of diminishing women as sex kittens or prudish wives. The dumb guy persona is funny though — which is why it turns up so often on sitcoms — and he gets away with a lot — which is why he turns up at spring break year after year until he’s just the creepy old guy that kids milk for beer money.
But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that says men can’t be held to higher standards and won’t show up when they are. Think of the effort they put toward a job or girl they’re interested in and how improving at work can seem to hold their interest much longer than a relationship. Though I’m generalizing a bit, that happens because one continues to be a challenge that offers a high chance of reward. (It’s not the doting girlfriend.)
Soon after the scandal broke, Spelling and McDermott started intense couples counseling, which was filmed and used in the docu-series True Tori in 2014. As the drama unfolded, Spelling did well by keeping the blame in the right place. Both on camera with friends and in off-camera interviews, she declined to point fingers at the other woman, holding only her husband accountable for breaking his promises to her. She also didn’t cut him any wiggle room because of the way their own relationship began. Once a cheater, always a cheater? Nope, doesn’t have to be. Couldn't control himself? Not buying it.
In therapy, she held her ground while McDermott worked his way through excuses. Check out this clip where he tries to get her to share responsibility.
It was a long process. On the very first episode Spelling visited her husband at a residential treatment center he’d checked into for substance and sex addiction. When he asked what she thought about him moving home, she told him no, that she needed to be heard and knew she wouldn’t be if he came home. It was smart of her to use the emotional safety she felt with the cameras and therapists to make her needs known. It also showed commitment on McDermott's part to let her show their drama to the world. (It got pretty ugly, as seen here.)
In a 2016 interview on Access Hollywood, Spelling described True Tori as her way of regaining control over a time when she felt she didn’t have any. But when she knew that wasn’t in the best interest of their marriage, she agreed to turn the cameras off and keep working.
The upshot of this, according to both of them, has been a stronger, more honest and fulfilling relationship.
Spelling told People, “We worked on everything. The relationship as we knew it died. We had to bury that and start new.”
And I suspect McDermott has a newfound respect for the strength of his wife and a fresh understanding of real love. “I am so blessed and lucky that she never walked away,” he told People. “Because now we have this incredible relationship.”
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