Dr. Judy 24/7

What Tiger Wood's Mother-in-Law's Health Crisis Reveals

Dr. Judy’s theory on Tiger Woods’ mother-in-law’s health crisis.

The facts: Tiger Woods’ mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital. This drama occurred just days after alleged paramours of her daughter’s famous pro golf husband went public with claims of sensationalized long and short-term sexual affairs, flings and fantasies, followed by Tiger’s own cover-up attempts and apology for his “transgressions.”

Question:  Is this a coincidence?

My theory: Tiger’s mother-in-law was exceptionally upset about the public expose, and physicalized her own emotional turmoil, such that her inner distress manifested in an outer health crisis.  Requiring hospitalization is further a sign of an inner voice saying: “someone please stop this or help”!  Barbo Holmberg’s own crisis reflects her daughter’s outburst and outrage, which was seemingly more outwardly expressed and maybe even physically acted out (i.e. did she swing  Tiger’s club in anger?).  Her daughter’s outward expression is even more reason for her mother to compensate by trying to maintain control in the headed household by holding her feelings in … until they had to explode (in physical symptoms).

This hypothesis is backed by the psychological theory that people who do not express emotion outwardly can SOMATIZE, which means that intense feelings are transformed into physical symptoms, like headaches, stomach pain (which Mrs. Holgren supposedly had), collapse (which she also did) and heart problems (that can be severe, even leading to a collapse or heart attack). Further, people in public office are more likely to repress emotions, and indeed, Elin’s mother held a local public office in her native Sweden. Specifically, she is a county governor (in Gävleborg), and until 2006 was a cabinet member in the Swedish government. Having had such a position, this is not a woman who wears her emotions on her sleeve, nor who has a son-in-law acting out sexual fantasies with myriad cocktail waitresses and porn stars, shaming her family, career and image. The family is prominent, further fueling their upset and shame over this expose. Elin’s father Thomas Nordegren is a well-known Swedish journalist who once worked as a foreign correspondent for Swedish National Radio in Washington, D.C.  – certainly a newspaper man would not want his family dirt splashed across the front pages of his very own media outlet -- NEWSPAPERS -- which is what has happened in Sweden.  

Further upsetting to the mother-in-law, with her cultural background and political career, is that the family’s public image of purity and propriety, as well as probably her dreams for her daughter’s “perfect” life (and her own), have now collapsed and come crashing down.  Even though Elin has been lauded as a folk hero for standing up to her man, the gossip is still not desirable given her “breeding.”

Likely fueling the mother’s stress are stories brewing in her hometown Swedish newspaper that her being overseas (to help her daughter through this marital crisis) is preventing her from dealing with a government-appointed job to deal with layoffs by Stockholm-based wireless company Ericsson.   

Another Swedish newspaper is quoting the Swedish-bred ex-wife of superstar singer Paul Anka, reportedly advising Woods’ wife: “Take the money and kick him in the butt. You don’t need him. He’s a pig. Get yourself another millionaire.”

But another paper is kinder: “Swedish hearts are full of pride over our own Elin, not a regular au pair but a daughter of a Social-Democratic minister and a national broadcast journalist, did not take any sh–. Exactly as a Swedish girl with a spine shall do, Elin is our hero.” (Note job listing as “au pair” --after all, she was a nanny to a Swedish golf pro), not the supermodel newspapers in America have labeled her).

What should a woman do? Women like Elin offered $5 million to stay with their cheating man for a year, and possibly $55 million for another two years, have a big monetary incentive to stand by their man! If the marriage was a mess already, they can continue concentrating on the children, and not seeing the traveling sports hubby anyway.

Anyway, the cat’s out of the bag.   

Of course she could gain money in a divorce. But some women with integrity might just leave regardless of the amounts. They just wouldn’t stand to live with the guy. For the vast majority of women not so lucky to get such massive pay-offs as Elin Nordgren, it is better for them to choose between leaving or making changes in the marriage – by both partners-- to make it work better for them.  

In the Complete Idiots Guide to A Healthy Relationship I address recovery from affairs, and prevention in terms of “affair-proofing” your marriage. The cheater has to get treatment to find out his reasons for straying, ego needs, impulse to indulgence, deeper insecurities, and methods for self-control to stop acting on his sexual urges (whether they are the signs of addiction or not). Cheaters have to prove they can be trustworthy, and rebuild their commitment. The cuckolded woman however, never fully forgets that she was cheated on, fears that she wasn’t sexy or desirable enough, and distrusts that he may do it again. To combat this, the man has to apologize continually, acknowledge how he hurt her, and prove himself over and over… it’s a long road that takes a lot of effort, you can see. 


Control Battles and How to Beat Them

Control battles are common – with one or the other partner buckling over who’s the boss! 

And the problems are not gender-free. In other words, it’s not always the man who always wears the pants in the family. 

Two celebrity couples demonstrate the dramas that can come from battles over control. First, an example of the woman rebelling against a controlling man: Katie Holmes, after initially marrying her dream man, Tom Cruise, is now apparently rebelling against his telling her what to do – from insisting that 3-year old daughter Suri be raised in Scientology instead of Catholicism as Katie wants, to even directing her about how to jog – wants her “space” from her domineering hubby. The small screen Dawson’s Creek-turned Broadway stage star is reportedly wanting to spend more time in NY than his preference for LA. 

From the opposite gender point of view, Brad Pitt is an example of the male rebelling against the Alpha Female. Heartthrob Pitt, who once seemed thrilled to follow in lover Angelina Jolie’s shadow through whirlwind worldwide travels, now is reportedly wanting his “space” -- staying in another wing of one of their mansions and recently disagreeing with her desire to take their brood of six abroad.

My advice: One exercise we marriage counselors often prescribe for couples in control battles is that they take turns being “boss,” with each having their way for a period of agreed-upon time, where the other goes along without protest. This exercise evens the battlefield and gets each used to leading as well as following. They may also need to accept the imbalance in who gets their way, recognizing that traits like being in control are hard to change. They also need to recognize that they chose their partner with that trait in the first place, for reasons that once were satisfying even if now annoying. On a deeper level, they need to confront whether the present-day domination or submission mirrors earlier childhood patterns that they once conceded but then rebelled against. Tracing the roots helps you accept that you chose a partner because of unconscious needs to repeat early experiences (even if you don’t like them).