Rodney Peete & Holly Robinson Peete: Autism Started To Consume The Marriage

In the May issue of Redbook, Celebrity Apprentice star Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, reveal their rocky past that brought them to the brink of divorce and how they found strength to face their son RJ’s autism diagnosis.

Holly, on dealing with their son RJ’s diagnosis: “We went through this emotional connection, and we just cried in each other’s arms. We didn’t know what the hell this autism thing was. We were both in denial for a few weeks.” Rodney adds: “I stayed angry and blamed the doctor and was still in denial—while Holly basically rolled up her sleeves and did what needed to be done.”

Holly, on how they disconnected after RJ’s diagnosis with autism: “We did have conversations, but Rodney shut down. Part of being in denial is that you don’t talk about your feelings. I would do these all-nighters with him, and the poor guy would just lie there in bed curled up. I’d say, ‘Are you listening to me?!’ until 3, 4 in the morning. He wouldn’t respond, so I felt disconnected from him. He didn’t understand what I was going through, or what his son was going through — or he wasn’t trying to. I don’t think we had any conversations that could get us anywhere because he hadn’t come to terms with his feelings.”

Rodney, on how autism started to consume the marriage: “The situation consumed us; all other conversations didn’t matter. Everything led back to, ‘What are we doing about R.J.?’ And Holly telling me what the reality is and what I should be doing — and me not wanting to believe it. It started driving a wedge in the marriage.”

Holly, on how she tried to connect with Rodney: “I would send him books upon books so he could read about what’s going on in this kid’s head. There were no dad books like the book Rodney has written; I looked all over. I would say, ‘Please, can you just start trying to understand?’ And I would stand there with my arms crossed and say to him things like, ‘Do you even know what autism is? Could you explain it to somebody?’ I mean, I always challenge Rodney, but later when I read his book, I thought, Oh, my God, I so went out of my way to emasculate him.”

Rodney, on how the experience has transformed him: “It made me let my guard down and be vulnerable. That was hard for me, because I had been expected to be strong and show confidence always—when you’re a quarterback, that’s what you’ve got to do…In retrospect, it’s also made me think how ironic it is that my whole life has been spent on team sports…That’s what it takes, a team, and that’s what Holly was trying to get me to understand.”

Holly, on what they’ve learned as a couple: “The problem with autism is that you don’t know if things are going to come out fine. You just have to tweak the expectations. And that’s what I knew I needed Rodney for—I needed a partner in that journey. We still have our issues, but there’s never any talk of our marriage being over, or any of that stuff we used to talk about.” Adds Rodney: “It’s Team Peete.”

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

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Filed under: Holly Robinson Peete

Photo credit: Redbook

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  • brenda

    holly i saw u at the naeyc conference i wanted to know how is from a famous parent to a parent, my son has aspeguer, and its being so difficult, i m a single mom of four kids and an ex that just cause more trouble, your idea of the holly houses is great, we need the suppor of other parents, someone ask me: what kind of mother give his son drugs? i answer the mother that cannot control the diet no more, the mother that try all the techniques but their not working the mother that is getting crazy about homework of only one kid, and the drugs just like his medicine are for him to stay focus

  • Mrs Jay

    Holly God bless you for giving families with autism a voice. I’m a parent of daughter who is in the spectrum. It’s hard to explain to people why my daughter is different. It brakes my heart when the school children won’t play with her. My husband & I never given her a birthday party since I don’t know it anyone would show up. I cry daily !!!!!.

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