The Bickersons: Troy and Tammy

A Step Away from Divorce?
Dr. Phil speaks with guests whose only form of communication is through bickering.

Troy and Tammy originally appeared on the show because they were constantly at odds with each other, and Tammy believed Troy's mother interfered in their marriage. See their first appearance.


Since then, the couple started to work with a therapist, but their fighting has only escalated.


Tammy thinks her mother-in-law would do "whatever it takes" to get Troy to divorce her, and she says the show only proved her point that her husband's loyalty is with his mother " not her. "You see Troy protecting his mom and the nice little smile on her face when he did," she says, adding that after the Dr. Phil show, "there were literally 97 phone calls between Troy and his mother in one month."
Tammy doesn't want a divorce, but says, "I have a hard time trusting Troy at this point because of how many times he's threatened to leave or has left ... Troy needs to be committed to his wife, his family and his marriage."

"I thought the show fueled a monster," says Troy. "Tammy wanted me to go on the show to prove that I was wrong. And I think she did that," he says, adding that many posts on the message boards seemed to be supporting Tammy. Troy says that his wife is different in public than she is behind closed doors. Others may see a beautiful, energetic woman, he says, "but the private Tammy is very hot tempered, very difficult to communicate with ... We can be sitting on the couch watching the Dr. Phil show, holding
hands, loving on each other, and I'll make a comment that can completely escalate into something that I wasn't prepared for."


The two of them have very different perspectives on who initiates their fights, who usually apologizes, and who holds grudges. "I don't want a divorce," says Troy. "I would like to see Dr. Phil get her to accept some responsibility in this relationship. If things keep going the way they're going, I think that we're not going to be together."

After their first appearance, Dr. Phil arranged for cameras to be placed in Troy and Tammy's home. In one instance, their 2-year-old daughter stands on a chair at the kitchen sink while they argue. Following are excerpts:

Tammy: I called your mom an F-ing c---. I said it. I shouldn't have said it. I told you I was sorry, and I have paid for the last six days! We keep talking about things from five years ago, four years ago ... You want to talk about that? Or is that what really matters?!
Troy: No. I want a divorce.
Tammy: OK.
Troy: Where are you running off? We need to talk about it.
Tammy: All you talk about is the past. That's all you've talked about!

Troy (off camera): I'm going to break down the damn door! You're such a pathetic, pathetic human soul. Bye Tam!

Their daughter, turning from the sink: Daddy?

Asked how they feel about the fighting, Troy and Tammy's sons have this to say:

"When they argue too much, I just want to leave because I don't like it," says one child.

"When they argue, it makes me feel really bad," replies the other.

On stage, Dr. Phil asks Troy and Tammy where they are in their relationship. Troy explains that he has changed his mind and he wants a divorce.


"This is nothing new," says Tammy. "He says he wants a divorce every other week. At this point, if he wants a divorce, there's not a whole lot I can do about it. I don't want a divorce."


Dr. Phil asks Tammy about her behavior: "[Troy] says that what you're showing here on the show is the public Tammy. And that at home, you yell and scream and attack and interrupt and accuse and manipulate and are just absolutely over the top."


"Well, I definitely admit that I am a boisterous person," says Tammy. "I yell. I do yell, it's something that I've been working on. I feel constantly threatened, and I am defensive because of that."


Pointing out an example when Tammy lied about their fighting, Dr. Phil says, "I don't want to deal with a fantasy. If you tell me what's going on, I can give you my feedback about it, but if not, don't waste your time and mine."

"You realize you're doing this in front of your children?" Dr. Phil asks them. "I've watched your little daughter, 2 years old, standing at the sink while you are threatening each other, and yelling and screaming back and forth, and she's having to hear all this. And that's absolutely terrible. This has to stop one way or another," says Dr. Phil.


Dr. Phil asks Troy if he's leaving his wife. "Yeah, I am leaving," says Troy. "And I tried to leave three other times because of this. It's not worth it anymore."


Tammy interrupts, "I don't think leaving though is the answer, and I know for a fact that Troy will never find someone who loves him more than I do, or is better for him than I am ... I want us to get better together, but if he's leaving, it obviously doesn't matter."


Troy points out that he's still working with their counselor on an individual basis, but Tammy stormed out of their couple's session, and has not been back.

Dr. Phil asks their therapist, Leslie Rogers: "It's not going well as a couple, correct?"


"It's not going well at all," says Leslie, confirming that Tammy did leave their last session. "I mean, they love hard and they fight hard," she says, pointing out that their fighting makes it "impossible" to do therapy.


Dr. Phil turns to Troy and asks him if he's being honest.


"I believe I'm being absolutely honest," he replies.


Dr. Phil asks him, "After the show was over, did you go on to the message board identifying yourself as a neighbor, and put up a post?"


"No, I did not," says Troy.


Dr. Phil reads the message: "'It's hilarious that you people who say Troy is cruel are the same ones that are being verbally abusive on this message board. Tammy, yes, seems so sad and upset on stage, but I know the person she really is because I live next door. I see her verbally bully her kids ... I have seen her let her kids listen to rap music with the most horrific language where you hear 'F' this and 'F' that, and I hope that Troy and Tammy get back on the show so we can really hear both sides.'"

Dr. Phil tells Troy, "When they traced this back, it was traced back to your computer."


"Really?" asks Tammy sarcastically. "Isn't that funny? You're so honest, aren't you?"


Troy admits that he had someone write that message because he felt that everyone on the message board was on Tammy's side.

"Oh, boy," says Tammy, shaking her head.


Dr. Phil asks Troy, "Why did you marry Tammy to begin with?"


"I met Tammy very soon after my first divorce. So, Tammy to me was very exciting, beautiful, fun. I felt that she actually loved me, took care of me, but a lot of that changed," he says about the past three years.


Dr. Phil asks Tammy, "If you had it to do over again, if you knew then what you know as you sit here today, would you have married him?"


"Yes," she replies.


Dr. Phil poses the same question to Troy.


"No way," says Troy.

Dr. Phil tells them what he thinks: "You guys have yet, in my opinion, to have a single, solitary argument, fight, conversation, sharing or exchange about what I call an issue. You're fighting about what I call topics. And when you fight about everything, you're fighting about nothing. Topics are money, kids, time, attention and where you were. Those are things that are interchangeable. The issues are what really drive you ... The issues that underlie those things are the core issues of acceptance, love, safety, trust, integrity, belonging. All of those things are what really matter, and you've never discussed those things. You don't talk about them because you're so busy fighting about topics that you never get to the issues."


Dr. Phil explains to them that their relationship has become a competition, which makes the other party the enemy. In order for one of them to win, the other has to lose. "That doesn't work!" he says.


Troy recognizes that he's competitive, but says his wife has unrealistic expectations.


Tammy defends herself: "I get mad, and I get angry, and I cause fights, you betcha," but says she doesn't move out every time there's a problem.

"These children don't have a voice, but let me tell you, children would a hell of a lot rather be from a broken home than live in one. And right now they're living in a broken home," Dr. Phil says. They need to allow their therapist, Leslie, to "drill down" and get to the core of their issues.


Tammy interrupts, "But don't I have the right to have the security of knowing that tomorrow my husband is still going to be married to me instead of through with this?"


Dr. Phil replies, "You have the right to know that, but you need to hear what I'm saying right now. You can reject it if you want to, but at least hear it."


He asks Tammy, "Is it that you're tired of living with fear every day, that you want a soft place to fall, that you want to know that there's a home where you belong and are accepted and not criticized and monitored and inventoried every single day of your life? How does that sound?"


"That sounds great," replies Tammy.


Dr. Phil says to Troy, "And you want to know that your wife is proud of you and supports you in a loving relationship with your family and children."

Dr. Phil continues: "That requires that both of you get honest about your needs, and that you wake up every morning and look at yourself in the mirror and ask, 'What can I do today to make my marriage better?'"


Dr. Phil tells them what he thinks about them getting divorced. "I've said before, if you want out of this, you've got to earn your way out. And long suffering is not the same as earning. The fact that you've been in pain a long time is not earning your way out. Earning your way out is drilling down to the issues. Earning your way out is owning your responsibility for the marriage being off in the ditch, and saying, 'This is not 50/50; it's 100/100.'"
Encouraging them to work on themselves as individuals, Dr. Phil continues, "You're ready to get a divorce when you can walk out the door without bitterness, resentment or unfinished emotional business. You've got to finish the emotional business until you can look into a mirror and say, 'I've done everything I know how to do and I'm at peace with the fact that it simply wasn't meant to be.'"


After the show, during a discussion with the audience, Dr. Phil informs Troy and Tammy — who've both been married before — that while the divorce rate in America is as high as 50 percent, the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is as high as 70 percent. "Which suggests," he adds, "that you might as well just hunker down where you are, because your odds are getting worse."