No, Rachel Hollis Isn't Toxic – Here's Why

Holly Slater

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

It’s important to let readers know that when it comes to Rachel Hollis, her divorce, and the subsequent marketing of her new book, I’m a complete outsider.

I was never invested in this woman as an influencer. I never really subscribed to the idea of an “influencer” anyway. People might be famous content creators, motivational speakers, writers, Instagram models, entertainers, etc., but I think labeling successful digital creators as “influencers” kind of talks down to us, the audience.

We just like what we like, and many of us are not easily influenced.

I’d never even heard of Rachel Hollis before all the internet drama happened. I knew less than John Snow about her — until bloggers and YouTubers started discussing her divorce from husband and business partner, Dave Hollis.

And some of the stuff out there has been vicious. Bloggers labeling her as a liar and a fraud, ex-fans on social media throwing insults, and YouTubers making bank off of videos where they judge her for monetizing her divorce (as they monetize her divorce).

Note — I think everyone who is upset about investing in Rachel and Dave’s relationship advice has every right to feel their feelings. They feel hurt and betrayed. Their feelings are valid.

But so are mine. And so are Rachel’s and Dave’s. We’re all just humans here.

I also know that Rachel’s divorce has brought to light some other criticisms, notably her instances of plagiarism and her support of multilevel marketing schemes. She’s definitely made some mistakes. And now, she’s become the picture of the very thing she tried to teach everyone not to be — one half of a broken marriage.

Even so, I think we need less judgment and shaming of her during the awful situation she and Dave and their four children now find themselves in, and more support of a strong woman entrepreneur who is doing her best to keep her business going and support her kids — when her divorce could very well destroy it.

The Trauma Of Divorce

If you aren’t familiar with this public couple, here’s some background. Rachel Hollis is a best-selling author, podcaster, and motivational speaker. Her personal development conferences were immensely successful. She also found a demand for couples conference, which she produced with her hubby, Dave.

People who invested in this part of their messaging or paid good money — $1,700 — to attend their relationship conference were pissed when they learned of the divorce. Rachel and Dave were charging money to teach couples about a healthy relationship when they themselves were having problems. They were also putting out a happy-marriage image to the public through their podcast, social media, or blog posts.

I got all the facts available about the split from Rachel’s and Dave’s public announcements. There aren’t a ton of details available. All we know is that there were problems, and in the end, it was decided that the healthiest choice for them and their children would be to divorce.

I’ve been there. I’ve been in that exact same spot as a woman and mother. And it was miserable.

You feel guilt for separating your family. You feel like a weak person for not being able to tough it out. You feel like a failure as a woman and a mother, even though you believe you’re making the decision that is healthier for you, and will therefore ultimately make you a better mom.

Not only is Rachel going through a divorce, but she also has to deal with a crushing professional blow at the same time. Breaking their long marriage is not only traumatic in general — it’s terrible for her career. She’s losing followers left and right, which could greatly impact how she’s able to provide for herself and her kids.

I’m sure she’ll probably be alright financially, the way she’s continuing to show up and work. But girl has some major egg on her face, and she is down. So many other women (and some men) are kicking her when she’s already down there, floundering around in her mistakes.

Problems With Rachel Hollis, And My Response

1. Rachel and Dave were putting out relationship advice in books and blogs — and holding pricy conferences — when they were having their own issues

Okay. But — take a look at a few of the ideas that Rachel and Dave claimed would help you have a healthier relationship. These are tips I found on their blog and their podcast:

  • Take the time to go on a date night each week
  • Try new things together
  • Make out a lot
  • Communicate with each other
  • Find solutions to resolve arguments (in this case, they hired a cleaning lady, which relieved the stress of fighting about who’d be cleaning the toilet next)
  • Don’t let extended family manipulate your decisions — instead, do what’s best for your own relationship and your kids
  • Don’t let passion go by the wayside — prioritize your intimate relationship

We can clearly see that these are valuable, healthy habits to practice. Doesn’t matter who is saying it.

I think it’s key to look at the actual advice they gave — not hold them up as some sort of Infalliable Gods of Marriage. Every couple is susceptible to divorce. Every single one. Even the world’s most brilliant and educated marriage counselor might one day find her spouse has left her for any number of reasons — from finding a younger woman to a mid-life crisis.

Does that mean we should bash said marriage counselor till she agrees to give up and quit her job?

People paid for these conferences, and I think they got a lot of value out of them. They loved the experience, and I’m sure a lot of couples improved their relationship as a result of doing this important work.

These retreats weren’t full of bullshit, unfit for an audience. They were entertaining, well-produced, big events. If they were so terrible, Rachel wouldn’t have been able to keep booking more.

Additionally, Rachel and Dave never claimed to be professional therapists with PhDs — they simply became popular (because we made them popular) and they worked to inspire other couples. Even though they didn’t make it, they were able to share a lot of stories about the problems they’ve had at one point and how they resolved them. You can hear about some in this podcast episode.

Even if they couldn’t resolve all their problems, they still taught things that have brought value to others.

Every couple is different. Dave and Rachel didn’t make it. That doesn’t mean some of the couples who utilize this basic, sometimes obvious advice (like “communicate with each other”) won’t make it.

I don’t see a reason to ask for a refund. And no, I don’t think your relationship is also doomed if you practice good communication...

2. Rachel’s a toxic liar and a fraud because she ended up eventually getting divorced

As a divorced woman and mother, I have to tell you that from the first time I considered divorce to actually following through with it was about three and a half years.

During that time, I spent many days accepting my decision to stay in it for the long haul. I was committed, and I was going to go about the business of being a loving, happy couple no matter what conflicts came our way!

Other days, the bad days, things would happen, and I’d think about how separating might be healthier. This doesn’t mean I’d made my decision to leave the marriage. This was simply me, being a human person, thinking about all my options.

Just because you and your spouse have problems (as all couples do) and you, understandably, contemplate your right to leave that situation — that doesn’t mean you’ve automatically decided that your relationship is total garbage and ready to be thrown out.

When you’re in your marriage, you’re in it. When Rachel and Dave were committed, they kept working their business.

No one knows the exact moment they went from committing to working on their problems to deciding to end things (because I tell ya, in every relationship, none of which are perfect, you’re either doing one or the other). We don’t know when that very last straw broke and how that would impact the relationship coaching aspect of their career.

All critics can do is speculate.

And now that they’ve split, I don’t think they’ll be putting on relationship retreats. Maybe “How to Divorce and Co-parent” retreats, sure.

And honestly, divorced women like myself have some pretty damn useful advice on what not to do in a relationship. When you’re on the other side of it, you’re able to start learning from your mistakes. You’re able to help others see what caused your marriage to end.

3. She’s monetizing her divorce in her new book

People don’t even know the reason behind the divorce (which could honestly be a heart-wrenching, terrible reason — who knows?), and they’ve already pegged Rachel as a selfish money-hungry whore who is angering God and profiting off the pain and tears of couples as she sits on her THRONE OF LIES! (I’m paraphrasing.)

You can see an example of this kind of harsh criticism here, from a “parenting influencer” who, in part 2 of his Rachel Hollis exposé, told us that this video is one of his highest viewed (and highest-grossing) of all time.

He’s getting enough content for multiple videos and making a good bit of cash off of Rachel’s divorce, as are lots of other YouTubers and bloggers — the majority of whom are women.

They’re judging her for being a relationship guru exploiting her divorce for profit in a book — while they’re making money from the scandal of her divorce.

This judgment I’m seeing of a writer “exploiting” her divorce for money by writing about it has to run off me like water off a duck's back. I’m a blogger who writes explicit details about my personal life experiences.

Writing is my profession and my creative outlet — and so I write. It’s often fun and/or therapeutic for me, and I can use said money for things like buying food for my child and paying the water bill, while also, hopefully, providing value to readers.

Rachel Hollis has a very fresh, real, and raw experience to write about. Why do we have to rake her across the coals for sharing her personal story and maybe helping someone else who is just now going through the beginning stage of a crushing divorce?

And from what I’ve heard about the book, it’s not some manifesto about how to become completely healed from divorce. It’s about going through grief of all kinds, and one of those very real things she’s grieving right now is the loss of her marriage and her family as she knew it.

According to her podcast, it would feel inauthentic to her not to include her divorce when she’s currently writing a book about pain and loss she has experienced in her personal life.

Makes sense to this writer.

Building Women Up As They Work Through Their Mistakes

I understand why fans feel betrayed and duped and sold to. But, even if you subscribed to Rachel Hollis’s thoughts on marriage and her picture of perfection, you can still understand that sometimes, things in life take a turn. They go wrong. And we don’t always react in the best way.

I don’t think she and Dave were behind the curtain at conferences, rubbing their hands together with menacing grins saying, “These idiots. They’re shelling out so, so much moola. Wait till we follow through with our plan to divorce in two years — how foolish they will feel! And how much they will hate us. Mwhahahha!”

I think this thing happened. It was bad for her career. It was bad for her emotionally. She recognizes it as a trauma for her and her family. She picked herself up rather quickly and went back to work.

Good for her.

Rachel recently got Rob Lowe on her podcast—this was after the whole divorce thing got out. Girl is working it. He’s one of my very favorite people, and he and Rachel put out an amazing interview about working and careers. I’ll take Rob Lowe’s participation as an optimistic sign that Rachel’s not a total fraud. I mean, who doesn’t like Rob Lowe?

But —I’m aware that it’s also important not to let celebrity status impress us so much that it clouds our reality.

In the same way that we shouldn’t automatically smear Rachel as a cheat and hypocrite because she now finds herself going through a divorce — especially when we don’t yet know the whole story — we should also be careful about falling for, and giving loads of money to, self-help gurus who don’t have a single shred of counseling background.

You have every right not to like Rachel Hollis. You have every right to like her. You have every right to boycott her conferences and books.

But I think not buying her product is enough. We don’t also need to publicly shame her over and over again.

But now that plenty of bloggers and YouTubers and fans have already done so, some of them getting a leg up in their own career as a result, I think the word is out and they can stop now.

I’m not sure why all this has struck such a nerve with me. I’m pretty sure Rachel Hollis and her career will be fine, and so will Dave’s. They’ve both built a lot of their work in other self-help spaces like health, motivation, and career — and that’s something we can’t take away from them, as they are clearly fit, motivated, and successful.

I’d love to see us coming together to support each other more. Especially when we’re down. Even when someone makes mistakes — we can take these as learning opportunities and reach out to see how we can help them rather than slam them publicly and hurt their attempts to put themselves and their careers back together again.

Rachel Hollis isn’t perfect. She may not have handled all this in the best way. She may try to pivot it to save her career. She may continue to try to inspire others.

And I think that’s all well within her right — to try to heal, recover, and learn from her experiences.

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