Onscreen, he was the perfect family man. But in real life, Patrick Dempsey's near-divorce made him realize he had to change because he didn't want to lose his wonderful wife and the family they'd built.
You may know him as McDreamy or Derek Shepherd from the insanely popular medical drama, Grey's Anatomy. You may have even seen him in Made of Honor, Enchanted, or Bridget Jones' Baby as a man for whom family comes first. While he looks all put together as a family man, both onscreen and offscreen, Patrick Dempsey had to work pretty hard to keep his family together in real life.
And his story began in 1994 when, after his divorce from Rochelle "Rocky" Parker, Patrick met celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist Jillian Fink. Their first meeting happened when Patrick booked an appointment at the hair salon where Jillian worked. Going for a quick trim, it was Jillian who told People, "I was shocked [when he came in for an appointment] but at the same time, I was happy because he was so cute."
However, their journey didn't begin immediately. It took three years of haircuts for Patrick to finally find out that she was single and ask her out. From there on, it was a whirlwind romance that has lasted 20 years. Within three months of their first date, the lovestruck couple moved in together. Then after five years of being together, the two got married on July 31, 1999 at Patrick's family's farmhouse in Maine.
Since their wedding, both of them have been extremely successful in their careers, with Patrick making his fame as McDreamy while Jillian shot to fame as one of the most popular makeup artists and hairstylists to the stars including Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, and even her husband. "We try not to get into each other’s work too much," the actor told People.
Slowly, their family started growing too when in February 2002, their daughter Tallula Fyfe, was born. With her arrival, Patrick's eyes were opened to fatherhood.
Before he knew it, his family expanded by two more when in February 2007, he had twin sons, Sullivan Patrick and Darby Galen.
Patrick admitted that he was overwhelmed with the idea of having twin boys at first but all of that faded away when he actually held them.
The couple was more than happy with their family. So then where did it go south?
According to Good Housekeeping, in January 2015, Jillian filed for divorce. She cited irreconcilable difference and according to TMZ, she was looking to have joint custody of their three kids along with spousal and child support. The couple released a statement saying, "It is with careful consideration and mutual respect that we have decided to end our marriage. Our primary concern remains the wellbeing of our children, and we ask with profound gratitude that you respect our family's privacy at this very sensitive time."
Just when all of it seemed lost, in November 2016, the couple called off their divorce. It turns out that Patrick had been working hard on fixing his marriage before the loss of it devastated him. “Our marriage was not something I was prepared to let go of,” he told People. “I didn’t feel like we had done all the work. And we both wanted to do that work. That’s where it started.”
“It’s always destabilizing when you’re potentially breaking up a family or you have a big section of your life that’s ending,” he said. Gradually, with the help of couple's counseling which he said was "very important", he and Jillian were able to sort things out.
“Everybody has their own path,” said Patrick. “Jill and I decided it was time to work on our issues and improve. We wanted to be role models for our kids like, okay, if you have differences, you can work them out.”
In order to make good on his promise of working on the relationship, he cut back on his passion of car racing, so that he could spend more time with his wife and kids. “You can only do one thing at a time and do it well,” he said. “I [learned] to prioritize. Our union has to be the priority. I wasn’t prepared to give up on her and she wasn’t either. We both wanted to fight for it.”
Now, he considers his marriage to be a "new beginning". As for what he says keeps his marriage strong, “You’ve got to keep at it,” he mentioned. “You’ve got to communicate, and stay open and not get lazy. And not give up. And lots of sex!”