Kourtney Kardashian Can’t Win

Between her therapy journey and long-awaited fairytale romance, Kourtney’s life has drastically changed for the better in recent years. As a result, you'd think her family's relentless criticism of her unhappiness would've dialed down too. It hasn't.

Back in 2007, when Kris Jenner signed her entire family onto E! reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kourtney Kardashian was the most skeptical about pursuing fame.

At the time, Kourtney had been dating Scott Disick for about a year, and was understandably concerned about how much of their lives would be displayed to the world. However, regardless of her uncertainty, Kourtney ended up not just partaking in the series, but arguably carrying the entire thing on her back throughout the early seasons.

In fact, Kourtney not only exposed the most intimate private milestones of her relationship with Scott, but their various dramas became the centerpiece of the entire show. For almost a decade, KUWTK captured everything from the birth of Kourtney and Scott's three children, to rumors of his repeated infidelity, and the effects of his drug and alcohol abuse.

With their relationship driving most of the show’s storylines, Kourtney was left navigating serious personal fallout on camera, as well as enduring far more media scrutiny around her personal life than her sisters. For example, in one scene, Scott punched a mirror in an intoxicated rage after Kourtney accused him of letting people smoke weed in the hotel room they were staying in with their infant son. In another, he drunkenly attacked a waiter in Las Vegas and shoved a $100 bill in his mouth. Both stories exploded in the tabloids, and Kourtney was held accountable for Scott’s actions.

But by the time the pair eventually split for good in 2015, Scott had endeared himself to the family, and they spent the subsequent few years incessantly encouraging Kourtney to get back together with him. In fact, in the final season of KUWTK, Kris even told Kourtney it would be "fabulous" if the pair decided to settle down and "grow old" together — six years after the final breakup of their toxic relationship.

While the Kardashians’ hopes for a romantic reunion didn't happen, they didn't hold back in insisting that Kourtney continue to spend time around Scott at family events — even if this went against her wishes. In Season 18, for example, Kourtney told her mom and sisters that she was unsure about inviting Scott to her Christmas party. In response, Kris argued Scott was “part of our family” and had to be there, while Kim said Scott had “never done anything mean or said anything negative.”

Given how frankly untrue that statement from Kim was, Kourtney expressed that she was sick of facing “criticism and judgment” from her family when she didn’t live her life by their standards. She explained in a confessional, “They just don't have my back and they don't take my feelings into consideration.”

This emotional turmoil and consistent lack of support from her family took a huge toll on Kourtney's mental state, and her unhappiness was palpable to viewers. She demonstrated a visible lack of interest in anything other than her kids, had frequent emotional breakdowns on camera, and was branded "miserable" by her sisters.

And when she did enter into a new relationship with Younes Bendjima in 2016, it was largely shielded from KUWTK. For four years, Kourtney made the conscious decision to keep the on/off relationship away from the show after having so much of her past romance scrutinized by the world.

But this decision was also a desperate grab at the privacy she’d spent years expressing a desire for.

In 2014, Kourtney admitted that unlike Kim and Kris, fame was something she’d never thought about before KUWTK, and didn’t prioritize it in her life at all. Two years later, Kourtney candidly revealed that she felt she wasn’t supposed to be famous during a chat with Kylie Jenner. When Kylie said, “Some people are born for this life and some people aren't. I just know I'm not supposed to be famous,” Kourtney replied, “I’m not either. For sure,” before adding that she “doesn't give a shit” about what people think of her.

As time went on, Kourtney became increasingly vocal about her dislike for fame, and eventually sought advice from a therapist about her desire to live a more fulfilling life. This ultimately led to Kourtney focusing more on her kids, and pulling back from both her family and the show — something that caused heaps of tension between her and her sisters.

This was never clearer than during Kourtney's clash with Kim over the scheduling of the family's 2018 annual Christmas card shoot. Kourtney was unhappy with the proposed timing of the shoot and refused to be flexible, saying she wanted to prioritize being at home to put her kids to bed. Kim was instantly annoyed, calling her "difficult," and "so fucking annoying," before later infamously calling her the "least exciting to look at." This particular insult left Kourtney questioning Kim’s “values” — as well as those of Kris and Khloé, who were present at the time, but hardly did anything to diffuse the tension.

Later phoning Khloé through tears, Kourtney said, “You guys just have really different values than me. I choose to be a mother to my three kids. I’m not here looking for another job... What’s natural to me is being a mother.” She went on,“If I had enough money, I wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t do the show. I would be a full-time mom. That’s what I wanna do.”

But the sisters dismissed Kourtney’s pleas to focus on her family over filming, with Kim instead telling her to “be accommodating” to the people who “actually” want to work. Kourtney replied by telling Kim, “You’re a very distraught, evil human being ... We have a disgusting family. I’m ashamed to be part of people like that, it's just gross. I'm not going to be filming with some fucking cunt like Kim.”

After being prompted by Kris, Kim ended up briefly and reluctantly apologizing to Kourtney. But when Kourtney didn’t buy it, Kim immediately snapped back and said, “OK, well clearly you’re going through something else because you’re acting like a fucking lunatic.”

This comment was a clear cut example of the way Kourtney was often criticized and shamed by her entire family simply for being unhappy and expressing that unhappiness. And while Kris and Khloé appeared visibly shocked by Kim’s insult, they once again hardly interfered. What’s more, the three were filmed giggling at points of the phone call, leaving viewers at home frustrated by their dismissal of Kourtney’s feelings.

In fact, many viewers assumed this fight would be a turning point — a moment where the family sat down and figured out a route forward where they would all be satisfied. Instead, it was a doubling down on all fronts. Kourtney pulled away and refused to share even more, while Kim and Khloé became increasingly annoyed at having to pick up the filming slack.

During one explosive 2019 episode, Kim, Khloé, and the camera crew literally followed Kourtney to what ended up being a mystery man’s house after she abruptly left Kim’s home without telling them where she was going. Luckily for Kourtney, it was a business meeting and nothing personal — but she told her sisters off for infringing on her privacy nonetheless.

Regardless, Kim later went so far as to threaten to fire Kourtney from the show for failing to provide enough content, while teaming up with Khloé and the entire production team to call her out.

“She doesn’t want to show up, she doesn’t want to work, she has too many fucking boundaries — she’s out,” Kim said. Khloé echoed these remarks, noting that Kourtney had become a “raging bitch” since she began working with the therapist who’d advised her to reassess her priorities in life. Kourtney was left in tears by Kim’s threat to boot her from the show, noting that she felt her sisters were consistently prioritizing KUWTK over her feelings.

“Everything to you guys... is like, the show is more important, work’s more important,” Kourtney later told Kim and Khloé during a group therapy session, which was — ironically — captured for the show.

In a confessional, Kim said Kourtney shouldn't be a part of the show if she wasn't prepared to share her life. Kourtney later emphasized that she'd "never" prioritize work over her children, while Kris went on to acknowledge that her kids’ opinions on having their lives filmed were bound to shift over time as they got older and became parents.

Interestingly, and sadly, this is the stark opposite of how Rob Kardashian’s wishes to bow out of the spotlight were respected by the family. Rob used to be a central, fan-favorite figure on KUWTK, but he ended up retreating from the spotlight almost entirely after tabloids started drawing attention to his weight. Now, he leads a quiet life away from the cameras, and instead is focused on raising his 6-year-old daughter, Dream.

For Kourtney, a similar life away from the cameras with her kids has never truly been an option — not that she hasn't tried to make it a reality.

By the end of 2019, Kourtney announced that she was taking a break from filming. However, just three months later, Kris confirmed that she was back on the show full-time. When asked why, Kris said, “I think she just needed a little bit of a break... She was frustrated, she felt under-appreciated, and that her sisters didn't understand her boundaries,” while also joking that she’d paid Kourtney to reappear.

But within hours of returning to filming, Kourtney had clashed with her sisters over their different attitudes to work again — this time culminating in an infamous physical fight with Kim. After Kim suggested that she and Khloé were the most committed to work out of all the sisters, Kourtney once again expressed how strongly she disagreed with her family’s work ethic.

Kourtney yelled at Kim, “You act like I don't do shit ... I work my fucking ass off. If I didn't want to work my ass off, and I did want to be a stay at home mom, that's fucking fine, you literal fucking cunt,” before throwing a water bottle at her and charging towards her. And then, of course, the two physically went at it.

The fight was the final straw for Kourtney. Deciding that she was no longer able to tolerate the "toxicity," she quit KUWTK for good — and this also marked the beginning of the end of the show itself. After 20 seasons centering the importance of family, KUWTK quickly lost its appeal with one of its core members no longer present.

As we all know, KUWTK ultimately came to an end in 2021. However, the family went on to launch their separate Hulu series, The Kardashians, the following April and it was clear from the jump Kourtney would be heavily involved. Fans were initially surprised, but the reason for her newfound enthusiasm soon became clear.

In the break between KUWTK ending and The Kardashians airing, Kourtney had experienced a major life change: falling in love with her longtime best friend, Travis Barker.

The experience of finding love and happiness with her soulmate provided Kourtney with the grounding to confront her past and seek happiness in all aspects of her life. She began reframing her experience on KUWTK, revealing that the negative environment and editing process led to her feeling as though she was playing a miserable character.

“Shooting our show, it became a really toxic environment at the end for me,” she told Bustle. “For me personally, I wasn’t in the happiest place. I felt like I was almost a character. ‘This is Kourtney, and she’s in a bad mood, so even though she was laughing really at lunch, we’re going to cut out the laughing and let’s only use the annoying comment that she said.’”

She also began breaking free from toxic family dynamics and behavioral patterns in therapy, highlighting how spouting hurtful insults out of impulse was a cycle normalized within her family "for years." 

This was something she first referenced in 2018, when Kourtney told Kim and Khloé she wanted to "communicate better" during arguments, not fight by saying the "meanest things possible." While her sisters didn't exactly take heed, Kourtney said in a recent episode of The Kardashians that it’s something she still actively works on in therapy.

This self-reflection has made Kourtney happier than ever. Her relationship with Travis has gone from strength to strength, with the pair tying the knot in 2022. She's investing lots of time into personal projects such as her lifestyle blog Poosh and recently-launched wellness brand Lemme. And she's also just welcomed a baby boy with Travis after a long struggle with fertility.

But while Kourtney’s attitude had most certainly changed, the relentless criticism from her innermost circle didn’t.

Back in Season 1, Kourtney experienced one of her happiest moments when Travis proposed. However, rather than allowing her to bask in the experience of being engaged for the first time ever to the love of her life, a significant portion of the episode was dedicated to Scott's reaction to the news .In fact, on the very night of the engagement, Kendall Jenner confronted Kourtney and asked if she’d even considered Scott’s feelings.

“Do you have sympathy for the position that he’s in at all?” Kendall asked, before adding, “Because it doesn’t feel like you do, just as an outsider.”

Kourtney later revealed that she was “so annoyed” at the Hulu editors for having Scott at the center of her and Travis’s engagement because she felt it overshadowed the episode and prevented them from having their “moment.”

“I am in one of the best places I’ve ever been in my life, and it’s time for our show to catch up,” she said. “It should be an empowering episode about me getting out of toxic relationships and really having this fairy-tale love story that is my reality.”

Kourtney had a point that even the most skeptical of viewers agreed with: It felt incredibly unfair for her long-awaited fairytale ending to be swamped with age-old Scott drama, and for this to be perpetuated by her sister hours after Travis’s proposal.

But fast forward to her wedding in May 2022, and Kourtney once again had one of her happiest moments overshadowed with drama thanks to Kim’s collaboration with luxury designer brand Dolce & Gabbana.

To summarize: Kim chose to collaborate with D&G on a ‘90s inspired collection just four months after the brand hosted — and specifically opened their ‘90s archive for — Kourtney’s lavish Italian wedding. Kourtney subsequently accused Kim of using her big day as a “business opportunity,” claiming that the Skims mogul was miserable at the event and spent the whole time discussing work with Domenico Dolce.

Amid the feud, Kim, Khloé, and even Kris teamed up to blast Kourtney as “jealous” and “a hater.” And when Kim and Kourtney eventually sat down to talk things out over the phone, it became increasingly clear that Kourtney wasn't only hurt about Kim using her wedding as a business opportunity, but that her sister apparently couldn't find it within herself to be happy for her.

"You complained from the second you got there until the second you left," she said. "That’s what it’s about. Forget about you couldn’t be happy, you couldn’t be happy for me. You couldn’t be happy that I was the center of attention and you weren’t.” 

Things got even more heated when Kim brutally weaponized Kourtney’s kids and friends in a bid to hurt her. Kim told her sister, “All of your friends call us complaining... We’re on a group chat that’s actually labeled ‘Not Kourtney.’” She later added, “Your kids have even come to me with problems that they have and how you are.”

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that several viewers have labeled Kourtney as the family’s “punching bag.” In fact, several people have admitted that they’ve felt “uncomfortable” watching the KarJenners interact at several points after seeing the group “gang up” on Kourtney.

What's most sinister is the family's commitment to tearing Kourtney down, even when she's at her happiest — despite claiming for years that this was all they wanted for her. Kim and Kourtney’s recent phone call made this more clear than ever, with the Skims mogul resorting to mentioning Kourtney’s kids’ and friends’ apparent negative feelings after making her point about their personal feud.

“Kim cannot stand to see Kourtney happy and that’s what is so scary. You can literally see it.  She tells her all the things that are gonna make her upset, saying her friends and kids talk shit about her,” one viewer summarized. “Kourtney specifically saying she has a problem with Kim, Kim responds by saying everyone else thinks Kourtney is the problem. When the friends and group chat comment didn't work, she sunk lower w/ bringing up the kids,” someone else wrote.

Many fans have ultimately suggested that Kim and the KarJenners are unhappy with Kourtney’s desire to move away from fame — perhaps given that their show spent years benefiting from her “trauma” and “real life problems,” or because her nonchalance towards a life in the limelight is the stark opposite of Kim’s ongoing relentless pursuit of stardom.

Fans have theorized that Kourtney evidently trying to move her life “in a different direction” than her family’s is something that they’re simply unable to grasp. “They’re so used to exploiting their business for fame they can’t even fathom one of their own trying to give that up, and instead insist on gaslighting them into thinking they're selfish,” one person wrote, before adding, “I just feel like if they let Rob come and go they should allow Kourtney to too, she carried that show for years she deserves a break.”

“It was embarrassing for Kourtney and probably took a toll on her. So now she’s managed to find happiness outside of her family and isn’t interested in participating in any of their shit anymore. Instead of respecting her, they’re painting her out to be the villain,” someone else suggested.

Luckily for Kourtney, she now has her own family with Travis, and focusing on them while keeping her distance from the KarJenners seems to bring her the most peace. In fact, in one recent episode, Kourtney told Kim that she was at her happiest when far away from the Kardashians.

"I have a happy life, and that happiness comes when I get the fuck away from you guys," she said.

In another, she said she's felt more empowered to put distance between herself and the Kardashians since marrying Travis and cementing their own family unit.

"I don't talk to anyone, I don't leave the house. I'm like in a bubble and I don't like to leave Calabasas," she said. "Even with my family, I’m like, protect my energy. Just to … be an adult and be like, ‘I’m married, bye everyone,’ it’s so nice." 

While it remains to be seen how much of her life she’ll share on The Kardashians now she and Travis have welcomed their son, all the signs suggest it’ll be on her own terms. In fact, Kourtney’s entire navigation of the pregnancy alone completely differed from the way she carried herself in the past — not only was she more carefree than ever about her physical appearance, but she also appeared to have creative control over the way her pregnancy was shared with the world, and refused to exploit it for the show.

Only time will tell exactly how things will pan out for Kourtney. But with any luck, her newfound happiness should — and hopefully will — allow her to live the life she’s spent years longing for, without any unnecessary drama from her innermost circle.

Stream old episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians on Peacock and new ones on Hulu.

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