I recently read a study that claimed celebrity marriages fail at twice the rate of other marriages. As a marriage conflict specialist who has often worked with high-profile couples, I wasn’t surprised. Here, I’ve listed eight common reasons why celebrity marriages flounder. Yet before you take comfort in your anonymity, know this: they’re the same reasons that many non-celebrity marriages fail.
- Getting serious too soon. They mistake the hormonal rush of lust and “falling” in love with the more stable, conscious state of “being” in love. That’s why there’s a new “love interest” on their arm every several months. It’s great for the tabloids, but hard on the heart.
- Pressure. The constant demands of fame – which are often less glamorous than most people think – can take their toll on a couple’s privacy, identity and solidarity.
- Living separate lives. Celebrities, including professional athletes, often spend great lengths of time apart in different cities or even countries. Even if they are in the same city, long filming hours, unending press junkets, games and practices, and being immersed in different projects means they spend a lot of time apart both physically and mentally.
- Jealousy. Celebrities, even the best-looking ones, aren’t immune to feelings of jealousy. After all, it doesn’t matter how young or beautiful or handsome you are…there’s always someone younger, fresher, and even better looking. Plus, jealousy isn’t limited to appearance. It also rears its head career-wise. If one partner is basking in a five-star summer blockbuster and the other has found the phone has stopped ringing, well, that green-eyed monster may surface.
- Very large age gaps. That twenty year old hottie (woman or man) hanging on the arm of a sixty year old celebrity isn’t usually there for true love.
- The opportunity to cheat. Wide-eyed, willing fans and groupies are lurking in every corner, always ready to pounce.
- Ego. Big ones can sabotage a relationship.
- Being surrounded by “yes people.” From agents to friends to marriage therapists, the “rich and famous” are often surrounded by people who won’t risk the personal or professional fallout that could come from giving a powerful celebrity the hardline or telling them the ugly truth about their behavior. In fact, this is one reason that truly motivated high-profile couples reach out to me. I prefer to do my job properly and tell them what they may need to hear, not just what they expect to hear.
Far from the bright lights, many non-celebrity couples have similar problems.
Many get too serious too fast (i.e. have sex right away, move in together too soon, etc.) and never learn the difference between lust and love: their relationships never mature past the point of that initial rush. They assume the other grass is always greener and, the moment those tingles fade, they hop the fence…only to find it’s the same song and dance there.
Many non-celebrity couples live with constant pressure, whether that’s finances, conflict with the in-laws or just the daily stressors of family life. Partners who are under stress do tend to take it out on each other. Pressure doesn’t bring out the best in most of us. It wears us down. In addition, many couples spend a lot of time apart, whether working or engaging in separate hobbies, and struggle to find a natural routine or couple time.
In terms of jealousy, that’s almost a given in most relationships, at least to some extent and at some point. A spouse may be jealous of a partner’s new “friend” or even a partner’s success, whether at work or at the gym. Success can equal power in a relationship and, if the power balance is unequal, the marriage is on shaky ground.
Large age gaps can also cause problems in non-celebrity marriages. While some May-December romances thrive, most relationships struggle when there is a significant age difference. Whether it’s a parent-child dynamic, sexual issues or the insecurity that comes from having a much younger spouse – Will she/he stay attracted to me? – these can be challenging.
As for the opportunity to cheat, things like texting, social media and hook-up apps mean that a fling is just a click away for anyone with an Internet connection. Affairs, and opposite-sex friendships that soon escalate to affairs, have never been easier to start.
That brings us to ego. We all have one, but some are bigger than others. Too many people prioritize their own wants or needs over their partner’s, often feeling that they “deserve more” while expecting their partner to accept less. They focus on their partner’s flaws instead of their own (if they even acknowledge they have any flaws). You’d be surprised how many clients I have who literally don’t know what the word “humility” means.
Finally, those “yes people.” No, you may not have an agent or publicist telling you that you can do no wrong; however, you may – deliberately or not – share your troubles and surround yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear.
For example, your mom is probably going to side with you regardless of your behavior. Your womanizing buddy is probably going to say that “everybody cheats” and your wife should “get over it.” Your bitter, biased friend is probably going to say, “He treats you terribly, you should leave him!”
And if you go to marriage counseling, you might find the counselor spends more time “affirming” your negative feelings than openly calling bullshit on your self-indulgent or self-focused behavior. After all, if you don’t like what you hear, you might not book another appointment. Again, this is something my clients don’t have to worry about…you’ll get the straight goods from me.
Of course, there are many more reasons that marriages fail – from intimacy to housework and everything in between – but these star-studded reasons are prevalent enough that we should all be on the lookout for them.
Because if you want an award-winning marriage – and who doesn’t? – you have to make sure that everything is running smoothly behind the scenes. As any honest celebrity will tell you, that’s where the real magic happens.
• Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B. can help you now, not weeks from now. See her Marriage SOS instant-access marriage recovery programs.