Given the fact that everyone in Hollywood eventually gets divorced (or so it seems), celebrities like to think they’re getting quite good at it. Ever the trendsetters, there’s a new “best way” to get divorced for parents in Tinseltown, with every couple working to show just how cool they can be while dissolving their union. Acting as though it’s not a big deal to break up a family unit, each couple tries to one-up the last on how far they can go pretending as if nothing has changed. They celebrate holidays together, go on weekend trips and even vacations with former spouses and their children. Judging by the photographs of these outings, if you didn’t know the backstory you wouldn’t even realize that the family had split up at all.
The latest couple to play this game is Mariah Carey and her ex Nick Cannon, with the diva posting a picture of the family dyeing Easter eggs over the weekend.
In the rest of America, the divorce rate is less than half, and may be as low as 30 percent for some groups; it’s lowest among those with children. For celebrities, on the other hand, it appears that divorce is the one thing everyone has in common. My husband Seth likes to say about other people’s marriages: “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.” What’s clear, however, is that many of the celebrities gracing the glossy pages of gossip magazines don’t take the institution as seriously as the rest of America does, especially when kids are involved.
While some see the new trend of playing divorce cool as a positive for kids who have seen their parents split, I can’t help but consider what might have been. If a couple is on such good terms that they can vacation together and dye Easter eggs on a Saturday afternoon, it’s worth asking if the split was inevitable in the first place, or even that good of an idea.
A recent study calls into question those parents who quit a marriage when the largest marital issue is generalized unhappiness (as opposed to abuse, adultery, etc.). The Telegraph reports on its findings:
Seven in ten couples stay together following the birth of their first child despite being unhappy, according to the Marriage Foundation.
Research commissioned by the organization found that 68 per cent of these couples report being happy 10 years on.
Moreover 27 per cent said they were “extremely happy”, giving their relationships a score of seven out of seven.
Not only are the children of these celebrities at a distinct disadvantage for the rest of their lives when it comes to their own development, Hollywood is also setting an impossible example for the rest of America. One of the largest stresses of divorce, strained finances, are rarely an issue for those who can afford to keep a second house on the same family property for an ex-spouse.
When celebrities and their chroniclers in the gossip press trick their fans into believing that kids are just as better off in a broken home than in a united one by cheering these “modern” “consciously uncoupled” families, society is the ultimate loser. We’re fooled into believing it’s all the same, so why even bother trying to fight to preserve a marriage in the first place? Celebrities like Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, who took two full years to file for divorce after their separation while working on their marriage, are the anomalies in Hollywood whereas in the rest of America they are the norm.
Those closest to the original “uncouplers”—Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin—have apparently found the couple’s closeness unnerving. Martin’s first girlfriend post-split, actress Jennifer Lawrence, reportedly split from the Coldplay front man due to the bond between her boyfriend and his ex. If Martin, according to Paltrow, would still “take a bullet” for his ex-wife, one is bound to wonder why, then, she’s his ex.
With the time, money and emotional energy expended trying to prove to the public that it’s possible to consciously uncouple and transition to a broken family effortlessly and without consequence, wouldn’t it be more logical if more celebrities spent this energy, like Garner and Affleck did, working on their marriage instead (even if, ultimately, they couldn’t work it out)? All available research suggests marriage, not this new modern family arrangement, are what’s best not only for the kids, but the parents as well. If you’re on solid enough ground with your spouse to “consciously uncouple,” you might be able to preserve the marriage as well.