The Intelligent Divorce

And further unorthodox advice on relationships, marriage and parenting

7 Lessons from a Hollywood Divorce

Media, celebrity, and Hollywood Drama

 

I just wanted to encourage people to let them know that it’s okay if they have problems. Its okay if they’re going through a situation, they don’t have to lay down and die.

- Katy Perry on her divorce

As the story of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes filters through the media, we are reminded that it’s 2012 and divorces continue to occur everywhere. It may be happening to your boss, your neighbor, your celebrity icon, or even within your household. And, whether we like it or not, the disposable marriage is a marketable theme that gets played out in the headlines, every time a Hollywood couple calls it quits.

The Project of Divorce: The end of a relationship is an extremely sensitive subject and a tough period for those affected. There is blame, hurt, abandonment and grieving to do. Yet, in the midst of this tumult of harsh feelings, divorcing couples still have to deal with each other as they negotiate asset distribution and custody.  

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And, if that’s not hard enough already, divorce not only affects the two undergoing the breakup, but the children who get tangled in the affair as well. The whole project is tough.

Question: Is divorce slowly being regarded as fashionable?

The media reports on celebrity divorces and fallouts as if they are sports matches, creating spectators with a public who enjoys being knowledgeable of the breaking news. Headlines such as “Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries called it quits after 72 days!” or “Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are no more!” emphasize the media’s role in delivering the news to the public. The media’s eagerness is apparent once they get their hands on breaking news, like with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. This being Cruise’s third divorce makes the announcement even more newsworthy. There is a hunger for reporting on disposable marriages. We witness an array of emotions as the public reacts to these divorces, which unfortunately are no longer a private matter.

 

Celebrity Divorces: Often, there’s a lack of privacy within these high-profiled divorces, giving the media and the general public an impression that their opinions matter about intimate affairs where they, in reality, play no role.

Marriage is a union between two people. It’s fundamentally private, and yet this notion has become lost in society with the intense media coverage (and readership) of celebrity marriages and divorces. Just as the inner workings of a marriage are ultimately private, so should the dissolution of a marriage maintain that sense of dignity. This is as it should be for married folks (with some last thread of loyalty) and for the sake of the children.

Yet, it’s reported that celebrity divorces were among the top news topics in 2011. Is it because empathetic couples find a degree of comfort in reading the news? Or is it merely entertainment for them?

The Easy Divorce – It’s a Lie: The subliminal message behind all this coverage:

If divorces are happening to our Hollywood heroes, maybe it isn’t so bad after all. 

  • Remember that these couples are cushioned by wealth and support, which makes a tough situation easier.
  • Remember that celebrity reporting glamorizes and rarely focuses on pain or regret, or even the impact on kids.
  • Remember that illicit affairs and monetary settlements make for better news, than the slow undoing of a marriage or the pain of not being loved or the worry about the kids.
  • Remember that these couples have public relation gurus who give you the picture of divorce as they want you to see it.

Celebrities & the 7 Part Series: Just as there is a dramatic arc to movies and theater, so we have celebrity reports during marriage and divorce. It is as if we are all addicted to the same dramatic cycle, which has little to do with the fulfillment of a successful marriage.

One: Typically, we see a celebrity couple happy. Tom Cruise telling us about his love on Oprah is an extreme example.

Two: Then they are followed everywhere and made into fairytales for our consumption; perhaps willingly as a part of their career trajectory. Think about the Cruise/Holmes marriage in an Italian castle.

Three: We are thrilled when they have kids, and feel like distant family members to events that have nothing really to do with us. As I pay the cashier at my local supermarket, I am often eye to eye with a pretty photo of a celebrity child. It may be tabloid journalism, but who doesn’t like adorable babies?

Four: Then we see them having trouble. The media wants to get us to judge one or both of them for being weak or immoral. The issue at hand may be infidelity, career obsession, chemical dependency or narcissism. “The fall from grace” has ancient dramatic appeal.

Five: We see them break up, only to move on. All that pain, confusion, public exposure and worries about kids makes for a less glossy story.

Six: We hear about a new beau or girlfriend. Like the speculation that Johnny Depp is already dating soon after having ended a long term relationship with Vanessa Paradis (with two children). Yet, who isn’t stirred by the hope and opportunity to find new love?

Seven: And then, the drama heightens, when a new marriage or common law arrangement is announced. A new wedding, new children and new hope have arrived. But is this good for us?

The dramatic arc which works in theater is not life. The fact is that most divorces are tough, financially challenging and require exquisitely competent parenting. Most people, whether celebrity or not need time to heal and grieve.

And let’s not forget that thinking about divorce can be the first step to repairing a broken marriage. If you are being abused, by all means get out. But, if you’ve drifted apart, consider help because with the new therapies available now, many marriages can be rejuvenated.

It should not be left in the media’s hands to influence trends in divorce. Marriage is a sacred commitment and often not an easy one. A typical family consists of many vulnerable people - and the decision to divorce should be made soberly, with the big picture in mind.

The Intelligent Divorce: Men and women deserve happiness. Divorce should be a viable option if one has an unhappy marriage. But with the recent advances in couples work, it’s not a bad idea to take a second look if things are not working out. As you may know from experience, intimacy creates its own problems, but many are not insurmountable.

It’s your life. And, it’s the life of your kids. So, don’t let anyone tell you how to live. See if you can bring intelligence and humility to an injured marriage. Sometimes, with work, forgiveness, a sense of realism and faith, things do turn around. And, if you need to divorce, keep it as dignified as possible and be intelligent. Protect yourself when required and be open to compromise when it’s appropriate.

Just remember that in the midst of the pressures of divorce, you don’t want to make mistakes that you can’t take back. There is nothing fashionable about divorce; it’s not Hollywood or the movies. It is your life, and that of your kids and your ex. I have seen many people handle this crisis well. You can as well.

 

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The Intelligent Divorce book seriesonline course and newsletter  is a step by step program to handling divorce and intimate relationships with sanity.

You can hear Dr. Banschick on The Intelligent Divorce radio show as well.

Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.

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