Countess Luann de Lesseps 2011/David Shankbone/CC by 3.0
Source: Countess Luann de Lesseps 2011/David Shankbone/CC by 3.0

I have a love-hate relationship with Bravo's The Real Housewives. I want to root for these women and their happiness. However, they all seem to be headed for a train wreck, particularly in their personal lives. 

There are a number of reasons why these Bravo-lebrities have trouble making their relationships work. For scientifically-sound explanations of the Divorce Curse of the Real Housewives, check out my previous work. Beyond these general indicators, I have to say that Luann really should have seen her divorce from Tom D’Agostino coming. Here are a few warning signs the rest of American seemed to pick up on that she missed entirely:

Friends Know Best

Relationship science has shown that our friends (particularly the female partner’s friends) are better at gauging whether a relationship will be successful than we are. As it turns out, partners can get so caught up in a relationship that they may lose sight of what will make them happy long-term. Friends, on the other hand, know you and what makes you happy. They aren’t swept up in the emotion or excitement of a new relationship, and thus have a clearer vantage point from which to judge whether you are getting what you need. If we look back to last season’s shenanigans, you can see that Luann’s friends, family (particularly her son), and even her frenemies, tried to warn her about the direction her relationship was headed. But alas, as she said in an interview after filing for divorce, “All I can say is I had these blinders on, and all of a sudden, the blinders came off, and I was like, this is not good." Had Luann heeded the well-meaning advice of her friends, she may have saved herself the trouble of another publicly failed relationship and the legal fees of a divorce.

Trouble from the Start

The Enduring Dynamics Model states that people bring into their marriages the same problems they had during their courtship. That is, any issues or incompatibilities that people struggle with prior to marriage do not magically fade away, but rather persist and ultimately undermine spouses’ happiness. As audiences know, Tom and Luann’s relationship had its share of stressors and strains. From the cheating allegations to public spats, things were not good. They may have referred to their relationship as “passionate,” but to those of us on the outside, it read more tempestuous. Ultimately, this ambivalence and doubt led to the divorce that for everyone else seemed inevitable.  

Too Many Predictors of Divorce

In addition to the warning signs already detailed, Tom and Luann’s relationship was also fraught with numerous factors relationship scientists have determined to be predictors of divorce. Although none of these factors alone guarantees the end of a relationship, each identifies a vulnerability. Taken together, these factors helped create an atmosphere where divorced was prone. For instance, prior divorce is an indicator of additional divorce. Data shows that second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first. Additionally, step-children, particularly women who bring children with them into a second marriage are more likely to find themselves divorced again.  Of course, neither of these predictors may have been Luann's fault, and I don’t want to suggest that single mothers should not try their hand at finding love again. However, these coupled with infidelity — although neither Tom nor Luann openly admitted to Tom’s extracurricular activities, the footage left little to the imagination — and the cycle of breaking up and getting back together that they repeatedly engaged in spelled doom for the couple.

My heart goes out to Luann for the circumstances she now finds herself in. However, I have trouble sympathizing with her, as not only relationship science, but also all of America could see this divorce coming from a mile away.   

References

Agnew, C. R., Loving, T. J., & Drigotas, S. M. (2001). Substituting the forest for the trees: Social networks and the prediction of romantic relationship state and fate. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1042-1057.

Dailey, R. M., Brody, N., LeFebvre, L., & Crook, B. (2013). Charting changes in commitment:  Trajectories of on-again/off-again relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 1020-1044.

DeMaris, A. (2013).  Burning the candle at both ends:  Extramarital sex as a precursor of marital disruption.  Journal of Family Issues, 34, 1474-1499.

Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2012).  Do cold feet warn of trouble ahead?  Premarital uncertainty and four-year marital outcomes.  Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 1012-1017.

Poortman, A., & Lyngstad, T. H. (2007).  Dissolution risks in the first and higher order marital and cohabitating unions.  Social Science Research, 36, 1431-1446.

Teachman, J. (2008).  Complex life course patterns and the risk of divorce in second marriages.  Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 294-305.

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