Celebrity couples have been the target of admonition and admiration for years. The Jekyll and Hyde reaction to whatever the latest or hottest pop culture pairing happens to be is as over the top as ever. I’ve always theorized that these couples’ break up rates aren’t as dramatically different from the general population.
Most of these relationships end. But most relationships generally come to an end at some point, don’t they? We pay so much attention to couples that break up that we pay no attention to the couples that stick it out. And there seems to be a certain glee, an almost joyous countdown to celebrity breakups. And each and every statement and action made by our Hollywood couples is parsed…just looking for a crack in the armor.
The recent “controversy” over actor/director Ben Affleck’s comments about his marriage to wife Jennifer Garner upon accepting this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. His quote: “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”
In the minds of merry cynics and professional antagonists around the nation, this one statement was read as a subliminal confession of matrimonial strife.
And that reaction is just silly.
What Affleck said was about as honest and realistic a statement as you’ll ever hear any celebrity offer on a public stage. Marriage is work. Relationships in general are work. Once we get past the honeymoon stage in any coupling, we start the work. The hard work. So what message can we really take from Affleck’s statements? I see the glass as half full. You’ve got a husband and wife who acknowledge that sustaining a long term relationship requires dedication and diligence. It’s not a fairytale. There’s a clear-eyed, beer-goggle free vision of relationships by this pair, which in all likelihood, has been the reason they’ve managed to stay together for ten years and two kids.
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So can we learn anything about relationships from celebrities? From my perspective, there’s no more to be learned from them than from any other couple. The spotlight shines on their mistakes and breakups so much brighter their successes that it would be easy to conclude that there’s not a positive example among the bunch. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, couples that have shown strength and staying power, we cast a jaundiced eye at them because they don’t fit our established narrative; marriages in Hollywood don’t last.
But in truth, if we’re objective, we can use celebrity marriage successes and failures as reminders and templates of what good relationship choices and a grounded perspective about what it takes to create a sustainable partnership can offer us. In other words, if you’re basing your lifestyle on Taylor Swift and her Boyfriend-Of-The-Week-Club instead of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s brick-by-brick, love-is-work edict, you’re pretty likely to be unfulfilled if your goal if something lasting and meaningful.
There are many, many examples of Hollywood couples that continue to roll on; Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson, Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett, even Danny Devito and Rhea Pearlman in spite of their rocky times, have managed to hang on. Because they realize that Ben was right…it’s work..but it’s the best kind of work.
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