The Nasty World of the Celebrity Split

Breaking up is hard to do, and especially hard under the spotlight

by Zachary Leeman | 07 Jun 2016 at 5:23 AM

Entire economies run on the not-so-perfect behind-the-scenes behavior of those glitzy, glamorous stars working in Tinseltown.

“Relationships need a lot of care and attention.”

Reality shows, grocery store mags and gossip websites are built on the backs of the personal lives of celebrities.

One big golden ticket for these outlets seems to be celebrity divorce — of which there is plenty to go around. Fans and stargazers gobble up the tidbits and drama like candy.

Divorce is a struggle for anybody going through it. While most of us let friends and neighbors have their privacy when it comes to the dissolution of marriage, the opposite attitude kicks in when it comes to celebs.

“Pirates of the Caribbean” star Johnny Depp is currently embroiled in one of those high-profile divorces from actress Amber Heard. The usually celebrated and beloved actor is being accused of domestic violence, sparking a boycott on Twitter against his latest film, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” — which is tanking at the box office anyway.

Colleagues and friends, from comedian Doug Stanhope to director Terry Gilliam, have tried to dispel the rumors, but it’s tough to do that when a picture of an injured Amber Heard is going viral.

Then there's rock star Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon Osbourne, who are splitting after 33 years of marriage. Ozzy has been accused of infidelity. He's not the first. Ben Affleck and ex-wife Jennifer Garner have been haunted by headlines claiming the couple split due to infidelity. He's not the first, either, of course.

All this is without mentioning the money that's involved in these celebrity breakups. Beatles rocker Paul McCartney was said to have paid out nearly $50 million to Heather Mills in his 2008 divorce settlement.

"Lethal Weapon" star Mel Gibson shelled out big dollars — $425 million — when he split from longtime first wife, Robyn Moore. He paid out as well during his later breakup with Oksana Grigorieva. The divorce also earned him an especially close spotlight from paparazzi, which revealed him to be troubled and angry, tarnishing his image in the public eye. Celeb mags had field days inquiring about the two's toxic relationship, which seemed to include both physical and verbal abuse.

"These kind of things are incredibly stressful and difficult and challenging and oftentimes painful without the cameras there, without having to deal with the added stress of the cameras," Dr. Jenn Berman told About.com on the especially hard nature of celebrity relationships and breakups. Dr. Berman hosts VH1's "Couples Therapy," a show dedicated to providing couples therapy to struggling celebrities.

Some Long-Lasting Celebrity Marriages
  • Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick - 27 years
  • Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan - 27 years
  • Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson - 28 years
  • Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber - 29 years
  • Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest - 31 years

Dr. Drew Pinsky, famous for radio show "Loveline" and VH1 programs including "Celebrity Rehab" and "Sex Rehab," actually thinks celebrity marriages can be harder to maintain.

"Relationships need a lot of care and attention. If you have two people disregarding the care and attention of the relationship, you're going to have a problem. And then also add to that, they are being put on what are essentially sensory deprivation chambers — movie sets — and asked to evoke powerful feelings with attractive people. I mean, hello," Dr. Pinsky told The Huffington Post in 2010, mainly discussing the once headline-grabbing Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Aniston love triangle.

While added attention and spotlights may partly explain the volatile nature of celebrity relationships and breakups, it still doesn’t explain the obsession the public has with these things. Why are there six seasons of "Couples Therapy"? Why is every grocery line in America graffitied with endless headlines of which celebrities are divorcing and theories as to why?

"We're a secular society, and we look to them as successful role models," Andrea Press, Ph.D., professor of media studies and sociology at the University of Virginia, told Health.com when talking about the many celebrity divorces of last year. She continued, "We can [also] construct a fantasy around them to fulfill some of the needs we have ... we think, 'that could be me someday.'"

And we don't want that fairy tale to end.

"Celebrities are symbols of strength for many people," therapist Jane Greer told Health.com, "and to see them weak can make people insecure about their own relationships. It's similar to a friend breaking up."

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  2. divorce
  3. johnny-depp

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