The news of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s split has devastated many, but what’s even sadder is that the split isn’t really all that surprising.
While little data exists to conclusively determine the exact percentage of people in the spotlight who get divorced each year, anecdotal evidence indicates the number is much higher than the average couple.
Indeed from the late 1930s the term “Hollywood Marriage” implied a short-lived marriage often lasting no longer than five years.
What’s so intriguing, however, is not how many people in the limelight wind up divorcing, but rather what factors contribute to the split.
For this insight Business Insider spoke with Handel Group co-president and life coach Laurie Gerber, who believes that, while many couples in the spotlight are faced with more temptation, opportunity, and a hectic, jet-setting lifestyle than most, many of the issues these couples face aren’t all that different from the challenges regular couples must overcome together — they’re just amplified.
Keeping up appearances creates tension.
“In every marriage there is a phenomena of ‘two-facedness,'” Gerber explains. And when our internal voices and what we express out loud are at odds with each other, the discrepancy begins to erode the relationship.
“There becomes this desire to look good, get approval, look like you’re doing it right, and this creates a tension in yourself and in the relationship,” Gerber says. “This leads to the breakdown of the relationship because there is no way to improve the relationship when nobody’s telling the truth about what’s not working.”
When you’re in the spotlight, she says, that need to look good is amplified “times a thousand” because everyone’s watching you. It’s that much harder to be present in the truth because you’re so busy keeping up appearances.
To prevent unspoken issues from eroding a relationship, Gerber says couples need to confront their issues head on, however uncomfortable that may seem, and then maintain this level of honesty by checking in frequently.
“As long as you’re ignoring the truth, you can’t fix it. But once you deal with the truth, most people find that thing that’s ‘the truth’ — the thing they’re upset about — is actually not as big a deal as they think.”
Other things come before the marriage.
“For any couple, but for sure with couples in the spotlight or who have high-powered jobs and are ushering big visions into the world, if there isn’t an equally big vision for the marriage, that’s a really big problem,” Gerber says.
The amount of vision and drive it takes to attain or retain success in one’s career often requires that that vision be senior to other visions, she explains. But in marriage, the relationship has to be most important.
“What oftentimes happens with a high-powered couples is the career is senior or the kids become senior, and the kids actually substitute that emotional connection,” Gerber says.
When the kids replace the emotional connection between partners, she says they have sold out on making sure their relationship stays healthy. She says this is why most people get divorced.
To avoid this, it’s important to align your visions for the relationship, as well as for your career, kids, family, location, and habits.
People stop doing the little things.
“The things you do in the beginning of a relationship — you go out on dates, you spend time together, you plan special occasions, you plan special gifts, you really listen when they talk, you remember things, you care about their parents, you try to impress their friends — all those things you did when you were courting you actually have to keep doing,” Gerber says.
Successful people in particular have a hard time doing this because there are so many more things competing for their attention. All of it takes time, which is a scarce commodity.
“If you’re famous and you’re trying to keep a marriage together you have to be doing that on purpose, not if you get lucky or you try hard it will turn out,” she says.
One thing couples can be more deliberate about is the time they spend together. Dedicated alone time, Gerber says, shouldn’t be spent in front of screens.
Divorce isn’t as scary when you’re successful.
“I think successful people are more likely to think that they will be OK if they divorce,” Gerber says.
People who need each other for financial support may be less likely to split, she explains, whereas successful people have more ability to support themselves financially during and after divorce.
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