Celebrities may have the glamour. the fame and very often the money. They may be fabulous at acting, singing, presenting or sports. Some have mastered the art of being famous. even if nobody quite knows why.
However, as a group. their track record at relationships is truly dire. In spite of their wealth, fame, glamour and talent, celebrity marriages fail at exactly twice the rate of the rest of us mortals.
In a new analysis of 488 celebrity couples whose weddings appeared in glossy magazines between 2001 and 2010, barrister Rehna Azim and I calculated that half of all celebrities have divorced before their fifteenth anniversary. Among the wider UK population, just one quarter of marriages will have ended by then.
The chart below shows how celeb marriages end at a much higher rate, especially during the early years.
I have to admit to having had a little trouble in recognising all of the ‘celebrity’ names on our list … but there are plenty of genuinely well-known names with which to conjure.
There are some real shockers
- The singer Britney Spears managed to marry twice in 2004 – and divorce once – before divorcing a second time in 2007.
- Actors Drew Barrymore, Nicolas Cage and Pamela Anderson also all divorced in the same year they got married, as did the rap star Eminem.
- Actor Charlie Sheen was another star who featured twice in our list, marrying in 2002 and again in 2008. Neither marriage lasted more than four years.
- Some 13% of our celebrities had divorced within their first four years, rather more than the 4% equivalent for the UK population.
- In among many lesser known names, there are plenty of better known celebrities who failed to make it through their first few years: tennis player Anna Kournikova, socialite Ivana Trump, singer Sheena Easton, model Jodie Kidd, a host of actors that includes Bradley Cooper, J Lo, Ben Kingsley, Sean Bean, and the celebrity duo singer Katy Perry and whatever-he-is Russell Brand.
The good news is that in among the dross, there are some success stories … so far at least
- Among celebrities married in 2001, singer Aled Jones, sports presenter Gabby Logan, Harry Potter novelist JK Rowling, former 007 Pierce Brosnan and golfer Nick Faldo are all still going strong aftert fourteen years of marriage. Well done!
- From those who wed the 2002, success stories include tennis champion Bjorn Borg, another 007 Roger Moore, U2 guitarist The Edge (Is his wife called Mrs Edge?!), and former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond.
- Well done also to actress Emma Thompson, comedian Michael McIntyre, actors Matthew MacFadyen and Keeley Hawes, future king HRH Prince Charles, footballer Michael Owen, and wannabe future president (?) Donald Trump, all of whom are now into their second decade.
- And finally a special congratulations to actor Nicolas Cage whose second marriage – after his brief first attempt – is also now into double figures.
Why is it that celebs, who by definition include some of the richest people in society, do so badly at marriage? It’s normally the case that the better off you are, the more likely it is that your marriage will last – on average of course.
It’s unfair to generalise because there are bound to be exceptions. But I think the answer is simple.
- Ego. Celebrities spend their life being built up and praised as the centre of attention. Those on stage and screen are even known as ‘the lalent’, their position inflated and valued above the expertise of the talented film crews, directors, coaches, writers and other lesser known performers surrounding them.
- Temptation. Celebrities also have unrivalled access in the flesh to the same young, healthy and beautiful people that we admire and ogle on our own TV screens.
Compare this toxic combination of inflated ego and the temptation of immediate sexual opportunity with the mundane day-to-day business of making an intimate relationship work and keep going in the long run. No wonder things go wrong.
Successful relationships are based on precisely the opposite factors faced by celebrities: instead of a focus on me and now, lifetime commitment to another person is rooted in a willingness to sacrifice for that other person, close the door on all other alternatives, and take the long-term view in preference to the short.
When it comes to marriage, there isn’t supposed to be a plan B, whether we’re talking about you and me or an A-lister couple. For A-listers, it’s not enough that wealth cushions them from the difficulties of everyday life. It’s the difficulty of separating the illusory life in public that puts them first in all they do with the real life in private where they need to put their spouse first.
If you happen to be a celeb and want to value your marriage – as I suspect all bar the most frivolous and flighty of couples do – then come and talk to us at Marriage Foundation!
Read my letter here on our website for starters.
And if you’re the rest of us who simply admire celebrities from a safe distance for their undoubted glamour or skill or talent, thank your lucky stars that your own desire for fame hasn’t (yet!) come to fruition – at least from the point of view of your marriage.