One would think that being together for a long time prior to marriage would guarantee that the relationship is solid. But that’s not always the case.
I don’t know about you, but it still catches me off guard that Brad and Angie have been together longer than Brad and Jen. Seems like only yesterday they were swearing that they weren’t a couple and that Angie had nothing to do with Brad’s divorce. Then they were photographed together—a lot—and have been ever since. Maybe my sense of time is off because the media still treats Jennifer Aniston as a woman scorned (guys, she’s OK, really).
In any case, the tabloids have been waiting for the Brangelina wedding since those early days and they finally got it—nine years later. I considered the pair to be married long ago. Having children binds people to a greater degree than marriage itself. I found it absurd that the media made such a big deal about their engagement in April 2012. At that point they had been together for seven years and their children’s legal last names had been Jolie-Pitt since early 2006. They were unquestionably committed to each other and their family.
As their engagement crossed the two-year mark, however, I began to think that they had been together for so long that getting married might actually jeopardize their relationship. There is a unique relationship phenomena that happens to celebrities and civilians alike: A couple will be in a seemingly successful long-term relationship, then they’ll get married and things fall apart. A few examples:
Helen Hunt & Hank Azaria – Together for five years. Married for 17 months.
Mario Lopez & Ali Landry – Together for six years. Split two weeks after marriage.
Axl Rose & Erin Everly – Together four years. Married for one month.
Brooke Shields & Andre Agassi – Together four years. Married for two years.
Jewel & Ty Murray – Together for 10 years. Married for six years.
One would think that being together for a long time prior to marriage would guarantee that the relationship is solid and separating is not in the cards. Is there something about marriage that changes a relationship—for better or worse—no matter how long a couple has been together? Or do people know—on a subconscious level—that the relationship is rocky and think that marriage might fix it?
Research points to the latter. According to a study conducted by Jennifer Gauvain, a licensed clinical social worker and co-author of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He “the One” or Should You Run?: A Guide to Living Happily Ever After, 30% of now divorced women say they knew they were making a mistake on their wedding day, and they went ahead anyway. Based on Gauvain’s research these are the most common reasons why:
1. We’ve dated for so long, I don’t want to waste all the time we have invested in the relationship.
2. I don’t want to be alone.
3. He’ll change after we get married.
4. It is too late, too embarrassing, and/or too expensive to call off the wedding.
5. He is a really nice guy; I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
For what we’re discussing here, no. 1 seems most plausible. It makes sense that someone wouldn’t want to start all over after having been with one person for many years. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the relationship is healthy or sustainable. I posted thoughts similar to these on Facebook and two commenters, both female, chimed in with, “Yup! It happened to me.”
This isn’t to say this is the case with Brad and Ang. By all appearances, they are a happy, beautiful couple who have plenty of talent and altruism to go around. If there’s one thing, however, that celebrities are good at doing, it’s reminding us that appearances are rarely what they seem.
Samara O’Shea is the author of Loves Me…Not: How to Survive (and Thrive!) in the Face of Unrequited Love. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.