Celebrities Trapped in Immaturity

The Thinker by Rodin

Oh big yawn! Tom Cruise is getting hitched again, this time to Katie Holmes. She’s 16 years younger than he is but that’s no problem for the 42-year-old Cruise. I will give him credit for making it through ten years and eight months with Nichole Kidman. In that sense he beat the statistics, certainly for both celebrities and for the American marriages that last on average seven years. But his second marriage to Penelope Cruz lasted three years. So I hope Katie Holmes is not naïve enough to think that she will succeed where Nichole and Penelope failed. Enjoy your time together with Tom, Katie. It’s likely to be fleeting.

But Tom Cruise is hardly alone. Jennifer Lopez lasted eight months with Cris Judd and thirteen months with Ojani Noa. Angelina Jolie made it two years each with Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thorton. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt survived five years, but I’m willing to bet they shared residences for less than half that time. Drew Barrymore and Tom Green: 5 months. Drew and Jeremy Thomas: 19 days. Since apparently so many celebrities can’t maintain a real marriage I hope they, or at least their lawyers, have brains enough to insist on stringent prenuptial agreements.

Why do they bother? Why do they cheapen marriage for the rest of us? There needs to be some sort of special marriage certificates issued to Hollywood celebrities that gives the appearance of marriage but none of the actual expectations. Because it is pretty obvious that most celebrities have the emotional maturity of Ferris Bueller. (Bueller was played by Matthew Broderick who, incidentally, may be the exception: he is eight years into a first marriage with Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Okay, granted Americans in general talk a good talk on marriage, but aren’t great at following through on the ideal. The statistics are pretty sobering. But as bad as our overall marriage statistics are, Hollywood celebrities are far worse. Three quarters of celebrity marriages end in divorce. And I don’t know if there are statistics out there for the average duration of celebrity marriages but I suspect it is a lot less than seven years. Seven months is likely closer to the reality.

I think I understand what is going on. Basically most celebrities while very attractive and talented tend to have the emotional maturity of teenagers. When you are a perfect 10, when you ooze with talent, when you have more than enough money to live an opulent lifestyle, when great looking women/men are constantly clamoring for your body, it is easy to succumb to temptation. Just ditch the current spouse and pick another perfect 10 from the gene pool. Repeat as necessary but don’t absorb any karmic lessons. In short you don’t have to ever grow up. You get to act like Michael Jackson just limit your lovers to adults!

Admittedly there will come a time when their fame diminishes and their looks fade. And then it will be rough. At that point it is likely that any dwindling fortune and residuals is all that will win them a spouse. Unless they are very lucky they shouldn’t expect that that they will ever encounter anything resembling genuine love.

Married old farts like myself (twenty years this October, thank you very much) know that marriage is not so much about joy as it is about constantly working through relationship issues. While it has its virtues, hard work comes with the territory. That I have survived twenty years in my marriage does not mean that I am a marriage expert. Like a fingerprint, each marriage is unique. But like all marriages mine has had its ups and downs. It has rarely felt like being on a cruise ship. Rather it’s been more like being on a sailboat in the midst of a tempest with periods of relative calm. But basically I’ve grown accustomed to the rough seas. We’ve spent a lot of time bailing water keeping the marriage afloat. I am sure there were many times when we were tempted to chuck it all. For both of us I don’t think the reality quite met our reasonably well-grounded expectations. But at least they were grounded in some reality. We both knew we were flawed people with our own issues. And we had an inkling that when bad things happened we had an obligation to work through our issues as best we could. Sometimes we did a bad job of working through them and sometimes we did a good job. But we hung in there.

In short marriage requires a lot of accommodation, talking and perseverance, something that seems in short supply in Hollywood. It also requires a lot of humility, something virtually unknown in Hollywood. And it requires two people to actively work at the relationship, rather than be passive participants.

The truth is that being attractive and talented is more of a curse than a blessing. I have to infer that it gives a person a very skewed picture of the real world. Eventually though those glamorous stars are revealed to their glamour spouses as just another guy or gal with issues and dealing with the issues is, like, no fun. And that’s when the temptation often becomes irresistible. Their marriages, which were tentative artifices anyhow, quickly crumble. Likely there are some hurt feelings but my bet is that they are easy enough to plaster over. There is an endless supply of others who want to get embroiled in their glamorous world.

So, truly, I am glad to be ordinary. In some ways despite all their talent, looks, and money I have some sympathy for our celebrities. The kind of marriage the rest of us know seems to be unknown to many of them. But it has its virtues and comforts along with its constant challenges. And for better or worse many of us who survive in long term marriages grow a lot spiritually from hanging in there. We may be battle scarred, but at least we have encountered the reality of two people bound in a long-term intimate relationship. Now let’s see a movie on that.