Culture

There's Nothing Glamorous About Divorce, No Matter How Much Celebrity Culture Glorifies It

By Andrea Mew··  9 min read
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Welcome to the revolution of “Team Me,” led by Kim Kardashian who recently graced the cover of Vogue in a glamor shoot and opened up about her divorce from Kanye West. Round of applause for how Kim K didn’t hold back! Or maybe not, since the media’s blinders on celebrating celeb divorces could pose a threat to the future of marriage.

But it’s not just Kim K. It’s everywhere, and these subliminal ways that the media tries to normalize divorce through gloating articles, shows, and movies about whirlwind marriages are causing younger generations to wrongly see divorce as empowerment.

Instead of being careful about how broken marriages are represented in the United States, it begins to feel like our country is embracing having the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world. But how did we get here?

There’s True Power in Messaging

Glamour, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmo – you name the publication, they probably have an exhaustive timeline of Kim Kardashian’s divorce. And it’s not just the recent one with Kanye West, but they were thirsty to cover the divorce with Kris Humphries too. Come to think of it, the elite media are obsessed with celebrity divorce.

Just think about the rhetoric they use to cover who is splitting from whom, the buzzy terms that add flare and flavor to each headline:

Miley divulged to readers that she felt “comforted.” Meghan Markle apparently “took her power back.” Even when celebs themselves weren’t taking interviews touting how renewed they felt after their split, like with the play-by-play we got during the “Brangelina” break, the news media still ate up every last detail.

Take a couple of generations with a growing perspective that marriage is temporary and fleeting, and then you start to get headlines about the authors’ own divorces reassuring young women that this was the right path for them to take.

Let’s be clear, in some cases it is the right path to take, like in cases of domestic violence, abuse, or drug addiction. But, statistically speaking, those cases don’t even rank in the top three reasons for divorce. Instead, 43% of surveyed divorcees made their choice out of incompatibility, 28% cited infidelity, and 22% left their spouse over money issues.

Rather than the real, serious causes for divorce, the elite media tells their impressionable readers that “Divorce Can Be An Act of Radical Self-Love” or that “This Valentine’s Day, Let’s Hear It For Divorce.”

Pieces like these are rife with commentary about feeling like marriage and motherhood rob a woman of her identity and personality. Another one likened getting stuck in motherhood as being “three percent blue Play-Doh; 10 percent toast; 87 percent Honey Nut Cheerios dust” and that she would rather be “thinking about art and sex and politics and the patriarchy.”

The messaging is that divorce is stylish, divorce gets you attention, divorce can make you rich.

Celebrities can afford the time and money to get married and have children. Celebrities can often even afford endless child support, live-in nannies, and to be “girl-boss” role models to the masses who are struggling to find a balance between career and marriage.

It’s no wonder that when women see their favorite celebrities and influencers dumping their dude post-nuptials and managing to maintain their glamorous career, they might feel empowered that marriage is the (wrong) fit for them too.

Let’s not forget about the “divorce ponzi” going on where the richest women in modern history actually accumulated their wealth by divorcing their rich husbands. Mackenzie Scott made the billionaire list after her divorce from Jeff Bezos, as well as Melinda Gates. What's the silver lining for women in those stories? Play your cards right and you can make top dollar off a man’s money? That really does sound empowering!

The messaging being ingrained in women's brains is that divorce is stylish, divorce gets you attention, divorce can make you rich, and that divorce can embolden you.

We’re Brewing Up a Dangerous Cup of Culture

The glamorization of divorce culture is on the rise. Within the span of a couple of decades, ending a marriage went from being unspeakable to being positive and powerful. The first step in this revolution was when “no-fault” divorce laws were passed in California (hello, Hollywood) in the late 1970s, which meant that neither the man nor woman needed to provide proof of fault in order to dissolve their marriage. Nearly every state followed suit by the 1980s. 

Additionally, think about the multifaceted impact that the sexual revolution has had on our society as a whole. When men and women feel freer in their sexuality, it’s unsurprising that marital problems continue to rise with extramarital relationships and unfulfillable expectations from marriage. The obligations and duties that marriage held were marred by women’s new sense of individualism, self-fulfillment, and the freedom to view sex through a more casual lens rather than understanding it as true pair-bonding.

Is it at all surprising that women legally initiate roughly ⅔ of all divorces, and that women are more likely to divorce a man against their will?

Another long-gone taboo that the sexual revolution helped spearhead is the notion of a man and woman cohabiting before marriage. Yet in divorce culture, that has also become acceptable after the marriage ends! Divorce once meant that you take what’s yours, I take what’s mine, but now some split couples time-share the family home. Take Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, for example, who planned to live on the same estate together with their kids…just in different buildings.

To feed this culture shift even further, the travel and tourism industry has leapt in with divorce-moon getaways at luxury romantic resorts where divorcees can “untie the knot,” whether that’s with their friends or alone to detox on wine and self-care.

Will This Even Impact Future Generations?

We have to be wary about romanticizing divorce in the media, especially when the couples have children. The negative psychological impact of divorce on children is indisputable.

Children watching their parents go through a divorce are prone to low self-esteem, inward and outward anger, and social withdrawal. For younger children, this sometimes manifests in worse temper tantrums, bedwetting, or clinginess.

Children of divorce have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts at higher rates.

Baseline emotional impacts aside, the behaviors they start to exhibit as they grow up in split households are reason for concern. Statistically, children experiencing their parents' divorce earn lower grades in school and drop out at higher rates. Studies have shown that they also carry the weight of the divorce quite literally with higher BMI over time and have an increased risk of developing clinical depression

At its worst, children of divorce have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts at higher rates, abuse alcohol and drugs at higher rates, and engage in underage sexual activity at higher rates. 

So why are we, as a culture, celebrating this?

History also repeats itself. To put it plainly, if you come from a divorced family, you’re more likely to experience divorce yourself. There are of course children who rise above this and aspire to have a healthy, committed relationship that becomes lifelong marriage. Conversely, there are children who become disillusioned with the idea of ever having a successful relationship. They might avoid relationships entirely or they might enter into toxic ones. 

To add insult to injury, these past two years of pandemic lockdowns showed unforeseen effects on single-parent households. While in-person learning was canceled, the doors to daycare centers closed, and summer camps postponed indefinitely, single parents were found to experience worse emotional stress than households with two parents. Single mothers and fathers were more likely to feel isolated, depressed, and reported more frequent bouts of crying due to their sheer amount of frustration.

Let’s Reject the Media’s Divorce Culture

Upon divorcing Kanye and stepping into the spotlight in Vogue to tell all, Kim K expressed how part of being on “Team Me” is being able to now eat well, work out, and have more fun. But here’s the good news – you don’t have to be on “Team Me” to do any of that! You don’t need to untie the knot to have your own personality, indulge in self-betterment, and feel like you have a purpose. Giving yourself over entirely to a profession and losing yourself in a marriage are two sides of the same coin.

If you go into a marriage treating your spouse as someone who completes you, will you ever truly feel fulfilled? We’re all flawed, and no one can live up to perfect expectations day in and day out. It’s unsurprising that more people end up getting divorced when they expect their spouse to be the only reason they get out of bed in the morning. A healthier marriage focuses on solving conflicts together and working as loyal partners raising one another up.

You don’t need to untie the knot to have your own personality, indulge in self-betterment, or have purpose.

While the media romanticizes finding your soulmate and most compatible partner, the truth is that you’ll never marry the perfectly-right-for-you person! No two people are perfectly compatible, whether you’re a celebrity or not. It’s downright unhealthy to base a marriage on self-fulfilling expectations rather than being two imperfect people coming together and loving one another despite the inevitable changes you will both undergo.

Rejecting divorce culture means understanding true companionship and working in your own unique ways to bring happiness to one another instead of solely to yourself. Celebrities may praise their divorces as the way they gained their sense of independence or empowerment, but a good partner will empower you to maintain your independence in the best ways comfortable for you. And if you struggle to find that balance right away, that’s not cause for divorce. You entered into a lifelong covenant with someone and have so many years of growth ahead of you both!

If you choose to have children, rejecting divorce culture includes remembering that being your child’s parent is one of the most irreplaceable purposes a person can have in their life. The dynamic of mutual spousal aid and bringing up a child together works for a reason!

Closing Thoughts

The media is guilty of accelerating the breakdown of marriage by excusing and downright celebrating divorce culture. They perpetuate the problem of people simultaneously asking for way too much from their partner in marriage and wanting way too little from true partnership. Rather than get caught up in the next celebrity saga, we can challenge the normalization of divorce culture by keeping the true meaning of marriage in mind and not having blinders on for the painful effects that divorce could have on future generations.

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