I’ve found myself this week thinking some about the latest celebrity news: Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s separation/divorce/”uncoupling”. Normally, this is something that I couldn’t care less about – to be fair, I don’t think I even knew they were married to each other before this week – but it’s been on my mind recently anyway, I think because marriage has been on my mind recently.
As silly as it may sound, I’ll admit that I am sometimes affected by hearing about celebrity marriage breakups, especially those who have been married for 10ish yrs+, and especially those who live in the Los Angeles area like myself. After all, am I really that much different than them, other than the side of fame we’re on? I’m sure when they originally married that they fully believed that they’d be one of the “lucky” couples; they they had what it took to make a successful marriage. What makes them and their marriage any different than me and my marriage? How do I know that KP and I too won’t end up like them in a few years?
While being married to a screenwriter is I’m sure nothing like being married to an actor (and still probably NOTHING like if we were both actors/performers), I can still attest to one fact: maintaining a successful marriage while working in the entertainment industry is not an easy task. Not that it’s an easy task anywhere, but that out here in L.A. and in this “Hollywood” world, we seem to have some additional challenges maintaining a long-term marriage. Why is that?
What are we missing? If I had to place my finger on it, I think it’s because we have no societal expectation of marital perseverance when the going gets tough. Sure, there are other entertainment industry-specific complications, but I think that when it boils down to it, that this is was we lack the most: support amongst our peers.
I remember being at a house party several years ago – long before kids and back when we were the only married couple we knew among our acquaintances – where KP and I were talking with a single friend about one of the latest movies at that time: Revolutionary Road.
Our friend stated that this was a completely unrelatable film to modern audiences because no one’s marriages ever get to that level of despair anymore; he stated that a modern couple would have realized their unhappiness together and divorced long before allowing themselves to get to the point of the main characters’ marriage.
I don’t remember how I answered him at the time (I probably didn’t know how to answer and changed the topic), but either way, the conversation has stayed with me over the years. Is this what people on the outside-looking-in think of marriage? That successful modern marriages are somehow exempt from the bad times? I mean, the REALLY, really bad times? No wonder so many marriages fail nowadays. People must have completely unrealistic expectations for what marriage is like and then, upon finding the truth, would rather give up than see it through.
Marriage gets hard. Really, really, really hard sometimes. Just like the vows we say, “in good times, and IN BAD” – marriage can very well get bad. Over the years, you both change and you will, at some point, wonder why you married each other in the first place. Yes, you grow together and get to know each other intimately, but this is a double-edged sword. Not only do you learn how to make your partner supremely happy, you also learn how to hurt them more than anyone else ever could. And at some point, perhaps in the middle of an already heated argument, hurtful things will be said or done. Your spouse will hurt you deeply and you will hurt your spouse deeply. You will wonder if it’s even possible for things to get better.
These things absolutely do happen in marriage. Even “normal” modern marriages. It doesn’t always have to be an affair; there are many, many, many other ways for spouses to hurt each other, lose affection for each other, and drift apart.
If that weren’t enough – if you work in Hollywood, to some extent you are expected to only exist in the current moment. There’s a saying around town that “you’re only as good as your next project”. Sure you just won an Oscar for something you made two years ago. ‘Congratulations – but what are you working on NOW?’ Your movie just opened as the biggest weekend gross in history. ‘Awesome – but what’s next?’
It’s hard to find long-term stability in this entertainment world. You go from project-to-project-to-project, each project being equally immersive and requiring your full attention while you’re on it. And then, when that project’s over, you’re left alone to hopefully find something else. The friends you made working on your last show are only your friends until they move on to a new show and make new friends. You never know what the future will bring. All you ever know is what you have today.
How in the world does someone maintain a marriage when they don’t even know when a current or future project will allow them to see each other? Many of the bigger celebrities often go many months without seeing each other while they are off working on projects. If both members of a marriage work in the biz, then that’s two schedules to try to juggle – just to SEE each other and spend time with each other and be married together. If there are kids, it’s also a struggle to be around enough to raise them. How can you parent, invest in your marriage, work intensely on film/tv project, and maintain a public persona at the same time? All while having NO stability as to what tomorrow, next week, or next year will bring.
So, when the going gets tough, who are these celebrities supposed to turn to for support? What other married couples can they look up to for guidance, who will encourage them to stick it and that marriage is worth fighting for?
I don’t really know what else to say in this rambling entry, other than that I wish I had more answers. Perhaps I should start seeking out successful, long-term married couples in this industry and interview them for marriage tips? Perhaps I should help find a way to build a support base for married couples to encourage each other in marriage (after all, there are lots of mom/parenting groups out there and we often seek out others for parenting advice – but not for marriage advice). Perhaps, in a way, my desire to do something was one of the reasons I felt compelled to start The Screenwriter’s Wife in the first place. I have no idea what lowly me could do, maybe nothing at all, but it’s something I think about nevertheless.