Why what hap­pened to Brad & Ange could hap­pen to you.

Why Brad and An­gelina aren’t the only long-term cou­ple break­ing up soon af­ter get­ting mar­ried.

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Rose­mary Counter

Ev­ery­one says the first year of mar­riage is the hard­est. Half a cen­tury ago, this made per­fect sense— get­ting hitched meant big life changes: mov­ing in, merging money and life­styles, fi­nally los­ing your V-card and get­ting preg­nant right away. These days, at least in the­ory, mar­riage should be eas­ier; three-quar­ters of us al­ready live to­gether, share bills and beds and are fully com­mit­ted. Which, of course, begs an­other ques­tion: If you al­ready have all that, then what ex­actly does mar­riage mean? Some say it’s just a piece of pa­per, a tech­ni­cal­ity with a tax ben­e­fit. If that were true, how­ever, we wouldn’t hear those friend-of-a-friend hor­ror sto­ries: fi­nally ty­ing the knot and then watch­ing said knot im­me­di­ately im­plode.

This fall, it very pub­licly hap­pened to Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie. Af­ter 11 years and six kids, Brangelina split just two years into their mar­riage. This is not a Hol­ly­wood-spe­cific af­flic­tion for the rich and fa­mous. It hap­pened to three of my friends, in­clud­ing one I’ll call “Jade,” who is will­ing to share her tale. For 10 years, Jade and her fel­low seemed just about per­fect. “We were that cou­ple—you know the one,” says the 33-year-old Toron­to­nian. “Ev­ery­one said we were des­tined to be to­gether.” He was her first love at 19, they shacked up at 25, and though there were no ex­ter­nal pres­sures (ahem, pushy par­ents), a uni­ver­sal feel­ing crept into their set-up. “Soon I was turn­ing 30 and I wanted to take the next step,” she says. “Even though deep down I knew I shouldn’t, I still wanted to get mar­ried.”

Her hes­i­ta­tion wasn’t be­cause of a vague “bad feel­ing” or the uni­ver­sal “cold feet.” “Three months be­fore the wed­ding, I lit­er­ally threw my dress at him and screamed I didn’t want to marry him,” she says. It sounds crazy now, she ad­mits, but big blowouts like this were the norm at their house. De­spite out­ward ap­pear­ances, Jade and her man hid big prob­lems be­hind closed doors. They fought con­stantly—about money, sex, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­ti­macy—and spent more and more time apart. Things were get­ting worse, not bet­ter. “I dragged him to coun­selling, but it was no help,” says Jade. (If their ther­a­pist thought they shouldn’t wed, she didn’t say so.) Yet get­ting

mar­ried promised a so­lu­tion. “When he pro­posed, I thought, ‘Okay, great, mar­riage means we’re re­ally go­ing to make it work.’ It proved to me that, de­spite ev­ery­thing, we were for real.”

It’s hard for out­siders to wrap their heads around it, and it’s all too easy in ret­ro­spect to rec­og­nize huge mis­takes in the mak­ing, but sit­u­a­tions like Jade’s aren’t un­com­mon. “There’s a dis­tinct phe­nom­e­non be­hind this,” says Lu­cia O’Sul­li­van, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of New Brunswick who spe­cial­izes in in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships. “Re­search indi­cates that when peo­ple who have been co­hab­it­ing for a long time fi­nally get mar­ried, it’s of­ten be­cause it’s seen as a so­lu­tion to what­ever’s not work­ing in the co­hab­i­ta­tion agree­ment.”

O’Sul­li­van says there’s sta­tis­ti­cally less sta­bil­ity in the first years of mar­riage, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to slap a num­ber on breakup rates. Re­la­tion­ship sta­tuses in Canada are get­ting murkier and more com­pli­cated to track—so much so that Sta­tis­tics Canada stopped try­ing in 2008. Its last re­port found that about 4 per­cent of mar­riages break up af­ter one year, 16 per­cent af­ter two years and 26 per­cent af­ter three years—the “riski­est year” of mar­riage, at which point the divorce rate be­gins to steadily de­cline.

“Many, if not most, of these re­la­tion­ships have some de­gree of dif­fi­culty be­fore the mar­riage,” ex­plains Gary Diren­feld, a so­cial worker based in Dun­das, Ont., who was also the host of Slice’s fit­tingly de­funct New­ly­wed, Nearly Dead. The show’s late-night re­runs show­case can’t-turn-away, this-could-hap­pen-to-you-level marital collapses—some of the mar­riages just weeks old. He blames these dis­as­ters on a con­flict­ing mix of old and new marital ideals. “New­ly­weds are older now, they’re more set in their ways, less flex­i­ble and less pre­pared to com­pro­mise,” he says. “At the same time, they all have the old mag­i­cal think­ing that says ‘My part­ner should ful­fill all my needs, read my mind and be for­ever com­pat­i­ble.’” This think­ing has reared its head in O’Sul­li­van’s re­search too. “When you sur­vey peo­ple these days about what they’re look­ing for in a part­ner, many will talk about a ‘soul­mate,’” she says. “We’re look­ing for some­one who’s com­pletely in sync and ful­fills ev­ery pos­si­ble need for the long term and for­ever. We’re look­ing for a fairy tale, just like Brad and An­gelina.”

Pres­sure to find a Brangelina-level love is enor­mous, as is the urge to dis­play one’s love for the world to see. So­cial me­dia makes this ex­tra-easy, and Jade con­tin­ued to present her en­gage­ment hap­pily to the world. (“57 days un­til I tie the knot with this beaut. So ex­cited!!!” she posted on Face­book.) Re­searchers from North­west­ern Univer­sity found that peo­ple who were inse­cure or anx­ious about their re­la­tion­ship were more likely to brag about it on Face­book. The same logic ap­plies to the wed­ding it­self. A 2014 study (aptly ti­tled “‘A Di­a­mond Is For­ever’ and Other Fairy Tales”) from Emory Univer­sity found that wed­dings that cost more than $20,000 are three and a half times more likely to end in divorce than those that cost less than $10,000.

Sub­con­sciously or not, hes­i­tant brides and grooms can let them­selves be buried and dis­tracted by an everbloat­ing wed­ding cul­ture. “The wed­ding took over, and I was so busy plan­ning that I had no time to think about any­thing,” says Jade. Plan­ning a wed­ding is in­evitably stress­ful, even in the hap­pi­est of unions, but the deeper prob­lems of on-the-rocks re­la­tion­ships can be dis­missed as wed­ding stress and wil­fully ig­nored. “Too of­ten, peo­ple are afraid to talk about big is­sues for fear it will raise the ten­sion be­fore the wed­ding,” says Diren­feld. That ten­sion and those prob­lems aren’t go­ing any­where. “You’re re­ally just sav­ing them up for later,” he says. “This can mean your prob­lems are ac­tu­ally ex­ac­er­bated post-wed­ding.” Still, in the tense months be­fore the wed­ding, “per­cep­tion can tri­umph over judg­ment.”

For the record, Jade says she had “one of the best wed­dings ever—and I’m not just say­ing that be­cause it was mine,” she jokes. She in­vited 50 guests to her cot­tage, rent­ing all the h

nearby lodges. She wore a sweet­heart lace dress with a train and adorably in­cor­po­rated their three dogs. “It was a story we were play­ing that day. It was all false.”

The higher your ex­pec­ta­tions, the harder you crash back down to re­al­ity. All the prob­lems you had be­fore are still there but with the added pres­sure of “for­ever” weigh­ing on them. And all those com­mon-law years of prac­tice might not be as help­ful as you’d think. “The truth is, the longer you wait to get mar­ried, the more re­la­tion­ship bag­gage you bring into the mar­riage,” says De­bra Ma­cleod, a Cal­gary-based re­la­tion­ship and mar­riage coach who cre­ated a pop­u­lar “Mar­riage SOS” pro­gram for new­ly­weds. She says there’s a dis­tinct post­wed­ding come­down that she calls the “post-wed­ding blues” or a “hon­ey­moon hang­over.” “That’s when you get mar­ried and you’re so ridicu­lously happy but then you have to go to work on Mon­day,” she says. “There’s this feel­ing of ‘That’s it? Now what?’”

Im­me­di­ately post-wed­ding, ex­pec­ta­tions of marital life of­ten clash. “One per­son has been think­ing ‘Once we’re mar­ried, things will be dif­fer­ent.’ And the other per­son’s been think­ing ‘Why should I change? You mar­ried me this way,’” says Ma­cleod. Jolie filed for divorce for “the health of the fam­ily”—al­legedly be­cause of Brad’s weed and booze habits and be­cause her par­ent­ing style is easy­go­ing while Brad wants to raise the kids with a more struc­tured, tra­di­tional fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment—but it’s very likely these is­sues were there long be­fore. “A fast mar­riage break­down like this may just have been two peo­ple who didn’t have the same ex­pec­ta­tions of what life af­ter mar­riage should be,” says Ma­cleod.

“I’d spent 10 years wait­ing for him to change,” says Jade. “The wed­ding was re­ally my last ef­fort to fix ev­ery­thing, but it didn’t work.” Stuck at an im­passe, she grew in­creas­ingly mis­er­able un­til she gave up four months later and moved back in with her par­ents. “I called my friend and said, ‘Please just tell me I lasted longer than Kim Kar­dashian!’” (With 139 mar­ried days, Jade beats Kim’s 72 days of mar­riage to Kris Humphries by a land­slide.) Just like the wed­ding, this sad-seem­ing sit­u­a­tion is not nec­es­sar­ily as it ap­pears. Jade went back to school, made new friends and health­ier habits and is in a promis­ing re­la­tion­ship. “Now that I know what I don’t in­tro­duc­ing­want, I can see my ex­actly new what for­mula. I do want,” she says. With her new boyfriend, cu­ti­cle kind­ness,care is com­mu­ni­ca­tio­nan es­sen­tial part of and con­sid­er­a­tiony­our nail careare deeply rou­tine. ap­prec­i­made with ated and real flow apricot both ker­nel­ways. The oil, lessonmy “apricot

® took 10 cu­ti­cle years oil” and soft­ens,an em­bar­rass­ing re­hy­drates and failed mar­riage, she ex­plains, but was

re­vi­tal­izes in­stantly. sweet! worth it none­the­less. n

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