Another day, another celebrity breakup. Today, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher announced their separation. "It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton," Moore said in a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday.
Hot on the heels of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Moore and Kutcher join a long list of celebrity marriages that have fallen prey to affairs, Twitter wars and multi-million dollar messy divorces.
Let's take a stroll down now-defunct celebrity marriage lane: Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon; Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid; Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise (Tom, you were normal back then!); Sean Penn and Robin Wright; Elizabeth Taylor and, well, so many; and perhaps the most remembered of all, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.
And that's just a small sample of celebrity couples we’ve loved only to watch them split.
While the average divorce rate for first marriages hovers around 40 percent, celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder estimates that the stars’ divorce rate is well over 50 percent and points out that it’s tough to name more than a handful with long-term, happy marriages. What gives?!
Most of us have some version of “the list”—the celebrities we’d sleep with if we ever got the chance, no matter our relationship status—but the whole point is that we’ll never get that chance (someday, Hugh Jackman, wait for me!). Not so for celebrities. The person topping their list could easily be their next co-star or the host of that night’s house party.
More than the rest of us, celebrities are constantly surrounded by what psychologists call “attractive alternatives,” meaning people who come into our lives that we might take a chance on if we were single. The more we let them in, the more likely we are to stray.
But whether our pretty face is splashed on a billboard or propped up on our mother’s mantle, the science of what keeps us committed or leads us to stray is the same for everyone—celebrity marriages just shine a spotlight on a process we all go through.
The Allure of the Attractive Alternative
When we’re in a committed relationship, some level of dependence keeps us coming back. “We are motivated to maintain a relationship when we are dependent on that person to meet our needs,” says Tim Loving, associate professor of psychology at University of Texas at Austin and co-founder of ScienceofRelationships.com. “We stay [in our current relationship] when we think that what we’re getting is better than what we perceive to be available elsewhere. If we think someone else can better meet our needs, then we’re going to leave.” (Think of Allie leaving her fiancé for lifelong love Noah in “The Notebook.”)
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