The end of a marriage is a lot of things. It can be sad, or tragic, or disappointing. It can be a relief, an opportunity, a godsend. It can be shocking or surprising or devastating. It can be inevitable or predictable or long overdue.
And usually it's a very personal, complex combination of some or even all of those things.
But is it a failure? I guess if you believe in 'til Death Do Us Part, it is.
Parting before death means you didn't tick that box.
What about the bit before you parted, though? Does it, by definition, become a failure if it doesn't end in the death of one or both of you? Have Brad and Angelina failed in their life together that has spanned more than a decade?
"'Prior to the 20th century, the most common endpoint of marriage was death,' notes family psychologist William M. Pinsof in a 2002 paper. 'During the 20th century, the most common endpoint of marriage became divorce.' In 1900, two-thirds of American marriages ended with the death of a partner, falling to under one-third by 1976. In 1867, fewer than 10 percent of marriages led to divorce; by 1985 it was 50 percent—a number that has leveled off slightly, especially for first marriages.
Thanks to increases in medicine and decreases in war, you can’t count on death to dissolve a marriage; it comes through divorce.
…To Pinsof, viewing divorce as a failure exacerbates the trauma of the breakup, doubly for any kids involved. The children of the divorce surge in the ‘80s and ‘90s got it especially bad, he said, since there weren’t any models for good co-parental relationships between exes—the children were traumatized by their parents’ divorces, he argues, and 'their own sense of social isolation and shame.' It would be more generous to everybody involved to allow that divorce could be a courageous, positive act. To Louis C.K., 'No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.'"
Nobody wants to fail. Failure implies, well, failing. But a 12-year relationship that raised six children is by no means a failure.
Listen: Mamamia Out Loud dissects the breakup. Post continues below.
Sometimes you walk along the same path as someone else for a fixed period before you veer in different directions. This person may be a lover, a spouse, or a friend. This diversion may be abrupt and dislocating; something happens that causes one of you to turn suddenly left or right. Other times you can't even pinpoint the moment at which you began to drift apart.
However the idea that the separation itself devalues the time you spent together in love, marriage, or friendship is bollocks. Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Staying together and raising a family and working through the day-to-day of life, kids, and career is something to be proud of, for as long as you can do it.
Who knows what Brad and Angelina's relationship was like. Only them. The next few days and weeks, and possibly years (hello, Tom and Nicole), will provide rivers of media fodder and dinner party speculation.
What we do know is this: not only did they raise their six kids today during their years as a couple, they used their celebrity to draw attention to some important causes including the plight of refugees, the victims of hurricane Katrina, issues around international adoption and breast cancer.
They did good. They loved good. And now it's over. And just because something doesn't last forever, that doesn't mean it didn't have value or purpose or meaning while it did.