Should We Judge People For Short-Lived Marriages?

09/01/2012 13:03 | Updated 22 May 2015

Another day and another celebrity marriage - actually, make that divorce - is headlining the news. Barely moments after walking down the aisle, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, and Sinead O'Connor and Barry Herridge (who are now apparently reconciling) called it quits after 72 days and 16 days, respectively; Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard (two years) and Katy Perry and Russell Brand (14 months) also recently announced their splits.

Should we judge people for short-lived marriages?Does Katy and Russell's relationship make a mockery of marriage? Photo: Getty

None of this news is particularly surprising (does anyone really think a romance and marriage constructed for viewers on reality TV - yes, you, Kim Kardashian - stands a chance of lasting? The demise of the relationship between the couple has also been milked for airtime and was the subject of the latest season of the reality star's show).

However, it's still depressing to see something as important and life-changing as a wedding and marriage (for those of us whose primary motivation is finding a true life partner) get treated with as much deference as a new colour of hair dye or a handbag purchase.

Perhaps that's the point. Marriage - while still an important step for some - is no longer the required path every loved-up couple must take so that they can cohabit, buy property, get the obligatory training-for-a-baby pet and eventually discuss the option of children.

In fact, all of those things - and the commitment they entail - can happen without all of the cost, pomp, ceremony and legal jargon of a wedding. The idea of marriage is now a malleable construct (something millions have fought for and embrace), and an optional box to tick in present-day Western culture. Divorce similarly, with its increasing frequency, isn't the shaming, ostracising process it once was.

What worries me is that many of these celebrities who rush down the aisle (and subsequently to divorce court) don't even have the foundations for proper relationships that may eventually lead to marriage. Too often, it appears they meet, get papped and snapped and decide that publicity-wise, this is a worthwhile investment (other costs down the line be damned), and then, without a second thought to the vows they took, one or the other (or both, likely) decide to bolt.

Allegedly, Katy Perry and Russell Brand only lived together for six weeks of their marriage, which doesn't exactly suggest that their partnership was tested or even celebrated in any way that is recognisably that of a married couple's or a couple with a serious commitment to one another.

Of course, it's unfair to judge when you're on the outside and have no idea what really went on. People, celebrities included, have a right to a private life, so it's not anyone's business what happens in someone else's marriage or relationship.

In theory, I agree with this principle but when I look at how media-hungry couples like Katy and Russell and Kim and Kris have acted during their marriages and courtships, it's difficult to sympathise, simpler not to care and easiest of all to judge.

One reason I think celebrities are so lax about their marital situations is that when you have the obscene, never-ending stores of money that they do, and when a divorce garners as much media attention as a pregnancy announcement, there's no real incentive to stick it out and stay married.

There's talk of a £20 million payout for Russell (the threat of losing a much lesser sum would have most mortals attempting to work through any marital issues). It's almost like the performative behaviour surrounding a new romance/wedding/almost-instant divorce is expected of celebrity antics, part and parcel of what they do for a living. Katy will write a new hit song about the dissolution of her marriage, land a post-breakup cosmetics contract, recoup that money and have a new beau on her arm in no time.

While celebrity divorces have been messy, there is always a sense the star in question will bounce back, stronger than before, visually at first (Kim's new breakup fringe, J-Lo's post-divorce tummy-baring dresses) and with a new business deal/engagement on the horizon soon after. That doesn't always happen in the real world, when you've lost your money and are bitterly fighting to see your children.

Which leads me to one of the positives that comes out of these celebrity unions lasting so briefly; when you've met and married in a matter of weeks or months, you haven't necessarily had a chance to procreate, so in theory, you're saving would-be children years of therapy.

Hopefully, the folly of celebrities, with their swift weddings and even swifter splits, is so ridiculous that no one will want to imitate them. As long as we keep that lesson in mind, it's OK to judge them just a little. Isn't that why we put them on pedestals in the first place? So we can watch them crumble every now and again?


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