I can't help but cringe whenever a couple in Hollywood divorces, especially if they've been together for more than 10 years. It's not because I'm upset about their divorce, but because I know all too well the narrative surrounding divorce in our culture. When my ex-husband and I divorced, the most common assumption surrounding our decision to separate was that we'd "lost all the love" between us. And in the hours after news broke that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, it felt like every article, every social-media post, and every conversation I came across shouted, "LOVE IS DEAD: Brad and Angelina divorce." Though the narrative has changed in the days since then (there are reports of Pitt allegedly being physically and/or verbally abusive to one of his children, according to TMZ, but formal charges have yet to be brought against the actor and a request for comment by Romper to Pitt's lawyers on the allegations has yet to be returned), I still don't understand the belief that divorce is the result of the love between two people "dying," and I absolutely don't agree with it.
This year, I officially divorced my ex-husband. We separated two years ago, but this past May we actually signed papers and both became "single." However, throughout it all, never once did I feel as if the love I had for him had vanished, or was suddenly negated because we decided to end our marriage to one another. In fact, I still loved him, but our divorce was a result of the fact that we both felt like we'd grown out of our love for each other. In growing up, we grew apart, and things weren't working. And I get slightly offended when a couple divorces and others around them dramatically talk about their divorce as if they know something the people involved don't. I hate when people say, "I thought they were happy," because in my own marriage, we had many happy, wonderful, exciting years. But we also had some not-so-happy years together. We were always actively trying, but when we arrived at a place where we realized things weren't changing, we decided to do the next best possible thing for us.
There are many reasons couples get divorced. Divorce isn't a one-size-fits-all thing, despite our culture's insistence to tell us that it is. My ex-husband and I had so much love for each other, but we still had to make the hard decision to leave our marriage. We had built a life together. We had children. So much of who we were was woven into and through the other. Deciding to divorce didn't mean that we just stopped loving one another or that we woke up one day and realized that the love had slipped away. We didn't divorce because suddenly, the love that held us up fell out from under us.
We've wondered if the flame fizzled out, if the love fell through the floor, if the spark disappeared. But we shouldn't be paying attention to that at all.
In the days since Angelina's initial filing, a decision her lawyer said was done for the "health of the family," retrospective takes on "what went wrong" in their partnership have surfaced. We've wondered if the flame fizzled out, if the love fell through the floor, if the spark disappeared. But we shouldn't be paying attention to that at all.
Speaking from my own experience, I know full well that there can still be love between two people even if conflict has built a home between them. And I'd like to think that anyone who's ever been a relationship can relate to that. Though I don't know claim to know what's in Angelina Jolie's heart, I understand full well that her decision to divorce her partner may have nothing to do with the love between them.
I know it's par for the course to speculate about public and celebrity relationships for days, and I know how easy it is to pick apart the hows, the whys, and the what ifs and examine them. I also know how easy that is to do in our own private lives. But in the wake of divorce, to say that a partnership between two people was one that was "obviously never filled with love," or that the "love wasn't real" because they couldn't make work is to dismiss the very real, very emotional, very hard work that goes into making a marriage and a relationship last. You can love someone with your whole heart but still struggle to make things work. You can have all of the love in the world.
We don't have a right to question Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt's marriage and their partnership. Spending 12 years with a person doesn't make you immune to divorce. Neither does loving someone.
If we continue to see love as something so fickle and so easy to understand, then of course we'll continue to reduce meaningful, powerful, and loving relationships to the equivalent of a high-school romance that's lived long-past its expiration date. Before it happened to me, I didn't always believe that love could still be there even when a relationship was falling apart. I didn't understand that the end of a journey for two people didn't remove the love they'd shared before. It wasn't until I went through it that it gave me a different view on my marriage and on what the process of divorce was like. I once believed that the more years you had under your belt with someone, the stronger and more "unbreakable" your love became. But now, I don't think quantity is necessarily an indicator of the love you share for a person. And I definitely do not believe it's the tell-all sign of the quality of your relationship.
We don't have a right to question Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt's marriage and their partnership. Spending 12 years with a person doesn't make you immune to divorce. Neither does loving someone. When my ex-husband and I divorced, it wasn't because we stopped loving each other. We'd just both recognized that we'd stopped moving forward. So regardless of whatever Angelina and Brad are going through, blaming a lack of love for their "failure" just shows how little we understand what makes a partnership work.