Relationship Expert, Author, Lecturer

Demi and Ashton – Art Imitating Life – or Not?

When I woke up earlier this week to several messages from reporters, I knew before most of the world that Demi Moore’s and Ashton Kutcher’s marriage was in hot water. Allegedly, Ashton has been cheating, and purportedly, it isn’t the first time his infidelity has been an issue in their relationship. But there is no reason for the public to get their news from the press (or from me) about this celebrity breakup, because the actors, who are avid social media users, took to Twitter to comment on how they're handling the situation!

Since the beginning of their relationship and subsequent marriage in 2005, Demi and Ashton’s relationship has fascinated the public. We love our Hollywood couples, and this romance has lots of sizzle. They are both extremely attractive and accomplished actors. Demi, the ex-wife of Bruce Willis, has three children with Willis. By all reports they are a modern, blended family, and Ashton is a devoted stepparent. All three parents and children even vacation together! And, of course, there is the famous age difference. Demi is 47, 15 years older than the 32-year-old Kutcher.

Am I surprised by the news of their breakup and their Tweets? No, not really. Relationships bring enough challenges without the constant public scrutiny celebrities attract. Social networking is such a big part of our everyday lives now, it’s understandable that people might take to the internet (if not wisely) to blow off steam. Do I care about their split? Well, actually, yes, I do, and that’s why I’m blogging about them today.

We Americans adore our celebrities, and many of us emulate them intentionally and unconsciously. I love a good People read at my nail salon, and if I see a great outfit on a celebrity (age appropriate, of course!), I’ll try to replicate it. But, more importantly, we tend to take the relationships of our “role model” celebrities very seriously. Marriage is hard work, and the divorce rate remains high. When we see a famous couple appearing happy and healthy in their marriage, we think, “If they can do it, so can I!”

On paper, Demi is a woman that many of us can relate to. She is divorced, but not acrimoniously. For some time she was a single, working mom. And, when she started dating Ashton, she showed us that love can transcend a large age difference. These factors, especially when splashed across the tabloids, give single and divorced women hope. I love the fact that women over the last decade feel more comfortable dating men who are younger than they are. In fact, I have a close friend who is married to a man ten years her junior. He is a wonderful husband who is extremely devoted to her – and he even stays home to raise their twin boys.

News stories about celebrity breakups, which become so overblown and viral, can really take their toll on the way the public views relationships. When I was interviewed the other day, the top question I was asked was, “Did their age difference kill the marriage?” Obviously I don’t have the answer to this particular question. If their relationship truly is in trouble, I suspect there are many contributing factors. But what I do know is that the more a couple has in common, the better the chance of their union surviving. An age difference of several years really shouldn’t matter, but a fifteen-year age difference is a large one, and for some, perhaps it is too much.

What really bothers me is that we are being fed news that yet another celebrity couple ended their relationship over the man’s infidelity. Unfortunately, there were too many of those stories in the news this past year. If you compare these celebrity splits to the millions of people in relationships – the percentage of men who cheat may in fact be quite low, and relationships can end for many other reasons. There are tons of fabulous men out there who are devoted boyfriends and husbands. There are also many single men who want to be in exclusive relationships leading to marriage. The nasty buzz that all men are cheaters is extremely anti-male, and it is simply not true.

It does seem to be true that a lot of men in Hollywood get caught being unfaithful, and many celebrity marriages and relationships end for that reason. But don’t forget that the tabloids and magazines are in the business of selling themselves, not necessarily (or at all) “reporting.” We aren’t getting a clear picture of Demi and Ashton’s marriage, interaction, or emotional states. We’re getting what will make us grab a copy of US Weekly at the supermarket checkout. Breakups sell because they prey on our anxieties about relationships in general. The information we get about celebrities is skewed (and in a lot of cases made up entirely) to make us interested in their lives. It’s a vicious cycle, designed to make money. Unfortunately, it can also sap our faith in the possibility of creating and sustaining healthy relationships.

So please don’t buy into this or any other tabloid tale claiming that marriages or blended families don’t work, age differences are doomed to fail, and all men are cheaters. That kind of negative and unsubstantiated thinking will cause you anxiety, which may bleed into the way you view romance. Instead, try to think about all the relationships that you admire out there in the real world, and try to emulate those.

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