Ah, yes, July. A time for Fourth of July fireworks, bubbly beverages by the beach and – breakups?
It might be that way, at least in the land of Celebrity Splitsville™️. Rumors continue to circulate regarding Ariana Grande and husband Dalton Gomez’s marriage, ditto Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello. Elsewhere, Bravo stars Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky have confirmed difficulties in their decades-long marriage.
It can be trying when those around you won’t stop speculating about your relationship status. This difficulty is magnified for celebrities, who see their relationship ups-and-downs become the subject of international news headlines and social media trends.
Thus it makes sense for celebrities – and really anyone – to try to control the narrative regarding their relationship status, experts say. Even if that narrative is simply insisting it’s no one’s business but the couple’s.
“If a divorce or breakup is amicable, the old axiom … ‘(it’s) none of your business’ may apply,” says Laura Petiford, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Let other people think what they will.”
‘Public separations are hard’
The age of social media has made it nearly impossible for anyone who regularly uses these platforms to keep their relationship status hidden for long. An Instagram story here, a cryptic grid post there. Those in the public eye, of course, carefully curate exactly what they want their followers to know.
But followers of celebrities and non-celebrities alike will often deep-dive Instagrams to distract from their own lives. When did they stop posting photos together? When was the last time she commented on his post? Is he still wearing a ring?
“Public separations are hard and involve careful management,” says Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at St. Mary’s University in Canada. “The best approach is to be professional and issue a statement – whether it just be to friends verbally, on social media or around the family table. No explanations are needed and indeed if someone were to speak poorly about a recent ex-partner, it’ll potentially cause further problems.”
Our current era of celebrity social media makes fans feel like they know these celebrities – what’s called a parasocial relationship – meaning many will have empathy for the couple in question, barring some kind of cheating scandal where one party may be burnt at the metaphorical stake.
“We are far more accepting of personal challenges celebrities face and even embrace them when they are forthcoming about their vulnerabilities,” Petiford says.
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How to break up (carefully) in the public eye
- Remember that only you and your partner will know the full story. “You can try to quell the speculation, you can try to get out ahead of questions, you can try to answer all the questions … but at the end of the day, only you have the full context regardless of how much you elect to share with others,” says Ali Jackson, dating and relationship coach.
- Set boundaries and rally your support system. Be clear about what you want out there and what you definitely don’t. “Having boundaries, and having a private life really becomes an important part of having very healthy overall wellbeing, being able to have both personal boundaries that you can control, and then also identifying really healthy social support,” adds T.M. Robinson-Mosley, counseling psychologist.
- Sit down with the most important players first. “If the breakup is contentious, it may be important for the members of a couple to present a measured explanation to friends who are closest,” Petiford says. “Friends presumably care about friends and to that end have legitimate interest in how a longtime couple may fare through such a challenging time.”
- Be direct. “If people won’t stop talking about the former relationship, one approach is to point out – directly – that it is over and that it’s time to move on,” Fisher says.
- Get ready for questions. In one’s personal life, questions may come up as people consider which side they’re planning on taking in a breakup. There may be little control, ultimately, for celebrities to move legions of fans one way or another without digging themselves into a drama-filled pit. Plus: “If I were to advise those who were wondering, reaching out personally if they genuinely care is best,” Fisher says. “Otherwise, keep those motives in check – why do you need to know? Is it just being nosy or is there actual concern?”
- If you are friends with the couple, offer support. Petiford adds: “Do your best to stay out of the way and remember there are always at least two sides to every breakup story.”
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