Should we have expected Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to divorce?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

This article from Family Studies indicates four reasons why we should have expected Brad and Angelina to divorce.


The Brangelina break-up is like the big earthquake that seismologists missed. Angelina Jolie serving Brad Pitt with divorce papers just two years into their marriage has sent shock waves through the entertainment and parenting press, inspiring panicked headlines like, “If Brad Pitt And Angelina Jolie Can’t Make It, Who Can?”But should we be so surprised?

The unfortunate truth is that if fans of the A-list couple had consulted family and marriage experts, this real-life plot twist might have looked fairly likely, if not predictable. In other words, it was more a matter of when than if.

[…]For starters, Britain’s Marriage Foundation recently conducted a study of 488 A-list celebrities. They found “that celebrities divorce at roughly twice the rate of the rest of us. . . . In the early years of their marriages, divorce among celebs is a lot more than twice as commonplace. During the first three years—as with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie—some 7 percent of celebs had divorced compared to 2 percent for [the rest of] us.”

Jolie and Pitt also match at least three of the individual risk factors for divorce that University of Denver research professor Scott Stanley, Ph.D., lists on his blog, Sliding vs Deciding. These include: being a child of divorce (as in Jolie’s case), both stars having had “a prior marriage that ended” (this will be Brad’s second divorce, and Jolie’s third), and “[p]rior to marrying, having sex with or cohabiting with someone other than your mate,” which looks applicable to the couple as well. They also match two other divorce risk factors for couples, including “having a child together before marriage,” and cohabiting “before either being married or at least engaged.”

Now, I’ve talked to women about these studies, and I’ve got two different responses from two different groups.

One group of those women says that the research is entirely correct, and that their future decisions need to be guided by the best practices shown in the research. They like that there is some data there that will help them to act in line what the Bible says. One lady I mentored who had an abortion actually started to mistrust her emotions when it came to choosing men and making decisions about whether to commit. We talked through my objectives, then she evaluated men using the best practices from the research. She wanted to make better decisions, and she thought that the problem was her – specifically, her feelings ruining her decision-making. She’s married to a super guy now, and doing great. Her view on emotions now, and I’m quoting, is “emotions are data, but you shouldn’t let them influence your decision-making more than reason and evidence”. Also, her husband is totally spoiled.

Another group of women expressed support for the Bible teachings and but their response to the best practices contained in the research studies is that they are “too strict” and that they only work “within a narrow scope”. And their past usually shows evidence of this habit they have of dismissing moral rules and best practices. Note: converting to Christianity doesn’t automatically change reckless, self-centered behavior. The talk could improve, but the actions could still be irresponsible and narcissistic. The truth is that some women just love to let their emotions control them, and it’s going to cause problems in a marriage if they don’t have self-control. I see a lot of women like this delaying marriage into their early and mid-30s, with no idea about how this affects their value to men. (They seem not to care about what men want from them, or from the marriage, and don’t see investing early in marriage to be a good way to make a difference, because it’s not fun). Marriages are most stable when the marriage takes place in the late 20s – not the mid 30s.

One last point. I have a male friend who also dismisses all the studies, and defends irresponsible Christian women who break all the rules and delay marriage for fun and thrills and travel. “She’s a Christian” he says. “She’s much better than most women I know” he says. “What does it matter if she marries at 40? Maybe she doesn’t want to have kids?” I show him the study about marriages succeeding when the woman is in her mid to late 20s, and he says “Who cares?” I showed him the study about credit score being connected to marital stability, and he dismissed that one, too. “How many of those women in the study are Christians?” he said. And finally “you can’t apply studies to individuals”. I don’t think that he should dismiss the studies like this – I think it will hurt him. For every divorce that happens, and for every case of sex-withholding, there was a man who first said “the studies don’t apply to me”.

The rules really do matter. You can’t dismiss the research studies and escape the consequences of doing so. And don’t assume that a person has learned her lesson just because she has become a Christian – it’s very possible for her to be saying responsible things while doing the same wild, irresponsible decision-making that she was doing as a non-Christian. One woman I know who had plans to literally marry an unemployed, penniless graduate student in his late 20s, told me that “men do have a provider role, and women should prefer men who work and have savings”. She literally introduced him to her parents – that’s how serious she was. Not one dime in his bank account, not one job on his resume. Her words say complementarian, but her actions say radical feminist rebellion against traditional male roles.

So, don’t believe the words, believe the actions. Show the candidate the studies, and look for actions that are in line with the best practices in the studies.

4 thoughts on “Should we have expected Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to divorce?”

  1. For some reason I thought they’d been together longer than two years.

    At any rate, they’re both movie actors, which means that neither one of them has any practice at staying in character for longer than about 18 months. Is it odd that they would approach marriage like any other acting gig?

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