Heartbreak Hotel: Celebrity Divorce Fever

In an era when child centrality reigns supreme and many Gen X–ers bear scars from their own parents’ hostile uncouplings, the goal for a growing number of separating parties is no longer merely to “get through” a divorce but to emerge from it triumphantly at peace, having handled the dissolution of their marriage calmly, reasonably, and even lovingly.

The new poster girl for the “we rooted for them to succeed” divorce is, of course, Mariah Carey, whose “conscious uncoupling” from Actor/TV Personality Nick Cannon in May, seemed almost preternaturally serene. That’s because it seemed that way.

But while the couplings and uncouplings of the rich and famous might seem shinier than our own, divorce envy isn’t necessarily an extension of celebrity worship. A separating mom may become jealous of a co-worker whose mediation is going smoothly or of a friend who’s getting the post-marital support she asked for. And even though the appeal of a “good” divorce is at least partly financial, it’s also about maintaining stability for one’s children, not to mention one’s social standing. (A drama-free split doesn’t force friends to choose sides.)

Except for when it does. The problem with believing that divorce is something you can be “good” at is that messy breakups become even more taboo. The shame of going through a not-so-good divorce when others seem to be handling theirs with a kind of cool, friendly efficiency may make some women feel isolated. Some professionals, though, see it as an incentive for couples to lay down their weapons.

As for those who believe that their marital troubles are, well, too troublesome for the high road, they can take solace in one inevitable truth: Divorce is hard. No matter how swift and calm the settlement may be, staying on good terms after a painful split with someone you’ve fallen in and out of love with—or with whom you’ve, at the very least, shared children or property—requires another form of commitment. The work doesn’t end once the papers are signed.