Hollywood got a shock today when one of its uber-couples, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, called it quits.
But the twosome, who cited their divergent careers as a reason for the split, are not alone in announcing a high-profile breakup in recent months. Meg Ryan split with hubby Dennis Quaid. Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin broke up and live on separate coasts. And Ellen is no longer with Anne.
Relationships are difficult for anyone — the U.S. divorce rate hovers just over 50 percent — but when it comes to high-powered Hollywood couples, lasting relationships seem a rarity.
"It's almost impossible these days to make a celebrity marriage work," said Bill Hoffmann, who covers celebrity news for The New York Post. "With the Internet and today's world of gossip, news travels fast. Any tensions (of celebrity couples) are broadcast worldwide, which of course makes it hard on them."
In announcing their split, Cruise and Kidman, married 11 years and the parents of adopted children, Isabella and Connor, explained in a statement that their busy acting careers "constantly keep them apart." The couple, the statement said, "concluded an amicable separation seemed best for both of them at this time."
"One of the big problems," says Hoffmann, "is that Cruise is making $20 million to $25 million a picture and Nicole is also in great demand, and they have grueling schedules. In addition to any personal problems they have had, there was this built-in stress factor with their work — and that apparently did them in."
High-Powered Careers Cause Problems
Though many people admire celebrities from afar through the gossip pages, most would agree "they are not like you and me," says Raoul Felder, a celebrity divorce lawyer.
"It is very difficult" for celebrity relationships to succeed, said Felder, "because they are dealing with a third entity — what the public perceives of them."
"Their careers are important to them, they travel all the time, they are attractive and there is no shortage of people of the opposite sex wanting to play ball with them, or whatever it is they do," says Felder, who has handled such highly publicized cases as the child-support battle of Brazilian lingerie model Luciana Morad against Mick Jagger and Robin Givens' divorce of Mike Tyson.
"It's very difficult to sustain a marriage under these circumstances."
But many people do look at celebrity couples and wonder: If it can happen to them, what about us?
"Celebrity has become such a fascination and so much a part of our fantasy life that when Prince Tom and Princess Nicole don't work out, it is almost like an injury being inflicted on our own fantasy," said John Nathan, a psychotherapist in New York City.
"Even with their glamourous lives, these are still just two people trying to have a relationship and it's hard," says Nathan. "They may look beautiful and have bigger bank accounts, but they still have to relate to each other and figure out what works."
Unlike the average married couple, the pressure of living under a spotlight can just be too much for some celebrity relationships, experts say.
"It is really life in a fishbowl," says Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist from Long Beach, Calif., and a dating expert on couplescompany.com, a resource for relationship advice. "It has got to be tremendous pressure to have everyone of your moves scrutinized — and often very negatively written about in the tabloid newspapers."
Other Hollywood Uncouplings
The recent upheavals in celebrity partnerships have to make one wonder whether it is possible to make a Hollywood romance stick.
Hollywood got another jolt last summer when media darling Meg Ryan left her actor husband Dennis Quaid, with whom she has an 8-year old son, to pursue a relationship with hunky Gladiator star Russell Crowe. Now, apparently, they have split.
And when Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres broke up, Hollywood lost what it thought was one of its more solid gay relationships.
But if breakups are tough for celebrities, divorce can be even more so, says Felder.
"Everyone has their own team," says Felder. "They have sycophants saying `Yeah, baby. You're right!' It's like Caligula [the Roman emperor.] They're always demanding this, demanding that."
David Blaustein of ABC Radio contributed to this report