ABC News’ Amanda Keegan reports:
When Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas made the surprise announcement this week that they are hitting the pause button on their 13-year marriage, the two A-listers not only made headlines but also joined a Hollywood trend.
Douglas and Zeta-Jones, who have seen their marriage rocked by throat cancer, his, and bi-polar disorder, hers, joined couples including Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus and Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito in choosing to not immediately divorce, but just take a break instead.
“Catherine and Michael are taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage,” a rep for Zeta-Jones told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. “There will be no further comment.”
Relationship experts say that informal separations such as that of Zeta-Jones, 43, and Douglas, 68, have about a 50 percent success of saving marriages.
“I think taking a break is an excellent idea,” said Donna Barnes, the author of “Giving Up Junk Food Relationships.” “If you file for any kind of legal papers, that creates anxiety and anxiety is what’s causing these problems to start.”
According to People magazine, which first reported the Zeta-Jones and Douglas split, Douglas’ frank comments this year about the cause of his throat cancer – he blamed it on a virus he contracted during oral sex – may have been one of the factors contributing to the alleged rift.
“He gave very candid interviews about his sexual past that she really bristled at. She was not happy about his comments and that sort of got the ball rolling in terms of the split,” Peter Castro, deputy editor for People, told ABC News.
If the history of Hollywood marriages is any precedent, Zeta-Jones and Douglas could be among the 50 percent of couples that survive a temporary split.
In July, one month after announcing their plans to divorce after 19 years of marriage, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus said in a statement that, “we both woke up and realized we love each other and decided we want to stay together.”
Danny DeVito told reporters last December that, less than three months after announcing their divorce, he and Rhea Perlman, married for 30 years and the parents of three kids, are “working on getting back together.”
Other famous couples, including Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake and even Prince William and Kate Middleton, took time off from their relationship before becoming engaged, and then walked happily down the aisle.
For couples considering taking a break to save their marriage, relationship expert Barnes has one piece of advice.
“A break is most effective when it’s cold turkey,” she said. “If you’re still communicating, you don’t really get the benefit of a separation.”