Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's 12-year relationship was a series of high-stakes situations. Picture: Reuters
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's 12-year relationship was a series of high-stakes situations. Picture: Reuters

WATCH: The most shocking celebrity breakups of the decade

By The Washington Post Time of article published Dec 18, 2019

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Washington - The 2010s gave us plenty of new couples to follow. (Harry and Meghan! George and Amal! Emma Watson and herself!).

But the ones who broke up were even more revealing of our times. With Brangelina's demise, we no longer have a First Couple of Hollywood. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were so agreeable about their goodbyes, they made the rest of us look like jerks. YouTubers created viral content out of their breakups. 

Marriage equality has meant divorce equality, too. 

Here are the biggest breakups of the decade.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's 12-year relationship was a series of high-stakes situations. It started with their scandalous courtship, which began while Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston. 

Then they officially confirmed they were a couple when Jolie announced she was pregnant with Pitt's baby. Finally, they went through an ugly divorce in 2016 after two years of marriage, with reports of a custody battle over their six kids.

Brangelina was our culture's last A-list movie star couple. Sure, some superstar celebrity relationships are still out there. (Looking at you, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Kim and Kanye.) But it's tough to find a pair of actors where each person is on the same plane of superstardom and intrigue as Jolie and Pitt.

Not only is it a loss for the celebrity gossip ecosystem, it's a perfect showcase for how fame has changed since Pitt and Jolie first got together in 2005, because of social media and the fracturing of the entertainment industry. 

For the most part, dramatic A-list breakups have been replaced by drama from reality-TV show couples and influencers who cater to their specific fan bases. Although Pitt and Jolie would probably prefer you remember them for their acting and humanitarian work, there's no denying that their relationship marked the end of a Hollywood era.

Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow

"Conscious uncoupling." You probably think Gwyneth Paltrow coined that term, which she famously used in 2014 when announcing her separation from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. 

It was actually Katherine Woodward Thomas, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, who created it to describe a harmonious split where each person takes responsibility for how they've contributed to the breakdown of a relationship. While the un-couple faced backlash for using the term, it forever changed the way we talk about divorce, casting it in a more positive light.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin split in March 2014 in what they described as consciously uncoupling. Picture: AP

Paltrow and Martin have remained friendly as co-parents. After she married TV producer Brad Falchuk in 2018, the newlyweds went on what Paltrow called "a very modern honeymoon," which included Martin, their kids and Falchuk's children. Harper's Bazaar has deemed Paltrow and Martin's breakup "one of the most civilized splits in Hollywood" - and it's perhaps one of the most civilized of the decade as well.

Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels

Before marriage equality became the law of the land in 2015, Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels became one of the nation's most famous same-sex couples. "I'd never been so clearly and purely in love before - ever in my life," Etheridge, the singer and songwriter, told the Advocate in 2003 with her wife Michaels sitting beside her. They'd committed to each other in typical Hollywood-style fashion earlier that year in a Malibu ceremony attended by A-list celebs.

Seven years later, the poster children for same-sex unions found theirs on the rocks. They clashed over child support and alimony, and added an ugly battle over custody of their two kids that had Michaels accusing Etheridge of having "no maternal instinct," while Etheridge claimed that Michaels had burned one of their children with a cigarette.

Michaels and Etheridge's story is all too common, with about half of marriages ending in divorce. As one prominent LGBTQ leader told the Daily Beast, "it just illustrates that our relationships are pretty much the same as straight relationships. A lot of them make it and a lot of them don't."

Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb

Actress Sofia Vergara and businessman Nick Loeb have spent more time fighting than they spent as a couple. 

They dated for two years, got engaged in 2012 and broke up in 2014. In the five years since, they've been in a public fight over the remains of their relationship: embryos they created when they were engaged. At the time, they reportedly signed a contract stating that no action could be taken on the embryos without both of them agreeing.

Actress Sofia Vergara and businessman Nick Loeb have spent more time fighting than they spent as a couple. Picture: AP

And they have not agreed. Loeb wants a surrogate to carry the embryos to term, which he says he'll parent full time; Vergara wants them to remain frozen.

Loeb has written a New York Times op-ed, pleading his case. He's filed lawsuits to gain custody of the embryos; the most recent attempt was dismissed in October. Meanwhile, Vergara has spoken out on Howard Stern's radio show and on "Good Morning America." And she's moved on: Vergara married actor Joe Manganiello in 2015.

Americans are well-acquainted with battles over custody of children. Vergara and Loeb are the first high-profile example of a nasty fight over embryos. In a country that's bitterly divided over when life begins, while also grateful for the possibilities that fertility technology can provide, there's nothing more modern than a breakup dispute over custody of the unborn.

Daniel Craig and James Bond

Is anything more annoying than that constantly fighting couple who repeatedly breaks up only to passionately reunite like a romantic version of Sisyphus? Well, someone should tell Daniel Craig and the Bond franchise, whose tumultuous relationship produced some terrifically dramatic moments but has grown tired as of late. 

Daniel Craig and the Bond franchise, whose tumultuous relationship produced some terrifically dramatic moments but has grown tired as of late. Picture: Reuters

The pair got together for 2006's "Casino Royale," a film that reinvented the beloved franchise as a darker, more intense property. Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins joined the relationship to make 2012's masterpiece "Skyfall." By the next movie, though, Craig had had enough. When asked by Time Out London in 2015 if he'd consider reprising the role, Craig said, "I'd rather break this glass and slash my wrists."

However, the following year, at the New Yorker Festival, Craig claimed those comments were born from exhaustion. "There is no other job like it . . . and if I were to stop doing it, just saying, I would miss it terribly," he said. Craig has confirmed that 2020's "No Time to Die," the franchise's 25th film, will be his last - but we're not holding our breath.

Jay-Z and Kanye West

"What's up with you and Jay, man? Are y'all OK, man?" Kanye West rapped in 2005. Good question. West and Jay-Z's friendship hasn't seemed stable since the star helped produce Jay-Z's breakout "The Blueprint" in 2001. 

It was petty squabbling at first: Kanye wanted to rap, but Jay-Z didn't think he was street enough. Then the former blew up and turned a cold shoulder to his mentor. By 2007, they seemed to make nice, Kanye even sweetly rapping in tribute to their friendship. "If you admire somebody you should go on 'head tell 'em / People never get the flowers while they can still smell 'em." Four years later, they rapped as equals on the album "Watch the Throne." So all's well, right?

The Washington Post

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