If the sexiest couple in the world breaks up, what hope have we?
Short celebrity marriages set unrealistic goals for us, writes Chrissie Russell
About a million men around the world probably rejoiced this week at the news that Scarlett Johansson is to become a single woman again.
The Lost In Translation star (26) and her hubby, actor Ryan Reynolds (34), announced that they would be parting ways after just two years of marriage, saying: "After long and careful consideration on both our parts we've decided to end our marriage. We entered our relationship with love and it's with love and kindness we leave it."
But while overly hopeful male fans celebrate, there will be many who will wonder what it means for marriage. If GQ's 'babe of the year' and 'sexiest man of the year' -- who had all the money and all the opportunities at their disposal and only recently gushed about the joys of being together -- can't make it work, who can?
Particularly in Hollywood the short-lived marriage is becoming a standard part of any celebrity's portfolio. Along with Scarlett Johannson we've seen twenty-something starlets Avril Lavigne and Jessica Simpson married and divorced in the time that most women are only starting to think about a walk down the aisle.
A 'starter marriage', whereby couples exit a first marriage after less than five years and without any children to complicate the break-up, plays on the idea that more young people are entering a first marriage as they would a first home, with the idea that it's not forever and at some point they'll trade up.
It seems a calculating move but whether they intend to or not, more and more young people are getting divorced. In 2006 5,286 divorced people in Ireland were under 35 and almost 10,000 under-35s listed themselves as separated.
Allison Keating of Dublin's bWell Clinic thinks it's a worrying trend. She says: "To me a 'starter marriage' sounds like the most awful oxymoron. The premise of marriage is a life-long commitment to each other; there shouldn't be the attitude that if you don't like it you can get out of it. Marriages are built on the good and the bad and can grow through difficult times.
"When you say your wedding vows 'in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for richer for poorer' those vows aren't poetic -- you're setting your course for the real reason why you want to be together in the knowledge that life will throw you curve balls."
With so much attention to the marital problems of high-profile celebrities, Allison fears that we can start to see our own lives as comparable.
She says: "Celebrity marriages seem to come asunder with such frequency that perhaps this is being perceived as the norm," she says. "But mainstream people need to realise that the life of a celebrity is not on par with yours. Some marriages are not going to work; in cases of any abuse, physical or emotional, then get out and get out fast. But celebrities' expectations and their giving up too soon are not comparable with normal everyday people."
Declan* (31) from Belfast found himself filing for divorce after six months of marriage. He says: "I met a very beautiful woman, fell madly in love and proposed after six months of very passionate courtship.
"Marriage followed and for six months everything was great. Then weaknesses that were there from the start but had been ignored started to appear. Only then do you realise how much harder it is to get out of a marriage than it is to get into one and how boring adult things like mortgages and property can be very inconvenient."
Two years on from the experience, Declan's happy the split happened but wants to make it clear that it was never his intention to have a 'starter marriage'.
"I didn't get married thinking it wouldn't work," he says. "I suppose I ought to have known the difference between love and infatuation and never got into it in the first place. At the time I didn't feel like we rushed into it but we probably did.
"I'm glad she left (even though I didn't feel it at the time) because I would have just soldiered on miserably. I feel I've greater self-knowledge because of the experience but it was dearly bought and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
* Name has been changed