Wednesday 20 November 2019

Women who want it all are finding it hard to strike a balance

Pressures and divergent desires lie behind a raft of celebrity break-ups, writes Jennifer Bray

Another week, another celebrity break-up, and this time it's the Blackrock beauty Claire Nolan, wife of MTV's Chris Pontius.

While the pressures of their incredibly dissimilar lives -- hers as an Irish college girl and his as the hell-raising star best known for streaking nude on the set of Jackass -- have taken their final toll on their LA life, back home, it's a similar story for Ireland's leading ladies.

While our top female broadcasters, writers and models excel in their professional lives, it seems that under the beaming smiles and photo calls, having everything -- the career, the relationship, the family -- may not be possible after all.

Among those who have felt the keen sting of a public break-up in the last few months are: Claire Byrne, whose triumphant switch from the airwaves of Newstalk to the TV couches of RTE's Daily Show was marred only by news that she had split up from her long-term partner Jonathon Edgar, and that was after her marriage break-up which happened a couple of years ago.

Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, presenter, teacher and Rose of Tralee all rolled into one, the stunning brunette stood months under the glare of a questioning media and public over her split from top TV and radio broadcaster Ryan Tubridy; Andrea Roche, whose marriage to businessman PJ Mansfield ended quietly and behind the scenes with minimal fuss; Grainne Seoige, one of the UK Daybreak team's most valued assets who, similar to Byrne, made a step up the career ladder at the same time she announced her marriage had sadly come to an end.

Then there is top Irish model Nadia Forde, who has been immersing herself in photo shoots after splitting from her FM 104 DJ boyfriend Mark Noble.

It's the same on the international stage. Renee Zellweger last week split from her boyfriend Bradley Cooper, while actress Vanessa Hudgens blamed a "hectic work schedule" as the reason for her just announced break-up from actor Zac Efron.

And after the fact, we are left with a rake of beautiful, talented and free women -- quite happy and willing to stay single, such as TV3's Elaine Crowley, who is just fine 'dating on and off' when she isn't gracing our screens on Midday.

So just what is spelling the end of romance for these women, who represent hundreds of thousands of their fellow Irish females? Work, ambition, a changing society? According to relationship expert David Kavanagh, it's all three.

"Society has evolved so much in the last 30 years that now you have women earning the same if not more than their spouses, and who are equally as professionally well-known and ambitious. The celeb break-ups that we are seeing now may very well be down to the fact that women don't have to settle if it is not working out.

"They are financially independent, and when the reality doesn't live up to the expectations, they don't have to stick around like women used to have to. She can know she deserves better, and there is then a love split." Kavanagh also says that the pressure of the media spotlight is having a detrimental effect on the country's cream of the crop, leading to our top Irish women going it alone in increasing numbers.

"You could have a couple who are both well-known, and there will be problems if one shuns the spotlight while the other entertains it, or if one's career starts to flop while the other is still a very successful individual. In the public spotlight, this can be socially difficult."

And, of course, whether you are chased by paparazzi or just your own screaming kids, no couple escapes the burden of recession.

"There is still an element of thought in society, even if the woman is making €100k a year, that the man should be the breadwinner.

"Now you have women outshining their partners when their husbands' businesses go bust in recession or they lose a job, and if it comes to a situation where if she sees he is not making the effort to get back on his feet and work with her in their lives, she very well may ask what she is hanging around for and go," says Kavanagh.

But there is a word of caution too from the relationship expert, who says those who choose to put work before their personal life can suffer more in the long run.

"A lot of my clients are women over 40 who have spent their lives making themselves successful and steering through failed relationships. Then they get to a stage where they realise they want something meaningful, so there is always a delicate balance to be struck, but it is a difficult thing to do."

And finally, in the words of the women themselves, why exactly is it all turning so sour? "Irreconcilable differences," says Claire Nolan in court papers filed against her Jackass (that's his job, not an adjective) husband Chris Pontius last week.

"Work," said friends of Renee Zellweger last week, denying any third-party involvement -- very often a behind-the-scenes reason for a celebrity or indeed ordinary split. "Hectic work schedules" that cannot co-exist, says Vanessa Hudgens about her break-up from Zac Efron, cheerily adding that she is ready to give a new relationship a go whenever it comes around and, "I hope by the time I'm 30 to have a husband and maybe a baby."

As for Grainne, Claire, and Aoibhinn, it's "mind your own business" as they hide the heartache away with dignity and look onwards and upwards towards a continuing glittering career, and hope like many that came before and many that will come after, that maybe one day, they might have it all.

Sunday Independent

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