Sunday 26 May 2019

Beyoncé, Colin Firth and the new rules for overcoming infidelity

Beyonce and Jay-Z
Beyonce and Jay-Z
Beyonce and Jay-Z at the 2005 Oscars
At the NBA Playoffs in 2014
Colin Firth and wife Livia Giuggioli reunited
Jay Z and Beyonce at the Grammy Awards last year
Beyonce and Jay-Z
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

The once-troubled marriage of Beyoncé and Jay-Z looks like it's stronger than ever after the couple announced that they'll be hitting the road together for a worldwide tour in June.

Beyoncé came to terms with her husband's affair in her groundbreaking 2016 album Lemonade, and a year later, Jay-Z made a lyrical apology in his own album 4:44. Since then, they have welcomed twins, and are set to bring their projects together for the 'On the Run II' stage show.

Colin Firth and wife Livia Giuggioli reunited
Colin Firth and wife Livia Giuggioli reunited

Beyoncé is naked and straddling her husband on a motorbike in the promotional image for the tour, which was clearly designed to show that the couple have recovered from the infidelity that rocked their marriage.

Actor Colin Firth also issued his own statement of togetherness this week when he stood by his wife, Livia Giuggioli, after it was revealed that she had an affair with an Italian journalist.

Even more intriguingly, he allegedly sent his wife's former lover a sympathetic email. "You have made me suffer," it reportedly read, "but I know you are suffering too." (It's impossible to read that line without hearing Firth's cut-glass British accent in a Regency-era period drama).

Affairs are invariably devastating but these celebrity couples have proved that they don't always forebode the beginning of the end. Indeed, psychotherapist Esther Perel, author of The State of Affairs, says an extramarital affair can break - or remake - a marriage. And those who don't believe her need only look at these two couples, who have become the poster couples for living happily ever after, after an affair.

Here's what we can learn from them...

Establish a common enemy

Livia Giuggioli's former lover Marco Brancaccia is better known as her "stalker" after he was accused of harassing her with a "frightening campaign" of messages once their affair ended.

It's an additional upset for Firth, but probably not an unwelcome one. Couples that survive infidelity often villainise the third person. They shape a narrative that makes them feel like the co-targets of an interloper and then they rebuild their bond through their shared experience of a common enemy.

Monica Lewinsky was "that woman" (said in a tone that suggested she was a nosy neighbour or a local lunatic) and the female comedian Kevin Hart allegedly cheated with was called an "extortionist". It looks like Brancaccia, who has been conveniently relegated from man on the side to stereotypical man on the edge, will be joining their ranks.

Monica Lewinsky (Read-Only).png
Monica Lewinsky and former US president Bill Clinton. Picture: Getty

Have a shared purpose

Modern couples share more than homes and families so they tend to have much more at stake when infidelity rocks their relationship. David and Victoria Beckham overcame his alleged affair with former PA Rebecca Loos because they had the image of Brand Beckham to protect. Huma Abedin initially stood by her husband, disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, because they had a shared political vision.

Similarly, Firth and his wife are in the same industry and no doubt have various projects they are working on together. The same goes for frequent musical collaborators Beyoncé and Jay-Z. The takeaway? A shared purpose matters almost as much as a shared history when trying to overcome infidelity.

Come clean

The more secrecy and subterfuge, the more pain and suffering. Marital miscreants who try to play down the significance of the affair, or who reveal details piecemeal, only prolong the devastation. Giuggioli shared all of the emails, texts, photos and videos that she exchanged with her former lover with her husband (and the police). It can't have been easy for Firth to read through them, but at least he could rest assured there was nothing else she was hiding.

Get therapy

Jay-Z admitted to cheating on Beyonce in a 2017 magazine interview before revealing he has been working through it with a therapist. "You shut down all emotions," he said. "So even with women, you gonna shut down emotionally, so you can't connect… In my case, like it's, it's deep. And then all the things happen from there: infidelity."

Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen

And remember, status is everything

There's a great line in The Kid Stays in the Picture when movie producer Robert Evans reflects on the period when his wife, Ali McGraw, left him for Steve McQueen. "When a woman leaves you, it ain't easy," he says. "But when that woman leaves you for the biggest movie star in the world... well, let's just say it makes you feel small."

The truth is that not all affairs are created equal and who it was with is just as important as how it was done. We all worry about our standing in the world and an affair can easily trigger our status anxiety. This is probably why celebrities are much more forgiving of affairs with lower-status individuals: hired help, bodyguards, strippers, cocktail waitresses and, as in Firth's case, journalists.

Irish Independent

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