Style Sex & Relationships

Monday 16 July 2018

The celebs who make marriage work....

As Will Smith and his wife Jada go on a trial separation, Gabrielle Monaghan looks at the famous couples who managed to go the distance

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

Gabrielle Monaghan

Celebrity marriages often appear to wither as quickly as a dog-eared copy of Hello! magazine in a doctor's surgery. After a predictable whirlwind romance and front-page pictures of a "fairytale" wedding, a showbiz union can crumble easily under the pressure of fame.

A string of high-profile couples have reportedly parted ways recently, adding to the popular belief that wedded bliss is a fraught commodity when a relationship is played out in front of the paparazzi: This week it was reported Hollywood couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are allegedly on a trial separation from their 15-year marriage and have been living apart since August.

A week earlier, actor Orlando Bloom and model Miranda Kerr called it quits after just three years of marriage.

Meanwhile, Dina Eastwood filed for divorce from 83-year-old Dirty Harry legend Clint Eastwood.

Yet there are celebrities whose other halves stick with them for better or worse, enduring health battles, poverty, and alcoholism to defy the odds stacked against them.

Paul McCartney has revealed in a new biography how his late wife Linda 'saved' him from a nervous breakdown spurred by the disintegration of the Beatles.

Stephen and Tabitha King
Stephen and Tabitha King
Paul and Linda McCartney
Margaret and Denis Thatcher
Barack and Michelle Obama

In the book, Man on the Run, the 71-year-old star described how the band's break-up left him in such a state of despair that he sought solace in drugs and alcohol in the late 1960s.

Just weeks after the birth of his daughter Mary in 1969, McCartney retreated to his remote farm in Kintyre, Scotland, where he sedated himself by day with alcohol and marijuana and spent his sleepless nights shaking with anxiety.

But, with Linda's help, the singer began to emerge from his depression and returned to the family home in northwest London in January 1970.

After her death from breast cancer in 1998, McCartney described Linda as "the love of my life... the kindest woman I have ever met; the most innocent".

When one spouse is talented in their own right but less famous, they may be consigned to a walk-on part in their partner's lives.

Thanks, in part, to a well-oiled PR machine, the Obamas' marriage is portrayed as glossily perfect.

Michelle Obama, a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard Law School, may appear as though putting her own career on the backburner was a sacrifice she was willing to make for the sake of Barack's political career. But that wasn't always the case, according to a 2009 book by American political journalist Richard Wolffe.

He claimed the marriage was tense for at least a year, at a time when the president was striving to become a politician on the national stage.

"There was little conversation and even less romance," Wolffe wrote, in the book Renegade: The Making of a President.

Michelle believed her husband was selfishly devoting all his time and energy to his career, and Obama thought his wife was "cold and ungrateful", Wolffe said.

Tabitha King, the lesser-known novelist wife of Stephen King, the author of horror classics such as The Shining and its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep, worked at Dunkin' Donuts to support her husband and two young children when King's writing career was in its infancy.

When he threw away the pages of his initial effort at Carrie, Tabby (as she is known to her family) fished them out of the waste-basket, dusted off cigarette ashes from the crumpled balls of paper, and encouraged the budding author to finish the story of the telekinetic teenager.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, King was a functioning alcoholic who could barely remember writing some of his novels.

By 1985, he had a drug addiction to boot. Two years later, Tabby organised for his friends and family to come over and stage an intervention. To shock him into taking action, she emptied out a rubbish bag full of beer-cans, cocaine, tranquillisers and even bottles of mouthwash.

"Tabby said I had a choice: I could get help at a rehab or I could get the hell out of the house," King recalled in his memoir On Writing.

It took about two years, but King finally sobered up.

Closer to home, listeners of The Right Hook on Newstalk often wonder whether George Hook's wife cringes during his frequent references to her as "the lovely Ingrid". But the disclosure of personal details on the airwaves pales in comparison to the early part of the couple's 45-year marriage.

Ingrid Hook, the former head of the school of pharmacy in Trinity College, kept the family together during her husband's previous career as a struggling entrepreneur running a catering company. In a memoir, George Hook remembered how he was "sued by about 11 banks on the same day" and concluded the business "almost lost me my house, almost lost me my wife and family". He even considered taking his own life.

"I was far too busy running around balancing cheque books to invest any significant time in our marriage," Hook wrote earlier this year.

"But survive we did. And, if I'm being honest, it was Ingrid who refused to accept defeat. But for her patience and strength, our lives could have turned out very differently."

Behind every great man there's a great woman, or so the feminist slogan goes. But the same often rings true when the rising star in a couple is a woman. When the late Margaret Thatcher entered politics, Denis Thatcher, a millionaire businessman, became known as the man content to take a back seat and mind her famous handbag.

Denis Thatcher financed his wife's training as a barrister and supported her in her bid for power. Although he disliked politics as a way of life, he regularly insisted that she avoid overwork, commanding Britain's female prime minister to "go to bed, woman!" He saw his role as helping her survive the stress of the job.

In her autobiography, Margaret Thatcher, who died in April, wrote: "I could never have been prime minister for more than 11 years without Denis by my side."

Dealing with fame being thrust upon your loved one is no easy feat. Dawn Porter had enjoyed a measure of fame as a writer and broadcaster before she became "the Plus One" (her words) of Chris O'Dowd, The IT Crowd star who became a Hollywood celebrity after his turn in the film Bridesmaids.

Dawn O'Porter, as she has called herself since her marriage to O'Dowd, has felt "invisible" on the red carpet beside her husband.

"Finding yourself as the partner of someone who is experiencing international fame takes some getting used to," she said.

"It's as though Chris stops being my husband and becomes everyone's property, and I have to share him with the world."

Irish Independent

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