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    Nick & Jessica: Newlyweds No More

    This time it's for real. Honest.

    After months of speculation on their marital status, Newlywed duo Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have come clean and announced they are breaking up.

    "After three years of marriage, and careful thought and consideration, we have decided to part ways," the couple says in a joint statement issued by their respective publicists, Meredith O'Sullivan and Rob Shuter.

    "This is the mutual decision of two people with an enormous amount of respect and admiration for each other. We hope that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."

    There was no immediate word on whether a divorce was in the offing.

    The news comes just one month after Us Weekly and Life & Style both featured cover stories on the purported breakup, amid denials from both Simpson and Lachey's reps and public declarations of fidelity.

    "Yes, we're married, and we love each other," Simpson told OK! magazine in its Oct. 10 edition. When asked why she wasn't sporting her hefty engagement ring at the time of the interview, she replied, "I don't need diamonds on my finger to show that I love my husband."

    But Simpson and Lachey continued to make the rounds ring- and spouse-free. He went to Tuesday night's American Music Awards solo and was conspicuously absent at sister-in-law Ashlee's 21st birthday party in Las Vegas in October.

    Simpson, meanwhile, admitted to Teen People earlier this month that the intense media focus on her union had caused her to seek therapy.

    The "With You" singer added that she is still with Lachey, though their relationship has been affected by the breakup rumors.

    "You can't not be affected by it," Simpson told the magazine. "Communication between us is very important. Without it, the voices in the head start. It's hard to reflect upon [our relationship], but that's because the story's not done yet.

    "Hopefully our story will continue for the rest of our lives, like what we vowed--through sickness and in health," she continued. "At the end of the day, you've gotta find happiness. I believe that we'll achieve it."

    Sources have said the pair went their separate ways close to three months ago, despite statements to the contrary.

    Lachey and Simpson's third wedding anniversary was Oct. 26. The couple wed in 2002, back in the days of mutual B-list status, when Simpson was categorized as a less famous version of Britney Spears and Lachey was one of the members of 98 Degrees, a boy band not nearly as hot as, say, 'N Sync or the Backstreet Boys.

    After the couple tied the knot, they rocketed to fame virtually overnight on the success of their MTV reality show, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, which chronicled the misadventures of their day-to-day lives.

    Simpson, in particular, became a reality-TV darling, with her tendency to make embarrassing, yet endearing blunders, such as confusing Chicken of the Sea brand tuna for actual chicken and believing that buffalo wings were actually made of buffalo.

    She enjoyed a sensational rise in record sales as a result of the show's success and landed a role as Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, which enjoyed opening-weekend box-office sales of $30.7 million and has gone on to gross more than $90 million.

    First-year sales of Simpson's cosmetic line, Dessert, are projected to hit $30 million.

    While his wife enjoyed a meteoric rise in fame, Lachey's career failed to keep pace.

    His first solo album, SoulO, tanked on the charts, selling just 105,000 copies, per Nielsen SoundScan, and ABC passed on a pilot he shot costarring Gina Gershon.

    Though Lachey eventually landed a recurring role on the WB's Charmed and more recently a gig as a contributor on ESPN's College GameDay, fame-wise, he has lived largely in Simpson's shadow.

    At one point, Simpson's father, Joe, was working with Lachey to change that image by developing a new MTV reality series featuring the former boy bander's struggles to sign with a record label. It's unclear whether that project is still underway.

    Jessica Simpson is currently working on her fourth album, And the Band Plays On, which was expected to be released by Columbia Records late this year, but has instead been pushed back until spring 2006.

    And for those who prefer to remember Lachey and Simpson as the couple they once were, the final season of Newlyweds is due out on DVD Dec. 6. (As the press release touts, "The honeymoon isn't over!")

    Speaking to Us Weekly at the AMAs Tuesday, Joe Simpson vowed his clan would soldier on.

    "We are Simpsons," he declared. "We take a lickin' and keep on tickin'."

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