Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock/Getty Images
Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock/Getty Images
The celebrity relationship highway is littered with couples who became romance road kill, then resurrected—only to be flattened even more the second time around.
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber seemingly broke up more than most boy bands. Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom separated, gave fans hope when she scuttled their divorce after his 2015 overdose, but then—after years of Khloe trying to make it work—divorced for good last year. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, all smiles and co-parenting like champs, had us rooting for a rekindle, until they filed for divorce last week, two years after separating. As for Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick…
Don't even get us started on their romance roller coaster!
But there's a new trend in Hollywood that is bucking the conventional wisdom that a celebrity couple sequel never works out as well as the original: A wave of successfully rebooted couples has taken over Hollywood—and we have applied the heart monitor to find out why these couples are working, while others have ended in double (or more!) heartbreak.
One of the most surprising reunions that has worked out is that of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth. The pair fell in love while on the set of the heart-tugging drama The Last Song in 2009 and two years later got engaged. But within a year they were kaput amid accusations of cheating and with Miley embarking on an edgy post-Disney career that reportedly had her more conservative Aussie fiancé wondering WTF he got himself into. But then last year we got word that Miley and Liam were "hanging out" again and, soon enough: The Ring was back on That Finger!
Celebrity relationship guru Dr. Drew Pinsky believes, when it comes to nurturing a healthy do-over relationship, age is more than just a number.
"In our later twenties, we stop being so compulsive and we start thinking more about real relationships," Pinsky says. "Inevitably, I've seen it work out many times where people get back together and they tend to miss somebody, or something about somebody who they dated earlier or had a real connection with but they also they weren't ready."
Pinsky has seen many couples reunite after, like Miley and Liam (who were 19 and 22 when they first got engaged), they gain better perspective on the relationship. "In this sense, celebrities are no difference than the rest of us," he notes. "In adolescence it tends not to work. But in our later twenties it starts to be a more common phenomenon that getting back tends to work out. People can treat each other terribly in their twenties. They're dating, they're cheating, they're carrying on and then they will come through it and think to themselves, "'You know I really miss so and so.' And then they'll go back and try it on again and then, lo and behold, they decide they want to make a commitment."
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Should Miley and Liam move on happily to marriage and a baby carriage, they will be following in the footsteps of one of the most successfully rebooted Hollywood romances in modern history.
Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel began dating in 2007 soon after hitting it off at a Golden Globes after-party, and over the next four years we were heartened by paparazzi pictures of the lovebirds doing the kind of couple-y things on a rom-com level: Couple hikes, couple grocery runs, too-cute family outings. But then, in February 2011, Timberbiel suddenly broke up harder than 'N Sync. At the time, their reps told E! News, "They mutually have decided to part ways. The two remain friends and continue to hold the highest level of love and respect for each other."
But just as soon as tabloid speculation surfaced over why such a happy-seeming couple had pulled the plug (Is J.T. getting back with Britney?!?!), by August of that same year Timberbiel 2.0 was back on, and they were engaged by December!
Now we are flooded with social media love (Justin once Insta'd: "You make me laugh. You make me smile. You make me LOVE. You make me want to be BETTER. Speaking of, it doesn't get any BETTER than you... Now, I know for sure that it's BETTER to be lucky than good. Ask me who the luckiest guy in the world is and I will tell you that you are looking at him.") and the couple's son Silas just turned 2.
Dr. Jenn Mann, author of The Relationship Fix and host of VH1's Couples Therapy, says that Justin and Jessica appear to be a great example of what can happen when a breakup can be a tool for a makeup. "When a couple breaks up and then gets back together, and they actually address the problems in the relationship, it allows them to have a rebirth," Mann tells E! News. "A relationship can be fixed when both parties are willing to first fix themselves."
Dr. Drew also co-wrote a book titled The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America and his research showed that reality TV stars often scored the highest on the narcissism scale, which is typically a sign that they are often more prone to having trouble maintaining a healthy relationship.
Pinsky adds, "Reality stars, generally, in our study were the most narcissistic of all. And so they are going to have the most trouble. Now, you can still be narcissist and make it work, but generally two narcissists is going to be a pretty volatile situation. But if you have motivation and a shared reason to work it out, you can work it out."
One reality couple that has found a way (so far) to reboot: The Real Housewives of Atlanta stars NeNe and Gregg Leaks, who married in 1997 and divorced in 2011. Amid cheating allegations, family feuds and personality clashes that played out for the TV-watching world to see, the couple managed to reconcile and even remarried (on camera) in June 2013.
"When you hear about something like Nene's relationship falling apart and getting back together, it makes me wonder—given how difficult the breakup seemed to be—whether they had some treatment. And treatment works. People can make their way through these things, especially if they get help."
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The Palace has never confirmed if Prince William and Kate Middleton engaged in royal couple's counseling, but the pair definitely came back stronger after a very public breakup. Long before their Disney Princess-perfect wedding in 2011, the royals parted ways after a few years of dating back in 2007. But just for a few months—by the summer of that same year, they were back on the path to marriage.
Both Mann and Pinsky say that separation can be healthy—and ultimately make for a stronger relationship. In other words, absence can make the heart grow fonder. "That is a cliché that has some truth in it," Pinsky says, adding that often it is men who ask for the space and then, tasting freedom, want their partner back. "We can get too close to people and feel like we need some separation, but then we protest and start to idealize being back together."
Pinsky notes that, despite the successes, celebrity relationships will always have extra pressures and challenges that we "civilians" typically do not have. "There was some data that came out recently that showed super attractive people actually cheat more," he says. "They're more tempted, and they actually do do these things more. These people do lead lives where they are in intimate contact with other people on a movie set, or a TV show, or on tour, and while they are away from their partner for long periods of time, it does threaten the relationship."
No matter the pressures, here's to the rise of more successfully rebooted celeb couples. After all, Hollywood does love a heartwarming comeback.