Famous Exes Who Kept Working Together After Breakups: The Good, the Fine and the Awkward

Sometimes relationships just don't go the distance in real life, but here's proof that the show can go on under a variety of circumstances.

By Natalie Finn Aug 16, 2020 10:00 AMTags
Christina El Moussa, Tarek El Moussa, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Robert Pattinson, Kristen StewartGetty Images

So far, Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead's HGTV empire has proved to be split-proof.

Almost four years after the Flip or Flop stars separated, their hit real estate reality show has been renewed for a ninth season, still featuring the now amicably divorced co-parents as they buy, fix up and sell houses—ideally at a profit—in Orange County, Calif. 

There's just something viewers love about Tarek and Christina (who used to go by El Moussa, but has since remarried) working together, and they astutely decided that the end of their seven-year marriage shouldn't mean the end of their business as well. And while HGTV has remained invested in the brand they built together, the exes each have their own spin-offs too, with Christina on the Coast due back for a third season and Flipping 101 With Tarek El Moussa recently renewed for a second.

"Work is going really well," Christina told People in April. "We're on a break right now, obviously, with everything that's happening, but prior to that it was great. We're filming season nine, which seems crazy! Who would have thought? But our crew, everyone, we're all very close."

Friendly Celebrity Exes

New episodes of Flip or Flop were supposed to start airing this month, actually, but COVID-19 laid waste to those and so many other well-laid plans.

Co-parenting their daughter Taylor, 9, and son Brayden, who turns 5 next week, during a pandemic has certainly had its challenges. Plus, Christina now has an 11-month-old son, Hudson, with husband Ant Anstead, who was already a father of two, and Tarek just got engaged to Heather Rae Young.

Yet it's also been reassuring to see just how adaptable they remain when life throws a few curve balls.

"Tarek and I split four years ago. That's a long time," Christina acknowledged. "When there are tough times like these, all of a sudden we're totally a unified front and talk and email multiple times a day."


Though they had some rough patches on the personal front ("Lets be honest, it was awful," Christina admitted on the Dr. Drew Podcast about the blitz of dramatic breakup headlines that chronicled their split), she usually remained pretty sanguine about their future prospects, insisting that working together was already normal, no new-normal required.

That's professionalism for you, compounded in this case by enduring friendship, respect and the love they share for their kids. 

But while they've managed to pull off this particular feat of emotional strength exceptionally well, they're hardly the first exes, celebrity or otherwise, who managed to keep calm and carry on after the romantic portion of their relationship ended.

Celebrity Collaborations

Some famous duos have managed to adapt...well, famously! And still others at least managed to keep going, even after they went from date nights to strained small talk at craft services.

Tarek and Christina's ongoing success did remain contingent on their real-life chemistry staying intact, even when the nature of their relationship changed. Any I-don't-want-to-be-here vibe would've eventually started to leak through the camera. That being said, at least they never had to worry about love scenes or emotionally fraught story lines that required them to act as though they couldn't keep their hands off each other.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

They had finished filming, but Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, an epic couple onscreen and a confounding duo off, still had to get out there and go to work promoting The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2—after Stewart was photographed in an intimate-looking embrace with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders in July 2012, putting a stake in the heart of Robsten shippers everywhere.

Stewart has since explained that the OMG moment was not indicative of what people assumed, candidly telling Howard Stern last year, "I did not f--k him." Asked why she didn't scream that from the rooftops at the time (as opposed to issuing a public apology, as she did), the actress replied, "Well, who's going to believe me? It doesn't even matter."

We'll never know if it would have mattered. Presumably Pattinson knew.

The Twilight Cast: Then and Now

"They believe that working their relationship out will make a lot of things easier, including the promotion," film extra Amanda Dyar told Us Weekly in October 2012 before the international press tour got underway ahead of the movie's November release.

By then, they had reportedly reconciled, and they continued to be grateful for each other's presence as the pop culture juggernaut that was the Twilight franchise finally wound down after consuming years of their lives.

"S--t happens, you know," Pattinson reflected in 2014 to British Esquire. "It's just young people, it's normal! And honestly, who gives a s––t?!"

Stewart reflected to Stern, "That was a really hard period of my life. I was really young. I didn't really know how to deal with that. I made some mistakes. And honestly, it's no one's business. And, people get over s--t like that, you know what I mean? It's really not a big deal."

Robsten will forever be on the same page about that.

Life Beyond Twilight

In other tales of potential immortal awkwardness, Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev always insisted that all was well between them after they broke up but The Vampire Diaries lived on.

Not only that, Damon and Elena were just starting to heat up when Somerhalder and Dobrev fizzled in 2013.

Bob Mahoney/The CW

Executive producer Caroline Dries told Celebuzz, ironically in hindsight, "We kind of want to go against the grain, and make them a happy couple without bickering and fighting every episode but actually make their relationship suffer from real life issues that come up in normal people relationships and make it less about mythological conflicts."

Dobrev chose to take her final bow (minus her appearance in the series finale) in 2015 upon the conclusion of season six, timing that to some seemed linked to Somerhalder marrying Nikki Reed that April.

But take Somerhalder's marriage out of the equation and it still made perfect sense for Dobrev to exit when she did—and she did her best to weather the fairly sexist assumption that she was leaving because her ex had moved on.

"If you're with someone for that long, obviously, there's the qualities in them that you enjoy, and it doesn't change because you're not together anymore," Dobrev told E! News in January 2015 about what it was like to continue working with Somerhalder after their breakup. "I have an enormous amount of respect and love for him and everyone. It doesn't change. It shouldn't. Otherwise, why were you with them?"

Kissing Costars: TV

You could see that principle in full effect on The Big Bang Theory every week, where real-life exes Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco continued on as devoted TV odd couple Leonard and Penny for almost a decade after their low-key two-year relationship ended.

"We dated, like, five years ago, so I think we've both moved on," Cuoco said on Watch What Happens Live in 2015, when she was still married to first husband Ryan Sweeting. "Johnny's actually one of my best friends. It's a situation that ended well—I understand sometimes it doesn't, [could've gone] horrible, but he's one of my dearest friends, and Ryan loves him. Johnny loves [Ryan]...It's been great, I got lucky."

Galecki also insisted that all was well, and that he never wanted to distract from Leonard and Penny's onscreen chemistry by scrambling viewers' brains with talk of his and Cuoco's personal life.

And when Cuoco remarried, tying the knot with Karl Cook in 2018, Galecki was at the wedding, writing on Instagram afterward, "Couldn't be happier for my fake wife...So much love to you both."

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Then there are the actors who, while they did their jobs admirably, were not having a good time after breaking up.

Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush chugged along on One Tree Hill as the not-meant-to-be Lucas and Brooke for four years after the actors' five-month marriage proved they were definitely not made for each other in real life.

"At the end of the day, we're grownups, and I actually think it's interesting that when people split in a way that's unpleasant, they usually just go on quite literally hating each other—or the person in my situation hates the other person, whatever," Bush said candidly on Watch What Happens Live in 2014, two years after OTH (which Murray left in 2009) ended.

"But when you have to work with somebody for another half a decade, you kind of have to deal with it. Because for me, at the end of the day, my job is my priority. And so I think at the end of it, it really let me just let go of it."

The WB/Fred Norris

Asked if she and Chad were ever in contact, the Chicago P.D. star said, "That's such an interesting question. But my mother once said to me that if you don't have anything nice to say, not to say anything at all."

Not quite so challenging but still with its challenges was the aftermath of Penn Badgley and Blake Lively's breakup when they were still playing destined-for-each-other Dan and Serena on Gossip Girl.


Once again, Watch What Happened Live got the goods, when Badgley later named Lively as his best onscreen kiss.

As for his worst kiss: "Maybe Blake after we broke up."

The future Mrs. Ryan Reynolds, who was dating Leonardo DiCaprio at the time, told Glamour in the spring of 2011, "Every relationship you have, you're learning and growing and taking something from that. So for me, it's never been too dramatic of a thing when something ends."

Or, you can relive the pain night after night on stage.

20 TV Couples That Didn't End up Together and We'll Never Get Over it

Gwen Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal had already broken up by the time No Doubt got huge in the 1990s, not all casual fans realizing that "Don't Speak" was about their split.

"I was in love and obsessed with Tony Kanal, and he knows that," Stefani said on The Howard Stern Show in 2016. "As soon as he opened the car door I was like, 'I love him. I don't know why." They actually dated on the sly, not wanting to alarm the rest of the band, and Kanal was the one who broke up with her.

And time helps, but doesn't necessarily heal all wounds—at least not all the way.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"It's still weird," Gwen admitted. "Even last night when I sang ['Don't Speak'], it's still weird. I just rolled my eyes and walked away [like] really? You're still feeling that?"

Gwen, who more recently has been using her eyes to gaze lovingly at Blake Shelton during their country-pop duets, told Rolling Stone in 2016, "When Tony and I are connected creatively, it's magic. But I think we've grown apart as far as what kind of music we want to make. I was really drained and burned out when we recorded that album [2012's Push and Shove]. And I had a lot of guilt: 'I have to do it.' That's not the right setting to make music. There's some really great writing on that record. But the production felt really conflicted. It was sad how we all waited that long to put something out and it didn't get heard."

Famous Friends

Mindy Kaling has known what it's like to still be best of friends yet on the heartbroken side when it comes to your ex-slash-colleague.

She and longtime BFF B.J. Novak both wrote for and played dysfunctional love interests on The Office after their real-life romance didn't pan out. But as most people know, they're still the best of buds—though, talking to InStyle in 2015, she did call their friendship "weird as hell."

"He is not my boyfriend, but he is not my best friend," she told the magazine. "I guess you could describe our relationship as a 'romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments,' but I don't think Facebook would accept this as a new status."

On Watch What Happens Live in October 2017, Kaling, who was two months away from giving birth to daughter Katharine, said, "I can't speak [for] him, but I think for me it was challenging to be in your mid-twenties—I'm such a sentimental person and I take things very hard—but that's the nice thing about long friendships. That was, like, 12 years ago when that happened, so you get over things like that, but it totally was very challenging."

Theirs was obviously a bond worth salvaging, though. Asked if she and Novak were secretly dating for the umpteenth time, Kaling told GoodHousekeeping.com last year, "If I was on the outside looking at it, I would think the same thing. But the truth is that B.J. is so much more like family now than a platonic friend. He's the godfather to my daughter, he comes over like once a week. Sometimes he'll come over just to hang out with her."

She continued, "But when you've known someone for as long as I've known him—the time that we met each other, which was like 24. Now, we're both almost 40. It's such a long time that he truly is just a part of my family."

(Originally published March 4, 2017, at 6 a.m. PT)

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