Protesting Too Much: Why Celebrity Couples Try to Deny Their Breakups for as Long as Possible

Just like regular people, the famous would like to split up on their own terms as well

By Natalie Finn May 16, 2017 8:54 PMTags

Just hours after they revealed they were no longer a couple, Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell's breakup was swiftly filed under "saw it coming a mile away."

It's hard to pinpoint why, exactly, no one on earth was surprised, the Bachelor-bred couple having stuck it out for well over a year. Though the question mark punctuating the title of their spin-off series, Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? didn't exactly help their believability factor. Calling off the wedding in November wasn't much of a vote of confidence in forever, either…

Anyway, the two certainly had the best intentions for their relationship when they started out, and they still gave love a valiant effort, an effort made all the more taxing by the split rumors that plagued them from day one. And boy did Ben do his best to deny that they were over, as recently as February going on about his reluctance to "respond to rumors or"—how topical—"'fake news,'" but his hand had been forced.

Bachelor & Bachelorette Status Check: Find Out Who's Still Together!

Then again, what was either of them supposed to say? "Yes, Internet, you're right. We're seriously considering breaking up and we'll keep you posted." Or, "Ya got us! We haven't told our families yet, but yes, we totally split up. Thanks for playing."

There are endless reasons why people in high-profile relationships are inclined to put off the inevitable for as long as possible—the first one being, it's no one's business. But because celebrities usually have to show their faces in public or at least talk to people if they want to promote their work, they do their best to get out ahead of rumors of turmoil in their personal life. And when they say something, they at least know it'll be taken at face value in the moment and their words will be duly redistributed around the world.

Hence all the in-the-moment denials of imminent splits that turned out to be not outright lies, exactly, but nor did they really reflect the reality of the situation. While perhaps the occasional breakup results from being totally blindsided, more often these decisions take weeks, if not months or more, to arrive at.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

But less than a month before Russell Brand sent Katy Perry that fateful text message he rambled on to Ellen DeGeneres about their marriage being ship-shape and "until death do us part" and all that jazz.

"I've treated the whole Internet now like it's a wicked little liar. Yeah. I am really happily married," the verbose comedian said on Dec. 2, 2011.

"Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage," Brand said in a statement on Dec. 30, 2011, upon filing for divorce. "I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends."

As of 2015, they hadn't spoken since he texted his farewell.

Whirlwind Weddings

In a situation that started off similarly but turned out wildly differently in the end, a ringless Miley Cyrus denied that she and fiancé Liam Hemsworth were on the outs in March 2013, tweeting, "I am so sick of La. And sick of the lies that come with it. I didn't call off my wedding."


It would soon turn out she was sick of a lot of things, and in August she stuck out her tongue, wagged her foam finger and broke up with her Disney Channel image for good. A few weeks later, she and Liam broke up as well.

But while Miley, like her dear pal Katy, was wide awake, absence really did make the heart grow fonder in her case, and she and Liam (and the ring) are back on and stronger for their time apart.

Then there have been cases where stars have been working through intensely personal issues, such as when some outlets insisted that Jon Hamm's longtime partner Jennifer Westfeldt had broken up with him before he quietly checked into rehab in 2015, before the final season of Mad Men premiered.

When the actor decided it was time to reveal he had been in treatment, his March 24, 2015, statement said he had gone through it "with the support of his longtime partner." Just a few weeks later they denied a report that they had broken up before he checked in.

Big Celebrity Breakups

In September 2015, they announced their separation after 18 years of togetherness.

Which doesn't mean that they had officially broken up months beforehand and denied it. Rather, the last thing they probably wanted to do was have to deal with a tabloid that, if not getting it right, was then predicting their imminent uncoupling.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Spike TV

Same with Amber Heard, who memorably denied rumors of marital discord in the December 2015 issue of Marie Claire—which hit newsstands barely five months before she filed for divorce from Johnny Depp and then alleged he had abused her. (They ultimately reached a settlement and mutually stated theirs had been a "volatile" relationship.)

To go into a monthly print magazine, the interview would have to have been conducted at least a month or two in advance, so September/October…Either way, even with rumors that they were having issues being par for the course, no one could have imagined just how sordid of a scene was playing out behind closed doors.

"I try not to react to the horrible misrepresentation of our lives, but it is strange, and hard," Heard told the magazine.

Most Expensive Celeb Divorces

Yet when they broke up, what she claimed in court documents would make it seem like the "horrible misrepresentation" was that she and Depp were at all happy.

But once again, if Heard was trying to make her marriage work at the time, what was she going to say otherwise that wouldn't have more or less confirmed things weren't going well?

Kaley Cuoco laughed off split rumors on April 2, 2015, posting a collage of cutesy pics on Instagram and writing, "We are totally getting divorced, can't you tell!!?!????" On Sept. 25, 2015, she filed for divorce from Ryan Sweeting.

John Shearer/WireImage for Fox

At times news of a celebrity couple's separation or divorce often far precedes the actual divorce, so much so that the two instances don't necessarily feel connected: Gavin Rossdale called a split report a "load of bulls—t" a little less than a year before his marriage to Gwen Stefani imploded. Janet Jackson and Wissam Al Mana were the subject of split rumors almost three years before their baby was born…and they subsequently separated. We can probably accept by now that One Direction has for all intents and purposes broken up, despite their initial protests to the contrary when they announced their "hiatus" in 2015.

And then, sometimes, the rumors really do amount to nothing. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who will celebrate 20 years of marriage this December, are old pros at throwing the chatter back in the chatterers' faces. Victoria Beckham has stated loud and proud that she and David Beckham have "nothing to prove" after almost 18 years of marriage. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have parted ways a dozen times if you believe some reports, but what do you know—they're still madly in love after 33 years together and were just simultaneously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Being famous and daring to be in a relationship pretty much requires you to run the breakup-rumor gauntlet at some point. That's just Hollywood for you.

At the same time, maintaining a relationship is made all the harder in Hollywood for many reasons, not least of them being the impertinent heralding of your own demise. And if the smoke does turn out to be an indicator of fire, it's quite common for someone to have at least tried to throw a bucket of water on the flames before they got out of control.