The Post-Split Bounce Back: How Angelina Jolie, Anna Faris, Jennifer Garner and More Hit the Reset Button After Breakup

Starting anew is never easy, but as it turns out, there's usually one main goal that all of the freshly single have in common

By Natalie Finn Jan 09, 2018 8:40 PMTags
Angelina Jolie, Katie Holmes, Jennifer Garner, Anna FarisFrederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Shutterstock; ZUMA

What's the first thing you do after a breakup? Get a drastic new hairstyle? Start meditating? Book a trip halfway around the world? Immediately start dating someone else? Hit the red carpet looking like a million bucks?!

Most people actually just curl up on the couch, enveloped in sadness and ruing the day, and at some point emerge for brunch and a good rant session (or several, depending on how tolerant their friends are). And they've probably got to go right back to work, heartbreak not necessarily enough to spend more than one precious sick day to treat.

For celebrities, the post-split malaise resembles a combination of all of the above. There's the human reaction that sends them scurrying to the company of their best friends, albeit in million-dollar cottages by the sea, and maybe even firing off the occasional subtweet or two. But there's life waiting beyond yonder horizon, and sometimes the demands of work mean there's little time to wallow. Which means that so much of the getting-over-it process happens in public. 

And if there are young children involved, then even getting a moment alone to accommodate the sudden, sporadic bursting of the tears that may happen for the first few months is a tall order.

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But the common goal, when all is said and done—when the hair's been dyed, or the cooking class taken, or the shots knocked back or the divorce papers filed—is not so much to make a major change as it is to simply feel like one's self again.

That takes time, so the secret is really just to push through and fake it till you make it. And in that case, we can take cues from the celebrities who at least seemed like superwomen in the wake of a tough breakup. All logic—and the eventual in-depth interview—indicates that they were hurting, but if they can suffer and eventually heal in public, we can all find our way back to living our best life, made all the better without the crappy relationship dragging it down.

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With three kids Jennifer Garner didn't have the luxury of retreating into solitude when she and Ben Affleck confirmed in 2015 that they had separated (though she did have the luxury of retreating with the rest of the family to the Bahamas at the time). But for months her public life was a series of mustering nonchalant smiles at the paparazzi as they photographed her getting coffee in the morning and trying to ignore salacious headlines about Affleck and their former nanny.

Garner would admit in the March 2016 issue of Vanity Fair that the prior 12 months had been a "year of wine" as she processed the major life change that at first entailed Affleck moving into their guest house in L.A. in order to make their separation easier on their children, Violet, Seraphina and Samuel. Luckily Garner had a movie that she was working on, the family-friendly, Miracles From Heaven, to keep her mind occupied and working in a positive direction.

Her shooting schedule versus the film's actual release date—in March 2016—gave her a nice break before she was compelled to make public appearances, which she ended up having a slew of in 2016, promoting Miracles From Heaven and then heading to the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of Wakefield, an indie in which she played Bryan Cranston's wife.

"When you haven't been kissed for over eight months," she told VF about shooting the love scene she had in Wakefield, "it's strange. But it's my job. It's nine in the morning and you think, I could really use a shot of alcohol. Then, after a take or two, after everyone has seen your boobs and love handles, you just want to take every crew member and be like, 'Please have mercy on me!"

She admitted that not being involved when Affleck went off to go direct and star in the gangster film Live by Night in October 2015 was hard. "It was starting and it was a hard day for me," Garner said. "I got the kids to school, and I went home and went to bed." Still, "I haven't had a lot of those days."


Though interest in what Garner was up to never ceased, as she and Affleck settled into a co-parenting routine and were still spotted together frequently, he was the one making most of the headlines—which, while some of the news couldn't have been easy to have public, such as when he checked back into rehab in early 2017, once again allowed her more freedom to get used to the new normal. Some more recent additions to the Jen Garner day-to-day include her decision to finally join Instagram in September and an intense new fitness routine, which she offered a peek at in October.

"Recipe for Turning A Mom Back into Action Lady," she began, adding, "Take one mama ADD daily dose 1 hr @bodybysimone, 1.5 hr Stunt Team, 50 cups of coffee and 3 min Cryotherapy."

Along with adding half a dozen film credits to her IMDb page since her split, including Tribes of Palos Verdes, in which she plays a woman whose husband cheats—a role she acknowledged was "cathartic"; her Capitol One commercials are still in heavy rotation and she sits on the board of Save the Children, having worked with the charity for the past decade. Because some things are always a good idea.

"My own kids are still small, and I want them to see how much their dad and I care about this type of work. It should be a priority for everyone to make sure that early education is taken seriously—it can make a huge difference in the trajec­tory of a child's life. Helping these families is the most re­warding thing in the world," she told InStyle last year.

Still, Garner has said that getting divorced (she finally filed last April) and having to hit restart wasn't what she wanted. But she's making it work, most convincingly.

"I would not have chosen this life for myself or for my kids. I would not choose to be single or be in this position. It's something that we are working through. I haven't been on a date and I am not interested in dating," she told in November. "People want to set me up and I am just like, 'No thank you!'" At the time Garner said she and Affleck would be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together with the kids (which they did). We get along really well and it's not an issue. We are friends; we can manage it."

2017 Celebrity Breakups

Her kids and working tirelessly for important causes are also what helped Angelina Jolie navigate the rocky waters after she filed for divorce from Brad Pitt in September 2016, instantaneously dividing the couple's fan base down the middle into Him vs. Her by asking for primary custody and seemingly resting the blame squarely on Pitt's shoulders.

So Jolie spent more than six months where she hadn't been in some time—in the arbitrary villain zone, blamed for...something. Sticking up for what she thought was the right thing to do, apparently. But Jolie had a movie to finish, the true-story First They Killed My Father, which she shot in Cambodia with the help of first-time producer Maddox Jolie-Pitt. Focusing on that and figuring out how to interact with Pitt during their initially contentious custody battle, at the beginning of which Maddox didn't want to see his dad at all, didn't not take it's toll.

Jolie would later reveal that her blood pressure went up and she suffered from a bout of Bell's palsy, the exact cause of which is unknown but which causes temporary facial paralysis.

Paul Best/Getty Images

When she talked to the BBC and Good Morning America from Cambodia last February, in her first interviews since the split, she spoke haltingly about Pitt, unconvincingly expressing confidence that they'd be fine.

But then they ended up being pretty fine. A month later it was revealed that Pitt had actually been in Cambodia too at the time, taking the kids when they weren't busy with their mom. In March Jolie gave her first lectureas a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. Soon after, having been house shopping, she decided on a gated $25 million estate in L.A.'s Los Feliz neighborhood, just a couple of miles away from their old family home, where Pitt still lives. 

After Pitt's explosive interview with GQ Style last Spring about his own issues and the demise of his marriage, it was only a matter of time before Jolie shared her side of the story—and sure enough, she made the cover of Vanity Fair's September issue. In the accompanying interview published in July, she talked about having her bad days and trying her best to hide the worst of it from the kids.

"I was very worried about my mother, growing up—a lot," she said. "I do not want my children to be worried about me. I think it's very important to cry in the shower and not in front of them. They need to know that everything's going to be all right even when you're not sure it is."

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While her interview was, of course, endlessly parsed over, the general reception out "there" was that Jolie remained a true star, with fans rhapsodizing over her ultra-glamorous Vanity Fair photo shoot and concluding that that was how you let your ex (and everyone else) know that you're doing just fine.

But Jolie, too, had to get to work. First They Killed My Father, the fourth film she's directed, was shown at the Telluride Film Festival and in Toronto, and she was surrounded by her children at both (minus Maddox in Toronto) and she hit the high-brow promotional circuit hard.

Her movie ended up winning Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award at the Hollywood Film Awards and the Freedom of Expression Award from the National Board of Review. While it was left off the Oscar short-list, it was also nominated for a Golden Globe—and Jolie was gloriously in attendance, with son Pax as her date, to present Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama, with Isabelle Huppert.

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water

Jolie's healing process, however, didn't just come solely from forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time, a couple of time-tested post-split plans of attack.

Rather, she's seen things through her work as a United Nations ambassador and visits to refugee camps in some of the most dangerous parts of the world that help put things into perspective.

"The real will to survive, and the strength of the human spirit, and the love of the human family becomes so present, and that's how we should all be living," Jolie told The New York Times in September. "When you're around it, it's quite contagious, and you know to learn from it."

That being said, Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne are one heck of a support system. "They really help me so much. We're really such a unit. They're the best friends I've ever had. Nobody in my life has ever stood by me more."

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Toward the end of what quickly became known as the "summer of splits" in 2015, the year that snatched Ben and Jen away from us, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale shocked the world (ish, as much as anyone can be shocked by such things) when they announced that August that they were divorcing after 13 years of marriage and years more together.

Stefani would later reveal that her life pretty much blew up in her face overnight (but she declined to share more details), but at first, before she and Blake Shelton realized that they were made for each other, what she had to get her through was her music.

"I'm just a regular girl," she said in December 2015 on Elvis Duran and the Z100 Morning Show. "But what I'm saying is when my boyfriend [No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, who inspired "Don't Speak" way back when] dumped me, you know, who I thought was the love of my life, I just wrote songs. I started writing songs, I didn't even know I could write a song! And all of a sudden I became empowered, like it became like a wake up!

"This is my gift, and that's crazy because now I'm doing it again and I hadn't done it in a long time. I hadn't been able to write in a long time."

Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Glamour

That, combined with the fact that she had three sons to attend to and her youngest, Apollo, was only 1 1/2, would have ensured a healthy bounce back down the road eventually, all on her own. We have no doubt that Stefani, who was writing music again and was serving as a coach on The Voice and who has three fashion lines, would've been just fine.

But instead, she turned to her left, noticed that other Voice coach there and ended up falling down the rabbit hole of love from which she's yet to emerge. Before long, they were makin' music together and she was going to Oklahoma and turning the opposites-attract adage on its head.

"I'm our biggest fan," Stefani gushed to Us Weekly in June 2016. "I actually feel like I'm not in my own life, because I'm not. I'm in a different life all of a sudden. I'm so blessed and I feel like I believe in my path. Now there's all these miracles around me!"

Stefani also released her first solo album in 10 years, This Is What the Truth Feels Like, in 2016, and followed it up last year with the thematic You Make It Feel Like Christmas, featuring Shelton on the title track.

And while Gwen and Blake kept a slightly lower profile in 2017 than they did in 2016, pal Adam Levine just said in October that their relationship still "a whole other level" of vomit-inducing lovey-doveyness. 

"They're so in love it's disgusting," the singer said on The Howard Stern Show. "It's so funny. They found each other at really interesting times in their lives. It's really beautiful."

Perhaps no one had to hit the re-start button more after ending her marriage, however, than Katie Holmes. Or, perhaps, she had to hit the pause button to unfreeze her life.

After putting her career on the back burner after becoming Mrs. Tom Cruise, Holmes was free to do her own thing again after spending five years of her life defined by being Cruise's wife and Suri Cruise's mother. And so she set about doing that, ASAP.

Just a few months after they filed for divorce in June 2012, Holmes was named the first-ever celebrity face of Bobbi Brown cosmetics and the ads started rolling out in 2013. She also started spending more time in New York, where she and Suri were photographed seemingly every time they left their apartment building.

Andrew H. Walker/REX/Shutterstock

Having attended before with Cruise, Holmes continued (and continues) to be a fixture at the Met Gala, which has arguably become the A-list event, every May, often draped in a dress designed by her good friend Zac Posen. She took a step away from the fashion business, however, by shuttering her line, Holmes & Yang, to focus on acting and motherhood, "which," she said in 2014, "did not leave the label the time and attention it deserved."

And taking some time off from acting to reorient herself and focus on Suri, she delved back into movies with the intense ensemble drama Days and Nights and the deliciously out-of-character Miss Meadows, in which she played a mild-mannered elementary school teacher who happens to moonlight as a vigilante in an epic quest for karmic revenge.

Most notably since, Holmes co-starred in the hotly anticipated adaptation of Lois Lowry's The Giver; she starred with Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren in Woman in Gold; she scored a juicy recurring role on Ray Donovan; and then ducked behind the camera herself to direct the intimate family drama All We Had. Next up she'll be in the rather epic-looking Ocean's 8 this summer.

David Becker/WireImage

In 2014 she memorably said she didn't want her relatively brief marriage to define her. "I don't want that to be what I'm known as," she told People. "I was an actor before, an actor during and an actor now."

And bit by bit, she got back into the groove, learning more and more about herself along the way.

"With age I've gained confidence," she said in More in 2016 . "I understand the kind of stories I want to tell. I have more experience in the business. I feel more certain."

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

"I like to be around people who make me learn something," she continued. "I gravitate toward people who are doing things I don't know how to do. [Being intimidated] is a waste of time. Just ask if you don't know something. Ask. You're probably going to make a mistake. Get over it...Some problems are never going to be solved. So dance them off, and you'll feel better."

With Suri Cruise about to turn 12(!) in April, Holmes both has a mini-me and a close companion in her daughter, who over the past couple of years has made more public appearances with mom, both out and about at shows and sporting events and in the occasional cameo on Instagram.

One thing Holmes had decidedly kept all to herself over the past four-plus years (or as much to herself as possible) has been her relationship with Jamie Foxx, which in the teeniest of increments has started to become more public after a truly impressive effort to keep their status ambiguous.

Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Newer to the post-divorce scene this year is Anna Faris, who split up with Chris Pratt last August, shattering the Internet's heart in one fell swoop.

The Mom star hasn't had as much time as some of the aforementioned all-stars to settle into her new normal, but it's apparent that Faris is well on her way. First off, she and Pratt had to make the breaking-up process as painless as possible for their son, Jack. And once they had a co-parenting rhythm in place, work helped usher Faris into her next chapter, ready or not. 

And sometimes ironic work at that.

Production on Mom's fifth season was underway, and just two weeks later Allison Janney admiringly called her co-star a "trooper. She comes to work with a smile on her face. She's a professional. I love her to death." TV mother and daughter presented together at the Emmys a month later, Faris' first public appearance since the split.

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In the meantime, however, Faris had been recording her podcast, Unqualified, which largely involves Faris doling out, as she puts it, "not-so-great relationship advice," and getting ready for the release of her first book, also Unqualified, in October.

She had love and loss on the brain anyway, and then the fall was dedicated to promoting the book, which was obviously going to be demanding a much closer read than it might have six months prior, and the fifth-season premiere of Mom in November.

So, hanging out with Jack, going to work and doing interviews got her through those early days. Her new boyfriend, Michael Barrett, has also been playing a role in the reset process in more recent days.


"It's understandable that people seemed so invested in our happiness together," she told People in October, commenting on the widespread public mourning of her marriage. "All I can say about that is, it's all true, that we truly adore each other, and we love each other, I think it still comes through." Pratt had even contributed the foreword to her book, which she was "so grateful" for. "Chris and I are really great friends," Faris said, "and I think that we always will be." 

She kept it pretty light in TV appearances on the likes of Late Night With Seth Meyers and the Late Show With Stephen Colbert, during which Colbert asked her what made her unqualified to give relationship advice.

Faris cringed gratuitously and pretended to give it a good think.

"I mean, every-, ev-, everything," she stammered for effect as Colbert swooped back in, suggesting that perhaps no one was qualified. "I think you're letting me off the hook with that question," she replied. "But I am definitely not qualified to give relationship advice. But, having said that...I enjoy it."

Maintaining one's sense of humor is usually pretty key to the process as well.

Asked by Seth Meyers, however, if ultimately writing her book proved to be a cathartic experience, in that she was revealing a lot of personal information (if not the story of her breakup, per se), Faris said it was cathartic, and she felt very vulnerable but also very proud to have put herself out there like that.

"I feel unbelievably vulnerable at this stage, but I'm also proud," she said. "I hope that people can relate to it and hopefully there's sort of a collective idea that we all go through the same stuff."

Unqualified or not, she couldn't be more right about that.