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Happily Ever After Isn’t the Only Happy Ending

Angelina Jolie is a woman very much in control of her life

09.20.16
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I learned fairly young that women do not need men to flourish, shine or succeed. (Political pause: I’m also aware that in this free country where education is promoted, these are truths I’m able to take for granted.) This was drilled into me by all three of my parents but especially my mother. She has been divorced twice. And she is happy.

Which brings me to Angelina Jolie. I’m wary to call her a role model; celebrity does not automatically invite that responsibility. (Another article.) However, America is obsessed. Our eyes are already set on news that she is divorcing Brad Pitt. To call it the biggest celebrity news story of the year would not be an overstatement. Which means that this separation has the capacity to set an important precedent. Already, the media is reporting the divorce as Angelina Jolie’s decision. He did not break up with her. She is no one’s victim.

Divorce is painful, deeply sad, complicated and a lot of paperwork, but it is not a death sentence. For the women I know who have gone through divorce, it has, instead, been a rebirth.

A discussion as to whether or not my mother is “fine” or “okay,” as people sometimes ask, implies that without a man she is expected to wait out life in a purgatory of flatline emotion — that she’s merely supposed to exist as opposed to thrive. But my mother thrives. She is strong, happy and successful. I joke about this, but the sentiment stands: She is dedicated first and foremost to her journey. (That includes me, if you were worried.) I, meanwhile, as the Child of Divorce, am used to the occasional uncomfortable look. Even in 2016, not everyone knows how to react when I say that I grew up between my mom and my dad’s homes on separate coasts, or that mom and stepdad ended their long marriage years later. But kids are resilient. So are memories. So are hearts.

Following the release of By the Sea, a movie that Jolie wrote and directed, her already impressive career will continue. She has raised six children — she will continue to raise them. Her life will not go up in flames. She does not need Brad for the sake of future movies, her image or her bank account. Once the shock dissipates, those fans whose perfect-couple dreams have been crushed will hopefully be able to see that.

We can’t blame fairy tales for every antiquated thought seared into the soft parts of our brains, but it’s hard to shake what those of us raised on pre-Pixar Disney were taught from a very young age: that the end goal is a happily-ever-after marriage. Wanting that is not a bad thing. Believing in that doesn’t make you a stupid little girl. But it’s important to be a realist. It’s good to know that life doesn’t start with a wedding and the world doesn’t end when a marriage does. It is great to know — as I do through a multitude of strong women in my life — that worlds can get so much better.

Angelina let her kids draw all over her wedding dress, the one she wore to marry Brad in 2014. It made for cute photos that I’m sure gossip magazines appreciated and painted a sweet picture of their family dynamic. It symbolized all that motherhood and marriage probably is (profound beauty, imperfection) and told anyone who hadn’t already guessed that Angelina and Brad’s relationship with their children was just as important as their romantic one. But ink and white silk handed over to the fate of reckless toddlers also told another story that focused on Angelina Jolie: as a woman very much in control of her entire life, this dress was not the most important one she had ever worn. Nor will it be.

Photographed by Eamonn M. McCormack via Getty Images.

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  • Vanessa

    Everyone should read this!

  • Mallory Harmon

    I love that you said kids and hearts are resilient. I also grew up with divorced parents, but my mom was the one who raised us as my dad was not present in our lives. I am all too familiar with those uncomfortable reactions and looks when others hear my story, but it is true, life continues to go on no matter what pain or heartache you have experienced. And sometimes that pain and heartache does lead to a better life. A life that is filled with strength and the awareness that you can get through it, no matter what that “it” may be.

  • Dee

    Forget Angelina. Write about Jen, and how she handled THAT divorce…considering Angelina. That’s the divorce we need to talk about if we’re going to talk about divorce and going on with life after divorce. You could write pages on the strength it took for Jen to walk that out day after day, interview after interview, red carpet after red carpet, year after year. {I’m talking like I know these people but com’on now}

    Funny not funny, just this past Sunday I watched By the Sea {which is an incredible film btw…kudos Jolie!} but I have to mention the level of crazy exhibited had me wondering if this was a page from their own book.

    And then Monday happened, but on a Tuesday morning.

    xo

    • Amelia Diamond

      Same tenet applies to Jennifer: It must have been deeply painful. Ugh, and it was so publicized. I cannot imaging having that kind of personal pain made public, and scrutinized, and divided into sides. But look at her now, and how she has a wonderful, happy, beautiful life. She did not need Brad. Literally no one needs Brad except for his kids!

      • Dee

        I see what you’re saying but it’s not. One woman chose to divorce(pain but still from a position of power + she doesn’t want spousal support+ visitation for the kids) She’s calling all the shots–and the other one got divorced (pain+private humiliation+public humiliation+devastated+heartbreak+ +Angelina is a bombshell+double the humiliation+blow to confidence+self esteem+who knows how many nights she cried herself to sleep). I’m telling you you guys have to do a write up on Jen and divorce. And if you want to talk about Jolie, do it in its entirety– from the beginning of the story, not the end.

        BTW…who is this Brad you mentioned?

        • ValiantlyVarnished

          I’m going to have to stop you right there because this narrative needs to be put to rest. Angelina DID NOT break up Brand and Jen- and even Jen herself has stated this – numerous times. But the media and even Jen herself to a degree created a narrative that painted Jen as a victim and Angelina as the villianess – despite all parties agreeing- PUBLICLY- that this simply wasn’t the case. This story has been cannonized as fact by the mere propagation of it.

          • b.e.g.

            V.V., I don’t think Dee said anywhere that Angelina broke up Jennifer’s marriage to Brad. She said that Jennifer’s divorce was a private and very public humiliation, and that throughout the entire time Jen remained a classy woman and did her best despite years of barrage from the media. And mentioning that A.J. is a bombshell doesn’t mean that either. Anyone who has been married and divorced, or has had a man leave her for another woman, knows it takes two to tango. A.J. may not have “broken” up the marriage, but she definitely didn’t respect that B.P. was a married man, regardless of his private intentions. She was wrong to accept his advances. Period. And now she moves on. She chews them up and spits them out. This is, after all, her third marriage that has ended in divorce.

  • Marie-Eve

    Great article, thank you!

  • Ashley

    THIS. My mother is also divorced. I’ve never once felt bad for her. Honestly, my parents are both better single. If anything, it helped me realize that maybe I don’t want that life either and that I’ll be just fine without it.

    What I do think is weird is the media coverage surrounding “the reason.” Why does he have to be an addict or a cheater? Can’t she just have been unhappy…whatever that means…and decided she didn’t want to be anymore? Also, what’s with the J. Aniston memes??? She’s, like, so happy with Justin. I wish there was gif of her high-fiving Jolie for being awesome and leaving an unhappy marriage.

  • Cecile Pham

    well stated. thank you Amanda!

  • Katey

    My parents are also divorced, and my sister and I feel that we are stronger for it. My mom is now happily remarried and we have a much bigger (and happier) family. In fact I’ve never seen my mom this happy, and to me this is a cause for celebration, not bitterness or sadness. It’s been a long road for my mom but if she could do it over again I don’t think she’d have it any other way.

  • Jamie Leland

    Beautifully said, Amelia.

  • ella

    You already had me at the title. This piece was amazing from beginning to end <3

  • I think she’s preeetty bad ass for filing divorce, requesting full physical custody of all 6(!!!) kids (Brad only gets visitation), AND zero spousal support. Go on, Mama!!!

  • Katie

    Great piece!!

  • Well said, Amelia! I agree. Not to mention that all the rhetoric surrounding the dissolution of ‘Brangelina’ is just blindly heteronormative. Sure, the relationship may not have defied any gendered convention of marriage; it was between a man and a woman. But zooming out, media outlets applying the “need a man” narrative only further minimizes the other expressions or experiences of love/support/sanctity/strength.

  • Beatrice

    This is an amazing piece!!! So important.

  • Richardjhonson1

    Thanks for the post..
    http://goo.gl/7rRLN5

  • Elena

    Well said Amelia. By the way I am sick of everyone judging and prejudicing Jolie as a witch from their couches… I like Jen but come on, Brad was the married one who cheated!!! Why is always the woman guilty??

    • Carolina

      Women are portrayed as either guilty or the victim, not brave as it actually is..

      • wessexmom

        I think Jolie is brave and strong–she won the first round, the most important round. She’s been through a lot with the loss of her beloved mom and her predisposed cancer scare, mastectomy etc. As a woman who came through those pains a more mature adult, she didn’t want to put up with Brad’s boyish pathetic BS anymore. I’m with her!

        • Kaushik Mandal

          BS means?

    • Right?! Everyone only hated her. Even when he’d said his marriage with Jen was over before he’d met Angelina. People are so narrow-minded, even when they like to think they’re progressive.

    • PCE

      Sorry but – I’m half way one of those people. First and foremost, yes, Brad is the one who broke a commitment and I have found him utterly repulsive since then. Second: I don’t care if he said his marriage was “over” before he cheated, it does not make it ok. Third, I still don’t give Jolie a pass for her behavior. She was well aware that he was still a married man when they got together. I’m a woman, and I would never, under any circumstances, get together with a man that was still in a relationship. Granted, some guys are gross and lie and say they’re single, and that’s a different situation. If you KNOW a guy is in a relationship – whether you believe the relationship is good or bad – and you sleep with him, you’re no saint either. OF COURSE he is to blame, but a woman like Jolie isn’t absolved of her gross behavior either. It shouldn’t define her – she shouldn’t always be known as “the other woman” (we are all MORE than our relationship status), but partially blaming her is just not something I’m going to apologize for.

      • Everybody still insists on them cheating, both Brad and Angelina have acknowledged that they simply fell in love with each other on set….feelings are allowed, that can’t be helped. Nothing was done until Brad and Jen were separated/divorced. Angelina herself said in an interview that she could not be attracted to a man who would cheat and she couldn’t do that to someone either but she did admit to developing feelings for him during the filming of Mr and Mrs Smith and that isn’t something we can always control. Of course people can go ahead and think wow that’s naive for you to believe that as who would admit to cheating but then no one can for sure confirm the actual cheating part anyway? and also angelina doesn’t strike me as a liar and they’re also the most private family, they’re not Team Beckham, so why even bother addressing the whole cheated/not cheated. The bottom line I guess though is that even if it was brad who cheated, angelina’s name was dragged through the mud, it’s always the woman. Anyone remember Ashton Kutcher cheating on Demi Moore…no bc it was never made into a big deal. With the man it’s just happy stuff and sunshine like oh look he’s with mila kunis, sweet.

  • Joelle

    Ugh, typo. 2nd paragraph. Brad Bitt. 🙁

    • Amelia Diamond

      fixed it! (added that in hastily after it went live, bad idea!)

  • Andy

    we all like to believe in fairytales but this goes to show that they really don’t exist (sorry thats a bit pessimistic but its reality – hey!) shit happens and life goes on. angelina is not the first or the last to go through this. women don’t need men or a ring to live a fulfilled and successful life! you go gurrl!

  • Kurie Fitzgerald

    !!

  • Max

    My grandmother fondly refers to the period of time between her two marriages as her ‘swan song freedom adventure’

  • Carolina

    Thank you.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Love this! The amount of judgment being thrown Angelina’s way is is infuriating. Her life didn’t begin with Brad and it won’t end with him either. I was deeply saddened by their split – but I also understand that this was a real life couple – not a fantasy – with all of the issues real life couples face. Making a marriage work is hard and to me I applaud them for making their relationship work for as long as it did. That is a success – not a failure. What bugs me is the media circus that has turned their split into jokes and fodder forgetting that their are six children involved whose lives have been turned completely upside down. Divorce is tough on a family and I think those who joke about this should remember that. Angelina did what she felt was best and she doesn’t owe any of us a damn thing. It’s a big decision to split up your family after 12 years. And one I doubt she took lightly. I have always admired her ability to do what was best for her and not let other people’s projections determine who she is. And I think that will continue.

    • It’s because when people are looking on from their screens and television, it’s easy for them to point and make fun. There are no repercussions because they are guarded by anonymity or distance. It’s when it happens to them in their actual lives that they actually care.

      We’re so disconnected these days that I think we’ve lost a great sense of empathy and understanding.

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        I whole-heartedly agree.

  • Jessica H

    “But kids are resilient. So are memories. So are hearts.”

    BRB. Crying. Thank you.

  • Jaclyn Levy

    Thank you so much for this!

  • Besides the case of these two persons, I want to encourage you guys to keep on empowering women, coz the world really needs it.

    We don’t need men to be something or to achieve goals.

    #girlboss

    http://www.mgluxurymarket.com

  • Pop

    I can’t believe anyone would think of this relationship as a fairy tale, given how it started with the destruction of a marriage unless Disney got really dark when I wasn’t looking. The blame should definitely be shared between them. But don’t forget Jen was betrayed and humiliated and the whole world saw who knows what this did to her mentally? Where was the respect for Brad and Jens marriage? The sisterhood? Where was the respect for Jen? aren’t things difficult enough for women without us turning on each other? Where was the sort out your marriage before I even consider any kind of relationship with you? Easy to say, difficult and complicated to do but it is what we should try to do. Because this start for Brad and Anges relationship made it seem okay to behave like this, to get involved with someone else before fixing their own relationship. It set a precedent that meant you didn’t have to consider the others feelings or, show them or your own marriage respect. It was a toxic element right from the start of the relationship and for that reason, I’m not surprised that the marriage has broken down. Ange seems to be coping well with the split maybe karma caught up with them in the end.

  • By reading the comments section, I realize there’s a lot of discussion now on Jen, cheating, and divorcing versus being divorced. However, I’d like to point out that we’re thinking of cheating as a very one-dimensional thing. Yes, it sucks and no one wants to happen to them, but we’re falling back on this whole “good and evil” conversation that we, as a society, tend to do. We can’t seem to comprehend that humans are complex and that there are gray areas, difficulties, and so many ways in which we think and go about our lives.

    The fact is, Jolie gets shit because this is a public relationship. So it’s easy for on-lookers to sit on their couches and point fingers and “take sides” like it even mattered. Like you saying “I hate Angelina Jolie” makes you a better person. It makes you narrow-minded. You can’t hate someone you don’t even know, and that has done absolutely nothing to you. Essentially, we’ve created a story about both of those marriages based on the very small facts we have from their lawyers and the media. Which has proven to be speculative and sensational. Grow up people. Life isn’t just one way or the other.

    P.S. I really liked this piece Amelia. I agree, marriage doesn’t make a woman. Too many people spend far too much of their time worrying about how other women are choosing to live their lives.

  • Alexis Thomolaris

    I absolutely love/needed this. As a child of a recent divorce (Parents married for 20 years), and a millennial, it is still so hard for people to understand, myself included, that my life, and my mother’s life, is far from over. Thanks Amelia for keeping it real as always!!

  • Krista Anna Lewis

    Amelia, I’m a little late to the game, but this just gave me chills. !

  • Lilli
    • b.e.g.

      “Your” hair out, not you’re hair… grade 5 grammar, you’re = you are.

  • Michelle Morgan

    This was so well written! Amelia I always look forward to reading your articles.

  • Well said Amelia!

    I get tired of the obsession over celebrity divorces. The amount of time the media devoted to the Affleck/Garner pseudo-separation, and the intense hatred for the Paltrow/Martin “conscious uncoupling” was just gross.

    It’s none of our business why anyone gets a divorce – shit happens, people change, and marriage isn’t for everyone at every juncture in their lives. Being happily divorced sound a shit ton better than being miserably married. 🙂

  • I like this !!! <3

  • Vanessa

    Amelia, you nailed this.

  • I texted some friends immediately after I heard this news and some of them were quick to reply with messages along the lines of eugh celeb marriages, such a joke, always always end in divorce! and how they don’t seem to “respect” the word, I responded back with maybe in celebland (and i hate that i am speaking about them as if they are a different species…) people have the courage to step out of an unhappy marriage more so than regular folks, who can go on staying in an empty one that makes them miserable because it can seem the safer option. since the news broke, I haven’t once felt sorry for her bc despite knowing her, she comes across as an incredible strong one who seems to makes decisions in her best interest. Of course it’s sad that it has come to an end and of course it must be incredibly stressful and hard for both and children. The main thing I have hated is the attention towards Jennifer Aniston and the meme frenzy that has followed, pretty sure she has a hundred other things to be happy about. I know it’s all tongue in cheek but the women are constantly constantly being portrayed as the victims.

  • Babs

    Preach!

  • Great perspective, and thanks for sharing your story.

    The notion that any child needs a mother and father in the household to be successful has long been deemed misguided. Furthermore, it stigmatizes any family that doesn’t reflect this dynamic.

    These are two well know individuals who’s romantic path has hit and end point and that by no means does this mean their love for each other or their family is idle alongside it.

    To this family and any other going thru a separation of parental units, I hope that the children take priority and continuous encouragement of love and support is the norm.

    BareSeason.com Career and Relationship Counselor

  • cee

    Great article. Angelina takes a lot of carp from tabloids a n d media but keeps moving forward. She looks healthier than she has in a while and the kids look happy. She is a hard working, talented woman.