As Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher announce their divorce, what can we learn from their six-year marriage? Here, match.com’s relationship expert Kate Taylor shares her thoughts on what went wrong.
We all applauded how well Demi and Bruce got on after their divorce in 2000, sharing custody of their three daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah, and living close to one another. They attended each other’s weddings (Demi’s to Ashton in 2005, Bruce’s to Emma Heming in 2009) and even went on holiday together. But in 2007, Vanity Fair published a photograph of Demi and Ashton canoodling on a yacht whilst Bruce sat three-feet away from them, fishing. It felt uncomfortable.
More recently, when rumours circulated of Ashton cheating on Demi, the National Enquirer ran a story saying Bruce had met with and confronted Ashton about his behaviour, resulting in Ashton “begging for forgiveness”. And just last Thursday, Bruce let the doomed couple stay in his holiday home to work things out. We all know that Bruce cares deeply about Demi – he was said to be devastated when their 12-year marriage ended – but his protectiveness may have overstepped the mark.
Where children are involved, it’s clear that ex-partners will need to share in daily decisions regarding parenting, but this should never extend to getting involved in your ex-partners new love life. Keeping your distance will allow you both to move on and focus on the good aspects of your friendship, rather than comparing the old with the new.
The ready-made family
Forging a relationship with your partner’s children can be challenging at the best of times. In Ashton’s case, he is just 10 years older than Rumer, Demi’s oldest daughter, which could have left him feeling more like an older brother than a step-father.
In this situation, it’s often hard for the new step-parent to exert their authority, or gain respect - something that may have been particularly evident on the holidays the family spent with Willis. Demi was often quoted saying that Ashton was a great parent, and announced in 2008 that they were dreaming of “adding to our family” but sadly nothing ever happened.
If you’re stepping into the role of step-parent remember to set appropriate boundaries for respect right from the start. Whilst you can aim to be more of a friend than a parent, respect should be given not just based on age, but based on the fact that you are all family members now.
Who wears the trousers?
When Ashton met Demi in 2003, she was the clear star in the relationship, following numerous successful roles in films such as Ghost and Charlie’s Angels 2. Ashton on the other hand was presenting his MTV hidden-camera show Punk’d. During the six-year marriage, Ashton had several film roles, with mixed success.
Then in May this year, it was announced that he would take over from Charlie Sheen in the hit series Two and a Half Men, on a contract worth around $20million. Overnight he went from being Mr. Demi Moore to being a superstar in his own right. Finally, he would be making money – serious money – through his acting, and perhaps this tipped the balance of power in the relationship.
Whatever happened, it was just four months later that he was alleged to have cheated on his wife with a woman half her age, on the morning of their wedding anniversary. It’s possible that Ashton never truly felt like Demi’s equal during their marriage. No matter how much praise you give your partner, their self-esteem comes from what they are achieving, in their personal life and in their career. The old saying “a man’s home is his castle” holds true here, too – with Bruce always on the scene as a provider, protector, counsellor and father, what role was left for Ashton play except for the adorable, naughty son?
The demise of yet another celebrity marriage is tragically sad. In a poignant quote several years ago, Demi was reported to have said: “The truth is you can have a great marriage, but there are still no guarantees."