When you get married, you think it’s forever — why else would you do it, right? You figure that since you’ve come this far, made a major commitment, and decided to be in a partnership, you’ll overcome any problems you may have together. But life doesn’t always work out like that. And though many people are still judgmental about this subject, and still others would prefer to pretend that it doesn't happen, those of us who've had the experience of leaving a marriage — and knowing that it's hard, even when it's the right thing to do — have found some unlikely spokespeople: celebrities publicly dealing with their splits, and Khloe Kardhasian in particular.
We often imagine that celebrity breakups must be different than ours; but over the past several seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, we’ve had an insider’s view on Kardashian and Odom's breakup — and seen that their struggles to stay together and stay apart are much more relatable than anyone could have guessed. And when Kardashian filed for divorce from Lamar Odom in December 2013 — paperwork which was never finalized by a judge — and then withdrew that paperwork in October in light of Odom’s recent hospitalization, she became a surprising icon of how complex the decision to leave or stay in a marriage can be.
Comment is often passed on the supposedly especially high incidence of divorce among celebrities; but as the divorce rate in the United States currently stands at around 50 percent among regular (non-celeb) people, it’s no wonder that famous marriages fail, too. But when they fail in front of us, we're not necessarily watching in voyeurism; some of us are watching because the narrative of celebrity breakups feels so shockingly close to our own.
As a person recently separated from my husband, I can’t imagine having my life filmed for a TV show. There’s only so much footage of a person crying into their cereal a viewer can take, right? And Khloe Kardashian has shown plenty of tears. But she’s also been completely open about her emotions — including her complicated feelings about her relationship with Odom.
When quizzed by mom Kris Jenner about her current relationship status on an episode of Kourtney & Khloe Take The Hamptons, Kardashian is angry and says, “If I had my way, I’d still be married to Lamar.” In our era, it can be taboo to ever admit that you're not 100 percent sure about splitting from a partner — but Kardashian has never glossed over the fact that she didn’t want her marriage to end, being frank about it on all of her shows. Rather, she seemed to have simply reached a point where she felt that there was no other option for her — a common situation that, in our era of frequently black-and-white narratives about breakup dramas, often gets pushed to the side.
And Kardashian definitely took a lot of sh*t before she finally decided there was no other option but to separate and file for divorce. Despite frequent rumors of Odom’s cheating — in 2013, Odom himself even rapped on camera in a song that seemingly alluded to other women he’d slept with — Kardashian shied away from demonizing Odom on international television, as she could have. Instead, she’s always defended him and spoken of her heartbreak over the fact she couldn’t fix her marriage. Kardashian even went as far as to blame herself for keeping her marital problems a secret and not sharing the struggles she was facing with her family sooner. On an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians , she told Kourtney Kardashian, “I kept in hiding every time there was something going on. I would have to lie, or conceal, or cover up, and I’m so over it.”
The fact that she tried for as long as she did reveals a side of divorce that we don't often see on reality TV or in the celebrity media: a side of divorce that isn't about dramatic accusations and angry actions, but the simple sadness of knowing that something doesn't seem to be working.
As with any relationship, we don’t know much of what’s taken place, but the bits that Kardashian has revealed on camera are both relatable and brutal — like the constant contact she tried to keep with Odom after they separated. When you love someone, but things have gone wrong, seemingly irreparably, keeping contact is painful — and yet, staying away often feels not only impossible, but like the wrong thing to do. “Lamar and I loved each other deeply, and I don’t believe in just acting like that relationship never existed,” Kardashian told sister Kim Kardashian West when quizzed about why the two were texting on a September 2015 episode of Keeping Up With The Kardhasians. Earlier in 2015, Kardashian told Complex magazine that she spoke to Lamar as often as she could and said, “When you genuinely feel like that was the right relationship, you’re supposed to give it all you can. That’s what marriage is about.”
It’s so difficult, when you’re married, to leave. Even if there’s a list of reasons why you should. You don’t want to destroy your family unit, same as anyone else. Marriage does change things, for better or worse, and Kardashian’s inclination to stand by her husband’s side once again, despite having cut off contact with him in the summer, made so much sense to me. How can you not be there for a person you committed your life to? Love doesn’t disappear just because circumstances change. Especially when that person was once everything to you.
I don’t think love just stops, either. Even though I’m separated, I didn’t just stop loving my husband. I still love him and miss him like crazy sometimes. He’s the person I chose to build a life with, and I tried until I absolutely couldn’t anymore. I’ve heard all kinds of sh*t from some friends and family members about what I should and shouldn’t do about my relationship (though the majority supported me throughout). Eventually, the only person with any power over the situation, and the choices that needed making, was me.
I’ve had therapy and know how pointless asking "What if?" is. But sometimes, my brain can’t help itself. I’ve asked myself millions of times if there was anything I could have done differently. Could I have ever made enough changes to save my marriage? Did I give up too soon? It’s human nature to want to fix things, and giving up is so difficult. Not wanting to quit is a weakness of mine, and it’s why I have total empathy with Khloé Kardashian. How do you give up, for good, on something that was once so awesome? Maybe you don’t.
Images: Giphy (4)