They say hindsight is 20/20, and certainly it would seem that a little time and distance has given these celebs a little clarity when looking back on their past high profile relationships. Sure, in the moment everyone wants to play nice and no one is pointing any fingers, but after taking time to reflect, these stars are revealing what really went down in their relationship. Turns out making it work is hard, even in Hollywood. And breaking up in the spotlight seems to be even harder. Thankfully, years after all those hurt feelings have faded, there’s some lessons these A-listers would like you to learn.
1. Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens
Who would have thought that a made-for-TV musical movie would turn into such a phenomenon? And yet, High School Musical was so successful it spawned two sequels, a spin-off, and the absolutely darling Disney dream coupling of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
Together for roughly five years (coincidentally the length of the franchise), the teen stars weren’t always dancing off set and into the sunset. Hudgens is honest about the reality of their relationship and the occasional tiff between takes, “Of course, everything is not always happy and dandy.” Still, Hudgens sings Efron’s praises, saying, “I could not have been more grateful to have that relationship at that time.”
2. Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck
Maybe all that green juice Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow is drinking has given her some organically induced mental glow granting the actress the ability to look back on her past and see only the good — including in her reportedly rocky relationship with Ben Affleck.
Of their on-and-off romance of three years in the late 90s, Paltrow will admit that Affleck was perhaps “not in a good place in his life to have a girlfriend at the time,” but regardless, she has no regrets. In every relationship there is a lesson to be learned, and hopefully it’ll lead us to the love of our lives.
3. Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey, Jr.
It may have started as a whirlwind romance at 18, but after almost eight years together, Sarah Jessica Parker walked away from Robert Downey Jr., even if their relationship, “taught me how I love.” See, the Brat Packer was going through troubled times, and Parker decided it was time to part.
Decades later, and each in their own happy marriage, Downey has admitted that it was a “very conservative relationship considering the fact that she was normal, and I was out of my mind.” Parker doesn’t deny it was sometimes difficult, but doesn’t regret a moment, declaring their romance as “a really adventurous, important eight years of my life.”
4. Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise
It seems so long ago nowadays, that it’s almost possible to forget that Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, were ever together — except for that incident on Oprah’s couch. We’ll never forget that moment, can anyone? And yet, as publicly as Tom declared his love for Katie (on said couch), the pair became impressively private post-split.
Neither have said much about their time together or what is was like to move on from their marriage, but Katie admits she’s living her life differently after divorce. “I don’t have any fear now, I don’t have a lot of rules for myself, and I don’t take myself that seriously.” Sounds good to us Katie, keep on keeping on.
5. Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon
It may not have worked out for their characters in the cult classic film Cruel Intentions, but costars Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe’s relationship off-screen was far more successful. After meeting at Reese’s 21st birthday party, where the actress giddily told Phillippe he was her present, the two were married two years later.
Reese and Ryan have agreed that ultimately only one thing was to blame for their breakup, inexperience. Phillippe confessed, “…we were so young…I think it can create issues with two people in this industry because there’s so much noise that goes along with it.” The two have still stayed on good terms, thanks to the bond they share in their two look-alike kids.
6. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert
They were crowned the cutest country couple since Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (if anything happens to those two, we give up on love) until Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert announced their uncoupling quite suddenly. Seemingly out of left field, they’d split, and the gossip going around town wasn’t so kind.
All Shelton has said is it “became painfully obvious that it wasn’t going to work out in my marriage.” To get the full scoop on Shelton and Lambert’s dissolution, the singers have said their respective breakup albums would be a good place to look. So start decoding those lyrics and y’all can let us know what you think went down.
7. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
The pair kept their personal lives impressively private, especially considering the public interest in their relationship. Even after some unfortunate paparazzi snaps were spread throughout the press and speculation reached a fever pitch, Twilight costars turned couple Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart said nothing but time and space has provided clarity.
Pattinson on his part has still said nearly nothing about their partnership or parting, explaining it away as “It’s just young people…it’s normal!” Stewart on the other hand has opened up a lot more, “People wanted me and Rob together so badly that our relationship was made into a product. It wasn’t real life anymore. And that was gross to me.”
8. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez
While we’re happy Justin Bieber found someone to spend his life with (wife, Hailey Baldwin), we have to be honest and admit we still miss the roller coaster ride that was the Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez relationship. Meeting when they were still teens, these two are more dramatic than any soap opera.
Bieber has been very upfront about their often rocky relationship, explaining “…we would fight so hard because we were so invested in each other.” The one thing Justin and Selena have always agreed on though, is that there will always be love between them. Alas, after almost ten years of ups-and-downs, Jelena is (seemingly?) done for good.
9. Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts
It was set to be the wedding of the century, on a 20th Century Fox soundstage, between one of the most famous and beloved young actresses at the time, Julia Roberts, and up-and-comer Kiefer Sutherland. Unexpectedly, on the day of their wedding, Julia pulled a runaway bride (prophesying the future film perhaps?).
In hindsight, it’s something Sutherland is thankful his then-fiancée had the foresight to do, confessing, “I commend Julia for seeing how young and silly we were, even at the last minute, even as painful and as difficult as it was.” He may have been left at the altar, but all’s well that ends well.
10. Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris
On their anniversary, Taylor Swift, known for her love of baking, made a cute little cake to commemorate the day, while her beau, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris commented saying “1 year…that was easy.” Alas, if only their breakup had been as easy as that first year.
Harris has opened up about the aftermath of their less than amicable breakup, saying, “It felt like things were piling on top of me and that was when I snapped.” And as far as Taylor’s take on it all, the singer famously uses her love life as fodder for her music, so we recommend listening to her “Reputation” album – those lyrics tell the tale.
11. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt
They were the toast of Tinseltown, until…they weren’t. When Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston announced their divorce, you’d have thought someone had died given the strong emotional reaction of the public. But with the exception of that one time Aniston admitted Pitt’s actions reflected “…a sensitivity chip that’s missing,” there isn’t all that much ill will.
Aniston was honest and eventually even upbeat, saying “I really do hope that someday we can be friends again.” But now that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no more, we can’t help but hope that these two find their way back to each other. That’d be the ultimate Hollywood happy ending.
12. Jennifer Lopez and P. Diddy
We’ll always think of the relationship between Jennifer Lopez and P. Diddy as important, since it lead to pivotal moments in their respective careers. For her part, JLo released her debut album, and with her beau by her side, wore that famous Versace dress fashion will never forget. Meanwhile, after their breakup, Puff Daddy became P. Diddy.
Lopez has been honest about their past, “I was in this relationship with Puff where I was totally crying, crazy and going nuts, it really took my whole life in a tailspin.” Transforming into P. Diddy must have changed the rapper (although we’re not sure how), because today the exes are actually great friends.
13. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher
How do you heal after a breakup? Actor Ashton Kutcher went up into the mountains and fasted for a week, drinking only tea and water, and without any electronics of any kind. But if that’s too extreme for you, there’s always the Demi Moore route – say nothing on the subject.
Perhaps ironically, the most revealing reflections on the relationship have come from Kutcher’s current wife and former That 70s Show co-star Mila Kunis. Despite their 16 year age difference, Kunis confirms that the marriage between Kutcher and Moore was the real deal — they were raising her children together, and ultimately helped shape the man she’d eventually marry. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
14. Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray
Meeting on the set of the teen primetime soap One Tree Hill, Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray quickly became our teen dream couple. They played the on-off (and on and off) couple Brooke Davis and Lucas Scott, and life imitated art — the couple got married in real life, only to get divorced five months later.
The two kept working together for many more seasons after splitting off-screen, and were nothing but consummate professionals. But, when looking back on her marriage, Bush is pretty blunt, “We were two stupid kids who had no business being in a relationship in the first place.”
15. Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie
Remember the time when Angelina Jolie wasn’t yet a classy humanitarian, and instead, was known as a wild child who wore her husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck? Sometimes we really miss those days. And sometimes, Thornton has said that he does too.
Fondly reflecting on their time together, Thornton remembers them having “so much fun.” And while it didn’t work out, according to the actor, because of a desire for differing lifestyles, he would also like to amend the sensational stories that were published about the pair, “It wasn’t as crazy as people wrote about it,” he said. Still, we choose to believe those necklaces were real.
16. Aaron Carter and Hilary Duff
You never forget your first love, and apparently Hilary Duff has never been far from Aaron Carter’s mind. The two dated for two years when they were both still teens, but broke up a bit dramatically as teenagers often do. Over a decade later, Carter (singer and younger brother of Backstreet Boy Nick) confessed everything on Twitter.
Carter declared that the actress is and has always been the love of his life. He went on to add, “I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to better myself to get back to her.” Hilary however has a long-term boyfriend, so Carter has his work cut out for him.
17. Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin
Breakups are hard, and hearing the line “it’s not you it’s me,” is harder – at this point it feels overused and untrue. That being said, Mila Kunis would like to go on record and say, with Macaulay Culkin, the blame falls squarely on her shoulders. According to the actress, it really was all her.
Years after the unlikely lovers went their separate ways, Kunis admitted that not only was it “a horrible, horrible breakup,” but also that she did not behave her best by the end of their relationship. She didn’t go into detail over what went down, but she did say that everyone has found forgiveness, so at least there’s that.
18. Burt Reynolds and Sally Field
The best of the mustachioed men (sorry Tom Selleck) Burt Reynolds and Sally Field fell in love on the set of Smokey and the Bandit in the late 70s. Even though they didn’t last, Reynolds revealed in 2015 that Fields was “the love of my life.” Sally was flattered, but remembers their relationship a little differently.
In her new memoir Fields reflects on her romance with Reynolds, and confesses, “We were a perfect match of flaws,” and adds that he was “confusing and complicated.” After Reynolds passed away, Fields admitted she was “glad” he wasn’t around to read her memoir, fearing it might have hurt his feelings.
19. Madonna and Sean Penn
Considering the crazy rumors surrounding Sean Penn and Madonna’s split in 1989, you might expect the two to have a contentious relationship – but they are both ready to set the record straight. Whatever you thought went down back in the late 80s, the truth looks completely different.
Decades post-divorce Penn professed that he still loves his first wife “very much.” Meanwhile, the Queen of Pop spoke to her ex-husband from the stage of a charity fundraiser, saying “…I loved you from the moment that I laid eyes on you and I still love you just the same.” So, is there a chance these two could remarry, because we’re into it!
20. Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke
You can never fully trust the tabloids, but you can count on actor Ethan Hawke to deliver the unadulterated truth about his uncoupling with fellow actress Uma Thurman. And he certainly is not about to sugarcoat it either, Hawke is here to make himself clear.
Hawke explained that taking turns accepting acting roles took its toll, “I’m living in a hotel room…while you’re off on a film set six hours a day…Do that for nine months and see what a good mood you’re in. I don’t know if it’s just too hard to be married to a woman that wants to be a movie star.” Fret not, today the two are on good terms.
21. Mariah Carey and James Packer
Say what you will about this pairing, but we really thought it made sense: Mariah Carey is an internationally iconic singing diva, and James Packer is an international billionaire businessman, and for whatever reason, we thought it could work. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
The two called off their engagement seemingly suddenly in October 2016, but in his new book, Packer admits that what initially went from “fun,” turned into something else. The casino mogul blames himself entirely, saying, “I was in a bad, bad way.” As for Mariah’s take, the singer put it all out there in her breakup track “I Don’t,” and the line “Rear view, bye,” really says it all.
22. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt
At the end of the day, the only two people who truly know what’s happening in a relationship are the two people in it, and that couldn’t have felt more true than when the seemingly perfect comedic couple of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt called it quits.
Currently top contenders for the Friendliest Exes Award (that we just invented) doesn’t mean Faris and Pratt didn’t have their dark days post-divorce. Pratt was honest, saying what everyone who has been through a bad break up is thinking “Divorce sucks.” A sentiment Faris has echoed, explaining, “…there is bitterness and pain with all breakups and that hopefully makes us human.” Wise words Ms. Faris.
23. Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp
Leave it to the French to so perfectly articulate the fickle thing that is love. After staying mum on the demise of her romance with Johnny Depp, model/actress Vanessa Paradis finally feels ready to open up about the last few years of their relationship.
In an emotional and honest interview, Paradis poetically explains that “Love is the strongest and most fragile thing we have in life.” And if that sounds paradoxical, Depp’s ex added that it is indeed possible to be in love and unhappy, “…when something in love doesn’t work from the beginning, it’s never going to work. Don’t push it.” Pretty practical advice if you ask us.
24. Katy Perry and Russell Brand
We can all agree that there simply is no easy way to break up with someone, it’s just always going to be unpleasant. That being said, if you’re Russell Brand, texting your pop star wife Katy Perry to say you want a divorce is definitely not the ideal way of ending things.
Katy Perry said, “Sometimes you can be blinded by your extreme emotions.” And boy-oh-boy is that true of a breakup. The singer has some super relatable coping advice too, “I was, like, just eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and drinking, and that’s it.” When you’re ready to stop wallowing, we recommend following those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with Perry’s power ballad “Roar” on repeat.
25. Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Their union, or disunion, as it were, has long been a bit of a blight on the perpetually prim and proper British royal family. Under that thin veneer of politeness, Princess Diana and Prince Charles weren’t particularly subtle about the state of their relationship, or what was really going on behind closed palace doors.
Reflecting on the night before their nuptials, Princess Diana said, “The night before the wedding I was very, very calm, deathly calm. I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. I knew it and couldn’t do anything about it.” Pretty ominous if you ask us.
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