Lake Bell Said She Did … Until She Didn’t
Unlike her pro-marriage movie ‘I Do … Until I Don’t,’ marriages that don’t last ‘until death’ can still have happy endings
Actor, director and screenwriter Lake Bell recently announced that she and her husband of seven years, Scott Campbell, are divorcing.
“After 9 years together, 7 years married, 2 sparkling children … Scott and I are ending our marriage, but continuing our loving family. With respect and thoughtful guidance, we will continue to be parental comrades in arms and best friends for all of our days.”
It isn’t unusual for couples to divorce, even if they have young children — daughter Nova is 6 and son Ozgood is 3. What is ironic in this case is that she is divorcing after seven years and just three years ago, Bell wrote, directed and starred in I Do … Until I Don’t, a pro-marriage film that explores the promise of a seven-year marital contract. (Bell was inspired by German politician Gabriele Pauli’s proposed seven-year marital contract.)
Except Bell didn’t even entertain the benefits of a renewable marital contract, which is unfortunate as I wrote at the time. There are many benefits to having to renew (or not) a marriage as I discovered doing research for my book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, and which I have written about extensively. All Bell did was dismiss it. What a missed opportunity to open up an honest discussion about what’s not working with the “until death” model of marriage, which she is now discovering for herself.
Although the divorce rate is declining (except for those 45 and older) a good percentage of marriages don’t make it until death, and who knows what will happen post-pandemic.
The three couples in her movie are in marriages that have been struggling for a while. And while they end up being kinder to each other by the movie’s end, here’s the thing—if they had a time-limited renewable marital contract they wouldn’t have been able to have gotten away with being unkind and resentful for so many years because they would have been held accountable for their bad behavior.
Think of all the unnecessary unhappiness the couples had to endure!
In a recent interview for her latest project, Bless This Mess, Bell says the secret to a long-term marriage is therapy.
“I’m not even just talking about couples therapy — I’m talking about singularly taking care of myself. Within a relationship, I think that’s a core difference between success and failure. Whether your therapy could maybe fall under the lines of self-care, yoga, meditation or just your hobbies that you still honor. I feel like it’s taking care of yourself singularly in order to be a unit.”
Self-care is essential, and it’s something women, especially moms of young children often forget to allow themselves. And her family has had challenges — Bell recently shared that their daughter has epilepsy and she struggled with guilt over her son’s difficult home birth that sent him to NICU.
Before Bell and Campbell wed, she admitted she was not a fan of marriage. But then they tied the knot and she set out to make a film that reaffirmed the idea of “until death” commitment, what she calls a “happy ending.”
“It has a happy ending and it’s built that way and I always wanted it that way. I really wanted this story and investigation to end with hope, because I think ultimately as a previous unromantic, I was hoping deep down to be proven wrong.”
We have no way to know what went wrong in Bell’s marriage, but it is ending after seven years. Is it a “happy ending”? As odd as it may sound, yes, if her marriage was an unhappy, unhealthy one. Since happy, healthy marriages don’t end in divorce, there’s no other way to look at their split but as something that will be better for them separately than what they had together.
And that actually is incredibly hopeful.