Please Stop Hoping Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt Get Back Together
That says more about the narrative we have for older, single women than it does about them being the perfect couple
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston loved each other until they stopped loving each other and moved on. This has upset fans perhaps more then the divorce upset Brad and Jennifer themselves, and people have been pathologizing her ever since, even when she FINALLY found love with Justin Theroux. But when that three-year marriage ended, fans were hopeful she and Brad would get back together. When Brad split from Angelina Jolie, it seemed like destiny for some. Nothing was in their way!
And now, a sweet display of affection between them at the Screen Actors Guild Awards has the world in a tizzy. Maybe they actually will get back together! That would make people so happy — even if it doesn’t make Brad and Jen themselves happy.
Both are good natured about the obsession for them getting back together — “It’s hysterical. But what else are they going to talk about? she said. “She’s a good friend,” Brad said, and adding a nod to a potential Friends reunion, “The second most important reunion of her year, I understand.”
Brad and Jen are not the only celebs to be friendly with their former partners. Avril Lavigne has managed to stay close — “weirdly close” evidently — with both her former husbands. And, of course, the famously consciously uncoupled Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are beyond close, even vacationing together with their new partners, most likely because they have children together and that forever binds them.
But there’s something driving the public’s obsession with Brad and Jen getting back together.
Brad has been open about how their marriage did not make him happy. After apologizing to her for his mistakes, he has been trying to make amends by showing up for her. Couples can reconnect after infidelity. Clearly he’s a different, better man — or at least he’s trying to convince us he is. But that doesn’t mean they belong together.
The desire for Brad and Jen to be romantically together is less about them being the perfect couple (they weren’t) and more about the narrative people have created for single women like Jen. Now 50, and a twice divorced middle-aged single, childless woman, she obviously can’t keep a man, makes bad relationship choices, and is heartbroken and lonely.
Which is the narrative society has for all older successful women who are aren’t tethered to a man. No man, no happiness.
There’s a similar narrative with Oprah Winfrey, who in a recent essay in her magazine explained — again — why she doesn’t want to tie the knot with longtime beau Stedman Graham despite his proposal decades ago:
“I wanted to know he felt I was worthy of being his missus, but I didn’t want the sacrifices, the compromises, the day-in-day-out commitment required to make a marriage work. My life with the show was my priority, and we both knew it.”
But many don’t buy it. As I’ve noted before, many people look at her relationship with her BFF of three decades, Gayle King, and think — Oprah’s obviously a lesbian and Stedman is just a ruse so she can carry on in her real relationship while trying to convince people that she’s good being a single older independent woman.
Oprah is one of the most famous, richest, beloved and powerful women in the world, and yet even she isn’t free from having to defend her choices. While she doesn’t get our pity — she has a guy, sorta-kinda, so, hey, all’s cool! — poor Jen does not.
Thus, we fret. How will Jen manage without a husband, or an least a romantic partner?
Pretty good, actually. Jen doesn’t need our pity: What she, and all women need is a society that recognizes that women don’t need a man or any romantic partner to have a satisfying, fulfilling life.
That people are still hoping for a Jen-Brad romantic reincarnation proves that many people just can’t imagine a middle-aged woman being happy on her own, or who has a romantic partner but doesn’t want to live with him or have him be her main emotional depository.
Who are those people? Women, according to Jen (do men actually discuss such things? I’d like to know):
“That’s part of sexism — it’s always the woman who’s scorned and heartbroken and a spinster. It’s never the opposite. The unfortunate thing is, a lot of it comes from women. Maybe those are women who haven’t figured out that they have the power, that they have the ability to achieve a sense of inner happiness.”
Never thought I’d fan-girl Jennifer Aniston but I stan with this: “Maybe those are women who haven’t figured out that they have the power, that they have the ability to achieve a sense of inner happiness.”
We do. We gals have power (we don’t need to be empowered, thank you very much), and it becomes glaringly apparent to us at midlife. All we want is for everyone else to acknowledge, support and respect that power
Want to learn how to individualize your marriage? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And we’re now on Audible.