What Kim Kardashian’s divorce can teach us about marriage

JUMANA EL HELOUEH REUTERS TV personality Kim Kardashian’s wedding ring is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Dubai in … Continued



TV personality Kim Kardashian’s wedding ring is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Dubai in this October 13, 2011 file photo.

Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kris Humphries, her husband of 72 days, adding her marriage to a long list of “shockingly short celebrity marriages.” Reality TV and marriage are a toxic mix, as the marriage of Jon & Kate Gosselin demonstrated.

Kardashian explained in her public statement that she reached the decision “after careful consideration.”

She “had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned,” although they “remain friends and wish each other the best.”

Although the cost of her engagement and wedding ceremony paled in comparison to the royal wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, the couple spent more than most of their celebrity peers. Kris Humphries had given Kim a $2 million, 20.5 carat engagement ring, and the couple celebrated their wedding with a $10 million bash.

Why all the attention on another celebrity flameout? Perhaps the reaction to Kardashian’s announcement is simple schadenfreude, the enjoyment of others’ misfortunes. Certainly, many people struggling right now might justifiably be envious of such wealth and extravagant expense.

Yet there may be something deeper here, deeper than mere pleasure at seeing successful people stumble.

Trying to understand her choices in life, Kate Bolick in The Atlantic
Monthly argued that the bad marriage market for women has provided an opportunity to reorganize romance and family life and pronounced the death of traditional marriage. She and her friends thought they would “save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.”

Bolick defines a marriageable man as one who is better educated and earns more. She bemoans the lack of marriage-minded men, and yet through the stories of her relationships, she shows herself to be a “non-committer.” She admits that she was searching for both autonomy and intimacy.

Paul Hollander details these conflicting desires in
Extravagant Expectations: New Ways to Find Romantic Love in America
. Hollander explores “the conflict between illusion and reality, the apparent and the real” in the ways of modern romantic love based on dating-advice books, printed personal ads, and Match.com profiles.

Romantic relationships, Hollander argues, promise a powerful double-whammy: “the dramatic alleviation of loneliness while gratifying the individualistic desire for self-fulfillment.”

Yet romance did not drive traditional marriage, according to Hollander. Instead, culture, family, community, financial status, children, and property propelled the marriage paradigm.

In today’s culture, with so much freedom of selection and the “abundance of potential partners,” Hollander observes that: “people are tempted to look for marginal advantages.” Once they have made a choice, they never know “for sure if those selected are the optimal choice in what appears to be an endless supply of prospects.”

Our reality TV and celebrity culture create extravagant expectations and romantic illusions. They can set us up for failure at marriage. How many men can present a woman with a $2 million engagement ring? How many women can compete with Kim Kardashian’s finest assets?

Researchers at Brigham Young University and William Paterson University recently found that “materialism had a negative association with marital quality, even when spouses were unified in their materialistic values.”

Where is love in all of these calculations? “Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling,” C.S. Lewis argued. “It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God.”

This “quieter love,” Lewis said, is what runs the engine of marriage, and “being in love was the explosion that started it.”

So many of us keep chasing the excitement of that explosion, time and time again. But our mates cannot possibly live up to our extravagant expectations.

“I believe that much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it,” Gary Thomas argues in Sacred Marriage. Christian marriage is a call to holiness, more than happiness, Thomas says.

Catholics believe that marriage is one of the seven sacraments, or an outward sign instituted by Christ that confers grace. The church teaches that Christ must give Christian spouses the strength “to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.”

The reaction to Kim Kardashian’s recent split from Kris Humphries deserves our cheers, not our jeers. The fact that such a breakup raises eyebrows despite our culture’s generally complacent response to divorce is a good sign. Kardashian’s fast-forward relationship life cycle exhibits the happiness model of marriage rather than the holiness model.

“Sometimes things don’t work out as planned” is her quick reaction to a mere 72 days of marriage. Of course they do not, and her split reminds us that the planning of a wedding is not the same as the planning of a life together.

Written by

  • jetlaggedagain

    71 days longer than I expected. No doubt both will make zillions out of “exclusive” stories. It’s the gullible public I feel happy for as they see and rejoice in the tall poppies falling and am also happy for the media who can make extra dollars out of this inane, puerile, childish, behaviour in the pretense that it’s news.

  • Channah

    I don’t believe it when she says a word about anything to do with the wedding and marriage. It was all a hoax—–a reality show hyper ”put on”…..all for the ratings.

    Besides, it did not cost them much at all———most things were given to them in exchange for the advertising. I do believe that encludes the three wedding gowns by Vera Wang———she got alot of advertising from that.

    Does she keep the engagenment ring? If she does, she is really bigger scum than I already thought she is.

  • merrill1

    The whole situation reminds me of a dog show in which a cat comes out all decked out to look like a french poodle. Then the judges pontificate as to why this poodle isn’t quite a perfect poodle.

    What could 30 going on 50 year old Ms K have learned in 71 days about herself, men, life in general, and hubs in particular that was SO new it warranted such immediate action or could not have been avoided altogether? Absolutely nothing. Just a cat in a dog suit in a show.

  • pleitzke

    What in the blazes is this article doing in On Faith? Maybe that’s the question that should be considered: “What Can The Placement Of This Article Teach Us About Faith?”

  • KBlit

    What Kimmie has shown is that a small woman with an obviously not nature given upper body can walk up right!

  • davojosh

    NPR said she earned $10,000 an hour during her marriage. None of those extravagant gifts, the wedding, the wedding shower, etc were paid by the couple. They were all sponsored. It was a get rich, stay famous scheme from the family.

  • bucinka8

    Gee. I would have thought that the takeaway lessons were a) reality TV is trash and b) if this is what same-sex marriage detractors mean by “the sanctity of marriage,” maybe they should shut their pieholes. Glass houses and all that, y’know.

    What are this author’s qualifications for pontificating on this subject, anyway? I don’t see a bio.

  • bevjames

    I completely understand how she feels. I planned my wedding many years ago and was so focused on the event that I ignored every red flag along the way. By the time I realized I was making a mistake, I was too far along in the planning and didn’t want to disappoint our families. Also, I was too embarrassed to break it off right before the big, and I mean big, event. We ended up separated after three months and divorced a year later. It was like the wedding took on a life of its own and I was consumed. I feel bad for Kim and Kris and only wish them the best. They will find true love after the cameras are gone.

  • NOLACorpsVictim

    I think most people have concluded that Kim Kardashian began her relationship with Kris Humphries having in mind a clear picture of the bell curve and a time frame for getting as much media exposure as possible out of each stage: engagement, wedding plan, wedding, honeymoon, divorce announcement, the next love interest. Turning a “for better, for worser” commitment into a vehicle for publicity is the ultimate in narcissistic, self-serving behavior and is disgusting in the extreme. I hope people will respond by turning a cold shoulder to the Kardashians and their exploits and send a clear message that cheapening our deepest commitments is a sure-fire way to strike out in the quest for the public eye.

  • telemachus

    You don’t find true love.

    You make true love.

    It is based on character, commitment, caring, sharing and communication.

  • uh_huhh

    This gay man who just celebrated his 16 anniversary with his exclusive gay partner is laughing at the utter hypocrisy of the straight bigots who viciously attack our long and loving relationship at every turn but are utterly silent in the face of this Kardashian monstrosity. Apparently, the ability of my partner and I to remain together for 16 years has somehow undermined marriage and forced Kim Kardashian to behave like an infant.

  • harmon45

    This was a publicity stunt is all what this girl is all about…that the way she makes a living….They should return all the 18 million that they make on the deal.
    This show the morals in our society….everything for rating and to make a buck…

  • telemachus

    I don’t understand what the behavior of this narcissistic, immature, miscreant has to do with the definition of marriage.

  • uh_huhh

    Go away, raving bigot. There are lots of things that you don’t understand.

  • telemachus

    Ahhh, the resort to ad hominem…

    That usually occurs when the one side has run out of logical arguments.

    I find you to be neither a bigot, a heterophobe, nor a nasty person.

    I believe you are merely frustrated.

    Take care of yourself, and congratulatlons on your commitment and long lasting relationship. It is an achievement.

  • uh_huhh

    Having read your vicious screeching about gay people on this website for YEARS, I neither want nor need any congratulations or condescension from you.

  • Madtown

    Right on. I’ll bet that discussions are already in the works between Kardashian and the E! Network, in regard to details for the next televised wedding extravaganza.

  • telemachus

    I have never screeched about gay people. That is an unsubstantiated misstatement of the facts.

    I have never said anything disparaging about gay people on any on line forum.

    Anyone’s particular sexual orientation if of little or no interest to me.

    I have defended the traditional definition of marriage, which has nothing at all to do with disparaging gay people.

    Please try to attack my position accurately if you disagree with it.

  • uh_huhh

    You have relentlessly belittled, defamed, dehumanized, and attacked gay individuals, their sexual orientation, and gay couples on this website for YEARS.

    I’m glad to that you’re now so embarrassed by your past behavior that you want to pretend it never happened. As I said, go away, raving bigot.

  • Madtown

    Wow, an actual apologist for this sham? Hmm, I couldn’t disagree more. I think the entire thing was staged, and just like it turned out. I believe absolutely everything in “reality” tv is scripted, and every aspect of KK’s life is “reality tv”, because that’s the way she wants it.

  • gorijenna

    A “marriageable man” is one who earns more and is better educated”?

    Oh, puh-lease. Seriously. Come on. THAT is the problem right there – ridiculous expectations and ideas heaped on regarding what man some (not all!) women will deign to love and marry.

    Is it really so hard to imagine a wonderful, “marriageable” man who has a BA to your MA or an MA to your PhD? Who earns less than you but picks up slack at home? Really?!

  • tpk1

    It’s not morals in all of society.

    There are millions of moral people in out society.

  • bevjames

    Sigh…maybe I’m being naive. Or maybe I just feel sorry for the couple. I just refuse to believe the whole thing was a sham, especially on his part. Kris seems to genuinely love her and believed they were in it for keeps. I think the whole thing became a circus and Kim didn’t know how to get out of it.

  • BeenaIntern

    Actually, I read the article and that is not what the conclusion was. Trotter clearly came away with a different view of that article. The author simply stated that traditional unions were not for everyone and that she was not going to settle for marrying just because society dictates that is what all women should aspire to. The article also outlines the evolution of marriage and basically states that most independent, self-supporting, self-aware women who are not blinded by television romance and who do not see marriage as the only source of emotional fulfillment and as a source of financial support will not be forced into marriage because of societal expectations. That’s all.

  • foofle

    Kim didn’t want a marriage, she wanted a wedding. There’s a difference.

  • MsEFSweetman

    Thank you Ms. Trotter. This insight is far more useful in the analysis of not only this debacle of a marriage but of our societal need to gawk and weigh in on it’s creation and dissolution than any snarky comment I make. Unfortunately this is an age of idolizing celebrities (and non-celebrities like Kim Kardashian) instead of valuing the prescience of CS Lewis’ observations.

  • TopTurtle

    What Kim Kardashian’s divorce (and marriage) can teach us:

    Celebrity weddings and divorces are ratings bonanzas!

  • Catken1

    “I don’t understand what the behavior of this narcissistic, immature, miscreant has to do with the definition of marriage.”

    Easy. The “narcissistic, immature miscreant” had her choice of marriage partner legally recognized, and had a marriage legally protected and supported by the law. Two devoted, mature, responsible gay partners cannot. What this implies is that those who, like you, would privilege genitals over devotion, commitment, and responsible behavior when it comes to “defining” marriage have a cheap, shallow definition of marriage. Simple as that.

    Do you really think Kim Kardashian’s marriage was more real, more valid, more “marriagey” than uh_huhh’s, or George Takei’s? Does it really serve or defend the institution of marriage to give more rights to a cheap, shallow fling between heterosexuals than to a long-term, loving, devoted commitment between gay people, SOLELY because of the body parts involved? Do we make marriage more sacred by privileging physical bodies over hearts and minds?