Here is the picture of Jennifer Aniston that has been at the forefront of the media and most of our minds for years now: America's sweetheart, the betrayed wife, the scorned and heartbroken lover. She was the one who was abandoned by Brad Pitt when he left her for Angelina Jolie. Has all that changed now since, some might argue, she has stepped into Angelina's shoes as the sultry beauty breaking up a long-term relationship when she began seriously dating actor Justin Theroux? You have to admit it is ironic, but also, not necessarily so surprising and certainly not so clear cut. There are a few things going on here and none of them are as simple as Jennifer's sweeping in and stealing Justin away from his live-in girlfriend Heidi Bivens.
First let's look at the demographics. Once you are out of college, almost definitely by the time you are over 25, most people have romantic histories. Before that it is possible to meet a single person who isn't mired in some way by a current or past love affair. But after that, the likelihood of meeting a mate who is free and clear, someone who is completely unattached, diminishes and new amorous journeys will most likely not be taken on an open road because right around the bend is a rejected partner. There are many couples who have reached the end of their relationship or marriage for one reason or another but continue to remain together, living emotionally divorced, because they are afraid to make the final break. Despite still living jointly, they have grown so far apart that the only thing keeping them together is the fear, guilt and anxiety that plagues any separation and stops people from taking that last step to make the split official.
This is often the time when meeting the right person can be a catalyst to enable them to tackle their doubts and finally leave. In these instances it is not the new woman who has caused this rift, the end was already near. I would suggest that this is the case with Jennifer and Justin. I do want to point out that not every affair leads to the end of a marriage. Some actually help keep marriages in place, especially if some of the couples' needs are being met within the home, because it can satisfy the unmet marital needs of one partner, balancing out the unhappiness, so that they can tolerate the situation and remain in the union.
The question remains, then, that if the relationship was over why did Heidi feel so blindsided by the split? In my book What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship I talk about the Never-Ending Fight. It is the fight people keep having, over and over again, that never goes away. But at some point one partner might give up. He or she might realize that things are never going to change, that as long as they stay in the relationship they will be unhappy, so they eventually do stop fighting. At that point, the other member of the couple might think things have improved. They aren't fighting anymore, maybe they are actually happy. No. What has happened is that their partner has already checked out and stopped trying. That might be the case in Justin and Heidi's relationship. She may have honestly thought their relationship had improved, when, in fact, it was closer to the end than ever before. I hear this over and over in my practice, "Okay, I get it now, I can change this and I'm willing to work on it." Sadly, however, the other person replies. "It's too late."
When you are the one left in a relationship or marriage, you do feel like a victim, you feel that you are being replaced. It is natural to blame the other woman. But the reality is that that other person could never have gotten a foothold if the distance between you two wasn't wide enough. All this leads me to the conclusion that if it wasn't Jennifer, whom Justin met last fall during the filming of the movie Wanderlust, it would have eventually been someone else. He was emotionally cooked, and Jennifer came along at the right time. Maybe now that Jennifer can finally see it from the inside out she will realize that it wasn't really about Angelina -- it was about what wasn't working with her and Brad. Her firsthand experience might be a way for her to appreciate that it really isn't about the new woman, it's about what was missing in the old relationship.
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