05/11/2011 05:01 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do. So is staying together

It is difficult to keep a marriage together in the best of circumstances and infinitely more so in the case of a high-profile couple. Now the Schwarzenegger-Shrivers, California's golden couple, have joined the long list of celebrities who could not keep the show on the road.

Being constantly in the spotlight places phenomenal strains on people. On the one hand, celebrity curtails your intimacy, an essential ingredient of a good relationship; on the other, it puts all manner of temptations and distractions in your way. This is an explosive mix and few are able to withstand its power. It is amazing that the said couple have managed to remain together for 25 years.

Joan Baez is quoted as saying: "The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one."

Like most things, relationships atrophy with age, so to keep them going requires a lot of maintenance. In fact, they are high-maintenance; they require continual nurturing. Early passion, if it existed, tends to fade, only to be replaced by the humdrum of daily life. It's hard to be passionate about somebody you have breakfast with every day. Yet, in a world of relative financial independence, a reasonable degree of love or caring needs to be present for a couple to remain together. Otherwise it will be sought outside the marriage.

Children can act as a glue to keep the parents together and indeed childless couples do have a higher divorce rate than those with children. But as the children grow up and require increasingly less parental care, the parents may find that their basic reason for staying together no longer applies. For many couples, the period when the kids fly the nest is a critical one - the nest feels empty and their lives do too. That is when minds begin to wander, searching to fill the void.

Even with the children still at home, there remains the perpetual threat that either one or both members of the couple will be attracted to 'a stranger'. It seems that monogamy is difficult to sustain; for many of us remaining faithful is a tough call. Respected theorists and psychologists have suggested that humans are not naturally monogamous, though social convention obliges us to be faithful to our wedded one because of the dangers inherent in infidelity. Infidelity is considered to be the main proximal cause of divorce, followed by domestic violence and then mid-life crisis.

According to reports, Maria Shriver has been contemplating divorce for two years, a sure sign times have not been easy of late. It's interesting to speculate to what extent prominent personalities, who are by definition hardy, robust types are prone to the anguish that normally accompanies the breakup of a long marriage, with children.

All in all, staying married is a challenge for most couples. Not surprisingly, they look for role models from among people they admire, but is it realistic to expect the famous & glamorous to set an example in the realm of marriage?