This weekend, Angelina Jolie followed the biggest trend of summer 2021: reuniting with an ex. Details are rare, but the Oscar-winning actress was photographed leaving British actor Jonny Lee Miller’s Brooklyn apartment. The couple got married a few years ago. She could have been the housekeeper, of course, or his apartment could be in the same building as her vacation home. But the very idea that she might be back with an old flame got us very excited. But why?
We do this all the time in the celebrity sphere. For the past month, we’ve been absolutely crazy about every nugget, picture, snippet of information surrounding Jennifer Lopez’s obvious reconnection with Ben Affleck. She’s also hung out on TikTok with former long-time boyfriend P Diddy and was seen catching up with ex-husband Mark Anthony. Sienna Miller made headlines with Jude Law in 2009. The platonic reunion of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt caused a stir around the world. Actress Talulah Riley married, divorced, remarried, and then divorced Elon Musk. And all the time we sit at home shouting our approval in front of our magazines or computer screens. Yet, by and large, we don’t do this in real life. Getting a friend back together with their ex is something we generally advise against. So what’s the difference if the people involved are celebrities?
When Jude and Sienna split in 2006 – Jude cheated on his nanny and apologized publicly – Sienna was devastated. She has since described subsequent trauma while starring in a play in the West End. “People who came to me said we had dinner and I don’t remember,” she said. “I was so shocked about all of this. But if you get through it, you feel like you can get through anything.” If our friend said she was back with a man or woman who made her feel that way, they would then do we not suggest that they reconsider or proceed with caution? If our pals husband had left her for a beautiful and accomplished woman, had several children, and then approached them at a party with big smiles and open arms after they broke up – a la Brad and Jen – we would not tell her? run for the mountains?
So what is behind this contradiction? Is it the distance? Does the fact that we don’t know these people mean less worried about the possibility that it could end badly? After all, we won’t be the ones who go to JLo’s house with pizza and ice cream when her re-lit flame goes out again. Someone else picks up the broken pieces and lets us just enjoy the fun parts: the hilarious enjoyment of a new, old love. Does it help us see someone successful we wish we could thrive with our own ex? Is it the fact that we view famous people as ours in order to enjoy them regardless of the consequences? Or are we so overwhelmed with nostalgic excitement that we simply forget that just because it’s the second attempt, happiness isn’t guaranteed.
We love love. Part of us will always want to celebrate it in all of its forms as it gives us that warm, fluffy feeling inside. A-list love? Even better. We treat these celebrities who have returned to their exes as a source of fun and escape, ignoring the feelings we would experience if we knew them. They don’t know us either: our reaction might be considered largely harmless. But let’s not forget that these are two potentially emotionally vulnerable people who take a risk: They open their hearts to love, something we could all try to do a little more of. And while they’re not our pals, they are human: if things don’t turn out well, they deserve compassion and privacy.
So good luck to Ben and Jen. And if the rumors are true, also for Angeline and Jonny. Lasting love is always something that needs to be celebrated. You may think of this the next time a friend tells you their ex called.
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