Fables and fairytales have painted the story of love pretty much since love has existed.
We idealize matches made in heaven and storybook fantasies of the perfect partner showing up, sweeping us off our feet, and falling-in-love-at-first-sight. So in an era where finding romance often means swiping right on moderately attractive singles in your area across a multitude of apps whose names mean even less than the connections people make on them, love often feels lost. It makes sense, then, that we would turn our eyes toward real-life fairytales to fill the voids in our largely loveless hearts.
The irony in “real-life fairytales” lies in the phrase alone. But societal spectators are nothing if not ironic.
Since 2012, societal spectators’ eyes have been fixed on the public* power couple of the decade –– Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
*eliminating the quite private power couple, The Carters.
Kim and Kanye are two of the most equally loved and hated people on the planet. Everyone loves them and everyone hates them and everyone hates to love them and everyone loves to hate them.
People hate Kim because she has no talent. Because all she had was a sex tape with Ray J. Because she’s beautiful and rich and smarter than anyone cares to look past her ass to see.
People hate Kanye because he says wild –– but largely valid –– shit in public including, but not limited to, “Geroge Bush doesn’t care about black people” and “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”
It’s so easy to hate who they are and love what they have that it seems obvious that our love-hate relationship with Kim and Kanye as individuals would extend to Kimye as a couple.
Everyone rooted for Kimye to fail, everyone hated their daughter’s name, everyone hated their house and their money and their fame. And I’m no saint (get it?). I’ve equally criticized, cancelled, and secretly indulged in Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kanye’s past and present lyrical prowess, and adored both parties’ clothing lines from afar (although I admittedly would’ve bought in by now if finances permitted).
But no matter if you hate them, love them, or genuinely could not care less about them, Kim and Kanye’s relationship (and ongoing divorce) is full of lessons about marriage, mental health, and minding our business that everyone could stand to learn.
Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, but so do unrealistic expectations and disappointment.
The aforementioned fairytale love stories paint pictures of fast and true love that is beautiful and lasts forever and honestly I like to think this exists. But relationships are not static; they aren’t “things” you can create and store in a glass jar and expect to simply stay the same while you’re off living life. Relationships of any kind, and certainly marriages, are just as alive and dynamic as the people in them, constantly changing and requiring intention in order to be positive.
This ever-transforming nature of relationships also inherently suggests they require effort to maintain.
When we share similar lifestyles and values with our partners, this effort can seem effortless. But when our preferred way of living largely differs from our significant other’s, even coexisting can grow to be a burdensome task.
Kim lives a very public life. We’ve watched her and her entire family’s every move for the last 14 years. Kanye seems to prefer a good amount of time outside of the spotlight –– attention brings unwanted opinions, and Kanye West is not a man who needs to hear unsolicited advice from strangers.
Still, difference doesn’t necessarily equate to demise. It does, however, require a good amount of understanding, work, and sacrifice from all parties involved.
Phil Donahue discussed the importance of this with his wife, Marlo Thomas, on an episode of The Happiness Lab.
“We are imperfect pair bonders,” Donahue said. “The marriages that last are unions between two people who really want the marriage. … We’re left to wonder really, how many relationships out there are passionate from only one side?”
No relationship is ever really 50/50. A wise woman once told me a lesson she learned from another wise woman and that lesson was this:
It makes sense. We all have hard days and periods of our lives when we need to lean on someone more than we can be leaned on. That’s normal. The hard part is making sure if you need 80% from your partner, you give 80% when your partner needs it, too.
We’ve seen Kim and Kanye giving and taking live in action. We’ve seen Kim explain Kanye’s erratic statements and actions through her Instagram stories time and time again. We’ve seen Kanye break down over their past discussions of abortion. We’ve seen Kim trying to understand Kanye’s MAGA phase. We’ve seen Kanye balance his personal privacy with Kim’s commitment to KUWTK.
But there is only so much giving and so much taking that can occur when two people experience drastically different existences.
And some marriages simply don’t last.
It’s really hard to determine how many marriages end in divorce in the U.S. since every state compiles and reports marriage and divorce statistics differently (and some states aren’t even included in the national numbers). Still, “the best estimate, based on projections, is that 45% of marriages will end in divorce.” Second and third (etc.) marriages are also more likely to end in divorce than first marriages.
With the sheer volume of divorces nationwide, Kim and Kanye’s split isn’t necessarily surprising, especially considering Kim was married to Damon Thomas when she first met Kanye in 2003, and lest we forget her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries.
Still, U.S. divorce rates change when accounting for income: 64% of Americans in the top third income bracket have been married once and remain married whereas only 24% of Americans in the lower third income bracket can say the same. (Keep in mind these studies are flawed and should be analyzed under a much closer microscope than we have time for today.)
This would seem to imply that celebrities would stay married longer, since celebrity is generally associated with higher income. But a UK study (which also has its fair share of limitations) suggests that celebrities divorce at slightly higher rates than non-famous people.
Eli Finkel, a professor of psychology and of management and organizations at Northwestern University, discussed reasons for these divorce disparities on The Happiness Lab, noting that college graduates typically have lower divorce rates than couples without degrees.
“How easy is it to build a marriage, especially a sort of self-expressive marriage, when you are working three different jobs at three different Starbucks and you’re trying to wake up at four in the morning to do some tutoring for your kid before you go out to catch the buses,” Finkel posed.
Essentially, lower-income couples aren’t just divorcing because they like their partners less than higher-income couples, it’s largely because of stress and lack of time at home –– two obstacles Kim and Kanye can certainly relate to.
During a Vogue 73-question interview, Kim jokes about just how little time the couple spent at home together.
It’s jovial and obviously scripted, but clearly indicates the non-stop lives Kim and Kanye each lead, with each obligation only reducing the time the couple could spend together.
Kimye marriage takeaways:
♥ Make space for differences
♥ Take 80% when you need, but give 80% when you can
♥ Make time for each other
On top of everyday busyness and job stress, Kim and Kanye have also handled their fair share of stress, trauma, and mental health struggles, many of which they have been forced to manage publicly.
The data suggests that relationships affect mental health and mental health affects relationships, but not equally and not in every situation.
In general, people who have mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to face turbulence in interpersonal relationships.
One study found that people who experience major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and drug or alcohol abuse are less likely to choose to enter marriages and are more likely to get divorced.
Kanye was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017 and has admitted to feeling forced into taking medication and being “locked up” in a medical center.
When trying to understand your mental health, manage a new diagnosis, and learn what’s best for you moving forward based on this new information, everything can be hard. There’s so much happening and so much that’s new and so much of everyone trying to tell you what’s best for you. Plus, in most cases, your brain is working against you.
Kanye, on top of all of this, was juggling being a husband, father, creator, and public figure.
You can have all the money in the world but money can’t “fix” the brain.
Money can afford you time off from a job and proper medical care, both of which significantly decrease your stress during mental health crises, but there is no magical elixir money can buy to end mental health struggles.
Then there’s Kim.
(This is where the 80/20 split comes back in.)
Trying to be a wife, mother, business owner, and public figure while maintaining a relationship with a person who has bipolar disorder is a lot of work.
And in October 2016, Kim was robbed at gunpoint.
Kanye, not yet diagnosed but deep in what was clearly a mental health crisis, stopped his tour to be with her.
In every turn and traumatic event, we watched Kim and Kanye exchange who gave 80% and who needed it.
But just as mental health affects marriage, marital unrest affects mental health even more.
And who gives 80% when both people are experiencing emotional turmoil?
Finkel suggests managing expectations is the key to managing relationships during high-stress periods. When you know your significant other is having a hard time at work, you’re more likely to understand that their snappy response isn’t so much a personal diss as a culmination of built-up work stress.
This is a great way to manage short-term stress, and it’s just generally decent to give your partner the benefit of the doubt when their behavior is uncharacteristically negative. But there’s only so much any one person can take, because lowering our expectations can’t be the only way we reduce or solve our problems.
During Vogue’s 73-question interview, Kim is asked what she’s proud to have taught Kanye.
She responds “I’m proud to say that I’ve taught him, I’ve given him really good financial advice on saving.”
Kanye interjects to joke, “you give me some advice but I don’t listen to it.”
I’m not trying to paint Kanye as the bad guy (or either of them to be honest), and honestly that’s a funny jab that any significant other could make. But context is key, and this is an interview that just about anyone can see. They genuinely laugh it off, but this was their faces immediately after Kanye’s remark.
There’s a difference between someone having a bad day and someone exhibiting regular patterns of disrespect. And “every woman has a breaking point y’all.”
Kimye mental health takeaways:
♥ Working on shared problems is easier when individual ones are under control
♥ Understand when your partner needs some leeway
♥ Set boundaries and know your worth
Minding our business
Have you ever been in a relationship and felt publicly humiliated because of your significant other’s behavior?
Okay that sounds kind of dramatic but hear me out…
If you find out your significant other did something you don’t approve of or that would otherwise hurt you, it sucks. But if that person comes to you about the action directly, many times you can address the issue and even solve it. When your interpersonal issues are aired out in public, though, or you find out through another person, it’s much harder to work past that pain and toward solutions.
Ken Jewell, a New York divorce lawyer, recommends that couples considering divorce try to resolve as many problems on their own as possible.
“Try to avoid going to court,” Jewell said. “And if there are any remaining issues that can only be dealt with through lawyers, you’ll be able to handle those things on a much smarter, focused and inexpensive level.”
But celebrities have their relationships judged in the court of public opinion, so sorting things out in private is nearly impossible.
Think about how many celebrities you think should’ve left their partners for cheating.
Khloe Kardashian again.
Khloe Kardashian again.
We’ve seen so many of Kimye’s marital highs and lows –– their televised Florence wedding, their phone call exposing Taylor Swift, Kanye’s experiences with bipolar disorder, the Paris robbery, Kanye’s Twitter, Kim’s Insta stories, both launching clothing lines, Kanye starting Sunday Service, Kim fighting for prison reform, Kanye running for president, Kim pursuing a law degree, both opening up in tell-all interviews with David Letterman –– that a lot of us think our opinions on their life scenarios actually matter.
Listen I know I literally just put Kim and Kanye’s relationship on display and absolutely none of it is my business. But I’m trying to make a point here.
Even though a lot of people are shrugging Kimye’s divorce off as an expected side effect of life in the public sphere, most of the best moments in a relationship happen behind closed doors.
Kim credits Kanye for boosting her confidence. Kanye went from slut-shaming exes to writing religious albums and prioritizing privacy for himself and his family. (Not to mention we’ve seen Kanye smile more around his kids in the last eight years than we have literally ever before.)
I think, in general, when our own minds are rooted in insecurity, we root for others to fail. And everyone wants the Kardashians and Kanye to fail. We want it so badly that grown adults shit on North’s painting skills. If adults are so quickly willing to deride a child just because she’s famous, just imagine all the people who have been rooting for Kim and Kanye’s marriage to fail from the start.
But this is not the story of two egotistical subhuman elitists carrying out a series of publicity stunts.
This is the story of two real human beings. Two people who have struggled with the death of their parents. Who’ve experienced the individual traumas of nearly dying during childbirth, being robbed at gunpoint, living with bipolar disorder and the struggle that comes with maintaining a relationship both with and as a person who has a mental illness.
This isn’t a fairytale. This is the unravelling of a true and genuine love where each person understood the other better than anyone else. This is Kim and Kanye’s real life, relearning how to function as the divorced parents of four children while trying to run multiple businesses and without escape from the public eye, no matter where they go or how hard they try.
I’m not saying their lives are harder than ours, obviously they have nannies and money and all the help they could ever need and more. But money and fame and success don’t erase your human experiences. They don’t take away the pain of losing the person you loved.
So you can laugh at their divorce, or scoff that you knew this would happen from the start, or you can carry on continuing not to care about any of this at all. But regardless of whether Kim and Kanye were, as Kanye suggested, a modern day Romeo and Juliet or the couple was destined to fail from the start, no one else’s business is any business of ours.
With love and actual sadness for Kim and Kanye,
Featured image by https://unsplash.com/@kellysikkema