Life after heartbreak: stars speak out on break-ups, divorce and the lessons they've learned from failed relationships

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

If there's a universal truth that binds us all; it's the pain caused by a break-up. 

First there's the realisation that something is wrong. Madonna admits thinking "This isn’t what I thought it was going to be" when the cracks started showing in her eight-year marriage to Guy Ritchie, while Brad Pitt says of Jennifer Aniston, "[I was] trying to pretend the marriage was something that it wasn't."

Then come the tears. Kate Moss says she suffered "years and years of crying" after she parted ways with long-time love Johnny Depp in 1998, while Kate Winslet recalls needing "a f***ing good cry" when her marriage to director Sam Mendes broke down in 2010. 

Next up is the anguish and bafflement. "Divorce is devastating," according to House of Cards star Robin Wright, who called it a day with Sean Penn in 2010 after 20 years together. Orlando Bloom says he felt "rudderless" when his relationship with Miranda Kerr went south.

Finally, there is acceptance. "Life changes," says Heidi Klum, of the demise of her and Seal's marriage, while Reese Witherspoon reflects that "I was ridiculously young. I learnt a lot, though" from her eight-year union with Ryan Phillippe. 

Come see what the stars have to say about break-ups, divorce and life after heartbreak...

Photos: Rex Features and Getty Images

  • Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck

    "It felt like my heart had been torn out of my chest. And when the realisation that I wasn't going to have the fairytale family I wanted really set in, well, that was when I really started to fall apart." 

    - Ben Affleck called off his engagement to Jennifer Lopez in January 2004, days before they were due to marry. The couple started dating in 2002.

  • Kate Moss

    "There’s nobody that’s ever really been able to take care of me. Johnny did for a bit. I believed what he said. Like if I said, 'What do I do?,' he’d tell me. And that’s what I missed when I left. I really lost that gauge of somebody I could trust. Nightmare. Years and years of crying. Oh, the tears!” (Vanity Fair, October 2012)

    - Kate Moss and Johnny Depp dated for four years between 1994 and 1998. 

  • Kate Winslet

    "One thing I will say about me and Sam is that it's fine, it's really fine. We're grown-ups at the end of the day, and however hard it's been for me, it's been equally hard for him. As a woman, especially when you have children, one gets so good at soldiering on – almost too good. Because you know what it's like – as soon as you open that can of worms, it's so f***ing big, you wish you'd never taken the goddamn lid off. I've had to remind myself to have those moments of being able to have a f***ing good cry, but it did take someone putting their hand on me – a gay male friend, actually, who put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'It's OK, you can cry about this, and maybe you should.'" (Harper's Bazaar, October 2011)

    - Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes split up in March 2010, after seven years of marriage.

  • Brad Pitt

    "I started to get sick of myself sitting on a couch, holding a joint, hiding out. It started feeling pathetic...  I wasn't living an interesting life. I think that my marriage had something to do with it. Trying to pretend the marriage was something that it wasn't." (Parade magazine, September 2011)

    - Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston split in 2005, after five years of marriage.


  • Madonna

    "When you start off, everything’s great and lovely, and the person you’ve married is flawless, and you’re flawless. Then time goes by, and you share a life, you have children, and there are cracks in the veneer. It’s not as romantic as it used to be. You think, ‘This isn’t what I thought it was going to be,’ and ‘How much am I willing to sacrifice?'" (Newsweek magazine, November 2012)

    - Madonna and Guy Ritchie divorced in 2008, after eight years of marriage.


  • Reese Witherspoon

    "I was so, so young. I was, like, ridiculously young. I learnt a lot, though. It was an excellent opportunity for me to really find out what it means to be a partner and to be in a marriage and it’s not anything that I thought it was. You can’t say, 'I don’t want to talk about that.' You just can’t. You’ve got to talk about it all" (Elle magazine, April 2011)

    - Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe split in October 2007, after eight years of marriage.

  • Robin Wright

    "Divorce in and of itself, and with children, is devastating. Worst than that. One of the reasons why we got back together and broke up so much was trying to keep the family together. If you've got kids, it's a family, and you try again, and you try again. We did that for a long time." (The Telegraph, February 2014)

    - Robin Wright and Sean Penn broke up and got back together again multiple times over the course of their 20-year relationship. They finally divorced in 2010. 

  • Halle Berry

    "This is a painful, painful chapter in my life. For four years David was part of my life, every day, every hour. I do keep telling myself that this is one of life's lessons and as long as I can learn something from it, then all the pain will be worth it." (People magazine, May 1996)

    - Halle Berry and Atlanta Braves right fielder David Justice were married for three years when they filed for divorce in February 1996.

  • Heidi Klum

    "It is very hard and especially, you know, being in all of the magazine and gossip pages. I mean, that is definitely very hard and hurtful and it’s hard to go through a divorce. I’m someone who believes in a fairy tale and when I said ‘I do,’ I meant forever. But I don’t know, you never know what happens. Life changes" (ABC News, September 2012)

    - Heidi Klum and Seal filed for divorce in April 2012, after eight years together.

  • Ben Affleck

    "I was no longer in control of my life. I thought I wanted certain things, but I didn't. I got lost. I felt suffocated, miserable and gross. I should never have gone down that route or got sucked in to all the publicity. I was typecast as myself. Too many people weren't getting past what they read about me. That was damaging. I can tell from experience it's bad for you, and bad for your career. So I took a break, went away for a while and let things calm down." (Daily Mail, July 2009)

    - Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez broke off their two-year engagement in 2004.

  • Ryan Reynolds

    "Anyone who gets divorced goes through a lot of pain, but you come out of it. I'm not out of it yet. At all. But I sense that as I do come through it, there's optimism. How can there not be?" (Details magazine, May 2011)

    - Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson divorced in December 2010 after two years of marriage.

  • Chris Martin

    "About two years ago I was a mess really because I can't enjoy the thing that we are good at and I can't enjoy the great things around me because I'm burdened by this. I've got to not blame anyone else and make some changes. I wouldn’t use the word breakdown, this was more a realisation about trying to grow up basically. If you can’t open yourself up, you can’t appreciate the wonder inside. So you can be with someone very wonderful, but because of your own issues you cannot let that be celebrated in the right way." (BBC Radio 1, April 2014)

    - Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced they were separating in March 2014. 

  • Kate Hudson

    "I just met Chris and he was great. As untraditional as he looks, he is a southerner, from Georgia. He has pretty traditional values. It wasn’t exactly a traditional wedding, though. No, we mixed it up a bit there. The divorce wasn’t very traditional either. But I don’t regret that relationship because it gave me my son and, to this day, I have such a deep love for Chris. Just as it takes work to be in a relationship, so it takes work to not be in a relationship. We still disagree, but that person is in my life forever because of Ryder." (The Telegraph, May 2010)

    - Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson split up in August 2006, after six years of marriage.

  • Orlando Bloom

    "It was time to say let's give this some breathing space. After a period of feeling rudderless, I feel like I've set course again. I feel very much like I'm at the beginning of something, like I'm going to come into my own as an actor." (Sunday People, March 2014)

    - Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr split up in October 2013 after six years together. 

  • Julia Roberts

    "It's come to a kind and tenderhearted end. Here's the thing: I love Benjamin. He's a good man, he's a fine man. He is, to the exultation of the female single population, not my man anymore." (The Late Show With David Letterman, July 2001)

    - Julia Roberts on Benjamin Bratt, whom she dated for three years to 2001.

  • Russell Brand

    "I was really, really in love with her, but it was difficult to see each other. We were together when it was right to be together, and when it wasn’t, we worked it out. It was a lovely relationship, it mostly didn’t work for practical reasons. We did work it out, she’s happy, I’m happy." (on Howard Stern’s Sirius/XM radio show, July 2012)

    - Russell Brand and Katy Perry married in October 2010 but divorced 14 months later. 

  • Liz Hurley

    "Love isn't a switch that you can turn on or off at will and of course I still love him - we are part of each other's history. We finally parted ways in November 2013 and it was a very sad time for both of us. I struggled for a while but feel in a very good place today. In fact, both professionally and personally everything is blooming." (Hello! magazine, May 2014)

    - Liz Hurley and Shane Warne broke off their engagement in November 2013, after three years of dating. 

  • Jennifer Carpenter

    "Our marriage didn't look like anyone else's, and our divorce didn't either, so... I said it before, just because the marriage ended doesn't mean the love did. I'm crying. It's an awkward thing to talk about your personal life in front of a bunch of strangers, but there's nothing but love and respect [between us]. Nothing." (at a live Dexter Q&A event, September 2013)

    - Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall divorced in 2011 after two years of marriage. They remained good friends and continued to co-star together on the hit show Dexter. 

  • Julianne Hough

    "Every relationship, there was nothing wrong or bad, but there was nothing right. I had one foot out because I didn't want to get hurt. And I didn't say what was on my mind because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers. I needed to be perfect." (Redbook magazine, August 2014)

    - Julianne on the end of her three-year relationship to Ryan Seacrest.

  • Drew Barrymore

    "I hate getting 'It's not you, it's me,' because I'm never gonna learn and grow from that. I don't want to live on lies and smoke and mirrors and horseshit. No way." (Popsugar, 2009)

    - Drew has two children with art consultant Will Kopelman, who she split with in 2016 after four years of marriage.

  • Lana Del Rey

    "We are currently not together. He is a wonderful man. But there are certain things he has to overcome with. I will not give details. It was hard for our relationship. I was no longer feeling free. Let’s see how things go on from here." (, June 2014)

    - Lana Del Ray on ending her three-year relationship with musician Barrie-James O'Neill. 

Share this article


Stylist Team