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Why so many ‘Real Housewives’ divorce their husbands

Why so many 'Real Housewives' divorce their husbands

At what point do you rebrand when many of your “Housewives” are no longer married?

As Bravo’s warhorse “Real Housewives” franchise evolves and expands, the show has begun to give lie to its name. Two decades of reality TV have shown that the longer a series airs, the more it can outgrow its initial conceit — notably, as the cast of “Vanderpump Rules” became famous in their own right, they still orbited SUR, despite no longer needing to pick up shifts to make ends meet. But it’s especially noteworthy in the “Housewives” franchise because, well, it’s right there in the name.

“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne recently filed for divorce her from husband of 21 years, Tom Girardi, joining the long list of “Housewives” who have split from their spouses while on the show. In fact, earlier this year E! calculated the overall “Housewives” divorce rate at 43.2% — counting only women who got divorced while on the series and not ladies who were divorced beforehand.

So what accounts for its incidence among “Housewives?” Page Six had several relationship experts weigh in to find some clarity (None of the experts have worked with the show’s stars). Bravo declined to comment for this story.

One big not-so-happy family

Ramona Singer and Mario Singer's wedding photo at 'The EX-hibition' presented by Bravo And The Museum Of Broken Relationships
Ramona Singer and Mario Singer’s wedding photo at “The EX-hibition” presented by Bravo and the Museum of Broken RelationshipsGetty Images

For a couple to survive reality TV stardom, both partners must “protect each other’s self-esteem [and] have a clear plan as to how you are going to handle the pressure of fame, lack of privacy, and the burden of ‘being on,’” said sex and relationship expert Ian Lavalley — who, along with his wife Shasta Townsend, focuses on the intersection of love, sex and money.

“Male or female, none of us likes being called a nasty vile person from the back seat of a limo for all the world to see. This is not an aphrodisiac,” he told us.

And while a relationship may be in a good place upon entering the show, issues can be compounded when a relationship becomes public fodder.

“Reality TV raises awareness of an individual, but it also raises that person’s awareness of that awareness, which is to say that they suddenly become cognizant of the fact that their social circle, or tribe, has expanded, and they’ve entered into a dynamic within that group that’s very difficult to deal with,” said Dr. Tracy Thomas, a California psychologist and devout “RHONY” fan.

With the rise of social media, TV stardom isn’t a one-way street anymore, either, so “your relationship stops being yours and your partner’s. Suddenly it’s yours and your partner’s and the millions of people watching you go through it, which exponentially complicates and enhances all the normal stressors of a relationship,” Thomas added.

“It seems like a cliche, but it really is like suddenly having an enormous family you’re reacting to,” she concluded.

“RHONY” star Ramona Singer — who finalized her divorce from husband Mario Singer in 2016 after a cheating scandal — is aware of both the plague of divorce in the franchise and the public’s role in it.

As she told Us Weekly in 2016, “I think it’s a really sad thing that it becomes public. I mean, something like this, you want to keep private. You want to protect your children and it’s just hard enough to deal with without it being all over the media.”

Issues that pre-date the show

Shannon Beador and David Beador
Shannon Beador and David BeadorBravo

Sudden fame is a stressor on any human, much less any marriage, but some “Housewives” whose relationships end during filming may be plagued with issues prior to the show.

For instance, “RHOC” star Shannon Beador went through a messy divorce from husband David Beador, but according to him, their issues predated the series.

“I said to David, when he told me it was over, ‘What happened? We had a couple of amazing years,’” Shannon, who’d been married to David for 17 years, said on the “RHOC” reunion in 2017. “And he goes, ‘We had a couple good months.’ It was just a knife in the heart.”

During the casting process, it’s also hard to screen for baggage or long-buried relationship issues, the experts we spoke to said.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

stack of money with wedding rings
Shutterstock

Once a “Housewife” becomes a household name, endorsement deals, side ventures and bigger paychecks are often part of it — which can change a relationship.

Lavalley said that a number of the “Real Housewives” have started their time on the show “as the ‘trophy wife’ who supports her usually financially successful husband and is dependent on him for financial security, and perhaps a level of identity.”

But, “As the show progresses, they may begin to experience their own financial independence and identity separate from their husbands,” causing “the balance of power starts to shift.” That can “create enormous friction as roles and relationship agreements change,” he said.

Reality TV’s role

Joe Giudice and Teresa Giudice
Joe Giudice and Teresa GiudiceGetty Images

In just the last year, “Housewives” couples including Jayne and Girardi, “RHONJ” stars Teresa Giudice and Joe Giudice, and “RHOA” stars Kenya Moore and Marc Daly have parted ways, joining their many divorced counterparts including “RHOA’s” Cynthia Bailey (who just got remarried to Mike Hill) and Luann de Lesseps of “RHONY” (who got divorced twice while on the show).

But does reality TV contribute to divorce or do people more disposed to divorce simply wind up on reality TV?

Kenya Moore and Marc Daly
Kenya Moore and Marc DalyGetty Images

“Insecure and neurotic personality styles tend to seek out stardom and they make for great reality TV stars, however, this does not lead to the best qualities for a relationship,” said Townsend.

“This combined with the pressure of having your life on-screen, especially the airing of dirty laundry and other issues such as jealousy, addictions, affairs and a focus on material over emotional success is a perfect recipe for marriage meltdown.”

And that drama is just what the viewers want.

“TV producers are responsible for ratings. Usually the more outrageous the behavior, the better the ratings,” Townsend said. “… With the exception perhaps of [“Fixer Upper” stars] Chip and Joanna Gaines, the viewing public has not historically tuned in to watch happy couples applying personal responsibility and strong communication skills. The ‘Real Housewives’ franchise offers catfights, rumors of affairs and drama on overload.” 

Given the way 2020 has gone — and is currently going — it certainly hasn’t become easier to be part of a couple being filmed for a reality show. We’re just beginning to see the effects of living in this prolonged state of anxiety and uncertainty in “real life,” and as for how it’ll affect “Real Housewives,” that will remain to be seen. But one thing is for certain: It will be seen. And seen again. And again.

About the author

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Francis Peters

Francis is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional baseball matches. He is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. He currently caters his skills for the MLB & NBA section of Sports Grind Entertainment.

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