Best and Top of Everything : Top 10 Marriage Stories of 2012

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 10 Marriage Stories of 2012

10. Newt, Marianne and Open Marriage


Nontraditional forms of marriage got a bit of a once-over this election cycle, what with the news of Mitt Romney having polygamists in his lineage and Barack Obama’s dad being married to another woman when he married the President’s mother. Then there was the strange episode of Marianne, the second Mrs. Newt Gingrich. On the cusp of the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, she told ABC News that her husband, after carrying on an affair with Callista (the third Mrs. Gingrich) for a few years, asked her for an open marriage. The candidate made no comment on the allegation and skewered interviewers who asked for one. He went on to win that primary, but not the nomination.

9. Gray Divorce

image: Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman arrive at the premiere of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" at Citywalk in Universal City, California on Feb. 19, 2012.
In Japan, it’s known as retired husband syndrome: older couples whose kids are no longer at home decide to throw a fire blanket over the last few embers of their marriage and snuff it out rather than let it expire along with them. Though overall U.S. divorce rates have declined since their peak in the 1980s, the divorce rate among the 50-plus crowd has risen to its highest level on record. In 1990, only 1 in 10 couples seeking a divorce were 50 or older; by 2009, the number was roughly 1 in 4. That year, the poster couple was Al and Tipper Gore, who separated after more than 40 years of marriage. This year it was Hollywood’s turn; Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, married a whisker longer than 30 years, announced their separation in October.

8. Public Divorce Fury

image: Elle Zober's for sale sign in August of 2012.

Scorned lovers have been around almost as long as lovers, but they used to write poetry. Now, with the added fillip of social media, it’s a marketing opportunity. In May, a newly divorced woman in Superior, Wis., held an “X-husband” yard sale of her former spouse’s stuff, including an SUV spray-painted with the word cheater. In July, another woman followed suit, with a forensically worded sign that read, “Husband left us for a 22-year-old. House For Sale by scorned, slightly bitter, newly single owner.” Her accompanying website,, drew more than 2 million visitors. And the home sold.

7. Stressed Out Men Prefer Heavier Women

Getty Images

While skeletal female bodies may rule the catwalk, they don’t always rule men’s hearts. An August study from the University of Newcastle in the U.K. found that men who were stressed out tended to find slightly heavier women more attractive than relaxed men did. Overall, men still preferred a lower body mass index, but their appreciation for a range of body types seemed to be enhanced by pressure.

6. Elaborate Wedding Proposals


Just as romantic splits are getting more public and colorful (see No. 8), so are wedding proposals. The simple knee-bend-with-a-box operation will no longer do. Nor, indeed, will privacy. This year, thanks to YouTube, we saw an unsuspecting woman being handed flowers by strangers until she had too many to hold and her boyfriend appeared in a tux, a New York Times columnist proposing to his girlfriend in a fake movie trailer and, of course, actor Isaac Lamb, who enlisted friends, family and the Bruno Mars song “I Think I Want to Marry You” to make the closest thing to a Bollywood-by-way-of-Portland, Ore., marriage offer, all of which was captured by cameras for public consumption. We wish the new couples well and hope their marriages are as much fun as the proposals — and a little simpler.

5. Polygamy Activism

Polygamists, perhaps emboldened by the gains made by same-sex-marriage activists, have started advocating for their type of family. In February, Kody Brown, husband of four, father of 17 and the central figure in the popular Lifetime reality show Sister Wives, sued the state of Utah, claiming religious discrimination. He and others, including the Darger family (three wives, 26 children), have been writing and talking openly about their way of life in an effort to have polygamy decriminalized. The courts in Utah have agreed to hear the case.

4. Surprise Celeb Divorces


Sometimes the kindest cut is the quickest. It’s certainly the most newsworthy. In the June edition of Playboy, Tom Cruise was effusive in his praise for his third wife. But before that issue was off newsstands, said third wife, Katie Holmes, had sprung divorce papers on the star while he was filming in Iceland. More ouchy still, it emerged that this was not an impulsive decision but the final maneuver in what appeared to be a thought-out escape plan, which included renting a getaway pad in New York City. They weren’t the first couple to split unexpectedly. A few weeks after sending out a happy December skiing photo, singer Seal and model Heidi Klum apparently went off piste and filed for divorce. This was something of a change for the two, who were known for renewing their wedding vows annually. Neither couple quite hit the seven-year mark. Hmm.

3. The End of Men, or Not


More women graduate from universities than men at every level. And more higher-paying jobs are going to graduates. Does this mean men are over? So proclaimed a magazine cover story in July 2010 and a more thoroughly reported book, both called The End of Men, this September. The rising employability, earning power and education of women has men on the back foot, the book argues. Experts suggest this may put a strain on inter-gender relationships as men struggle to find their place. But not so fast: while women are doing better than their mothers, men doing similar professions still earn more than women. Not to mention that the biggest beneficiary of women’s extra income is usually the men who married them. There’s life in those gentlemen yet.

2. The Covert-Ops Affair

image: Former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan; CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus shakes hands with biographer Paula Broadwel on July 13, 2011.

For some onlookers, David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell offered a lesson in hubris, foolhardiness and the true meaning of the word crush. Others simply learned a new way to leave stealth messages for their squeeze on the side: Petraeus and Broadwell communicated via a shared Gmail account. One would write a mash note and leave it in the draft folder without sending it. The other would then log on and check what surprises awaited in the draft. The technique, which is said to be employed by terrorists as well, leaves no e-mail signature. But as the ex-lovers and the entire rest of the planet found out, it’s not spook-proof.


1. Marriage Equality Makes History


This year the chips mostly fell the way of advocates for same-sex marriage. In May, President Obama voiced his support for gay marriage, a reversal of his former stance. In November, three states confirmed what polling seemed to show — that the U.S. is slowly moving in favor of allowing gays to marry. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington cast their ballots in favor of same-sex marriage, the first time such a plebiscite had succeeded. And Minnesotans became the first citizens to successfully vote down a state ban on gay marriage. No wonder one marriage-equality activist called 2012 “a banner year.”