This isn’t how it was supposed to go.
Her life was settled, in a good way. This was it.
But now it’s not it, anymore. Aniston and Theroux announced today that they separated at the end of last year. They’re still friends. They still have love for each other. They wanted to get ahead of the gossip. And their marriage is over.
They seem to be handling it quite well. Yet how much of a shame is this news?
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“In an effort to reduce any further speculation, we have decided to announce our separation,” they said. “This decision was mutual and lovingly made at the end of last year. We are two best friends who have decided to part ways as a couple, but look forward to continuing our cherished friendship. Normally we would do this privately, but given that the gossip industry cannot resist an opportunity to speculate and invent, we wanted to convey the truth directly. Whatever else is printed about us that is not directly from us, is someone else’s fictional narrative. Above all, we are determined to maintain the deep respect and love that we have for one another.”
Yes, there had been speculation that they were having problems—but there had always been speculation that they were having problems, ever since they started dating and proceeded to confuse people by not being joined at the hip.
What was so heartening was that the speculation always turned out to be wrong.
Especially after what Aniston went through.
A lifetime ago she had a fairly brief marriage that ended up defining her in the public eye for a decade (which is a generous low-ball, considering the memes that circulated in reaction to the Jolie-Pitt divorce in 2016).
“I don’t find it painful, though,” Aniston told CBS News in January 2015, 10 years after her separation. “I think it’s a narrative that follows you because it’s an interesting headline. It’s more of a media-driven topic.”
So her attitude remained positive, although annoyance was brimming beneath the surface and would erupt in Aniston’s scathing op-ed for Huffington Post in July 2016, when she wrote, “This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status. The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”
There’s always a tipping point.
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Meanwhile, though we look for the exciting story—from celebrities, from our friends, from our own romantic lives—there’s nothing better than having no news. Than being the boring couple that has “nothing new to report.”
No drama, no outrage, no maniacally rocking boat—that’s the way to live, and that’s the way Aniston seemed to have been living for the better part of this decade.
While she doesn’t need—nor will ever need—a boyfriend or husband to be complete, she just seemed really happy with Theroux.
They first met in 2007 when she visited the set of pal Ben Stiller‘s latest film Tropic Thunder, which was co-written by Theroux.
“I thought he was very sweet and he was always very nice,” Aniston told Pop Sugar in February 2012, six months before Theroux proposed on his birthday. “But I remember thinking he was very dark. At first you think he could be like a serial killer, but he is actually the nicest person in the world.” (Maybe she recognized him from his role as one of the smarmy suits in American Psycho…)
But he was also very much involved, with stylist Heidi Bivens, his live-in girlfriend.
She barely recognized the hirsute actor in 2010 when he showed up to shoot the comedy Wanderlust, playing the bearded, free-lovin’ hippie to Aniston and Paul Rudd‘s straight-laced urbanites. Because the movie didn’t come out until 2012, a lot of people think they started dating on the set of the movie, but it still took almost another year before they became a devoted item.
Everyone kinda knew that they were dating for a few months, but once they showed up at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards after-party together (and took photos and everything), there was no doubt.
“Having experienced everything you don’t want in a partner over time, it starts to narrow down to what you actually do want,” Aniston told InStyle in early 2012. “As I get older I realize what qualities are important in love and what suits me. And what I won’t settle for.”
She also praised Theroux’s style, which we always thought of as cool-intellectual, riding-my-motorcycle to-the-café-to-write chic.
“First of all, he has great style—it’s very specific, and it has been his style forever,” she told the magazine. “Has it influenced mine? No, but I know people say it has. ‘Oh, look, you’re dressing alike.’ And I think, No I’m not. I’ve had this jacket for three years.”
Aniston, of course, has her own signature unfussy, if-this-style-of-dress-looks-good-why-change-it approach to clothes that has served her well for forever.
And that mutual ease seemed to translate into every aspect of their private life together.
“They live similar lives. They go their own ways but then meet back again and it works very well for them,” a source told E! News when the couple got engaged. “They seem to enjoy their time apart and then spending time to back together again.”
As comes with the territory, they did have to spend a significant time apart, and when they did—such as when Theroux would be shooting The Leftovers in New York (or Australia, where they went for season three)—it did cause a lot of concern among people who didn’t know them at all. Yet everything always turned out to be OK. Just when they’d been apart for too long, they would reunite!
But maybe that lifestyle took its toll, as it’s taken its toll on countless other famous couples.
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Aniston wasn’t the only one who noticed all those headlines, either, though she and Theroux always seemed to share a similarly acerbic sense of humor about it.
“I think it would be funny to do a compilation of those headlines,” Theroux told Rhapsody magazine in April 2007. Let’s assume these characters we play in the tabloids are real people. I would love to take them to a shrink and have them analyzed. Like, are these people insane? Yes, they fight every day, they’re constantly getting divorced, they’re hoarding children at this point.
“Imagine what those people would actually be like! They’d be f–king bananas! They’d be the most bipolar people on the planet. Constantly storming in and storming out! Devastated! Crying! Rage! Someone should give a clinical diagnosis of one year in our lives. It would be super funny. What medication would you give these people to help them out?”
At the time, though, he was looking forward to downtime with his wife.
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“Marriage makes the small things much smaller and the big things small,” he said. “You have an ally. It’s good to have someone have your back.”
And forgive us—or anyone—for thinking nothing had so significantly changed between them, at least nothing that wedged them apart rather than brought them closer together.
Aniston just revealed in the October 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that she had given Theroux their edited wedding video as an anniversary present in August. They had tied the knot on Aug. 5, a Wednesday, at home in Los Angeles. Jimmy Kimmel officiated. Details from that day trickled out sparingly, with esteemed wedding guests like Howard Sternand Orlando Bloomsharing some insights from inside.
Meanwhile, though their statement says they separated at the end of 2017, they spent New Year’s Eve together in Cabo San Lucas—on a group vacation with friends including Jason Bateman and his wife, Amanda, but that’s pretty normal for them when they go to Mexico.
Aniston also just opened up the doors of her immaculately renovated home for the March 2018 issue of Architectural Digest, and the $21 million mansion was referred to as where she lives with Theroux.
“There was a time when I thought there was something romantic about picking up and trotting off somewhere different every three months,” Aniston, who’s going to be returning to TV in the near future in a sitcom with Reese Witherspoon about the goings-on at a morning show, told the magazine. “Now I’m becoming more particular about the projects I take. I look around at my husband and my dogs and our home, and there’s nowhere else I want to be.”
No one was the wiser.
Though obviously that was on purpose. Aniston celebrated her 49th birthday last week with Courteney Cox and a bunch of other girlfriends. Theroux’s absence didn’t set off any alarm bells because all of the other bells had only proven to be false alarms.
It’s possible we’re dealing with the two most well-adjusted, least-dramatic adults alive, one of whom who just happened to have gotten sucked into a media maelstrom that went on for way too long, once upon a time. It’s about to happen again, but maybe, just like her second marriage, it’ll be the mellower of the two.
Still… what a shame this one didn’t work out.