What we can learn from Kim Kardashian and Danny DeVito

Even celebrity breakups demonstrate that it's never too soon — or too late — for love to end

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published October 8, 2012 8:17PM (EDT)

Kim Kardashian             (Reuters/Eric Thayer)
Kim Kardashian (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

In real life, the dreamy promise "till death do us part" tends to be a whole lot more fluid than it sounds. Just ask Kim Kardashian. Or Danny DeVito.

This week in news that proves the world has turned upside down, twice-divorced "hopeless romantic" Kim Kardashian is talking about what she'll do differently when she gets married "next time," while one of Hollywood's most enduring couples, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, have announced they're splitting up. Yup, go ahead and imagine a world where Kim Kardashian is getting married again and Danny DeVito is on the market. Because it's probably coming. Oh, yes, it's coming.

In the new issue of Tatler, Kardashian, who last year married Kris Humphries after knowing him eight months, broke up with him 72 days after her much-ballyhooed reality-television-event wedding, and is still not legally divorced, says, "When I look back at interviews I gave [about previous boyfriends] saying, 'We're talking about marriage, etc.,' it's embarrassing. And I really believed it at the time!"

But you guys, this time she means it. "It had always been my dream to have a big wedding, and when people said that I'd made it over the top for the show, that was just me: I am over the top," she explains. "But the next time, I want to do it on an island with just my friends and family and that's it." Kardashian has been dating Kanye West since earlier this year. She says, "This relationship is a different thing entirely … I can't even think about being with anyone else than the man I'm with." Definitely not the man she was married to 14 months ago.

Hilariously, in a video preview for the Tatler interview, Kardashian sports a very white, very bridal gown, is shown wearing other white gowns, and says, "It's kind of a different look for me." Kind of. Kind of not. They say second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience. But Kardashian seems determined to prove herself more the "three time's the charm" kind of gal.

Even if you agree with Jon Hamm's recent assessment that Kardashian is a " f***ing idiot," you've got to hand it to her for her determination to believe in the institution of matrimony, especially when even the old pros can't always make it last. When the news arrived Monday that Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman — who met over 40 years ago and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in January — were breaking up, it seemed a sad end to what was generally assumed to be a long and happy union. Yet the sentiment, summed up by an ABC News commenter, that, "Wow, they’re a little old to split up. Might as well hang in there at this point," reflects the absurdity of the illusion that duration equals happiness.

As I said two years ago when I wrote about Al and Tipper Gore's divorce and I still hold to be true, sticking it out is simply not in and of itself a noble way to conduct a relationship. There is no magic safe point after a marriage is impervious to divorce, any more than there's a set time period after which it isn't too soon for it either. To outside eyes, it may certainly seem that Kim Kardashian has a penchant for leaping hastily into commitment, and it's sad when a 67-year-old man and 64-year-old woman end a long relationship.

But marriage, even when it involves famous people, is an intensely private relationship. And sometimes, despite our best intentions, it just doesn't always endure. Sometimes it sputters out after 72 days and sometimes it dissolves after four decades and sometimes -- sometimes -- it lasts forever.  There's no too soon. There's no safe margin. There's just hope. There's just one day at a time, as long as love lasts.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Celebrity Danny Devito Divorce Keeping Up With The Kardashians Kim Kardashian Marriage