What’s Behind the Recent Rash of Celebrity Breakups?

No question about it, 2010 will go down in celebrity-news annals as The Year of the Breakup. Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman. Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Tony Parker and Eva Longoria. And as of yesterday, Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds have thrown their marriage upon the ever-increasing ash heap of famous relationships that have bitten the dust in the past 12 months.

What’s to blame for the current sad state of celebrity unions? In an effort to make sense of this alarming trend, Celebuzz contacted relationship expert and therapist Trina Dolenz, author of Retool Your Relationship.

While Dolenz sees specific differences in Reynolds and Johansson’s upbringings that may have led to difficulties in their marriage, she opines that the couple’s troubles might stem from a very common dilemma: They just haven’t put in the necessary work to overcome their relationship’s rough spots. The couple married in September 2008, meaning that their marriage most likely hit the point, Dolenz says, when idealism begins to give way to reality:

“They’ve had a very short marriage. I would say that these two have gotten over their honeymoon phase….They’ve hit the work of their relationship, which is a lot of what happens—they suddenly start all of the reasons that they’re together, and out come all of the disappointments, the disillusionment, and the cracks in the woodwork. And so many couples, celebrity or non-celebrity, throw the towel in.”

Unfortunately, Dolenz notes, celebrities, with their privileged lives, aren’t particularly prone to heavy lifting, in relationship maintenance or otherwise:

“Remember, celebrities are used to having everything brought to them on a plate. They’re not used to doing very much hard work, and [marriage requires] a huge amount of compromise and hard work.”

Another factor working against famous couples such as Reynolds and Johansson is professional competitiveness and a craving for the spotlight, which has a way of creeping into and infecting a relationship. Notes Dolenz,

“[Reynolds and Johansson are] both heavily into their careers; they’ll be struggling with who’s the most important in the relationship. They’ll be having a power struggle, so they’re figuring, who’s going to win that power struggle, who’s going to be the more successful in the relationship, who’s going to give up more time to the other—I imagine those are the kind of arguments they would be having. That’s where things can go horribly wrong.”

But why, suddenly, does it seem that celebrity relationships are dropping like flies these days? Dolenz contends that shifting societal mores may play a part—along with a heavy case of “celebrity-see,celebrity-do”:

“I think it’s a domino effect…[Celebrities] see someone else has the courage to [break up], then somebody else copies and thinks, ‘Well, that was alright. It becomes the norm. [In the past] you had to perpetuate the myth, and you had to stay together; otherwise your box-office draw would go down. But now, it’s been shown that it doesn’t actually dent your cachet; you can split up for whatever reason and it won’t hurt your career.”

As a result, Dolenz predicts, “We’re going to see more of it, I think.”