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It appears the Oscar love curse is real

It’s called the “Oscar love curse”: it’s when you win an Academy Award only to lose the love of your life. And it may be more than just Hollywood mythmaking. German psychologist and couples therapist Diana Boettcher has crunched the numbers and reckons that the “Oscar love curse” is a thing.

She looked at those who won Oscars in the categories of “Best Actor in a Leading Role”, “Best Actress in a Leading Role”, “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” over the past 11 years and analysed changes to their relationship statuses shortly after.

It’s often assumed that female winners are more likely to divorce than male winners, however, according to Boettcher’s research, the hardest hit are actors who win  “Best Actor in a Leading Role”. Soon after the statuette is placed safely in the pool room, 36 per cent have called it quits with their long-term partners. Among them were Leonardo DiCaprio and Sean Penn. Even a nomination is bad news, with 27 per cent breaking up with long-term partners. This included James Franco and Ryan Gosling.

Actresses didn’t fare much better. Twenty-seven per cent of those who took home the prize for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” were newly single soon after as we saw with Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet.

“A successful career often stands in the way of relationship success,” says Boettcher via email.

However, these stats are not inconsistent with divorce rates across the general population. It may be that the “Oscar love curse” simply reflects the normal outcome of long-term relationships.


But Boettcher, who has worked as a relationship counselor with couples all over the world for 15 years, thinks there is more going on here.

Boettcher discovered that winners of the arguably less prestigious and less career enhancing award of “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” or “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” avoided the “Oscar love curse”. Only eight of the 88 women and eight of the 88 men nominated for the award ended in Splitsville.

It seems that the bigger the success, the bigger the relationship risk. Boettcher says that success often brings with it more success, which can chip away at the time and headspace available for a relationship.

“Partners can tolerate a busy spell at work from time to time but when a partner continues to put their career above their private life, the couple loses the emotional connection,” says Boettcher.

“You can see how the actors [who win an Oscar], then spend months on end solely focused on their careers. Unfortunately, that can lead to losing the emotional connection with a partner and once that’s gone, a relationship is inevitably heading for a breakup.”

Boettcher says that successful women tend to be better than successful men at striking a balance between their career and their relationship. However, women’s success can bring other problems: the threat their partner’s sense of masculinity.

“In this day and age it’s still not natural that the woman earns considerably more money than the man. And still, there are very few men who get along with that easily. It can only succeed if both partners are on an equal footing in private life, that means, if each one is being respected, esteemed and cherished for what he or she does and what he or she is,” she says.

But according to relationship counsellor Sonya Rhodes, successful Alpha women have a tendency to be attracted to, and hook up with, Alpha men. Such men, are not known for being satisfied with relationship equality — or being the less successful partner.

In her book, The Alpha Woman Meets her Match, Rhodes says that Alpha women need to rethink the characteristics they value in a partner and seek a Beta man.

“The Beta man is dependable, responsible and supportive,” writes Rhodes. “His ego doesn’t depend on scoring macho points. Clinical experience has shown me that [the Alpha male with Alpha female] partnership is at the greatest risk of divorce, because two Alphas will tend to compete for power and dominance.”

You may never be in the running for an Academy Award, but the lesson here is universal, that no matter how many accolades someone wins in life, they still need to invest in their relationship. Otherwise they lose.

Kasey Edwards is the author of Guilt Trip: My Quest To Leave The Baggage Behind. www.kaseyedwards.com