If celebrities can start over at any age, can we, too? These days the news is full of famous people happily starting second chapters – like Megan Fox with Machine Gun Kelly, Kourtney Kardashian with Travis Barker, and Kim Kardashian with Pete Davidson. So often we’re led to believe that, after a certain age, people are just stuck with their lot in life, however bad the job or relationship is. But these high-profile examples have emerged from periods of struggle to embrace what look like far happier, healthier relationships, and give us hope, too.
If celebrities can start over at any age, can we, too?
These days the news is full of famous people happily starting second chapters – like Megan Fox with Machine Gun Kelly, Kourtney Kardashian with Travis Barker, Kim Kardashian with Pete Davidson. All three of these women are mothers who experienced a relationship breakdown with their kids’ dad and are now glowing from falling in love with someone new.
“I definitely notice that Kim is happier. I think that she’s so much nicer now. Thank you, Pete!” - Kourtney Kardashian, The Kardashians, 1x08
They’re also doing this in their late 30s to 40s – an age that is still young but isn’t treated like that for women with families in our culture. Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, seems to be blissfully enjoying her literal second chance with Ben Affleck in her early 50s.
“With second chances, if you can get one, I highly recommend it.” - Jennifer Lopez, The View
So often we’re led to believe that, after a certain age, people are just stuck with their lot in life, however bad the job or relationship is. But why does that have to be true? These high-profile examples emerged from periods of struggle to embrace what look like far happier, healthier relationships. And their kids are adjusting to blended families in apparently positive ways.
So is it possible for the rest of us to get a new chapter if we don’t like the one we’re currently writing? Here’s our take on why the celebrity-starting-over trend is here to give us hope.
An Exciting Second Chapter
It’s refreshing to see today’s celebrity love reinventions because they run so counter to what we’re told women’s options are in a certain phase of life. The women in these couples are actually relatively young; but even recently, our culture dictated that this was too late to start over—especially because these women each have several children.
Pop culture is rife with the narratives that you don’t get to leave the person you have kids with, and that marriage pretty much has to be bad.
“I’m never voting again. Like marriage, no matter who you choose it turns out bad.” - Al Bundy, Married… with Children, 7x07
And even series that focus on single people use the specter of commitment as a way to scare characters.
Kramer: “What are you thinking about Jerry, marriage? Family?”
Kramer: “They’re prisons. Man-made prisons. You’re doing time.”
- Seinfeld, 7x01
A show like Kevin Can Fuck Himself posits a world where the only way to escape the misery of marriage is murder – simply being able to leave and start over feels unthinkable. We read arguments that it’s good to marry the wrong person and still make it work. And we’re told it’s even a moral imperative to stay in bad relationships “for the kids.”
Americans have long taken for granted that divorce is bad for children and should be avoided at all costs – but Slate reports that actually, academic research doesn’t support this. Not only do studies indicate that a high proportion of children of divorced parents have positive mental health and life satisfaction, but Slate also cites findings that “children whose high-conflict parents don’t split experience even greater behavioral problems.”
“The best thing you can do for your children is to minimize or manage or resolve the conflict between the parents.” - Dr. Paul Jenkins, Live on Purpose
In Hulu’s The Kardashians, it’s interesting to watch how even a woman as rich and famous as Kourtney Kardashian has to grapple with these longstanding but tired cultural narratives. For years on the family’s original show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, viewers followed the toxicity of her on-again, off-again relationship with the father of her kids, Scott Disick. So on The Kardashians, it can be really nice to watch Kourtney in a new relationship that appears genuinely happy, warm, and loving.
Her new husband, Travis Barker, has also dealt with his own long, complicated relationship with his ex, Shanna Moakler, and it feels like the fact that the couple is meeting a bit later in life is a plus – their maturity helps create a positive foundation between them. Meanwhile, their dynamic is free from baggage – whereas when couples have hurt each other over years, even if they do work to improve themselves, they’re still stuck with their shared history.
Still, in The Kardashians, we see Kourtney getting frustrated because her ex, Scott’s, feelings about her new relationship get to be center stage in the show – despite the fact that their relationship reportedly deteriorated due to Scott’s substance abuse problems and infidelities, and, more importantly, the two have been broken up for seven years. She explicitly says that the reality show isn’t telling the right narrative:
“It should be an empowering episode about me getting out of toxic relationships and really having this, like, fairytale love story.” - Kourtney Kardashian, The Kardashians, 1x09
Meanwhile, Kourtney’s sister Kim has had her own Ferris wheel to deal with in her ex-husband Kanye West. After leaving, Kim spent months dealing with Kanye’s increasingly stalkerish behavior towards her and her new boyfriend, Pete Davidson, which has only hammered home the importance of leaving. With all this context, it’s heartwarming and refreshing to see Kim back on her feet and building a new life for herself with someone who seems to treat her very well.
“The perfect word to describe Pete is genuine. I mean, I think just that I never knew you can just be so happy.” - Kim Kardashian, The Kardashians, 1x08
The details of Megan Fox’s relationship breakdown with her ex, Brian Austin Green, are less public – their estrangement may have been closer to what countless long-term couples experience. But what’s especially inspirational about Fox’s new chapter is that exciting new love with Machine Gun Kelly coincides with her return to the entertainment industry after she was largely blacklisted for being vocal about industry sexism.
Starting over also doesn’t necessarily have to mean a totally fresh start. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s first stint as Bennifer was an intense, highly public relationship that ended in part because of the extensive media scrutiny they received.
“I love Ben, he’s a great guy, but it was a lot for both of us to be under that type of siege for two years.” - Jennifer Lopez, The Graham Norton Show
But the two maintained a friendly and admirable relationship and continued to acknowledge their mutual respect. After Affleck’s failed relationship with Jennifer Garner and Lopez’s broken engagement to Alex Rodriguez, the two got back together, almost 20 years later – and finally got the wedding they called off back in the early 2000s. So the couple embodies the opportunity to get another chance with the one who got away – with the benefit of additional experience and perspective.
Ellen: “Would you ever have imagined that it comes full circle, it ends up like this?”
Jennifer Lopez: “No, you never could imagine something like that could happen. It’s a beautiful thing.”
- The Ellen DeGeneres Show
New Family Models
The biggest obstacle or complicating factor in starting fresh is the presence of children from previous relationships. Many of these celebrities are balancing finding new love as parents. Some of them are creating pretty large blended families.
To this day, there’s still plenty of societal pressure to stay in standard, nuclear families based on a foundation of single marriages. But actually, we’ve been accustomed to seeing healthy blended families since at least The Brady Bunch.
And plenty of these real-life examples give us inspiration that it’s possible to make any family structure work, especially in situations where divorced parents can maintain positive relationships.
Even after all of their difficulties, Kourtney and Scott Disick have been able to maintain an effective co-parenting relationship, navigating how to be a part of each other’s lives even amid new partnerships.
Likewise, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez have been able to maintain a large blended family, including positive relationships with their respective exes. And even in cases where co-parenting is more difficult, like in the publicly contentious relationship between Kim and Kanye, exes can still make an effort to be civil for the sake of their children.
Kim Kardashian: “As hard as it can be sometimes, I do try to ignore it and just try to do whatever’s best for the kids.”
Ellen: “That’s what I love about you.”
Kim Kardashian: “Take the high road.”
- The Ellen Degeneres Show
A Positive Example
Of course, these are wealthy celebrities who have the resources to leave toxic partners – and money is one of the primary reasons lots of people feel they have to stay in bad relationships.
Even so, leaving a broken relationship is usually really hard, especially if the choice isn’t mutual, and media scrutiny must make it more daunting. For any of us who might also be in unhealthy relationships, it can be truly inspirational to see others ending bad patterns and finding happiness.
For all that we’re warned about how terrible it could go if we don’t stick it out, these examples remind us that we only have one life to live, and our personal happiness is important for the well-being of our families, too.
While we can’t really know the details of any celebrity’s lives behind the curtain, the chemistry these couples share is tangible and infectious. They seem to be in relationships that aren’t just healthy and happy, but almost aggressively so, with a puppy love quality that comes through in their interviews, whether it’s Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly playfully making fun of each other, or Travis Barker giving a tour of his house.
Of course, it’s not like all these couples are just living in a fairytale. Travis Barker was recently hospitalized with pancreatitis, while he and Kourtney have struggled to conceive a baby together, and Machine Gun Kelly’s new documentary follows him through mental health struggles and other challenges.
“I’ve never seen anyone be able to self-sabotage more than me.” - Machine Gun Kelly, Life in Pink
But these trials have also allowed us to see how partners respond to adversity in genuinely supportive relationships, whether it’s the Kardashian-Jenner family showing up for Travis Barker or Megan Fox supporting Machine Gun Kelly in getting treatment.
Part of the downside of celebrity is that the public simultaneously knows a lot of things about you and doesn’t really know you at all. So there’s something heartwarming about seeing these famous couples experiencing one of the fundamental joys of a loving relationship: feeling known by another person.
Ultimately, the lesson we can take away from these relationships isn’t that finding someone new will fix everything, but that knowing what you want and being honest about pursuing it can mean making big changes—changes that may be rocky at first but that will, in time, be worth it.
Cornwall, Gail, and Scott Coltrane. “How Americans Became Convinced Divorce Is Bad for Kids.” Slate Magazine, 11 July 2022, https://slate.com/technology/2022/07/divorce-bad-for-kids-history.html.
Costanza, Justine Ashley. “Jennifer Lopez On Ben Affleck And ‘Argo’: ‘I’m Always Rooting For Him.’” International Business Times, 16 Jan. 2013, https://www.ibtimes.com/jennifer-lopez-ben-affleck-argo-im-always-rooting-him-1019770.
Harrison Warren, Tish. “I Married the Wrong Person, and I’m So Glad I Did.” The New York Times, 5 June 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/05/opinion/marriage-satisfaction-love.html.
InStyle Editors. “Jennifer Lopez in Her Own Words (and Everyone Else’s).” InStyle, 5 Apr. 2021, https://www.instyle.com/celebrity/jennifer-lopez/may-2021-cover.
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Tannenbaum, Emily. “Jennifer Lopez Thanks Ben Affleck for Being a ‘Selfless’ Father to Her Kids ‘Without Obligation.’” Glamour, 20 June 2022, https://www.glamour.com/story/jennifer-lopez-thanks-ben-affleck-for-being-selfless-father-to-her-kids-without-obligation.
Vargas, Alani. “Megan Fox Was ‘Dragged Through The Coals’ For Being Open About Her Mistreatment in Hollywood, Before #MeToo.” Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 22 June 2020, https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/megan-fox-was-dragged-through-the-coals-for-being-open-about-her-mistreatment-in-hollywood-before-metoo.html/.