In February, the reality star, 40, filed for divorce from the rapper, 43, after seven years of marriage, requesting joint custody of their four children, North, 7, Saint, 5, Chicago, 3, and Psalm, 2. While Kim cited “irreconcilable differences" in divorce papers and the couple is on "amicable" terms, the marriage was stressed by West's mental health challenges and his "frustrating" Twitter rants about his wife.
On last week's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the SKIMS founder broke down in tears over the marriage. "I just, like, honestly can't do this anymore," she told sisters Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. "Why am I still in this, like, place where I'm stuck? For years. Like, he goes and moves to a different state every year. I have to be, like, together, so I can raise the kids, you know? He's an amazing dad. He's done an amazing job."
Kim added that West's attachment to Wyoming, where they purchased a multi-million dollar ranch in 2019, further strained the marriage. "I think he deserves someone that can go support his every move, and go follow him all over the place and move to Wyoming," she told her sisters. "I can't do that. He should have a wife that supports his every move and travels with him and does everything, and I can't. I feel like a failure that it's, like, a third marriage. Yeah, I feel like a loser. But I can't even think about that. Like, I want to be happy."
Before marrying West in 2014, Kim wed former NBA player Kris Humphries in 2011 (famously splitting after 72 days) and music producer Damon Thomas in 2000, whom she divorced in 2004. And while Kim has referred to her first two marriages as spontaneous and ill-informed decisions, the impact of her third divorce, while older and a mother, weighs heavier on her heart.
The impact of divorce is significant for spouses and their children, according to various global studies — a 2018 paper published in the journal Demography found that divorced women experience declines in household income, standards of living and risk poverty (a fate Kim, with a reported net worth of $1 billion, is obviously spared). And divorced men tend to suffer health-wise; according to Harvard Health Publishing, married men are healthier and live longer than divorced, widowed or never-married men, although the university questions marriage as the sole explanation. There are also nuanced challenges for children of divorced couples who face threats to their economic security, emotional wellbeing and academic success, per a 2014 literature review.
But the emotional charge of divorce, the rate of which is 2.7 per 1,000 people in the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can feel like defeat. In 2016, when Drew Barrymore divorced Will Kopelman, the father of her two children, she told Chelsea Handler on the Netflix series Chelsea, "When you break up with somebody, you're like, 'Yeah, that didn't work.' When you get divorced, you're like, 'I'm the biggest failure. This is the biggest failure,'" she said on the episode. "It's so shameful and hard to actually go through that, even privately."
Reese Witherspoon alluded to personal blame after her 2008 divorce from Ryan Phillippe. “There are things in my life that are hard to reconcile, like divorce,” she told Parade that year. “Sometimes it is very difficult to make sense of how it could possibly happen. Laying blame is so easy. I don’t have time for hate or negativity in my life. There’s no room for it. When you make wrong choices, you have to take responsibility for them: ‘What part of this do I own?'" And Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's "conscious uncoupling" in 2014 made the actress struggle. "It was very challenging for me in terms of having to re-assess what that said about me, ideas that I had about that kind of failure," she told the New York Post the following year.
Although people are getting married and having babies later than ever, marriage is still positioned as a life milestone — the pressure to wed, the significance of engagement rings and the associated celebratory traditions — so divorce brings emotional upheaval, even when the decision is mutual or brings peace to both parties.
And for women, whose emotional regulation has been shown to predict marital satisfaction and who disproportionately keep their households running with cleaning and childcare, that loss can be profound, points out Dawn Brown, a psychiatrist in Houston, Texas. Even if, and especially when, you're a celebrity.
"A public divorce could make some feel as though they're on trial because everyone has an opinion," Brown tells Yahoo Life. "But divorce is a [private] grieving process — for oneself or their children, friendships, business deals and family dynamics." In Kim's case, her divorce unfolds while her personal goal of becoming a lawyer (against public expectations of a reality star, adds Brown), plateaus. "I am a failure," Kim said this month, after failing the baby bar exam. "To not pass gets your spirits down. It makes you want to give up," amid another loss: the last season of KUWTK.
And people with multiple marriages under their belt could experience additional guilt when breaking the news to loved ones. "I don't really want to explain, like, who Kris Humphries is,” said Kim, explaining that she prefers to supervise her children's consumption of old episodes that chronicle the marriage. "I'm just not ready for the kids to see it yet." According to Brown, there might have been pressure for Kimye to last.
However, Brown stresses that marriage is a joint commitment. "We shouldn't think of divorce as failure in the context of two people," she says, adding that splitting up can sometimes lead to happiness, relief or empowerment.
And Kim seems to be flourishing, a source told People. "She's very happy and convinced that she made the right decision."
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