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An obsessive comparison of celebrity breakup statements: From Fergie and Josh to Brad and Angie

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Josh Duhamel and Fergie, who privately split earlier this year, announced their split on Thursday. The parents of son Axl vowed to always be a family. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ever since Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston announced their split 12 (!) years ago, we’ve become obsessed with breakup joint statements — the carefully worded, two to three sentence final kiss-offs announcing an uncoupling. You know what we mean: The decision was made with “thoughtful consideration” and they parted ways with “love,” “respect,” and “admiration” for each other, but also request “privacy” during the “difficult” time, especially for their children.

For a trip back, here was theirs:

Never forget! Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston vowed to “remain … caring friends” despite their split. It took a while to get there. (Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Entertainment)

When Fergie and Josh Duhamel announced the end of their marriage on Thursday, the language once again was very specific. It said, “With absolute love and respect we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year. To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public. We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family.”

Fergie and Josh’s statement after eight years of marriage:

Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Entertainment

The demise of Fergie and Josh got us thinking about the words and phrases we see most often in these breakup decrees. They all seem so similar — it’s almost as if there’s a kit they are forced to buy called How to Break Up When You’re a Celebrity, which includes an approved word list that can be used for the official announcement. So we thought we’d go through some of the most memorable partings from the past year to see the most used ones.

The couples whose statements we culled from were Josh and Fergie, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Flip or Flop‘s Tarek and Christina El Moussa, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac, Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox, and Angelina Jolie and Pitt. They were all issued jointly except for Brad and Angelina, who split almost a year ago, after a high-drama plane flight, and weren’t immediately on speaking terms.

The most popular words? Love, respect, family, separate, children, continue, time, couple, parents, raising, and privacy.

Behold — our celebrity breakup statement word cloud. (Image: Yahoo Celebrity)

Stars in a famous coupling can print it out and, if the day comes, just go through and circle 10 words and weave them together with some we’s and and’s for a statement.

Make that their publicists. Don’t think for a hot minute that stars themselves are the ones laboring over these. Inevitably there are many sets of eyes on each one before the celebs give the final OK and it’s made public because they know it will be dissected. No typos!

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber’s statement, after 11 years of togetherness, was a heartbreaker:

We’re still not over Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber. (Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Entertainment)

In fact, celeb handlers play a huge part in getting out the breakup news. They select which news outlet to share it with exclusively (favorites are celeb-friendly People and Entertainment Tonight). Tabloids never get any love — although they probably had the breakup scoop first. In the case of Pratt and Faris, there was no sharing with a news outlet. It was typed up as an iMessage and they shared it on social media, controlling the news themselves. So 2017.

In the case of the El Moussas, they were decidedly less media-savvy at the time. While publicists prefer to work to get ahead of the news, theirs was doing damage control as it got out that police were called after their relationship-ending blowout and Tarek took a gun with him out for a hike. “We had an unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago and the police were called to our house in an abundance of caution. There was no violence and no charges were filed”: that’s how their statement began before getting into the part about being “committed to our kids,” promising to act “civilly,” and “continue our professional life together.”

Yes, timing matters — a lot. There was a period when announcements were often made on a Friday — like Jen and Brad’s 2005 announcement we are so obsessed with and Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s conscious uncoupling. At the time, entertainment news shows were typically pre-filmed for the weekend, magazines and websites had skeleton staffs, and by Tuesday, when a lot of magazines closed, there were bigger things happening in the world. Speaking of timing, let’s not forget how Thanksgiving used to be a big time for split announcements. Just ask Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

But while timing is important, it’s not everything. The actual statements really set the tone for the split. Their purpose is to convince fans and the media that there’s nothing to see here — no drama — so just move along. Only they’re now all starting to blur together and seem a little meaningless.

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