6 Lessons Every Couple Can Learn From Brangelina’s Divorce

It’s impossible to escape reports about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s ongoing (and increasingly messy) split. While Brangelina’s divorce is the headlines, experts say non-celeb couples could learn a thing or two from their mistakes. 

Below, parenting, marriage and legal experts share six takeaways from the power couple’s marriage and separation. 

1. Every relationship is vulnerable, even the ones that appear perfect.

On the surface, Pitt and Jolie had the perfect life together: As a couple,they traveled the world to assist with humanitarian crises and co-starred in movies (albeit critically panned ones). They have six adorable kids, own multiple properties across the world ― and in their spare time, they even managed to produce a wine that was deemed the “best Rosé in the world” back in 2013.

But as their divorce proves, even golden couples have their issues, said Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado.

“Treat your marriage like it is delicate at all times – because it is,” he said. “Even though things might seem fine on the outside, it’s what you’re feeling inside that matters. Don’t ever make any assumptions about the health of your marriage.”

For a marriage to work, “you need to nurture it, work on it and always pay attention to it,” Anderson said. 

2. Second and third marriages are often harder than first. 

Couples in second or third marriages face a higher risk for divorce ― and this wasn’t the first marriage for either parties. Jolie was previously married Jonny Lee Miller in 1996 and then Billy Bob Thornton in 2000 ― the same year Pitt wed Jennifer Aniston. Four years later, Pitt and Aniston became embroiled in a highly publicized separation after he met Jolie on the set of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” 

That’s a rocky start for any couple― let alone one whose every move was covered by the tabloids, said Virginia Gilbert, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. 

“When you had rocky start like that, it’s easy to idealize your new partner’s good qualities while ignoring any relationship red flags,” she said. “Problems you tried to escape in your first marriage will likely manifest in subsequent relationships if you don’t resolve them.” 

3. If your marriage ends, try to keep the details private.

Though rumors about why Pitt and Jolie split turned ugly fast (there have been allegations of parental verbal abuse and substance use against Pitt), both parties were quick to release carefully crafted statements on the split and have stayed tight-lipped since. 

That’s a smart approach, said Karen Covy, a divorce attorney and mediator and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally.

“No one’s divorce is going to garner media attention like Brangelina’s, but there’s still plenty of people who will be sniffing around for information,” Covy said. “Like Brangelina, create a short statement about your divorce. (’My spouse and I are getting a divorce. I appreciate your concern and hope that you will respect our family’s need for privacy and space at this difficult time’), then stick to it.” 

That way, whenever your noisy neighbor or co-worker pries for details, you’ll have your spiel ready to go and won’t be caught off-guard.

“No one’s divorce is going to garner media attention like Brangelina’s, but there’s still plenty of people who will be sniffing around for information.
Karen Covy, divorce attorney

4. Hire the best attorney (or the best you can afford).

When it came time to file for divorce, Jolie found one of the best lawyers in the business: Laura Wasser, a famous-in-her-own-right divorce attorney whose represented Johnny Depp, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and Heidi Klum. Regular folks should do the same, and while they’re at it, try to stay out of court, said Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. 

“[Pitt and Jolie’s] attorneys will almost certainly try their best to keep this from ever going to court,” he said. “Good lawyers understand the enormous benefits of settlement, for big or small cases.”

He added: “Resolution without a knock-down trial is almost always better for the parties and certainly better for the kids. Seasoned, experienced lawyers can usually work together to agree on an outcome. They know what settlement is OK or within what would likely happen in court.” 

5. Protect your kids from parental conflict.

In her divorce filing, Jolie requested full physical custody of the couple’s six children, Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Vivienne and Knox. On Friday, it was reported that the pair had come to a temporary divorce agreement for the next three weeks. 

Regardless of who gets custody, keeping the kids out of the conflict is essential, said Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?

“You need to have sensitivity and objectivity about the children’s needs,” she said. “You want to tell your children what they need to know about changes in their lives without bad-mouthing their other parent. Remind them that they are loved regardless of what happens. Don’t rob them of their childhood by sharing adult information with them.” 

6. Your marriage may be over, but you’ll always be co-parents.  

Pitt and Jolie have both expressed a desire to put their family first ― a sentiment they should stick to if they want to be good co-parents, said Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

“Working on communication and compromise doesn’t end just because you take your ring off; it becomes even more important because the foundation of the marital friendship is shattered and the grace you once offered your partner is long gone,” she said. “I would highly recommend Pitt and Jolie ― and any divorcing couple ― get therapy as they work on their new evolving relationship as co-parents.”

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What It Takes For A Poor Black Kid From Chicago To Earn A College Degree

His father killed his mother when Robert Henderson was just an infant. His grandmother, who didn’t have more than a fifth-grade education, raised him and his six siblings. The family lived in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. 

Krishaun Branch grew up in the same neighborhood, in public housing with his mother and brother. Both of Branch’s parents have gang histories, and by the time Branch reached high school, he had also been involved in gang activities.

Henderson and Branch weren’t the type of kids who typically get into and graduate from college. And yet, despite many bumps in the road and thousands of dollars of student debt, both earned college degrees in four years. Their stories ― glimmers of hope for a struggling community ― are the subject of a recent PBS documentary called “All The Difference.”

The documentary follows the two young men through their senior year of high school and four years of college, including several moments when ― had they not had the right mix of luck, family support and resilience ― they might have easily fallen off track. For disadvantaged students like Henderson and Branch, the film shows, the combination of many little things that can make all the difference. 

“All The Difference” was also inspired by writer Wes Moore’s book, The Other Wes Moore. It tells the story of someone with the same name as the author, from the same neighborhood and background, who went down a vastly different path. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence for murder, while the author is a military veteran, former White House fellow and social entrepreneur.

Wes Moore and his mother, Joy Thomas Moore, served as executive producers on “All The Difference.” Together with filmmaker Tod Lending, they said they want the film to highlight the many structural barriers to success for low-income students of color. HuffPost recently spoke with them about making the documentary. 

How did Robert and Krishaun become the subjects of this documentary?

Tod Lending: They both represent their community in that they both come from very tough backgrounds. Both of them had entered high school two to three grades behind in reading, writing and math. We felt like these two young men, they have stories that we think a lot of young African-American men can relate to, coming from situations of poverty. We made it a real point to not select two guys who were considered exceptional students, who were, of course, going to make it through college.

We also wanted to tell a story that was not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story. The success that they ended up finding was a result of not only their own self-determination ― which, of course, that plays an important role ― but most importantly it was about the support systems and support structures around them.

Joy Thomas Moore: One of our goals in making this film is that we wanted to flip the script on who is considered college-worthy: Who do you expect to go to college? Who do you expect not to go to college? So many young men, early on, are told by those around them, their teachers, others in society, that they’re never going to make anything of themselves. 

What do you want the takeaway of this film to be for audiences?

JTM: People need to believe that kids who they might not assume can make it can, in fact, make it ― if we as a society put those opportunities in place.

TL: We want audiences to walk away with a sense of a counter-narrative of what we see when we think of young African-American men coming from backgrounds of poverty. Especially this year and in Chicago, we have just been inundated with negative media. It instills in the public a stereotype of young African-American men being violent and uneducated, unmotivated, uncaring. We desperately need these types of stories, like “All The Difference,” that present a different story of what’s going on in these communities. 

Wes Moore: We need people like Robert and Krishaun to win. Our communities are better, our society is better, our neighborhoods are better if students like them win. One of the things I really like about the film is the idea that oftentimes, a narrative about why people don’t make it through is ‘Oh well, they should have focused more or worked harder,’ or all these other false narratives that exist about all the challenges so many people are having. Is that a portion? Absolutely. But people have to understand why people don’t make it through ― it’s because structural barriers do exist. 

How are the boys doing now?

TL: They’re doing well. Krishaun is working at [his former high school] Urban Prep Academies in admissions and doing recruiting as well. He’s excellent at it ― the young men can really relate and identify with him.

Robert did really well at [the education-focused nonprofit] City Year ― he did a year of community service. Once he completed that, he went to Colorado to do more math tutoring with students coming from situations of poverty. He’s in transition right now. He’s been accepted into the Peace Corps, so he’s thinking about that. And then he’s also applied for the police academy in a suburb outside of Denver.

That’s the other beautiful thing about this film, and there’s no way we could have predicted this ― that the young men, upon graduating each with over $40,000 in debt, they decided to go into jobs that were public service oriented.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Weekend Roundup: When Negotiating With Terrorists Works

Former U.S. President George W. Bush once said, “No nation can negotiate with terrorists, for there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.” Numerous leaders have made similar statements.

And yet, democratic governments have negotiated with internationally designated terrorist groups, including with the Irish Republican Army, the Basque separatist group ETA and ― making history this week ― the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. On Monday, the Colombian government and the FARC signed a peace deal promising to end a 52-year war. The Colombian people will vote on the agreement Sunday and are expected to approve it.

Both the FARC and the government committed human rights violations and inflicted terror for decades. Many are celebrating the deal as the long-overdue end of a conflict that has left about 220,000 people dead and more than 6 million displaced from their homes. Others are criticizing the deal as too soft on the rebels who, if they confess their crimes, will avoid serving their sentences in jail and will instead have to carry out acts of reparation to their victims.

So when does it make sense to negotiate with terrorists? Several factors facilitated negotiating with the FARC. First, the group was in a weakened, war-weary state after a brutal U.S.-backed Colombian military offensive that started in 2000. Also, the FARC doesn’t have an apocalyptic goal like, say, the so-called Islamic State. Although its ideology took a backseat to the drug trade over the years, the FARC was born under a banner of rural land distribution reform for the poor. In response, as a part of the pending deal, the government pledged to better support rural communities and to improve land accessibility.

In other words, negotiating with terrorists entails the psychologically and politically challenging concession that, in some cases, they are not simply criminals but also warriors with a cause that can be partially accommodated. Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted the IRA regarded as common criminals. But the government needed to treat the group with more dignity than that before a peace deal could be negotiated.

One fear is that validating terrorists’ political goals also validates their violent means. However, this fear may be unmerited as long as the terrorists make enough concessions (maybe because they’re so weakened) that it’s clear they’re not being validated. Instead, the violent means to their end is being proven wrong, which, of course, is their crucial concession.

Sergio Munoz Bata asserts that U.S. military aid to Colombia ― through an initiative called Plan Colombia ― helped the country gain the upper hand against its FARC rebels, making negotiations possible. However, Bata notes, Plan Colombia was accompanied by egregious human rights violations and a failure to curb the drug trade and thus must be evaluated in its totality.

Reporting a WorldPost feature from remote southern Colombia, Sibylla Brodzinsky details the hopes and fears of a FARC squad commander as he prepares to leave behind guns and the drug trade to join society as a law-abiding citizen. Sara Elkamel, in collaboration with HuffPost international editions, brings us the voices of Colombians from various parts of the world who fled the civil war; they share a mix of hope and skepticism ahead of Sunday’s referendum vote.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim explains how peace in Colombia could lead to inclusive economic growth. World Reporter Nick Robins-Early explores the logistical challenges of implementing the ambitious deal.

A man well acquainted with the challenges of negotiating peace, former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres died at the age of 93 this week. WorldPost Editor-in-Chief Nathan Gardels contends that Peres never stopped searching for new solutions to old problems ― the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict chief among them.

From New Jersey, reporter Willa Frej finds that refugee resettlement agencies ― struggling to meet the U.S. quota ― have left some refugees living in poor conditions. U.S. President Barack Obama had promised to resettle 85,000 refugees by the end of the federal government’s 2016 fiscal year, which ends Friday. The U.S. came close to meeting its goal, with 83,661 refugees resettled, including more than 10,000 Syrians.

Still, Turkish leaders, among many others, are adamant that the U.S. and Europe are not doing nearly enough to help the 4.8 million refugees of the Syrian war, Ilgin Yorulmaz reports. From Amman, Dominic Graham of Mercy Corps laments that Aleppo residents are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, especially baby formula, but his organization can’t deliver any of it because ongoing airstrikes and ground clashes continue to make roads impassable.

Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off in the first debate this week. Howard Fineman, who’s been traveling to presidential debates since 1988, dubs Trump’s showing the “worst debate performance in modern times.”

“It was so bad that in a normal year, it would disqualify him from getting anywhere near the White House,” Fineman estimates. “But this is 2016, a year so weird, unsettled and unsettling, that even the spectacle of an unprepared and almost incoherent Trump, reeling from blow after blow from Clinton, may not be enough to slow him down.”

Berggruen Institute fellow Sam Fleischacker tells us that “for a large number of Americans, Trump represents a heroic rebel against what they see as a massive conspiracy — among scientists, historians, journalists and policy experts — that governs what is taken as ‘fact’ in America.”

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador calls for the global community to work together to put an end to tax havens as they expand and drive inequality. In a photo piece, reporter Roque Planas shows us what the search for Mexico’s missing 43 students looks like, two years later.

Reporter Kate Abbey-Lambertz describes a “smog vacuum” that aims to clean China’s air and turn the pollution it collects into jewelry. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden share with us a short film that puts a face to the prejudice felt by Chinese in Africa and Africans in China.

From New Delhi, Jeong In-seo reports on the “terminator train” that India has launched to combat dengue and chikungunya. To curb mosquito breeding, trucks spray insecticide on bodies of water along railway tracks.

Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at an embryo study that expands our understanding of how life begins.  

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Here’s Why Utah Is a Magnet for Tech Startups

By Michal Lev-Ram The secrets of the “Silicon Slopes.” Qualtrics, a “customer-service experience management” company that specializes in gathering customer feedback through online surveys, is a big deal in Provo, Utah. It now employs 1,200 people, claims 65% of the Fortune 500 as customers, and enjoys a valuation of more than $1 billion, earning it […]

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