Published January 13, 2015
From Tom and Nicole to Angelina and Billy Bob to ex-GE CEO Jack Welch and his wife, Jane, America seems to have an insatiable appetite for celebrity marriages gone bad.
But why does the public care so much? And what compels celebrities and other fabulously wealthy couples to engage in seemingly trivial tug-of-war battles over money when there seems plenty to go around?
Psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers says there's no mystery to the first question.
"We love to watch people succeed. But then we also love to see them fail," she said.
But the answers about why some famous couples choose to air their dirty laundry rather than keep it under wraps seem a bit more complicated.
Issues like a lack of trust, a breakdown in communications and "simple retribution" contribute to messy public splits, according to Neil Kozek, a matrimonial and family law attorney.
"The fine line between love and hate becomes even finer in the heat of an acrimonious break-up," he said in an e-mail interview.
For some, like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the price of an ugly public battle is too high. The Hollywood power couple kept the specifics of their divorce quiet, including the reasons behind their breakup and the details about child custody arrangements.
But some couples actually try to do the most damage to each other by suing in the court of public opinion.
The case of Jack Welch and his second wife, Jane, for instance, seems headed for the divorce Hall of Fame.
Thanks to numerous press revelations, the public knows all about Welch's affair that led to the dissolution of his 13-year marriage.
But much worse for Welch were revelations about his lavish lifestyle, such as use of a private jet and free tickets to Boston Red Sox games -- much of which was financed on the backs of General Electric shareholders.
So why doesn't Welch just settle? For some, said Kozek, it's all about winning.
"[They think] 'I can afford to litigate ... this expenditure will not change my life. Maybe if I play hardball, my spouse will cave in first and I will get away with paying less than I might otherwise have to pay if we go to court -- then I win,'" Kozek said.
Brothers speculated Welch's soon-to-be ex-wife, who is a lawyer, purposefully revealed the salacious details of their personal life to exact revenge.
There was "no possibility that Mrs. Welch would settle quietly," Brothers said. "There's a lot of human behavior that finds revenge very exciting, very valuable, very comforting."
But whether Mrs. Welch was out for revenge or simple justice, the public has gobbled up the gossip.
In the end, Kozek said, following the unraveling of a celebrity marriage can make average people feel better about their own lives.
"We think, well, I may not have a penthouse on Park Avenue and I don't run a Fortune 500 company. But at least my spouse is home with me at night … and I'm happy."