What Does 'Irreconcilable Differences' Mean Anyway?

What are irreconcilable differences — and why do so many famous couples have them?

Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom

Call it a stereotype, but most celebrity marriages are predicted to end in celebrity divorces.

And a big chunk of those celebrity divorces will cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split, leading to a lot of speculation: Does it mean someone cheated? Money problems? Was it all for press and the love contract ended? What does it all mean?!

According to marriage consultant and life coach Lesli Doares, celebs use the "irreconcilable differences" excuse for the same reasons as the non-famous population.


"Celebrities are just people with all the problems, challenges, traumas, emotional wounds, and insecurities that are found in every relationship," Doares explains.

However, there's a big differences: These celebs are coping with the problems, challenges, traumas, emotional wounds and insecurities in the public eye. "Some of these very things can be what drove them to their public life in the first place. The demands of their careers often put their relationships at risk in ways that the average couple doesn't face. They have to deal with the media having them under a microscope," Doares says. "They may spend large chunks of time away from home and their families. Some spend time in close quarters with other people creating an imagined world where they are expected to be different people. These are challenges that most of us never have to worry about."


That explains why a lot of married celebs hook up with their co-stars, right Brad Pitt? Just sayin'!

So why don't celeb couples just cop to the fact that they found someone new or just, well, have issues?

Well, that's partly because that's just not an option in the paperwork — and they also don't necessarily need us to know all of their dirty laundry. (Except maybe The Real Housewives Of Wherever You're Too Broke To Reside. They want you know everything.)

"I find this term a bit of a cop out because most of those couples never actually make an effort to reconcile the differences," Doares said. "It's usually a catch all for when one person wants to end the relationship and the other doesn't. The egos of celebrities may make it harder for one, or both, to accommodate to the other or to see their own responsibility in the difficulties a relationship may face."


It's not just a cop out for the sake of being a cop out, though. "I also think it can be used to protect the children and, maybe, reputations. If adultery, abuse, or addictions are present, it may be a way of minimizing the damage," Doares explained. "This is true if it can impact the financial stability of one of the partners, which can impact the financial future of both. Celebrities can certainly have a higher stake in this protection than the common couple."

So what can actually be considered "irreconcilable differences?" 

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There are examples, and they're pretty legit. "There are some things that can't truly be resolved," Doares says. "Wanting children is one, and that is one of the reasons Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston broke up and he is more successful with Angelina Jolie."


Another irreconcilable difference? Demons. No, not the Paranormal Activity kind — though, I mean, if your spouse was possessed by an evil spirit, that's fair game, too. But Doares means a different kind. "Addiction is another area that is difficult on a relationship if that person won't get help." That explains Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom's split: He was rumored to be doing serious drugs (like crack cocaine) and refusing rehab.

"Serial infidelity is another — one person may not be interested in monogamy and the other is," Doares added. Hello, Ramona and Mario Singer! (And Kardashian and Odom — he was rumored to cheat on the reality starlet during his binges.)

There are a few other differences that can't be reconciled. "Unresolved health issues and personality disorders also are impediments to a good marriage," Doares said. "Again, one can always choose to stay; whether that is healthy is another issue, especially if there is abuse present. Any other reasons, including one-time infidelity, can be addressed and resolved if both really want it to work out."


So what do you do upon realizing you and your partner have irreconcilable differences? "It is not a good idea to think you can sacrifice yourself for your partner or the relationship," Doares advises. "A good faith effort to find that healthy solution is always good, but it may not be possible. Only after resolving all of your emotions around that issue, and when you can truly wish the other well, are you ready to move on. Sometimes, however, you have to go through that process without your partner doing the same and that's okay."