After meeting at the 1987 premiere of Stakeout, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis spent just a handful of weeks getting to know each other before saying “I do” and getting pregnant within four months of that first encounter. 

13 years and three kids later, the couple divorced in 2000, but didn’t go their separate ways. Instead, they mastered the art of coparenting as they put their three daughters — Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah — at the top of their priorities list.

What they lacked in romantic compatibility they more than made up for with the perfect parenting partnership and so, they’ve managed to maintain an unbreakable friendship to this day. 

Just how unbreakable? Willis attended Moore’s 2005 wedding to Ashton Kutcher; Moore was on-hand at Willis’ 2019 vow renewal ceremony to wife Emma Heming. They regularly celebrate their kids’ milestones as a family. Most recently, Willis and his wife supported Moore at the launch of her memoir, Inside Out.

What we can learn from Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’ special relationship:

What went wrong? 

Demi Moore and Bruce Willis have refused to go into detail about the real reason behind their split (which may be a key to their success in and of itself), but based on various interviews and Moore’s 2019 memoir, Inside Out, they were simply incompatible. 

“We had a whirlwind, truncated infatuation that morphed into a full-on family, all in our very first year,” Moore revealed in the book. “When reality set in, I don’t know if we really knew each other.”

A lot of the friction had to do with balancing their personal lives with their budding careers. “He was proud of my work […] but not sure he was comfortable with the attention that came with it,” she elaborated, noting that he would have preferred for her to put acting on the back burner and become a stay-at-home mom. 

When she accepted a role in 1989’s We’re No Angels opposite Robert De Niro and Sean Penn, Willis reportedly told her, “This is never going to work if you’re off shooting a film.”

And when she became a megawatt A-lister with the release of Ghost the following year, he didn’t celebrate, but rather told his wife, “I don’t know if I want to be married.”  

Sharing his side of the truth with Rolling Stone, Willis refused to identify a specific catalyst to their divorce, saying, “I haven’t figured it out yet.”

He did place some of the blame on media, however, noting, “It’s difficult for any couple to keep their marriage intact under the best of circumstances, and our marriage was under a huge magnifying glass all the time. So it might have been a little more difficult for us.”  

Although they weren’t compatible as lovers, they were the perfect match as parents.

“I think both of us from the outset were more passionate about having kids than we were about being married,” Moore admitted.

What went right?

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin may have coined the term “conscious uncoupling,” but Demi Moore and Bruce Willis have been a prime example of what that actually means for nearly two decades. 

First of all, when they called it quits, they did a rare and commendable thing: they kept quiet. Despite making headlines, they didn’t talk about their separation and, rather than airing their dirty laundry or grievances out in the public sphere, they kept details of the divorce under wraps. Nor did they ever throw shade at each other.

As Moore wrote in Inside Out, “I think Bruce was fearful at the beginning that I was going to make our split difficult, and that I would express my anger and whatever baggage that I had from our marriage by obstructing his access to the kids — that I’d turn to all of those ploys divorcing couples use as weapons. But I didn’t, and neither did he.”

In doing so, they put their children’s needs first, ensuring they wouldn’t be dragged into a media frenzy. 

Behind closed doors

What’s more, not only did Moore and Willis keep things civil in front of prying eyes, they also worked hard to maintain a relationship behind closed doors, which morphed into an even stronger bond.

Explaining how they did it, Moore admitted it certainly “wasn’t easy at first, but we managed to move the heart of our relationship, the heart of what created out family, into something new that gave the girls a loving, supportive environment with both parents.” 

It’s a funny thing to say, but I’m very proud of our divorce.

She continued, “We felt more connected than we did before the divorce.”

In 2015, Huffington Post even dubbed Moore and Willis “divorce all-stars” and “co-parenting BOSSES” — and with good reason.

Their efforts clearly paid off given their ability to still spend time together and support each other, not to mention their kids couldn’t be happier. 

Their powerful friendship paid off

Speaking with Larry King in 2015, Rumer praised her parents’ efforts: “I never had to split up vacations or split up birthdays. They always made an effort to do all of the family events still together and made such an effort to still have our family be as one unit, as opposed to two separate things, which I think really made an impact.”

In a 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, Willis showcased just how much of an effort he and his ex did make and how greatly it paid off, as he gushed, “I still love Demi. We’re very close. We have three children whom we will continue to raise together, and we’re probably as close now as we ever were.”

We realize we have a lifelong commitment to our kids. Our friendship continues. The institution has been set aside.

Yes, breaking up isn’t easy and it can be an incredibly emotional time filled with anger and sorrow, but taking a step back and actively choosing to walk the higher ground comes with incredible benefits. Especially when kids are involved.

Working towards friendship with an ex can create a warm and nurturing environment, stripped of unnecessary drama, in which you — and all those around you — can thrive.

More lessons about breakups: