In the early 2000s, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were considered the “it” married couple in Hollywood and maintained the status for several years. Beautiful, successful, and clearly in love, that is until Brad met Angelina Jolie.

Their marriage quickly fell apart. The press thrived on painting Jen as a scorned woman, holding timeless bitterness towards her ex and the woman he left her for. Inevitably, the Angelina and Jennifer rivalry was becoming a popular, almost inevitable subject of discussion. The media obssessively focused on Jen’s loneliness and her lack of luck in love.

Many publications took the initiative to impose their interpretations of Brad and Jennifer’s relationship post-divorce. After all, it was very lucrative to exploit the story, which had made waves in the entertainment world.

Yet, the reality is not as dramatic as it looks. Fast forward to 2020, and both Jennifer and Brad are now divorced from their recent partners. And their reunion at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards proves that maybe, we have been fed the wrong story all along.

Brad and Jennifer’s Hollywood start

It began 22 years ago, in 1998, when Brad Pitt, then 35, and, Jennifer Aniston 29, went on their first date after, according to the rumours, being set up by their agents.

“It was weird…That was a really easy evening,” Jen said of the date in a 2004 interview. “That was really fun.” The couple took it public in 1999 when they attended the primetime Emmy awards together. In July of 2000, they got married.

The next few years filled tabloids with photos of the iconic couple at various events. Pitt even made a cameo on Friends. In 2004, Jen told The Guardian that she was even ready to start a family with Brad.

Their 5-year marriage took a drastic turn

Everything soon fell apart. Brad met Angelina Jolie while filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 2004, and they fell in love despite him being still very much married. They were both adamant that things had developed organically.

Because of the film we ended up being brought together to do all these crazy things, and I think we found this strange friendship and partnership that kind of just suddenly happened. I think a few months in I realized, ‘God, I can’t wait to get to work.

The following year, Jennifer spoke about the heartbreak with Vanity Fair, in an article that called her “unsinkable.” Her somewhat positive reaction only served to crystallize the public’s support for her.

The world was shocked, and I was shocked. I can’t say it was one of the highlights of my year. Who would deal with that and say, ‘Isn’t that sweet? That looks like fun!’? But sh*t happens. You joke and say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’

Brad and Jen are both back to square one

Pitt went on to share six kids with Angelina and eventually married her. Meanwhile, in 2011 Jennifer started dating Justin Theroux after working on the film Wanderlust together. After four years together, they also got married.

However, both couples were not meant to last. In 2016, Angelina filed for divorce from Brad. This prompted a surprising turn of event: in 2017, Brad was confiding in Jennifer of all people.

According to Us Weekly, Pitt tracked down her number through a “tangled web” of contacts to wish her a happy birthday in February, and they reportedly started talking after that.

Interestingly, soon after, in 2018, Jen and Justin also announced that they were getting divorced. For the first time in nearly 20 years, Jennifer and Brad are single at the same time.

But they have proven us wrong many times before

Brad and Jennifer’s reunion at the 2020 SAG Awards has had the whole world buzzing. The moment itself was wholesome and heartwarming to witness. After all, we have spent years reading up on their supposed tensions.

Jennifer had just won the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for The Morning Show. Brad took the time to watch her acceptance speech while he was backstage so he would not miss it. When she joined him there, both of them embraced each other and surprised the whole world.

But this isn’t the first time the couple has reconnected since their 2005 breakup. Brad and Jen have actually been friends for a few years. Brad was invited to her 50th birthday party and also attended a Christmas party in her home back in December 2019.

Aniston and Pitt have long spoken about their relationship with mutual admiration and respect. “My marriages, they’ve been very successful, in [my] personal opinion,” Aniston said in a People interview, referring to her marriages to Pitt and Justin Theroux.

And when they came to an end, it was a choice that was made because we chose to be happy, and sometimes happiness doesn’t exist within that arrangement anymore.

Jennifer Aniston to People

Pitt was also quoted at the beginning of award season saying he expected to run into Aniston while on red carpets. “I’ll run into Jen, she’s a good friend. Yeah,” Pitt told Entertainment Tonight on the Golden Globes’ red carpet. Pitt then joked, “The second most important reunion of her year? I understand. That was a play on Friends. They were saying that.”

For Jennifer, her divorces were a natural answer to a situation that would have eventually ended up being negative. “I would not stay in a situation out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being able to survive,” she said. “

Her divorces were “not a failure” and to frame them that way would be “very narrow-minded thinking” and a disservice to her. After all, who would know better than the person involved?

Can they reconnect again? What do experts think?

Whether they remain friends or decide to try their hand at a romantic relationship again is something only Brad and Jennifer can know. However, we can learn a lot from their complex past.

“It’s been 15 years since Brad and Jen divorced, and if they’ve used that time to grow and heal, it’s certainly possible to rekindle something and rewrite their history,” said Rachel DeAlto, JD, CPC, CHT, a relationship expert, coach and speaker.

However, one major concern would be Jen’s ability to trust Brad. “Infidelity leads to heartbreak when it happens privately, but to experience it on such a public stage can be beyond devastating. It’s possible, but difficult, to truly forgive and move forward,” said DeAlto. Jen’s heart and head may need to make sure they’re on the same page.

A true connection may never die, but it also doesn’t mean the relationship is good or healthy for them.

Our souls have many mates, with purposes that range from lessons, to companionship, to a lifetime of love. It’s our job to decipher whether following that pull is truly good for us.

Rachel DeAlto

It’s important to remember to avoid the temptation to reunite with a partner and expect that things will be different because your love will change the other person. “Getting together this way is likely to re-create the same issues that led to the end of the relationship the first time around, with more hurt feelings,” said Katie Lear, LPC,  a licensed therapist in private practice.

Lear also sees the evidence of change, which can be an indicator of the strength of future relationships. As she says, “In Brad’s case, however, there’s evidence that he is making a good faith effort to change: he’s attended AA and focused on his sobriety. This could really strengthen his next relationship.”

Forgiveness does not need outside validation

Jen and Brad have been through stormy relationships, that’s true on both sides and hopefully they’ve come through these relationships stronger and wiser. Brad has also evolved independently since his split and so has Jennifer. Their ability to retain a friendship against the endless waves of tabloid speculations certainly indicates it.

Both have Brad and Jennifer have also evolved independently since their split. “However, while these two parted ways, it appears somehow, they found or held onto a friendship. They worked through the trauma of the past and both appear to be able to let go of the past and the ability to move forward,” said Dr. Wendy O’Connor LMFT, PsyD., Relationship Expert  & CEO of Traffic Light Life Coaching Centre. 

Jennifer’s comfort with being single and the peace she has found regarding her two divorces really demonstrate a healthy move from the past. On the other hand, by becoming sober and addressing his addiction, Brad has also made tremendous steps in the right direction.

They have been able restructure the “foundation of forgiveness” and the ability to show affection, appreciation and support for one another, according to O’Connor.

A happy ending they don’t need us to confirm

“Throughout the Brad and Jen chronicles, we have been consumers of a romantic story that is riddled with heartbreak and drama and we need to see our main characters live happily ever after,” said Juliann Rasanayagam M.A. R.P., a registered psychotherapist at Empathic Counselling Centre in Toronto.

In a world so intense and heavy emotionally with politics, technology and negative world events, we need love, happy endings, hope for the future. And a healthy friendship after all they went through is a great message for their fans. It is no wonder that their reunion has had the whole world talking.

However, if we should learn anything from their story, it is that we should avoid projecting any kind of expectation on Brad and Jennifer. They have proven the world wrong by resisting the general narrative of the media and showing their mutual love and respect in such a public way.

By hoping for a romantic reunion, the public is missing out on the already inspiring message behind their friendship and reunion. That is already an inspiring lesson and learning moment for us all. Finding friendship and common ground with an ex-partner can be difficult, at times, even impossible.

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