Why Hollywood Is the Land of Friendly Exes

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux did it. Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki too. Inside the art of staying on good terms with an ex long after the love has fizzled.

Precisely five hours and 16 minutes after joining Instagram last October, Jennifer Aniston had reached 1 million followers. An impressive feat and a new record, besting none other than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but she was more focused on the ones that hadn't subscribed. 

Because she had already double-tapped ex-husband Justin Theroux, one of 452 accounts she currently follows, it was easy to notice he hadn't responded in kind. "She actually texted me," the actor revealed to Entertainment Tonight. "She said, 'You haven't followed me,' and I said, 'Of course I followed you!' and she's like, 'No you haven't!" The Lady and the Tramp actor soon deduced that the mix-up was due to the crash Aniston caused when eager fans scrambled to see what she would add to the platform. "I realized I was one of the people caught in the glitch," he continued. "So I had followed, commented…"

And he did so again, his "Woot woot! #first" was meant to be tongue-in-cheek "because I was, like, the 40-trillionth-billionth person to comment," he told Access Hollywood, "and I think she had only been on a couple hours."

He continued to comment on successive posts, including her recent Oct. 23 reminder to vote, so safe to say they really meant it when they said they looked forward "to continuing our cherished friendship."

With the entertainment industry's insular nature, navigating a relationship in Hollywood is a bit like dating a coworker. You're probably going to have to keep working together—and there's no HR department to intervene. 

That's quite literally the case for many former pairs, movie and television sets being hot beds for romance and the most likely place for celebrities to meet a mate, right ahead of a publicist set-up. And while for most people, spending their days face-to-face with a person who just torpedoed their heart seems as traumatic as pulling off their fingernails, celebrities do it on the regular, often continuing an onscreen romance long after the love has fizzled IRL. 

Penn Badgley noted on Watch What Happens Live in 2015 that after he and Gossip Girl paramour Blake Lively split they were "consummately professional, to be honest," as they continued to work together for another two years. "I think we should both pat ourselves on the back for getting through it—because, you know, anything is complicated in that way, and we handled it."

Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki did more than just handle it. For some nine seasons after ending a two-year relationship that was so quiet no one really knew it was happening, the pair continued to act as partners, and then husband and wife, on Big Bang Theory.

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The key, Galecki shared on The View, was "massive doses of mutual love and respect." Convincingly acting out a love that no longer exists isn't easy, he continued, "but with those two ingredients, pretty much anything is possible." Though the show has since wrapped, the two remain tight, Galecki even turning up at Cuoco's 2018 vows to Karl Cook. As he put it, "We're dear, dear friends." 

Even if they're not actually coworkers, it's fairly inevitable that famous exes will cross paths at some point, except instead of it being at a coffee shop while wearing their rattiest sweats like us normals, it'll be on a red carpet with dozens of cameras trained on them to capture the moment. (Hi, Brad and Jen!)

And if they don't at least make the effort to say hello, everyone will be talking about how they avoided each other, so best to just engage in a bit of small talk and get on with it. At least they're dressed for the occasion. 

And if the relationship progressed far enough along that kids were involved, well, that's another layer of careful communicating that Hollywood exes tend to ace. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin and Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are the gold standards, but there are plenty of others in their conscious uncoupling club. 

Nothing like knowing the whole world is watching to motivate healthy coparenting. 

"We said, 'We need to try to create something for the kids where they feel like they're gaining something rather than losing something,'" Kate Hudson told Allure in 2015 of continuing to hang—and even vacation—with former fiancé Matt Bellamy, dad to her middle child, 9-year-old Bingham. "Kids just want to see their parents be cool. Everybody's cool; everybody's good."

And perhaps that's part of it too. On the whole, celebrities tend to be a little more suave, a bit more urbane—or at least really good at acting that way. So in honor of National Text Your Ex Day Oct. 30 (a holiday you should likely skip unless you're really, truly on good terms) check out these stars who seamlessly made the transition from partner to pal with nary a headline suggesting otherwise.

No, they are never, ever, ever getting back together. But at this point—between the birthday parties, the friendly embraces and even freaking acting out a sexual fantasy in a star-studded virtual reading of Fast Times at Ridgemont High—it feels like the former Hollywood golden couple is just taunting us. 

You know you're cool when you can pop into your ex's talk show and give him a hard time. Such was the case when Silverman turned up on Kimmel's stage to chat about her new show, I Love You, America and his "cute," "bright," "funny" wife Molly Kimmel. "It's not fair!" she cracked. "She gets, like, new woke Jimmy. I had Man Show Jimmy."

 

TBH, we might still be mourning this relationship harder than either of its participants. Because when Faris—now engaged to cinematographer Michael Barrett—heard that Pratt was set to wed Katherine Schwarzenegger in 2019, she offered to officiate. She even sent over a gift after the newlyweds welcomed daughter Lyla in August 2020. Thrilled for son Jack to become a big brother, a source told E! News, Faris "is very supportive." 

The post-split vacation—a true sign you're set to nail the conscious uncoupling trend. After the spouses of 10 years announced they separated in March 2014, they headed to the Bahamas for a family getaway with their two kids, Apple and Moses.

It would have been super easy for the exes' relationship to become a flop. But more than four years after a messy split, the HGTV stars are still killing it at two projects: parenting kids Taylor and Brayden and turning run-down properties into someone else's dream home.

Literally "best friends" as the rocker put it in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the parents to actress Zoe Kravitz still consider themselves kin. "We're one big happy family," Kravitz said of his ex, now wed to Jason Momoa. "It's beautiful, and it just shows you what can be done."

Despite ending their engagement in December 2014, the former couple continued to celebrate the holidays together in Aspen, Colo. 

Since their 2015 breakup, the parents to Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel have hit the conscious uncoupling trifecta: Joint vacations, shared holidays and public displays of admiration with Affleck dubbing his ex "an amazing mother" during a 2016 interview with E! News. 

Nina and Ian may have called it quits in 2013 after three years of dating, but they've remained close friends since then. In 2014, the Vampire Diaries star started dating Nikki Reed and tied the knot later that year. Naturally, Dobrev befriended the Twilight actress.

The two called it quits in July 2016 after five years together. The singer said on SiriusXM's The Howard Stern Show the following October that she's "very close" to Kinney, adding, "He's been my lover and a friend for so long," she said. "We love each other. That's it."

The Office's on-and-off pairing remained so tantalizingly close after the series wrapped in 2013 that even Kaling gets why people are still shipping them. "If I was on the outside looking at it, I would think the same thing," she told GoodHousekeeping.com in 2019 of naming him godparent to her eldest. "But the truth is that B.J. is so much more like family now than a platonic friend. He's the godfather to my daughter, he comes over like once a week. Sometimes he'll come over just to hang out with her."

Since their 2014 split, the parents to 7-year-old Sebastian have been the very model of a healthy relationship. "It's not about your feelings, it's not about what they're doing in their personal life, it's about the kids," Rose explained to Us Weekly. "Wiz and I, we talked about that very early on." Each partnered up, they're both friendly with the new additions. "I'm very close to his girlfriend, Aimee [Aguilar]," the model continued. "If I can't get Wiz on the phone if he's in studio or something, I always call Aimee and she'll put me on FaceTime with Sebastian. It's just cool. You just gotta let all the bulls–t go and make the kids happy."

Things are so rosy between the former spouses, who welcomed son Flynn in 2011, that the model was among the first to congratulate his fiancée on her new little Bloom. "I'm so happy for you guys," Kerr wrote after Katy Perry gave birth to Daisy in August 2020. "Can't wait to meet her."

The exes had no trouble coparenting their son, Bronx, after finalizing their divorce back in 2011. The Fall Out Boy star has even said his former wife is "an awesome mom."

So she's over those "7 Things" then? The JoBro musician has said he's "really friendly" with his ex. "We've got a good relationship."

The Dexter costars finalized their divorce in December 2011, but they had no trouble working amicably onscreen.

Long the gold standard of copacetic exes, the parents to daughters Rumer, Tallulah and Scout remain so tight that the decision to ride out coronavirus stay-at-home orders together in Idaho was a no-brainer. Quarantine dance party anyone?

Some four years after their 2014 divorce, Lopez was still giving her former spouse, dad to her twins Max and Emme, props. "While I was married to Marc, he really helped me with my confidence and he saw where I suffered," she said on a 2018 episode of Sunday Today. "He was like, 'You're a great singer. Don't ever let anybody tell you you're not a great singer.' And I respected him so much 'cause I consider him one of the best singers of all time."

Even if it hasn't been his day, his week, his month or even his year, the actress will be there for her former husband and Scream costar. "I mean, as divorces go, I would say it's one of the better ones. For sure," she shared on Running Wild With Bear Grylls eight years after their 2010 split. Raising daughter Coco, she continued, "We're good co-parents together."

Their real life romance may have fizzled in 2007. However, that doesn't mean the two couldn't heat up the screen in the 2011 movie Bad Teacher.

Joint soccer games? No sweat. The whole squad, including Witherspoon's husband Jim Toth, were on the sidelines for son Deacon's 2012 match. Also parents to daughter Ava, they've made an effort to prioritize their kids' needs Phillippe said in 2016, "We have been very good about that."

Sure, the initial few months of their 2013 split were rough going, but the actors have now reached the group vacation stage of their divorce. "I really like her husband and I think he's a great guy," the Twilight alum told LaPalme Magazine of a 2017 trip to Cancun that included Garth, Dave Abrams, Facinelli's now-fiancée Lily Anne Harrison and their three daughters Luca, Lola and Fiona. As for his relationship with Garth, he continued, "People come into your life for a reason and relationships can change," he told LaPalme. "Just because we aren't living together doesn't mean you can't love each other."

Despite a surprise separation in September 2012, the couple decided to put on a united front for their children. "As you know, Will and I are very, very good friends," she explained during a 2014 interview with Howard Stern. "We are doing a really good job. I don't think a 10-year marriage constitutes a failure. I think relationships are really tough."

(Originally published Oct. 30, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)

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