Just like Meryl Streep and Jada Pinkett-Smith, these three women tried the ‘quiet break-up’ trend.

There's been no shortage of discourse about celebrity breakups in 2023

And now there's an added layer: discourse around those who tried to keep their splits away from discourse for as long as they could. It's been dubbed, by The Cut, a 'quiet breakup', and it's had two very high-profile examples recently.

In October, while promoting her memoir Worthy, Jada Pinkett-Smith said she and Will Smith had been separated since 2016. Despite this, she stated they had no plans to divorce.

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Soon after their breakup was everywhere, another similarly 'secret' one also emerged.

Page Six reported that Meryl Streep and her husband of 45 years, Don Gummer, had been separated for "more than six years". A representative for Streep then confirmed the report.

How each couple kept their splits quiet for so long differed greatly. It seems, for anyone thinking of emulating a quiet breakup, there are two paths, and the path you take is probably already pre-determined by your relationship.

For the Smiths, the tactic was to keep up appearances. Speculation about their marriage had always raged on, but still, Pinkett-Smith's bombshell came as a surprise. After all, they still walked red carpets together, appeared together on her web series Red Table Talk, and infamously, of course, attended the Oscars together, where Smith referred to Pinkett-Smith as his "wife" after slapping Chris Rock.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Streep and Gummer's long-standing privacy came in handy. Though Gummer was often in attendance during Streep's big moments, they were never a particularly 'public' couple, and certainly not regular tabloid fixtures. Their last public appearance together was at the 2018 Academy Awards, but still, few eyebrows were raised since then because they were never seen as being 'out and about'.

This isn't an entirely new concept, but they are EXTREME examples. Seven years? That had to be exhausting.

Celebrities often keep their breakups private for as long as they can, probably for self-preservation. Most recently, the breakup of Kendall Jenner and Bad Bunny was confirmed at least six weeks after it happened, in line with Jenner being photographed having a good time – looking very much "over" a split – during a holiday in Aspen. Basically: it's nice to work through your feelings first, before the whole world finds out. 

But how do quiet breakups happen outside of famous circles? Well, it seems the two paths translate here in the 'real-world' too, though the reasons and concerns that lead to quiet breakups have less to do with ending up on the front page of Page Six.

"Quiet breakups are really big in my family," one person, who is known to Mamamia but has chosen to stay anonymous, explained.

"I have a HUGE Vietnamese family with a million cousins and my cousins always integrate their partners into family events. One cousin was engaged to someone but broke it off and still remained in a relationship with him even though they were no longer going to be married. We only found out at my brother's wedding that she was no longer in a relationship with him, because she showed up with someone new."

Jess* told Mamamia she had an accidental, circumstantial quiet breakup with her first long-term boyfriend.

"I quietly broke up with him. We were living together, it was just really complicated.

"I'd been a part of his family for a while and it just was really awkward for me to be like 'we've broken up', and I thought that he would be the one to sort of tell people and he never said anything.

"So I was like, well, I guess I'm not gonna say anything? And then we were still living together going 'ok, what are we doing now?'"

The split only came out when Jess moved cities.

"I just was like, 'I've got a new job, I'm gonna move to another town'. So it was never really like a big 'we've broken up' thing, it was just like, I moved and suddenly we weren't together anymore."

One 'quiet breakup' fan is Sarah*, who chose the Streep tactic in order to get through a tough period. 

"My extended family were going through a really rough time with sickness and finances and a bunch of other things, so I kept the end of my long-term relationship secret for a few months a couple of years ago," she said.

"It worked out alright because my ex and I were never really attached at the hip, we were fairly independent, so it was easy to explain away his absence and then have it be forgotten for a little while. I was able to spend the next few months helping them through their stuff without needing to get into it, and it also helped me as a distraction rather than wallowing in my grief for the relationship."

Sarah did tell friends, so she had a support network in other parts of her life and acknowledged that without that, it may have been an unhealthy way to go about things.

"It worked for me at that point in my life... I'd probably do it again if the circumstances were okay. I'm the kind of person who likes to just keep going so it worked for me, and by the time I did tell everyone what was going on I had fully accepted it and it didn't hurt as much."

Have you ever been through a quiet breakup? Let us know in a comment below.

*Names have been changed.

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