Lifetime’s series Unreal was hailed by critics for its sardonic but accurate view of a Bachelor-style reality TV show. It showcased how producers go out of their way to invent drama and even manipulate “love” for ratings. The truth, of course, is that there is very little “reality” in “reality TVm” as every show has as many scriptwriters as a regular sitcom would. Still, a good couple means good ratings and many TV shows recognize that.
But those couples have to face the sad truth of reality television relationships. Some relationships were just for the cameras and no shock they faded fast when a show was done. Other times, the marriages were pretty solid, but the pressure of showing up on TV so much ended up doing some serious damage. Some were probably always doomed, but reality television certainly didn’t help. Here are 20 reality show couples who split not long after the cameras stopped to show how messy this genre of TV is on love.
20 Lauren Conrad And Stephen Colletti
Lauren Conrad burst into reality TV fame thanks to Laguna Beach and then the more successful spin-off The Hills. It led to the famous row between her and Heidi Montag over Spencer Pratt which had Conrad leaving the show. Before that, Conrad had been shown dating Stephen Colletti. However, Conrad has revealed that the producers pushed them together to create a love triangle when Colletti was really dating mutual friend Kristen Cavallari. As soon as Conrad left, so did the “relationship.”
19 Bear Brown And Raiven Adams
The latest addition to this list, Alaskan Bush People focuses on the Brown family as they live in a remote wilderness location. Son Bear hit it off with local Raiven Adams and their fun romance culminated in getting engaged. But in early September 2019, Adams announced the two had split, citing she couldn’t take the “drama and harassment” of dating a Discovery Channel star. In a twist so wild no soap opera would try it, Adams revealed days later she was pregnant with Brown’s child. It shows reality really is weirder than fiction.
18 Jef Holm And Emily Maynard
One can do a whole list of nothing but breakups from The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, but this stands out. Emily Maynard had been a highlight for the Bachelorette and chose Jef Holm as her fiance. For a time after the show, they seemed to be okay but in late 2012, the two announced they had split. While there were rumors of cheating, each insisted that the entire relationship had been too fast and they had come to realize getting engaged via a TV show didn’t mean a long marriage could work. Maynard ended up marrying a hometown love and having four children, showing she’s moved on nicely.
17 Kailyn Lowry And Javi Marroquin
MTV’s Teen Mom has always faced a backlash for how it seems to glamorize the life of teenage mothers. Kailyn Lowry did show off in the show as a woman maturing under motherhood to handle things. She and husband Javi Marroquin did seem to be trying their best to raise their child but feeling a lot of pressure. The sixth season of the show really focused on their marriage hitting the rocks and it came as little surprise when they announced a divorce in 2016. Reality TV just put more pressure on an already tense relationship.
16 Bethenny Frankel And Jason Hoppy
The Real Housewives of New York was the start of Bravo’s huge reality TV empire. Bethenny Frankel was an early standout with her charm and drive standing out from the pack. It also touched on her relationship with businessman Jason Hoppy. Their marriage was chronicled in the spin-off Bethenny Ever After as they also welcomed a child.
However, the show notably moved Hoppy to the side to focus on Frankel as rumors abounded of trouble between them. They were separated in 2012 right after the show ended and it took four years for it to be finalized. Frankel continues to be successful but there is no “happily ever after” for this TV couple.
15 Kendra Wilkinson And Hank Bassett
Kendra Wilkinson first came to attention as one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends on The Girls Next Door. This paved the way for her own show, Kendra, and marrying NFL player Hank Baskett. They seemed to have things together, starring for six seasons in Kendra on Top, chronicling their lives and raising a family. However, an appearance on Marriage Boot Camp showed they had problems as proven when they divorced in 2018.
14 Jason Mesnick And Melissa Rycroft
The Bachelor has seen a lot of scandals, but this remains the biggest of the bunch. The 13th season of The Bachelor came down to Melissa Rycroft and Molly Malney competing for the heart of Jason Mesnick. He picked Rycroft and they looked to be doing well with a proposal. But in a big finale, Mesnick told Rycroft that he still had feelings for Malney, took back the ring, and asked Malney out. The duo got married and are still together today. Maybe them avoiding reality TV since helps that union out more.
13 Audrina Partridge And Craig Bowan
The Hills was one of MTV’s biggest reality show hits and offered a score of young faces wanting fame. Audrina Partridge was one of the most notable ladies on the show, dating motorcycle enthusiast Corey Bohan. They were featured in her short-lived show Audrina and had a child. In 2018, Partridge not only filed for divorce, but a restraining order against Bowan as well. While things seems to have calmed down, it shows how young love can’t work even on a reality show.
12 Khloe Kardashian And Lamar Odom
Khloe Kardashian has shown she can do relationship drama just as well as her sisters. A late addition to Keeping Up With the Kardashians was Khloe’s relationship with L.A. Lakers star Lamar Odom. They were married in 2009 and even got their own spin-off, Khloe & Lamar. It actually didn’t do too badly, but the couple’s lives couldn’t handle it. In 2015, after Odom had gotten into some legal messes, the couple divorced. It shows that dating and a Kardashian show just don’t mix.
11 Rob Kardashian And Blac Chyna
Yep, even the male Kardashian is not immune to the “reality show relationship curse.” He and Adrienne Billion had been in a long relationship on Keeping Up With the Kardashians which ended poorly. He then moved on to Blac Chyna and they had a longer relationship going. They got their own six-episode series, Rob & Chyna, focusing on them preparing for the birth of their child. The show didn’t last long and a follow-up was axed after Rob and Blac broke up on very bad terms. They seem better today sharing custody, but the reality show was a death knell for their relationship.
10 Hulk And Linda Hogan
Given his decades as a pro wrestler, it should be no shock Hulk Hogan took to reality TV pretty well. Hogan Knows Best focused on Hulk and his family handling the various ups and downs of fame with his occasional WWE appearances. The final season was dominated by how Hulk and Linda were going through a rough patch and were divorced not long after the final episode in 2007. Their battles in the courtroom and press since are more epic than any of Hogan’s wrestling matches. Looks like Hulk didn’t know best when it came to marriage.
9 Carmen Electra And Dave Navarro
Carmen Electra has had some odd relationships (she was married to Dennis Rodman,) but seemed to click with rocker Dave Navarro. They were featured on the 2004 MTV series Til Death Do Us Part which only ran seven episodes. The title naturally became a joke when two years later, the duo separated with the divorce finalized the next year. They actually seem on good terms with Electra still calling Navarro her “soulmate” and wouldn’t rule out the idea of a reunion one day. Anyone smell a sequel series?
8 Jessica Simpson And Nick Lachey
The marriage of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey seemed perfect. She was a stunning pop singer and he was a boy band heartthrob who together clicked. VH1 thought it’d be great to have them star in Newlyweds which followed their lives. It became infamous for portraying Jessica as a ditz which she claims was without her permission. Just six months after the show’s final episode in 2005, the duo filed for divorce. Both have moved on and speak well of each other yet cite that having cameras following them around was a bad way to start off a marriage.
7 Jon And Kate Gosselin
Jon and Kate Plus 8 was one of TLC’s breakthrough hits, following the couple, raising their children (twins and a set of sextuplets) and they looked to have a good marriage going. Just two years into the show, the couple announced their divorce which at first seemed amicable. It didn’t take long for that view to change as soon the battles (legal and physical) between them were instant tabloid fodder. Kate took over the show while Jon dated Liz Jannetta only to break up after they appeared on Couples Therapy. That guy and reality show relationships don’t mix at all.
6 Britney Spears And Kevin Federline
A sad period for Britney spears came in 2007 when she seemed to suffer a public breakdown. The kick-off to it all was her very messy divorce from husband Kevin Federline. The two had been married in 2004 and the following year starred in Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, which looked at their private lives. The show lived up to its title, showing them getting into various antics and some nasty fights. They split in 2006 and to this very day, the two are entangled in legal battles over their children and estate. It shows how much chaos dominated this couple’s relationship.
5 Kim Kardashian And Kris Humphries
On the June 3rd episode of The Soup, host Joel McHale talked about the recent wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries and cracked “you’re only going to be married for like 75 days.” Exactly 72 days later, McHale was laughing about the duo filing for divorce (“I won the office pool!”) From the start, it was blatantly obvious that the “romance” between the reality show maven and the NBA player was only pushed for Kim’s reality show and a huge wedding episode. Humphries has insisted the relationship was real, but the marriage was a disaster. Kim has moved on with Kayne West, but this brief marriage is still reality show fodder.
4 Kris And Caitlyn Jenner
Before 2007, Kris Jenner was known for having been married to O.J. Simpson’s lawyer while Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce Jenner) had been an Olympic athlete. Then Kim’s infamous tape broke out, they got Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and the rest is history. For most of the show, Caitlyn was played as the only sane person in this house of nuts but she could get pretty wild as well. It took its toll as they finally separated in 2013 and divorced the following year.
3 Mamma June And “Sugar Bear”
This is just bizarre. June Shannon and husband Mike Thompson were infamous as “Mama June and Sugar Bear,” the parents of Alana aka “Honey Boo Boo.” This led to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which was quickly condemned by numerous critics with cries of it being child endangerment. It should be no shock things got rough between husband and wife as Thompson confessed to various infidelities. Marriage Boot Camp couldn’t save them as, in 2014, they filed for divorce. Each has since gotten into major trouble with the law and other relationships.
2 John Cena And Nikki Bella
Wrestling relationships are always a bit rough and often play to the cameras. Yet it looked like John Cena and Nikki Bella had something special. Nikki and twin sister Brie had become hits on Total Divas which led to their own spin-off, Total Bellas. She and Cena had been shown dating on the show and WWE made it a regular part of their programming. After they won a match at Wrestlemania 33, Cena proposed to Nikki in the ring. The show featured them a lot and looked to build to a wedding but without warning, they called it quits in 2018. It looks like a double dose of reality TV was too much for both.
1 Whitney Houston And Bobby Brown
It’s sad to look back at the life of Whitney Houston. Once a fantastic star with a stunning singing voice, by the late 2000s, Houston had become known for erratic behavior and personal issues. She and Bobby Brown always had a volatile relationship but Being Bobby Brown showcased them as lunatics going at each other’s throats. The show was actually a big hit, but Houston refused to do another season. The duo finally divorced two years later and remained at odds until Houston’s passing in 2012, making this a low period in her already rough life.
Sources: People.com, eonline.com, usweekly.com, celebuzz.com