What You Can Learn from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s Mistakes

Jun 6, 2022 | Uncategorized

Before actor Johnny Depp and actress Amber Heard wed in 2015, Depp was quoted as saying that “the only way out of the marriage [was] death” (Salo, 2020). Spoiler alert: He was wrong. The way out was divorce. 

If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably caught wind of some of the gossip surrounding Depp and Heard’s very public breakup and legal proceedings. Their relationship breakdown has turned into a topic of discussion, with people all over the country picking sides and offering opinions. So what exactly is going on? Let’s have a brief look at the timeline of major events in their relationship and breakup, then we’ll share what we think couples can learn from Depp and Heard’s mistakes.

A Brief History of a Romance Gone Wrong 

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met for the first time in 2009, on the set of “The Rum Diary”. They shared an on-set kiss; Depp later alleged that he felt a connection at that moment despite the fact that both were in relationships with other people at the time. They didn’t see one another again until two years later during a promotional tour for The Rum Diaries. Shortly thereafter, Depp split from longtime partner Vanessa Paradis (Garvey, 2022). 

The romance between Depp and Heard blossomed quickly after that, leading to their engagement in 2014, marriage in 2015, and divorce in 2016 (Garvey, 2022). And oy vey, what a crazy couple of years they had. Their 15-month whirlwind of a marriage was fraught with toxicity and allegations of abuse on both sides. Heard alleged that she was abused by Depp and feared for her life, and she actually secured a restraining order against Depp after their divorce. She later wrote an op-ed in 2018 detailing supposed domestic abuse. Depp, on the other hand, claims that Heard abused him both verbally and physically on multiple occasions (Keane, 2022). Fast forward to April 2022 and the spotlight is on this iconic pair’s drama once again as Depp’s defamation case against Heard is underway.

Did Depp and Heard Sign a Prenup?

The short answer is…no. The story is a little bit more convoluted. 

The pair did indeed discuss getting a prenup and even went so far as to start the paperwork…but that’s all. Depp’s sister Christi urged him to get a prenup; when talking with his bride-to-be about this, he insisted that he didn’t really want it and that death was the only way out of their marriage, even going so far as to tell her that he would tear up the agreement (Salo, 2020). 

Heard alleges that during a discussion about the prenuptial agreement, they had an argument (he accused her of having an affair) and Depp became physically abusive. In the end, the prenup paperwork was left on Depp’s team’s desk and never completed; the couple wed the following month. From what we can tell, that prenup sat in the ‘to-do’ pile for a little bit too long before it was too late. That’s a common mistake; arranging a prenup is no small matter (although Hello Prenup streamlines the process) and many couples make the mistake of letting a ticking clock decide for them by running out of time. This is exactly why we advise opening up discussion about your prenup at least a few months before the wedding and getting it all squared away 1-3 months before the big day.

Lessons Couples Can Take Forward

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Depp and Heard’s situation, and we’re not interested in speculating on what did or didn’t happen or choosing sides. We are, however, interested in exploring what insights couples can take forward and apply to their own relationships in order to avoid making similar mistakes. 

-Get a prenup. Johnny should have listened to his sister, Christi. Heard and Depp’s divorce ended in the courthouse, as many marriages do. Who won? The lawyers. And we love lawyers; they help us to stand up for our rights and get what we deserve! But, when it comes to your life’s savings, we think you’ll agree with us that it’s preferable to keep your hard-earned wealth rather than donate it to a lawyer during a divorce settlement. A prenup can help prevent stressful and dramatic courthouse endings like Depp and Heard’s. Additionally, it helps prevent endings, period, by laying out explicit plans and expectations for your married life. 

-Call a spade a spade. Learn to recognize different types of abuse in relationships. Due to the stigmatic nature of the word, the mere act of naming a particular behavior in yourself or your partner as ‘abuse’ can be an extremely powerful wake-up call that can inspire you to take serious steps to shift to a healthier dynamic. If there is any abuse taking place on either or both sides of a relationship, it is of utmost importance that you seek professional mental health support if you haven’t already. 

It’s also important to take some time apart (and continue mental health support at the same time) if conflicts begin to escalate into abuse. Taking time apart can enable couples in trouble to work on themselves without causing further damage to the relationship, and then step back in if and when they’re able to do so healthily. Abuse is not to be normalized or shrugged off, no matter how much you love one another.

Another thing it’s important to name and acknowledge is mental illness. If either partner struggles with mental health, this is something that needs to be addressed directly and explicitly as it relates to the relationship. This isn’t for the purpose of causing shame to the person who is struggling–far from it! On the contrary, it’s more about the popular expression “name it to tame it”. A challenge that isn’t named can wreak havoc under the radar, whereas acknowledging and naming what’s really going on can act as a first step to making changes and/or managing difficulties in a healthy way. 

-Seek mental health support, not drugs.  For Johnny “why is the rum gone”’ Depp, poor mental health and subsequent drug and alcohol abuse was a result of extreme stress. Depp stated that his drug addictions were not aimed at getting high and were rather an attempt to feel normal in the face of leftover childhood trauma and an incredibly demanding workload (Patten & Johnson, 2022). It’s fantastic that he didn’t have any problems acknowledging these issues, but the next step after naming them should have been to seek professional mental health support. To say that this is not easy is an understatement. However, it might be one of the most life-changing decisions a person can make when they’re struggling. 

Heard may also struggle with mental illness; their latest court case has ignited a wave of public speculation on her mental health, with a psychologist who testified claiming that Heard suffers from Borderline and Histrionic personality disorders (Helmore, 2022). We’re not here to diagnose or judge either partner, but to highlight that mental illness in relationships is a common challenge that so many couples struggle with, even the rich and famous. If you or your partner is wrestling with mental illness, please don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Your relationship and your happiness are worth investing in. 

If money is an issue, you can find guidance on free mental health services here, here, and here. Better Help is also a very affordable online counseling platform with special discounted rates for those who are not working or only working part time, as is Regain, which specializes in couple’s therapy.

-Abuse is likely to set in only after the honeymoon phase ends. Be mindful of the fact that at the beginning of a relationship, you won’t be able to see all sides of your partner just as they won’t be able to see all sides of you. That takes time. Some people are baffled when partners they’ve fallen in love with begin to later engage in abusive behaviors, because they ‘didn’t see it coming’. As a result, they begin to question themselves and wonder if the behavior is in fact their fault. It’s not. Additionally, the transition from honeymoon phase to a more stable and less emotionally intense phase can be stressful for some couples and bring up unhealthy behaviors; pay special attention to making a graceful transition out of the honeymoon phase

-Study interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills. Simply becoming aware of new frameworks and vocabulary which can be used to describe felt experience can give couples a vast array of new tools with which to navigate the difficult moments in their relationships. 

If you were told to bake a cake but you didn’t have a recipe or measuring cups and were in an unfamiliar kitchen, your cake would probably be…questionable. But given a cookbook, measuring cups, and knowledge of how the kitchen is laid out and which ingredients are where, you’d have a fighting chance at making a cake that someone might like to eat. Navigating a relationship without the tools and vocabulary needed to make it function healthily is similar to baking the first cake mentioned above: You might get it right, but the odds are not in your favor.

From what we know about Amber and Johnny’s relationship, it seems that they approached problems impulsively and even explosively. Had they instead educated themselves on interpersonal communication, relationship skills, and conflict resolution/management, they could have shifted from an instinctual to a logical way of addressing their challenges. In doing so, they could have used conflict to further build, rather than destroy, their connection. 

-Meditate and practice mindfulness! Separately, together, when you wake up, when you go to sleep, when you’re on the toilet…whenever and wherever is good for you. An abundance of research shows that mindfulness is your secret weapon against conflict escalation. It helps one to cultivate a range of interpersonal skills whose benefit is priceless in a relationship, such as increased acceptance and empathy, better emotional regulation, and more patience. Heard and Depp, on the other hand, demonstrated an inability to regulate their emotions, resolve conflict, and accept one another. Had they practiced meditation and mindfulness regularly, they may not have ended up with such a highly-escalated and out-of-control situation. 

Reading such dramatic stories about such high-profile people can be a shock, but it can also help us skillfully reflect on the darker sides of ourselves and our own relationships. Many of us have probably been in volatile relationships before; some of us are right now. The tools outlined above can help anyone shift from a dysfunctional to a healthy way of relating, behaving, and communicating in relationship.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. HelloPrenup, LLC (“HelloPrenup”) makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site. HelloPrenup will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at any time and without notice. HelloPrenup provides a platform for contract related self-help. The information provided by HelloPrenup along with the content on our website related to legal matters (“Information”) is provided for your private use and does not constitute legal advice. We do not review any information you provide us for legal accuracy or sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide opinions about your selection of forms, or apply the law to the facts of your situation. If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Neither HelloPrenup nor any information provided by Hello Prenup is a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed to practice in an appropriate jurisdiction.

Julia Rodgers CEO helloprenupJulia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here 🤓 Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected] 

References:

Garvey, M. 2022. From ‘The Rum Diary’ to court: A timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s relationship. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/22/entertainment/johnny-depp-amber-heard-timeline/index.html

Helmore, E. 2022. Amber Heard Evaluation Revealed Two Personality Disorders, Psychologist Says. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2022/apr/26/amber-heard-johnny-depp-psychologist-shannon-curry-testimony

Johnson, T., and Patten, D. 2022. Johnny Depp Cross Examination Focuses On His Violent Language In Texts, Angry Outbursts Captured On Audio And Video – Update. Retrieved from: https://deadline.com/2022/04/johnny-depp-drugs-trial-testimony-amber-heard-abuse-defamation-1235007235/

Keane, D. 2022. Johnny Depp claims his substance abuse was triggered by ‘haranguing’ from Amber Heard. Retrieved from: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/johnny-depp-drug-abuse-haranguing-amber-heard-libel-trial-b995286.html

Salo, J. 2020. Amber Heard Claims Johnny Depp Hit Her During Violent Fight Over Their Prenup. Retrieved from: https://pagesix.com/2020/07/20/amber-heard-claims-johnny-depp-hit-her-during-violent-fight-over-prenup/

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