Kimberly Holmes: What Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth's relationship teaches us about our own

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, dead at 99

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II’s husband of 73 years, died at Windsor Castle; Greg Palkot reports.

The passing of Prince Phillip has not only solicited an outpouring of condolences around the world but also offered a peek into a celebrity marriage that spanned more than 70 years. Praised as a supportive, dedicated husband, his passing has created a “huge void” in her life according to a member of the royal family.

Concurrently, the Jennifer Lopez/Alex Rodriguez buzz has dominated the entertainment news cycle for weeks, reaching even those of us who don’t normally follow the latest celebrity gossip. The multi-year relationship, and multi-year engagement, is sadly coming to an end for J-Rod.

What’s the difference between these two relationships?

FILE – In this June, 16, 2011 file photo Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Philip arrives by horse-drawn carriage in the parade ring on the third day, traditionally known as Ladies Day, of the Royal Ascot horse race meeting at Ascot, England. 
((AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File))

Both have been lived in the spotlight, under the microscope of millions of fans and critics, with tremendous pressure. And the royal marriage was not without scandal either, with rumors surrounding Prince Philip’s dalliances with women plaguing the early years of the Royal marriage.


While celebrity culture sells us on the supposed benefits of divorce—arguing long-term marriages are a relic of another time—the royal couple has been an example of what science and research reveal about marriage and divorce.

Divorce often hurts more than it helps.

In this undated handout photo provided by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with their great grandchildren, from left, Prince George, Prince Louis, Savannah Phillips (standing at rear), Princess Charlotte, Isla Phillips holding Lena Tindall, and Mia Tindall. Britain’s Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that mostly defined his life, died on Friday, April 9, 2021.
(Duchess of Cambridge via AP)

There’s an increase in stress following divorce as couples suddenly become single parents, lose time with kids, conflict with an ex-spouse, and confront financial challenges as incomes are split in two. Divorced individuals suffer more from social isolation, feelings of loneliness, loss of social support, as well as less satisfying sex lives.

One study found as much as a 188% increase in the odds of depression, while other research found increases in poorer mental and physical health. And exiting a bad marriage is not an indicator of future happiness, especially when the divorce rate for second marriages hovers around 60-70%.


The top reasons given for divorce—aside from infidelity—are growing apart, not being able to talk to each other, a lack of commitment, and arguing frequently. But these challenges can often be repaired through behavior and perspective changes.

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 1972 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose at Balmoral, Scotland, to celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary. Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life,  died on April 9, 2021. He was 99. 
((PA via AP, File))

From the royal couple’s example, we learn that couples grow together by establishing commitment, taking the option of divorce off the table, and building a foundation of friendship. By listening with empathy, and seeking to understand our spouse’s point of view, we can build trust, commitment, and attachment.

J-Rod, who invested the time and effort to combine two households and blend their families, never invested in the actual step of commitment. This type of uncommitted cohabitation is a growing trend in the U.S., with the CDC reporting that unmarried partners living together has tripled over the last two decades.


A rent vs. buy mentality—in which partners subconsciously keep one foot out the door—makes the work of a healthy relationship difficult, if not impossible.

Commitment creates a desire to invest in the relationship, helping us learn how to talk, and listen, without unhealthy arguments. According to Gottman Institute, stopping four behaviors that most people use when arguing will decrease the chance of divorce dramatically: criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness.

For many considering divorce, there are lists of hurts, resentments and grievances.  

Yet, the more that a person forgives their spouse, the more satisfied they are. Forgiveness leads to an increase in positive marital thoughts and provides protective factors to have better communication.

It’s not only OK for couples to get help, but also highly recommended.

One 25-year study found that the earlier a couple sought relationship enhancement education, there was a dramatic decrease in the divorce rate, 5% compared to 25%, in the group who didn’t receive education.

It’s not too late for struggling marriages.


Before making decisions that will lead to long-term impacts, we should pursue options that can restore and return satisfaction. Rather than following Hollywood, we should strive for our marriages to be modeled off of couples like the Queen and her Prince.

As we are seeing in the tributes to Prince Philip, future generations will be grateful we did.

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