Friends no more: Courteney Cox single again after 14 years

The world, both in Hollywood and beyond, was decidedly less than shocked when Friends star Courteney Cox and her actor-director husband David Arquette announced on Monday that they had separated.

Throughout the 14 years of their relationship – almost a lifetime by Hollywood standards – they were never far from speculation that it had rather more downs than ups.

In 2008, Ms Cox said in an interview: "Is marriage for ever? I think you get married with the intention that it will be, but who knows? Therapy helps us. It's so easy to grow apart; marriage takes work. I suppose you can work it out by talking to each other – I would just prefer to have a referee, it reminds us why we're together."

But less than 24 hours after announcing their separation, Mr Arquette chose the most unlikely of therapists – US shock jock Howard Stern.

"We have not had sex for about four months or so," he told Stern's listeners after calling the show, before claiming he had recently been intimate with a notorious Hollywood cocktail waitress and that the encounter had made him feel "pretty manly".

In so doing he seems to have delivered the final blow to the pair's relationship, which began on the set of the horror movie Scream in 1996, leading to marriage three years later and the birth of their daughter, Coco, in 2004.

But in sustaining her marriage for 14 years, Ms Cox has provided considerably less fare for the gossip magazines than the majority of her Friends co-stars. It is an (almost) exact science that the more sedate the love life of their Friends character, the more tempestuous their real life emotional entanglements have become.

Chandler was largely a romantic failure before doting on Monica for a full six seasons, but in the same time period the actor who played him, Matthew Perry, was linked with – among others – Julia Roberts, Sheryl Crow, Neve Campbell and Heather Graham.

As Rachel suffered the tumult of an on-off relationship with Ross, Jennifer Aniston embarked on perhaps the most keenly observed domestic odyssey of the past decade, taking in Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn and a former Essex builder named Paul Sculfor.

Matt LeBlanc, – whose promiscuous character Joey expressed fear on learning that condoms were only "97 per cent effective" – spent nine years with Melissa McKnight before the pair separated in 2006. He has since been linked with former Joey co-star Andrea Anders – almost celibate by comparison.

David Schwimmer, and Ross, are the exceptions that prove the rule. The latter's three marriages have been more than matched in reality by romances with Natalie Imbruglia and Mili Avital, and finally marriage to English photographer Zoe Buckman.

If only life were to imitate art. It would all be so much simpler.

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