Kanye West’s recent behaviour is a magnification of what we all go through after a breakup
We’re less than two weeks into the new year. While most of us have managed to drag ourselves back to the day job, are clinging on to our Veganuary goals (just about), and staring longingly at the exercise equipment we vowed we’d make more use of, the celebrities of our time – namely Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – are already ploughing into 2022, at least where their love lives are concerned.
In February 2021 news broke that the reality star had filed for divorce from the rapper, just shy of seven years after she and West wed in Italy in 2014. In the months that followed, it seemed the breakup was amicable enough. As the rapper teased the release of his 10th studio album Donda with countless listening parties, the beauty mogul and Skims founder was nearly always present, with the couple’s children in tow. There were even rumours of a reconciliation after Kardashian closed out a performance of No Child Left Behind at an event, emerging on stage dressed in full-length haute-couture Balenciaga wedding dress complete with knee-length veil.
While West had been photographed with Irina Shayk over the summer, neither party confirmed they were dating. In the latter half of 2021, he was also linked to model Vinetria Chubbs. But relations between West and Kardashian took a turn in October 2021, when reports of the most unlikely romance emerged – that the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star was dating Saturday Night Live favourite Pete Davidson. Three days after Kardashian and Davidson went on a date in his home turf of Staten Island, New York, West unfollowed his soon-to-be ex-wife on Instagram.
In the weeks since, we’ve witnessed conflicting behaviour from the rapper. During a five minute now-deleted video shared on Thanksgiving, he said: “All I think about every day is how I get my family back together.” At an appearance at Los Angeles Mission’s Annual Thanksgiving event, he said God would bring “Kimye” back together, and that “millions of families are going to be influenced to see that they can overcome the work of the separation”. Later, he shared a photograph of himself and Kardashian kissing to his Instagram story, along with a TMZ headline reading, “Kanye West Says God Will Bring Kim and Him Back Together, Inspire Millions.”
Suffice to say, we were a little shocked, then, when Interview magazine published a first-person account from Julia Fox detailing the grandiose, lavish date nights she had been spending with West – just six days after the pair met on New Year’s Eve. She shared how he had taken her to see Slave Play, and then on to dinner at Carbone. “At the restaurant, Ye directed an entire photo shoot for me while people dined!” she wrote. Following dinner, West surprised her with “a hotel suite full of clothes” which Fox described as “every girl’s dream come true”. “It felt like a real Cinderella moment,” the 31-year-old said.
When an ex starts dating someone new, it can feel like you are losing that person more permanently, which can trigger a drive to rekindle the relationship
Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist
It’s no secret that West revamped Kardashian’s closet when they began dating, so could this be a sign he might be getting serious about Fox, too? In the days that followed, social media users put out a range of theories. Some proposed West was “love bombing” Fox – a dangerous form of emotional abuse in which a person uses grand gestures, gifts and proclamations of love to win someone’s trust and affection – while others thought he might be trying to make his ex-wife jealous.
While we’ll never truly know whether his feelings for Fox are the real deal – the pair were seen on another date in Los Angeles this week – some observers have weighed in on what we can learn about West from his recent behaviour, and warned that Fox could become “collateral damage” in one of the most high-profile divorces of our time. Putting aside Kardashian and West’s celebrity status, their breakup is not too far removed from the motions that most people go through at the end of a relationship, experts say.
Relationship therapist Charisse Cooke explains that there is an element of a “honeymoon” period at the end of a relationship similar to that at the beginning. During this time, both parties may be in agreement about their separation and feel at peace with moving forward. “But after a period of time, the loss and grief will kick in,” Cooke says. Then come the stages of grief – first denial and then anger or retaliation when an ex moves on. Arguably, West demonstrated a large scale of denial at the recent Free Larry Hoover benefit concert when, during a performance of Runaway, he deviated from the track’s lyrics, singing: “I need you to run right back to me, more specifically, Kimberly.” “This kind of behaviour is actually very common, and very typical as people deal with both loss and the shock of that loss,” Cooke adds.
“When an ex starts dating someone new, it can feel like you are losing that person more permanently, which can trigger a drive to rekindle the relationship,” says Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. “But it’s going to be different depending on the nature of the separation and also a person’s self-esteem. If there is some underlying insecurity, for example, then an ex-partner dating someone new is going to cause a bigger wound to your self-esteem and sense of self.”
Kanye is accustomed to relating to a woman that he’s romantically involved with in a certain way. He has a history of dressing Kim, and of creating huge grand gestures for her
Charisse Cooke, relationship therapist
Relationship coach Matthew Pruen describes West’s behaviour post-breakup as a “magnified version of what any one of us would recognise”. Take his lavish date nights with Fox. “If a friend of ours was to draw on all of his resources to make an impression, they might take a date to a really flashy restaurant. For West, he has the resources at his disposal to act in an incredibly grandiose way.”
More striking than Fox’s account of her first dates with West is the photoshoot that accompanied the Interview piece. Inside the hotel suite, we see Fox trying on items from at least two racks of clothing and an array of accessories, all while West sips wine and styles his latest muse. In one shot, Fox and West are sitting on a sofa. He’s wearing sunglasses, and she’s leaning on him with her eyes closed. It’s strikingly reminiscent of a viral Kimye-era photograph of the couple sleeping, cuddled up on the sofa. Cooke says West is exhibiting a behaviour called “mirroring”. “Kanye is accustomed to relating to a woman that he’s romantically involved with in a certain way. He has a history of dressing Kim, and of creating huge grand gestures for her. Having met someone new, he’s continuing with the same level of declarations of love which may not be wholly appropriate for this stage of their relationship,” she says.
While the aftermath of Kimye is proof that even people of the highest celebrity status are not immune to the anger, pining and grief that comes with the end of a relationship, much less a six-year marriage, there is also another possibility: the one that West wants us to believe. That when you have the celebrity status and resources that come with global stardom, it’s perfectly reasonable to yearn after your ex-wife one month and fall head over heels for someone else the next.