No one is ever going to tell you that marriage is easy, but in case there’s any doubt, every 13 seconds, another American couple gets divorced, according to the family law professionals at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner. Moreover, in any given 40-year period, a full 67% of first marriages will end, and the average first marriage that ends in divorce doesn’t even make it to eight years.
So, before we roll up our sleeves to delve into why Giada De Laurentiis got divorced from Todd Thompson, perhaps we ought to begin by offering a hearty congratulations to the erstwhile couple — they married in 2003 and stayed together until their 2014 separation, which was followed by their divorce in 2015 (via E! News) — for having a marriage that lasted well beyond the American average.
Of course, nothing about celebrity chef, author, and television host, Giada, the Italian-born granddaughter of legendary movie producer, Dino De Laurentiis, (and arguably the tiniest woman ever to become a Food Network megastar) is average — and therein lies the rub. Marriage is hard, but celebrity marriage is even harder when you consider that all the things that can go wrong in the average marriage play out in celebrity marriages for the whole world to see. And from all that we’ve observed, we can finally say we know the reasons why Giada got divorced.
Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson were together since De Laurentiis was in college
When Giada De Laurentiis met her then-future husband Todd Thompson, she was an anthropology major at UCLA with a very different career track in front of her (via Redbook). At the time, Thompson, who is close to seven years older than De Laurentiis, was already well into his career as a fashion designer (via Biography), while De Laurentiis didn’t yet realize that cooking was her true calling (via Redbook). But she figured it out soon enough, and headed to Paris to study at the famed cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, before returning to Los Angeles to begin her culinary career. After that, it took until 2002 for De Laurentiis to get her first break on television (via Food Network).
As you can see, by the time De Laurentiis and Thompson finally tied the knot in 2003, the couple had already been together for well over a decade and had weathered such stressors as college exams, a long-distance situation, career uncertainty, and the sudden success of one spouse. You might assume that would strengthen their relationship, but having met her husband while still so young and well-before her star had risen may have worked against De Laurentiis’ chances of having a lifelong marriage. Nor is it uncommon for a couple to divorce after one partner becomes a celebrity.
Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson came from different backgrounds
Research has shown that relationship success can often be predicted based on how similar in background (religion and social class, for example) the partners are, according to Dr. Amie M. Gordon. "Couples with more similar attitudes, values, and backgrounds tend to experience more lasting satisfaction, companionship, intimacy, and love and are less likely to break up," she penned in an article for Psychology Today. Apparently, Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson didn’t have that going in their favor.
De Laurentiis, who was born in Italy, didn’t even immigrate to the U.S. until she was 7 years old. Thompson hails from the Midwest — his Michigan-based family is not at all accustomed to the relatively wanton ways of Hollywood, whereas De Laurentiis is a member of the Hollywood De Laurentiis dynasty, of which De Laurentiis’ grandfather was the patriarch (via Redbook). And when De Laurentiis and Thompson met, Thompson not only knew nothing about cooking, he also knew nothing about Italian food. "He took a lot of flak from my family," De Laurentiis told Redbook in a 2011 interview. "When he would come to my grandfather’s house to eat dinner, my grandfather would say to me in Italian, ‘Who is this person butchering his pasta by cutting it with a fork and knife?’"
Giada De Laurentiis was away from home the year she and Todd Thompson divorced
Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson, who were married in 2003, decided to divorce in December 2014. And as we later found out (via People), the couple had separated in July 2014, just one month after De Laurentiis opened her very first restaurant, GIADA.
It’s not hard to surmise that the intense demands that go with opening one’s own restaurant could have contributed to the marriage reaching its breaking point. But add to that the fact that the restaurant was located in Las Vegas, Nevada — at least a four-hour drive from where the couple made their home in Los Angeles — and you have a set-up for a marital blow-up, according to Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato; she pointed out that more than half of all people perceive long-distance relationships as fundamentally less happy and satisfying (via Psychology Today).
Would anyone really be surprised to learn that it might have been painful for Thompson to read in one media outlet after another that his wife and the mother of his daughter, Jade Thompson, was now "part of the Las Vegas community," as a press release regarding the restaurant’s opening stated at the time? "De Laurentiis … wants all guests to feel as though they are members of her family," the press release went on to say. One can only imagine how that might not have sat so well with De Laurentiis’ husband.
Todd Thompson may have felt upstaged by Giada De Laurentiis
In an analysis of why it is that the husbands of so many uber-successful wives tend to "opt out" of their own careers, sacrificing their personal ambition for that of their wives, The Atlantic declared that "power couples are a rarity." We saw that in the marriage of Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson; shortly after the two announced their wedding, Thompson began spending more and more time supporting De Laurentiis’ career, rather than his own. Starting in 2004 and until the couple’s divorce, designer appeared frequently on his wife’s television shows.
As De Laurentiis herself acknowledged in a 2011 interview with Redbook, "I think it can be hard for any man to sometimes be upstaged by his wife." But in the case of De Laurentiis and Thompson, the upstaging wasn’t just a sometimes occurrence, but the actual reality of everyday life for the couple — and it couldn’t have helped that De Laurentiis made it all look so easy. As the television star told Food & Wine in a 2016 interview, she wasn’t even "looking to get into TV." Basically, she was just plucked from obscurity thanks to a story someone else wrote about her and her passion for Italian cooking.
Giada De Laurentiis’ career focus may have strained the couple’s connection
According to Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato, "detachment from work appears to be critical to happy relationships," as she wrote in Psychology Today. Healthy relationships, wrote Dr. DiDonato, require the partners to be "present when they are home, focused on their partner and (if they have them) children." We can’t begin to guess whether and to what extent Giada De Laurentiis was present at home when she wasn’t working during the 11 years of her marriage. We’re just wondering how De Laurentiis found time to be home at all.
Having made her television debut in 2003 (hosting "Everyday Italian," a half-hour cooking show), De Laurentiis wrote a companion cookbook to go with the series, which published in 2005. Two more books followed, as did a new television show, "Giada’s Weekend Getaways," and stints as a mentor on "Food Network Star" and as a correspondent for "Today." And that’s all before De Laurentiis became a mom, which hardly slowed the celebrity chef down at all. In 2010, when Jade Thompson was still a toddler, De Laurentiis launched still another cooking series with a companion cookbook ("Giada at Home") and entered into a merchandising partnership with Target.
Far be it from us to judge working moms. Not only do we respect them, we are them. We’re just saying that anyone with De Laurentiis’ extensive work commitments might have trouble being "present" — both literally and metaphorically.
Infidelity rumors plagued Giada De Laurentiis’ marriage
There’s a saying that the only "bad publicity" is "no publicity." One might wonder, however, whether Giada De Laurentiis would agree, having been the subject of tabloid fodder on numerous occasions with regard to alleged marital infidelity. In 2011, De Laurentiis was rumored to have been romantically involved with Matt Lauer, who was then anchoring the Today show, on which De Laurentiis has been a frequent guest (via Closer Weekly). The Lauer rumor cropped back up in 2013, but not before De Laurentiis was rumored to have hooked up with bad-boy pop star, John Mayer, according to US Weekly. And of course, there were and are still the ongoing rumors regarding De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay.
Whether true or totally fabricated, these rumors likely took their toll on De Laurentiis’ marriage, possibly contributing to her divorce. In fact, De Laurentiis confirmed as much to Us Weekly when she revealed that then-husband Todd Thompson was embarrassed by the Mayer-related rumors. But even if we weren’t privy to that bit of awkwardness, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that hurtful gossip intended to damage one partner in a relationship will likely damage both partners, not to mention the relationship itself (via Psychology Today).
Not convinced? For a quick and terrifying primer on the power of rumors to destroy lives, check out the unsolved mystery of the Circleville Letters.
Giada De Laurentiis’ friendship with Bobby Flay may have inadvertently contributed to her divorce
Giada De Laurentiis and her friend and fellow celebrity chef, Bobby Flay, aren’t an item, but there are tons of reasons why people think they are. The pair, who’ve been friends for almost as long as De Laurentiis was married to Todd Thompson, seem to enjoy teasing the press; consider such antics as entertaining the claims of gossip columnists that they made like teenage sweethearts, and carved their initials into some secret spot at New York City’s Emilio’s Ballato in New York City (De Laurentiis’ rep denied all). And during the pandemic, while many of the rest of us were holed up in our homes, Flay and De Laurentiis were working on a new show called "Bobby and Giada in Italy," which was released in 2021 on Discovery Plus.
Still, regardless of what is true or what could become true if De Laurentiis were to drop her guard (via US Weekly), such a close relationship between two attractive, heterosexual adults who work together could have put a strain on either or both of their marriages. As psychiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Olds told Psychology Today, a situation such as this can create instability in the primary relationships of the "work spouses," as colleagues who form a special and sometimes questionable bond are sometimes called.
Someone may have gotten in between Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson
Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson, who separated in July 2014, got divorced shortly thereafter. Although the demise of the marriage has been characterized as "amicable" by De Laurentiis herself, the fact remains that after a separation of less than six months, Thompson pulled the plug on the whole thing by filing for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences (via E! News). We also know that De Laurentiis and her current boyfriend, Shane Farley, met in 2013 — while De Laurentiis and Thompson were still married, and while Farley was still married to his former wife, Jennifer Giamo (via Page Six).
De Laurentiis has always maintained that she and Farley didn’t start dating until several months after her divorce from Thompson was finalized. Specifically, her rep told Page Six that the relationship began in August 2015. However, in 2018, De Laurentiis told Peoplethat after her divorce, she "spent about a year and a half alone, not dating, just figuring things out," and that she reconnected with Farley only after that. That would have put the start of De Laurentiis’ relationship with Farley at around October 2016, to which we scratch our heads and say, "huh?"
Whether the rumors are true or not, the inconsistencies in narrative are enough to raise eyebrows — as well as the question of whether De Laurentiis and Farley became involved before De Laurentiis and Thompson separated.
Being labeled a ‘sex symbol’ may have strained Giada De Laurentiis’ marriage
In a 2011 interview with Redbook, Giada De Laurentiis confirmed that she’s accepted and grown comfortable with being "cooking’s sex symbol." Additionally, in a 2014 interview with Elle, De Laurentiis went so far as to say that she’d come to rely on her femininity in order to distinguish herself as a chef. "You have to learn how to play the game," De Laurentiis stated. "It’s not a bad thing! Everybody plays it. You just have to learn which moves to make, and you have to be willing to walk away."
It’s possible, however, that her reliance on her feminine wiles may have put a strain on De Laurentiis’ relationship with Thompson. For one thing, it’s not a stretch to imagine that playing "the game" could have played a role in inspiring gossip columnists to speculate on the nature of De Laurentiis’ friendships with Matt Lauer and Bobby Flay, or to imagine that she actually did spend a torrid night with John Mayer at a New York City hotel. Is it fair? Absolutely not. However, it’s possible.
And whether and to what extent the rumors of infidelity can be traced to De Laurentiis’ sex symbol status, the fact remains that couples who fall into traditional gender roles such as this, tend to be less satisfied in their marriages than those who adopt more androgynous roles (via Psychology Today).
Maybe Giada De Laurentiis isn’t quite as nice as she wants everyone to think?
Not everyone’s a fan of Giada De Laurentiis, as noted by Nicki Swift, and lately, we’ve also been coming to terms with the fact that De Laurentiis may not be all that "nice." It’s hard to forget the time she talked down to Nicole Kidman on "Ellen" ("Nicole, have you ever made meatballs or anything?"). And De Laurentiis made it abundantly clear that if you ever go to her restaurant, she does not want you to touch her, although she’s been working her way through the inevitable but icky hugs and handshakes (via the New York Daily News). Then there’s this rather ungrateful remark De Laurentiis made to Parade in 2013, a year before her marriage unraveled: when asked if she likes breakfast in bed, her response was to diss her then-husband, Todd Thompson for bringing her his "scramble surprise," which she described in rather unflattering terms and which she said finds "hard to eat" in bed.
But what does being nice have to do with why De Laurentiis got divorced? Because being nice matters, according to Dr. Thomas G. Plante, via Psychology Today. Being "nice," which has been defined as being "pleasing, agreeable, delightful, amiably pleasant, [and] kind" is fundamental to all personal relationships. That’s especially true for a marriage, The Atlantic proclaimed, in a piece on the importance of kindness and generosity in long-term relationships.
Having a child may have contributed to Giada De Laurentiis’ divorce
Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson married when De Laurentiis was 33, after having been together for more than a decade (via People). However, they didn’t start a family for another four years, according to People, and even then, it wasn’t exactly the couple’s "plan." "Todd and I talked about kids and decided we were okay not having them," De Laurentiis told Redbook in 2011. In fact, upon learning she was pregnant, De Laurentiis confessed to being "very afraid" — and so was Thompson. "What would happen to this life we had created, where we’d just take off for Santa Barbara for the weekend?" she wondered at the time.
Fortunately for her fans, although not surprisingly, De Laurentiis found a way to make things work. Her daughter, Jade Thompson, was born in 2008, and De Laurentiis is still going strong in her career. Her marriage, however, not so much. Nor is that particularly surprising, according to attorney Edward J. Jennings. "An unintended pregnancy can wreak havoc on a marriage," Jennings wrote on his website. "Even the most stable of marriages can suffer a rift or even experience divorce when a couple learns a child is on the way." Although De Laurentiis and Thompson did not divorce until 2015, the rift may have been there for far longer.
Perhaps Giada De Laurentiis subconsciously pushed Todd Thompson away
During her first year of marriage to Todd Thompson in 2003, Giada De Laurentiis unexpectedly lost her younger brother Dino to melanoma. Di Laurentiis told Redbook in a 2009 interview that her brother’s passing sparked an anxiety surrounding relationships and getting close to people. "I don’t want to have any more relationships," she said. "I don’t want to have anybody that close to me." This is a common reaction, according to Pyscom, which explains that surviving siblings feel a sense of loss of family togetherness, enhanced awareness of their own and other people’s mortality, and anxiety surrounding events that are out of their control. These feelings of intense grief can last decades, and can also cause a rift in current relationships (via Hey Sigmund). Experiencing a tragedy at any time of a relationship can test those bonds, Bay View Therapy explains, and that these feelings can challenge, or worsen, already existing issues in a relationship.
If Di Laurentiis never fully came to terms with the fear of intimacy or developing new (or current) relationships, this might have ultimately put up an invisible wall that halted any positive growth in her marriage (via Healthline). If Thompson was unable to provide her the support she needed — but couldn’t communicate — perhaps he simply stopped trying. While they had obviously been together for quite some time, maybe this fear, as well as lack of communication and self-isolation, unintentionally created a rift in the marriage.
It might have been an inability to cope with internal stress, and not necessarily the fame
Stress is best defined as our fight-or-flight mechanism, according to HelpGuide. In small doses, it can help you rise to meet a challenge or keep you alert and focused, and can actually help save your life. However, prolonged stress can have the opposite effect. You can’t live in that fight-or-flight state 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Chronic stress upsets every system in your body, per HelpGuide, and if left untreated, it can cause new health issues and worsen preexisting conditions including pain, sleep disorders, mental health, and issues with processing and memory.
Since her divorce, Giada De Laurentiis has opened up more about her self-care routine and how she manage to keep herself in check. She’s also been candid about her inability to regulate her stress levels as a young woman. Although she appears to be a type-A individual with a work-hard, play-hard ethic, that doesn’t make her immune to stress. She insinuates that she wasn’t taking care of herself before her divorce. Accord notes that common stressors and how an individual personally copes with and handles stress can have a direct impact on the functionality of a marriage. Perhaps, in addition to the pressure of fame, not having all the tools to cope with stress might’ve factored into De Laurentiis’ divorce.
The age gap might’ve been a contributing factor
While one would like to think that age is just a number, when it comes to marriage and relationships — as documented Dr. Randal S. Olson — that number can, in fact, make a difference. According to a study published in the Journal of Popular Economics, partners who are close in age usually come from the same generation, share similar cultural reference points, and will experiencing life milestones at the same time. Per Market Watch, partners with a one-year age difference have a 3% chance of divorce. A five-year difference increased the chance of separation to 18%, and a gap of 10 years increases the likelihood to 39%.
While not a hugely significant age difference, Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson had an almost 7-year age gap, and had entered the relationship when De Laurentiis was just 19. That would make Thompson in his mid-twenties. It’s enough of an age gap that it could have, quite possibly, been a contributing factor to the deterioration of their marriage.
Relationships change over the years, maybe theirs just fizzled
Greek philosopher Heraclitus summed up life as Panta Rhei, meaning everything changes — and is changing (via World History Encyclopedia). Basically, if you’re unable to adapt to change, well, you’re in trouble. When applied to the marriage of Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson, perhaps it truly wasn’t any of the rumors, traveling, career, and fame that ultimately led to the deterioration of their marriage.
Writing for Psychology Today, psychotherapist Vikki Stark suggests that relationships are never the exact same as when you first start dating, and as a relationship begins to deteriorate, the change can be so subtle that it is not even initially recognized. Examining their timeline, De Laurentiis and Thompson knew each other for over 20 years, were married for 11 of those years, and had a child five years into their marriage. Life was in a constant state of flux — and that’s without all the external stressors.
Being in a relationship for over two decades is a long time. You get to know your partner on multiple different, ever-changing levels. It can, no doubt, be tough. Therapist Michelle Chalfant tells The New York Times, "Not only do relationships change with time, but people change, which can affect the relationship dynamics as well." Maybe it’s not some big moment, or even all the tiny little moments that ultimately led to the demise of the marriage. Perhaps it was just two individuals who simply fell out of love.