"We would like to announce that after seven years together we have decided to formally separate," read the joint statement released by Hollywood's formerly golden couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
FRANCIS SPECKER/LANDOV; AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN
They're a couple who once described themselves as "phone junkies," keeping up a constant patter even when an ocean lay between them. But last week Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston found themselves picking up the phone – together – to do the most difficult dialing of their 4 1/2-year marriage. One by one they called relatives, close friends and business associates to break the news that would become public on Jan. 7: They had decided to separate. Yet the calls did not have the teary, pass-the-tissues tone that such heartbreaking news might suggest. Pitt "didn't want people to think the separation is a bad thing," says a friend of the couple's. "He emphasized that they were in a good place. The decision was good for them. They're getting along. They really care about each other."
To be sure, almost as shocking as the news of the split is the extraordinarily civil manner in which Hollywood's golden couple – whose romance seemed to so successfully straddle A-list glamor and down-to-earth fun – have approached it. "They still love each other," says a source close to Aniston and Pitt. "The separation is a step back to see if their relationship is going to be forever or if it's not. They're searching for the answer, which is not an easy one to come up with." And, observes the source, "they're still very close."