For weeks now the subject of Madonna and Guy Ritchie's marriage falling apart has been all over. So many reports of them breaking up and so many of them being so happy together....so what is the deal??
Madonna's biographer gave an inside scoop on the break-up of one of the most high-profile marriages in show business.
Last weekend two friends of Madonna visited her at one of her New York apartments and, during a chat over tea, the subject of her marriage was raised.
"So, how are things going with Guy?" one of the women asked. "Fine," Madonna answered, tersely. "But there have been so many news reports . . ." the friend continued. Madonna's faced darkened. "If you think I'm going to discuss this with you now, you're very wrong."
But the friend continued to push: "Well, what they're saying is . . ."
Madonna started to really freak. "Stop right there," she warned. "This subject is off limits. I'm serious."
With that, the conversation uneasily shifted to the more acceptable topic of Madonna's latest CD, Hard Candy, and her upcoming Sticky And Sweet Tour.
The trouble seems to be that since Madonna is unwilling to discuss her private life, others have been busy doing it for her.
Stories about end of her seven-year marriage to Guy Ritchie have been circulating for more than a year.
Their recent, very strained, appearance at the Cannes Film Festival did little to convince anyone that they were happy.
But the rumor mill went into overdrive this week, when it was reported that Madonna had been consulting Fiona Shackleton, one of Britain's top divorce lawyers, who famously represented Sir Paul McCartney in his bitter divorce from Heather Mills.
Guy, meanwhile, is said to have been in discussion with another prestigious law firm, Forsters.
The couple are now said to be "living as brother and sister rather than husband and wife".
A formal announcement of their separation, supposedly has been delayed until Madonna's upcoming tour is completed in Mexico on November 29.
So what has brought their relationship to crisis point?
"As Madonna's biographer, I have spent the past weeks talking to some of her and Guy's closest friends and associates about the reasons for all this fevered speculation." "In doing so, I learned that not only is there real trouble in paradise, but that Madonna is handling the situation in very much the same way she handles everything else - with ruthless professionalism."
"The possibility that they might divorce has been the elephant in the room between Madonna and Guy for at least the last two years," a friend of the couple reveals.
"Neither of them is shocked about it. They both knew it was coming. Now, for Madonna at least, it's about efficiency. For her, it's just something else on the agenda, a matter to be handled quickly and reasonably."
"Only recently, she told Guy: "You know it's over and I know it's over. So, let's just do it in as civilised a way as we can."
"I think she believed that if there was an understanding between them before the tour began, he wouldn't have as much right to complain about his and the children's lives being turned upside down, as he has done in the past."
Madonna once said that she and Guy "have been having the same fight for many years". She was referring to the stress her work puts on her family life.
"Every couple of years, it's the same story," adds the source. "She makes a record. She tours to promote it. It causes chaos in their lives. He complains. They fight- a lot. The tour ends. She promises "never again". Two years go by, and then she plans another record and another tour."
Madonna is determined to make this tour her greatest yet, but she's also trying to formulate a way to keep the family together, at least until it's over.
"It's important to her that the children live as normal a life as possible when they are on the road with her this summer," another source explains.
"She fears that a big announcement will put them under even more scrutiny. If nothing is said before the tour, she and Guy can then share possession of the children without the Press viewing it as a custody battle."
"Also, Guy can visit her and the kids on the road if he wants to, and it won't cause an avalanche of speculation about a possible reconciliation."
Guy's position, as put by one of his close friends, is that "his wife is an extremely difficult spouse".
"He has taken to describing her with two words, "absolutely impossible", ' says one of Ritchie's friends. 'The world might see her as driven and talented but, as he sees it, she's just never happy with her life, his life, or anyone else's. 'Or, as he once put it to me: "That one's never satisfied and I'm afraid it's going to catch up with her one day.'' '
"Guy's life became all about managing the day-to-day whirlwind that is his wife's career,' says the source. 'It's always chaos, very distracting and all encompassing."
Another friend of Guy's painted an even bleaker picture. 'If you were to really look back on his relationship with Madonna, it's been one emasculation after another. 'For instance, he is constantly thought of in the media as 'Mr Madonna' - which upsets him. He knows he's been viewed as little more than her bag holder for a long time. But when Madonna started directing short films a couple of years ago, he felt she had crossed a line. 'Could she not leave one thing for him? She makes music, she makes videos, she writes children's books, she acts, could she not leave the film directing to him? 'All of it just made him look bad in the public eye.'
'Guy is famous for something else, entirely, being Madonna's husband, and that hasn't helped him, at all. Any time a film studio decides to green light a project, it's putting tens of millions of dollars behind it.
'However, many movie executives haven't wanted to take the risk of finding out whether or not Guy is just "Mr Madonna" or still a decent director. As a result, important projects in recent years haven't got off the ground for him.'
For her part, Madonna feels that Guy has, in certain ways, crumbled in recent years. 'He has not been there for her,' says one of Madonna's friends.
'She gives a lot. She works hard. And he just hasn't been that supportive lately. So, yes, they have had some blazing rows. They are passionate people and they fight hard.
'For instance, it galls Madonna that she gives Guy career advice all the time and he never, ever takes it. She truly believes she is a genius in business, and many people might agree.
Another of Guy's friends describes his marriage to Madonna as having been a 'golden handcuffs' situation for him. When he met Madonna in 1998, he still had a steady income. However, with the passing of the years, that income dried up while his style of living was enhanced, ten-fold.
'The marriage soon presented a very complex power differential,' the source maintains. 'Being an Englishmen from a very conventional family, Guy has a traditional concept of a man and woman's role in a relationship, and that just hasn't added up in his day-to-day with Madonna. I think he's felt trapped and hasn't known how to proceed.
'Clearly, Madonna is the one holding all the cards. She's the one with the big guns when it comes to any type of negotiation. 'He's smart, though. He waited it out until even she had to admit that the marriage was over. Maybe he felt she would be fairer if it was her idea rather than his. 'All I know is that when she finally came to him recently and said: "Look it's over." He was relieved.'
Madonna's finances are, at this point, difficult to ascertain. Certainly, many hundreds of millions are at stake, much of which has been earned in the past seven years. Last year alone she signed a $100million deal with concert promotion company Live Nation, not just for shows and tour merchandising but also for future recordings. It's one of the biggest contracts in the history of the entertainment business.
Reports have suggested that she may now have to give up as much as half of her recent fortune to pay Guy off, since the couple are thought not to have a pre-nuptial agreement.
However, some of Madonna's friends find this assumption implausible. One told me: 'If you think she would marry Guy without a pre-nup, you don't know her very well, do you? She thinks of everything.' Maybe not this time, though.
Another source very close to the entertainer put it to me like this: 'A huge problem with people's perception of Madonna is that she is thought of as a cold-hearted business woman at the expense of everything else in her life. However, she does not view her personal life as a business.
'She wanted a healthy marriage and children from the time she was about 35, a goal separate and apart from her career. When she met Guy, she was following her heart. She felt she hit the lottery with him. 'She believed the marriage would last for ever. She couldn't imagine reaching into her purse and pulling out a contract for him to sign. No way. She loved him too much. So, I'm sure there is no pre-nup.
'In that respect, she could have a big problem ahead of her. He may be entitled to quite a lot of money. Yes, this whole thing could be very expensive for her.'
At this point, though, losing a vast chunk of her fortune is not at the forefront of Madonna's mind. She is simply moving on with her life as best she can, setting up a home in one of her New York apartments and making plans to relocate there permanently.
She and Guy have already agreed they will share custody of their three children, say their friends, though of course, any such plans continue to be vehemently denied by her representatives.
In fact, according to reliable sources, by this time next year, the Ritchies will be divorced.
I never even knew why they were together to begin with. They just never really seemed happy..I mean maybe they were in the verryy beginning, but the last 5 years they both seemed miserable. They don't seem happy when they are out in public at all. I'm sure it does make him feel really bad that all he is known for is being Madonna's husband. He has lost all identity of himself which I'm sure has caused him lots of issues. I'm sure they signed a pre-nup, she would of been stupid not to, regardless how in love she was; she was worth tons then. But staying together for the media just seems so silly, then again I'm not a celebrity so I don't know how tough it is to have your whole life scrutinized like that. I guess it's just easier for them to "play" marriage for another couple months, then divorce and then she can go into hiding. Oh well, guess we'll see what happens!!