The real reason Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise broke up

It was supposed to be a perfect match. Tom and Nicole, two young celebrities at the height of international fame, capturing our attention all throughout their marriage, which spanned the 1990s. They weren't just well-known in their own right — they became a star couple, their union itself a lightning rod for media attention. They acted opposite each other in Stanley Kubrick's erotic final film, Eyes Wide Shut in 1999, and were touted as a pair of sex symbols worthy of envy. They had children, they had fame. Seemingly, they had it all — and it all fell apart. Why?

It begins so beautifully

The Tom and Nicole relationship started in 1989, where they connected through — where else? — Hollywood. Kidman was a rising star, fresh from a string of Australian films and miniseries which had won her increasing accolades and attention in her country, the highest being the Australian Film Institute's Best Television Actress award, which she won at the age of 17. It was during a viewing of the 1989 Australian film Dead Calm that Tom first set eyes on Nicole, according to Vanity Fair. Impressed with what he saw, he began putting things in motion to meet her in person to maybe cast her in a movie — and perhaps more, being that at the time he was in the process of divorcing from his first wife, Mimi Rogers.

So they met, and in short, Nicole fell hard for Tom. And she'd be the first to tell you so. "He basically swept me off my feet," she told Vanity Fair in 2002. "I fell madly, passionately in love. And as happens when you fall in love, my whole plan in terms of what I wanted for my life — I was like, 'Forget it. This is it.'" Together, the duo starred as romantic opposites in 1990's Days of Thunder, and once Tom's divorce was through, married the same year. At the time, Tom was 28, and Nicole was 23

They had a hard time growing their family

As things were beginning, there seemed to be no sign of the future misgivings that would tear the couple apart. In their breaks from movie shoots, they did fun things like skydiving together, and Nicole's enthusiasm for her husband, and starting a family, was evident. "I was desperate to have a baby with him." she later said to Vanity Fair. "I didn't care if we were married."

They tried for children together, unsuccessfully, and chose instead to adopt two children over the course of three years, Isabella and Connor, born in 1992 and 1995, respectively. They would raise the kids together up until their divorce after the decade's end in 2001.

Religion got in the way

In what should have seemed inevitable from the very beginning, fractures in the marriage started to occur over a very specific ideological split — Tom was (and remains) a Scientologist, and Nicole was not, and seemingly had no intentions on ever becoming one. And if you've been keeping up with Scientology scrutiny in the news lately, it shouldn't surprise you to hear that a union like that doesn't have much of a chance, long-term.

As has been extensively covered in Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear, and the accompanying documentary film by Alex Gibney, the biggest source of friction between Tom and Nicole came from forces outside their marriage — and inside Tom's church. Supposedly, the story goes, leaders in Scientology were so concerned that Nicole was pulling Tom away from Scientology, they began to conspire to end the marriage, something it had been rumored they had previously done with Tom's first wife, Mimi Rogers. Marriages are hard enough to keep together without billion-dollar organizations reportedly pulling at every frayed thread, so the idea that this meddling would lead to the end of their marriage is not a hard pill to swallow at all.

They grew distant and divorced

Though Scientology's highest leaders were supposedly suspicious of Nicole from the start, efforts were made to bring her into the organization and turn her into an ally. She was accelerated through the ranks of Scientology doctrine, but never truly got on board, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Efforts were allegedly made to get her to denounce her father, who was a psychiatrist, a specific field of study that Scientologists have long raged against. These efforts failed, and likely backfired.

Additionally, in May of 1991, Time magazine ran a scathing exposé on Scientology as their cover story, calling it a "thriving cult of greed and power." This article, coupled with her own personal misgivings with how Scientology was affecting her life, reportedly encouraged Nicole to try and pull Tom away from the organization. It was a game of tug-of-war that lasted until the end of the decade. The pressure must have been enormous, even before the church allegedly began tapping the phones in the couple's Los Angeles home, according to Vanity Fair. As their differences became irreconcilable and conditions in the marriage grew increasingly intolerable, Tom and Nicole announced their impending divorce on February 6, 2001.

Tom keeps the kids, Nicole gets shut out

Of course, then there was the matter of the kids, still preteens at the time of the divorce. Who would take custody of the two? Would Tom and Nicole share it? They did, for a time, according to the Daily Mail. But as Nicole's star rose and she took more demanding jobs, the kids spent more and more time with their father, seeing their mother less and less. They began to be home-schooled by Tom's sisters, with a Scientology-focused educational regimen, and one summer went to a Scientology-focused summer camp instead of spending it with Nicole. By 2005, they were effectively living with Tom full-time, and by choice.

The years of estrangement

For years, Nicole Kidman's relationship with her children remained estranged. Isabella grew up and got married without inviting her mother, even though they were in the same city at the time, according to Page Six. Neither child attended their grandfather's funeral, the Daily Mail reported. In the another article, the Daily Mail said they referred to Katie Holmes as "Mom" starting in 2006, and seemingly didn't talk about their real mother… at all.

Leah Remini shared an anecdote from this time period in her new book (via Vulture), about an incident immediately after the 2006 wedding of Tom to Katie Holmes. Sharing a ride to the airport, Leah asked the kids about their mother, and if they still saw her a lot. Bella surprised Remini with the ferocity of her answer. "Not if I have a choice," said Bella, reportedly. "Our mom is a f**king SP." And just in case you need that translated, it means "Suppresive Person."

But there are signs of reconciliation

Last year in August, it was reported that Nicole had finally gotten to meet her daughter's husband, nearly a year after the two were married. As for Isabella, she denies there are problems now. "Of course we talk," she said, They're my parents." Her son Connor spoke similarly. "I don't care what people say. I know that me and mum are solid. I love her a lot. My family means everything."

Families are hard work

The moral of the story is that life, especially family life, is incredibly messy. And it gets worse when you add into the mix two huge stars with international profiles, millions of dollars, and a secretive religious group with serious sway. It's just about enough to make us appreciate our own families all the more, whatever their flaws, for keeping things less complicated than this clan. And though Tom and Nicole have been long-divorced, moved on, and remarried, they'll still always be connected through the kids they raised together. We wish them all happiness, and the best of luck in getting it.