Open any entertainment news section — including the one on this site — and several of the top stories will likely pertain to the relationships of the rich and/or famous. Is the break up of the marriage of HGTV hosts really news? Logic says no, but page views on such stories say otherwise.
So, what’s the draw? Most people go through some sort of relationship drama themselves and aren’t typically the most enthusiastic about hearing their friend talk about their latest complaints about their partner. And yet we can’t get enough information on the romantic lives of celebrities. It doesn’t really seem to make sense. Or does it?
It’s a form of escapism
If your real-life love life isn’t cutting it, focusing on the romantic entanglements of others may be a nice respite from reality.
“People like fantasy, as it is a way of escaping from their own lives,” Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City-based therapist, tells SheKnows. “Looking at celebrities’ relationships often creates a means for people to divert attention away from themselves and focus on something they see as ‘magical.'”
Given all the garbage we’ve been fed about finding Prince(ss) Charming and living happily ever after, it’s no wonder we’re drawn to real-life versions of these supposed fairy tales, Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors and costar on Sex Box, tells SheKnows.
“Watching celebrity romantic relationships feeds the fantasy of our own desires and wishes,” Walfish explains. “The look of love exchanged between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle makes us want to be loved in the same unbridled, unconditional way. Meghan has decided to give up her acting profession in order to make her role as wife of the prince, future mother and humanitarian work her life goals. Her television and film career will not interfere with her royal duties, responsibilities or marital relationship. Many young women dream of being swept off their feet and carried away by their Prince Charming (and vice versa)!”
It can give us hope
Relationships can often feel hopeless. If you’re in one, you may feel trapped. And if you’re not in one, you may feel as though you may never meet someone. Looking to the lives of the famous could make us feel more hopeful about our own lives, Hershenson says.
“Sometimes it’s easier to focus on others than it is to focus on yourself,” she explains. “When life gets tough, looking at someone who has what you want can give you hope.”
We can learn something
Sometimes, when we see mistakes other people make, it can teach us something about ourselves and how we behave in relationships.
“Celebrities often put their career before their relationship or talk too much publicly about their relationship,” Hershenson explains. “Both can cause problems and may be cautionary tales on what you can do differently.”
Ultimately, Walfish says that the greatest lesson we can learn from the love lives of celebrities is that they struggle with virtually the same issues as everyone else. “The biggest challenges in relationships boil down to communication problems; poor conflict resolution skills; different parenting styles; disputes over sex, money, in-laws and career,” she explains. “Money and status do not buy happiness. Public notoriety and fame add stress to a relationship and outweigh the perks that the public perceives.”
Are there any downsides? Yes, Hershenson says. “If one focuses too much on fantasy or relationships they know nothing about, you can get unrealistic expectations about what a healthy relationship involves,” she notes.
Along the same lines, it can also deter single people from pursuing real-life relationships, Walfish says. The escapism aspect can go too far. “For single folks who live an isolated and lonely lifestyle, watching celebrity couple updates can become an obsession and a kind of denial by distracting from the lonely dreariness of their own life,” Walfish notes.
Overall, though, it’s perfectly natural to be interested in the romantic lives of celebrities — as long as you’re able to separate fantasy from reality.