Every time a celebrity couple I like — I’m talking to you, Austin Butler and Vanessa Hudgens, and you, Ben Simmons and Kendall Jenner — breaks up, I take a ride on an emotional rollercoaster. I want to know what went wrong, how long it’s been going downhill, and why they would do this to me. But below the sadness, despair, and hurt over something that quite clearly has nothing to do with me, there’s a teeny, tiny, very small, extremely mini glimmer of hope that I now have my shot. I can seduce a celebrity and make them fall in love with me. And no, I’m not a maniac.
“There’s just something about a celebrity,” says sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming, Ph.D. “They’re the ideal in terms of looks, success, connections, power, and all of the things that are often attractive. [It’s] projection. We have this sense that because of the films we’ve watched, we know this person.” We conflate characters with the actors who play them and, in turn, get drawn into those fictional narratives and stories and start to identify with them, she says.
Because we see actors portray these ideals on our screens, we start to think that they’re the model for who we want to be in a relationship with. I’m not (usually) delusional, but I take bits and pieces of different celebrities’ attributes and keep them in mind when dating: Timothée Chalamet’s bone structure. Jeff Goldblum’s kookiness. Noah Centineo’s sensitivity. Brendon Urie’s/Gregg Sulkin’s/Jamie Dornan’s faces. The list is as long as a CVS receipt. But, it’s hardly realistic. These fictional characters and scenarios aren’t representative of the intricacies of authentic relationships.
“[It’s] the fairy-tale happy ending — the prince and the palace translates to the celebrity [with] the big house and the nice car,” says Fleming.
All of this can lead to unrealistic expectations in real-life relationships. You know, the one with the person you met on Tinder or had a class with in college. It’s what Fleming calls the “comparison trap.” You get so enamored with your understanding of a celebrity persona that when the person you are seeing doesn’t behave like you assume this famous person would, you find yourself disappointed.
Still, no one is suggesting we give up celebrity culture (TBH, that sounds like a bit of an empty existence). Reading about your crushes, watching their movies, stalking them on Instagram, etc. fuels your sense of fantasy in a positive way, says Fleming. “Enjoying the process is a healthy thing to do as long as it doesn’t get obsessive or in the way of your partner in real life.”
But you have to find a balance. “If you’re sitting there and complaining that there’s no one out there and you haven’t been on a date in two years, then what are your standards?” asks Fleming. You don’t want to sell yourself short — it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to have standards (know your worth!). But those requirements are only justifiable to a certain point. Do you want your partner to be an all-around caring person? Yes. Do you only want them if they drive a Lambo and have a five-year deal with Universal Pictures? Let it go. Remember, nobody’s perfect. Not even Timothée Chalamet.