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06 September 2022

Why are we so obsessed with celebrity power couples?

06 September 2022

Bennifer, Kimye, Brangelina… We’re so obsessed with celebrity power couples, we even give them dedicated portmanteaus – and are devastated if the shiny veneer cracks and the seemingly ‘perfect’ duo splits.

Thanks to social media, it feels like we’re closer to these celebs than ever – we’re in their homes, following their daily lives, and it can feel like we’re watching a fairy-tale come to life.

But is it real? What does our obsession with celebrity couples say about us, and how can it impact our own self-esteem and relationships?

There’s a sense of relatability

Even though famous power couples feel worlds away from our regular lives, Hannah Martin, qualified psychotherapist and founder of the Talented Ladies Club (talentedladiesclub.com), suggests we follow our favourite celebs for a reason.

“If you look at the kind of celebrity people generally worship or look up to, they tend to be people who are like them – but more successful,” she speculates. “So if you’re a country farm girl, then you would look up to someone who was like that.

“It’s like a version of us, but living this fantasy life we’re not living,” adds Martin, who suggests we might “live through their success, and we live through what they are doing”.

It can have its downsides 

While following celebrities and their relationships closely doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing – particularly if, says Martin, “it’s just pure escapism”, it can have its drawbacks too.

“Say you might be having a really bad day, then you go watch a reality show with your celebrity in it, or look at them in a magazine or look at their Instagram – it’s like an antidote, it takes you away from what you’re living with. But at the end of the day, it’s not satisfying – because ultimately, we’re not living that life,” explains Martin.

“However much you consume it, it’s never ultimately going to make your life any better, or make you feel any better.”

Social media has brought us closer than ever

When Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were first together in the early Noughties, the media attention was intense – but it’s nothing on the obsession we’ve collectively had with Bennifer 2.0, when the couple reunited in 2021.

Social media has a big part to play in this, bringing us closer to our favourite celebs than ever before. However, Martin suggests this has fuelled our obsession with famous couples – to a potentially damaging extent.

“Social media gives us an illusion of intimacy,” she explains. “Before, the closest we’d ever get to a celebrity was watching them on the red carpet or them doing something in their home in Hello! – which feels highly curated and we knew that. We knew it wasn’t really like that, it was what they wanted to show us.”

Instagram, TikTok, Twitter – social media “makes us think we’re actually seeing inside their life. Celebrities can be in bed with no make-up, showing us a video of them crying, talking about something really intimate. We think you can’t really get closer to someone than that, but it’s as staged, in a way, as the Hello! shoot.”

Martin argues that “social media gives us this illusion that we’re much closer to celebrities than we really are, or we know more about their lives – so it makes you feel like you really know these people, and you can be more invested in it [the relationship]”.

Can it impact our own relationships?

Watching a power couple smile for the cameras on the red carpet or going on holiday via Instagram isn’t real life – but it might seem like it is.

Martin wants us to remember that “every single thing you see on social media is curated, even the stuff that is – in inverted commas – ‘honest’.

“I’m not saying celebrities and influencers are being deliberately deceptive – it’s the very nature of social media,” she adds. “No-one should have to put their entire lives on display, everyone’s entitled to privacy, but it’s the illusion of honesty and intimacy that dupes people into thinking the little bits they see online are the truth. Therefore yes, they judge their own lives by what they’re seeing online.”

Martin suggests you might see your favourite celeb getting their partner breakfast in bed – and then start judging your own relationship harshly if you’re not getting the same.

Why we’re so devastated when they split

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sent shockwaves when they announced their split in 2016 (Alamy/PA)

When you’ve put so much faith into a relationship – even if it’s between two people you don’t actually know – it can be crushing when it comes to an end.

“It breaks our trust in them. It also exposes the fact that what they’ve been saying about this ‘perfect’ relationship isn’t true,” suggests Martin. “Then it makes people think: wow, if they can split up – then what about me? Especially if you’re following a celebrity you feel some kind of kinship with.”

However, it’s ultimately worth remembering these couples are likely not in your close circle, and have no bearing on your own self-esteem or relationship. Plus, how many of your friends have announced a split via a joint Instagram statement, or referred to the break-up as ‘conscious uncoupling’?

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