The psychological reason we're so obsessed with celebrity relationships

Timothee Chalamet and Kylie Jenner are just one of the celebrity relationships we care deeply about. (Alamy)
Timothee Chalamet and Kylie Jenner are just one of the celebrity relationships we care deeply about. (Alamy)

Famous folk, they’re just like us. So, why then, are we so obsessed with celebrity relationships?

Whether it’s trying to decipher Timothee Chalamet and Kylie Jenner’s conversation at the Golden Globes, analysing the body language between Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck on any red carpet, or fawning over Taylor Swift’s lyric change for her boyfriend, Travis Kelce during her Eras tour, there’s just something that makes us stop and pay attention.

"We are drawn to certain celebrity relationships due to the perception that these celebrities are relatable to us – we can feel as close as friends," Tina Wilson, Wingman Founder and Relationship Expert, says.

"When those deemed as the 'ideal celebrity couple' call it quits, for example, it can create a sense of despair and shock amongst fans, as it chips away at the hope for their own romantic futures. This is why fans root for celebrity couples to get back together even after years of them separating like JLo and Ben. It's this relatability factor that puts these relationships under a closer microscope, making us more intrigued by the personal lives of those in the public eye."

This feeling, as if a celebrity is a close pal, is known as a parasocial relationship. Hope Flynn, founder of FeedMeFemale and head of sexual wellness content at iPlaySafe, describes a parasocial relationship as a one-sided connection between an individual and a celebrity – a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by social media and celebrities posting more candid images and videos of themselves.

Watch: Kylie Jenner and Timothee Chalamet make first official appearance as couple at Golden Globes

"Following celebrity gossip and celebs on social media can create a perceived intimacy, leading some of us to be deeply invested in their personal lives, especially their relationships," Flynn explains.

"As humans we have a desire for connection, so even if it's primarily imagined or parasocial this plays a big role in why people care about all the intricate details of celebrity relationships."

There are two key reasons why we care about some relationships more than others: how popular the celebrity is and how much drama is going on in their relationship.

For example, Swift’s relationship with Kelce is continually making headlines due to sheer star power, multiple public outings, and the giddiness fans feel towards a simmering new relationship.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift attend CATCH Steak on October 14, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce's burgeoning relationship has seen an intense spotlight placed on it. (Getty Images)

On the other hand, because we rarely hear about Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, we forget the pair are together half of the time, as they keep their relationship well out of the spotlight.

"People are often drawn to relationships that resonate with their own experiences, so if you’re dating you’ll be interested to see what someone like Taylor Swift is up to," Flynn explains.

"We also love to adore the perfect celebrity couple like Victoria and David Beckham who give us hope that ‘the one’ is out there and you can build a perfect family."

Flynn adds that couples such as Chalamet and Jenner are so captivating because they are an unlikely duo, and this only makes us want to know more about the ins and outs of their union.

"Of course, celebrities aren’t some alien life form, they are humans just like us," she adds. "They experience feelings, emotions and trauma just like the average person, the only difference is that their lifestyles are often more extravagant than ours."

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Golden Globes 2024/Golden Globes 2024 via Getty Images)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez reconnected after two decades apart. (Getty Images)

The ‘celebrities are just like us’ rhetoric is one of the key reasons why we find famous relationships so fascinating. From flings, to falling in love, to on-off relationships, to deciding the other person is ‘the one’, to break ups and divorce, their experiences of love are just like ours – albeit with prenups.

"Celebrities face their own unique challenges and privileges due to their fame, wealth, and public scrutiny," Flynn says.

"But we know they too experience the joys, struggles, and complexity of relationships so we turn to them to see how they handle it. Seeing how a celebrity deals with a breakup or a divorce after having children could be the inspiration or encouragement some people need to see in order to deal with their own relationship problems."

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