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What Does Celebrity Love Say About Us?

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The love lives of celebrities are the cash cow for most popular media.

celebrity couples tom cruise nicole kidman reggie bush kim kardashian jessica simpson leann rimes

Dr. Wendy Walsh: The headlines strike us first. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her boyfriend of two years, New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush, are going their separate ways ... Pop star LeAnn Rimes and husband Dean Sheremet have announced that they are splitting up after news of an alleged affair between Rimes and former co-star Eddie Cibrian ... Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst weds in Vegas ... Kelis receives big child support check from Nas ... Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo breaks up with pop star Jessica Simpson.

The love lives of celebrities are the cash cow for most popular media. The most read stories on even hard news sites like the New York Times are often about celebrity love. Why do celebrity relationships titillate us? Most of us don't have lives that involve an entourage that leaks, a press that churns gossip, paparazzi that ambushes, or time spent in private airports hiding behind very large sunglasses. So comparing celebrity relationships with ours might seem fruitless, and even a bit grandiose. I mean, when was the last time we worried that our husband might be seduced by Paris Hilton at a Hollywood club?

Could it be that we are just as voyeuristic as the journalists who collect the dish for us? Are our lives so boring that beautiful, wealthy people are our main source of entertainment?

The answers to those questions are more complicated than a straight yes or no. There certainly is a great deal of entertainment value in watching godly beauty struggle and morph into human tissue. But I maintain that our lives are not so dissimilar. Most adult Americans experience intense love, great heartbreak, regretful, angry outbursts, and moments of loneliness. We are the fortunate ones who don't have to read about it on with our morning coffee, nor see a bad photo of ourselves beside the article. (For the record, whenever I blog about celebrities, I tend to choose the most flattering photo I can find, even if the mainstream press has pinned them a villain. It just seems like the most humane thing to do.)

We may not have the drama of a media spotlight, but we can certainly sympathize with celebrities' relationship problems. People gossip in the real world, too. Partners have affairs with coworkers not unlike any on-set romance. Divorce is just as ugly when the child support payment is less than a star's monthly shoe expenditure. And we sometimes wear dark sunglasses when picking up our kids from school because we can't find the strength to let our "in crowd" see our pain.

Celebrity news makes our pain feel, somehow, normal. Our very real human emotion of empathy helps us have a shared emotional experience when we witness a celebrity's love life. Suddenly, we are not alone in our own journey. We are comforted by the knowledge that money and fame do not protect us from relationship problems. And it is that emotional experience that keeps us hooked on entertainment news. The habit isn't dangerous, unless we find ourselves silently rooting for tears and humiliation, or if we hear a voice calling us to sit outside the gates of their mansion.

But for the most part, we empathize and understand that their problems are much like ours. So, when Kim and Reggie part ways, we can think of the long-distance relationship that failed for us. When Jessica gets dumped the day before her birthday, we remember the jock in high school who bailed before the prom. We get it. We've been there, ladies. We're in there with you.

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