EEEEK. Celebrity crushes can negatively impact your real relationship

There’s nothing wrong with having a crush on a celebrity, right? Well, the answer is complicated. 

Way back in the 90s, teenage me had a bedroom wall filled with TV Hits posters. These posters (other than the occasional Aqua one because yes, my music taste was A+) were of my celebrity crushes, plural. There was Leonardo (of Romeo and Juliet vintage), Home Improvement’s JTT (every girl wished he lived next door), Devon Sawa (Casper) and several of my go-to, my true celebrity love, Dean Cain aka Superman.

Nowadays, as a happily married woman, my walls aren’t covered with posters of my celebrity crushes. Nope, instead I just spend hours of my day perusing their social media accounts, or should I say his social media account. I’m talking about you Chris Brown (the vet, not the rapper).

While my husband is very aware of this crush (and to clarify I don’t actually look at his social media for hours) and most of the time he doesn’t care when I get on one of my ‘I heart Chris Brown’ tangents, it turns out that there are some partners who do. Because the grim reality is celebrity crushes can actually hurt our relationships, our real relationships.

This is how.

Behavioural analyst, Wendy Patrick, JD, PhD, says that “celebrity crushes are fairly common, given the glamorised images of Hollywood notables portrayed by the media.” And most, she says are “harmless” (phew).

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Psychologist, Meredith Fuller agrees, telling Body + Soul that because of our connection with social media that celebrities in a sense “become a part of our lives, allowing us to insert ourselves into their narratives and in doing so making our own lives feel more exciting.”

However (yep, there’s always a but) there is a point where it crosses the line from harmless, to harmful, especially to the relationship with our own partner.

While “many celebrity crushes are harmless…some media fans fall in love with their favourite character on television or the movies, which can translate into an infatuation with the actor or actress playing the role,” Patrick says.

Along with this, another clear sign that it has moved from the harmless category is when someone is “investing time and energy into following the favourite celebrity [which] detracts from the time and attention one could be paying to a current partner.

One of the classic signs that a celebrity crush is negatively impacting a current relationship is excessive time spent following the celebrity—on or offline. Quality relationships involve attention to each other; not relational alternatives—whether or not a celebrity “crush” would ever culminate in contact. There is no quicker way to reduce comfort and security in a current relationship than expressing interest in another partner—regardless of potential relational success,” she says.

In addition to this, Fuller adds that when a person becomes infatuated with a celebrity that it can create unrealistic expectations of our own partner, expecting that they look and behave in the same way as our celeb crush.

“Being disappointed by your own partner’s efforts because you are continually comparing them to your celebrity crush can cause issues within your relationship because it is impossible for your partner to live up to them,” she says.

Fuller adds that a celebrity crush can be problematic if you begin to “view your own relationship, or partner as mundane because it is not like your celebrity crush.”

And finally, a complete no-go, according to Patrick is contacting your celebrity crush. “Celebrity friends, fans and followers actually try to initiate contact with the object of their infatuation, which can be threatening to the well-being of an existing relationship,” she says.

While I would still identify my crush as harmless (at least in this public forum), if you do happen to think that your crush could be teetering on the edge of harmful, what can be done? Patrick says that open and honest discussion is paramount.

“Honest discussion heals division. Many celebrity crushes are harmless because they remain undisclosed—but also unpursued. Many people find famous people interesting, but it ends there. If there are proactive attempts to learn more, gather memorabilia, or God forbid try to make contact, perhaps it is time for an honest discussion about what the obsessed partner is hoping to achieve. Even understanding the way in which pursuing a celebrity crush negatively impacts a relationship is a great first step to recognising the value of abandoning the (pointless and harmful) pursuit.”

Fuller suggests that in order to overcome this issue, a reality check may be required.

“Ask yourself what you are happy about in your own life and what you are missing. Sometimes we look for this in a celebrity crush instead of in our own lives.”

She also suggests weaning yourself off (baby steps people), by reducing the amount of time you spend on their social media accounts or watching their films. Also being aware of how your behaviour might impact not only your partner but other people is helpful.

“Ask yourself – are people sick of hearing about it? If the answer is yes, it may be time to give yourself some parameters.”

I shall call mine the Chris Brown hour.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher.