Tight-lipped stars fare better than liplockers
The best way to maintain a relationship is to not share the intimate details, experts say.
By MONICA HAYNES
Love is a wonderful thing!
It makes people jump up and down on couches or write best-selling novels or kiss awkwardly and nauseatingly in front of other people.
However, when the folks are famous -- & agrave; la Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lopez and former beau Ben Affleck -- is all that jumping and kissing in public a good idea?
Given that celebrities are under the constant glare of the media spotlight, is a relationship meltdown inevitable?
"No relationship could withstand public scrutiny on that level," said Roger Friedman, celebrity columnist for Foxnews.com.
He points to the implosion of Bennifer I, the doomed coupling of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, as an example of how not to carry on a celebrity relationship.
"Everything they did was amplified," Friedman said.
The couple didn't do themselves any favors by discussing their relationship in interviews and appearing together in Lopez's "Jenny from the Block" video. When Affleck caresses Lopez's famous derriere, it's definitely a TMI moment.
"There was a lot of arrogance and hubris involved [in that relationship]," Friedman said.
Public professions of love
Bennifer II has fared much better. Last month, Affleck married actress Jennifer Garner after a courtship so far below the media radar compared with the J. Lo affair it was practically on the ground. Lopez also learned her lesson. For months she wouldn't even acknowledge her marriage to singer Marc Anthony.
Tom Cruise seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The star, who's been married twice before, has folks scratching their heads over his recent sofa-hopping, giddy-as-a-schoolgirl declaration of love for actress Katie Holmes.
The usually reserved Cruise has been so effusive that many people don't believe the TomKat love fest is real.
Friedman is among them.
"Everyone is suspicious of the ones that are forced on us," he said.
He thinks Cruise is more taken with the need for a box office boost than he is with Holmes' charms.
The relationship, Friedman said, gave Cruise a publicity hook and something to exploit in the press.
Some, however, are willing to give the couple the benefit of the doubt -- if they just shut up.
"If I were Tom and Katie, the first thing I would do is relax and stop trying to tell everyone how in love you are," said Noah St. John, a relationship and productivity expert from Boston.
"When you're really in love, you're at peace," said his partner and fellow expert on relationships, Denise Berard. "You don't have to jump around."
Keeping it quiet
You also shouldn't have to devour each other's lips in public & agrave; la David Guest and Liza Minnelli or Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, two highly publicized matches made and broken in PR heaven.
"We love to build people up and tear them down," St. John said. "It's an American pastime, unfortunately."
St. John and Berard agree that the best way to keep a relationship, whether there are celebrities involved or not, is to not share the intimate details. That would probably mean nixing the reality show route taken by singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who can now be seen gracing tabloid covers every week.
Berard explains that even talking to a best friend can cause problems.
"Your best friend's allegiance is to you," she said. "She's there to look out for your best interest."
While one partner may forgive and forget a mistake by the other, the friend does not.
"It's even worse in a public situation, when it's not just your best friend, it's everybody that's waiting to remind you [of a partner's mistake]," Berard said.
No one to turn to
Also, it's much harder to find someone to confide in if you're well known. Someone who comes into a celebrity's life on the set or in the studio may seem trustworthy but many times is not.
"A lot of people are just looking for an in to get their 15 minutes of glory," Berard said.
Take, for example, former talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, who often gushed about husband Frank Gifford in public.
A tabloid magazine secretly set up the former football player/sportscaster with a woman not his wife. The woman was paid to talk about the liaison in detail, and the tryst was tabloid fodder for months.
Although they remained married, both Giffords suffered the humiliation of having a very rocky period played out in the public eye, more than likely because of having their good times so much in the spotlight.
Author Terry McMillan can relate. She made no secret of the fact that her best-selling novel, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," was based on her relationship with a much younger man she'd met in Jamaica.
When the book became a hit movie starring Angela Bassett, there was even more of a spotlight on McMillan's love affair and subsequent marriage to Jonathan Plummer, 22 years her junior.
Now, the couple is engaged in a bitter divorce because, after six years of marriage, Plummer has declared he's gay. The breakup of the marriage is garnering just as many headlines as the May/December relationship did.
Would it have done so if McMillan had stuck to being just an author and not the author who heralded her relationship with a much younger man?
Berard said the trick for keeping personal relationships out of the media glare is for the famous person to talk only about the accomplishments that have made him or her famous.
She cites actors such as Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Mel Gibson and Matt Damon as examples of celebrities who keep the focus on their work.
"They let the work speak for itself," Berard said. "They don't allow anything to happen to make them newsworthy."
Boundaries must be set in relationships, said Dr. Peter Pearson, director of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, Calif.
When there are no boundaries, there's no safe harbor for the couple, he said. Everything is exposed, and the relationship crumbles under the stress of public scrutiny.
Can celebrity couples work?
Relationships are difficult enough to maintain when only one person craves the spotlight, Pearson said.
"When both are that egocentric, you're not going to have a marriage that flourishes," he said.
Pearson said a quote by actor Burt Reynolds illustrates the point.
Following his nasty divorce from actress Loni Anderson, Reynolds is reported to have said: "I'll never marry another actress again, because both of us end up fighting over the mirror."
But it can work even when both people are in show business.
Look at actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, and country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
Everybody knows these folks are married, but the intimate details of those marriages are not for public consumption.
"Most Hollywood celebrity relationships that endure," Pearson said, "are much more private than they are open."