How celebrities’ honesty about their relationships can help yours

With American culture’s obsession with celebrity, it’s all to easy to compare ourselves to the famous people we see on magazine covers, gossip websites, and social media. How can we get our face to look more like Beyoncé’s? Why can’t we get down to Kylie Jenner’s size? How can we make enough money to afford long, glamorous vacations off the coast of Greece, or Italy, or France?

Something not as widely recognized is how easy it is to compare our own relationships to the ones we see in celebrity culture. But that’s just it — we think we see the whole thing in profiles, interviews, and flashy photo shoots, but what we’re looking are highly polished images created by teams of PR people to reflect something of a fantasy, what they want us to believe.

Over the past several years, a range of celebrities and public figures have gotten more vocal about what lies under the carefully curated images projected by the media. Body positivitytransparency about photoshopping, and even skin positivity are now commonplace on social media. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new superstar Congresswoman from New York, caused somewhat of a stir when she said she couldn’t afford an apartment in Washington right after she was elected and had to wait until her new salary kicked in in January.

Along with the transparency about appearances and financial circumstances, several public figures have revealed more about their relationships. Surprise! A healthy, longstanding relationship is not as easy as those PR teams and celebrity websites make it look. Just like in any partnership, celebrities have their own relationship patterns and they put in a committed effort to make it work.

Decided to work on your relationship in the New Year? Check out resources like the Emi Couple app and then check out the list below for a brief recap of recent interviews containing honest, do-able relationship advice. Just remember: things are always more complex than they appear.

Michelle and Barack Obama

In Becoming, Michelle Obama’s new memoir, the former First Lady opens up about seeing a relationship therapist with her husband in Chicago: “Slowly, over hours of talking, the knot [at the center of their relationship] began to loosen.” Obama also writes about making regimens for her daughters not entirely based on her husband’s busy schedule: Before bedtimes, “[w]e didn’t wait for dad. It was his job now to catch up.”

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka

Neil Patrick Harris had this advice for couples who’ve been together for some time: “You got to ebb and flow,” he said. “The relationship changes. The definition of it changes.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas

Through thick and thin — 18 years! — this celebrity couple has stuck together. Zeta-Jones attributes this to an open communication style that runs through the entire family: “I’m a big European kind of family girl, and so everything is shared around the table. […] And you can just clear the air. Everyone knows what’s going on. There are no surprises.”

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith got married in 1997 and have been together so long that they call each other “life partners,” over “married.” Pinkett Smith said recently about her husband: “We are family. Take out all that whole marriage/relationship crap, at the end of the day, Will and I are family. I am going to hold him down, doesn’t matter. … At the end of the day, that is a man that can rely on me for the rest of his life, period.”

Victoria Beckham and David Beckham

The Spice Girl and soccer star have been together for decades and have four kids together, which David said in an interview have kept them together as a family unit: “We stay together because we love each other. We stay together because we have four amazing children. We’re a strong family unit. We’ve got strong parents, we were brought up with the right values. […] Of course you make mistakes over the years. We all know marriage is difficult at times, and it’s about working through it.”