For as long as actors have been, er, well, acting, they’ve been holding, touching, hugging and caressing people they’re not married to. Part lovey attitude, part a prerequisite for their job of pretending, intimate intimations with co-stars come and go with the parts they play.
With this in mind, Jessica Biel shouldn’t be calling up the divorce lawyers just yet – because while her husband Justin Timberlake has been seen entwining ringless fingers with his co-star Alisha Wainright, there’s pretty much no more substance to the notion they’re headed for separation than an anonymous tip-off to a gossip magazine.
Whatever body language experts like to intimate, it’s almost impossible to ever truly know what is going on somebody else’s marriage, Hollywood celeb or otherwise.
There are a dozen reasons why somebody might take off their wedding ring – because they were boxing down the gym, because their ring is a bit tight, because, if they’re acting, they’re working on a role that calls for them to do so.
It must be an absolute pain in the arts, as an actor, to have to consider that any time you choose not to wear your ring, it will be automatically assumed your marriage is on the rocks. Whatever their riches, opportunities, or holiday allowance, married humans subjected to that level of scrutiny have to deal with a kind of relationship pressure that you and I would probably buckle under.
No wonder the most grounded celebs tend not to read any of their own press. In Tinseltown, taking relationship tips from the media is a recipe for vertiginous – and litigious – paranoia if ever there were one.
What’s more, A-list celebrities like Biel and Timberlake are all too aware that they are being photographed, videoed and scrutinised 24 /7 (the couple have been both famous and together for more than a decade, which is a feat in and of itself).
Sure, people forget themselves and make mistakes, but the idea that Timberlake – a seasoned liver-in-the-limelight – would casually forget to hide an affair seems, actually, pretty unlikely.
Besides, let’s presume for a second there is something more than friendship in the clinch of Timberlake and Wainright. Perhaps it’s something Biel knows all about, has even sanctioned.
And perhaps the reason Biel was photographed with a glum (read: not smiling) face in recent days is because she’s just remembered she has an event she’s not in the mood to attend. A noisy kids’ playdate to supervise. Or maybe she’s just fed up with people blowing hand-holding out of proportion.
When it comes to palm-squeezing with people other than your main squeeze, it’s all about context.
In my own relationship, it’s perfectly fine for either of us to hold hands with beloved mutual friends of any gender (generally required after a big night out in our house at any rate). But if either of us were to chance upon the other holding hands with a co-worker we’d never met, there would definitely be some questions.
Not because one of us would necessarily be guilty of something untoward, but because it would cause emotional discomfort. And that’s perfectly OK. When you respect and love someone, you should want to listen to what makes them uncomfortable.
And perish the relationship where you never have a conversation establishing just what your boundaries are – presumption often leads to poor judgement, and what works for one relationship doesn’t for another.
There seems to be an unpleasant tendency to set the timer going for when a Hollywood relationship will end. Most of us embark on married life with nothing but glad tidings behind us (well, if we’re lucky). Imagine just how much more pressured and unpleasant it would be to be doing so with people counting down to our conjugal demise.
With statistics revealing that roughly one in two marriages end in divorce regardless, it’s mean-spirited, to put it mildly, to be hoping that those that manage to stick out for anything like the long-term – as Biel and Timberlake have done – are about to crack.
Maybe they are going through a rough patch. It’s a patch that’ll be all the rougher for other people telling them they’ve reached the end. They’ve separated before, notably before they ended up getting married. Separation isn’t in and of itself a signifier of imminent divorce.
Arguably, the people most willing to pour scorn on the possibility that a married person might be able to express physical affection to someone who is not their spouse says something about their own insecurities.
Actors tend to have entirely different personal boundaries to the rest of us – they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without these. So it’s worth bearing that in mind before judging Timberlake, Biel and Wainright.
Instead, those so concerned with the relationships of others (who are neither therapists nor journalists commissioned to write on the subject, natch) are often exploring and exposing their own intimate fears.
Because it’s a truth universally acknowledged by every relationship counsellor in the land: if you’re particularly over-interested in someone else’s relationship, you’d do well to take a look at your own.
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