Why We Care So Much About Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s Breakup

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Bennifer, no more. (Photo: Corbis/INFphoto.com)

A ripple of shock and sadness emanated through the social media-sphere when seemingly solid Hollywood couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced they were ending their 10-year marriage.

“After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce,” they said in a statement to People. “We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time. This will be our only comment on this private, family matter. Thank you for understanding.”

Twitter exploded in response, featuring messages from apparently devastated fans:

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These are some pretty intense reactions — presumably from people who have never met Affleck or Garner. So why do we, on a whole, seem to care so much about the split? 

“When we see a famous pair that appears authentic and in love, we root for them,” licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, PsyD, tells Yahoo Health. “We’re all hard-wired for love, to recognize it, and seek it.”

We’re drawn to news about celebrity couples in particular because a large part of our brain power is dedicated to relationships, Atlanta-based psychologist and relationship coach Jared DeFife, PhD, tells Yahoo Health. We follow these relationships from their infancy and feel invested in them even though they really have nothing to do with us.

Related: What Happens To Your Body During a Breakup

We also tend to project our ideas of what a perfect relationship should be onto these couples, he says, and want to see them work out because of it.

We’re often guilty of putting celebrities on a pedestal. We strive to emulate them — and that includes in the realm of relationships, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, tells Yahoo Health.

But that comes with strict criteria. “We don’t want them to be human like us; we want them to be better so we can strive to be better ourselves,” she says. When they reveal that they have relationship issues just like the rest of us, she says, it can be jarring. 

Martinez points out that we also tend to think celebrity couples have an edge over the rest of us in love due to their wealth — especially since money is one of the most contentious topics for couples. So, when they don’t work out, it can make us wonder what it means for our own relationships if people with so many advantages couldn’t make love last.

Related: Science Says This Is How You Recover From a Breakup

While it sounds silly, DeFife says shocking celebrity breakups can actually affect our own view of relationships — at least, over time. “Relationship ruptures, divorces, and separations in our social network have an impact on us,” he says. Most of us aren’t friends with celebrities, but we often follow their lives so closely that they seem like part of our extended network. And, when they break up, we empathize strongly with them.

DeFife says the demise of Bennifer alone probably wouldn’t affect a person’s view on relationships but, if more long-lasting celebrity couples follow suit, it could eventually make an impact. “It has a cumulative effect,” he says. “Over time, it can impact our expectations and beliefs about relationships.”

We’re counting on you, Beyonce and Jay-Z.

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Aww, Bey and Jay. (GIF: creolecupcake.tumblr.com)

Read This Next: Why Breaking Up Is So Hard To Do

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