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Mara Reinstein Headshot

What Tiger Woods, Jesse James and Eva Longoria taught me about love

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According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 was the year of the tiger. In the celebrity universe, it was the year of the Tiger divorce. Sandra and Jesse's split too. And Scarlett and Ryan. And Eva and Tony. And David and Courteney. And Tammy Lynn and Melissa. And Halle and Gabriel. And Blake and Penn. And Madonna and Jesus.

It's difficult to scan this list and be optimistic about long-term love. If these fabulously gorgeous and wealthy people with multiple vacation homes can't make it work, how do us mortals have a chance? The facts look even grimmer from my perspective: Not only am I a single 30-something, I've been covering ugly A-list break-ups for Us Weekly since La Bennifer. Let me summarize thousands of reporting files in one sentence: You know how stars always swear their split is amicable and they want to remain friends? Yeah, not so much.

A few have rocked me personally. I was genuinely shocked and disappointed when the golden couple themselves -- Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, as if you have to ask -- divorced in 2005. For all the Hollywood mishigas surrounding them, they practically radiated with love in public. She's the fire we all crowd around for warmth, he gushed to Vanity Fair months earlier. Suddenly, the marriage was just a pile of smokey ash, sob.

But this essay isn't a woe-is-me lament. It's actually a thank you note. For these couples' painful mistakes have turned into my life lessons. You see, I now know exactly what not to do in a relationship. Having an 11-month affair with a heavily tattooed stripper and Internet porn model named Michelle "Bombshell" McGee is a given. My rules are simple, useful and, best of all, universal. Though I do hope Katy Perry and Russell Brand pay special attention. I'm already worried about them.

1. Don't live apart Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder; it makes the heart go to bars and flirt with the closest warm body. That's not always the case, of course, but it's a sad truth that two people plus non-stop frenzied work and travel schedules do not equal one solid relationship. There's just no quality time left over to spend with each other. Consider Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson. I think they collectively filmed 23 movies (and starred in one Broadway play) during their two-year marriage. Doomed.

2. ...But don't be attached 24/7 either Movie stars fall for each on a set, then get to wrap up their project in six weeks. To paraphrase Christian Bale during his Terminator 4 tirade, Gooood for youuuu! Everybody else who makes a move on the clock -- especially TV stars, like Dexter's Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter -- is susceptible to a ticking time-bomb romance. That's because when you work and cohabitate in close confines with your mate, essential breathing room comes at a premium. Even worse, a break-up can lead to the dreaded working-with-your-ex scenario.

3. Don't over-share in public It doesn't matter if Oprah Winfrey herself is gently asking the questions in soft-focus lighting. Keeping the sacred details of your personal life behind closed doors is respectful and, frankly, good common sense. And keep in mind: the more you rave, the more apparent it becomes that you're just hiding something (cough, Jenny McCarthy, cough). Plus, as Ryan Reynolds recently -- and presciently -- pointed out, if you invite people into your marriage, you have to invite them into your divorce. This notion is only appealing if you're Camille Grammer.

4. Don't settle down too young Committing to one person for the rest of your life before you can legally rent a car stacks the odds against you. Your personal tastes and behavior all need to time to develop. This clause even applies to freakishly-mature-for-their-age Disney child stars such as Christina Aguilera. She wed at 24. She filed for divorce at 29.

5. Don't bother with over-the-top nuptials They had a $1.5 million wedding in Paris, complete with 10,000 red roses, 2,000 candles and an orchestra. Three years later, Eva Longoria Parker found inappropriate texts between her husband, Tony Parker, and a close girlfriend and those extravagant I do details were worthless. Look, fairy tale weddings are lovely. Just not quite as lovely as focusing on the happily ever after.

6. Don't crowd yourself When you're surrounded by a talented and supportive team -- including an assistant, a chef, a nanny, a doorman, a stylist and a gaggle of friends -- it's easy to ignore the need for a teammate at home. That's when many complacent romances fall by the wayside. Athletes should grasp this concept easily, but they have a higher split rate than Olympic gymnasts.

7. Don't live in Los Angeles It can't be a coincidence that some of the most successful Hollywood couples -- Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick, Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell, Michael J. Fox & Tracy Pollan, Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick to name a few -- don't live in Hollywood. Can it? Breathtaking views, though.