10/14/2011 01:45 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2011

Learning from the Love Lives of the Stars

Why are we so fascinated by the love lives of the stars? I think it's because it's reassuring to see glamorous, rich, and famous people behaving badly. That makes it just a tiny bit less shameful when you or I behave badly. After all, if Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt trade in their wives for a new model, why shouldn't Joe Six-pack do the same? If poor Jennifer or Christie get dumped, it proves that being beautiful and a star is no guarantee of a faithful husband.

I never thought I'd mourn the passing of the old Hollywood studio system which kept a lid on scandal, but considering the influence that movie stars have on the national consciousness it's hard to celebrate the current anything-goes attitude. Is it even possible to imagine a time when a star like Ingrid Bergman had to actually flee the country after an adulterous affair with director Roberto Rossellini? Today she'd be celebrated on the cover of People.

The reality is that stars' lives have nothing to do with your life -- they have resources you don't have. Why feel sorry for Jennifer when Brad dumps her for Angelina? After all, Jennifer is a beautiful, young, rich movie star. She'll probably be married to Jude Law, George Clooney or another heartthrob next year, while I (and maybe you) will still be surfing

I do have to admit to feeling sorry for Christie Brinkley when her husband dumped her for a teenager. After all, she's over fifty. But that was foolish. Christie is not going to have any trouble moving on.

The sad truth is that movie stars are not us, not even close. They live in a rarefied atmosphere of wealth and fame that we ordinary folks can't even imagine. In addition, actors are narcissistic by definition. Acting and performing attracts people who thrive on constant admiration. Their lifeblood is me-me-me.

How can two people who both need to be the center of attention at all times, who must be worshiped and adored, who are profoundly self-involved, make a marriage work? Who is going to do the worshiping and adoring after the first flush of infatuation is over? Who is going to make sacrifices for the relationship? Who is going to consider what's best for the kids? This is why most Hollywood marriages end in divorce.

Why aren't those rare celebrity couples who make sacrifices to make their marriages work role models? I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning a few days ago on Samuel L. Jackson and his wife of thirty years, La Tanya Richardson. Jackson met Richardson, a fellow actor and political activist, on campus. They've been together 41 years, and have a 29-year-old daughter. They've weathered his alcoholism and crack cocaine habit and roller coaster ride to stardom.

"What your secret?" the reporter asked them.

"Amnesia," LaTanya answered, laughing.

"And I go on location a lot," Samuel added.

"We do believe that the family unit is the strongest unit," LaTanya said. "And that's the most political and revolutionary thing you can do, is keep a strong, black family together. So that's what we did."

I want to know more about their marriage, not the latest celeb divorce.