When People magazine announced the breakup of Rosalía and Rauw Alejandro, social media filled with messages of astonished people claiming that they no longer believed in love. In addition to the high temperatures, this summer has stood out for the amount of famous couples that used to boast about an (apparently) unbreakable love and who, in an unexpected twist, have separated; however, the difference between some of the most recent breakups and that of these musicians is that the long shadow of betrayal and infidelity looms over this one.
The impact of parasocial relationships
According to several Twitter threads, Rauw Alejandro may have cheated on Rosalía with Valeria Duque, a model from Medellin, Colombia. This supposed infidelity, which the singer has denied somewhat ambiguously, has prompted many people to feel instantly betrayed (yes, betrayed) by the singer. Rauw claims that the relationship had been over for “months,” although the dates of the photos where they appear together and the social media messages do not exactly match the Puerto Rican’s concept of “months.”
But what does our reaction to the breakup say about us? To analyze it, we have to talk about parasocial relationships, a term coined by Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl in 1956 and which is now gaining more strength than ever thanks to the power of social media. That digital universe is the reason why we feel so close to celebrities that, at times, we practically see them as part of our inner circle, and why their failures and emotional setbacks affect us as if they were happening to someone we actually know.
The term reflects the weight that pop culture has in our lives. Studies such as Perceptions of infidelity: A comparison of sexual, emotional, cyber- and parasocial behaviors point out that the parasocial relationships we establish with celebrities may even be responsible for our being less satisfied with our own relationships. Why? According to this study, those who feel a strong connection with celebrities may be less motivated to invest their efforts and time in their real relationships.
Not only do we feel bad for Rosalía, but we also feel let down, because when those characters we follow do something that does not fit the concept we have of them, frustration and disappointment ensue. If everything seemed perfect on their social media accounts, and if Rosalía and Rauw had even made their love a part of their music business… were we, then, being duped? Silvia Llop, author of Mándalo a la mierda (Send him to hell), explains that in love, we use celebrities as role models. “That is why, if they separate, we stop believing in love. What we have to understand is that they are normal people who end their relationships, as we all do. They are not going to promote their fights or incompatibilities on social media. We only see the fantastic part, their trips, the videos they used to make together and those beautiful interviews – so when they reach the end we feel cheated, when the truth is that we were not a part of that relationship. You are not being fooled! They’re just living their lives,” she says.
The suspicion of love bombing
The term “love bombing” refers to a constant display of affection and the subsequent demand for attention, a phenomenon whose justification revolves around the message “So you can see how much I love you.” The problem is that by using love as an excuse, it can cause confusion and guilt in those whom this type of behavior is aimed at. From the outside, people sighed when Rauw Alejandro took advantage of Rosalía’s absence to make fun videos in which he imitated her and applauded his public declarations of love – but apparently, the reality was different.
“We have to distinguish love bombing from a rush of chemistry. A rush of chemistry is something you genuinely feel, an idealization that sparks something in you. It’s unreal, because it has no basis, but you really do feel it. For this reason, the rush could come to an end when you get to know that person and you realize that you don’t like them all that much. However, you were not lying. Love bombing is a different thing, one that hides a manipulative attitude. It is something that is exaggerated to make a person fall in love and get their attention,” explains psychologist Silvia Llop.
The risk of not believing in love anymore
“I had lost faith in masculinity, but I met you and that changed,” confessed Rosalía to Rauw on the streamer Ibai Llanos’ YouTube channel. That is how we found out that the singer was happy to have found a man who was emotionally available; that after several setbacks, she was excited to finally have someone who wanted to love and be loved. And just like so many people related to her words then, isn’t it normal for them to lose hope again now?
“We have idealized those relationships and we have created an idea of love based on the relationships we see, taking them as an example. Thus, we make celebrities our role models. If you also take your best friend and their partner as the paradigm of love and they break up, you will feel equally devastated, but your friend probably spent the last few weeks or months sending you messages about things that were not entirely perfect. However, neither the famous nor the anonymous talk about their problems on social media. What must be clear is that they have not deceived us; they just omitted what they didn’t want to talk about,” says Llop.
Can we learn something from such a public disenchantment?
Psychologist and sexologist Ana Lombardía believes so. “In a way, it’s positive to see all kinds of relationships develop publicly. If you are going through a similar situation, it can be positive to see that you are not alone. It also pushes us to stop idealizing the relationships of others and focus on the importance of building and caring for relationships beyond the public displays of affection. It also motivates us to be clear about what we want and what we need in our relationships,” she says.
“The important thing is to trust our intuition. In my years of experience I’ve seen that intuition never fails, but we tend to silence it. If you are at a moment in your relationship when you feel that something is not right and makes you feel uncomfortable, or if you feel some insecurity, you have to address it and ask the necessary questions. Imagine that when Rauw Alejandro went on tour, he kept sending messages and making video calls to Rosalía, and all of a sudden, he barely speaks. Maybe when we discuss these things with our friends they see nothing strange, but if it is strange to you, because you know where it comes from and how your partner communicates with you, then you have to pay attention. We should not ignore ourselves,” says Llop.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition