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Wendy Murphy: Overemotive spouses may suggest unhealthy marriage

Wendy Murphy

What do Sandra Bullock and Tom Cruise have in common? Aside from beauty, wealth and fame, they share (in Bullock’s case shared) an odd tendency to overstate affection for their spouses.

Jesse James and Katie Holmes have stayed relatively mute in the face of gushing, couch-jumping emotive retching from Bullock and Cruise.

Which doesn’t mean the affection isn’t mutual, but let’s just say the disparity is noticeable.

It made me wonder why people like Bullock and Cruise select partners like James and Holmes, and vice versa.

So I asked a mental health professional whether we can draw conclusions about people and the likely success of certain relationships based on things like one person gushing too much in public about the “super” sensational nature of their life together.

Licensed clinical social worker Eugenia Patru says some people aren’t grounded enough to connect with real life.

They move from one event to the next as third-party observers of, rather than participants in, their own human relationships. Which means that when they say their lives are “super” sensational, it isn’t usually an authentic comment on how things really are so much as a statement about how they want things to be perceived.

Even without expert guidance, most of us understand this on a gut level, which is why we respond with a raised eyebrow when we hear such exaggeration. It’s not only that we know it isn’t true. We also wonder why someone feels so compelled to overstate it.

Donald Trump was first to raise his eyebrow about Bullock and James, long before the sexual scandals and Nazi nuttiness came to light. Trump said of James, “he must be great in bed,” implying there was nothing else about the relationship that made sense. And Bullock all but validated Trump’s insight when she announced to an audience of millions during an award acceptance speech that James was “hot” and that she couldn’t wait to get home and hop in the sack with him after the show.

I’d have slithered to the floor if my spouse had said such a thing, not because it’s bad to be good in bed, but because nobody wants to be the victim of overly solicitous patronizing flattery about such things on the world stage.

Imagine if Tom Hanks said during one of his acceptance speeches “my wife, Rita Wilson, is such a fox in bed – I can’t wait to get home and jump her bones.”

Even if it’s true, does she really want the world thinking that the most important thing her husband can say about her is that she’s good in bed? It isn’t only that Bullock’s gushing was about something very personal – which is almost always TMI -- too much information. (My teenage daughter insists my revulsion is a generational problem and that her friends don’t even notice such things because nothing about sex is off limits in their public conversations.)

The real problem is that Bullock had a habit of always using superlatives to describe her husband.

Tom Cruise is the same way about Katie Holmes, which is partly why lots of folks think the marriage is just too strange to be real.

Most notably, Cruise did his infamous sofa-jumping bit on national television, and in Bullock-esque fashion – told the world how he was over-the moon, beyond words-etc., in love with Holmes.

I suppose one could argue he’s just a liberated guy who knew he’d be dismissed as a loon as soon as he did it – and he didn’t care.

Or he has a serious Tell-Tale Heart problem, mixed up with Protest Too Much-Itis – and he literally can’t help himself – at least not without medication.

Maybe the Bullock-Cruise syndrome is nothing more than a celebritization of a more common problem that afflicts many people who simply can’t handle real relationships. As Ms. Patru noted, some people just default to a superficial mode of romance, where truly being in love means very little – and appearing to be in love matters a lot.

Either way, Bullock might want to check in with Donald Trump before she ties the knot again – just to be safe.

Wendy Murphy is a leading victims rights advocate and nationally recognized television legal analyst. She is an adjunct professor at New England Law in Boston. She can be reached at wmurphy@nesl.edu. Read more of her columns at The Daily Beast .