Okay, I confess. I still watch American Idol.

I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m still entertained by how people out of nowhere can get their chance at going from a nobody to a somebody. And I’m especially touched when they get through to the judges’ hearts (and I am especially delighted when I see the three judges: Katy Perry, Luke Brian and Lionel Richie – back again after 2018 and 2019 – having hearts that appear quite capable of being touched).

In a recent show a couple with the names of Kat and Space Cowboy, came out holding hands and had trouble letting go before they launched into their version of the song, “Shallow,” from the movie, A Star is Born.

They totally captivated the judges and probably the viewers. But they completely blew away judge Katy Perry, whose mouth gaped open wide, caused her to cry and declare, “I believe in love again!” Sure, it was probably drama to be more entertaining, but I think Katy was also showing something that touched her deeply.

I’m writing what may seem like a frivolous piece, because their behavior and Katy’s reaction revealed something worth sharing with all of you that maybe you also will relate to.

What Kat and Space Cowboy (a.k.a. Alejandro Cortez) demonstrated that is missing in so many relationships was:

  1. They held hands – I’ve heard it said that one of the best measures of a healthy romantic relationships is whether they hold hands and how they each respond when the other reaches out their hand. Do you hold hands in your relationship and how do you each respond when the other reaches out?
  2. They liked and enjoyed each other and felt enjoyed by each other – They put a smile on each other’s face just for who they each were instead of having to do something to earn it. How often do you feel you put a smile on your partner’s face just for who you are?
  3. They had each other’s backs – You could tell they support and root for each other. How much do you feel that you have each other’s backs as opposed to being on each other’s backs with undesired digs and criticisms?
  4. They were committed to each other – As the judges mentioned, sometimes this fame thing can tear a couple apart. You got a sense that their commitment to each other would endure beyond the allure or seduction of fame. How much would it take to tear you and your partner apart?

Why would that make Katy cry and proclaim, “I believe in love again!”

Is it possible that like many in Hollywood and beyond she knows all too well from experience how quickly a relationship that starts out so bright and full of hope and love can lose all of the above elements?

Is it also possible that she knows how the unconditional acceptance, joy, enjoyment and spontaneous embrace that most couples hope will last past the honeymoon period can deteriorate where “Take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise” can turn into “Don’t f–in touch me! And don’t even think about it!”

Maybe you have also had that experience where a warm, inviting embrace can over time turn into cold, dismissive rejection.

And if you get enough of those cold, dismissive rejections (and are unaware how you caused them), it’s enough to make you act out and act up.

Isn’t that true?


  • Mark Goulston, M.D.

    Author, speaker, podcast host, psychiatrist

    Dr. Mark Goulston is the inventor and developer of Surgical Empathy an approach that helps people to break their attachments to counterproductive modes of functioning and frees them to connect with more productive and healthier alternatives. He is the host of the “My Wakeup Call” podcast where he interviews people on the wakeup calls that changed who they are and made them better human beings and at being human and the host of the LinkedIn Live show, "No Strings Attached." He is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on deep listening, radical empathy and real influence with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world, translated into twenty languages and a topic he speaks and teaches globally. He is an advisor, coach, mentor and confidante to CEO’s, founders and entrepreneurs helping them to unlock all their internal blocks to achieving success, fulfillment and happiness. Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry and crisis psychiatrist for over 25 years, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Goulston's expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations including being a boots on the ground suicide prevention specialist and serving as an advisor in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. Including, “Just Listen,” he is the author or co-author of nine books with multiple best sellers. He writes or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Biz Journals, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and has appeared as an psychological expert in the media including: CNN, Headline News, msNBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Psychology Today and was the subject of a PBS special. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, California.