I Want What They Have: Dakota Johnson and Chris Martin

Love is a many-splendored thing, especially when you’re gawking at it from the outside. In this column, we’ll be examining the celebrity couples that give us hope for our own romantic futures and trying to learn what we can from their well-documented bonds.

Here’s how I know I truly love a celebrity couple: When I search for a photo of them together on Getty Images, I get a “no results found” error message. Save the usual expanse of blurry paparazzi shots, there are few official images of musician Chris Martin and actress Dakota Johnson together, because they don’t even need to show up dressed to the nines and stunt at award shows. They know you’re looking at (or for) them anyway, and I kind of loathe it, but I’m also obsessed with it? Don’t ask me to elaborate.

Okay, fine, twist my arm, I’ll elaborate: Martin and Johnson, who first got together over four years ago, give off the air of the most popular couple at your high school. They’re that hand-holding, smoldering-gazed pair who have somehow been together since seventh grade, seemingly immune to the vagaries and whims of the adolescent heart. They’re young, they’re dazzling, they’re in love, and are they going off to the same college in the fall? Probably not, but you know they’ll send each other romantic letters all of first semester before inevitably cheating on each other with one of their respective hallmates.

Perhaps the ultimate show of Martin and Johnson’s bond came at a Coldplay concert in October 2021, when Martin called Johnson his “universe” and publicly serenaded her. I am against this kind of thing on principle, as I have previously stated, but I’ll make an exception in this case, since it’s very cute.

My personal favorite aspect of the Martin/Johnson relationship is how the two seem to have embraced each other’s families (and vice versa). Johnson’s father, actor Don Johnson, told Good Day New York in November that he considered Martin to be “a lovely guy,” and for her part, Johnson has been seen hitting the town—barefoot, no less—with Apple Martin, the daughter that Martin shares with ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow.

The role of stepparent (or new partner to a parent, anyway) is often regarded with ambivalence at best and outright suspicion at worst; as Maggie Nelson writes in her 2015 book The Argonauts, even the most loving and encouraging of stepparents is still “structurally vulnerable to being hated or resented.” I am, famously, a child of divorce myself, so maybe that’s why I’m so touched to see Johnson bringing Apple out for casual coffee runs or Malibu strolls. Clearly, she understands the importance of Martin’s relationship with his daughter, and that kind of sensitivity has the power to make me forgive any number of public serenades, not matter how cringe.

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