Ask Team Practical: Why Is Everyone So Negative?

We need more happy depictions of marriage

Q: I got married a couple months ago and am really happy! But in the back of my mind I can’t get this narrative out of my head that “marriage will make you miserable” and will ruin the love my husband and I have for each other right now. Both of our parents are still happily married and the majority of our friends also have parents who are still together, so in my daily life, this fear has no real basis, but it still looms. I feel like all we see in popular culture are examples of husbands cheating on wives, parents who argue constantly and hate or resent each other, divorce being the assumed outcome of every marriage (how often do we hear the phrase, “You know fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, right?”…) and I feel like it is pounded into us that we should expect to fail. But there are clearly lots of people who are happy and make it work. Where’s a girl to turn to get some positive marriage reinforcement in this world (besides APW of course)? Where are these voices in our society? Is there a source of happy married people information out there that I’m missing?

Not So Negative Nelly

A: Dear NSNN,

You know, as a group, the staff at APW couldn’t really think of anywhere in mainstream media that reinforces a healthy view of happy marriages—which I guess just goes to prove your point, doesn’t it?

There’s probably a bunch of reasons for that, of course. People like to complain. Have you met people? That’s pretty much all they do. I know folks who have entire conversations of just back-to-back complaints. Sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes commiseration feels like an easy way to bond and be relatable, but sometimes people are just flat out whiners. Besides the complaining, tragedy is just funnier than happy stuff. If I’m gonna make a funny movie about marriage, it’s easiest to just show how tragically bumbling the husband is and how shrewish and biting the wife is. They’re miserable! It’s funny! Happiness isn’t entertaining. Then of course, there’s the fact that people just plain don’t want to hear the good things. Your marriage is happy? Thanks for shoving it in my face, braggy.

So, what do we do? First, we need to stop relying on the frigging media to ever get anything right. It’s always going to be distorted. And then, we fill the gaps ourselves—that goes for anything in life, ever. You see a need; you be the one to fill it. Start talking about your own marriage, openly and honestly! Ask the (apparently awesome) people in your life about their marriages and why they work together so well.

More than that, though, we need to start being frank about the hard parts of marriage, too. It might be counter-intuitive, but a big reason we have no healthy positivity around marriage is because we have no healthy perceptions of the rough spots.
Think about the depictions of marriage around us. Either you’re chained to a lifelong naggy, tense misery or you’re doomed for a shiny, happy marriage that suddenly and for no reason plunges into divorce. I don’t know about you or your parents or your friends, but that bears absolutely no reflection of what my marriage is like. My marriage isn’t conflict-free, but it’s a mostly smooth road with some bumps and rough patches and sometimes some seriously bleak spots. Until we start acknowledging that constant hard times are not normal, but occasional hard times aren’t predictive of doom, we can’t really get a straight idea of what a healthy marriage is like.

That part sounds daunting, right? We all want to have more folks talking about happy marriages, but do any of us really want to share the dark scary spots of our own? I’d argue they go hand in hand. And I’d also argue that the second piece of that doesn’t need to be quite so very scary (just maybe a little tricky to navigate). Not everyone needs to share the inner workings of their married fights right here on the internet (in fact, maybe don’t until you check in with your partner to make sure it’s okay). Figure out with your partner how much of your bad you feel you can share with folks outside of the relationship, and more importantly, who those folks you can share with are.

So, yes, Miss. Unfortunately, I’m turning this one back around on you a bit. It really sucks that there isn’t more marriage-positive discussion out there. But that being the case, it’s our job to facilitate it on an individual, personal level. And that means opening yourself up to talking about the good and the bad.


Team Practical, do you have any awesome resources of marriage positivity? How do you speak about your marriage in a way that tears down those negative social narratives?

Photo: Emily Takes Photos.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Tristan Salazar

    Morticia and Gomez Addams. Seriously. Years of marriage, multiple children, and not only do they actively engage with each other honestly and talk out the problems that inevitably come up, but they are clearly, happily in love and have a healthy and active sex life, of which they are completely unashamed.

    Best happy marriage rôle-models ever.

    • Naomi

      This is so true, they are a really good depiction of a happy marriage. Also I think I just managed to exactly and report your comment simultaeneously, sorry.

    • Jennifer

      This just made me laugh out loud at my desk, but you are TOTALLY RIGHT! Now I want to go back and watch some Addams Family!

    • Sara

      I think they’re great parents as well. They love and support their kids, even when they disagree with their decisions.

    • Vicky

      My first thought was a TV couple too! It sounds super cheesy but my husband and I are big Friday Night Lights fans and we had many a serious conversation about the relationship between Eric and Tammy Taylor was the only real, honest, happy depiction of marriage we had ever seen. My hubby was raised just by his mom and didn’t have a whole lot of examples of marriage to reference whereas my parents are very happily married for 27 years. The TV show gave us a common reference point for what we wanted out of our marriage that we didn’t have before.

      • Tricia

        Same!! Tammy and Eric Taylor totally represent a real, healthy relationship. Also, Tammy is just the sh*t. Seriously, I want to be her when I grow up!!

  • Books! The first example I can think of is the “In Death” series by JD Robb (Nora Roberts), where the main character Eve is a butt-kicking cop happily married to a billionaire. I’ve heard happy marriages are one of her favorite tropes.

    I’m sure there are more books out there, but drawing a blank. Help me out?

    • Remy

      Oof, I just read my first (not THE first) “In Death” book and had a very different view of that marriage. The way Eve treated Roarke… part wish-fulfillment, part punching-bag. He was all reaction to her, existing only to keep her happy (with his understanding nature and billions of creditbucks). It was not realistic or pretty.

      In other instances, though, and in general — I agree that books have great role models for relationship-building!

  • LM

    The “Making it last” series in the New York Times “Booming” section has interviews with couples who have been married more than 25 years. The couples always have interesting stories and I’m always impressed by their reflections on their marriage, both positives and struggles.

    • Rachel

      I love the Making It Last series! It’s perfect for this question.

    • Liz

      Thanks so much for sharing this! Awesome.

    • Lauren C.

      I second this recommendation! I was JUST reading this series and thought it was so lovely. I especially appreciated that the interviewers asked the couples about the hard times in their marriages, whether they ever considered divorcing, and how they resolved their problems.

      This conversation is especially important for me right now – my partner and I are going through a bit of a rough patch, and I’m trying to remember that we fundamentally love each other, we can’t expect things to be perfect all the time, and the occasional extended weirdness in our relationship doesn’t mean we’re doomed. Although seeing a therapist to learn how to talk to each other better would probably help.

    • Not So Negative Nelly

      Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to read through these! Thanks for posting this.

  • Rosie

    For our marriage preparation we asked a couple we know well who’ve been married over 10 years to talk to us about marriage and what they think is important about it. Because it was just the four of us we all shared important things about our lives, and I felt like my husband and I got a real insight into a healthy marriage, ups and downs. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is lucky enough to have such a couple in their lives, and I’m sure you could do it after getting married as well!

  • Erin

    Peter and Elizabeth Burke from White Collar. They are the only couple on TV that I know about that is happy (and happily child free). They both have demanding careers, are (usually) very good about discussing their problems, and still have a good sex life. I know it’s just a little USA show, but it’s one of the most authentic portrayals of how marriage works on TV.

    • Laura C

      Great one! And even though the focus of the show is on Peter’s work, Elizabeth shows up in just about every episode, so it’s not like she’s the every now and then “oh yeah, he has a wife,” it’s very clear that she’s always there.

    • Shiri

      I also love that sometimes Elizabeth can seem a little fluffy in what she does for a living, and then what she does for work ends up being the key to Peter solving the case, or her “softer” skills are the key to something. It’s a great comeuppance.

    • I was totally going to mention this one. Elizabeth Burke is one of my favorite TV characters ever.

  • One of the reasons Friday Night Lights was SO brilliant was because it showed an honest and deeply loving marriage between Coach and Tami Taylor. Honestly, if you’ve never watched it, go! I’ll wait here…

    My husband and I watched all 5 seasons together and I’ve lost count of the times we’ve turned to each other at the end and said how happy it makes us to be married. They really promote being in it together.We want to be them when we grow up!

    • Liz


      I’d argue Coach got it wrong once in awhile, but maybe that’s because of my Tami idolatry.

      • Eenie

        Also Happy Endings does a great job promoting marriage between Jane and Brad. It’s a funny show, but they don’t generally fall into the typical stereotypes of a married couple on TV. They love being married to each other. It’s very refreshing, so of course it got canceled in May.

        • Shiri

          Yes! And they have this whole world of their relationship separate from their friend group, with its own jokes and rituals and issues. Love it.

    • Rachel

      Just coming here to say this! Theirs is the best depiction of marriage I think I’ve ever seen on TV. Agree with Liz that Coach definitely doesn’t get it right every time, but that’s kinda what I love about it. It just feels so real.

    • Carbon Girl

      They did such a great job of showing both the good and the rough parts, and showing how even during the rough parts it was still clear they loved and supported each other.

    • Kristenina

      Coach and Mrs. Coach for the win! Yes, they sometimes hit a rough patch, but for me, that’s what made it believable and even more worthy of our attention.

      • Liz

        I just hated whenever he would act selfishly and not get called on it! Tami is a smart lay- she could’ve had a little more, “WAIT a minute here….”

    • Beth

      My husband and I started watching and only made it through maybe 3 episodes because it was all just so melodramatic and depressing. Does it get better? Or is that kind of how the whole show is?

  • The Cosby Show (seriously) and NBC’s Parenthood.

    • Liz

      I used to love some Parenthood for that reason, and then they slipped into some trope-y bumbling-husband storyline and I gave up on it. Should I try again?

      • They definitely slip up sometimes, but I still think they are generally on a good track, even if just to show that at the end of the day, family matters. Not every couple is a good example, but I think there are some positive marriages in there.

        • Stacy

          I was just going to say Parenthood. I think they do a good job of showing people who aren’t perfect, who have these traits that make you crazy, but you work it out and love them. They’re all very human. I think Adam and Kristina are the best example, for sure.

    • Jo

      I recently started re-watching The Cosby Show on Hulu. I hadn’t really watched it much since when it first aired, maybe a little in re-runs. I was truly amazed at how it holds up. Obviously the clothes and music references are pretty dated (and fabulous!), but they really show a wonderful model of a happy family and all of the characters have depth.

    • We like watching “Parenthood” for the reality that they show, family life isn’t always happy and it isn’t always crappy. We also use it as starting points for our own discussions about how we would’ve handled the situation.

      • Stacy

        They’re really great at dealing with tough issues. The episode with Crosby, Jasmine and Jabbar talking about the n-word was so very well done. And they’ve gotten a lot of good press for their depiction of Max, who has Asperger’s. Oh goodness, and the abortion storyline, which was done really well. Can you tell I’m a big nerdy Parenthood fan?

    • Maddie
      • KEA1

        Best. Cosby. Scene. Ever.

    • Not So Negative Nelly

      Oh man, good call on Cosby!! Thanks for the reminder!

      I haven’t seen Parenthood yet, maybe I’ll check it out.

      • Cathy

        I still remember an episode I watched as a kid where Bill Cosby rubs Claire’s stockinged feet after a long day at work. Love him for that! Such a loving and intimate thing to do.

  • Kate

    Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man” film series. They sass each other like champs, but there’s always an undercurrent of affection and respect. Plus, the movies give you goofy Dashiell Hammet-pinned mystery plots and some of the loveliest and most ridiculous 1930’s-40’s fashion.

    • Emmy

      And best of all, Nick seems to have real respect from Nora and they’re equal in their marriage. Not exactly what you’d expect from the time period! And they’re also happily child-free.

      • Caitlin

        Later in the series of movies they do have a son, but it continues to be a fantastic depiction of a happy quirky marriage. My husband and I watch them all the time and have a habit of quoting from the movies regularly (i.e. when meeting husband’s crazy work friends…”Oh Nicky, you know the nicest people”).

        • Kate

          There are so many good qoutes from this series:

          Nora: Take care of yourself.
          Nick: Why, sure I will.
          Nora: Don’t say it like that! Say it as if you mean it!
          Nick: Well, I do believe the little woman cares.
          Nora: I don’t care! It’s just that I’m used to you, that’s all.

          Nick: I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.
          Nora: I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.
          Nick: It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.

          Everyone should have the chance be this witty and sorta of slightly soused more often.

    • Becca

      Awesome, I was just going to suggest them :)

    • bocadelgato

      Nick and Nora have always been the template for “ideal/perfect/fantasy marriage” to me.

  • Anonymous

    In general, I try really hard to be optimistic and positive in life. This is a newer outlook, after 30+ years of being depressed and miserable and being unable to see the light in life.

    Because this is so constantly on my mind and I’m super aware of it, I work hard at expressing it to others. When a group of friends is starting to talk judgmentally about a mutual friend, I try to get everyone to look at the situation in a more positive light. When a girlfriend complains about her boyfriend, after I let her vent, I point out all the good things she’s told me about him too.

    I try to remind co-workers about how its easy to find flaws in life, but it takes effort to find the good sometimes. It’s worthwhile effort though. I feel a thousand times better living this way than when I hated my life and everything seemed terrible.

    This all sounds really preachy, and perhaps it is. Luckily I have good people in my life who seem to honestly appreciate my positivity. And even if they don’t appreciate it, my speaking out when conversation is getting too negative, is at least acknowledged and the behavior changes which I appreciate.

    Finally, as a person who struggles with her own negativity and negative thoughts, I don’t need to be exposing myself to other people’s negativity. Be it in person or in my entertainment. I too have no interest in movie after movie, show after show, with adultery and dysfunctional relationships. It makes me sad. So I try to only expose myself to things that are going to help me feel better. You can’t live in a bubble, but you can control how much of the ugly in this world you force yourself to deal with each day. I personally believe like exercise and eating well, taking care of your psyche and emotional health is just as important.

    • catherine

      i love this. something i am learning BIG time is that my happiness is my responsibility and that true happiness is unconditional. i want to live consciously, not reactionary. i make the choice to be happy or not – its really that simple – am i willing to sacrifice my happiness because of external things not going my way? thats no way to live! im not happy “only if things are going my way” – because that’s not real happiness, that’s not real love.

  • KC

    Bollywood movies show a lot of happily married couples. Often the gender roles are pretty old-fashioned, but husbands and wives nearly always love each other (unless the movie is specifically about an unhappy marriage).

  • Shiri

    Well done on this answer, Liz. Really insightful and thought provoking.

    I hadn’t thought about the way the media portrays marriage. But, yesterday I was reading (I think) the AARP magazine at my grandmother’s (I know!) and there was a profile of Gloria Estefan and her husband. They were so cute in it – dancing around their house, him jokingly copping a feel (also – kind of forward for a national magazine) but so clearly in love and still attracted to each other that I was torn between being impressed and feeling like it was a front. Sad, right? That I assumed a couple in their sixties, married for decades, had to be faking whimsy and sexual attraction. Then again, celebrity culture is a little to blame here, too, since we don’t trust or believe the versions of themselves that people put forward in the media.

    • Liz

      You know, one day I flicked on Ice Loves Coco- as in a reality show about Ice-T and Coco. Because my love for trashy reality television knows no bounds, I guess. And they were ADORABLE TOGETHER.

      Granted, it was a full 10 minutes of the show, so who knows if their marriage is always that healthy and cute. But I was like, “Did this woman really just cut the crusts off of Ice-T’s sandwich, I’m going to die from this cuteness.”

      • Teresa

        I LOVE ICE LOVES COCO. I seriously feel like if they ever split up, the world will end!

        • In fact, during the HIMYM Comic Con panel, Jason Segel mentioned how he believes Lily and Marshall have become such a beloved duo over the arc of the show BECAUSE they are a realistic happy couple. They’re not without problems and conflict, but they work through it. Here’s to hoping they inspire more of the same.

        • Argh! My comment posted on the wrong thread!! Ignore this!

      • SJ

        That show is FANTASTIC. I love those two together. They seem so genuine.

    • MK

      I’m going to have to raise a complaint about “the media is so biased!!!” Because… this website is “media,” if not “the media.” But then what the heck does “the media” mean? It used to mean something much narrower, but YAY, now we have the internet and more than 4 news channels.
      And, having worked in the narrower field formerly known as “the media,” I can tell you that those people work very very hard to try to not be biased in things. Sure, they don’t always make it, and sure, things lately do seem to move in massive swings as understaffed, underpaid and overworked outlets try to cover the same stories, but there is no secret “media cabal” trying to push any one opinion or view on anything.
      Luckily, even if you DO disagree with something a formal news/media organization creates, you now have this amazing tool called the Internet where you can either find another media organization that does match your feelings or you can create your own.

      So if you DO disagree with the TV tropes of husbands and wives (and the lack of tropes about gay couples)–you can post something…like this…to remind us that there ARE examples of places that get it “right” (by whatever the acting definition of the moment may be).

      Sorry, got a little frustrated there.

      • Liz

        Now hold on, I think the point here isn’t UGH, MEDIA. But, instead that expected social norms are regurgitated through different avenues of what we see, read, watch, listen to. Society and the media that reflects it have a sort of a back and forth mutual responsibility thing that almost feels chicken-and-egg.

        • MK

          Sorry, obviously it’s a pet peeve of mine! And I’m very grateful for places like APW that offer a counterpoint to the usual narrative. Carry on being awesome!

  • Jennifer

    Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, though I haven’t seen any episodes since they had their baby so I’m not sure how things are going for them now. But they’ve worked through job changes, death of family, and the perils of buying and selling property in NYC while making marriage look a little more happy & hopefully realistic than many other TV couples.

    • Breck

      Woah, you just reminded me of so many bumps they’ve worked through (but I guess that happens after 10 seasons)! They also dealt with credit card debt, breaking up and getting back together, in-law issues, probably more I’m not remembering…

    • Laura C

      That was going to be my suggestion. I think they’re a great one, because everything has definitely not been perfect, but they’ve not only stayed together (so far), they’ve stayed close with their single friends.

      • Jennifer

        Yes!! Who knew you could actually stay close with single friends after you’re married, right? :)

      • MK

        There’s no “so far” because we’ve fast-forwarded into the future and we know they’re still together then and still friendly with the rest of the crew!

    • YES YES YES.

    • Anonymous

      My friends and I are always arguing which couple is Marshall and Lily. We all think we’re them.

    • In fact, during the HIMYM Comic Con panel, Jason Segel mentioned how he believes Lily and Marshall have become such a beloved duo over the arc of the show BECAUSE they are a realistic happy couple. They’re not without problems and conflict, but they work through it. Here’s to hoping they inspire more of the same.

    • marbella

      During a severe anxiety bout early this year I swore off watching a lot of TV shows for a while as they were too stressful. We watched endless episodes of HIMYM before bed for comedy relief, and the few times when an episode ended with a serious problem with Lily and Marshall, I couldn’t sleep without watching until all was resolved, I hated for them to be apart too much! Probably because their relationship reminds me a lot of my own. I love them!
      I don’t really agree that the media is only full of these awful representations of marriage. Sure, there are lots, but many popular sitcoms are related to a core family that is fairly stable through the years. Coming to mind immediately – Roseanne and Dan, Modern Family (3 in there), The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Philip & Vivian, Marge and Homer Simpson, Paul & Jamie from Mad About You, Dharma & Greg, Monica & Chandler at the end of Friends, Joy & Eddie from Til Death, Doug & Carrie from King Of Queens, and as someone mentioned above, The Addams Family, and I would also throw in The Munsters.
      I’ll also throw in Gabby & Carlos and Tom & Lynette from Desperate Housewives – even with the cheating, divorce, trials and tribulations, I still loved that they fought but worked through things.
      Not a fictional couple, but I am going to add how much I love the blog Young House Love, partly because the writers Sherry and John work together doing DIY on their own home and caring for their toddler and are a really sweet couple who obviously know how to work through their disagreements and remain outwardly positive as a team together (I am sure they have plenty doing DIY all day).

    • Not So Negative Nelly

      I have to say, when I wrote in with this question, I was in the midst of hearing a bunch of super negative stuff surrounding marriage and was feeling pretty bad about the “ol’ ball and chain” mentality that seemed to be everywhere.

      It’s good to be reminded that this is not always the case! I love HIMYM and Lily and Marshall in particular for this very reason.

  • “How I Met Your Mother”‘s Marshall & Lily!

    And, this is not *entirely* on point, but Burt and Verona in “Away We Go” are a really, really functional, happy long-term couple (particularly when contrasted with some other couples they meet along the way). That they don’t technically get married (but not for the typical reason!) is really touching in the scene that culminates that conflict, and the scene on the trampoline is incredibly touching. Go watch it right now.

    • *comment editor isn’t working for me at the moment, but wanted to add:

      “Not for the typical reason” meaning not cold feet, not cheating, not fear of commitment, somebody holding out on asking, etc. At first it seems like a lack of belief in the institution, but as the movie progresses, I think it becomes more apparent — and Burt brings it up — that her parents, having died, will not be there to see the wedding, and this seems much closer to the mark. But oh that trampoline-vows scene.

      ALSO: it’s a really great picture of becoming new parents, going through shit (another long-term happy couple is suffering through multiple miscarriages). Anyway….go see it. They don’t technically get married, but there are vows, and I think that counts in this movie’s case.


      • itsaprocess

        THIS MOVIE. My fiance and I like to joke that we are those people, and that makes me feel all of the warm fuzzies for these exact reasons.

    • Omg, I ADORE “Away We Go.” I cry pretty much every single time, and I’m not usually a movie-induced crier. SO SO GOOD.

      Tears always start in the first third when Verona asks Burt “Are we fuck-ups?” And then they pour down my face when they find their home.

      Seriously, this movie should be on APW “required watching” list.

      • “We have a cardboard window.”

        • “We’re 33 and we don’t even have this basic stuff figured out. Like where to live.”

  • Amanda L.

    Great answer, Liz… especially this part:
    “It might be counter-intuitive, but a big reason we have no healthy positivity around marriage is because we have no healthy perceptions of the rough spots.”

    One of the changes I’ll make from the way my parents were to the way I’ll parent (if that happens), is that I will try to be more honest with my child(ren) about the difficulties of life. My parents are still happily married after 42 years, but they hid the hard times from us. While that might have made our lives easier at the time, it taught me that any friction in a relationship was BAD NEWS. It took me years (decades) to learn that there is a healthy amount of disagreement between two people.

    I for one would LOVE if APW had ‘happily married’ as a theme for a month. I’d love to contribute!

    • Not So Negative Nelly

      Oh my gosh, yes! Thank you, I never made this connection! My parents were (are) the same way. My brother and I had to have a serious discussion with them while we were in college and they didn’t tell us when my dad had to go to the hospital for chest pains one time. They didn’t want to worry us. Hello?! I don’t think they fought often, but we were definitely not privy to many disagreements or even just discussions of hard topics.

      My family went on a family vacation once that overlapped with, I think, their 30th anniversary and my mom had dug up a bunch of old cards they had given to each other throughout the years. One was from when they were still pretty newly married (and in their early 20s) and it was note my dad had written to my mom telling her that she couldn’t just run out of the house anytime they disagreed. It was a revelation to me! I could not imagine my parents getting so mad at each other that one of them just walked out the door.

  • Ugh, this is such an annoying thing. I was at my cousin’s (awesome) wedding last weekend, and some middle-aged man came up to my husband and I in line for the bar.

    Him: “You two must be newleyweds.”
    Us: “We are. We just got married a month ago!”
    Him: “Because you’re the only happy couple here.”

    I was so flabbergasted and pissed. Who says that to someone, especially at another person’s wedding? A wedding of a couple that is so well suited for one another and will very obviously make each other happy. Additionally, my parents were at this wedding and I happen to know they worked their asses off to be a happy couple.

    But what annoyed me the most was the assumption that we’re only happy because we barely know each other, and once time sets in we’ll make each other properly miserable. So I gave him a snide look and said, “We’ve been together for a decade and we’re incredibly happy.”And then we walked away.

    Don’t let people get away with belittling your relationship or that of the people you know, because the are unhappy or drank too much of the sitcom-family-kool-aid.

    • I had a really similar conversation with an acquaintance of my fiance recently, and I felt just as you did. It deeply annoys/angers me when people make these jokes that are so prevalent in popular culture — and one jaded coworker actually did the whole snide, “Well, good luck with that,” when I told him I was engaged. Really?

    • M.

      Oh, just starting my day off SEETHING on your behalf and thinking of all the things I wish I could say to that person! ARGH!

    • Marcela

      My (also newlywed) husband and I were going through some rough patches right after the wedding, there was a lot of life changes happening, money stress..etc The worst part for me was that we were no longer communicating like we had been before the Big Day. Finally we sat down and talked it out and apparently the only marriage advice he had been getting the whole time leading up to the wedding and even DURING the wedding was to just give up, because the wife is always right, so he needed to just accept that and never disagree with me because he was ALWAYS wrong. This led to him not feeling like he could talk things out with me anymore and so he was getting upset about things but refusing to tell me because he had internalized the always wrong thing. Luckily we were able to talk about how that was such BULLSHIT and that those people don’t know us and our relationship and, yes, our healthy communication skills. Things got way better after that and we were able to fix a lot of the things that he had been quietly unhappy with.
      People suck.

      • Senorita

        Epic-Communication-Five courtesy of The Todd

    • A coworker was having small talk with me a year ago and said “So, you’re married? For two years? How’s that working out for you?” PRETTY WELL, THANKS WHAT WITH US STILL BEING MARRIED AND THE WEDDING PICTURES AT MY DESK.

      I’m guessing it was an awkward attempt to make conversation, but it was so odd at the time.

      • I had this happen too! In what work is “how’s [your marriage] going?” acceptable opening small talk? I’m just going to chalk it up to social awkwardness and a bit of immaturity (in my case, at least).

    • catherine

      “Additionally, my parents were at this wedding and I happen to know they worked their asses off to be a happy couple.”

      ^Worked their asses off. Yep. And why is that bad?? It’s not! Marriage is work, but like ben affleck perfectly said to his wife in that oscar speech, it’s the BEST work. we get really skewed messages that marriage just “is” and you don’t have to nurture it and either you’re in love or you’re not so you get divorced. such bullshit, so ignorant, so not a conscious way to live. ok done venting! but just, YES, marriage is work and honestly, it means more to me if my partner chooses to work on being with me forever instead of just being with me when its easy to be with me, if that makes sense.

      and congrats on getting hitched :)

      • Yes! It is one of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me. I watched them really struggle for years, but then I watched them learn and grow as individuals, and I saw their commitment to be emotionally and physically healthy for themselves and for one another, and I saw them re-learn how to be really, truly happy together.

        I still feel so full of joy and peace when I see them giggling together or I get a call from my mom about the fun weekend they had together.

        • catherine

          that makes me so happy. it breaks my heart to see my parents’ marriage. i have never once in my life seen them show affection to each other – no hand holding, no loving touch, no kisses…they’ve never had good communication and are the farthest thing from conscious people that you could be. they both make each other responsible for their own happiness, so of course, they are never happy.

          anyway, it makes me happy to hear that you have your parents! and that there are couples out there setting a great example.

          • Remy

            I had that realization during wedding planning — I’ve never, to my knowledge, seen my parents kiss or hold hands or be otherwise affectionate. They’re still married, but many times as a child I wondered why (and planned what to say to the judge in a custody case). I want to be a better example for my future kids, but I do have some trouble expressing affection in public. It seems unnatural. *sigh*

          • @ Remy: I think there’s lots of ways to show affection that don’t involve physical affection! One of our closest couple friends rarely, if ever, shows physical affection. Actually, I think there wedding was the first time I saw any PDA from them in the years I’ve known them! But it’s so very clear that they love each other from the way they interact. They are patient with one another, when one is stressed the other is very comforting, when one is talking, the other is listening. They look at each other with affection and speak kindly to one another, and everyone who’s ever met them knows they are happy and in love.

            So you don’t have to hold hands and kiss in public to let your kids know you are happy and have a loving relationship!

          • Cathy

            I had never really thought about this until my parents started holding hands again when going for walks. I just thought it was so sweet.
            It’s important to remember that sometimes work/bringing up kids/health/family pressures can get in the way. Long term relationships do take work and sometimes all your energy goes into other things.
            I think it’s ok to want your private life to be private, but it is equally important to let your partner, bff, sister -whoever you’re closest to – know that it’s ok to share. That in fact it’s great to spread the load of whatever’s truly stressing them. That’s love.

      • itsy bitsy

        Oh man, that moment in Ben Affleck’s speech about “the best work” made me tear up like woah. He gained roughly 84769765 respect points from me right then.

    • Yeah… Our parents met for the first time 6 months ago when we got engaged. His father made a comment about me “always getting to win” now and how his son will “need to stop having opinions.” I was livid. Mostly because no one seemed to think he was wrong except me. Did I speak up? No. Because knowing his family, I would be branded with “not having a sense of humor.”

      Fiance and I talked about this afterwards, so we’re on the same page. Just need to find a way to deflect these comments and get close family to stop making them. Any suggestions? Because so far all I’ve got is “That’s really an awful thing to say. Do you actually think that I’m like that? Or that your wife (my mother? my fiance’s mother?) is like that?”

      • Ugh, family is hard! I’d be livid too!

        I feel like with people like that (the sort who will discredit any criticism as you having no sense of humor!) if you keep the tone light-hearted you can push back against things like this and have it well received. Something like, “Jesus, I hope that doesn’t happen! That sounds really boring!” or “Oh, man, I don’t want to know what would happen to us if we weren’t both driving this ship.”

        Everyone laughs and you’ve asserted your position/softly deflected against sexism.

      • VIOLET

        Hi Sonarisa,
        What your FIL said is so rude! As for deflecting comments that just leave me agape, I like Carolyn Hax’s advice: tilt your head slightly to the side and ask politely, “Why would you say that?” Calls out weird statements without being overly confrontational, and they can choose to either laugh it off or answer the question.

        • Oh, this is great advice!

  • lady brett

    “Your marriage is happy? Thanks for shoving it in my face, braggy.” my wife got banned from participating in spouse-related conversations at her former work because she failed to complain or say mean things about me…which i think is the main reason we get friends telling us how amazing our relationship is. it’s not really that our relationship is *better* than other folks’ (well, obviously that’s part of it =) – it’s just that we make a concerted effort to tell the truth about it. by which i mean the whole truth, which means that if you *do* tell someone about the rough spots, you include the good spots, too. because it’s not that i never do anything dickish, it’s that we get past that when it happens.

    but my experience has been that, in storytelling, the story ends at “my spouse did something dickish,” which leaves you with the feeling that their spouse is a dick and their relationship centers around the related problems, when in reality their spouse is a person who, like all of us, sometimes does crappy things, and their relationship deals with the problems and recovers. but that part of the story is boring, so it usually gets skipped.

    • Jan

      I have noticed that, too. People will often offer up the crappy stuff about their spouses, but leave the important, meaningful stuff in the background. When I talk about my husband (and he about me) to others, I try to highlight the good stuff. I love the guy, and while he has flaws, he also has 237489374893 other things that are awesome about him. If people are going to judge (consciously or subconsciously), I want them to judge on all the good stuff about him, not the tiny percentage of crappy stuff. We are a team and we’re also each other’s biggest advocates.

      • KC

        This is also important in communicating with *each other* – that things that you really enjoy about them, however ridiculous, get greater play time than annoying habits, etc.

        (I thank him for getting out new rolls of toilet paper. This may be partly because I was 100% the new-toilet-paper-replacer for the first, oh, six years of our marriage. But it’s still a very, very nice thing he does now.)

    • catherine

      wow, so true. like, yes, we fight sometimes but i don’t make my partner responsible for my feelings. that’s my job. we both work on keeping our side of the street clean so we can have a lovely neighborhood. i dont see rough patches as a bad thing, i see them as growth opportunities, that really just show how deep in you are. honestly, i have never said one negative thing about my partner to anyone else. we’ve only been together 2.5 years, but i never want that to change. its just not respectful. i know my partner never does anything intentionally to hurt me, her heart is always pure, so badmouthing would never sit right with me. she is my partner for life – we have ups and downs but we’re in it together and i respect her more than anything, so i cant imagine talking about her as if she is some bad person to someone else. that just wouldn’t be accurate.

    • moe

      A good friend of mine who has been married a few years now told her husband that she did not enjoy going to visit his family, specifically his sisters and aunts. He asked why and she told him that when the women are sitting around together all they do talk crap about their husbands.

      They still visit, but a lot less.

    • Claire

      Good on your wife! I don’t know if this is a gendered thing, but I’ve noticed that when groups of women get together the conversation often devolves into ragging on the spouses. Listen to this story of how clueless/lazy/infuriating my husband is. And around and around it goes with each person contributing tidbits illustrating the worst qualities of her partner. That has always rubbed me wrong. That is your person you’re bashing to strangers! You’re supposed to have his back and you’re selling him out for cheap laughs and easy conversation.

      There are a very small handful of trusted people who I allow myself to complain to about my partner if I need to vent. They know both of us really well. Outside of that circle, I won’t talk shit about him because that feels disrespectful to me and, you know, what Thumper said. So, yeah, sometimes he pulls a dick move. And I’ll call him out on it, but I’m not gonna tell everyone at book club what an ahole he is.

  • How about Kevin and Jenny on The League? Kevin can be portrayed as something of an idiot, and the character Sophia is obviously meant to be a “trophy wife”, but the two of them seem to have things pretty much in the bag, happy-marriage-wise.

    • Emmy

      And Jenny is a pretty big idiot sometimes too!

    • Erin E

      I like Kevin and Jenny as well. Their characters seem like a nice reminder that you can still relate to your husband and his friends on a fun, even typically male-centric level (with the fantasy football thing) and be respected and included as “one of the gang.” It’s refreshing to see that.

  • I’ve got one! It’s a blog called Project Happily Ever After ( and I think it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for. The author started it after turning her own marriage around from pretty much doomed to healthy and happy. It has the good, the bad and the ugly, plus real practical advice on how to get more good in your marriage.

  • The best advice from Liz! This was my favorite part: “Until we start acknowledging that constant hard times are not normal, but occasional hard times aren’t predictive of doom, we can’t really get a straight idea of what a healthy marriage is like.”

    Also, can someone out there tell me how they’re using italics in the comment? I can never figure it out.

  • M.

    I love the marriages on Parks & Rec (Ron + the Tammys notwithstanding).

    Leslie and Ben really work through some tough things together (long distance, warring families, job loss, misplaced priorities) and fully celebrate each other’s quirks, strengths, and weaknesses.

    And what can be said about April and Andy? So unlikely, but so lovely.

    • Yes! I looooove Andy & April. And I might just be straight up obsessed with Ben & Leslie. I cried at their TV wedding! So much love and respect!

    • And don’t forget Jerry!

      • M.

        OMG YES! Jerry & Gail! Best of all!

    • Lena

      Yes! April and Andy are one of my favorite TV couples. They support each other to achieve their dreams (important, considering they are supposed to be what, 21, 22 at the most?), are there for each other when things fall through, and utilize their network of friends to get through rough patches, both relationship-related and other.

      • April was 21 and Andy was 29 when they got together, actually. :)

        • Lena

          So Andy is in his thirties now?? Eep.

          • Sarah

            I also loved the weddings on Parks and Rec. Both of them really fit the couple.

  • Lily and Marshall on How I Met Your Mother are a pretty good mainstream example.

    • Also, and perhaps an ever better example: Amy and Rory from Doctor Who. Crazy about each other, go to the ends of the earth on the other’s behalf, they drive each other nuts but they’re just so beautifully made for each other.

      • I actually am not a fan of Amy and Rory as an example of a good couple, but it’s because I think Moffat is a really bad character writer. Great at telling a good, engaging story, terrible at believable character arcs.

        Moffat falls back on very disappointing tropes with Amy to create conflict with Rory that I find really unbelievable to their characters. One, the idea that Amy would come onto the Doctor at all is hard to believe, when in every other case they’re written to only have eyes for each other. Two, there are moments when Amy treats Rory like shit for no discernible real reason, which is just upsetting. Three, [SPOILER] the Amy automatically divorcing Rory because she can’t have kids rather than ever speaking with him about it storyline is absolute crap and only there to create more tension in the episode. It goes completely against how their characters are written to act with each other.

        So yea, I think Amy and Rory as characters CAN be a good example of a happy couple, but unfortunately I think there are many places where the writers make them do very out of character things for the sake of conflict, rather than adding conflict into their marriage in a realistic way.

        And of course I would have a lot of feelings about Doctor Who characters. ;)

        Mickey and Martha are a really adorable, happy Doctor Who couple, even if they only get a minute of screen time. And I like how the relationship between Rhys and Gwen plays out on Torchwood, I think there are a lot of positive spots there. On the whole I think British television shows show a lot more variation in family dynamics, but it’s hard for me to list them out without getting really involved.

        • Jennifer

          Downtown Abbey also portrays some interesting marital relationships, I think. Though it seems like most of those are ending in early death, so maybe that isn’t such a good example…

        • Kestrel

          I think that the initial ‘coming on’ of Amy onto the doctor is quite in character actually. In the first episode of the season, she doesn’t even admit Rory is her boyfriend, and it’s quite evident that throughout the first few seasons, Amy isn’t really all that into Rory, or at least into having a monogamous long-term relationship at that point.

          This changes over time as Amy becomes more ready to be in that one, long term relationship and realizes that Rory was the guy all along.

          That being said, the whole divorce thing drove me up a wall. I felt like it was totally out of character, and only put in there because someone decided they needed ‘drama’ and they couldn’t figure out how to otherwise split up Amy and Rory so the doctor could be the hero and bring them back together. I feel it would have been much more realistic if they had somehow shown that Amy’s job or something had gotten in the way, and then they were reminded how much they mean to each other while fighting aliens.

          • Kestrel

            Whoops, editor isn’t working, but I meant the first few episodes, not seasons.

          • I found Amy coming on to the Doctor in character too. He’s been this bigger-than-life character in her entire life and suddenly he’s there, and real, and taking her off to the most fantastic places and how do you even respond to that? Plus she really took some time to become comfortable with the commitments she’d made to Rory. It’s a (poor) way of processing the “oh my god I’m never kissing anyone else again” – and she gets to do it with someone who she can literally run away with and never miss a thing.

  • Jes

    This was perfect timing… I got married 2 weeks ago, and all I ever hear is about how I shouldn’t have gotten married. Marriage sucks, it is horrible and on and on. We had been together 7 years before we got engaged. We know each other pretty well. We are happy. We have had some rough spots but worked through them because we love each other and want to be together. I expect us to have a lifelong happy marriage and get sad when I realize other people expect us to fail.

  • I’m going to add to the Lily and Marshall love. I also really like the married couple in “Knocked Up,” because they seem to show how a marriage can change and grow and stretch even in bumpy patches (and I”m sure there is a bunch I’m glossing over).

    I’m three months a newlywed (though I’ve been with my husband for over 7 years now) and we get a lot about how we have the perfect relationship, when in reality, we have our bumps, bruises, rough patches needing lotion, just like any relationship. We try to be honest with ourselves and others, and we also don’t air problems publicly, because it’s hard to get past the “my husband did X and it made me SO MAD” conversations and move into “and then we had a rational discussion about it and we figured out why it upset me and what we can do to fix it in the future and now we’re OK,” without it turning into a feedback loop.

    • Did you see “This is 40”?

      A lot of people found it REALLY depressing, but I totally didn’t. I thought it was a really compelling example of a couple that has problems, that changes over the years, that doesn’t always do the right thing, but in the end wants to be together. (Although the movie could have lost about 30 minutes and some totally tangential subplots if I’m putting my critical/married to a writer who never accepts “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” as an answer about my viewing preferences hat on).

  • Emmy

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z have a really strong marriage, at least in my imagination. It seems like they really love and respect each other, and I love how much room he gives her to find her own success while supporting her in many ways. Also, did you know that both of them changed their last names to Knowles-Carter (at least privately). I’m kind of obsessed with their marriage.

  • Tennymo

    Frank and Claire Underwood from the U.S. version of House of Cards, have a fascinating, deeply intimate mostly happy marriage. It might be the only happy open marriage on a TV show ever, as far as I can remember.

    • marbella

      At first I thought it was really interesting too, but toward the end it just got sad, and I’m not sure it could really be described as happy.

      • Cathy

        Umm..not to rub anyone up the wrong way but I think they are only together for cynical career reasons. It’s an interesting dynamic, sure, but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a love-based marriage, more a cohabiting business partnership.

  • Jim & Pam from The Office, too! PB&J! They had rough patches, but they made it through okay, and the outlook for their future was really good as the show ended.

    • Liz

      I was thinking of them, too! What’s interesting to me, is that I found them to be a really realistic portrayal of a relationship and a friend argued with me that they were completely removed from reality.

      • I feel like as the show progressed, the show in its entirety got more removed from reality. it got….kookier. But, their relationship at heart was, I feel, pretty solid and reasonable and portrayed a variety of ups and downs.

        • Jack

          The last season with Jim and Pam felt much more realistic…and much more awesome! Salon had an article about it mid season:

          • Oh, see, I missed a lot between the season after Michael left to the end, so I really, really need to sit down and watch it. I’ve always loved the way they were portrayed. That article makes me want to watch RIGHT NOW. Thank you!

        • Jack

          Also, Jim and Pam’s wedding! My favorite tv wedding, tied with Miranda and Steve on Sex and the City. The perfect combination of heartfeltness and hilarious mishaps.

      • Copper

        They do make some PRETTY big decisions without consulting one another. I’m going to art school in New York. Yeah, well then it’s ok when I start a business in Philly. OK, so I can sell the house without asking you then, right?

        In the little moments they get it right, but I do find myself having suspension of disbelief issues with their larger choices at times.

        • Liz

          The ending of the series (in terms of their relationship) made me so angry! I yelled at the TV, “THIS IS NOT A HEALTHY RESOLUTION, PEOPLE.”

          • I actually really liked it, because while normally I’m not one to say things should always be tipping back and forth so everyone gets even and gets things “right”…it’s a big step for Pam — and I never thought she applied for art school without talking to Jim; I always got the impression she applied with him pushing her to do it because he, unlike Roy, wanted her to do something for herself. But as far as the ending of the series goes…I think in the context of the show, it’s okay in my book; Pam was always the one to not take risks, and her growth over the season shows her shifting more towards being a go-getter, while Jim is learning that he needs to step back and consult people more, so in a way, her move….kind of balances them out. I dunno — it didn’t bother me. Just another take!

  • Casey

    I love this discussion! My husband and I just got married a few weeks ago (yay!) and the whole time we were engaged, he would get comments from men like “Oh, you’re getting married? Worst decision I ever made!” Luckily this normally didn’t come from our friends or family, but coworkers, random strangers, etc, whereas I would get nothing but excited, positive comments about marriage from women. I guess I was surprised that these male vs female stereotypes about marriage are still so prevalent!

    • Senorita

      THIS EXACTLY! My husband really struggled in the time leading up to our wedding (5 days ago!! :) because ALL he heard from coworkers and especially customers/clients all day long was about how completely miserable he was going to be.

      Well guess what naysayers, married people have a *reduced* risk of fatal heart attacks, better surgical outcomes and even better cancer survival rates.

      So there.

  • Lauren

    I really love the combination of Phil/Claire and Mitchell/Cam from Modern Family. In both pairs, they drive each other crazy in only the way that the person you love most in the world could do, but they also adore each other, stand up for each other when it matters, forgive each other, and have healthy sex lives. I find them realistic (marriage is effing hard sometimes!) but happy, which is really what it’s all about.

    • Liz

      Phil + Claire having a healthy sex life was what hooked me on Modern Family! I think like the first episode showed them hiding baby oil from their kids or something, and I was like, “These are my people.”

  • Kate

    James Carville and Mary Matalin. All differences in opinion between my guy and I seem so minuscule compared to a couple capable of running opposing political campaigns and emerging with their relationship intact.

    • Holly

      That’s funny because I think of their relationship all the time to put things in context. We may argue, but at the heart of things at least we agree on big issue things and our morals are similar. It helps remind me that my (soon to be) spouse and I are coming from common ground and are not enemies.

  • Copper

    Meredith & Derek on Grey’s? I know they were all drama when they were dating, but I’ve generally loved that someone in television explored one partner being more ready than the other without completely writing off the not-ready partner as some immature flake, and some real differences of opinion that they’ve worked through while still supporting each other in a broader sense.

    • I was thinking about them! I love them together!

  • KC

    Movie-wise, Undercover Blues has a married couple actually (*gasp*) working together rather functionally. And wanting to have sex with *each other*, and not other people! Admittedly, they have vastly more energy in general than parents of a very small child usually have, but hey, there are outliers in every group.

  • Kathy

    Along the same lines as the NY Times Booming Couples, Storycorp from NPR has some incredibly heartfelt, touching and inspiring conversations between real people about long-lasting love in their archives – . We selected 16 of them and compiled them into an audio disc as one of the favors/gifts to guests at our wedding last month. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to those stories, but I’m moved every single dingle time.

    • Kathy

      They’ve also made one of their own compilations, which is very good !

      • Teresa

        I lay in bed weeping for hours reading this book. It’s so beautiful. I love StoryCorp and this project in particular really spoke to me in the weeks right after my wedding last year. I’m so glad you brought it up.

  • catherine

    “More than that, though, we need to start being frank about the hard parts of marriage, too. It might be counter-intuitive, but a big reason we have no healthy positivity around marriage is because we have no healthy perceptions of the rough spots.”

    ^Wow. SO happy you took it in that direction, I was hoping you would! :) This is sooo freaking true!!!! The goal is to be a conscious partner and spouse – if you’re not doing things consciously in marriage, then you’re just relying on the whims of your feelings and if you live based on simply your feelings — well where is the real love?? where is the commitment – there’s a quote i love that says something like “people think you have to love to have a commitment. but the truth is there is no love without commitment.” or something like that. and i’ve rambled, sorry, it just makes me sad and frustrates me to see the messages out there about what marriage is or what it should be…sigh.

    • catherine

      in short : i’m promising to actively and consciously love and support my future spouse for life – not just when everything is going my way and it’s easy to be “happy”.

  • I have a moderate addiction to certain online forums and my husband generally approves because I read what these women write about their husbands and then turn to him and tell him how lucky I am, because those women married idiots (the men probably did too though).

    Nobody’s ever talking about how great their husband is on forums. I think it goes back to the post earlier this year about “The Good” ( If you talk about how good things are you get bashed around. We really need to stop that.

  • Lizzie

    I will second NBC’s Parenthood! I love Adam and Kristina together, especially (not to give away any spoilers!) watching them support one another through all the trials and tribulations life sends their way. It can be tropey every now and then, but for the most part, I think it’s a really excellent depiction.

  • The Emperor’s New Groove!

    Now I really want to watch that again. Most quotable movie of all time, I swear…

    • Amanda


  • Maddie

    I would like to submit Wash and Zoe from Firefly. Those two, along with Marshall and Lily, are my power couples on TV.

    • Aubry

      OMG yes Wash and Zoe! And Marshall and Lily, as I didn’t pipe up about them earlier.

      Seriously, Wash and Zoe have a fabulous marriage. Great sex life, mutual respect, and they deal with conflicting expectations and alliances. I would have loved to see their relationship develop more over the seasons. (Curse you powers that cancelled Firefly! – there I said my bit)


    • lady brett

      wash and zoe!! it doesn’t hurt my adoration that wash is a perfect replica of my wife.

    • Maddie

      Also there is a part of me that secretly loves that Zoe outranks Wash. :) Because that exists NOWHERE.


      I will never recover from Serenity. NEVER.

      • None of us will. None of us will.

    • amigacara

      Those were the first two I thought of, too!

    • Laura C

      I’m just going to point out that both these couples are the creation of Wesleyan alums. Just had to say that, couldn’t resist the temptation.

  • Cass

    If you’re into philosophy, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has some great thoughts on marriage. Supposedly Kitty and Levin’s marriage is Tolstoy’s ideal marriage, which he based largely on his own marriage (later in life…).
    The latest movie glosses over a lot of the philosophy and personal growth outside of marriage, but does touch on the ideas of marrying the right person, how two people create a new family of their own, and things like family deaths and how a married couple can deal with other people in failing marriages.

  • moe

    I only have a few real-life examples of marriage that I look up to. The couple who did some “pre-marital” counseling with us (after we eloped) has been married for 35 years. (A second marraige for each of them.) They like to boast that they still fight and still have sex.

  • Susan

    My happy marriage role model is my parents who were happily married for 49 years. During my teens, I commented about a neighbor’s wife “letting” him do something. My Dad quickly set me straight that marriage wasn’t about one spouse “letting” another but about two adults mutually supporting each other and discussing their priorities.

    He was a wise man.

  • Maddie

    It’s funny. Because I grew up with so few examples of good marriages, I now seek them out EVERYWHERE. I love being the young couple in an older neighborhood filled with good relationships, because it makes me feel like we’re fostering our relationship in a positive environment.

    My power couple in real life are a pair named Gretchen and Brian. They are totally kooky, in all the right ways (he used to work for the phone company so they have a phone booth in their backyard and she drives a VW Beetle decorated like a ladybug). They’ve been through some seriously tough shit together (they lost a teenage son many years ago, which is something that is known to destroy marriages), and they have such a lovely mutual affection for each other. I want that. And I want to be the kind of people who, when that young couple who used to live next door stop in a year after moving out just to say hi, will invite you in and make you tea.

    Older neighbors and landlords, y’all. I learn SO much.

    • KC

      Seriously. Collections of awesome seniors: fantastic.

      It is really nice to have a few sets of people where you can say “and *that* is who I’d like to be when I grow up, and it is possible to be that way even if all I’m hearing is ‘you’ll seeeee’ right now, because *they* exist” – counterexamples to “but that never happens”, maybe?

    • MK

      !! A VW bug decorated as a ladybug is straight-up truly my dream car!!!

  • NTB

    The cynicism and negativity in our culture is pervasive to the point of being totally disturbing on many levels. I can empathize with you regarding your feelings about messages in popular culture. My parents, who have been married for 31 years, are the best example of love and fidelity in my life. HOWEVER, they have had major setbacks as individuals and as a couple.

    I think the problem with our culture in this age is that there is this implicit pressure to not only be 100% fulfilled with our jobs, our careers, our children, and our marriage, but we must put on this happy face instead of being honest and real with each other about the true challenges of being married and having kids. It’s not a cake walk, but it doesn’t have to be this doom and gloom either. I have often felt that pressure of: ‘If it’s not perfect; if you’re not totally blissful and 100% fulfilled all day, every day, with every aspect of your spouse and their choices, lifestyle, etc., then WALK AWAY.’ The problem here, today, I think—is that people have these insanely high expectations about what their marriage should be. And then when those expectations go unmet, they figure ‘why try’ and they give up. That isn’t to say that divorce is a personal choice and applies to people differently. But overall, I think the expectations about pretty much everything—from kids to jobs to careers to marriages to lifestyle—have become unrealistic for my generation (millennials.)

    In the year that I have been married, many issues have come up between me and my husband that we still do not agree on. Sometimes it’s tough, and sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

  • The Office. Pam & Jim

  • Anonymous

    Any Call the Midwife fans out there? Chummy and Peter are basically the cutest thing ever, and make major (and adventurous) life choices together in a thoughtful, supportive way while still just seeming very joyful to be together.

    • Amy March

      Yes absolutely! And I just love Chummy generally. And in fact the entire show. And the books

    • Jacquelyn

      Big fan! And it’s true, they take life on together and it brings them so much happiness.

    • Jennifer

      I’ve only seen season one, so all I’ve seen is their courtship and wedding. But they are cute! I need to watch the next season so I can see what you’re talking about :)


      I haven’t watched after season 1, but you cannot watch that show without rooting for Chummy *so hard.*

  • Copper

    I’m a frequent commenter on another advice column, and it always disturbs me how quick everyone is to say, “I would NEVER let my husband/wife do that. That’s the end, letter-writer should get out of there now.” I hope everyone isn’t actually that quick to quit when it comes to their real lives. That scares me, it seems like marriage just doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people anymore, because when times get tough they encourage you to cut and run for the hills. And not only do I not want to think like that myself, I want to not get that message if I go to a friend with a problem I’m having.

    • I see the same thing in different forums. The smallest thing and it’s run for the hills rather than forgive and communicate. And then it feeds on itself. One person points out something bad about their spouse and everyone has to go find something bad they can share too.

      • Copper

        The worst is when I see people start on the tangent of “Well it’s her right to be able to do X” or “He has the right not to have to Y”, because at that point they’ve painted the husband and wife as adversaries in an almost legal sense, instead of partners. Forgiveness? Bah, it’s nobody’s “right” to be forgiven! Nobody should be “forced” to forgive!

  • Sara

    I think a lot of comedies now a days are starting to trend more towards the happy married couple that are quirky but are rock solid. (Marshall/Lily from HIMYM, Brad/Jane from Happy Endings, everyone in Modern Family, the parents in The Middle, the married couples in Parks&Rec, Kevin/Jenny in The Leauge…I might be forgetting some)

    I like that trend, and I think there’s a lot more comedy to mine from that than the ‘My wife is hot, shrill control freak and/or my husband is a lazy slob’ .

    • M.

      My FH and I were discussing why we liked Parks & Rec so much one time and concluded that a large part of it is because the relationship story arcs and humor have so much focus on solid married couples, rather than Relationship Drama and breakups and Ross/Rachel shenanigans (as much as I loved Friends). It shifts the balance of the humor to other situations, and allows for more developed story lines that are personal but deeper and more varied.

      • Jennifer

        I did love Chandler & Monica in Friends, though. They became the stable relationship, although still not quite as good as many others that have been mentioned on here.

        • M.

          They were great! I loved their proposal story and their struggles with becoming parents.

  • Caroline

    One of the best role models I’ve seen lately for happy marriage is the marriage of George Takei and Brad (Altman) Takei. For example, look at their appearance on the Newlywed Game (on YouTube in several parts, starting here). The way they talk about each other publicly (with warmth, affection, and humor) shows a really positive model of what marriage can be.

    A lot of the negative marriage comments, concepts, and portrayals I’ve run into lately seem to be based on annoying gender stereotypes — “men are just too logical and rational!” or “women are too emotional!” or “men have to be in control all the time!” or “women are so demanding and naggy!” and then mapping those stereotypes onto the relationship between a husband and a wife. So despite the fact that I’m a woman married to a man, I look to same-gender celebrity couples to see marriages where other people can’t project those kinds of gender stereotypes as easily.

    (I also kind of love Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s marriage, though I don’t hear quite as much about it, probably because I don’t follow either of them on social media and I do follow George Takei. But they seem like a happy, functional couple.)

  • Kate

    Oh, oh! Another pair I like are David & Keith from “Six Feet Under”. Their storylines could often swerve deeply towards the DRAMA, but this was an HBO show pretty much all about the DRAMA. But what really sticks with me were the conversations and arguments they had about things like work, children, self-image, their families, and their place in the community. Some real everyday life LTR stuff! One get the sense by the end of the series that despite all the DRAMA, they really had found ways to work together at being their best possible selves.

  • Becky

    It certainly doesn’t help that lately APW has taken to highlighting failed marriage and relationship stories. While I think some of the stories are interesting and have great lessons for young couples, the sheer number of them seems extreme a wedding blog and could easily give the perception NSNN is experiencing.

    • Haha, I just made a comment about my failed marriage I guess at the same time you made yours. :)

    • Copper

      It definitely seems like a delicate line between acknowledging the possibility, and including the people going through that in the community, and starting to get a bit down on marriage.

    • Liz

      I don’t know, I think that falls in line with what I talked about here: “More than that, though, we need to start being frank about the hard parts of marriage, too. It might be counter-intuitive, but a big reason we have no healthy positivity around marriage is because we have no healthy perceptions of the rough spots.”

      It’s really important that we talk about what it looks like when real things fall apart, instead of relying on depictions of what TV/movies think should happen when things are rough. If we don’t talk about the bad, it’s hard to have a balanced understanding of the good.

    • meg

      So, first, APW has been a little… heavy… lately, and you’ll notice that it will be a lot lighter in the next few weeks, just because, balance. So yes, you’re calling it right on the heavy. We noticed too.

      However. I think this argument is a little bit of an oversimplification, and I think the problem with conversations about marriage in general is that they are almost always oversimplifications. I think it’s pretty critically important to think and talk a lot about divorce when you’re about to embark on your own marriage. While it’s true the “50% of marriages end in divorce” stat is not exactly statistically accurate for every demographic group, the reality is, a LOT of marriages end in divorce, and willfully blinding ourselves to that (as we’re generally expected to do during the wedding period) is unhealthy. The more we talk about the hard parts of marriage on APW, the more I become concerned that culturally and as a generation, we haven’t been given the tools and language to know HOW to deal with the hard parts of marriage. And those tools are critically important to having happy marriages, because ALL happy marriages have rough spots.

      That said, the idea that APW is what’s going to give you a perception that marriage is a negative thing, is a little silly, I think. While we talk about the whole picture, good and bad, APW is at it’s core a celebration of the institution of marriage. That’s how it’s built, and why it exists.

      And while we’re on a mission to lighten things up for the moment, I fully stand by our decision to talk about failed marriages. I think it’s a key part of our mission to support and promote happy and healthy relationships.


      • MTM

        “The more we talk about the hard parts of marriage on APW, the more I become concerned that culturally and as a generation, we haven’t been given the tools and language to know HOW to deal with the hard parts of marriage. And those tools are critically important to having happy marriages, because ALL happy marriages have rough spots.”


      • Becky

        Given that it was two sentences, I would definitely agree that my comment is a simplification, but I’m not alone in feeling the “heaviness” of APW lately. And while I think that while we are strong, intelligent woman, we are not impervious to feelings of fear or doubt these posts can bring. It’s absolutely important to enter any endeavor with eyes wide open to all possibilities and with the tools to deal with the adversity that will inevitably come your way. However, I have lately seen more on APW of the “hard parts ending a relationship” rather than “dealing with the hard parts within a healthy and happy relationship.” As a long-time reader and experienced married lady, I also challenge APW to find more of the latter and perhaps consider including it within an expanded Reclaiming Wife.

        • Breck

          I think APW has risen to the challenge of including the “dealing with the hard parts within a healthy and happy relationship” stories. Just in the last few weeks, all of these have been published:

          While they’re all very different, they seem to all have what you’re looking for at the core.

          • meg

            Indeed. We do a lot of these. I think the “ending a relationship” stories draw a little more attention, because they’re more… forbidden? Scarier? But most of our content is pretty firmly in the “complex and good” relationship bucket.

            Obviously you’re not the only one who’s noticed that content has been a little heavy, the staff has noticed it. It’s not any particular reason. We like to run good content, and we had some good heavy content, and we just didn’t balance it out quite as much as we’d like with light stuff. But us running posts on divorce (and good ones, at that!) doesn’t mean that all our other married content isn’t still right here.

        • meg

          Also, I’d challenge all of us to not let post about divorce bring feelings of doubt. That’s actually NOT something I would expect, and I wonder if doubt doesn’t come up just because we’re not challenged to think about divorce very often.

          I read these essays as really beautiful stories about other people’s experiences. I often learn something from them, but they don’t make me doubt my marriage. I mean NOT that my marriage (any marriage) is perfect, but a divorce story isn’t going to hurt it.

          • Becky

            I wouldn’t shame someone for feeling doubt about their marriage as a result of these posts. Feeling doubt isn’t bad and doesn’t necessarily hurt a marriage. As you say, there’s much to be learned from some the stories. I also disagree with your assertion that we aren’t challenged to think about divorce often. I think the whole point of the author’s questions is that we are forced to think about it constantly.

            The heavier posts, the comments and this conversation in particular have been interesting. APW has much to offer and I’m glad to hear that balance is in the future.

          • Rachel

            Regarding the doubt issue – I think it may be an issue of semantics. To me, doubt is a very, very strong word, implying significant fears and reservations that go well beyond mild concerns or anxieties about your relationship. I get the impression (although I don’t want to put words in your mouth Meg) that Meg sees doubt in a similar way. Becky, you on the other hand seem to see doubt more as a mild apprehension. Neither is necessarily more right or more wrong, they’re just different understandings of how the same word applies to different relationships. By my (and possibly Megs) definition of doubt, it would be harmful and destructive to a relationship, by yours, it’s a natural process that contributes to growth. It’s not that one of you is right and one is wrong, it’s just that you have different understandings of how that particular word applies to your relationships.

            I disagree that popular culture forces us to think about divorce often. It exposes us to divorce often, and in a very negative way, but there’s a huge difference between simply being exposed (over-exposed, as the case may be) to something, and being forced to actually think about it in a critical and comprehensive way. APW is one of the only places I see that kind of thoughtful, meaningful discussion of divorce, and I’m grateful that that content is included. Divorce may never directly impact my own marriage, but at bare minimum, I can almost guarantee I will at least be in a position to support a loved-one through divorce in the future, and seeing realistic portrayals of the realities of divorce and separation helps me develop a more well-rounded picture of marriage and relationships.

  • This is me:
    “…you’re doomed for a shiny, happy marriage that suddenly and for no reason plunges into divorce. ”

    But even being smack in the middle of it, I still can say I loved our marriage. I was so happy in our marriage for its almost 4 years. And even though he recently decided to leave me for someone else out of the blue…I will still say (and he has said the same thing during this ending stage) that we had a wonderful relationship (until he met her and fell in love with her). I don’t regret anything, and he has said the same.

    But I refuse to let this terrible end negate the beauty of what we had. Cause it was magical. The 5.5 years with him were the best of my life thus far. As much as going through the end of this is absolute hell, I would do it again.

    So….I want to speak up for the “yay for marriage” camp even though I am in the devastation of the end of ours. Yeah…probably not reassuring, but the good was so incredible, I would do it all over again just to have the good part.

    • PS. I will add that no marriage is *perfect*…I was just incredibly happy in ours.

      • Teresa

        A little late here, but your response blew me away. I’m sorry to hear about the demise of your marriage, but you sound like a class act. What you said is remarkable – loving, kind, forgiving. I would that we all could handle the painful places in much the same way. Thank you for sharing. And I hope that such happiness finds its way back into your life soon.

  • Remy

    I like watching Lena and Stef in The Fosters. The talk to each other about stuff. Okay, maybe they process. (Guilty.) And they are affectionate and structured and they handle conflict together.

    • catherine

      ooooo love that show! kinda cheesy, but like the lesbian version of 7th heaven! i love it! they are both awesome, conscious, strong women.

    • So, I somehow managed to skip the lesbian required love of The L Word or Queer as Folk, but The Fosters? I AM THERE LIKE SHAREWARE.

  • Polly

    Probably kind of nerdy, but I would also say Arthur and Molly Weasley from Harry Potter. And I second HIMYM’s Lily and Marshall, and Friends’ Monica and Chandler. The episodes where they’re together are my favorite.

    • I love Arthur & Molly! Rowling said she meant for them to be the solid, stable couple in the book that stay together (and don’t die).

  • I’d have to say Gilbert and Anne Blythe (nee Shirley). In the later books (Anne of Ingleside, Rilla of Ingleside) it’s pretty awesome how they interact and work together, even after all those years.

    • H

      Yes. I LOVED the one where Anne was in college, and was deciding who to marry back when I was younger. I wonder what a revisit with those books now would do.

  • Emmy

    I’m incredibly lucky in that my parents have a very strong marriage, and also made a huge effort to be equal partners in housework in childrearing. Now that I’m an adult, they’re more frank about their struggles. But I remember the first time my mom said she was made at my dad. I was afraid they were separating or something!

    Also, my husband’s parents had a pretty terrible marriage because it turns out that she’s, uh, a lesbian! But they have a very amicable divorce (at least now). And they’ve both have strong second marriages that suit them much better.

    We had a Quaker ceremony, and I was pleased that a lot of people acknowledged that marriage is a struggle and gave advice about how to make it work. And many people told us to ask when we need help. It was honest and helpful.

  • T.L. Kate

    Can I say the Obamas? I know I have a way idealized view of them, but I sort of think of them as Tami and Coach Taylor in the White House…and with a different set of professional skills. When I’m annoyed at Barack I like to think that Michelle is annoyed with him too.

  • Layla

    I don’t know if this counts or not, considering Marty passed away a few years ago.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Martin Ginsburg. All time favorite power couple.

  • Amanda

    This is a very interesting topic for me.

    I’m in a very happy relationship, but it’s also an intercultural/international/interreligious relationship. My family and friends are extremely supportive and I have lots of great examples of healthy marriages in my life overall.

    My problem is that I find myself being continually influenced by the general “popular opinion” that such relationships are doomed. The stories of “every single person I know married someone from his part of the world are now divorced.” That even though we work great together now, our backgrounds and how we were raised are too different to make it in the long run. That once I’m a wife/mother, his expectations of me will change based on cultural expectations. I thought the internet would be a good resource for identifying the important issues to discuss as the relationship got more serious, and I did find some good advice, but it also made me paranoid.

    Any advice on how to break out of this?

    • catherine

      Hi Amanda,

      I recently had a friend get married to someone with a very very different cultural background (her parents disapproved for that reason alone). This is your relationship, and no one else’s. As long as you two have open communication about your differences and expectations and learn to compromise (sounds like you do all that) then whats the problem? Don’t listen to the “doom” voices. A pre-marital course course would benefit you guys i’m sure too. there ARE people out there that make it work! write your own story :)

      • Amanda

        My problem is that I worry about the future. What if things change when we have children? In 10 years? In 20/25/30 years? I’ve heard that it’s common for people to go back to their roots as they get older/have children, ex. someone who is fairly secular, but when they become a parent, all of the sudden it’s a Big Deal to raise to the kids in their religion.

        I also somewhat doubt my ability to deal with change and deviations from what we’ve already talked about and agreed on. He’s my first serious relationship and after only having to answer to myself until my mid-20s, I’m finding that I’m having some issues with the whole compromise thing. I mean, I’m agreed to do certain things differently than how I envisioned them, but these are all things that I’m happy to do. Aside from one issue, I haven’t had to compromise on anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone.

        So yeah. My issue is potential for change and the things I can’t control for pre-marriage.

        Premarital counseling WILL be a must!

        • MDBethann

          As long as he’s compromising on some things too. Compromise is not a one way street. One person doing all of the “compromising” is NOT compromising, it’s giving in. It’s unclear from your comment, Amanda, if that’s the case or not. Glad you guys are going to go for pre-marital counseling (maybe though a secular source used to dealing with interfaith marriages?). Best wishes to you!

    • Carisa

      My boss is an Indian woman married to a Pakistani man, back when those two countries were at war. She has been married for almost 30 year, with two full grown well adjusted children and they are consistently my go to example of life partners who just plain rock. Ive found that sometimes the cultural narrative is based out of fear, but often that narrative of it never working out actually comes from a huge undervaluing of the human ability to empathize and grow. You can do this!

  • CC

    Tara Parker-Pope’s book “For Better” parses out some of the divorce statistics and made looming divorce cloud shrink for me. I also like her health column in the NY times.

    • That was an APW book club book awhile back. Great book!

  • MORS

    The movie FARGO might be my favorite depiction of marriage in any movie, ever.

    “Marge, you gotta eat a breakfast.”

    I lurk a lot and almost never post, but I have de-lurked because of how much that movie has affected my idea of relationships.

  • Carisa

    Coming to this a little late…but for fictional marriage awesomeness, I love the Bartlett’s from West Wing. They love and respect each other, debate, get mad, rinse and repeat.

    In real life, my boss has an arranged marriage and they are the kindest, most respectful, and thoughtful people to each other I have ever seen. They truly respect each other’s intelligence and are rock solid life partners in all the sense of the word partner. I love getting to witness their marriage because it is proof that we need something more than a mutual love to make marriage work, we need to be a team.

    • MDBethann

      I second the Bartletts! I LOVE that couple!

  • Kat R

    I know I’m a little late to this party, but Burt and Virginia from Raising Hope are wonderful. They have been through a lot (raising their son as young parents, helping to raise their grand-daughter, caring for Virginia’s grandmother) and they still love each other SO much. My favorite thing is that they seem to be such great friends. I also LOVE that Burt is not your sexist-stereotype male.

  • Holly

    Ok, so I’m really late to this… but I love the movie “What Dreams May Come” because the two main characters really do love each other and struggle with some real things (death of their children, depression, possible divorce) – prior to him dying and the real plot of the movie. Chris realizes he needs to be on the same page as Annie when it comes to emotions. I realize it’s all sci-fi and stuff… but I felt like that movie reminded people that being in love isn’t an emotion (only), it’s a choice. I also liked that they chose to celebrate staying together by taking a fantastic trip together instead of being angry or upset every year that they went through that rough patch. It’s actually pretty sappy.