"I'm sure you're familiar with love songs on the order of 'He's just my Bill', '... my man', '... my Joe', '... my Max', and so on, where the girl who sings them tells you that, although the man she loves is antisocial, alcoholic, physically repulsive, or just plain unsanitary, that, nevertheless, she is his because he is hers, or something like that."
It takes more than the good intentions of the Love Martyr or the delusions of Mad Love to make a relationship work. When a relationship gets rocky or outright implodes, the resulting mess just goes to prove Love Hurts, and that's when everyone involved was trying their best to make it work. Then of course there's No Accounting for Taste; this happens when two insufferable people choose to suffer each other and stay married, or when one ostensibly nice person marries an unrepentant jerkass.
The former has both parties held together by force of habit, and basically tolerant of each other although there's very little romance or chemistry (though plenty of sass and backtalk). The latter has the whole relationship held together by one person. The second type appears to be what happens when the Love Martyr actually gets some sort of relationship with their target. Both halves of the couple acknowledge that they're part of a pair, but otherwise the whole affair's so inexplicable/unequal that it's a marriage/love affair in name only.
This is similar to The Masochism Tango and but milder. It's a subset of how so many Sitcom characters are so dementedly quirky that they'd wind up on Jerry Springer in real life. Handwaving this often uses Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other. Comedic Sociopathy ultimately makes you wonder why ANYONE would put up with that guy.
Often overlaps with Ugly Guy, Hot Wife, which depending on your point of view either further makes a couple with this look ill-matched, or this trope make an Ugly Guy, Hot Wife pairing all the more inexplicable.
Third-parties may wonder What Does She See in Him?.
See also Awful Wedded Life, Dead Sparks, and Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?. When this occurs with non-romantic friends, one of them may be The Friend Nobody Likes.
Truth in Television: Lots and lots of people are in marriages that are rather less than ideal. Hell, your parents probably were at one time or another. And please note that sometimes divorce is not really an option.
Gravitation'sOfficial Couple could fit the bill as well, despite being much younger (and more sexual) than most other couples like this. Seeing how coldly Yuki treats Shuichi and all the troubles Shuichi goes for him...
Mr. and Mrs. Kimura in Azumanga Daioh... does the wife even know her hubby has a thing for teenage girls? Though it's worth noting here that Kimura in all other ways is an extremely nice guy himself. He picks up litter to recycle, he gives donations generously both religiously and to charity, and actually does seem to be a competent teacher. It's just... the whole high school girl thing...
Tomo once asked Mrs. Kimura, point-blank, what attracted her to her husband. The woman did not have an answer outside of "Isn't he handsome?", which Tomo pegged as a desperation measure. He actually is rather good looking as most of the time he's not locked into that creepy/shocked expression of his.
Most couples in Dragon Ball are this, and yet are still Happily Married. A major factor in this is that the series never shows any actual dating or courtship, only their lives after they get married (Toriyama was actually convinced he couldn't write a good romance so he skipped over it). Here's a list:
Goku and Chi-Chi: A superpowered alien half-monkey Man Child who loves to fight and a bossy and overbearing, overprotective Education Mama who openly discourages fighting. They had two sons and are still Happily Married to date. Both are nice people, but Goku being from a warrior race and his mental trauma from an infant makes things difficult for Chichi (though she does accept he needs to be a hero.)
Vegeta and Bulma: An arrogant, superpowered, Jerk Ass half-monkey prince with homicidal tendencies and a supremely intelligent, yet vain and equally arrogant woman. Had a fling, a son (later a daughter), eventually married and are still together. (Bulma once said that even she doesn't know why she's attracted to him, although it's probably because of his featuresnote Most of Bulma's love interests were tall dark and handsome and she was attracted to Goku when she first saw him all grown-up and the fact that he's a bad boy.)
Krillin and Android 18: A short, noseless Dogged Nice Guy with a bad tendency to get horribly killed and a woman who's sarcastic, cold and is half machine. (In fact, most would say that 18 never really stopped being evil, but is just a lot less so now than she used to be.) They got married, had a daughter and are still together.
Ataru's parents on Urusei Yatsura, although it's implied that their relationship is a bit on the rocks (to the point where we see Ataru's mother threatening to leave a few times...not to mention the time she openly tried to seduce Rei)
No one can figure out why Lum is so determined to keep her 'husband' Ataru when she's the only girl he doesn't chase.
Mink's parents on Dragon Half. Rouce used to be a famous knight, but with age has become a coward and a skirt-chaser. He is repeatedly caught in his infidelity by his wife Mana, which frequently gets him hurt. Considering that she's a red dragon, one would think he'd know better...
Konata Izumi from Lucky Star had a problem understanding why her late mom Kanata married her Dirty OldOtaku with a Lolita Complexnote Kanata, like Konata, looked as if she stopped growing in the early teens, dad Soujirou. It turned out to be a subversion of this trope, though, as Kanata genuinely felt Soujirou's love to her.
Konata: Why do you think Mom chose to marry you, anyway? I mean, you're apervy oldgeek with a lolita complex. Why would anyone pick you? Kanata's ghost & Soujirou: I can't believe you said that. Soujirou: I think "pervy old geek" is pretty harsh. Kanata: Super harsh. She's right, though. You were always like this. And sometimes, I almost forget why you were the one I wanted to be with. Soujirou: ... But there was one thing I was absolutely sure of. Kanata: Eh? Konata: Why'd you stop? What was it? What were you so sure of? Soujirou: (embarrassed) I was sure that no one else could ever love Kanata as much as I did. Kanata: !!!.... Ohh, there it is. Yeah, that's it. You can't beat that. (beautiful music swells as the audience cries)
Stephen Stills and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Julie in Scott Pilgrim. She spends nearly the entire fourth book complaining about him, his band and generally being crabby, and by the fifth book, they've broken up. Again.
For good this time—he's gay. And then he hooks up with a guy who is, personality-wise, essentially a male version of Julie.
In Constantine, Lu(cifer) says the trope name about Gabriel before he gets the whole story.
Lifetime makes it its personal mission to portray any marriage this way in their movies.
George and Loraine McFly in Back to the Future, a geeky doormat and a frumpy, closed-minded housewife who only met because her father accidentally ran him over with his car. Their son Marty accidentally disrupts the meeting via time travel and has to fix it, his actions giving George a backbone and encouraging Loraine's passionate side, as well as making it so they fall for each other for real and not just through the Florence Nightingale Effect. When Marty returns to 1985, both parents are better people personality-wise and are very obviously Happily Married.
Problem Child has Ben Healy Jr. and Flo. The former is a Nice Guy who honestly wants a son while the other is a bitchy shrew who only wants a kid so that she can socialize with other mothers. There's no reason why they got married in the first place considering that she immediately leaps onto a murderous criminal and he's completely indifferent to the fact that she's not coming back. Oddly enough, his love interest in the second film is played by the same woman.
Lord and Lady Everglot from Corpse Bride get along quite well, but it's painfully obvious they do not love each other. They don't even like each other, and are quite open about it. They both insist that liking one's spouse has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage.
Lady Everglot: Hah! As if that has anything to do with marriage. Do you suppose your father and I "like" each other?
Victoria: Surely you must... a little?
Lord and Lady Everglot: Of course not!
Janie and her husband Dougal in Another Time, Another Place, who apparently married her so he could have an extra pair of hands for the farm and another income stream. Then again, there's not much to recommend Luigi either other than being different and exciting compared to Dougal and better in the sack as well (although neither of these things really represent much of a challenge).
Such ill-suited couples are to be found in most, if not all, Jane Austen's novel. Their being still together is justified, because in those times, once you were married, there was no turning back.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. The author and the characters acknowledge how unfitted these two are, so they serve as a warning to the reader to marry wisely. Miss Austen noted that a young Mr. Bennet misstook youth and beauty for a winning personality. Also Mrs Bennet married for security and Mr Bennet not only can't provide it; he actively sabotages her attemtps to warn her daughters that they face a choice between financial security and marriage or being poor but independent.
A young couple from Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth is horrified when her best friend Charlotte Lucas decides to marry the insufferable Mr. Collins in cold blood for the sake of a home and a secure future. When we see her again after her marriage, however, she is coping very nicely with her spouse, having carefully arranged their lives so they spend as little time together as possible. Unlike the Bennets, the Collinses are quite happily content in their loveless marriage, mostly thanks to the fact that Charlotte knew exactly what she was getting into and Collins is too much of an idiot to know better.
Mr and Mrs Allen of Northanger Abbey. Here is the narrator's smirking commentary:
Narrator: Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them. She had neither beauty, genius, accomplishment, nor manner. The air of a gentlewoman, a great deal of quiet, inactive good temper, and a trifling turn of mind were all that could account for her being the choice of a sensible, intelligent man like Mr. Allen.
Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram from Mansfield Park. He's a very intelligent and capable man, but he married an insipid, lazy and fairly stupid woman. At least she's affectionate and kind, and lets herself be guided by Sir Thomas in important issues.
It was the case of Anne's parents Sir Walter and Lady Elliot of Persuasion. Lady Elliot was the sensible and amiable spouse who married an empty-headed snob who only thinks about his baronetcy and extremely good looks. The narrator says she was not the happiest of women, but she still managed to cope and found enough pleasures in her duties and she loved her daughters.
Narrator: Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable; whose judgement and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards.
In the opening of Clive Barker's Abarat, Candy Quackenbush's parents are a long-suffering, jaded housewife and an abusive slob of a father. When Candy is shown the day of her birth, she is astounded to find them being sweet to each other and calling each other "Lambkin" and "Nachos."
In the Kushiel's Legacy series, the entire nation thinks this about Phedre and Joscelin's relationship. It doesn't help that one's a celibate warrior-priest and the other's a kinky courtesan who enjoys her job. Immensely.
Also because its an Arranged Marriage between royal families. And they do grow out of it and fall in love later on.
Vikus and Solovet in The Underland Chronicles: she's a ruthless general willing to resort to almost any tactic to win, he's a pacifist at heart who always tries the diplomatic option first. When Gregor comments on how odd it is that they are married, Vikus admits it has always been somewhat of a puzzle to them as well.
Maniac's aunt and uncle are this in Maniac Magee. They despise each other, but as "good Christians" they refuse to get a divorce. Maniac lives with them after his parents died, and he finally runs away because of their mutual hatred.
Stanley and Helen Roper from Threes Company. They only show they love each other once every blue moon, with most of the gags between them involving Stanley's unwillingness to touch Helen and Helen feeling that she's taken for granted. One wonders why they never got a divorce.
Frank and Marie Barone stay together in Everybody Loves Raymond. He's an old curmudgeon and she's an annoying busybody. Plus, they first got married because she got pregnant. Maybe they stick together because they're Catholic. It may be because of dependency. They can't really start over and are too old to live in another way. Ironically, they (quite arguably) have the healthiest relationship on the entire show thanks to their blunt openness when dealing with each other.
It's shown several times that they actually love each other very much (such as when Marie suggested they had a loveless marriage Frank was so shocked and offended he simply walked away), they just really annoy each other.
The more obvious example would be Ray and Debra. Debra routinely physically and verbally attacks Ray, Ray makes light of Debra's worthiness and hobbies, and they both condescend to one another regularly.
Basil and Sybil in Fawlty Towers. They actively hate each other, but stay married and even share a bedroom, if not a bed. According to Basil in one episode, they even "go for a walk" together two or three times per week; however, he was very possibly making this up just to appear "normal" to the psychiatrist he was talking to, and it emphasises that he cares more about the status of being married than who he is married to.
Richard and Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth's actress once defended her character against the question "why does Richard put up with Hyacinth" with the answer that she kept a good house, and dinner was always on time. Also partly explained in one episode where Elizabeth and Emmett conclude that Richard's living in his own little world most of the time has gone a long way to keeping his marriage together.
Oscar and Emma from Corner Gas normally tend to fall in this trope, though some episodes show that they do really seem to love each other.
Married... with Children: Al and Peg are a textbook example of this trope. They verbally stated that they couldn't stand each other, and it's a wonder they didn't kill each other by the end of the show's run. (Despite this, Al never actually cheated on Peg, and was known to react violently towards anyone who made a pass at her. Peg acted the same way towards almost anyone who had feelings for Al.)
In early seasons of The Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hogg's wife Lulu is little better than her husband. In later seasons, however, she softens, and becomes much nicer than he is, starts to lose patience with his shady antics, and starts to become the dominant side of the relationship. She even threatens to divorce him in one episode. To make things worse - for her husband - she tended to be on friendly terms with the Dukes, much to his dismay.
Olive and Arthur in On The Buses. She's plain and dull, he's pompous and rude. It's also hinted their love life isn't up to much. Luckily for the viewer, their discontent is good comedy fodder.
Red and Kitty Forman. Red's snarkiness and lack of tact frustrates Kitty on a regular basis. Kitty's drinking and apparent naivete does the same for him. He's a good provider, she's a good housewife and mother. It's also implied several times on the show that the sex is fantastic.
Will and Terri Shuester on Glee. They are former High School Sweethearts and are completely incompatable. Terri is an insufferable Jerk Ass but Will's such a Nice Guy he puts up with her garbage...despite that he's in love with his co-worker Emma who also almost gets into a No Accounting for Taste marriage with Ken before he came to his senses and dumped her. It's little wonder the marriage fell apart about halfway through season one
Frank and Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld couldn't speak to one another without shouting and seemed to genuinely hate each other. It's not really explained why they stay together at all, and when they seperate, nobody is the least bit surprised.
Tanya in Grandmas House, who is marrying the deeply unsuitable Clive so she can share his big house and the proceeds from his boring job manufacturing boxes. Tanya plans to call the wedding off when Clive loses his job and she is forced to admit how boring he is when he's around her 24/7. She changes her mind when he gets a new job and she learns it will force them to be apart for four days of the week.
Niles and Maris. Admittedly, Maris was She Who Must Not Be Seen and so we never saw her interact with Niles, but she was by all accounts a horrible human being and a controlling, unlikeable, abusive wife who committed reprehensible acts many, many times, and it was established that Niles' attachment to her was mostly based on overdependency and lack of self-confidence.
Frasier himself has had a string of bad luck with women, most infamously, his ex-wife, Lilith Sternin.
The Meat Loaf song "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" has a great example of this trope. The singers vow to stay together and love each other "until the end of time"—the girl because she wants to, the guy because she won't put out until he does; at the end of the song they're waiting for the end of time to hurry up and arrive...
"'Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you I don't think that I could really survive I'll never break my promise or forget my vow But God only knows what I could do right now!"
The Mountain Goats' song No Children is made of this.
I am drowning. There is no sign of land. You are coming down with me. Hand in unlovable hand. And I hope you die. I hope we both die.
Given the extremely vast cast of the Harvest Moon series, it's inevitable that some characters would fall into this. What makes it more peculiar is that some of these are rival couples—meaning they woo each other and get married over the course of the game. And then go right to never getting along.
Rock and Lumina, from the first two DS games. Lumina is a Lonely Rich Kid, but Rock is a loud, party-happy guy who's also a total womanizer, regardless of whether or not the woman in question is married. He has numerous events where Lumina gets on his case about hitting on some other woman! And yet, to get there, you have to see a scene wherein they profess their eternal love for one another. Huh.
Chase and Maya in Animal Parade. Their relationship seems to be based mostly on the fact that Chase loves to cook and Maya loves to eat, and their "we're getting married now" cutscene even involves Chase making a vow that all Maya has to do now is taste-test. Once they actually get married, though, they argue incessantly. When they eventually have a daughter (Dakota), even she remarks she'll never get a little sister the way they carry on.
In WarioWare, for reasons unknown to all but the Star Spirits themselves, Mona thinks Wario is really cool and is hinted to be attracted to him. For reference, she's a cute, attractive, cheerful Fiery Redhead, and he's greedy, ugly, overweight, amoral, Corrupt Corporate Executive whose breath always smells like garlic. For her part, Wario is a treasure hunter who's earned his wealth battling beasties and saving the world.
Jun Kazama from Tekken is one of the nicest characters in the franchise, though keep in mind that Good Is Not Nice or Soft. She has a fling with Kazuya Mishima, who is...not very nice. At all. As of the second Tag game, she still seems to have feelings for him despite everything. Feelings which he just blows off.
Haley is in love with the Elan, who is nice, but very stupid. The other group members even comment on this, saying that there is no accounting for taste. Their relationship didn't really develop until Elan underwent some character development; he literally Took a Level in Badass and started displaying Genre Savvy.
There's also the married dirt farmers who the Order of the Stick saves from ogres — they constantly snip at each other, and the old man suggests he even got kidnapped by said ogres just to have some peace and quiet.
Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty in Sinfest. Sam, though he loves Liberty, has a serious case of It's All About Me and since he was a kid has ignore Liberty's opinion on matters like imperialism and explotation of others, showed in Sinfest as porn. Liberty tried to talk about it but she was rebuffed. Now Sam crossed the line and tries to get Liberty into joining him in porn sex and Liberty has become a Love Martyr to her Jerkass husband.
Weg from Fairy Dust is suspected by his men of enjoying being treated rudely and picking mean tempered wives on purpose.
Fashion exec Jan from Split Screen is deeply in love with with her childhood best friend Jeremy, an out-of-shape Big Eater with truckload of mental and emotional issues, who responds to her advances with the most mixed of mixed signals.
Though they're not married, Homestar Runner's titular character and Marzipan. Marzipan considers their relationship to be entirely up to her, breaks up and makes up at the drop of a hat, and seems to genuinely prefer the company of several of the other male characters over Homestar's, and it seems like the only reason she enjoys having him around is to make herself feel smarter. Homestar, for his part, is air-headed enough to honestly think "Go away, stupid" means the same thing as "hello, Marzipan" and is either apathetic or happy when Marzipan announces they're breaking up. At the same time, he does seem to genuinely enjoy her company. The couple's dysfunction can be seen in how they consider each othervia cardboard proxy.
Caboose from Red vs. Blue, in a platonic example, believes himself to be Church's best friend. While Church has several Pet the Dog moments when it comes to Caboose (he lets out a Big "NO!" when he is supposedly killed, for example), his default position is complete and utter loathing for the Blue Team's rookie.
Same thing with Grif and Simmons. They have absolutely nothing in common yet they remain best friends.
On the romance side of things, nobody really gets why Church and Tex like each other. She's mean, punches people in their sleep, and openly enjoys her job of killing people ("I think it's important to like what you do."), while he's an angry, narcissistic jerk. Even understanding where they came from doesn't really explain why they still care for each other.
Eustace and Muriel in Courage the Cowardly Dog seem an extreme version, as they at best get along, and Eustace is at best complacent when he gets what he wants. You have to wonder why they were married or if they liked each other. There's almost never even a case of Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other. One episode has aliens who extract Muriels' love as a liquid, during which time she is just as if not meaner than Eustace. Though she gets her good nature back, just the dregs of her liquid completely changed the aliens into really nice guys. So yeah, she's a saint with No Accounting for Taste. What is also truly weird is that when she was mean and spent most of the time abusing Courage, Eustace is actually genuinely happy that he has someone to be mean with. Though she was also a hyperactive demanding brat when she was deaged in one episode.
Well, there was oneepisode, where Eustace's even more curmudgeonly mom and a spurned phantom try to break up their marriage, and there's a scene where Courage gets them to stay together and show affection for each other. There are also a few brief moments that make you think that maybe they are contently married. They just decrease in number since Eustace' meanness increases as the series progresses.
When Eustace is stolen away by the Queen of the Black Puddle, Muriel is reduced to endless weeping. Yet 90% of the show's episodes end with Eustace trapped, incapacitated, or possibly dead, yet Muriel never seems to care. Heck, one episode had Eustace melt in front of her having to be sponged off and placed in a jar and yet all Muriel does is say "Poor Eustace" in the same tone as if he was sick in bed with the flu. It really makes one wonder if whether she's amazingly callous, dim-witted, or more likely, subconsciously Genre Savvy enough to know he'll be back to normal by next episode. They are elderly. Maybe their personalities evolved after having been married for several years.
The Simpsons: Homer and Marge have always, always been in a weird flux between wondering why are they still together and Happily Married: They're facing constant troubles, but it's always made a big deal instead of just "a fact of life".
Fred and Wilma Flintstone in The Flintstones. The (alliterative) Beta Couple Barney and Betty, however, are quite Happily Married. Subverted in one of the movies, though, where Fred had to fight to get Wilma's favor back during a vacation trip where he was just this close to losing her. It's implied that Wilma likes the clumsy yet good-hearted oaf (judging from his really awkward love letter he gave her in high school) that Fred is.
The Bickersons, parodied in the ''Lio'' comic strip as The Hateachothers. Directly, "Liō" was actually parodying the comic strip "The Lockhorns", which also fits the trope.
Mung and Truffles from Chowder. He's a womanizer (or so he'd like to think); she's intimidating. It's a weird combination, but they've managed to stay together for four hundred and fifty years.
As Chowder, Mung, and Schnitzel venture out for more cinnamini, Mung asks Truffles to mind the store, because, as he dramatically announces, "We need more spice!" Cue Truffles: "Vell at least somevun acknowledged it."
There was one flashback to their younger days, where Truffles was considerably more attractive and less shrewish.
Peter has done horrible, horrible things to Lois, the worst of which was locking her in the trunk of a car and driving the car into a lake. But she stays with him for some reason. Lois has done horrible things right back, like raping Peter. Twice. Almost all of their marriage problems follow Rule of Funny, though.
Lois's parents are more explicit examples. "He won't even look at me in the back of the head anymore!"
Francine and Stan from American Dad! are a weird case. Several episode revolve around Stan putting Francine (sometimes his entire family) through some plan that involves putting her through horrible things (so far he's made the whole family go months without any food money to get a better deal on a car, made Francine think he killed their neighbor and her attempts at making him more open will get him killed so she'll stop bugging her about it, and frame her for murder which made her feel so guilty, she moved to a horrible part of India to help the poor so he doesn't have to hear her say "I told you so"), and though they're over it by the next episode, they aren't actually shown getting over it (in the last one, she explicitly tells him she hasn't forgiven him yet). On the other hand, other episodes show he's genuinely caring, doesn't realize the things he does are so bad, and tries to fix them.
In one episode, Stan decides he has to know that he "won" over Francine's old fiancé and so fakes his death while watching the house via hidden cameras to see how Francine will react when her ex comforts her. Francine discovered the cameras, figured things out, and pretended to be close to her ex (but never went all the way) in order to yank Stan's chainnote Of course, Stan's island resort was hit with a hurricane, which did leave him stranded and thus he didn't know what was happening anymore. After the explain this to each other, Francine's ex declares that they're perfect for each other because they're both insane and storms out of the house.
Stan does occasionally show genuine love and affection to Francine, having even put her well-being over his principles and job. The times when he does this can even approach heartwarming levels, especially both Christmas episodes. Heck, one episode had them out-right state that their marriage is just a sham: Stan loves her only for her looks, Francine just wants to be taken care of. They actually end the episode with them telling the other this. The Aesop for this particular episode seems to be that they're both so shallow the best they can hope for is each other.
Holly and Peter from Scruff. One can only wonder how Holly can put up with an airhead like Peter. Also, Sanda and Truffles, who is known for his hacking cough.
On Daria, the entire Morgendorffer and Barksdale family seem to agree that Daria's aunt Rita suffers from this trope.
Jake: Who's escorting your sister to this [wedding], anyway?
Helen: Well, she dumped the sculptor, the skydiving instructor had that horrible accident, and I believe that Bruno is in some federal facility. So I don't know...
Jake: That Rita sure knows how to pick 'em.
On Hey Arnold!, Suzie Kokoshka is the sole breadwinner for her household and is expected to do housework on top of that to her Man ChildLazy Husband, Oskar. There are a few times where she leaves but she always returns.
Oscar and Trudy from The Proud Family count as this, as Oscar is a dimwitted jerk who fails at nearly everything he tries, and Trudy is a VERY short-tempered and violent woman who has beaten her husband up on several occasions (and possesses a hypocritical Double Standard on flirting with attractive people of the opposite gender), and yet neither of the Proud Parents ever seriously consider getting a divorce in order to get out of staying with each other.