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Awful Wedded Life

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"Take it from me, Spaghetti Man, better dead than wed."
Richie Tozier, It (1990)

The depiction of monogamous heterosexual marriage as rather like a long, slow, exquisite torture by a sadistic god from whom the only escape is death. Husbands are child-like buffoons who watch too much football, leave the toilet seat up, ogle hot women, and forget anniversaries. Wives are frigid, nagging, hateful shrews with zero interest in sex once the kids are born. The kids themselves destroy your home and what little peace of mind you have left, while waiting their turn to perpetuate the cycle. The in-laws only serve to add to the misery. The audience may be left wondering, "If they're so miserable, why don't they just get a divorce?"

This brand of humor has been a mainstay of British shows since The '50s, while Married... with Children was the first time it was the main focus of an American sitcom. It is also a staple of Borscht Belt humour, but that may be less to do with venom than with Jews Love to Argue or Jewish Complaining.

The name, for those who don't get it, is a reference to the line "lawful wedded wife," from the traditional wedding vows.

Similar to No Accounting for Taste, but you'll rarely (if ever) see the Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments occasionally found in that trope. Compare The Masochism Tango, Belligerent Sexual Tension, Like an Old Married Couple, Dead Sparks, and Married Too Young. Contrast Happily Married for the opposite and Happy Marriage Charade for when this trope pretends to be happily married. In more serious instances, Loving Parent, Cruel Parent can be what sets off the couple's antagonism towards each-other.

Values Dissonance may apply. This trope is primarily found in eras or cultures where people marry young, divorce is impossible or highly scandalized, the couple felt forced to marry due to an unplanned pregnancy, and/or it was an Arranged Marriage with little regard to the spouses' individual tastes. Among younger viewers, jokes that rely on this trope are often derogatorily referred to as "Boomer Humor" or "I Hate My Wife" humor, owing to its common proliferation among people of older generations. For these reasons, in many parts of the world where divorce rates are higher and co-parenting is more common, this is increasingly becoming a Discredited Trope or a Dead Horse Trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed: It's not uncommon for the Culprit Of The Week to have murdered their spouse or have taken revenge on them in some other form (e.g. murdering their affair or pinning the murder on their spouse, etc.). In most cases, the culprit is often the victim of something their spouse did (love affair, gambling, domestic abuse, being involved in the murder of a relative/friend, etc.).
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable: Shinobu Kawajiri's marriage is loveless, and she seems to take revenge on her husband by slighting him at every occasion. Very ironically, she starts to actually love her husband… when the Serial Killer Yoshikage Kira kills him, steals his face, replaces him, and accidentally bumbles into being the best husband ever in an effort to keep up his disguise. Of course, the jig is up after her son, Hayato, sees through the disguise, but can't bring himself to tell his mother the truth after Kira's death.
  • Wufei's marriage to Meiran in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing were actually bickering at their own wedding! Justified in that a) the marriage was an Arranged Marriage and b) both Wufei and Meiran were in their early teens, a moody time for anyone thanks to newly-raging hormones. However, it is revealed that Wufei actually did learn to love and care for her.
  • Doraemon shows a Bad Future where Nobita marries Jaiko, and not only do they have a horrible married life, they have to contend with Nobita's poverty after a rash string of bad luck. In the much happier future where Nobita instead marries Shizuka, Jaiko has a better time drawing manga like she wanted.


  • Rodney Dangerfield was particularly big on this joke.
  • So was Sam Kinison. Rather loudly in fact.
  • Henny Youngman was also famous for his one-liners about his wife. (In real life, he was happily married for almost 60 years).
  • Today, Jo Brand does the same thing from a woman's perspective — although she freely admits that jokes aside, her marriage is actually pretty good.
  • And before Jo Brand, there was Phyllis Diller and her husband "Fang".
  • John Mulaney has poked fun at comedians who rely on this kind of humor. In Kid Gorgeous he says he would never make jokes about how his wife is a bitch and he hates her... then goes on to add "My wife is a bitch, and I like her so much!"
  • Chris Rock's 2008 special Kill the Messenger delved into this trope a lot. Also served as a Creator Breakdown because his marriage was actively falling apart at the time. Unsurprisingly, there was a ten-year break between Messenger and his next special, 2018's Tambourine, which was largely about his divorce and infidelities.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Beyond the White Knight: While Barbara became Commissioner of the Gotham PD, Dick became commissioner of the GTO, their differing methods leading to their marriage devolving into an ideological schism. Eventually Dick sees just how corrupt Powers really is and that he was more acting out against his repressed resentment against Bruce and they make-up in the end.
  • In Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix, Lord Quark and Lady Volt do almost nothing but argue and insult one another, although Lady Quark actually does most of the insulting. Matrix seems to think this is because the two of them are actually gay and have been stuck in an Arranged Marriage, although as Matrix puts it, it's kind of obvious just by listening to them. It bears mentioning that this contradicts Crisis on Infinite Earths consistently showing that Lady Quark genuinely loved her husband and was upset about outliving him when her home universe was wiped out.
  • The DC Comics Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries featured the Bickleys, a pair of married junior officers who were the B-shift conn and ops officers, known for their constant arguing with each other and for their odd choice in Custom Uniform (each wore a green cape over a leotard version of the duty uniform).
  • In the Bad Future of Earth X, Wolverine and Jean Grey finally got married, but it turns out that what works for brief flings doesn't work as a long term relationship. The aging couple now spends all their time bickering and generally just making each other miserable.
  • In Lament of the Lost Moors, King Brendam hates his wife Jamaniel but can't bring himself to divorce because she keeps using her charms on him.
  • The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special has a Framing Device where the story is read from a book by a married couple who make it very clear that they despise each other.
  • In issue #3, of Love Everlasting, "Too Late For Love!", Joan Peterson's parents Bill and Pattie despise each other, constantly fighting at each other to the point where she's fed up. It's revealed that Bill settled for her after the real Joan Peterson rejected him in an attempt to break out of her cycle of romances. Pattie resented him for it, especially when their daughter was named after and resembled his ex.
  • In Supreme, the titular hero once explored the possibility of marrying Glory, and the two got on each other's nerves so much their last "tiff" ended with most of Omegapolis destroyed.
  • Superman's enemies Satanis and Syrene agreed to marry each other out of convenience, but Satanis despises his wife, and Syrene utterly hates her husband (and her father's murderer). Their interactions in Two for the Death of One consist entirely of insults, taunts, death threats and magic fights to the death.

    Comic Strips 
  • Any time Charles Addams depicted a married couple, it tended to be an example of this, to the point that one half of the marriage is actively plotting to kill the other. (Interestingly, the characters who became Gomez and Morticia Addams on TV are a notable exception to this; in their unique way, they are perfectly un/happy together.)
  • Andy Capp seems like this much of the time, although Andy and Flo definitely have their Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments. (No kids here either.)
  • Stanley and Harriet Parker of The Better Half started out like this, but a change of cartoonists in the '80s brought a much more lighthearted tone to their relationship (as well as a rather dramatic Art Evolution).
  • For Better or for Worse, since going into reprints/new-runs, seems to spend a lot of time dwelling on how John is an insensitive dolt and the children have nothing better to do than make Elly's life harder. Perversely, the strip also implies that anyone who doesn't settle down and live the same kind of life is irresponsible, childish and a bad person. Likely a case of Writer on Board mixed with Take That!, considering Lynn Johnston's husband left her after the original run of the strip.
  • The Lockhorns, though thankfully the eponymous couple apparently doesn't have kids.
  • Jan and Dewey in Next Door Neighbors. Jan makes it no secret that she's miserable with Dewey, and goes further than most couples in this trope by implying she doesn't like her own children much, frequently fantasizing about leaving her family behind with another man. Although considering her husband is a lazy slob, and her children being not much better, this feeling may be justified.
  • Tom the Dancing Bug parodies this with "Marital Mirth", which is stylistically modeled after "The Lockhorns". Unlike other examples, the thin veneer of jocularity is removed, with every strip featuring the husband and wife talking amongst themselves or with their friends about how much they openly hate each other.
    Husband's Friend: My wife is such a bad cook, last night she burned the gazpacho.
    Husband: [deadly serious] My wife is a hell-spawned demon send to Earth to torture me until I die.
  • This is such a common trope in ongoing comic strips and the editorial cartoons that mimic them, that "fixing" these comics with wholesome edits became a popular past time on the web.
  • A Running Gag in Big Nate is detention monitor Mrs. Czerwicki complaining about her unseen husband to Nate. He's so used to it that, in one strip, he decides to ask Coach John (who's subbing for her) if he's having any problems with his wife to replicate it.

     Fairy Tales 
  • "Ansige Karamba, the Glutton": Paama and Ansige's marriage is not a happy one. The patient Paama tries to keep up with her husband's insatiable craving for food and receives only complaints for thanks. After a while, she can't stand it anymore and goes back to her childhood village. When Ansige follows her there, Paama spends a lot of time cooking for him and making sure that his appetite doesn't bring down the villagers' wrath on him. Understandably, she refuses to return when he sends a servant for her later.

    Fan Works 
  • In Christian Potter Chandler, Bob and Barb routinely scream at each other and Chris (Barb doing it, along with beating Chris up, with the sole purpose of getting at Bob, while Bob is genuinely sick of his family's shit.)
  • Fall of Starfleet, Rebirth of Friendship: By Luna's count, Celestia and Celesto have reached thirty arguments in one month at the beginning of the story. Fluttershy's marriage to Rhymey isn't coming along very well either, with Rhymey being quite domineering and overly possessive.
  • In The Gods Awaken, the Blight parents are not on proper speaking terms with each other. While they share the same bedroom, a white sheet separates them, and they both have individual beds.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (DragonRand100) Nabooru gets unhappy with her marriage to Ganondorf when it becomes clear that the Gerudo king is becoming obsessed with his ambitions of claiming the Triforce and provoking a war with the Hylians. She stops thinking of him as her beloved as her doubts about him escalate.
  • Letters to My Partner in Crime, Jin Zixuan lampshades that when thinking about his parents' marriage.
    Jin Zixuan: When Madam Jin wanted something, you generally gave it to her; unless of course you were Jin Guangshan, and then it was basically your role to disappoint her. His mother had been let down so often by his father, and Jin Zixuan loathe to disappoint her too.
  • Near the end of My Father's Son, Rhaegar forces Viserys to marry Talisa after a brief affair gets her pregnant. The sequel The Hedge Knight picks up several years later and shows that the initial attraction between the two has not blossomed into actual romance, and has in fact soured into open disdain; Viserys hates being stuck with Talisa, and she despises him constantly openly consorting with whores.
  • I Reincarnated As A Minor Villainess And Survived Past My Death Scene: The Duke Heero Yuy agreed to an Arranged Marriage with Duo Maxwell, who was so upset about not even being able to pick his own spouse and being expected to stand around and look pretty that he turned horrendously abusive, sniping at Heero for being half a peasant when he wasn't pretending his husband didn't exist, flaunting his affairs and wasting money on luxuries instead of caring for the Dukedom. When a modern New Yorker transmigrates in Duo's body, he muses this relationship is so bad that Heero must be desperate to banish Duo without losing face and is utterly floored when the Duke refuses to do so.
  • In Second Bite of the Cherry, Madam Jin and Yu Ziyuan lament that they are both in one of these to Jin Guangshan and Jiang Fengmian respectively over alcohol.
  • Reigen's parents in the Mob Psycho 100 fanfic Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob.
  • George and his wife Irina in Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation. They married out of greed and a desire for greater social respectability, but they can't stand each other. Irina taunts and disparages George at every chance she gets, and George often seems on the brink of killing her. In the end, George becomes fed up with it all and leaves Irina.
  • The Victors Project: Gloss and Cashmere's parents spend most of their scenes together fighting about money and family decisions. Mr. Delacroix prefers getting drunk with day laborers to spending time with his wife.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Angel, Angel, Down We Go, Tara's wealthy parents look down on each other and are constantly fighting because her father is a homosexual and her mother starred in stag films.
  • Rick from Bachelor Party gets this several times throughout the movie; his Henpecked Husband older brother tells him that before long, the novelty of marriage wears off and it becomes a chore, and his friend Brad, who just went through a heart-wrenching divorce, tells him that "as soon as you get married, everything changes."
  • In Broken Blossoms, one of Lucy's acquaintances has six kids (most under eight) and an angry husband. While wasting away doing laundry by hand, she gives Lucy the advice of "Whatever you do, dearie, don't get married".
  • In Catch Us If You Can, Steve and Dinah stay with wealthy couple Guy and Nan, who seem to get in regular shouting matches. Nan makes fun of almost everything about Guy, from his collection of old objects to his taste in marmalade, and doesn't mind insulting him in front of guests.
  • City Hunter: The Cupid's Perfume: Mr. Skippy is quite unhappy in his marriage, between his vulgar harridan of a wife and his disrespectful son. No wonder he jumps on the occasion to have an adulterous tryst with his idol when he gets his hand on the eponymous perfume.
  • Drowning Mona: Mona is an awful human being and it stands to reason she'd be an awful wife. Her husband isn't much better and their marriage is an angry mess. It's so bad he contemplates killing her but then so do about 20 other people in town and he has to wait in line.
  • From Beyond the Grave: In "An Act of Kindness", Christopher and his wife Mabel are trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage. She nags and belittles him every chance she gets, while he's a classic Henpecked Husband who responds passive-aggressively or with tantrums. From the few clues dropped, it appears to have been a Wartime Wedding that did not work out as either of them expected, but divorce in middle-class 60s/70s Britain would have been social death.
  • In The Hangover, Phil, who misses life before marriage and kids, tells Doug that once he gets married, he's going to start dying a little inside every day. He also discourages Stu from marrying his Control Freak girlfriend.
  • All over the place in The Help:
    • Minny has to deal with an abusive husband.
    • Elizabeth is bullied by her husband.
    • Hilly's husband clearly resents his wife and finds Celia more attractive (something that clearly a part of Hilly's envy towards Celia). Meanwhile, Hilly still carries a torch for her ex-boyfriend Johnny who is married to Celia.
    • In the book, during the gala scene, all the men who checked out Celia qualify. They thought about their first loves and what-ifs and how awful their wives are now and how annoyed they are by the wives' prudish Alpha Bitch tendencies.
    • Averted with Celia and Johnny. The other girls talk and gossip as if they were this (with the prevailing thought that Celia is making Johnny's life miserable) but they are in fact very happy together.
  • The Hollars: It's never outright stated, but since Jason and Gwen only married after they found out that Gwen was pregnant and that Gwen still hopelessly pines for John, who she used to date in high school (and it's implied that Jason is aware of this), it's safe to say that their marriage falls under this trope.
  • A staple of W. C. Fields comedies. In It's a Gift he's a Henpecked Husband with a failing grocery business, a bellowing, nagging shrew of a wife, and a loud Bratty Half-Pint son. In one scene he goes out to the back porch to sleep at 4:30 am because his wife won't stop nagging him, but noisy neighbors and the milkman and such prevent him from sleeping even then.
  • Jigsaw: Implied with Anna. In the flashbacks where she's seen talking to her husband Matthew, they're almost always seen arguing, suggesting she wasn't on good terms with him. This gives her a possible reasoning for making Matthew blame himself after asphyxiating their child.
  • Deconstructed in the film The Marrying Kind with Chet and Florence Keefer who are both unhappy with their marriage, and it doesn't help when their son dies.
  • No Name on the Bullet: While the stress of the situation likely contributes to it, the Fraden' don't get along that well during their screen time, with Roseanne wondering out loud why she left her first husband for Lou and later saying that if he didn't send Gant and is letting them stay together then he must hate them worse than she'd thought.
  • In Norbit, the protagonist is forced to marry with Rasputia, a morbidly obese woman with a sadistic and cruel personality who abuses him physically, psychologically and sexually.
  • In Old School, Vince Vaughn's character, who is the best man at a wedding, reminds his friend that "you only gets one vagina for the rest of your life" just as he's about to get hitched.
  • How bad are things for Charlie Chaplin and his terrifying battleaxe of a wife in Pay Day? She goes to bed at night with a roller pin to whack him with.
  • Matty from The Rainbow Experiment is the product of an accidental teen pregnancy. His parents got married to raise him, even though his father didn't want him at first. He was subjected to years of their shouting matches, and used to pray that they would get divorced.
  • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: Ivan and Palahna's marriage is unhappy because he still pines for Marichka.
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The king and queen of Euphrania don't seem to like each other much. Theirs was an Arranged Marriage, so part of it is that.
  • In Sorry, Wrong Number, Leona and Henry’s marriage is a sham. Highlighted with a shot of their separate beds in separate rooms living situation.
  • In The Story of Luke, Luke's uncle Paul and aunt Cindy are at each other's throats most of the time. When they aren't arguing, they're passive-aggressively sniping at each other.
  • In Sweet Hostage, Doris Mae's parents deeply resent each other. Her dad accuses her mom of teaching Doris Mae to be a disobedient tramp, while her mom laments that if she'd married one of her other suitors she could still be living in St. Louis instead of stuck on a farm in New Mexico. After Doris Mae is kidnapped, her parents both blame each other.
  • The Sweeney: The adulterous Nancy says that she and her husband haven't had sex in a year and he hasn't made her laugh in two years.
  • The Viviane Amsalem film trilogy (To Take a Wife, Shiva / Seven Days and Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is all about the Arranged Marriage of Israeli woman Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) and Elisha (Simon Abkarian) that never made Viviane happy. Gett is about the Kafka-esque divorce trial Viviane relentlessly goes through to end it all.
  • The War of the Roses is a pitch-black look at a deteriorating marriage that goes from petty bickering to outright violence.
  • Wayne's World: "Garth, marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries."
  • The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz: Mason's old friend, CIA agent Herb Sweeney, and his wife Barbara have a very unaffectionate marriage It only gets worse (despite a Hope Spot that their spark might be rekindling) after the events of the film lead to Barbara being briefly kidnapped, mistaken for a prostitute, and spending the night in jail due to Herb and Mason's friendship. This leaves Herb in a state of depression and is never resolved before the final scene.
    Herb: Before, she just hated me. Now she loathes me.

  • The single most famous joke in this vein — "Take my wife... please." (For those confused, it's normally delivered in a context in which the listener would expect the sentence to end with "...for example".)
  • A priest and a nun are on a road trip, but at one hotel they are forced to share the same room with one bed. The priest piles up blankets between them and they lay down. After a bit, the young nun says "Father, I'm cold." The priest gets up, gets another blanket for her and returns to his side of the bed. After a little more time, she again says "Father, I'm still cold." The priest gets up, gets another blanket for her and returns to his side of the bed. Finally, she says "I'm sorry, Father, but I'm still cold." The Priest looks at her and says "Sister, I know it's inappropriate, but would you like to play husband and wife for one night?" The nun's face lights up and she says "Oh, yes Father!" He looks at her and sneers "Then get your own damn blanket!"
  • Some jokesters liken the last line of the One Ring's inscription to wedding vows:
    One ring to rule them all,
    One ring to find them,
    One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
  • "A man is incomplete until he is married because then he will be finished."
  • It is said that most girls who read Cinderella (or another similar tale) only get to the words "Cinderella married the prince" and stop. They don't notice what's written next. It says "End of fairy tale".
  • There are three rings in marriage: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.
  • A little boy runs into his parent's room crying that there's a monster under his bed. His father gives him these words of wisdom: "Enjoy it while you can, my son. When you grow up, the monster'll be in your bed!"
  • "Daddy, why does a bride wear white on her wedding?" "Because it's the happiest day of her life." "Oh... so why does a groom wear black?"
  • Many a joke has been made over the expression "happiest day of her life", as this phrase implies that there are no happy days afterwards.
  • In jurisdictions where the legalization of same-sex marriages remains an active issue, a common joke is to announce "I believe in gay marriage — why shouldn't they suffer like the rest of us?"
  • Marriage is like a deck of cards. It starts with a heart and a diamond, but in the end all you want is a club and a spade.
  • A drunken man carrying a goose stumbles into his bedroom at 11PM, his wife in bed and glaring daggers at him. The man slurs out "And thish's the fat cow I have shex with when yer inna bad mood!" "You idiot, that's a goose, not a cow!" "M'not talkin' to you!"
  • In the Garden of Eden, Adam complained to God that he was very lonely. God said, "I can make a woman for you." Adam replied, "What is a woman?"
    God said "She will be beautiful, never spend your money without asking, bear your children and never ask you to help with them. She will never have a headache when you feel amorous."
    Adam asked, "What what will it cost me?" God replied, "An arm and a leg." Adam thought for a moment, then asked, "What can I get for a rib?"
  • A teacher is studying the sense of taste. She gives her young students Life Savers and asks them to identify the flavors. They are able to correctly identify the cherry, lime, lemon, and orange flavors. Finally, she gives them honey Life Savers, but none of them can identify the flavor. She gives them a hint: "It's what your mother calls your father." A little girl looks horrified, spits hers out, and yells, "Oh my god! Spit them out everyone, they're assholes!"
  • Why did Mary and Joseph have a terrible marriage? Because in the Bible, it says that Mary rode Joseph's ass all the way to Bethlehem.
  • In Cockney Rhyming Slang, "trouble and strife" stands for "wife."

  • The Alice Network: Played for Drama with Eve’s parents. They fought constantly, threw objects at each other, and Eve’s father had constant affairs. Along with the kids who bullied Eve because of her stutter and the teachers who ignored it all, it made for a pretty awful childhood and contributed to Eve's general distrust of people.
  • A Brother's Price has this in the backstory. The princesses (yes, all of them) were married to Keifer Porter, who charmed the eldest princesses with his beauty, but was a nagging, temper-tantrum-throwing man, who made all of his wives unhappy to varying degrees. They eventually became happy widows.
  • Cat Chaser: Andres and Mary's marriage is joyless due to Andres' cold and stoic personality. Not a moment goes by where he isn't passive-aggressively criticizing her, and his internal narration makes it clear he hates her even before he starts suspecting her of having an affair.
  • In The Crowner John Mysteries, the marriage between John and Matilda is a bitter and loveless one. It was a political marriage arranged by their parents that neither really wanted. John deals with it by being away from home as much as possible, first by going soldiering in Europe and then joining the Crusade, and later by spending as much time out in the field doing his job as coroner as he can.
  • A Cry in the Night:
    • Jenny's marriage to Erich becomes increasingly unbearable and suffocating, due to his controlling and jealous nature becoming more pronounced and Jenny's growing sense of isolation. They've barely been married a year before Jenny has had enough, but Erich isn't willing to let her go so easily.
    • It's revealed that Caroline's marriage to Erich's father was miserable for her. He was known for being a cold and controlling man who discouraged her from painting, saying she had no talent for it and should do a 'useful' hobby like knitting. Jenny learns that Caroline had been planning on leaving her husband and returning to her parents before she died. Then there's the fact that John never took Caroline seriously when she expressed concern for their son's mental state, refusing to get him help and even saying it was Caroline's fault for 'spoiling' him. It's also telling that she signed all her artwork as Caroline Bonardi (her maiden name) rather than Caroline Krueger.
  • In Dragon Bones there are several examples. Ward's mother was not happy with his abusive father and is a shell of her former self when her husband finally dies. The queen likewise is not happy in her marriage to the king ... his having a male lover on the side, and killing off her lovers on top of it, may contribute to that. Subverted with the king's "favourite" (i.e. male mistress), who the main characters assume is gay — he is actually very happy with his wife, much to the protagonist's surprise.
  • Earth's Children:
    • Iza’s mate (who was chosen for her by the clan leader) was very cruel and often beat her, partly out of jealousy because, as a medicine woman from a prestigious line, she had a great deal of social standing, whilst he was basically a nobody. Unsurprisingly, she's not very bothered when he was killed in an earthquake shortly before the series begins.
    • Oga's marriage to Broud is not the fairytale she hoped it would be. After her youthful infatuation for him fades, she becomes acutely aware of his glaring personality flaws. Broud treats her rather poorly at times, verbally berating her and occasionally using physical violence against her for displeasing or 'embarrassing' him in some way, with Brun intervening on one occasion. Oga lives in fear of Broud's tempers and meekly obeys him in almost all matters to avoid setting him off. He even controls who she can be friends with, throwing a wrench in Ayla's attempts to befriend her. His sudden interest in Ayla (read: repeated rapes of Ayla) also makes Oga extremely uncomfortable (especially given Broud's public dislike of her), though she dares not speak up.
    • Oda’s relationship with her mate doesn't sound particularly happy. After their baby was killed by Oda's rapist and Oda learned she was pregnant again, her mate was angry at her for daring to wish for another daughter. When the baby girl, Ura, was seemingly born with deformities, Oda's mate only spoke up to let the baby live to punish Oda due to the negative stigma; he doesn't appear to care about Oda's well-being or what will happen to Ura.
    • Laramar and Tremeda have been mated for over a decade and miserable for most of that time. They frequently argue or avoid each other, and the only thing they seem to have in common anymore is a shared love of alcohol (and neglecting their kids). Laramar reveals they haven't had sex in a long time not since their first child was born. He leaves Tremeda at the end of the last book, abandoning their children in the process when he realises most of them aren’t biologically his. Tremeda doesn’t seem too upset.
  • Fire & Blood:
    • Queen Rhaena and her third marriage, to Androw Farman, which is all but outright said to be simply to hide the fact Rhae was gay. She treated him like crap (mind, Rhaena treated everyone around her like crap by that point), to the point Androw went and poisoned all her female friends, before committing suicide when he was caught out.
    • Prince Daemon Targaryen and his first wife, Rhea Royce, who he referred to as "the Bronze Bitch".
    • King Viserys I and his wife Alicent Hightower might have been this. They were married for several years, and had four kids, but... Viserys's death is highly suspiciously sudden, and it is worth noting at least that, in her last years, Alicent lamented the death of all her children, and the long-dead King Jaehaerys... but not her hubbie.
  • Exaggerated in A Frozen Heart. Prince Hans's parents and older brothers are estranged with each other, as they married only for politics and for the sake of appearances.
    • The king of the Southern Isles doesn't bat an eyelid for his wife, and blatantly neglects her even during her birthday party. In fact, he's been doing this for over 30 years. His wife copes with it by drinking wine. She also can only acknowledge Hans with weak smiles, and is forced to watch her husband abuse their 13 sons as the years went by. One can only imagine the immense mental trauma she is still undergoing after accepting being neglected and giving birth to so many children. It's implied she tried to stop her husband from abusing their sons at some point in the past, but the repercussions were so severe that she gave up.
    • Hans's oldest brother Caleb blatantly ignores his pregnant wife in favor of seeking his father's attention. He is repeating the psychological neglect his father had done to his mother from the time they've been married.
    • Many of Hans's older brothers think of their wives as nothing but baby-producing objects in an effort to produce more heirs for the kingdom.
    • Even Lars, the only brother whom Hans gets along with, doesn't get along with his wife despite attempting to do so. His wife remains unhappy with her parents for shipping her off to the Southern Isles.
  • In Garden of Shadows, Olivia and Malcolm's marriage is definitely this; Malcolm only married her to have someone to bear him children and manage his Big Fancy House and chose her partially because she is unattractive and therefore the opposite of his beautiful mother who abandoned him. Their First Time was a rape and he never shows her any semblance of love or affection throughout their marriage. Ironically, their relationship only becomes more cordial when they both turn to religion after losing both of their sons.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, Maia's parents had this kind of marriage. However, his father, the emperor, did not suffer much from it, as he just sent his unwanted wife and her child to some faraway estate and waited until she died and he could remarry. Chenelo, on the other hand, lost all contact with her family, as in this extremely patriarchal culture, wives are considered their husband's property. So she had only Maia for company until she died a couple of years later.
  • In Language Arts, Garrett and Rita Marlow pretend to be Happily Married in public, but in private they openly loathe each other and have nightly insult-filled shouting matches.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Martian Way": The Swenson family has a rough relationship, where Dick will spend months out in space, scavenging old rocket parts. His wife, Dora, considers herself a widow during that time, raising their son Peter alone. She takes out her frustrations on him when he returns, shrewishly scolding him for being gone for so long, until he's full of resentment and leaves. By the time he comes back, he's forgotten about their fights.
  • Malgudi Days: Kannan and his unnamed wife. And how. Being bad with numbers, he cannot remember how long they've been married, but has despised each second of it. It seems that she interminably forces him to work even when he is about to collapse from exhaustion, as though his human needs of rest and recreation don't matter at all, and then gives most of the money he earns to her brother anyway. His story is even named "Wife's Holiday" because of the joy he feels when she spends the holiday away from him. On the other hand, he may not be a saint either. While she is away, he does no work at all, loses all the money he has, raids her most prized possessions to find cash to gamble with and, upon coming with nothing, destroys his son's most beloved object in the world (a metal cigarette box which he uses as a piggy bank) to get it, and earns nothing while gambling anyway. Yikes.
  • In Mansfield Park, Maria Bertram ends up engaged to the rich but stupid Mr. Rushworth and spends most of their engagement trying to avoid him and his mother. Her father even offers to break the engagement for her, but she wants the wealth, status, and freedom from Mansfield, so she goes through with it. Unfortunately, having a London townhouse turns out to not be adequate compensation for a stupid husband, and Maria does not have the flexibility of mind to cope with it. Instead, she runs off with Henry Crawford, resulting in a public divorce and eternal disgrace.
  • Midnight's Children:
    • Aadam and Naseem Aziz. He's a secular, foreign-educated progressivist, while she's a deeply religious traditionalist. They butt heads constantly over this, and Naseem once tries to starve Aadam to death when he throws the children's religious tutor out on his ear. Aadam eventually dies before her, and she doesn't seem to care one whit.
    • Amina and Ahmed Sinai. After Saleem is born, Amina devotes most of her attentions to their son, which infuriates the attention-hogging Ahmed. Alcoholism and financial hardship drive them even further apart. After Mary confesses that Saleem is not their biological son, they break off and Amina moves in with her family. In a subversion, she later returns to nurse him back to health after a heart attack, at which point they finally become Happily Married.
  • Moonlight Becomes You:
    • Malcolm and Janice Norton have been married for two decades and can't stand each other. Janice is openly contemptuous of her husband for his lack of success as a lawyer, taking every opportunity to make snide comments or criticize him. Malcolm struggles to be cordial with her and is planning on leaving her for his secretary.
    • Maggie and Nuala both recall that Nuala's marriage to Maggie's father Owen ended badly; they often got into arguments and the marriage ultimately ended in divorce after five years. By all accounts they were ill-suited, with Nuala being quite a creative and free-spirited woman, while Owen was far more strait-laced and irritable (Nuala describes him as "Always sanctimonious, dour, sour, petulant, crabby"). Maggie believes her father never gave Nuala (or her) a chance to love him.
  • Nero Wolfe: Some Buried Caesar: Lily directs Archie to some fricassee prepared by a woman whose husband left her four times for her bad disposition but always came back because of her cooking.
    [T]he first bite, together with the dumpling and gravy, made me marvel at the hellishness of Mrs. Miller's disposition, to drive a man away from that.
  • Nighttime Is My Time: Jean's parents are okay people apart but were absolutely terrible together. Their constant fighting when Jean was growing up made her extremely anxious and closed-off from others. This sometimes escalated to physical fights as well; on a few occasions the police were even called to deal with them because they were brawling on their front lawn. They bluntly stated they were only staying together for Jean's sake (even though being exposed to their horrible marriage did Jean no favors) and they indeed divorced not long after Jean graduated.
  • On the Street Where You Live:
    • Clayton and Rachel Wilcox are both miserable in their marriage; Rachel finds fault with everything Clayton does and constantly tries to pick fights (including bringing up petty issues that happened years ago), while Clayton just tries to placate her and silently endures her rants. Their marriage has been bad for years, with Clayton once cheating on Rachel, which only made things worse when Rachel found out; she's never let him forget how it resulted in him having to give up his cushy job at Enoch College, but she also never considered leaving the marriage despite her obvious contempt for him (nor she does ever acknowledge her own failings in the relationship). Rachel moves out when Clayton's cheating scandal becomes public knowledge, with many people predicting it will finally motivate them to get divorced. Clayton isn't too upset about it, seeming relieved more than anything.
    • Bob and Natalie Frieze married for purely shallow reasons and after five years it shows; they hardly ever spend time together, when they are together it tends to devolve into arguments about Bob's poor financial decisions and how much Natalie hates living in Spring Lake, Natalie indicates they've stopped having sex and they both rather blatantly flirt with other people. In the second half of the novel, they start seriously contemplating divorce as they're both sick of each other; they can't even discuss this civilly, with both of them threatening each other.
  • The wifie-hating husband in the ancient Roman joke book Philogelos, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
    A traveler comes across an old man standing by a grave, and asks him "Who is it that rests in peace?"
    The old man replies, "Me, now that my wife is down there!"
  • Pride and Prejudice: Being forced to marry the foolish, irresponsible Lydia is essentially Wickham's punishment. It is also implied that, although she loves him now, marriage to Wickham will one day be this to Lydia as well. Many other couples in Jane Austen's works exemplify this as well, sometimes softened with moments of Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other. Justified in that while divorce was possible in Regency England (as seen in her novel Mansfield Park), it was a huge deal and a one-way ticket to social ruin. (You got your Member of Parliament to introduce a Private Bill dissolving the marriage. The bill had to say why, so basically it meant that your private life was now public record. And it had to be for something "serious" like adultery—being bored, unhappy, or otherwise grossly incompatible was not enough.)
  • In Remember Dippy, Mem's mean neighbor Dirk Dempster is constantly stressed out from his parents shouting at each other. Johnny can relate, because his parents were always fighting for the year or so before they divorced.
  • Rosaleen among the Artists: For a few years Rosaleen lives in the same building as the famous artist Lawrence Iverson, who keeps harassing her to marry him even though she's made it clear she isn't interested. But when she learns he's going blind, she agrees to marry him out of pity. Rosaleen feels so sorry for him that she acts as his servant rather than his friend and instantly forgives anything he does wrong. Her refusal to simply talk to him like an equal only infuriates Lawrence, which only causes Rosaleen to act even more unnaturally, until before long they can't stand each other.
  • The various cultures in A Song of Ice and Fire employ heavy usage of Arranged Marriage, and while Perfectly Arranged Marriage isn't uncommon it does result in plenty of this trope.
    • Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister, whose union was the result of an Arranged Marriage. Robert's real love, Lyanna, was killed in the civil war of Westeros and he never got over her, and Cersei hated him even before their marriage because he killed her lifelong crush, Rhaegar, in said war. Cersei does claim to Ned Stark that she would have attempted to make the marriage work regardless, save that on the wedding night Robert called Cersei 'Lyanna' while in the midst of having sex with her.
    • The marriage between Lysa Tully and Jon Arryn wasn't a healthy one by any measure. Married as part of a political alliance during Robert's Rebellion despite having little in common, Lysa found Jon too old for her. Due to damage done to her womb by her father's attempt to induce a miscarriage before her wedding to Jon, Lysa suffered at least five miscarriages, and her only son, Robert, was born sickly. And then there's the fact that Lysa conspired to kill Jon, the precipitating event of the entire saga.
    • Stannis and Selyse Baratheon. She's loyal to her husband's cause but their marriage is as cold as ice and they rarely sleep together. Their personalities don't help, either.
    • Aerys II, aka The Mad King, and his sister-wife Rhaella. Both would have preferred other suitors but were made to marry by their father thanks to a prophecy that The Chosen One would be born of their line. Never a golden union (its happy days saw Aerys sleeping with most of his wife's attendants), it slipped gradually into a nightmare as Aerys earned his future epithet, capped off by heavy usage of the Marital Rape License.
    • Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey's marriage is an interesting take on this trope. Despite the extremely distressing details that the entire wedding was a trap set by Walder Frey in order to get revenge on Catelyn and Robb Stark and gain a claim to the Riverlands for his family in one fell swoop, and that the groom is now a hostage of the Lannisters, the two genuinely love each other and want to be together. Go figure.
    • Sansa Stark's marriage to Tyrion Lannister, though not abusive, isn't exactly a picnic, either. The marriage was forced on Sansa to keep her a hostage of the Lannisters, who killed most of her family, in King's Landing, and to block the Tyrells from rescuing her by marrying her to their son Willas. This leads Sansa to believe that no one will ever marry her out of love. Not to mention the fact that she doesn't love her husband at all. And Tyrion, one of the few new husbands in the entire realm with an ounce of human decency, is constantly belittled and pressured by his father and nephew for refusing to consummate the wedding without Sansa's consent.
    • Any marriage involving Ramsay Bolton. To date, bride #1, Lady Hornwood requested a divorce by EATING HER OWN FINGERS, and bride #2, "Arya Stark" actually Jeyne Poole was left completely broken both physically and psychologically, and only escaped the nightmare by leaping off the battlements of Winterfell with Theon.
  • In There's More Than One Way Home, Anna and Alex do their best to stay out of each other's way, even at the parties they attend together. When they do interact, they tend to fight.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fall of Númenor: "Aldarion and Erendis" is the story of a prince of Númenor who was in love with the sea and his wife who tired of his continued broken promises to be back by such-a-day (Aldarion did have a good reason for being late, but he was too prideful to divulge it to his wife and his father until he did so to try and start a fight). Aldarion's seafaring also upset his father and his people, who saw him as an adventurer who neglected his duties as well as his wife, while he saw her as unfair and spineless for not understanding that he was like this and giving him the silent treatment instead of a fight. She eventually went to live in the country and raised their daughter, Ancalimë, to hate men for most of the girl's childhood; he took back custody and raised her to her responsibilities as heir. Unsurprisingly, this left the poor girl with a messed-up view of love and relationships that tainted her own marriage when she grew up. Ancalimë got married purely to spite her cousin Soronto (whom she should surrender the Sceptre if she remained single and childless), and she went out of her way to harass her husband Hallacar; in turn, Hallacar paid her back for her insults and vexations whenever he could.
  • The Twits: With both Mr. and Mrs. Twit being horrible people with a penchant for animal abuse, their daily routine in their married life by the time the story begins is attempting to pull cruel and potentially Deadly Pranks on each other.
  • You Don't Own Me: Kendra and Martin's marriage started well, with Kendra saying Martin "swept [her] off [her] feet", but it quickly went downhill after their first child was born, Kendra developed depression and was forced to give up work. When Kendra proved a 'disappointment' to Martin, he revealed his true colours, blaming Kendra for her mental health issues and giving her no support, while claiming she was the one who duped him into marriage. Kendra's condition only worsened because of Martin's cruelty and controlling ways, and she became convinced he was cheating. She began sneaking out to go on spending sprees or binge drinking at a dive bar just to regain some control. Martin's parents say the only reason he didn't divorce Kendra right away was because he believed he wouldn't be able to get custody of their children. As a result, it's not a stretch that Kendra could've arranged Martin's death to finally be rid of him.
  • In The Young Diana, Diana May's parents are always arguing. Her father sees his wife as dull and unattractive, preferring to flirt with much younger girls like his seventeen-year-old tennis partner. Her mother is irritated by her husband's vanity and immaturity, and copes by eating so much food that she has become morbidly obese.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 'Allo 'Allo!, much of Rene's dialogue revolves around his disdain for his marriage to Edith.
  • In Amen, the Reverend often counsels couples like this. One in the first season sues him for contributing to the marriage's failure — he had encouraged the husband to confess to his adultery, which the wife reacted to by trying to run him over (and given that she'd apparently been like this since they first got married, one really can't blame him for cheating). Another has a husband so insanely jealous that he flies into a rage if another man so much as talks to his wife, accusing him of trying to steal her from him. She — no prize herself, mind you — finally gets fed up and dumps him.
  • Babylon 5: Played for Laughs concerning Londo Mollari. Londo has three wives, all due to political convenience, whom he nicknames Famine, Pestilence and Death. He states that he accepted the position as Centauri ambassador to the titular station in part to get away from them and one of his happiest moments in the series is when he manages to get Imperial permission to divorce two of them in "Soul Mates". He also comments on the inappropriate amount of joy involved in a human wedding, claiming that that kind of public display of joy should be reserved for funerals.
  • About any time a married couple is seen in The Benny Hill Show, it falls squarely into this (the very rare exceptions being Insatiable Newlyweds).
    Husband: Good night... mother of six.
    Wife: Good night... father of one.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Leonard's parents are divorced after a lifetime of hating each other. He greets her with "Hello, my hateful shrew" and she replies "Hello, you wrinkled old bastard".
    • Raj's parents also hate each other and are separated. He thought they flew separately so in case of a crash one of them would be alive to look after the children; he discovered they just couldn't stand being on a plane together.
  • Ray and Debra Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond are one of the most famous modern examples of this trope. Ray is a lazy, sports-obsessed momma's boy who dislikes any non-sexual intimacy while Debra is hypercritical and tempermental and the Sitcom Arch-Nemesis of Ray's overbearing mother.
  • City on a Hill: Jackie and Jenny's marriage is dysfunctional (to put it mildly), where they fight almost constantly, along with both (especially Jackie) cheating.
  • A married couple were recurring characters (John and Mary) in Father Ted where the gag was they loathed each other; with the husband verbally abusing the wife and the wife constantly beating the husband until Ted appears. At which point they would switch and become lovey-dovey towards each other. The joke works because the island is predominantly Catholic, so divorce is still highly frowned upon.
  • Fawlty Towers shows marriage as being a constant battle between Basil and Sybil.
  • Flashpoint: An early episode centers around an abusive marriage, as the sister of the battered wife confronts the abusive husband to try to stop him from hurting her. In the same episode, Wordy reveals that his wife Shelley had a prior marriage that was also abusive. Fortunately, Shelley has long since escaped her abuser, and by the end of the episode, the wife at the center of the case is seemingly on the road to doing the same.
  • Frasier: Niles and Maris, off-screen, though they eventually got divorced. He also almost had this dynamic with Mel, but he left her before they got married. He had a habit of choosing women who treated him badly until he and Daphne got together.
  • Friends: Rachel's parents before they got divorced and Joey's parents. Also Chandler's mom and dad when he was growing up, though they're separated at the time of the show. Emily's father and stepmother constantly insult each other and wish they'd never married in the first place.
  • Game of Thrones universe:
    • Game of Thrones:
      • Much like their book counterparts, Robert and Cersei. The major difference is that here Cersei actually did love Robert for quite a while in the beginning (though he still only ever loved Lyanna in this version, too), and tried to make the relationship work at first despite knowing he didn't love her back. Still, in both versions, by the start of the story, they've hated each other for years, as Cersei confesses to Ned and Sansa. Her only source of happiness and comfort was her affair with Jaime (which is sad in itself) and their children.
      • Also like their book versions, Stannis and Selyse Baratheon have an unhappy marriage. The main variation from the books in this case is that show Selyse is mentally unstable and Stannis at least shows some pity to her.
      • Tyrion and Sansa have no love for each other after being forced to marry but manage a quasi-friendship that is shattered forever when Sansa learns the Lannisters murdered her mother and brother. Tyrion is at a loss at what to do with her since she doesn't speak to anyone.
      • Sansa's brief marriage to Ramsay is definitely this. Unlike her previous (also-unwanted) husband, Tyrion, Ramsay made full use of his Marital Rape License; Sansa essentially stayed locked up in her room for the entire day, only for Ramsay to come and rape and beat her every night, leaving her crying in her bed. Luckily for her, she escaped. She later fed him to his dogs after he lost the Battle of the Bastards.
    • House of the Dragon:
      • Alicent Hightower is anything but happy in her marriage with the King Viserys. He doesn't mistreat her and even listens when she offers her opinion—to the point of giving her a seat on the High Council—but the age difference, frictions with her former best friend Rhaenyra who's now her stepdaughter, and the social pressures that come with being Queen have left their mark on her. There's also the fact that the only reason she's Queen to begin with is because she was more-or-less pimped out by her father Otto to marry the widowed and sonless Viserys and hopefully produce a male heir under Otto's control, and the couple's sex life involves Viserys taking Alicent whenever he feels like it with no regard for giving her any pleasure (not that his leprosy makes him the most handsome partner in the first place).
      • Daemon's hatred of his first wife Rhea Royce, whom he oh-so-lovingly referred to as the "Bronze Bitch," was a running joke for most of the first season (all in all, it wasn't that awful in the sense that they haven't seen each other in years anyway, which seems to have been for the best for both). When we finally meet Rhea, we see that the hatred is very mutual (and that she's also actually quite beautiful despite him saying he'd rather "fuck a sheep"). Their marriage only ends when Daemon brutally murders her with what fans have since dubbed the "Divorce Rock."
      • This is how Helaena describes her marriage, in which, despite being a genuine assurance, each sentence sounds worse than the last:
  • The Get Smart episode "The Farkas Fracas" has two married KAOS spies in Max and 99's apartment building. When they're not bugging Max's apartment and trying to take pictures of important papers, they're sniping about each other's spying abilities, her cooking and housekeeping skills, his fashion sense and hygiene, and the fact that he's only employed because her brother is a KAOS regional manager.
  • The Glamorous Imperial Concubine: Lian Cheng and Xiang Yun's marriage. They only married for diplomatic reasons, and he's in love with her cousin and resents her for coming between them. It ends with Xiang Yun accidentally killing Lian Cheng while trying to kill her cousin.
  • Goodbye My Princess: Xiao Feng and Cheng Yin's marriage soon becomes this, especially for Xiao Feng. Cheng Yin murdered her family and drove her to jump into the River of Forgetfulness. After their wedding he refuses to leave her alone even when she makes it clear she hates him. It ends with her committing suicide to escape him.
  • Hi-de-Hi!: Yvonne and Barry.
  • In the Here Come the Brides pilot, Joshua asks a woman if she wants to get married. She replies, "I am married, and I hate men."
  • Homicide: Life on the Street: Felton's wife is unbearably needy, mentally unstable, and prone to erratic behavior and lashing out at him for real or perceived slights. In turn, Felton actively spends more time at work to get away from her and eventually cheats on her with Russert.
  • Deconstructed during Marshall's bachelor party in How I Met Your Mother. Narrator!Ted advises us that the jaded married man is a staple attendee of every bachelor party, and Stuart plays this role to a tee, injecting comments like "Because marriage is like being in prison, right guys?" The comments start off slightly humorous, but wind up being so melancholic that this exchange occurs:
    Ted: Is everything okay at home, Stuart?
    Stuart: [sadly and emphatically] No-oo!
  • Despite their squabbles, disagreements, and Zany Schemes, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were still always Happily Married. Best friends Fred and Ethel Mertz, on the other hand? The king and queen of this trope.
  • Innocent:
    • Over the course of the series it is slowly revealed just how much Cevdet and Nermin resent each other.
      Cevdet: That evil mouth of yours has tortured my ears more than I tortured any of those anarchists down at the station!
    • Rüya and Taner have a caustic and complicated marriage, largely due to her maintaining a "contract" with another man and compounded by his Jerkass tendencies.
  • Kaamelott: Just about every single marriage is horrible, several of them because one is an asshole and one is a dumbass:
    • Arthur and Guenièvre: Arthur is the Only Sane Man Surrounded by Idiots trapped in an Arranged Marriage. It doesn't help that he never sleeps with his wife due to an oath he made to the one true love of his life, and while she's inclined to Think Like a Romance Novel, his mistresses are all self-serving social climbers.
    • Lancelot and Guenièvre aren't much better: It turns out both are virgins (and stay that way), and as time goes by Lancelot becomes more obsessed with toppling Arthur so he can give Guenièvre a kingdom worthy of her (even though she says she's happy enough being with him). The final nail is when he ties her down to the bed before leaving on a quest so she won't leave, something Arthur snarks at when he rescues her.
    • Karadoc and Mevanwi: Karadoc is an utter dumbass and obsessed with food (his bed always contains cheese and sausages, and he kept a live pig for a week during a siege) and while he understands sex is necessary for children he avoids it if he can. Mevanwi was at first a nice girl concerned with raising her children, but in later seasons became Arthur's mistress and went the God Save Us from the Queen! route.
    • Léodagan and Seli (Guenièvre's parents) are the closest the show gets to a happy marriage — and even then, that's because both are looking out for number one and are more concerned with hanging on to their position as the king's in-laws (not that this stops them from tearing into each other at any occasion, in fact Léodagan is more likely to side with Arthur rather than his wife). It's telling that as a young prince Léodagan kidnapped her from a rival tribe for ransom (they paid him twice what he asked for to keep her) and years later, she still hasn't forgiven him... because she never saw a cent of that money.
  • Keeping Up Appearances. Poor Richard deserves a sainthood for putting up with Hyacinth for all those years.
  • Doug and Carrie Heffernan from The King of Queens occasional dipped into this trope but their marriage was generally happy and stable until the last two seasons where there was an increased focus on their conflicts and arguments. In the final episodes, their relationship becomes bad enough that they nearly separate from each other.
  • The Knowledge: The characters of Lillian and "Titanic" have a silent, loveless marriage.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit generally averts this for the main characters, but since SVU handles domestic violence cases, they encounter extreme versions of this on occasion.
    • Even sadder, they occasionally end up encountering situations where one half of the couple thought they were happy, only to find out some horrible thing that's been going on behind the scenes, potentially for some time. (In at least two episodes, it's a woman finding out her husband was abusing her child.)
  • Frances and Terry's marriage in The Librarians (2007).
  • Life of Riley: The Weavers are constantly one badly placed word away from killing each other. Roger is incensed at every attempt his wife makes to freshen things up and Alison even keeps a baseball bat hidden away in case anything turns nasty. Ironically, this is the one advantage the Rileys have over the Weavers in terms of family life.
  • The husband is the frigid one, but Married... with Children otherwise fits. They do nothing but snark at each other, one of their children is a Dumb Blonde and the son is not much better.
  • Most of the marriages shown in Midsomer Murders fall under this trope, which helps to increase the Red Herrings if and when one of the couple turns up dead. Barnaby and Joyce are very rare in their Happily Married status.
  • In the backstory of The Millers, Carol and Tom had this kind of relationship. In the first episode, they are finally convinced that it's all right for them to divorce.
  • Moon Lovers: King Taejo and Queen Yoo. You know a marriage is a disaster when the husband announces he's going to marry another woman right after his oldest son's death, and the wife's reaction is to threaten to kill their younger son.
  • Queen for Seven Days: The dysfunctional marriage of King Seongjong and his second wife Queen Jeheon is partially shown in flashbacks. Seongjong married other women, while Jeheon used her son Lee Yung as a pawn in fights with her husband.
  • Reba, although they spent more time dancing around it.
    • Reba holds bitter feelings toward Brock and "other woman" Barbara Jean for the collapse of their marriage, despite constantly putting down Brock for other things and generally saying how the last few years of their marriage were miserable anyway before Barbara Jean entered the picture.
    • Similarly, the last couple of seasons showed Brock and Barbara Jean entering this, constantly bickering and fighting, separating at one point, and teetering on the brink of divorce several times.
    • Finally, back in the first season, Brock meets Barbara Jean's father, who acts morally superior to Brock since he has been married for over 50 years and would never divorce his wife... "mostly because she's too ugly to kiss goodbye." Reba showed that, while this is becoming a Dead Horse Trope in a lot of ways, in some conservative and religious communities (the show took place in Texas), a bad marriage is still preferable to a divorce, especially amongst the older generations.
  • The Red Green Show: Dalton and Ann-Marie. It's clear that they were once happy together, but the relationship turned sour at some point. Dalton seems to consider marriage a horrible mistake in general and Ann-Marie showed joy when she thought Dalton was leaving her at one point. Surprisingly, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue has the two of them renewing their wedding vows complete with a ceremony, suggesting there might still be hope for them.
  • Scrubs: Played for laughs in some of the Imagine Spots when all the other characters imagine being married to Elliot. Kelso and Elliot are sitting across from each other at a huge dining table; Kelso knows that she hates him but he doesn't care. Meanwhile, in Dr. Cox's imagination he becomes so enraged at Elliot's neuroticism that he murders her within days of the marriage being official, and when he's arrested and told he's going to be executed for the crime, he just replies with "Worth It."
    • Deconstructed and Reconstructed with Cox and his ex-wife, Jordan. Initially seeming a straightforward example, the show gradually reveals that the abusive attitudes they share were also their co-dependent ways of flirting.
  • Frank and Estelle Costanza in Seinfeld. Their son George was clearly heading in the same direction after impulsively getting engaged to his ex-girlfriend and had to hide how relieved he was when she died suddenly before the wedding. Kramer makes a memorable case for this being an inevitable part of marriage when Jerry is thinking of heading in the same direction, scaring him right off the Girl of the Week:
    "They're prisons. Man-made prisons. You're doing time. You get up in the morning. She's there. You go to sleep at night. She's there. It's like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. 'Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?' [...] Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you're eating. [...] Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it's dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner? [...] You talk about your day!"
  • Stranger Things: While they’ve never been shown on the show, comments from Steve Harrington imply that his parents are like this. They even have separate bedrooms.
  • 'Til Death is somewhat of a deconstruction in that the better you know Joy, the slobbier she seems, and the better a match for Eddie.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "Spur of the Moment", Anne Henderson eloped with her childhood sweetheart David Mitchell on the night of her engagement party to the investment banker Robert Blake on June 13, 1939, but their marriage proved to be a disaster. David turned into an abusive wastrel who ran the Henderson family estate into the ground and drove Anne to alcoholism. In 1964, the two of them despise each other.
    • In "What's in the Box", Joe and Phyllis Britt insult and berate each other at every opportunity. On occasion, they even throw things at each other. After Joe confesses that he is having an affair but has decided to stay with Phyllis, she is furious and packs her things to leave. This leads Joe to physically attack her. He kills her by knocking out the window, as he saw himself do on television shortly beforehand.
    • In "Sounds and Silences", Roswell G. Flemington's wife Lydia leaves him after 20 years of marriage as she can no longer cope with his obsession with the Navy and loud noises.
  • If you thought this trope was heteronormative, the British gay Dom Com Vicious shows that it can be done with a gay male couple as well — and the couple aren't even married (one of them isn't even out of the closet to his mother).
  • Vernon and Becca from You're the Worst go between being Played for Laughs and Played for Drama. Vernon is an immature loudmouth who still acts like a Frat Bro despite being almost 40 years old, Becca is an egotistical and self-absorbed Jerkass with major shades of being a Stepford Smiler, and it's heavily implied that they married each other just for the sake of getting married (Becca in particular admits later on that she wanted to show her mother she had her life all figured out).
  • Why Women Kill: A few examples.
    • Our main couples have their issues with infidelity with different endings. Beth Ann ends up getting Rob murdered after finding out he blamed her for the death of their daughter, which was indirectly his fault due to infidelity; Simone and Karl stay as married friends and she nurses him to his death; Taylor and Eli resolve their issues by the end.
    • Mary and Ralph, due to Ralph being a Crazy Jealous Guy who has Mary meet his fists often and threatened to kill her if she ever left the marriage.
    • Sheila and Leo Mosconi joke about being like this, but have plenty in common due to their knowing-natures and shared sense of humor.
    • April's landlord and his wife. The latter is an unpleasant woman who pokes her head into business not her own and takes offense when April tells her off and tries to get her husband to kick her out. April then tells him that his wife is a horrible person and he replies "Yeah, I'm aware."
    • Tommy Harte's parents, his late father Edmund and mother Naomi, were said to be this as a postmortem Edmund voiced that his "bitch wife" inherited his millions and fears that she'll control their son.

  • The Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace") had "The Big Bopper's Wedding," which is all about this trope. He even begins it with "And the man keeps sayin' Do you take this woman to be your awful wedded wife?
  • Invoked in Dr. Dre's video for "Been There Done That", which is all about living large...then Dre wakes up on the couch of a much more modest home while his kids run amok and his wife yells at him for being lazy.
  • " Mind Your Own Business " by Hank Williams invokes this trope in the same breath that it subverts it, "If the wife and I are fussing, Brother that's our right! Because me and that sweet woman got a license to fight. Why don't you mind your own business?".
  • Brazilian song "O Casamento dos Pequenos-Burgueses" (The Marriage of the Petit-Bourgeois), from "Ópera do Malandro" (Scoundrel's Opera) is sang by someone wishing/describing pretty much this on the couple. Among other lines:
    "He talks about cyanide and she dreams of ant poison. They will live under the same roof until someone decides."
    "She heats up the grandson's porrige and he nearly became rich. They will live under the same roof 'til death do them join."
  • The Meat Loaf song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" features the singer promising mid-coitus that he'll love his girlfriend "'til the end of time" so that she'll go all the way with him. The final verse of the song is set sometime later, where he's clearly unhappy with his marriage and "praying for the end of time."
  • In the Pink Floyd song "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", the lyrics describe how various Sadist Teachers had to endure much the same sort of cruelty they inflicted upon children being done to them by their wives, with it being implied that much of their attitude is taking out their own anger on those more vulnerable than them. Roger Waters claims that this was based on one of his actual teachers, who was particularly nasty and had a poor relationship with his wife, which led to Waters privately fantasizing about the man being beaten by her. This is incorporated into The Wall, where, during the final fantasy of "The Trial", the Schoolmaster is depicted as a puppet of a huge nude woman wielding a cane.

  • The Bickersons — who, with 1946 origins, may be the Ur-Example, at least for the Sitcom.
  • Bleak Expectations:
    • Pip Bin and Ripely Fecund alternate between genuine, if somewhat distant love, and this, not helped by Ripely's open desire to sleep around, Pip's own cluelessness, the fact he's a Victorian gentleman, and Pip's... relationship with Mr. Benevolent. In Series 5, it stays here, with Ripely fed up with the amount of time Pip spends focusing on Benevolent. And then they actually do start a relationship. In the finale, however, Pip atones in the worst possible way, by letting vast swathes of people die rather than sacrifice himself, after having restored his marriage. Ripely points out this is sweet but morally appalling.
    • Harry Biscuit and Pippa Bin briefly dip into this at the beginning of Series 4, when Pippa has turned evil. Then she dumps him, to save Harry further pain. They reconcile at the end of the series, but Series 5, some years later, has Harry now angry at Pippa, because he's finally managed to process his emotions. Once Harry realizes Pippa genuinely loves him again, they reconcile for good.
  • On Cabin Pressure, Mr. and Mrs. Birling openly hate each other, which is part of the reason Mr. Birling pays the protagonists to fly him far away from her.
  • Sir Gregory from The Men from the Ministry does not like lady Pitkin at all and tries to avoid her as much as possible, and the feeling is mostly mutual from her side.

  • Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O'Neill offers an especially dark take on this trope. After Robert and Ruth fall in love, he casts aside his dream of going away to sea and stays home to work the family farm. It's a disastrous mistake, as he turns out to be a terrible farmer, and their marriage dissolves into mutual contempt and recrimination. He hates her for trapping him on their dump of a farm, and she hates him for being bad at farming. Her realization that she did love Andrew after all and she made the wrong choice doesn't help.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, Emperor Uriel Septim VII was the Emperor of Tamriel in each game until his death at the start of Oblivion. While Uriel himself was a Reasonable Authority Figure who often acted as a benevolent Big Good, his wife, Caula Voria, was an absolute nightmare. While beautiful and beloved by the people, she was said to have "ensnared" a young Uriel and was a deeply unpleasant and arrogant woman. Fortunately, Uriel's seeking comfort in an adulterous relationship would result in the birth of Martin Septim, hero of the Oblivion Crisis. Caula died sometime just before or shortly after the start of the Imperial Simulacrum.
  • Michael de Santa from Grand Theft Auto V is an ex-bank robber living a life of luxury in Rockford Hills, Los Santos, San Andreas (the GTA-version of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California) with his wife, adult son, and late-teens daughter. However, he and his wife are on pretty rocky terms at best, going so far as to openly understand that they're cheating on each other. Meanwhile, his son is a projector, trying to blame all of his own problems on everything besides himself (usually his father), and his daughter is a reckless tramp who wants to live a party-girl lifestyle on his dime. All this guff is what fuels Michael's desire to become a bank robber again and by the end of the game things start to settle down and smooth out for him and his wife while their kids begin to redirect their lives in more positive directions.
  • MadWorld: Howard's former marriage was not a happy one, and he often compares particularly brutal events in the Deathwatch games to his own awful marriage while announcing. Notably, comparing Jack throwing people out of a window to his own wife throwing his things out of the window when they finally divorced (while loudly announcing that his brother was better in bed) and screwing their divorce lawyer in front of him.
  • Yes, Your Grace: The marriages of both of Eryk's oldest daughters turn out that way. In one, the husband turns out to be an physically abusive jerk who kills his wife after accusing her of being a witch to spite his father-in-law less than a year into the marriage. The other is both an Old Man Marrying a Child and an Incompatible Orientation situation for the youngest half of the couple.
  • BattleTech (2018): Dr. Murad mentions that she spent six months married to the man who got her into natural sciences, an Edutainment Show host she describes as "a chain-smoking nihilist who taught children the magic of chemistry by making thermite with aluminium cans and a belt sander."
  • Guenevere: Guen's marriage to Arthur has the potential to be this, given player choice.

  • Anaak's parents from Tower of God. Her being wed to a commoner away from the court of King Jahad certainly was a bit of a culture shock for her, so they tended to argue almost every day. Why did they stick together? Because Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other of course.

    Web Original 
  • The page image is a popular men's T-shirt design, referring to the stereotype of guys being Henpecked Husbands to their domineering wives and missing the days of their youth and freedom as young bachelors, especially among gamers as playing video games is seen as childish, in addition to the stereotype that gamers are losers that probably wouldn't have girlfriends, fianceeés, or wives. Naturally, the Internet didn't take this well (besides obvious issue of the shirt suggesting that marriage and committed relationships are bad, parts of the gamer fanbase are notoriously rampant and associated with misogyny and sexism), which eventually led to someone coming up with a new T-shirt design promoting a Happily Married life instead: New Game Plus.
  • Vivian in ''The Case of the Gilded Lily'' implies this about her own marriage. She's having affairs with multiple men, and there's this exchange during The Summation:
    Vivian: Is this going to take very long? My husband is probably wondering where I am.
    Fig: Well, somebody wants this over in a jiffy.
    Vivian: Like most things involving my husband.
  • The Funniest Minecraft Videos Ever: In the Prison Escape Map video, Jack Manifold outright refuses to leave the prison because he got himself sent there in the first place to escape from his horrible wife. In order to get him to help with his escape attempt, Tommy points out that he could've just fled to Argentina instead.
    Jack Manifold: I'm staying away from her! I didn't do anything wrong, I just pretended! I just said, "Hey honey, I did bad things! Need to leave for the next few years!"
    Tommy: What's your sentence...?
    Jack Manifold: Life! HER life! When she dies, I leave!
  • Stolas and Stella's Unholy Matrimony in Helluva Boss is anything but happy, and Stolas' recently picked-up extramartial affair with the imp Blitzo has not improved things — though Stella seems far more so enraged by him having a relationship with a demon of such low standing than the infidelity itself. It's also implied that their marriage is one of convenience more than anything else and that there may very well be some form of Incompatible Orientation involved on Stolas' part.
    Stolas: (to his Troubled Teen daughter, Octavia) You need to understand, your mother and I— I just— I felt... she's always been— I haven't been ha— we weren't in... I'm sorry, I- I- I don't have the words...
  • Mickey Mouse Reacts: A Running Gag is that Mickey's marriage is terrible; he frequently calls Minnie a bitch, and some videos imply she's cheating on him with Goofy.
  • In Mommy Sleeps in the Basement, both Tom's marriages sound deeply unhappy (he has two wives at the same time, despite it being illegal; Mrs June assumes the family are polygamist Mormons). Tom blatantly prefers Claire to Betty and neglects her even while she's pregnant. Despite Tom's affection for Claire, she makes it clear she doesn't feel the same and wants to leave with her children. And then it's revealed Claire isn't actually Tom's wife at all.

    Western Animation 
  • Done in plenty of old cartoons — examples include Mickey's Nightmare, Porky's Romance, Wimmin Is a Myskery, Donald's Diary, Beau Ties and His Bitter Half. Almost all of these involve dream sequences that cause the character to resolve to never get married.
    • "Boston Quackie" (Looney Tunes) retroactively lampshades this. When gal Friday Mary suggests that she and Quackie (Daffy Duck) get married as long as they're in Paris, Quackie cracks "I promised Inspector Faraway I'd enjoy my vacation!"
  • BoJack Horseman: Butterscotch and Beatrice Horseman started out as a young, idealistic couple with a certain fondness for each other. Of course, it wasn't a relationship built on solid foundation since they tied the knot only because Butterscotch knocked Beatrice up and she refused to have an abortion. Years later, their seeming idyllic life had not reaped any of the promises they thought it would due to the stress of raising a child, Butterscotch's writing career failing to take off, Beatrice living at a lower standard than she was used to, and Butterscotch refusing to accept a higher paying job from Beatrice's father. This caused them both to resent each other and make life miserable for their son.
    • Back in The '40s, Joseph and Honey Sugarman, for their part, were madly in love with each other and would often take any opportunity to kiss anywhere. Then, their relationship went sour when CrackerJack, their only son, died in WWII. Honey was simply devastated while Joseph preferred to ignore his emotions because of his unwillingness to deal with them. It didn't help that this was a time when psychiatrists didn't exist yet. Getting worse and worse with time, Honey's depression reached a point where she caused a car crash with Beatrice behind the wheel. Joseph, furious, confronted her over the incident and she admitted to no longer feeling capable of going on without her son. This led to Honey's lobotomy and her being just a brain-dead presence for the rest of their natural lives.
  • This is hypothetically brought up at the end of The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone. When Count Rockula pleads to Wilma to have her become his wife, she seemingly agrees...on the condition that he fulfills every single chore and responsibility that the union entails. The sheer prospect of such an unpleasant burden is too much for him, so he flies back to Rockslyvania for another few centuries of sleeping. Wilma is then relieved that this ploy managed to work.
  • Gravity Falls: "Grunkle" Stan Pines was married to a woman named Marilyn for six hours. They don't seem to have left him with fond memories, given this joke from the second episode:
    Stan: My ex-wife still misses me...but her aim is gettin' better! (pause, waiting for laughter) Her aim is gettin' better! (pause) Y'see, it's—it's funny because marriage is terrible.
    • Implied to be the case between Soos' grandparents, given this exchange:
      Abuelita: I just want to see you settled before I ascend to heaven and live with the angels.
      Soos: And with Grandpa!
      Abuelita: ...No, he is not there. (glances briefly downward)
  • Nearly happens to Mr. Peevly in the Help! It's The Hair Bear Bunch! episode "Bridal Boo Boo". The bears send his name to a dating service, and his bride-to-be is a plus-sized, gung-ho battleaxe.
    Peevly: Uh, Bertha, can't we talk this marriage thing over before we...?
    Bertha: The only marriage talk I want out of you is "I do!"
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Married", after Rhonda's paper fortune teller says that Arnold and Helga will be married in the future, Arnold has an extended nightmare about what that would be like: he's forced to get a job as a lifter and take care of their Gonkish children who have as little respect for him as Helga herself, while she does nothing all day. On the other end, Helga dreams that they're Happily Married, she's President of the US, and she undertakes a mission to rescue Arnold when he's kidnapped.
  • Kaeloo: The trope is discussed in one episode where Mr. Cat decides to show Pretty what would happen if she got married. He enacts the whole thing with her by sitting with her at a dinner for two and telling her how she can now pay half of his car loan, and then they go home and he just sits on the couch watching sports on TV and makes her buy him some beer.
  • Seth MacFarlane seems to have this view of marriage if this clip is anything to go by.
  • Clay and Bloberta Puppington from Moral Orel are a decidedly unfunny example of this. Bloberta essentially tricked Clay into marriage in the hopes of changing him into a better man. It didn't work; Clay only tolerates Bloberta at best thanks to his excessive drinking, and Bloberta is near a mental breakdown. Clay also takes his frustrations out on his kids, all for the sake of some kind of attention, even if it's negative. They can't consider divorce, because the town they live in is so overtly religious that such a thing would be unthinkable. The end of the series reveals that Orel took his own kids away from his parents, and is leading a much healthier life for it. Clay and Bloberta end up old and bitter, still married, and utterly despise each other.
  • Rick and Morty: Rick Sanchez's marriage to Beth's mother started out with them being very much in love but over time, the love faded and their marriage failed and Rick left her. Beth even states that her mom fought with Rick about his willingness to risk his family's safety for his experiments. Despite this, he speaks gently of his ex-wife, indicating his problem may have been with being married rather than her and that he may still have some feelings for her.
    • Heavily Subverted when it's revealed that Rick C-137, the version of Rick we follow throughout the series (and who repeatedly claims to hold this vision on marriage), was actually Happily Married to his original wife and was glad to be there raising their daughter with her. He became the jaded individual we know now only after encountering Rick Prime, an alternate version of himself who was unsatisfied with finding out C-137 was one of the few Ricks in the Multiverse who wasn't also a complete and total asshat narcissist like Rick Prime was. In retaliation for being blown off by C-137, who was "a different kind of Rick", Rick Prime would then portal in a bomb that wound up killing C-137s' wife and daughter, and force the latter to chase after Rick Prime across the Multiverse for decades before settling down with the version of the family Prime had previously abandoned.
      • Back with Rick Prime again, It's revealed that he's the reason why there haven't been any other Diane Sanchez's seen throughout The Multiverse, because he had killed his own Diane Sanchez by putting her into The Omega Machine: which not only killed her, but also EVERY version of Diane Sanchez throughout The Multiverse just out of petty hatred of the other Ricks for daring to be happy with their wives.
    • Jerry Smith and Beth Smith have it even worse; Jerry is an un-confident passive-abusive survivor, who looks like a spineless wimp but is actually a ruthless, cruel psycho who can't function normally in modern society and feels worthless for it, while Beth is overly obedient to her crazy father to the point of losing her wits if she thinks he's leaving her again. They both misdiagnose their problems and blame each other for it throughout the series. Over the course of the series however, thanks to couples therapy and Character Development however their relationship becomes much healthier and the two are largely content with each other in later seasons.
  • The premise of the Show Within a Show from Rocko's Modern Life, Meet the Fatheads. It's revealed that Ralph Bighead created the show that way as a Take That! against his parents. In "real life" (that is, Rocko's Modern Life itself), Ed is just a jerk to everybody (Bev included) impartially, though Bev pretty clearly loves him anyway and even Ed has his moments.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Depending on the Writer, Marge Simpson and Homer Simpson's relationship is this. On their best days, Homer is a doofus and Marge is a nag that still love each other very much. On their worst days, they are the very definition of the term "Jerkass" and a militant killjoy, and they're constantly one misunderstanding away from a divorce.
    • A more straightforward example occurs with Abe and Mona, Homer's parents. He ignored and neglected her throughout their relationship, she cheated on him with more than one man in the spirit of the free love 60s, and while she technically left him and Homer to protect them when she ended up on the wrong end of the law, when she reappears the idea that they might resume a relationship is laughed off.
    • Kirk and Luann Van Houten are often used as the show's exemplar of this trope in later seasons. Their marital brawling resulted in a bitter divorce in Season 8's "A Milhouse Divided," but they remarried 11 seasons later...unfortunately without appearing to have fixed any of their problems.


Video Example(s):


The Canister

To save Debra from the Wrath of Marie, Frank take's the Blame for the Missing Canister

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

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Main / TakingTheHeat

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