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Awful Wedded Life

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Not shown: The bride's fake smile.

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

The depiction of monogamous marriage as rather like a long, slow, exquisite torture by a sadistic god from whose malicious clutches escape is impossible. 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. Children 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?"

Married... with Children was probably the first time this trope was the main focus of an American sitcom, but it's been a mainstay of British shows since The '50s. 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.

Among younger viewers, jokes or comedic storylines that rely on this trope are often derogatorily referred to as "Boomer Humor", owing to its common proliferation in older media, and among people of older generations.

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.



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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 Kira kills him, steals his face, and replaces him.
  • 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.


  • Rodney Dangerfield was particularly big on this joke.
  • 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!"

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

     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 
  • 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 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.)
  • 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.
  • Reigen's parents in the Mob Psycho 100 fanfic Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob.
  • 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.

    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.
  • From Beyond the Grave: In "An Act of Kindness", Christopher and his wife Mabel and trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage. She nags and belittles him every chance she gets, while he 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wayne's World: "Garth, marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries."

  • The single most famous joke in this vein — "Take my wife... please." (For those confused, it was 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 sufferring.
  • 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 the bride wear white on her wedding?" "Because it's the happiest day of her life." "Oh... So why does the 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!"

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
    • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Amen, the Reverend often counseled couples like this. One in the first season sued 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 had a husband so insanely jealous that he flew into a rage if another man so much as talked to his wife, accusing him of trying to steal her from him. She—no prize herself, mind you — finally got fed up and dumped 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. 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.
  • In 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 a domineering, borderline asexual shrill and the Sitcom Arch-Nemesis of Ray's overbearing mother.
  • 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.
  • Frasier: Niles and Maris, off-screen, though they eventually got divorced. He had a habit of choosing women who treated him badly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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 on 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.
  • 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 his wife hates him but he doesn't care. Dr. Cox is so annoyed at Elliot being his wife that he murders her within two days and considers going to the chair as a result 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!"
  • '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 wife yells at him for being lazy.
  • 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 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.
  • Micheal 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 Micheal'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.
  • 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.

  • 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+.
  • 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...
  • 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!

    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.
  • BoJack Horseman: Butterscotch and Beatrice Horseman were both once young, idealistic and having a certain fondness for each other. Of course, it wasn't a relationship built in solid foundation: they tied the knot only because they fucked up and Beatrice wouldn't have any sort of intrinsic value beyond what she could offer as a fertile, virginal woman; without it, she had no chance of marrying anyone and Butterscotch felt he owed her at least that to save her reputation. Years later, their seeming idyllic life has not reaped any of the promises they thought it would and so they start resenting each other out of their perceived shortcomings (lack of money and mediocre life the main problems).
    • Joseph and Honey Sugarman, for their part, were madly in love with each other and would often take any opportunity to kiss anywhere. Their relationship was healthy by 1940s standards, a very misogynistic time it was when psychiatrists didn't exist and women (okay, who are we kidding? EVERYONE, period) had to keep their emotions in check. 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. 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 during the rest of both of their lives.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
    • Jerry and Beth 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.
  • The premise of the Show Within a Show from Rocko's Modern Life, 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 and Homer'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.
  • Gravity Falls implies this was the case between Soos' grandparents. Abuelita Ramirez makes a rather pointed comment that her husband is not in heaven, while she briefly looks downward.
    Abuelita: I just want to see you settled before I ascend to heaven and live with the angels.
    Soos: And with Grandpa!
    Abuelita:, he is not there.


Video Example(s):


The Needlers

Dan and Sally Needler are "the couple that should be divorced."

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwfulWeddedLife

Media sources:

Main / AwfulWeddedLife