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Like an Old Married Couple

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Penny: It's kind of nice. Look at us, I'm reading, you're reading. We're like an old married couple.
Sheldon: If we were an old married couple, the wife would serve iced tea and snickerdoodles.
Penny: I don't have iced tea and snickerdoodles.
Sheldon: A good wife would go to the store.
Penny: I want a divorce...
Sheldon: Good, on the way to the lawyers pick up some tea and cookies.

Two characters who seem very comfortable with each other to the point that it seems like they have been married for a long time, though obviously it doesn't apply to couples who actually have been together for a long time. Usually it is done through constant arguments with each other, as only people who are so closely bonded can have such open communication between them (whether they will admit it or not). Someone is apt to comment that they behave just like a married couple.

Typically the argument will be a back and forth of opinions, such as a "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate. It is likely to get heated but neither of them are willing to just leave. In extreme cases it might start getting ugly with insults about personal issues being flung about. If not an argument based, it is often tied with Heterosexual Life-Partners where domestic issues are a common topic. The two bickering characters in question do not have to be romantically involved with each other as the trope can apply to any two individuals such as best friends, siblings, military comrades, and a couple of strangers who don't know much about each other and are not romantically or sexually involved but their situations make them bicker as if they knew each other for a long time

Often applied to those with Belligerent Sexual Tension and Unresolved Sexual Tension. Compare Slap-Slap-Kiss. When this leads to an outsider concluding that they're really a couple, one of them will say "She Is Not My Girlfriend". See also Vitriolic Best Buds. Can be a staple of having characters be Mistaken for Gay by way of adding to the Ho Yay-derived humor.


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    Comic Books 
  • Crackerjack and Quarrel of Astro City have been with each other so long that they're effectively married, even though they've never been exclusive to the other and have broken up (and gotten back together) dozens of times.
  • Bone gives us the Two Stupid Rat Creatures, Smelly and Stinky. Pretty much every time they appear they spend most of their panel time bickering with each other like idiots. The fact that one of them is hopelessly determined to eat a quiche doesn't help.
    Purple Rat: If we keep him for ourselves we can do whatever we want with him.
    Brown Rat: Does that include baking him into a quiche?
  • Booster Gold used the phrase (in #36 of his ongoing title) to describe his own relationship with Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), after Vril Dox II assumed they were lovers. (This was rather a broad-minded assumption on Vril's part, but only because Ted had been transformed into a chipmunk at the time).
  • Captain America and Iron Man, throughout almost all of their friendship.
  • On a totally different note, Lewis Trondheim's Kaput & Zosky.
  • X-Men:
    • Wolverine and Nightcrawler act as a married couple and parents, sometimes for Kitty and Piotr (with Dad-Wolverine being hard when Piotr hurts Kitty or wishing that his "daughter" remains on the team)
    • In their neverending quest to include as many Ho Yay tropes as they possibly can without kissing on-panel, Professor X and Magneto spend seemingly more time doing this than they do actually battling.
      Magneto: I generated a pocket wormhole.
      Professor X: I don't believe this. I leave you alone for barely a night...
  • All-New Ultimates: Cloak and Dagger usually discuss that way. Black Widow once find it to be too awkward.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: in "Better Luck Next Time," Grim's cursed cuckoo clock sends Billy and Mandy through time. In one scenario, they're in the future where they come across their senior citizen selves. Mandy still belittles Billy, even saying the same things present Mandy is saying at the same time.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Susie's fantasy sequences depict her and Calvin as an old married couple. Their arguments tend towards utter ridiculousness, since Calvin insists on acting like the immature six-year-old he really is.

    Film — Animation 
  • Finding Dory has Destiny and Bailey, a pair of "neighbours" who frequently bickers over random stuffs, but works together very well when they need to, and Bailey's echolocation serves as Destiny's guide (because she's really nearsighted).
  • Sid and Momma Dino’s interactions in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs when their different parenting methods are brought up. When trying to feed the baby T-Rexes, Sid points out how he tries to have a conversation with her and all she does is growl at him.
  • Lilo & Stitch:
    • Gantu and Reuben (Experiment 625) in the series, have several bicker spats with each other as they make snarky comments towards each other which range from their professions to their looks.
    • Jumba and Pleakley have some of their moments of this as well, which includes disguising themselves as such a couple and even having some spats with each other.
  • The Lion King: Timon and Pumbaa do not show much of this in the films but its very evident in their own series as they frequently bicker with each other. Apparently, their philosophy of "Hakuna Matata" does not protect them from having such bicker spats.
  • Used in a deleted scene of The Princess and the Frog, between Naveen and Tiana.
  • Storks: Junior and Tulip quickly get into this, though they also argue like a newly married couple when they are dealing with the baby.
  • In Strange Magic, late in the film the fairy knight Roland realizes that his ex-fiancée the fairy princess Marianne and the seemingly "evil" Bog King have fallen in love because they start arguing like a couple. He asks, in a very shocked way, "Are you actually having... a lover's tiff?"
  • Zootopia:
    • Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde. While its ambiguous as to whether their relationship is romantic or platonic, Judy acts like a nagging wife towards Nick, who in return acts like an lazy and oafish husband pretending to listen. They showed this while trying to solve the missing mammal cases.
    • Bucky and Pronk Oryx-Antlerson, Judy Hopps' noisy neighbors, argue like this for at least half of their screen time (limited as it was), though their arguments are mostly childish exchanges along the line of "No, YOU shut up!". According to co-producer Jared Bush (who voiced Pronk), Bucky and Pronk actually are a married couple!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Black Widow (2021). Natasha, Yelena, Alexi and Melina were a KGB sleeper cell in the United States for three years, posing as a typical American Nuclear Family. Although there are repeated comments about how they were not a real family, that doesn't stop everyone from dropping back into these roles when they meet up again.
  • Grapevine. To Susan Crawford and Matt Brewer:
    Thumper Klein: Why don't you two just get married right now? You already argue like an old married couple.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Snape enters the Shrieking Shack and remarks to Sirius and Lupin, "Listen to you two, quarreling like an old married couple."
  • High Anxiety the Mel Brooks character and Arthur Brisbane's daughter use this to get through airport security undetected by being a loud old arguing married (Jewish) couple.
  • Detective Spooner and Doctor Calvin in I, Robot.
  • This is the relationship between Maleficent and Diaval, helped by the fact they've been Parental Substitutes for Aurora ever since she was a baby.
    Diaval: How could you do that to me?
    Maleficent: You said anything I need.
    Diaval: Yeah, but not a dog! Dogs are nasty and vicious and they eat birds!
    Maleficent: Fine. Next time I'll turn you into a mealy worm.
    Diaval: I'll be a mealy worm, gladly!
  • In The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Frank Drebin is infiltrating a family gang hired to blow up the Academy Awards. Then his wife Jane shows up, thinking that he is cheating on her. Playing his role, he suggests they keep her as a hostage. Then they start arguing (even though they supposedly don't know each other), causing the head of the gang to get suspicious and claim that they sound like they're married.
  • Scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim, which may be the most popular pairing in the fandom despite a couple of canonical pairings. Though they almost never stop fighting over their approaches to the kaiju, they really do seem to care about each other.
  • Lampshaded by Word of God in his commentary of Red Eye when Lisa reminds Jackson of his promise that he would call off the gunman in front of her father's house:
    Jackson: What?
    Lisa: You know what. My dad. Make the call. Your part of the deal.
    [Jackson takes the phone and puts it on the receiver]
    Jackson: I still need you.
    Lisa: You promised.
    Jackson: And I'll keep that promise...
  • This is how Robert Downey Jr. described the relationship between his character and Watson in Sherlock Holmes (2009).
  • Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens: Han and Leia. Of course, they are married, but when they reunite after having not seen each other in years, they slip back into this mode in seconds.
    Han: I was just trying to be helpful!
    Leia: When has that ever helped?
    Han: [opens his mouth]
    Leia: And don't say the Death Star.
  • Speaking of Star Wars, in Rogue One this is basically the relationship between Base Morbus and Chirrut Imwe, two old semi-monks of the order that guarded the old Jedi temple. Leading to endless fan speculation that the two really ARE an old married couple...

  • In Boundary the two linguists are described as this by several characters. They end up getting a Relationship Upgrade at the end making then the Gamma Couple.
  • In one of the Bunnicula books, "Return to Howliday Inn", the ghost (actually Hamlet the dog pulling some ventriloquism) comments that Harold and Chester argue like an old married couple.
  • In Cooking With Wild Game, although they have only lived together for a few months, Ai Fa can predict when Asuta is about to say something stupid, which she uses to prepare punishment (for example, a bucket of water to throw on him) accordingly.
  • Monk and Ham in the Doc Savage novels.
  • The Dresden Files: The entirety of Harry Dresden and Karrin Murphy's professional relationship and friendship is rooted in this trope. Jim Butcher once mentioned to a fan that he even thought their eventual hookup was due to this trope, as Harry loved annoying Murphy even in the very first book long before either of them realized they had feelings for each other.
  • In The Fountainhead, sculptor Steven Mallory carves a naked statue of female lead Dominique Francon. Steve never touches her, and there's never anything romantic or sexual between them, but the intimate nature of the process leads to them developing a particularly close friendship, where they feel as comfortable with each other as people who have been married for decades.
  • It's more subtle than usual, but in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ron and Hermione's bickering strongly reminds Harry of Molly and Arthur Weasley's bickering at one point. Molly and Arthur are an old married couple. Pretty damn cool method of Foreshadowing.
  • Shasta and Aravis in The Horse and His Boy. They end up getting married "so as to go on doing it more conveniently."
  • British statesman Lord Chesterfield in Letters to His Son: "the Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Pitt jog on like man and wife; that is, seldom agreeing, often quarreling; but by mutual interest, upon the whole, not parting." (letter 221)
  • Tonker and Lofty in Monstrous Regiment. Jackrum blurts out 'What are you, married?' at them in the middle of the book, though it's quite likely that he already knew they were an item.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. In "Network Effect" when Murderbot gets miffed with the AI controlling the starship Perihelion and refuses to speak to it, the humans want to know if they have a relationship. Assuming they're referring to a sexual relationship Murderbot is grossed-out, but it's not helping its case when Muderbot and Perihelion later use their combined code to create a sentient killware virus which the humans promptly compare to making a baby.
  • The bickering between Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin can take on this edge since their working relationship specifically revolves around the latter being hired to nag, provoke and irritate the former into working when he is determined not to.
  • Louise Glück's poem "Parable of the Swans", where she tells a story of a pair of swans, and explicitly compares it to bumps real-life couples experience. The male swan becomes engrossed with swimming in dirty water, to the distaste of the female swan. But nevertheless, they learn to live with it despite their bickering:
    ..."On the muddy water
    they bickered awhile, in the fading light,
    until the bickering grew
    slowly abstract, becoming
    part of their song
    after a little longer."
  • Toward the beginning of Redwall, as Matthias and Cornflower take care of the Churchmouse twins, Colin Vole comments knowingly that they're like an old wedded couple. He's instantly told off, since Matthias is in line to become a brother in the Redwall order, but sure enough, they're married by the end of the book.
  • Someone Else's War: Asher and Eliza. Respectively sixteen and fourteen.
  • The Trials of Apollo: Nico di Angelo and Will Solace have been together for six months, and argue like they've been married for five decades. It's both hilarious and adorable.
  • A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris: The relationship of Christine Taylor and her brother Lee's high school friend Dayton Nickles when she comes back to the Indian reservation when she contracts a terminal illness.

  • Well There's Your Problem: Justin and Liam are former roommates and college friends, and can and will frequently bicker about their respective families and personal lives on-air or bring up bizarre stories of trips and experiences they've shared together (often involving alcohol, trains, tourist traps and American football). Alice brought up their tendency to bicker like an old married couple on their first liveshow.
  • As Malevolent progresses, Arthur and the Entity/John start to gain a mutual fondness for each other, but they still bicker. The first episode of season 4 involves an argument over seeing a movie.

  • Elvenquest:
    • It's a running gag that Lord Darkness and his head henchman Creach are like one. The episode where Darkness tries to use Creach to conceive a child, naturally, ramps it up to eleven.
    • While Sam and Penthisilea are not this, during the last episode of series 2 they start acting like it when lost in the mountains. Then they run into an actual married couple of trolls, with the male troll passing on eating them out of sympathy... and even he's got a better thing going than Sam.
  • Film critic Mark Kermode and radio presenter Simon Mayo are often compared to an old married couple - by others as well as themselves.
    Simon Mayo: (reading a listener's complaint about her husband not listening to her opinion on films anymore) "This is for the sake of marital harmony."
    Mark Kermode: What, ours?
  • During a discussion of gay marriage on The News Quiz, Alan Coren claimed to be in "a form of marriage" with his regular News Quiz and Call My Bluff sparring partner Sandi Toksvig (it may or may not be relevant that Sandi is in fact a lesbian).
    Alan: The exact form this takes is not easily defined...
    Sandi: Now, I've explained this; it'll be like any other marriage. We won't have sex, we'll just sit in bed and eat burgers.
    Alan: We did that last week.
    Sandi: That's true, actually...

  • Hyeon and Nadine from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues spend much of their time together bickering, which entertains multiple characters who can't help but see it as a spat between lovebirds. They were actually a couple for a while, though their relationship now is inarguably platonic since Nadine has come to realise that she's a lesbian.

  • In the final scene of The Moon is Blue, when Patty suddenly starts arguing with Don about spending so much money on gambling, he tells her, "Will you kindly shut up? We're not married yet." She smiles, realizing what he's just said.

    Visual Novels 
  • This dynamic occurs fairly often in the Ace Attorney series.
    • Lampshaded in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, because Edgeworth and Phoenix have finally hit that stage. Bobby Fullbright even points out that they're a good illustration of the phrase "close enough to argue". In their brief appearance in court together, they don't so much argue over facts as quibble about interrupting each other:
      Phoenix: (after Edgeworth withholds some info) Why didn't you just say so in the first place?
      Edgeworth: You're the one who screamed "HOLD IT!" and cut me off!
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, they do a little investigating-slash-sightseeing together in the Kingdom of Khura'in. Despite the country being on the verge of a revolution and the atmosphere being incredibly tense, they spend most of their time together amicably bickering. Awww...
    • Apollo and Athena's dynamic is noted to be like this in Spirit of Justice. A magician in the second case mistakenly assumes they're a comedy duo practicing their "old married couple" routine when they were actually just conversing and interacting like they normally do. Apollo and Athena are both shocked that this is how they appear to others.
  • Minotaur Hotel: Luke and Kota start off on the wrong foot when they first meet but eventually get into this type of relationship.
  • Akira and Seiji from Spirit Hunter: NG have been friends since childhood, and it shows with how comfortable they are with hurling insults and bickering. Kaoru even jokingly calls them 'lovebirds' after Akira threatens to smack Seiji for teasing him.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied, along with Ho Yay, in the Homestar Runner episode "Date Nite". Bubs goes on a date with Marzipan, and Heterosexual Life-Partner Coach Z — with curlers in his hair and a rolling pin in his hand — gets angry.
  • Kitten and the Emperor in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device. Magnus lampshades it in episode 16:
    Kitten: [wondering whether the Emperor would tell him the history of the universe] I'm much unsure if he'd actually want to tell me. I mean, if he never told you, why would he tell me?
    Magnus: Well, he DOES seem to like you despite being grumpiness incarnate. He relies on you to listen to his boundless complaints and to inform him about, to quote, "stupid shit". I'd even say he trusts you. He certainly trust you more than he trusts me or any of his other sons for that matter. Actually, are you sure you're not his wife or something?
    Kitten: No, of course not, but... Really? You think so??
    Magnus: Indeed, stepmother.
    Kitten: First of all, quiet you!
  • In The Most Popular Girls in School, Shay and Mackenzie argue like this (according to Youtube comments). It really doesn't help that they were Childhood Friends.
    Mackenzie: This [football] team is a juggernaut Jenna (Darabond). So like it or not, they're going to state. And when they win state, everyone's gonna want to hang out with them. And who will they be standing next to? The brand new, better than ever Overland Park Cheer Squad.
    Shay: Yeah, because when they win, everybody's going to think they're cool, so we'll be cool too!
    Mackenzie: Shay, that's literally what I just said.
    Shay: No—no, I-I know, I was-I was just saying.
    Mackenzie: OK, well, you're not really adding anything to the discussion.
    Shay: I'm sorry, you didn't leave much room.
    Mackenzie: OK, that's because I got this.
    Shay: Well, as the Head Cheerleader, I feel like I should have the final word.
    Mackenzie: You know what Shay, you're really letting the Head Cheerleader thing go to your head. I'm clearly better at bitching people out so just let me handle it, okay?
    Shay: I'm sorry Mackenzie, just because you're the loudest doesn't mean that you're the best at bitching someone out.
    Mackenzie: OH, YOU WANNA HEAR LOUD, SHAY?!
    Shay: Oh here we go, here we go!
  • Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles
    Tucker: I'm still picking up the reds' transmissions from when we broadcast that Lopez song. There's a lot of chatter.
    Church: Well, are you at least getting any useful information?
    Tucker: Nah, it's just the same two guys bickering like an old married couple. I've only been listening for like five minutes and I can already tell they're really in love. Why can't they see it?
    • Exhibit uh... 307:
      Grif: Hey, what are you doing?
      Simmons: What does it look like? I'm getting in the jeep.
      Grif: What are we, on a date? Get in the back.
      Simmons: Oh, you're so insecure.


    Web Video 

    Real Life 
  • Chris Farley and David Spade, which was endearing when the friendship didn't border on childish possessiveness. They were undoubtedly best friends, but they could get into some pretty fierce fights, both verbal and physical. On the set of Tommy Boy, they would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc. And when Rob Lowe — who said that they acted like an old married couple — got thrown into the mix... Well, let's just say that Chris's reaction to their "buddies' bar night" was of epic Yanderesque proportions. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs.
    David Spade: Chris was actually jealous of Rob Lowe. He admitted it later. That's probably why I'm not married now; my first experience didn't work out.


Video Example(s):


Neon Genesis Evangelion

Here are two clips of well-known moments when Asuka/Shinji and Misato/Kaji interactions have been lampshaded as married couple tension by observing characters. The last clip with Misato and Kaji takes place scenes after their original clip, showing that despite Ritsuko not being with them here, she did make a good point earlier...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / LikeAnOldMarriedCouple

Media sources: