March 4, 2010...10:51 am

Maybe we all could use a celebrity marriage ref

Knowing that some people are totally against the new show, The Marriage Ref, I need to admit to you that I kind of want to watch it. No, that’s a lie. I really want to watch it. There’s something so comforting in witnessing other married people having ups and downs. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to watch sensationalized troubles so huge that the couple teeters on divorce (read: Tiger/Elin Woods), but I really appreciate seeing intact, healthy marriages displayed in a realistic manner. Guess what? WE FIGHT! We cry, we get sad, we think the other person is a jerk every now and then, we overreact, we even judge each other a little bit. (Is Jim going to keep wearing that hideous shirt, no matter how many passive aggressive comments I make about it?) But we still love each other and want to stay together. It burns my butt when a ‘good’ marriage is displayed in the media as perfect – no arguments, no differing goals, no stress. Puh-lease! Ok, ok, I’ll accept it from Heidi Klum and Seal because they’re just so darn adorable, but they’re the only ones.

I feel there’s an innate problem in the way many of us – including me – protect our marriages from prying eyes. We perpetuate this idea that no one should experience conflict in a healthy relationship. Jim and I can have a horrible day in private, picking at and on each other, but the moment we are out in public and we run into a friend walking in the neighborhood, we’re all smiles and warmth and generosity. We are masters at PR for the Okrant/Stevens household. Aren’t we cute?! Ain’t we a pair?! Look at our crazy forced smiles – don’t we look like we’re having fun?!

I think I’m afraid of being judged. G-d forbid that someone think my marriage is on the rocks because they see us in a less-than-perfect light. What if it appears we’re heading toward D-I-V-O-R-C-E? I can’t have that. I confess: I am just as responsible as movies, TV and the media for making marriage look like sunshine and lollipops to the non-married women in my life who pine for a relationship like mine.

All I’m saying is, none of us know what’s going on behind closed doors. Let’s not judge ourselves or each other based on the tiny slice of marital squabbling or bliss that we witness in others. Of course, I don’t want everyone to discard all propriety and go nuts – furiously screaming at each other in a movie theatre or, worse yet, dropping trou in the supermarket in a moment of unbridled sexual desire – but maybe a little less façade and a little more unguardedness might do us all some good.

So that’s why I’m DVRing The Marriage Ref tonight. I might not be able to relate to the specific relationship woes seen on the show, but I can empathize. And most importantly, if I can find humor in what I see on the screen, maybe I’ll be able to chill out at home and learn to laugh at my own marital foibles. Perhaps if I can relax a bit more, I might eventually find it unnecessary to filter myself in public out of concern that friends will think Jim and I are heading to divorce court.

Speaking of that, I think Divorce Court is on. I gotta go watch. Those people are messed up.


  • I suffer from marriage envy assuming everyone else’s is better. But I have a good marriage, we don’t fight, we get along mostly. I don’ t like to fight in public because it makes me uncomfortable when others do it. We used to call a fighting gay couple – the Bickerson’s – I don’t want to be that couple. I didn’t care for the marriage ref too much – it was kind of sad the fights people had and then the team of experts were pretty ruthless – read rude. I thought it would be funnier. Jerry can be funny, but he isn’t always on. Just finished reading Living Oprah so checked out the blog which lead me to this. Sounds like a good idea. your next book?

    • I have them all on the DVR to watch. Haven’t seen it yet, can you believe it?! I’ve been so crazed.

      And – who knows – maybe this will be the next book. :)

  • I must admit, I can feel more comfortable watching Divorce Court than Marriage Ref. After my divorce, I would be consumed with a burning jealousy when witnessing those little moments married couples have in public where you can see that they know each other well enough to be disillusioned but they choose each other because they really love one another. Or when I would see couples who have worked together for years to put their kids in a great place in life, and I’m struggling to put food on the table and trying to stuff the guilt I feel for not being able to create the life for them that I had envisioned. So to me, A marriage is something to envy. The only marriage I will most likely ever have was a bad one, and that knowledge hurts. So don’t agonize over how perfect you’re aren’t and enjoy the fact that you are just together at all.

    • Paula – I didn’t know you were divorced – I’ve been thinking a lot about how divorced women are portrayed on TV and think it’s totally unfair and cliche. Like the only thing a divorced woman wants out of life is to get remarried… What are your thoughts on this?

  • I watched, and one of the best moments in the show was when they commented to one couple that even in their arguments you could see how much they love each other. As far as I am concerned, there is a difference between, “You are a complete idiot and everything you say is moronic!” and “I love you, but I absolutely do not agree with your opinion on this.”
    I like to think my husband and I fall into the latter. Mostly. :)

    Now fight nice, children!

  • FACT: Cathleen and Peter are totally that annoying couple that always seem to love each other and make you hate your own relationship.

  • Thanks for revealing the “dark” side. There really does seem to be a conspiracy amongst all married couples to make marriage seem like bliss.


  • cathleen carr

    I know what you mean. My family suffers from Non-emotional Irish Catholic syndrome. As long as the world thinks everything is okay, then it is…right? Wrong. To quote every self-help book every published: We are as sick as our secrets. Unless you’re using the “Secret.” That’s another ball of wax.

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