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When it comes to affairs of the heart,
It takes more than the good intentions of the Love Martyr or the delusions of Mad Love to make a relationship work. When a relationship gets rocky or outright implodes, the resulting fireworks just go to prove Love Hurts, and that's when everyone involved was trying their best to make it work. Then of course there's No Accounting for Taste; this happens when two insufferable people choose to suffer each other and stay married, or when one ostensibly nice person marries an unrepentant Jerkass.
The former has both parties held together by force of habit, and basically tolerant of each other although there's very little romance or chemistry (though plenty of sass and backtalk). The latter has the whole relationship held together by one person. The second type appears to be what happens when the Love Martyr actually gets some sort of relationship with their target. Both halves of the couple acknowledge that they're part of a pair, but otherwise the whole affair's so inexplicable/unequal that it's a marriage/love affair in name only.
This is similar to The Masochism Tango, but milder. It's a subset of how so many Sitcom characters are so dementedly quirky that they'd
never be tolerated wind up on Jerry Springer in real life. Handwaving this often uses Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other. Comedic Sociopathy ultimately makes you wonder why ANYONE would put up with that guy.
Often overlaps with Ugly Guy, Hot Wife, which depending on your point of view either further makes a couple with this look ill-matched, or this trope make an Ugly Guy, Hot Wife pairing all the more inexplicable.
Third-parties may wonder What Does She See in Him?.
Truth in Television: Lots and lots of people are in marriages that are rather less than ideal. Hell, your parents probably were at one time or another. And please note that sometimes divorce is not really an option.
- Gravitation's Official Couple could fit the bill as well, despite being much younger (and more sexual) than most other couples like this. Seeing how coldly Yuki treats Shuichi and all the troubles Shuichi goes for him...
- Mr. and Mrs. Kimura in Azumanga Daioh... does the wife even know her hubby has a thing for teenage girls? Though it's worth noting here that Kimura in all other ways is an extremely nice guy himself. He picks up litter to recycle, he gives donations generously both religiously and to charity, and actually does seem to be a competent teacher. It's just... the whole high school girl thing...
- Tomo once asked Mrs. Kimura, point-blank, what attracted her to her husband. The woman did not have an answer outside of "Isn't he handsome?", which Tomo rightly pegged as a desperation measure.
- It should be noted that in the manga he actually is rather good looking as most of the time he's not locked into that creepy/shocked expression of his.
- Most couples in Dragon Ball are this, and yet are still Happily Married. Here's a list:
- Goku and Chichi: A superpowered ailen half-monkey Adult Child who loves to fight and a bossy and overbearing, overprotective Education Mama who openly discourages fighting. They had two sons and are still Happily Married to date.
- Vegeta and Bulma: An arrogant, superpowered, Jerkass half-monkey prince with homicidal tendencies and a supremely intelligent, yet vain and equally arrogant woman. Had a fling, a son (later a daughter), eventually married and are still together.
- Krillin and Android 18: A short, noseless Dogged Nice Guy with a bad tendency to get horribly killed and a woman who's sarcastic, cold and is half machine. They got married, had a daughter and are still together
- Ataru's parents on Urusei Yatsura, although it's implied that their relationship is a bit on the rocks (to the point where we see Ataru's mother threatening to leave a few times...not to mention the time she openly tried to seduce Rei)
- Mink's parents on Dragon Half. Rouce used to be a famous knight, but with age has become a coward and a skirt-chaser. He is repeatedly caught in his infidelity by his wife Mana, which frequently gets him hurt. Considering that she's a red dragon, one would think he'd know better...
- Konata Izumi from Lucky Star had a problem understanding why her late mom Kanata married her Dirty Old Otaku with a Lolita Complex dad Soujirou. It turned out to be a subversion of this trope, though, as Kanata genuinely felt Soujirou's love to her.
Konata: Why do you think Mom chose to marry you, anyway? I mean, you're a pervy old geek with a lolita complex. Why would anyone pick you?
- In Death Note, L is visibly surprised when Light Yagami announces that he'll keep seeing Misa Amane; throughout the series, the Taskforce and Light's family witness their relationship with a shrug. The audience, of course, knows the true nature of Light's and Misa's feelings for each other.
- Stephen Stills and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Julie in Scott Pilgrim. She spends nearly the entire fourth book complaining about him, his band and generally being crabby, and by the fifth book, they've broken up. Again.
- For good this time--he's gay.
- And Stephen Stills hooks up with a guy who is, personality-wise, essentially a male version of Julie.
- For good this time--he's gay.
- Padme and Anakin Skywalker in the prequel Star Wars films. Why do these two supposedly love each other again? Because it says so in the script of course.
- In Constantine, Lu(cifer) says the trope name before he get's the whole story.
- Lifetime makes it its personal mission to portray any marriage this way in their movies.
- George and Loraine McFly in Back to The Future, a geeky doormat and a frumpy, closed-minded housewife who only met because her father accidentally ran him over with his car. Their son Marty accidentally disrupts the meeting via time travel and has to fix it, his actions giving George a backbone and encouraging Loraine's passionate side, as well as making it so they fall for each other for real and not just through the Florence Nightingale Effect. When Marty returns to 1985, both parents are better people personality-wise and are very obviously Happily Married.
- Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. That one is justified, because in those times, once you were married, there was no turning back. The author and the characters acknowledge how unfitted these two are, so they serve as a warning to the reader to marry wisely. Apparently in letters Miss Austen noted that a young Mr. Bennet misstook youth and beauty for a winning personality.
- Elizabeth is horrified when her best friend Charlotte Lucas decides to marry the insufferable Mr. Collins in cold blood for the sake of a home and a secure future. When we see her again after her marriage, however, she is coping very nicely with her spouse, having carefully arranged their lives so they spend as little time together as possible. Unlike the Bennets, the Collinses are quite happily content in their loveless marriage, mostly thanks to the fact that Charlotte knew exactly what she was getting into and Collins is too much of an idiot to know better.
- In the opening of Clive Barker's Abarat, Candy Quackenbush's parents are a long-suffering, jaded housewife and an abusive slob of a father. When Candy is shown the day of her birth, she is astounded to find them being sweet to each other and calling each other "Lambkin" and "Nachos."
- In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Iskaral Pust and his wife Mogora seem to hate each other with great passion.
- In the Kushiel's Legacy series, the premise of an entire nation is this to Phedre and Joscelin's relationship. It doesn't help that one's a celibate warrior-priest and the other's a kinky courtesan who enjoys her job. Immensely.
- In David Edding's The Belgariad series, Garion and Ce'Nedra. They reeaaally aren't suited for each other, but they stay together Because Destiny Says So.
- Vikus and Solovet in The Underland Chronicles: she's a ruthless general willing to resort to almost any tactic to win, he's a pacifist at heart who always tries the diplomatic option first. When Gregor comments on how odd it is that they are married, Vikus admits it has always been somewhat of a puzzle to them as well.
- In-universe, people think Howl and Sophie are this. But really, they enjoy bickering with each other and are actually Happily Married.
- Maniac's aunt and uncle are this in Maniac Magee. They despise each other, but as "good Christians" they refuse to get a divorce. Maniac lives with them after his parents died, and he finally runs away because of their mutual hatred.
- Stanley and Helen Roper from Threes Company. They only show they love each other once every blue moon, with most of the gags between them involving Stanley's unwillingness to touch Helen and Helen feeling that she's taken for granted. One wonders why they never got a divorce.
- Frank and Marie Barone stay together in Everybody Loves Raymond. He's an old curmudgeon and she's an annoying busybody. Plus, they first got married because she got pregnant. Maybe they stick together because they're Catholic. It may be because of dependency. They can't really start over and are too old to live in another way. Ironically, they (quite arguably) have the healthiest relationship on the entire show thanks to their blunt openness when dealing with each other.
- It's shown several times that they actually love each other very much (such as when Marie suggested they had a loveless marriage Frank was so shocked and offended he simply walked away), they just really annoy each other.
- The more obvious example would be Ray and Debra. Debra routinely physically and verbally attacks Ray, Ray makes light of Debra's worthiness and hobbies, and they both condescend to one another regularly.
- Basil and Sybil in Fawlty Towers. They actively hate each other, but stay married and even share a bedroom, if not a bed. According to Basil in one episode, they even "go for a walk" together two or three times per week; however, he was very possibly making this up just to appear "normal" to the psychiatrist he was talking to, and it emphasises that he cares more about the status of being married than who he is married to.
- Richard and Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth's actress once defended her character against the question "why does Richard put up with Hyacinth" with the answer that she kept a good house, and dinner was always on time. Also partly explained in one episode where Elizabeth and Emmett conclude that Richard's living in his own little world most of the time has gone a long way to keeping his marriage together.
- Oscar and Emma from Corner Gas normally tend to fall in this trope, though some episodes show that they do really seem to love each other.
- Married... with Children: Al and Peg are a textbook example of this trope. They verbally stated that they couldn't stand each other, and it's a wonder they didn't kill each other by the end of the show's run.
- Olive and Arthur in On the Buses. She's plain and dull, he's pompous and rude. It's also hinted their love life isn't up to much. Luckily for the viewer, their discontent is good comedy fodder.
- To an extent, Red and Kitty Forman in That 70s Show; Red's snarkiness and lack of tact frustrates Kitty on a regular basis. Kitty's drinking and apparent naïveté does the same for him.
- He's a good provider, she's a good housewife and mother. It's also implied several times on the show that the sex is fantastic.
- Have you seen Kurtwood Smith with his shirt off? This guy beat up Robocop for god's sake!
- Jackie and Hyde in the same show. She's rich, spoiled, selfish Alpha Bitch-type, he's a smart but lazy Conspiracy Theorist slacker. They both can see the improbability of their relationship.
- He's a good provider, she's a good housewife and mother. It's also implied several times on the show that the sex is fantastic.
- What 99 saw in Max is beyond a lot of Get Smart fans.
- Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy.
- Their actors hated each other and refused a spinoff, so there's that.
- Abner and Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched.
- Will and Terri Shuester on Glee. They are former High School Sweethearts and are completely incompatable. Terri is an insufferable Jerkass but Will's such a Nice Guy he puts up with her garbage...despite that he's in love with his co-worker Emma who also almost gets into a No Accounting for Taste marriage with Ken before he came to his senses and dumped her.
- It's little wonder the marriage fell apart about halfway through season one
- Frank and Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld couldn't speak to one another without shouting and seemed to genuinely hate each other. It's not really explained why they stay together at all, and when they separate, nobody is the least bit surprised.
- Elaine and Puddy. Though they didn't hate each other to the extent of Frank and Estelle, there was very little love in their relationship with most of it being about one-upping arguments and how they bring out the worst in each other.
- Tanya in Grandma's House, who is marrying the deeply unsuitable Clive so she can share his big house and the proceeds from his boring job manufacturing boxes. Tanya plans to call the wedding off when Clive loses his job and she is forced to admit how boring he is when he's around her 24/7. She changes her mind when he gets a new job and she learns it will force them to be apart for four days of the week.
- Niles and Maris in Frasier. Admittedly, Maris was She Who Must Not Be Seen and so we never saw her interact with Niles, but she was by all accounts a horrible human being and a controlling, unlikeable, abusive wife who committed reprehensible acts many, many times, and it was established that Niles's attachment to her was mostly based on over-dependency and lack of self-confidence.
- Frasier himself has had a string of bad luck with women, most infamously, his ex-wife, Lilith Sternin.
- Both couples in Rab C. Nesbitt. Rab and Mary-Doll got their share of Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other moments. Ella Cotter, on the other hand, only seemed to stay with Jamesie because leaving would be letting him off easy. (Why he stayed wasn't at all clear.)
- Beck and Jade in Victorious. Their relationship was bad enough that Beck agreed to passionately kiss Tori, a girl he'd just met yesterday, as a way to get back at Jade's immaturity and later needed Tori's help to get back together. From thereon out, their relationship was largely two people who largely just argued back and forth and were at their happiest when they were broken up. When they "matured" and got back together, they went right back to arguing.
- The Meat Loaf song "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" has a great example of this trope. The singers vow to stay together and love each other "until the end of time"--the girl because she wants to, the guy because she won't put out until he does; at the end of the song they're waiting for the end of time to hurry up and arrive...
"'Cause if I have to spend another minute with you
- The Mountain Goats' song No Children is made of this.
I am drowning.
- Famed radio couple The Bickersons is probably the shining example every other teevee couple strives for.
- John and Mary in I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again:
Mary: John, darling, why do you have to be so cruel?
- Given the extremely vast cast of the Harvest Moon series, it's inevitable that some characters would fall into this. What makes it more peculiar is that some of these are rival couples--meaning they woo each other and get married over the course of the game. And then go right to never getting along.
- Rock and Lumina, from the first two DS games. Lumina is a Lonely Rich Kid, but Rock is a loud, party-happy guy who's also a total womanizer, regardless of whether or not the woman in question is married. He has numerous events where Lumina gets on his case about hitting on some other woman! And yet, to get there, you have to see a scene wherein they profess their eternal love for one another. Huh.
- Chase and Maya in Animal Parade. Their relationship seems to be based mostly on the fact that Chase loves to cook and Maya loves to eat, and their "we're getting married now" cutscene even involves Chase making a vow that all Maya has to do now is taste-test. Once they actually get married, though, they argue incessantly. When they eventually have a daughter (Dakota), even she remarks she'll never get a little sister the way they carry on.
- In Wario Ware, for reasons unknown to all but the Star Spirits themselves, Mona thinks Wario is really cool and is hinted to be attracted to him. For reference, she's a cute, attractive, cheerful Fiery Redhead, and he's greedy, ugly, overweight, amoral, Corrupt Corporate Executive whose breath always smells like garlic.
- Bug demonstrates this trope with the "Beyond Thunderdome" type of relationship.
- In Ctrl+Alt+Del, all personal non-antagonistic relationships with Ethan are this (Lilah especially, since she married him). Despite his instability, they, as Yatzhee put it, "inexplicably tolerate his behaviour when any sane person would be looking for rooms to rent in one hand while slamming the idiot's face in a drawer with the other".
- Though they're not married, Homestar Runner's titular character and Marzipan. Marzipan considers their relationship to be entirely up to her, breaks up and makes up at the drop of a hat, and seems to genuinely prefer the company of several of the other male characters over Homestar's, and it seems like the only reason she enjoys having him around is to make herself feel smarter. Homestar, for his part, is air-headed enough to honestly think "Go away, stupid" means the same thing as "hello, Marzipan" and is either apathetic or happy when Marzipan announces they're breaking up. At the same time, he does seem to genuinely enjoy her company. The couple's dysfunction can be seen in how they consider each other via cardboard proxy.
- Caboose from Red vs. Blue, in a platonic example, believes himself to be Church's best friend. While Church has several Pet the Dog moments when it comes to Caboose (he lets out a Big No when he is supposedly killed, for example), his default position is complete and utter loathing for the Blue Team's rookie.
Caboose: Hey, Church! Happy Valentine's --
- Eustace and Muriel in Courage the Cowardly Dog seem an extreme version, as they at best get along, and Eustace is at best complacent when he gets what he wants. You have to wonder why they were married or if they liked each other. There's almost never even a case of Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other. One episode has aliens who extract Muriels' love as a liquid, during which time she is just as if not meaner than Eustace. Though she gets her good nature back, just the dregs of her liquid completely changed the aliens into really nice guys. So yeah, she's a saint with No Accounting for Taste. What is also truly weird is that when she was mean and spent most of the time abusing Courage, Eustace is actually genuinely happy that he has someone to be mean with. Though she was also a hyperactive demanding brat when she was deaged in one episode.
- Well, there was one episode, where Eustace's even more curmudgeonly mom and a spurned phantom try to break up their marriage, and there's a scene where Courage gets them to stay together and show affection for each other. It's called McPhearsonPhantom, I think. There are also a few brief moments that make you think that maybe they are contently married (not happily, I don't think). They just decrease in number since Eustace' meanness increases as the series progresses.
- When Eustace is stolen away by the Queen of the Black Puddle, Muriel is reduced to endless weeping.
- Yet 90% of the show's episodes end with Eustace trapped, incapacitated, or possibly dead, yet Muriel never seems to care. Heck, one episode had Eustace melt in front of her having to be sponged off and placed in a jar and yet all Muriel does is say "Poor Eustace" in the same tone as if he was sick in bed with the flu. It really makes one wonder if whether she's amazingly callous, dim-witted, or more likely, subconsciously Genre Savvy enough to know he'll be back to normal by next episode.
- Well they are elderly. Maybe their personalities evolved after having been married for several years.
- Homer and Marge have always, always been in a weird flux between this and Happily Married: They're facing constant troubles, but it's always made a big deal instead of just "a fact of life".
- Fred and Wilma Flintstone in The Flintstones. The (alliterative) Beta Couple Barney and Betty, however, are quite Happily Married. Subverted in one of the movies, though, where Fred had to fight to get Wilma's favor back during a vacation trip where he was just this close to lose her.
- It's implied that Wilma likes the clumsy yet good-hearted oaf (judging from his really awkward love letter he gave her in high school) that Fred is.
- The Bickersons, parodied in the Lio comic strip as The Hateachothers.
- Directly, "Lio" was actually parodying the comic strip "The Lockhorns", which also fits the trope.
- Mung and Truffles from Chowder. He's a womanizer (or so he'd like to think); she's intimidating. It's a weird combination, but they've managed to stay together for four hundred and fifty years.
- As Chowder, Mung, and Schnitzel venture out for more cinnamini, Mung asks Truffles to mind the store, because, as he dramatically announces, "We need more spice!" Cue Truffles: "Vell at least somevun acknowledged it."
- There was one flashback to their younger days, where Truffles was considerably more attractive and less shrewish.
- Family Guy - Peter has done horrible, horrible things to Lois, the worst of which was locking her in the trunk of a car and driving the car into a lake. But she stays with him for some reason.
- Francine and Stan from American Dad! are a weird case. Several episode revolve around Stan putting Francine (sometimes his entire family) through some Plan that involves putting her through horrible things (so far he's made the whole family go months without any food money to get a better deal on a car, made Francine think he killed their neighbor and her attempts at making him more open will get him killed so she'll stop bugging her about it, and frame her for murder which made her feel so guilty, she moved to a horrible part of India to help the poor so he doesn't have to hear her say "I told you so"), and though they're over it by the next episode, they aren't actually shown getting over it (in the last one, she explicitly tells him she hasn't forgiven him yet). On the other hand, other episodes show he's genuinely caring, doesn't realize the things he does are so bad, and tries to fix them.
- In "Choosy Wives Choose Smith", Stan decides he has to know that he "won" over Francine's old fiancé and so fakes his death while watching the house via hidden cameras to see how Francine will react when her ex comforts her. Francine discovered the cameras, figured things out, and pretended to be close to her ex (but never went all the way) in order to yank Stan's chain. After the explain this to each other, Francine's ex declares that they're perfect for each other because they're both insane and storms out of the house.
- Stan does occasionally show genuine love and affection to Francine, having even put her well-being over his principles and job. The times when he does this can even approach Crowning Moment of Heartwarming levels, especially both Christmas episodes.
- "Shallow Vows" had them out-right state that their marriage is just a sham: Stan loves her only for her looks, Francine just wants to be taken care of. They actually end the episode with them telling the other this.
- Holly and Peter from Scruff. One can only wonder how Holly can put up with an airhead like Peter. Also, Sanda and Truffles, who is known for his hacking cough.
- Kanata, like Konata, looked as if she stopped growing in the early teens,
- Of course, Stan's island resort was hit with a hurricane, which did leave him stranded and thus he didn't know what was happening anymore