Down With Wife Guys: The Problem With Idolizing the Bare Minimum
If you were online when BuzzFeed reigned supreme, then you probably watched "The Try Guys," a former BuzzFeed entity where a group of four men — well, try stuff. Now it looks like one of them, Ned Fulmer, decided to try cheating. He has since confirmed on Twitter that he had a "consensual workplace relationship" outside his marriage. As a result, Fulmer will no longer work with The Try Guys: "I'm sorry for any pain that my actions might have caused to the guys and the fans but most of all [my wife] Ariel."
He's not the only seemingly devoted husband — or, as the internet calls it, "Wife Guy" — who's recently shocked fans by betraying a relationship beloved by the public. Comedian John Mulaney received similar criticism after divorcing his wife Anna Marie Tendler and pivoting quickly to Olivia Munn, resulting in their shared son. And more recently, Adam Levine reportedly cheated on his pregnant wife, Behati Prinsloo. As more "Wife Guys" out themselves as "Ex-Wife Guys," the term is starting to put a sour taste in the mouths of those who used to praise it. Or, as BuzzFeed News writes, "If the Wife Guys are cheating, is anyone loyal? Who can you trust if not the men who are effusively, publicly, and industrially talking about how much they love their wives?"
But what does it mean to be a Wife Guy, really? It's the husbands who make their whole public persona about having a wife — sometimes to the point of profiting off it. It's the guys who put their wives on adequately sized pedestals only to receive applause for it. It's the men who are celebrated for wishing their wives a happy birthday, remembering their anniversary, or any low-level standard that should be synonymous with a healthy relationship.
In typical internet fashion, some people are presenting counter opinions. For example, Variety writer Daniel D'Addario tweeted, "People deciding the Buzzfeed dude owes us genuine accountability because he 'acted like a wife guy,' . . . It's way too apparent that people have lost all perspective and, really, humanity regarding anyone even slightly famous." Yes, we must take a collective look at the weight we place on parasocial relationships. But the problem with Wife Guys is less about feeling like we deserve to know every detail about a celebrity's personal life and more about how each man has profited off of their wives while doing so little, usually before leaving them for someone else. As one Twitter user writes, "ned fulmer from the try guys cheating on his wife after his entire personality for years was loving his wife is the exact reason i do not trust men."
The cultural appreciation for Wife Guys probably stems from the jokes we grew up watching on sitcoms (you know, the "haha, I hate my wife" banter over beers with the bros), to the point where a man who willingly admits to loving his wife becomes an icon. While we could wax poetic about compulsive heteronormativity *deep breath*, we'll save you the rant and say: being loving and respectful to the person you married should be a fundamental requirement of the institution, not an accomplishment. But besides that, if everything you say about your wife is about how she relates to you and not her as a three-dimensional person, then maybe there's some stuff left to unpack.
"I feel like a good way to tell the difference between a Wife Guy and a Guy Who Loves His Wife is how much we actually know about this wife," Ella Dawson, sex and culture critic and author of "The Reunion," writes on Twitter. "What's her profession? What are her hobbies? Is she a human being, or is she an object in his act?" Tendler is an example of how her divorce from Mulaney continues to haunt her, even after she signed the papers. Her Instagram account, dedicated to her photography and artwork, is still scrutinized for hints of, "Is she grieving the relationship?" Instead of being revered for her talents, she remains stuck in the limbo of another of Mulaney's acts. Yet his career moves forward without her.
Similarly, Ariel Fulmer posted on her Instagram, "Nothing is more important to me and Ned than our family, and all we request right now is that you respect our privacy for the sake of our kids." Still, she's received an onslaught of comments on past Instagram posts, including on the announcement of the couple's coauthored book, "The Date Night Cook Book," released last year. Every "You can do so much better, queen" that falls under the guise of an act of support, in reality, highlights a frustrating cycle.
Because regardless of if the Wife Guy is initially well-meaning, it isn't really about the individual guy at all, is it? It's the society that applauds the husbands and the fathers who dare to do the bare minimum. And then, when that act comes crashing down, the women in their lives suffer for it. Even more so than that, the reason it's so uncomfortable to sit with the truth of these scandals is that guys like Mulaney and Fulmer (and, unfortunately, my high-school sweetheart) are considered "one of the good ones."
Cheating sucks. But somehow it sucks even more when the infidelity comes from a person no one would've guessed was capable. It's the "Him? No way!" reactions that sting just a little more because if the perfect boyfriend or husband is capable of lying, then who can we trust? It's why we always want to know how a person died. What we're really asking is: could it happen to me?
So, in the words of another Twitter user, "no more wife guy idolization, we are officially done with wife guy idolization."