We’re in full swing of the biggest month of the year for weddings: June! And when you think of weddings, you almost always think of love, romance and happily ever afters. As a long time romance reader, I’m used to books that have a happy ending. But here’s the thing: we rarely see what comes next. Usually our couple kisses or gets married and then rides off into the sunset. The drama is over, and we’re left to imagine what the rest of their lives look like.
Sometimes it’s nice to imagine that idyllic life, trusting that a couple’s future will be free from angst or hardship. But it’s also not very realistic. Because in reality, marriage isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. And on a purely voyeuristic level, sometimes I want to follow my favorite couple after the courting stage is over. I want to know what the ups and downs of their marriage look like, if they end up having kids, and if they’re always as happy as they are on their wedding day.
Like I said, it’s much more rare to get these kinds of stories, but the ones that do exist are from books and TV shows that I turn to again and again. So, if like me, you’re craving to know what happens beyond the happily ever after, here are six couples from both books and TV shows who can teach us what a real, successful marriage looks like:
Tatiana & Alexander in The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
Oof this series. Simons creates a true epic with her Bronze Horseman Trilogy, telling the story of a WWII soldier in Leningrad who falls in love with a young girl when he meets her on the street. But it’s not that simple of course – the soldier is dating her sister, it turns out, and the siege of Leningrad (and the devastating famine that follows) is just getting under way. While the first two books deal with Tatiana and Alexander falling in love and repeatedly rescuing each other, the final book is a sweeping saga of the years that come after. Can the couple start over again in America, leaving behind the horrors they experienced in the war? This isn’t an easy read, and Tatiana and Alexander aren’t always the happiest or the healthiest couple. But they’re so devoted to each other, and so willing to work through any issues, that you’ll be riveted by their relationship. They’re exceedingly private, which makes their public moments that much more delicious, especially with how envious everyone else is of what they have together. This is, and will always be, one of my favorite series of all time.
Clare & Henry in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Usually love stories follow a linear pattern: a couple meets, they fall in love, they get married. But that’s not the case for Clare and Henry, who keep meeting each other out of time. Henry is a time traveler who starts to visit Clare when she’s only a child, coming and going over the years. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that he’s her future husband. When she finally meets him in real time, he doesn’t know who she is, and it takes them both time to reconcile their expectations of each other. After that, they have to face the reality of Henry’s condition: can they make a marriage work when he disappears at will? Spoiler alert: yes. Yes, they can. These two are so crazy in love that they can overcome anything together -– including time travel.
Jamie & Claire in The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
It’s impossible to talk about great literary marriages without bringing up Jamie and Claire. They could actually work in the TV section too, thanks to the awesome Starz series. But it’s the book version of this couple that has won my heart over, and not just because I’ve spent 8 books and 15+ years with them. They get tested more than almost any other couple over the years, dealing with assaults, rape, infidelity, separation, multiple wars, fires…I could go on. And yet, they just love each other so much that they always find their way back to one another. Claire thought she was leaving her entire life behind when she ended up traveling through the stones and back in time, but in reality she was finding the love of her life.
Eric & Tami, from Friday Night Lights
This is one of those acclaimed TV shows that is completely worth the hype. Insanely, devastatingly realistic, it follows a high school football team in the fictional Dillon, Texas. All of the characters are great in their own right, but the heart of the show belongs to Eric, the head coach, and his wife Tami. The two have one of the most realistic marriages on TV – they support each other, get frustrated with each other, have to make huge life decisions together, and struggle with how to parent their two daughters. It’s not always easy, but these two are #relationshipgoals to a tee.
Ben & Leslie, from Parks and Recreation
Leslie is such a dynamic and strong character that she needed a love interest who could match her intellect and her drive, while also giving her room to shine. Enter: Ben Wyatt. He’s a total dork who loves calzones, makes Claymation movies, and writes Star Trek fanfiction. He’s also totally perfect for Leslie. These two can match wits, they make each other laugh, and they support each other’s careers in every way. They’re true partners, with none of that sexist crap we often see sneaking into even the best onscreen marriages. It’s why their signature phrase, “I love you and I like you,” is so perfect for these two.
Maggie & Glenn, from The Walking Dead
You wouldn’t expect a zombie show to be very romantic, but Maggie and Glenn’s relationship is one of the few exceptions. Even the fact that they’re both still alive is a miracle, let alone being in love for four seasons. They’re not always physically together – they seem to spend a lot of time searching for the other one – but it doesn’t matter. These two have a strong core of respect and trust, and their love is one of the few consistent things on a show where no one and nothing is safe. I’m pretty worried about their prospects next season, but right now I prefer to live in a little bubble that imagines them safe and happy while raising their perfect baby. A girl can dream.