A happy woman enters her home and heads straight towards the kitchen. It won’t occur to her to look around until she does. There’s an off vibe here. Her spouse, the source of all her misery, has done it again by leaving every cabinet door wide open. The situation is completely out of control.
This is a very typical source of marital strife, as evidenced by the fact that Bruno Mars’ “Leave the Door Open” became a huge hit on TikTok last year, largely due to irate spouses. Many married women have posted videos to YouTube with the hashtag #marriedlifehumour, in which they sing “I’ma leave the door open; I’ma leave the door open, girl” while they open every cabinet and drawer in the house.
The supply of material for comedies about marriage and the little frustrations of long-term cohabitation seems to be limitless. There are dirty socks scattered next to the working laundry basket, half-done duties set aside for more appealing diversions, and silent conflicts over who empties the trash cans. Couples have produced millions of films about each other under the hashtag #marriedlifehumour, which has garnered 3 billion views on TikTok due to its universal appeal. These films typically focus not on what people adore about their partners (for that, check out the #couplegoals hashtag), but on what they dislike or even despise about them.
Oftentimes, partners will point out their significant other’s most annoying habits by playing an audio clip or sharing a viral meme, such as a joke from a standup performance or the latest viral dodge meme, in which people sway side to side to “dodge” things they don’t want to do. It’s usually something minor, like snoring, losing items, or taking up too much area in bed. What is marriage without the occasional use of subtle, sarcastic jabs to make a point? Some films, however, feature pranks and cruel jokes that make one wonder if the persons in issue are even friends.
As an example, consider the “Wife life humour” videos made by TikToker Allison Lewis. The audio was taken from an episode of Dadholes, a comedy series created by Chris Wylde and posted on YouTube. Her spouse Will gives a stone cold glare into the camera while she sits next to him and mouths the dialogue. To ask how long a couple has been married. “42 years.” I can’t believe it! I calculate in dog years since my wife is a bitch,” her husband jokes. Hilarious.
In another, TikToker Beege40 records his wife’s reaction while playing an audio of the statement, “The average American male has sex two to three times a week.” However, the typical Japanese male only has sexual encounters twice or thrice a year. Which is rather concerning, seeing as how I was completely unaware of my Japanese heritage. Tiredly, his wife grins at him.
Obviously, the numbers in the recording aren’t accurate, and it’s not exactly respectful to one’s spouse to witness someone else airing their grievances about marital sex life, even in jest. More than 8 million people have watched this video, and similar videos have also attracted massive audiences.
Mike and Kat Stickler are perhaps the best-known examples, having amassed over 5.4 million TikTok subscribers at the height of their popularity. They insisted their marriage was joyful at all times despite their reputation for making ridiculing, exaggerated videos about each other. They made the announcement in March of 2021, claiming they were going on with “love and respect” for each other despite their separation.
Surely none of us is above making fun of our significant ones for the things they do that annoy us. It can be a fun way to start talking about the little things that bug you and each other, and to point out your weaknesses in a lighthearted way. Criticizing your partner online could be a sign of a troubled relationship, according to experts.
There’s a narrow line between playful taunting and the kind of public humiliation that may be termed emotional abuse.
Relationship counsellor Natasha Silverman from the organisation Relate says, “To begin, it’s vital to acknowledge that for some couples, this may be a natural way of connecting. So long as it fits into their dynamic, their happiness is all that matters. She has, however, noticed that “a lot of the criticisms typically come from a position of feeling ignored and perhaps unvalidated” for some of the couples that make these movies.
It’s possible that her suggestion that some people might use social media “to look for support and validity and they might feel a bit stronger because of that” is based on anecdotal evidence.
Who about the complaining partner’s filming partner? Some people may get the joke, but if it gets too extreme, others may feel offended who weren’t in on it. The CEO of a US dating service, Rachel MacLynn, has this to say: “The issue is the subconscious influence on mental wellbeing of the partner if the complaining is too harsh.” There is a delicate line between light-hearted mocking and something that could be termed emotional abuse through public humiliation.”
Some of these movies also promote the kind of sexist humour that husbands have always used to show how exhausted they are by their wives. For instance, in one video, TikToker Sean Jantz tapes himself as he listens to his wife recount a story that doesn’t quite stick to the point. Exasperation is written across the film as he says, “I’ve been listening to my wife tell stories like this for 14 years…” I ought to be honoured. Other husbands concur with him in the comments, writing, “Bro sorry I can’t listen to all of that. In other words, my wife has just returned home with her tale.
The two “most destructive things you can do for relationships,” in Silverman’s words, are “contempt and criticism.” She mentions “chronic criticism” and “disparaging body language” as two factors that can cause rifts in a relationship’s stability. Further, she argues that airing grievances about a relationship in public does nothing but make “trust and goodwill” problems worse.
It’s difficult to turn away from #marriedlifehumor on TikTok, despite the strange, passive-aggressive tone of this new genre. Any couple who has been together for any length of time knows the difficulties of sharing a home. Since women make up 61% of TikTok’s active users compared to 39% of men, there is a ready audience for these videos, the great majority of which are created by heterosexual couples. Despite the lighthearted exterior, the underlying message—that married women must deal with unseen and emotional labor—is likely to resonate positively.
Just because it’s commonplace doesn’t mean it’s right for your partnership.
In the words of Natasha Silverman
However, MacLynn cautions that couples should exercise caution when reacting to such material. “Trends like this can easily spiral out of control,” she warns. An internet fad may have humble beginnings when one couple’s playful banter leads another to join in, and so on.
“This could allow a couple with less developed self-awareness to cross over into bullying behaviour, which they might justify by saying that “everyone else is doing it.” Couples going through troubles will get very little, if any, support from the movie because it provides no solutions.
Silverman agrees, saying that he is “concerned that TikTok and Instagram have normalised bad communication patterns.” She argues that this might have a domino effect. When people observe other couples engaging in such behaviour, they may reason, “Why shouldn’t I be able to talk about my partner in this way?” However, just because it’s commonplace elsewhere doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for your partnership.
The reality that couples eventually become tired of one another is a painful truth of any committed partnership. The ability to forge your own language and learn to coexist is, of course, a beautiful thing. What’s the secret to a successful marriage? Respect. Ability to convey ideas effectively. In addition, there could be some humour. Make sure you put everything away by locking the cabinets. Absolutely everyone.