It’s fun to watch TV couples do the will-they-or-won’t-they dance, then squabble over the same relationship issues over and over once they do get together.
But sometimes, show writers needlessly stretch out the drama, so much so that you can’t help but root for the couples to break up. You’re not the only one to shout out “just break up already!” at the TV. Marriage therapists do it, too.
We recently asked therapists across the country to share the one TV couple they can’t imagine going the distance in the real world. See what they had to say below.
1. Ross and Rachel on ‘Friends’
By the series end, the on-again, off-again couple had a baby and were back together. Old relationship habits die hard, and Danielle Forshee, a licensed clinical social worker in Red Bank, New Jersey, sees them falling back into their familiar relationship patterns in the future.
“The relationship was created upon a foundation that was tarnished from years of questionable actions,” Forshee told HuffPost. “They were both engaged to other people, there were communication problems with expressing and articulating how they really felt about each other, and then there was that moment of impulsively getting married in Vegas in a drunken stupor.”
Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, noted that the pair only seemed to be honest with each other after hurting each other. Plus, when they were going through a rough patch, they’d overshare with their friends instead of directly addressing the issue with each other.
“They did what most people do when they were having issues: ask their friends for advice or complained rather than talking to one another,” Kepler said. “While I think they could have happily co-parented their daughter, unless they learn to be more honest and trust one another, they probably would not stay together in the real world.”
2. Chuck and Wendy Rhoades on ‘Billions’
Talk about an untenable work-life balance: Wendy is the wife of Chuck Rhoades ― a high-profile attorney leading the fight against financial corruption and investigating Axe Capital, a hedge fund where Wendy works as a psychiatrist. That conflict of interest would grow tiresome quickly in real life, said Linda Schlapfer, a marriage and family therapist in Greenwich, Connecticut.
“Wendy’s conflicted position as a key person at Axe Capital and Chuck’s wife would not work in marriage,” Schlapfer said. “It’s impossible to root for arch enemies when one is your boss and the other is your hubby.”
Plus, they’ve both crossed some major, inexcusable lines in their marriage, Schlapfer said.
“His breaking into her computer is a major no-no,” he said. “And her receiving such extravagant gifts from Axe and the time spent with her boss after office hours would make many any husband uncomfortable.”
3. Carrie and Mr. Big from ‘Sex and the City’
The debate over whether Carrie should have ended up with Big has fierce defenders and detractors. Carly Haeck, a Seattle-based marriage and family therapist, puts herself firmly in the latter camp. Though undeniable passion keeps the couple together, their two distinct attachment styles ― how people are taught to act emotionally and show affection ― will likely tear them apart in the long run, said Haeck.
If someone has an avoidant attachment style, like Big, they may crave love but struggle to create closeness and intimacy. Carrie, meanwhile, has more of an anxious attachment style and needs consistent reassurance about their relationship, Haeck explained.
“Throughout their relationship, there have been times where Big distances himself and pulls away, perhaps to protect himself from being vulnerable after being burned in his marriage,” the therapist said. “The more he pulls away, the more insecure Carrie feels in the relationship, which causes her to have both anxious attachment-seeking behaviors (pursuing him more) and sometimes avoidant behaviors herself, to prevent being hurt.”
Often in relationships, this can turn into a cycle: If Carrie continues to give into her anxious or avoidant tendencies, Big may distance himself even further until they reach a breaking point.
“In order for them to make it work, they would need to identify this cycle and what triggers their respective attachment behaviors and communicate what they each need to feel safe in the relationship,” Haeck said.
4. Ricky and Lucy Ricardo from ‘I Love Lucy’
Lucy Ricardo’s endless scheming to convince her husband Ricky to let her perform at the Club Tropicana was a central ― and hilarious ― plot point on “I Love Lucy.” Lucy’s plans rarely worked out; Ricky would roll his eyes over her antics, and by episode’s ends, they’d kiss and make up.
In reality, their games wouldn’t be so cute, said Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and the author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.
“They’d always act like they’ve forgiven each other and pretend not to hold grudges, but marriages like this are doomed to have issues,” Berger said. “They may express their disappointment by passive-aggressively forgetting to keep an agreement or sabotaging their partners.” (Ah, so maybe that’s why they slept in separate in beds.)
“Couples can learn from Lucy and Ricky that it’s much better to clear the air by expressing ourselves directly and respectfully than to scheme and suppress their real feelings, wants and needs in order to keep the peace,” Berger added.
5. Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler on ‘Better Call Saul’
Kim Wexler is the occasional lover of “Better Call Saul’s” protagonist Jimmy McGill. Over time, the relationship is bound to get too nervewracking for Kim, said Schlapfer. As the series progresses, McGill becomes less of a lovable scamp and more like the unscrupulous character we see in “Breaking Bad.”
“We worry about Kim as a viewer. As sweet as Jimmy is, he’s turning bad in front of her eyes,” Schlapfer said. “He has his law license suspended, is evasive about his comings and goings and shows up with envelopes of cash. Kim’s stress over everything lands her in a car accident. Is that a wake-up call in more ways than one?”
Basically, “there’s a lot of over-functioning on her part and a lack of maturity and accountability on his,” Schlapfer said. “That puts so much stress on a couple.”
6. Tony and Carmela Soprano from ‘The Sopranos’
If there were a hall of fame for long-suffering wives, Carmela Soprano and her blown-out hair would take the top spot. The character was the show’s moral conscience, and though Carmela took a stand and separated from her mob boss husband in Season 4, ultimately, they reconciled.
Even with all the material gifts (a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, investment property, etc.), Forshee finds it hard to believe a real wife would put up with Tony’s crimes and shortcomings as long as Carmela did.
“In real life, if the husband has a pattern of infidelity or looking outside of the relationship for emotional, psychological or physical satisfaction, it is unlikely the wife would have incentive to reciprocate in the way Carmela seemed to do,” Forshee said. “She makes Tony’s needs a priority, maintains a spotless home and whips up his favorite meals and it’s just unrealistic.”