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Robyn Okrant Headshot

Maybe We All Could Use a Celebrity Marriage Ref

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Knowing that some people are totally against the new show, The Marriage Ref, I need to admit to you that I kind of want to watch it. No, that's a lie. I really want to watch it. There's something so comforting in witnessing other married people having ups and downs. Don't get me wrong: I don't want to watch sensationalized troubles so huge that the couple teeters on divorce (read: Tiger/Elin Woods), but I really appreciate seeing intact, healthy marriages displayed in a realistic manner. Guess what? We fight! We cry, we get sad, we think the other person is a jerk every now and then, we overreact, we even judge each other a little bit. (Is Jim going to keep wearing that hideous shirt, no matter how many passive aggressive comments I make about it?) But we still love each other and want to stay together. It burns my butt when a 'good' marriage is displayed in the media as perfect - no arguments, no differing goals, no stress. Puh-lease! Ok, ok, I'll accept it from Heidi Klum and Seal because they're just so darn adorable, but they're the only ones.

I feel there's an innate problem in the way many of us - including me - protect our marriages from prying eyes. We perpetuate this idea that no one should experience conflict in a healthy relationship. Jim and I can have a horrible day in private, picking at and on each other, but the moment we are out in public and we run into a friend walking in the neighborhood, we're all smiles and warmth and generosity. We are masters at PR for the Okrant/Stevens household. Aren't we cute?! Ain't we a pair?! Look at our crazy forced smiles - don't we look like we're having fun?!

I think I'm afraid of being judged. G-d forbid someone thinks my marriage is on the rocks because they see us in a less-than-perfect light. What if it appears we're heading toward d-i-v-o-r-c-e? I can't have that. I confess: I am just as responsible as movies, TV and the media for making marriage look like sunshine and lollipops to the non-married women in my life who pine for a relationship like mine.

All I'm saying is, none of us know what's going on behind closed doors. Let's not judge ourselves or each other based on the tiny slice of marital squabbling or bliss that we witness in others. Of course, I don't want everyone to discard all propriety and go nuts - furiously screaming at each other in a movie theatre or, worse yet, dropping trou in the supermarket in a moment of unbridled sexual desire - but maybe a little less façade and a little more unguardedness might do us all some good.

So that's why I'm DVRing The Marriage Ref tonight. I might not be able to relate to the specific relationship woes seen on the show, but I can empathize. And most importantly, if I can find humor in what I see on the screen, maybe I'll be able to chill out at home and learn to laugh at my own marital foibles. Perhaps if I can relax a bit more, I might eventually find it unnecessary to filter myself in public out of concern that friends will think Jim and I are heading to divorce court.

Speaking of that, I think Divorce Court is on. I gotta go watch. Those people are messed up.