Kindness During Divorce

Have you heard of Blue Monday? It’s not only my fifth favorite New Order song, it’s also the most depressing day of the year! Some scientists, mathematicians and diplomats decided the third Monday of January is indeed the saddest, bleakest, most miserable day of the year. I assume it was some scientists, mathematicians and diplomats. Who else would be in charge of designating the saddest day of the year? Not a defunct travel channel, right? Oh, a defunct travel channel designated the date.

Well lucky for us, it lands right smack in the middle of the busiest month for divorces. Divorces are no picnic, believe you me, but the added stress of a divorce on top of an escalating vitamin D deficiency and a growing January specific nihilistic worldview is just about enough to unsubscribe from the outside world and decide you’re living the rest of your life in a self imposed Room situation. But I’m here to tell you, don’t. Don’t hole up, or give up. Instead, take today to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Reflect on that and change your attitude, because weirdly, you are totally in control of that. Let me explain.

A long time ago, I was feeling anxious/borderline terrified over something and a strange, normally silent part of my brain chimed in and said, “Hey, decide you’re not scared.” And, suddenly, I wasn’t. Then it happened again. I was in a crabby mood and that oft mute area of my noggin said, “Choose to be in a better mood.” And I did. I recounted this to a friend explaining I was tricking and manipulating my brain and that bending spoons with just my mind was clearly not far off. And he said, you’re exercising autonomy over yourself, you’re not Kreskin. He was right. Rude but right.

We can choose to be in charge of ourselves and our temperaments. I’m obviously not talking about clinical depression, which is real and serious, and I am not minimizing that struggle at all. I’m instead talking about the everyday non-medical stuff that gets in the way of living better. The core ingredient needed to stop the bad mood spiral to beat yourself up town is kindness. Kindness towards yourself, and kindness towards others.

The magical thing about kindness is that it compounds. If someone holds the door for you on the way out of your local coffee shop, odds are you’ll hold the elevator door for someone else later in the day. Kindness is contagious and in a world that is basically on fire and crumbling every minute of the day, we could all use some more good in our lives. If there can be acts of kindness during war, you can certainly implement it in your divorce and in your daily life.

Be kind to your ex.
I’m not suggesting you treat your former spouse like royalty or anything, but I am recommending being less of a jerk. Small things like a simple compliment can be so unexpected and flattering that the whole day can change. Next time you’re doing the kid shuffle, mention to your ex how little Sally was saying she always has such a great time with your ex, or that she was really looking forward to their time together. Small things can add up to a larger change in attitude. Offer to run an errand or wash their car or help out with something minor around the house. You’ll be surprised how disarming something small can be.

Be kind to your divorcing friends.
Whether you can relate or not, if a pal is going through a divorce it’s possible they’re going through the roughest period of his or her life and you’ve got a front row seat. Just be there for your friend. It’s simple advice, but it’s good advice. Follow their cues. Let them vent when they want to, and backoff when they don’t. Little gestures can be the most meaningful when they come as a surprise, so send them some flowers or show up with groceries one night and cook them dinner. Make them a pity filled Spotify playlist so they can cry it out, and an upbeat dance party playlist to buoy them afterwards. Be there for your bud and they’ll repay the favor the next time you’re down in the dumps.


Be kind to your kids.
Unfortunately, your kids are buckled up all nice and snug in the backseat of this long-haul that is your divorce. It’s imperative they feel safe and important during this big change, so take some time to really hang out with them. Ask them how they’re feeling and push when you get one word or vague answers. Establish new traditions with them to give them something familiar and recurring to look forward to. If they’re old enough, ask them what they need from you to process through the changes. Don’t ever bad mouth your ex in front of them. This is not their war, do not drag them into it. Create an atmosphere filled with hope so that everyone feels like while the future may be different, it will still be good, and maybe even better than the past.

Be kind to yourself.
Like She & Him said, you’ve got to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that this is a hard time and you will be feeling a lot of emotions. Don’t beat yourself up for not being further along in the process of working through those emotions because there is no set timeline. Keep a gratitude journal to keep things in perspective. Take yourself on indulgent days out where you get to do anything you want and please let that include getting a slice of cake. Look outside yourself and do something good for others like donating blood or volunteering.

Give yourself the ultimate gift: clean up your Facebook account. Unfriend or at least unfollow everyone except your closest friends. The reasons are twofold. First, comparison is the thief of joy. You don’t need an acquaintance’s#blessedlife shoved in your face with minute by minutes updates with meticulously staged I’m-better-than-you photos. Secondly, in this election year, for your own sanity, unfollow or unfriend the people that make you irate. Your high school lab partner is racist, ok? No amount of explaining the complex war on terrorism is going to change that. Your friend Chuck’s wife is a moron. Can you really get into a debate about Planned Parenthood with a woman who spells babies “babys?” What’s your ETA on getting her to agree with you? Months? Years? Give it up, bro. Release yourself from the Facebook shackles and enjoy your new freedom where success and happiness are defined by you, and you alone. Then listen to Kindness, the musician, and brainstorm. Prioritize kindness and see how quickly your attitude and worldview change.

Do you have any kindness tips? Or want to argue with me about which is the best New Order song? (It’s “True Faith,” don’t even start.) Leave your comment here, on Facebook, or catch me on Twitter.


James J. Sexton

Holiday Fun or Holiday Torture? 9 Horrible Traditions.

There’s just something about the holiday season that brings out the best, and the worst, in humankind. It’s the season of brotherly love and fights at Walmart, the season of giving and the season of consuming, it’s the season of—well, you get the picture.

Now, it’s entirely possible that you’re one of the wise few who ensconce themselves in Real Family Values and the Things That Matter from November to January (and maybe even the whole year round). But if you live in near any kind of human settlement in this country, chances are you’re surrounded by regular old American holiday revelry, with its strong flavor of commercialism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses that just might eek its way into your happy marriage.

And how might they do that? By taking over your holiday traditions! There are some things, that if you feel the need to do them, you’re trying too hard. And it’s going to come back to haunt you, when your spouse finally admits defeat and says, “Look. This isn’t working. I can’t handle doing a singing holiday answering machine message with you for one single year more. I’m out.”

To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of nine holiday traditions to avoid if you know what’s good for your marriage. These nine things are the reindeer turds in the lovely red stocking of your happy home.

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

This one, luckily, has diminished in popularity over time, one thing we can actually thank Facebook for. With the rise of daily updates, there’s now less need to share the family happenings in one long annual digest, because people have already seen the photos from your family vacation and the soccer championships, and they know you got a new puppy because you Instagram it every 2.5 minutes. (I’m not complaining, I love dog photos!) Let’s be honest here, the annual holiday letter made sense when we were living on opposite sides of the country and there were no phones, like in the Little House on the Prairie days, but these days, it has just become a channel for bragging. “My kid won the Science Fair for the 5th grade!” Awesome. “My kid is becoming a child model!” Fine, whatever. “My kid is potty-training! And he’s only 5!” Okay, enough. Please just skip the letter and post Facebook updates like everybody else, so we can all Like your post then Unfollow you. Problem solved.

Matching Holiday Sweaters

I want to be clear about one thing: I have no problem with holiday sweaters on the whole. I actually have a couple. But MATCHING holiday sweaters are something else entirely. The only reason you should ever wear matching clothing to another person is if you’re an identical twin and you’re under 5 and you have no choice in the matter. After that, matching sweaters are just bad form.

Posed Holiday Photos

While we’re on that subject, let’s cover the whole matching-outfits-posed-holiday-photos issue. Do you find yourself arranging an appointment to have an actual photographer come to your home and take photos of you and your family in matching outfits to send out with your holiday letters or post shamelessly on social media? No. This is not necessary. I mean, I get wanting to take a photo of the family once a year, to mark time and for posterity and that sort of thing, and the holidays are an understandable time to want to do that, because everyone’s together. But don’t make everyone dress the same. We’re people, not penguins.

Holiday Shopping in September

Did you start your holiday shopping during the Back to School sales? Some people are organized, I get that. Some people even buy little bits and pieces for people throughout the year, whenever they see something that person might like—and who can argue with that? That’s just thoughtful. But if you actually, seriously, all-systems-go start your Christmas shopping before Halloween, you might be a compulsive shopper and you need to think about having that seen to. Or at least stop telling us about it.

Stockpiling the “It” Toy

This one goes for people who either a) make absolutely sure they have the “coolest toy this season!” well ahead of time whether their kid wants it or not, or b) find out what the cool toy is and buy twenty of them so you can scalp people on eBay. In the first instance, you’re obviously trying to buy your children’s love and/or make them cool, and everyone knows neither of those things is possible to do with mere stuff. And, if you’re in the option b camp, I admire your entrepreneurial initiative, but you really need to put yourself in the shoes of all those parents whose kids have been hounding them for weeks for this ONE STUPID LEGO SET and they can’t find it anywhere for less than four times the RRP, and it’s ultimately going to be a choice between that toy and Christmas dinner. I mean, give other parents a fighting chance. #thanks

Lying to Your Kids about Santa past Age 8

Oooh, controversial topic, this one. How long is it okay to tell your kids Santa is real? Well, I learned the hard way that any kid older than eight—ie. capable of feeling genuinely betrayed by his parents lying to him, person to person—is too old to be lied to about something that doesn’t really matter. Disagree if you must, but once you get to the point where they borderline don’t believe in magic anymore, you really shouldn’t try to force them to. That’s what Scientologists are for.

Making your pets wear holiday-themed outfits

I don’t need to go into detail on this. Putting your dachshund in a Santa outfit is not impressing anyone, it just makes people think about Googling the number for the ASPCA. Don’t do it.

Any kind of “Sexy Santa” outfit

The whole “sexy Santa” costume is one holiday tradition that just never made sense to me. I mean, dressing as a sexed-up version of an old married fat guy/gal? Whose fantasy is that? You may as well dress up as Sexy Donald Trump. (Impossible.) Just avoid this one.

Needing to Have the Biggest Tree

My friend worked at a Christmas tree farm when I was a teenager, and I distinctly recall him telling me that some people would go in demanding the biggest tree we had, without even looking around. Now, there are a few things about this that irked me then, and irk me to this day. First of all, the biggest isn’t necessarily the best. Sometimes the really huge trees were sort of bent, or grew in a weird shape. Secondly, the big trees were really heavy to carry all the way to somebody’s station wagon. And then, about 15% of the time people with the huge trees would literally come back and trade it in for a smaller tree because it was too big for their family room or whatever. Look. Know your limits. Have some appreciation for quality over size. Go buy a fast car. But do not insist on having the biggest tree in the place.

Have something to add, or yell at me about? I heartily welcome both! Leave a comment or Facebook and tweet to me.


15 Tips to Avoid Holiday Depression

Tis the season for crippling depression! Ho ho ho? Holidays are rough in normal circumstances, but if this is your first holiday season as a divorcee, stress and loneliness can certainly compound. I’ve rounded up some tips to get you out of the dumps and into the metaphorical light, gallons of whiskey not even necessary.

Are you listening to too much Adele? You might actually be in a pretty good mood but you’ve had 25 on repeat since November, and thus you’ve succumbed to Adelitis. Adelitis’s symptoms include: uncontrollable crying, sassy hand motions, flawless eyeliner, and a cockney accent. Does this sound like you?Shut off the Adele. Instead, listen to this. Get up and dance to it, you know you want to.

Exercise. Endorphins are real, man. Jogging, yoga, hiking, ultra marathons, or whatever you’re into could really help bolster your mood. Plus it’s good for the rest of your body as well. And if you get started now, you can take advantage of your currently empty gym before it fills up with new year’s resolution-ers. If you want to add a release for pent up hostility (toward your ex, the Judge, or even your lawyer if you’ve hired someone other than me) consider kickboxing, boxing, karate or (my personal favorite) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Have you tried meditating? It might feel silly at first, but the benefits are huge. There are lots of different practices to choose from, but I recommend Transcendental Meditation, and not just because David Lynch is the coolest. Do you need to spend a grand to get your TM mantra? No. Can you use this internet guide instead? Yes.

Are you a responsible person who is ready to make a life-long commitment to someone who cannot divorce you and is scientifically proven to be good for your heart? Well, I’ve got just the ticket. Adopt a shelter dog or cat. Welcoming dogs into my family has been one of the best decisions of my life. They’re cute, fiercely loyal, life affirming and destroy household items in ways I never knew possible. Pull up Petfinder and don’t stop scrolling until you find your new best friend.

Take yourself on a date, or as I like to call it, a Solo-Yolo. Indulge for an afternoon. Take yourself for a fancy lunch, a movie your friends refuse to sit through, or wander around a gallery at your own pace. Do whatever it is that makes you deep sigh with joy. If you’ve got the cash and time off from work, extend the solo-yolo into a full fledged vacation.

What did you like to do after school when you were little? Piano, ballet, drawing classes? Whatever hobby brought you joy as a youngin’ can bring you fun and fulfillment again. Check out local sports leagues, peruse Course Horse, or just ask around. You’ll end up meeting new people and expressing your creativity at the same time. If you’re not feeling social – consider jigsaw puzzles. There’s something almost hypnotic about doing puzzles as an adult and when you finish there’s a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Try it. You’ll see.

Take a walk, preferably in daylight. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real and there are lots of ways to combat it, but my favorite is the simple act of taking a brisk walk at lunchtime. The fresh air will do you good, as will the vitamin D.

Cook yourself something nice. Little else can make you feel more competent and successful than turning a bag of groceries into a meal. Find a recipe that interests you, turn on some 60s soul and get ready to turn your mood around. If possible make extra. The leftovers are often the best part.

Skip the holiday cards. There is no feeling more liberating than saying “oh, screw it” in the stationery aisle of Target. Odds are your friends and family won’t notice yours is missing in their giants stacks of glittered firs and chubby angels. If anyone calls you out, just cover. Blame the post office, everyone hates the post office, then you can bond over hating the post office and deftly steer the conversation elsewhere.

Chill the heck out, but go big or go home. I’m talking many, many scented candles, a bubble bath so foamy your bathroom looks like Ibiza, a bottle of wine with a price tag that makes you wince, and your favorite holiday movie queued up on a tablet perched on the edge of the tub.

Leave the party. Leave and don’t look back. Peel out of the driveway so fast you burn rubber. Life is too short to be someplace you don’t want to be (unless you’re getting paid for being there).

Get into the holiday spirit, but on your own terms. Does shattering a dozen ornaments sound more fun than decorating a tree? Go for it. Do you want to bypass strolling along the holiday window displays and go straight for the hot chocolate containing no less than 750 calories? Go for it. Do you want to skip the lines at the mall and watch Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and eat Chinese food instead? Go for it.

Give back and help yourself by helping others. Volunteering is not only important for your community, it also gives you some perspective and can be a great place for meeting like-minded new friends. The sense of accomplishment and self worth that comes with helping others is immeasurable. Check out Volunteer Match to get started.

Let your support system in. You don’t have to trudge through this alone. Share your feelings with your friends or family or whomever it is you trust. Open up to them, be vulnerable and let them support you. You’ll repay the favor when the shoe’s on the other foot.

Therapy. An old classic for a reason. Talking about your feelings and working through your issues is an important part of life. If there’s a medical professional helping you through it, as opposed to your friend Todd who’s half listening, you’ve got a really good chance of getting somewhere. There’s no shame in getting help and you’ll probably kick yourself for not going earlier.

Listen, the holidays are hard. Getting out of a funk is one thing, but if the blues turn into something more, there are so many services that can help. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there are people who can help. Keep a note of these numbers, and share them around because you never know who may need them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)) are both toll-free and available 24 hours a day. Calls are free and confidential.

The sun will rise again, the ice will melt, the flowers will bloom. Just cool it on the Adele and be kind to yourself. Happy holidays!

James J. Sexton

Top 10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Your Divorce

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is talking about being thankful for everything and you’re just thinking, “Shut up and let me drink my Cinnamon Latte in peace.” Not surprisingly, going through a divorce around the holidays can be rough. So, I’m here to spread some Thanksgiving cheer that ISN’T cliché and irritating, or so I’m telling myself. Here are your reasons to be thankful—actually for real thankful—for your divorce right now.

  1. No more drama. For the first time in a long time, you’ll be able to roll through the holidays with a lot less drama, on average, than your past holiday seasons have likely entailed. Time to chill out and actually get a break for once.
  2. No compromises on Thanksgiving food. It’s been years of accepting the traditional choice of turkey when everyone knows duck is more delicious, and foregoing the corn soufflé because “there’s not enough oven space.” No more! Make what YOU want.
  3. No need to visit the in-laws. No more obligation to visit anyone on your spouse’s side of things for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, only the joy of doing so if you actually want to. And no need to buy them all gifts, either.
  4. Celebrating the way you want to. Feel like spending all your free time drinking mulled wine in your pajamas from mid-November to the New Year? Watching the Home Alone trilogy back to back every weekend day? Making a version of Thanksgiving dinner every Thursday so you can have leftover turkey sandwiches until you’re thoroughly sick of them (just in time for Christmas)? You can do that. And anything else you want
  5. Holiday shopping—for yourself. The holiday shopping season is well upon us, and now, instead of hemming and hawing over what gift will be appropriate for a partner who probably won’t appreciate it anyway, you can spend equal energy hemming and hawing over what to get for yourself. Go on, treat yourself!

6. Focusing on what matters. With all the mental energy you’ll be saving this year by not fighting with your ex/soon-to-be-ex, you’ll have space to focus on the truly good things about life, your future, yourself, your kids if you have them … Basically, the things that the holidays are actually supposed to be about.

7. Focusing on pumpkin pie. Failing that, you can always bury yourself in some delicious, warm-with-ice-cream-on-toppumpkin pie. Mmmmmm.

8. Only dealing with your own baggage. There are going to be hard moments during the holidays, let’s face it. But now you only have to deal with your own stuff—not yours and someone else’s.

9. No fights over whether or not to send out holiday cards. Some people like doing this, some people loathe it. Those who think couples should do it end up doing most of the work and resenting it. Those who think it doesn’t matter end up frustrated. Now you can do it your way, whichever way that is; this is one holiday fight that’s no more.

10. New beginnings. I saved the best for last. This is the thing to be most thankful for as you go through your divorce: a new start. As the year winds to a close, you are finishing one crappy chapter, and in all likelihood starting the best chapter, of your Use the time to focus on what’s important, who you are, who you want to be, and where you—only you—want to go next.

Have something to ask, or add, or want to throw something at me? You can do it virtually by tweeting or posting to Facebook or leaving a comment below!

James J. Sexton

6 Awkward Post-Divorce Moments (and Tips for Handling Them)

There’s something about going through a divorce that makes you pretty much bulletproof—eventually. Eventually you don’t care when people ask really awkward questions, or when you’ve been walking around with toilet paper stuck to your leg for two hours. Eventually, after you’ve been through a tough divorce, nothing short of life-and-death could make you bat an eye.

But during a divorce? Not so much. Let’s be honest here: divorce is a fragile time for everybody. And it takes a while to get back on your feet. YOU WILL. But it takes some getting there.

Unfortunately, this is when the awkwardness creeps in. You’ve gone through and are still going through a huge transition, and suddenly you’re dealing with stuff like, your neighbor asking you whether your spouse is traveling a lot for work lately, or being invited to the birthday party of someone’s kid, as a family. It’s awkward. It’s even a little painful.

Here’s how to handle some of the more common moments you’ll run into—advice prepared with a hint of humor and a dash of pragmatism, as per usual.

Kid-Focused Events
If you’re doing the co-parenting thing, which most people these days are, this is one you’re sure to run into pretty regularly. This advice applies to your kids’ sports games, piano recitals, school plays, birthday parties, Girl Scout thingies and so on.

When it comes to your kids, you have to be there, and you have to be composed. The key thing to have in mind is: when in doubt, focus on the kids. Feel a wave of resentment coming on because your spouse is late? Focus on how cute your kid looks in that carrot costume. Another thing that works in these situations is to make a concerted effort to talk vivaciously to the other parents. Be the social butterfly, you’ll find you’re able to avoid talking to your ex or soon-to-be-ex, and you’ll be nice and distracted from thinking about them being there.

Running Into People Who Don’t Know.
I found that this was a real challenge at first. It takes about a year for everybody to catch on to the fact that you and your ex aren’t together anymore, and that’s through no fault of their own; yet I found myself getting impatient with having to explain, even vaguely, to yet another person that Yes, my marriage fell apart, and how are you?

A big, helpful crutch in this situation—which you’ll stop needing once you start feeling less, eh, vulnerable—is to have a statement prepared. Have a one- or two-sentence answer that you use, which is generally a nice combination of grateful-for-your-concern and no-further-questions-on-the-subject-please. Then go immediately to asking about them. People love to talk about themselves.

When People Ask Intrusive Questions
So how about when you’re at said event, and someone with no sense of boundaries whatsoever asks you, loudly, “So what happened between you and [insert spouse name here]?? You were such a great couple!!!” Yeah, stuff like that gets said. In such situations, a good thing to remember is that this person is the one who should be embarrassed—not you. And then refer to number 2.

Events with THAT Side of the Family
For a lot of us, divorcing our spouse doesn’t mean divorcing their family. I happen to get along great with lots of my ex-wife’s extended family, and particularly for the kids’ sake, you might find you want to keep the relationships strong. So showing up at family events is going to happen, and you’re going to have to be prepared.

A good rule of thumb is to have realistic expectations about how people are going to react, especially in the beginning. They’re likely to feel loyal to your ex, because they’re blood, but at the same time they want to be fair to you—so they’re going to feel awkward. Be understanding about that. Don’t say anything that puts pressure on them to choose (like complaining about your ex). And be ready with lots of conversation topics that don’t involve the divorce.

Parties of Mutual Friends
If you feel compelled to go to an event where you ex is likely to also be there, the best thing you can do is to have a plan, which you mentally agree with yourself before you get in the car to go, of a) what to say if you have to talk to them, and b) how you’ll make a graceful exit if such is required. As for a), the main goal is to be civil, bland, and brief.

For b), the main goal is to avoid making any kind of scene, such as arguing in public, crying, & etc.Depending on where you’re at and where your ex is at, this can be a real risk. So explain to the host, if it’s a friend, that you might have to make a quick exit—they’ll surely understand—and if you do, do. No biggie.

First Date
Didn’t expect this one, did you? This is the one that you don’t WANT to be awkward, but it just is. It’s also one of the game-changing moments post-divorce: you’re likely to see things a bit differently before this moment, than after it. So it’s important. But, yeah, it can be pretty awkward.

I think the best advice in this situation is more or less what your mom/dad/grandma told you about dating when you were sixteen: Be yourself. Be honest about the fact that you’re recently divorced—it’s only fair. And if you try to hide that kind of thing, you’re guaranteeing yourself a train wreck. If you’re not ready to tell the person across the table that you’re a divorcee, you’re probably not ready to date—and that’s no biggie, either.

Have something to tell me, want to vent, or need a hug? Leave a comment below or tweet to me.

James J. Sexton


Think They're Still Together? TV Sitcoms Edition

Did you watch so much TV as a kid that sometimes you can’t remember which are your own memories and which belong to Greg Brady? No? Just me? Fair enough. After decades of inviting TV families into my living room, I’m really invested in their everlasting happiness. Sure they’re fictional, but their stories don’t have to end after a series finale. Not when you play my favorite game: hey, think they’re still together?

After facilitating the demise of unhappy marriages for over a decade, we at the firm have developed an eye for spotting which couples are solid and which are likely to end up in our office. Call it a blessing or call it a curse, just please don’t call to invite us to your next party only to make predictions about your neighbors. This game can get ugly when played in real life so let’s just stick to the tube, shall we?

The Nanny – Fran and Max

Still together? NO

When last we saw the Sheffields, they were moving to California with their newborn twins and Grace. Were they destined for that Bower-Micelli brand of marital bliss? They sure started out in a similar setup, but no. Things were fine in California for a while, but then Max’s sitcom got canceled. The economy tanked and Max struggled to make a mark on the LA theatre scene. Deep down, Fran still held a grudge over that first time Max said he loved her then took it back and would bring it up during fights over money. Then tragedy struck — Loehmann’s closed. Fran fell into a catatonic state, the house got foreclosed on and Max split back to England leaving Grace to care for Fran and the twins. Every so often you can catch Grace wheeling Fran around a Nordstrom Rack in the Valley and if you listen carefully you can here Fran muttering “It’s not the same…” over and over.

Who’s the Boss – Tony and Angela

Still together? YES

We never got to see Angela and Tony get married, but I think we can all agree they did. Angela was a modern woman, leaning in from day one, and perhaps would have been happier with a long lasting partnership never officially recognized by the government. But Tony was a different story. His strong Italian Catholic roots likely had him insisting on marriage. Angela probably made some wry quip about how they’d been living in sin for eight years so what’s the difference? Tony probably called her Ang and explained how much it meant to him. Angela probably said oh, alright and they hugged while music swelled and the scene faded to black. I’m sure the wedding was at the house. Jonathan was best man. Sam was maid of honor. Mona officiated. It was beautiful! Oh yeah, I guess Billy was there too. But did they last? Yes. Their love developed over time. They started as friends first. They figured out how to live together and how to raise their kids together before romance ever entered the picture. They worked hard at balancing out a power struggle in a unique situation (A man! As a housekeeper! A man!!). So yes, the Bower-Micellis are most likely happily retired in Connecticut right now.

The Cosby Show – Sondra and Elvin

Still together? YES

We’ll just leave the Bill Cosby controversy over there on the other side of the room while we talk about the only Cosby Show relationship that really mattered: Sondra and Elvin. Mismatched from the start, right? How did they even get together? Sondra was driven, responsible and no nonsense. Then Elvin came into her life. You remember Elvin? The misogynist who talked Sondra into dropping out of law school to open a wilderness store because their camping honeymoon was so fun? Yeah, why not throw away everything you worked for on a whim? A wilderness whim! Later on they had twins and got their heads back on straight and both went back to school. But did they last? Yes. Why? Because they had busy careers, outsourced their childcare and never saw each other. It was easier to stay married than get divorced and they got to live their lives happily and separately.

Mad About You – Paul and Jamie

Still together? NO

In the finale set years in the future, the Buchmans were separated. Love’s rekindled at daughter Mabel’s film screening and we’re told they lived happily ever after. But did they? Paul left Jamie for being “unkind.” I don’t think you can ever truly come back from that, spark or no spark. That’s a shot right to the gut not a lot of people could move past. I’m sure they tried to make it work for a while but ultimately there too much pain and resentment there.

Family Matters – Harriette and Carl

Still together? NO

The odds were really stacked against the Winslows. Both had stressful careers, Carl an overworked Chicago police officer and Harriette, once an elevator operator, then head of security, then head of sales. They had a full house — three kids, a widowed sister, a nephew, a mother and later on an orphan named 3J. How could any marriage survive with that many people around? Then there was Urkel who was always barging in, practically destroying the house with his bungled inventions, and endlessly annoying everyone he, or his alter ego came in contact with. Urkel’s constant presence in the Winslow home could not have been healthy for the marriage. Taxing jobs, an overflowing house, and the world’s worst neighbor: a recipe for marriage disaster.

Boy Meets World – Cory and Topanga

Still together? YES

Do we even need to talk about this? Yes, they stayed together. Duh. Next!


Family Ties – Elyse and Steven

Still together? YES

What a kooky liberal pair. They made it through the Reagan eighties intact so they’d be able to make it through anything. And with Alex off on Wall Street, Mallory married off to Nick, Jennifer well on her way to Oberlin and Andy fading away into thin air as he was a figment of everyone’s imagination (a real child cannot age five years in the span of one season, clearly he was an apparition all along), Elyse and Steven had the time and space to recommit to each other. Boy did their love flourish in those Clinton years.

Saved By The Bell – Kelly and Zack

Still together? NO

What a fairytale! High school sweethearts turned college newlyweds! What could go wrong? Everything! Zack kept scheming his way through life, and while the entrepreneur lifestyle was fun for a while it ended in trademark infringement and a brush with securities fraud. While Zack avoided jail time, he did lose the house and both cars. Then to top it off, drunk one night, Zack confessed he had the ability to freeze time, a secret he’d been keeping for his whole life. Kelly was furious. They were supposed to be partners! They were supposed to tell each other everything! She packed up the kids and headed to the Midwest hoping to find a good wholesome man with a stable job, a strong work ethic, no magical powers and a reasonably sized cell phone.

The Office – Dawn and Tim

Still together? YES

Arguing which version of The Office is better is a debate for another day, but it’s pretty clear Dawn and Tim lived happily ever after. Another slow building relationship, Dawn and Tim were friends first. They bonded over miserable jobs and everyone knows misery brings people together more effectively than anything good can. Maybe they settled in Slough or maybe they made their way to a better city to live out their dreams. Who knows, but I’m sure wherever they went, they went together.


James J. Sexton