Enough With The ‘Wife Guy’ Already — Chances Are, He’s Toxic As Hell

We all dream of finding loving, supportive partners who are our biggest cheerleaders. That’s why the idea of the “wife guy” was initially so alluring. There was someone who was all about elevating us to being our best selves and singing our praises to anyone who would listen. It seemed like a relationship utopia. Sadly, as with all things that seem too good to be true, the wife guy is a toxic mess. Here’s why you should avoid men who adopt this persona like the plague.

What is a “wife guy”?

The term “wife guy” was first coined back in 2016 and used in reference to memes about wives. Robbie Tripp’s Instagram post with his wife back in 2017 made the concept go viral, and suddenly guys everywhere were imitating him. It wasn’t until 2019, however, that the media took notice of the phenomenon. At that point, New York Magazine defined wife guys as “the men who make themselves famous for things their wives did, or qualities their wives have or had.”

These days, the “wife guy” more casually describes a man who seems to base his entire personality on how much he adores the woman in his life. He champions her achievements, publicly declares his everlasting love for her, and claims he’d be nothing without her. If you read that without rolling your eyes, congratulations — it really is as obnoxious and ridiculous as it sounds.

Why are wife guys so toxic?

  1. They’re full of sh*t. It’s great to have a partner who believes in you and is proud of your achievements. However, when a guy goes over the top with his effusive praise, he usually has ulterior motives. Either he doesn’t have a life of his own and he’s trying to live vicariously through his partner, or, more likely, he’s got something to hide. He believes that by appearing to be the perfect partner in public, he can get away with more behind closed doors.
  2. The wife guy is using his wife for his own benefit. When a man bases his entire personality on a woman’s achievements, it’s usually because he thinks there’s a way for him to benefit from it. For instance, he’ll automatically get more attention and praise himself for being so supportive and affectionate. In this way, he’s extremely disingenuous and it’s pretty gross. As relationship expert Kate Leggett tells the New York Post, there’s nothing sweet about it. “They’re doing a big gesture for their partner — but it’s also for the world — that takes away the inherent kind of sacredness of it and makes it more transactional and performative,” she explains.
  3. It’s a way to cover up abuse, manipulation, and other bad behaviors. Again, because the wife guy is getting so much positive feedback from the outside world, people would be way less likely to believe that he’s capable of being toxic or abusive. The automatic assumption is that he’s kind, caring, and attentive. He respects his partner far too much to ever treat her badly, right? Wrong.
  4. It reinforces the incredibly low bar women have set for men. Women have already started to expect so little from men that we gobble up the smallest crumbs without hesitation. By holding men who seem to actually care about their female partners in such high esteem, we’re keeping our standards way too low. Things will never change if we don’t demand better.
  5. It’s an excuse for complacency. Wife guys can hold their partners’ achievements up to the public eye as a way to sit back and accomplish very little themselves. In other words, they can ride women’s coattails to the top without ever contributing much themselves.

Examples of awful wife guys in the public eye

  1. Adam Levine Look no further than the Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, who’s always positioned himself as a champion of women’s rights and the ultimate wife guy. Of course, his so-called love and respect for his wife, Behati Prinsloo, weren’t enough to keep him from cheating on her with multiple Instagram models. One look at his private messages to the multiple younger women (a whole other abuse of power we won’t get into here) is enough to make us want to be sick.
  2. Ned Fulmer You have to have been living under a rock to have missed out on this scandal. Ned Fulmer, a member of the YouTube group the “Try Guys,” build basically his entire career on just how crazy he is about his wife, Ariel. Oh, but wait one second. Just last month, Fulmer was exposed for having an affair with another woman. Odd choice, given the deep connection he and his wife shared, no? Fulmer is no longer in the group, by the way.
  3. John Mulaney Let’s not forget that back in 2021, Mulaney, who literally based a good portion of his stand-up material on his love for wife Anna Marie Tendler, filed for divorce after six years. He didn’t bother to wait at all to move in with his new girlfriend, Olivia Munn, and have a baby with her, though. Keep it classy, guys.

A small caveat

While the wife guy as we know him is full of red flags, the general principles behind it, when genuine, are positive things. Supporting your partner, celebrating her achievements, and not being shy about expressing your love for her are all good things. However, when it’s done to excess and seemingly to cover up any number of toxic traits and behaviors, that’s when it becomes a problem.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not just wife guys who cheat, lie, and screw over their female partners. However, it’s exceptionally noteworthy given how publicly these men insist they’re dedicated to their relationships. Their actions being in direct opposition to those claims is part of what makes them so toxic.

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill