The Oxford Languages dictionary definition of “power couple” is “a couple consisting of two people who are each influential or successful in their own right.” In media and popular culture, this definition is often expanded to refer to a couple that is well-liked and seems to have a strong relationship—or, as the top entry in Urban Dictionary puts it, “a relationship between two people who are equally as cool as each other [...] Together, they are the epitome of what anyone would desire in a relationship.” You can also spend time looking at the Getty Images database to see numerous examples of power couples; overall, there is no shortage of ways to see what exactly this phrase means in our society today.
Of course, no one truly knows the health or content of a relationship except the two who are in it and possibly their families, and factors like social media sometimes incentivize people to make their relationships look happier or filled with more mutual love than they are. In addition, people and their connections are unique and everyone can love differently, so it’s generally impossible and even unfair to hold them all to the same standard. However, that doesn’t mean that many people aren’t interested in being in a relationship that’s deserving of the “power couple” label or having a “power family”—whatever that means to them.
1. They Are Both Committed To The Relationship
While the traditional “power couple” may make having a family and relationship appear effortless (a good example being former first lady Michelle Obama, former president Barack Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha), this is an impossible standard. In reality, relationships are like joint projects: They require consistent dedication from both parties to regularly put in the work, not only to be lovers but to remain close friends; if they don’t put in that effort, they likely have little chance of being successful. It’s a good reminder that most relationships need attention and effort to flourish. Even if we don’t see Barack and Michelle Obama putting in the work to their relationship, we can understand they both invested in growing with one another through quality time together. Furthermore, we can all take comfort in the fact that, while they may make it look as easy as love at first sight, power couples on social media or in the tabloids have to put in just as much work as anyone to make their relationship function. Be aware of the tendency to let your perception of their effort levels make you feel like there’s something wrong with your own relationship.
2. They Both Have Their Own Strengths
One key characteristic of the “traditional” power couple is that they’re both confident and successful in their respective fields, like Tom Cruise and several of his former wives (including Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes, and Mimi Rogers). Throughout these relationships, Tom Cruise and his partners found the time to continue to focus on their career (even though Tom has three children), and while wild career success is definitely not required for a healthy relationship, there is a helpful takeaway from this aspect of the power-couple dynamic. Another example of a power couple with this dynamic is Jennifer Lopez and her husband Ben Affleck. Jennifer Lopez, who has two children, and Ben Affleck, who has three children of his own, started dating again in July of 2021. Throughout their new rekindled relationship they have found the time to balance their careers and families while maintaining their success in the film industry. This likely helps them maintain a good dynamic and hold on to their “power couple” status.
Another power couple with their own strengths is Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Before coming to the relationship, each individual had grown their career. Meghan Markle was a successful actress and Prince Harry served in the military as a helicopter pilot. Their past experiences in life developed them into the people they are today and are part of what makes Meghan Markle and Prince Harry a power couple.
Typically, each person in these couples has their own strengths, which seems to help avoid feelings of inferiority on either side and make for a positive, balanced dynamic.
3. They Keep Their Conflicts
Just because you haven’t personally witnessed conflicts between a couple does not mean they don’t happen. With celebrity power couples, for example, some people assume that they are each other’s best friend, or that they never disagree or get upset with each other because they’ve personally never seen headlines about their problems. This is generally the effect of the media doing their polishing rather than a true reflection of their dynamic. Whether people have been together for two months or two decades, conflict is typically an inherent part of being in any kind of relationship with another person. While some relationships may be low-conflict, that doesn’t mean they’re naturally perfect.
Having arguments in the street or roping your friends into fights with your partner may not be the healthiest ways to handle disputes in your relationship. One couple whose disputes made headlines was former Fresh Prince star Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. Another example would be Beyonce and her other half Jay Z, specifically Jay Z getting into a verbal argument with his wife and her sister at a Met Gala in 2014. They likely worked out these issues as they remained together, having a second daughter and son in 2017. In these cases, the perspective of a therapist may be helpful to couples who want to learn about different tools and strategies for resolving conflict in a healthy way. A trained professional can also help people identify unhealthy patterns that may be present in their dynamic and uncover ways to improve them.
4. They Support Each Other
Per the study, healthy levels of this trait allow couples to be connected and support each other without losing their respective senses of self. A good example of a family with this power couple dynamic would be former reality TV host and model Chrissy Teigen, her music industry powerhouse husband John Legend, and their son Miles. Their dynamic is one you can see in the traditional “power couple,” as well as one that any couple may want to strive for. Another example of this dynamic can be found between former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and her husband David Beckham, whose first date happened all the way back in 1997. They are a power couple that seems to have been supportive since their relationship started, and continue to exemplify (what looks like from the outside) to be a healthy dynamic with their four children.
So what can we learn from these couples? These and other supportive power couples show a balance of independence and interconnectedness may be the ticket to allowing a pair to thrive both individually and as a couple. This balance would require each person to take responsibility for building a fulfilling, independent life, and for both to support that in the other.
Any outsider’s image of the health of a “power couple’s” relationship is limited and may even be skewed, so comparing your relationship to theirs isn’t a helpful exercise. You can learn from what power couples such as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry do well while still focusing on what you and your partner bring to the relationship. In general, it’s true that most any couple wants to enjoy a happy, healthy dynamic that works well for them. While it may be difficult to bring up certain relationship topics at the dinner table, therapy is an option many pairs look to for help in achieving their goal of becoming a “power couple.”
Whether you’re interested in seeking counseling as an individual or with a future wife, husband, or any other form of partner, online therapy may be a valuable option. With an online counseling service like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist who you meet with virtually. One study suggests that clients may find it even easier to build a personal relationship with their provider through online therapy than through in-person sessions. If you feel that seeking therapy is the right choice for you and your relationship, know that there are plenty of different options out there so that you can find what’s best for you.
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