How the Beckhams Accidentally Gave Us Good Marriage Advice

6 min read


The Beckhams have spoken. After years in the limelight, the Beckham mini-series released on Netflix has given the world an inside look at this couple’s experience of finding each other, navigating career challenges, surviving in the public eye, and raising their family. In the series, soccer star David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, arguably Britain’s “it” couple, share the highs and lows of their life together. Episodes follow David’s career from a child learning soccer to his success as a professional, while also showing how his career impacted his family, in many ways negatively. The public saw a soccer star and his pop-star wife living a dream life, but just beneath the surface, they were living a real life.

Watching their story unfold highlighted two important truths of successful long-term relationships from which we can all learn. While we don’t have all the intimate details of how they navigated the harder times, we can still find some takeaways about what it really looks like to be in a long-term marriage.

Spoiler Alert: I will be discussing the Beckham mini-series including plot points. If you haven’t seen it, you may want to watch it first.

Relationships Look Better From the Outside

It’s easy to observe a relationship and think it’s perfect, especially when that’s what most couples portray on social media and in conversation. We tend to see celebrity couples as particularly perfect, watching them on their romantic dates, seeing them praise each other during interviews, and observing their lavish, fun-filled lifestyles splashed across our screens.

However, watching the Beckhams discuss the moments and decisions behind every opportunity shows the real story. Victoria admits to not being thrilled about several moves, including their time in Spain. She talks about wanting roots for their children and disliking the sudden changes they had to make to accommodate David’s career. David opens up about the mental anguish he experienced when he was on the receiving end of hatred from fans and even his country, or when he was iced out by his coach. And how about that time when Victoria was having a c-section while David took photos with Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez? She openly admits to being “pissed,” and the world can certainly understand why. We saw a glam shot of David and two fantastic female singers, and we couldn’t have known that his wife was uncomfortable at the end of her pregnancy and unhappy that he was taking photos instead of being with her. There are so many of these moments that we can’t know about couples.

The world saw a famous couple traveling the world together, embracing each new opportunity with zeal, but the real story is far from it. They grappled with balancing their career goals and family life, and had some trying times as they did so.

It’s a reminder that what we see from the outside is inaccurate. Every couple has struggles and no one’s life is perfect, no matter how hard they try to make it seem that way.

Marriages Have Rough Patches

An even more important takeaway from this docuseries is that all marriages have rough patches. If you’re in a long-term, happy, committed marriage, you’ve almost certainly had at least one rough patch, and probably not just a week or two of tension, but an extended length of conflict or doubt that made you wonder if your relationship would survive.

The Beckhams talk about many hard moments they encountered, but the one that shook their foundation most was the accusation of David’s cheating. They don’t go into details (I won’t either), but it’s clear that having this allegation plastered on every newspaper took a toll on the couple. Victoria described it as feeling like they were against each other when usually it was them against the world.

This is a core-shaking rough patch. In any couple, an accusation of infidelity can stir up insecurity, anger, and doubt. Some couples face real affairs that throws their marriage into chaos. Others are challenged by other acute issues like a medical crisis, a mental health issue, or a substance abuse problem. For still others, it’s years of conflict, tension, disconnection, feeling unheard, feeling resentful, and emotionally moving apart. Regardless of the cause, marriages have hard times, and we do everyone a disservice when we pretend that they don’t or shouldn’t.

This, again, speaks to our culture of wanting to portray perfection. We don’t want to talk about that year-long period of time when we thought about divorce. Instead, we put up romantic photos from our yearly vacation with an affectionate message about our spouse. And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating love, but there is something wrong with hiding how hard it can be to sustain love, because it sets an unrealistic expectation that couples can’t meet.

Relationships Take Work

The couples that come to my practice have admirable goals of healing, communicating more effectively, feeling closer and more connected, and fighting less. Many of them, even after achieving these goals, feel unfinished. They point to a conflict that emerged or a few days when they were in a tough place again, and they worry that this will signal a return to the “old days” of fighting unfairly and being disconnected. This is understandable. However, these couples often overlook that they effectively managed these hard moments in a way they hadn’t before. We don’t get to prevent arguments or hurt in our relationship, but we do get to navigate them with greater skill.

No matter how hard we work to improve our relationships, we will still have hard times with our partners. We will still slip back into old patterns of defensiveness, anger, or withdrawal. What matters is whether you continue practicing those old behaviors or if you catch yourself, apologize, and choose to do something different.

In their series, the Beckhams remove whatever misconceptions we’ve held about their lives. They show how their fame and success came with significant trials that challenged their marriage. They remind us that no couple has a “perfect” marriage without problems, and that it’s normal to go through hard times with the person you love. Let’s all take a lesson from them and strive for growth in our relationships instead of perfection.

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