The Self-Sabotage of “The Wife Guy”


Ned Fulmer pinned his online persona on his wife, then cheated on her. (Courtesy of Instagram)

In a long turn of events, the detective work of Redditors and TikTokers alike proved to be based in fact: Ned Fulmer of The Try Guys is a cheater. If none of these words mean anything to you, do not fear; they don’t to most people. The Try Guys is a YouTube group that was originally a branch of Buzzfeed and now has garnered almost eight million subscribers on their own channel. Their content consists of the four members, keeping with the name, trying things. Each member of the quartet (now trio) has created a persona for themselves that is unmissable to viewers. In the spirit of this article, Fulmer has always been the “wife guy.” Another term that is easy to miss if not constantly online: a “wife guy” is, according to The New York Times, a “a man who has risen to prominence online by posting content about his wife.”

On a quick Google search of The Try Guys, it can be found that Fulmer is far and away the most successful financially, with an estimated net worth that is almost five times that of the second most successful member of the group. Fulmer’s activities outside of the group are in collaboration with his wife, Ariel. Whether it is their home restoration show “Try DIY,” their date night recipe inspired cookbook or their parental podcast “Baby Steps,” it is clear that in his efforts outside of The Try Guys, it has been Fulmer’s family man persona that helped him reach this success, far surpassing those of his ex-group members. On top of everything else, at the center of the cheating scandal with Fulmer is another member of The Try Guys team. Fulmer’s audacity to break his facade and cheat with one of his own employees, also a coworker of his wife’s, has left many fans feeling betrayed and angry on her behalf and Fulmer unemployed. 

While cheating scandals of the past entertainment world tended to leave celebrities unscathed by the general public (think Brad Pitt in the aughts), the sheer amount of them along with the way the men in the relationships have presented themselves, have resulted in people feeling more genuinely disappointed than entertained by new gossip. While Adam Levine was exposed for sending Instagram DMs to Instagram model Sumner Stroh on TikTok, inferring his infidelity toward his wife Behati Prinsloo, the cheating aspect of the situation was almost completely overshadowed online by Levine’s inadequate flirting skills depicted in the DMs. Not only did Levine’s lack of game lessen the public blow of him asking Stroh if he can name the baby he and Prinsloo are expecting after her, but most people do not immediately associate Levine with Prinsloo and in turn, they do not feel deceived.

This brings us to the kickoff of the entire downfall of the wife guy: John Mulaney. Mulaney is a stand-up comedian who rose to fame for his work as a writer on “Saturday Night Live.” In each of his three comedy specials on Netflix, he mentions his now ex-wife, Anna Marie Tendler. His wife, his wife, his wife! In his special “The Comeback Kid,” he had a bit where he spoke about how much he loves saying “my wife.” Ironically, the woman who Mulaney called his “hero” is the one he divorced a decade into their marriage. Due to the sheer amount he mentioned her in his stand-up, fans became a little (a lot) attached to their relationship. Not only did they begin to love Tendler as well, but it made them like Mulaney a whole lot more; he presented himself as a doting husband, and so he came off as a great guy. Many fans turned on Mulaney when a baby with actress Olivia Munn arrived not far after his separation from Tendler. The drama that was bubbling under the surface surrounding the comedian blew up in his face, but is it only his fault? Or did fans disappoint themselves by giving into the charms of just another wife guy?

Mulaney’s only job when onstage is to get fans to laugh. It’s true that he created this persona for himself, but fans continued enforcing it on their own terms as well, long after finishing a comedy special of Mulaney’s. Romanticizing a relationship one is not a part of is as good of an example of a parasocial relationship as any. The marriage of Tendler and Mulaney could have never ended without a slew of people being also deeply upset by it, regardless of how or why it happened. 

While the root of the problem among all this is Mulaney’s facade, leading to fans’ unnecessary investment in things that do not concern them personally, the whole situation calls for the demolition of the wife guy persona. One might ask after being told the definition of it: Isn’t that just a husband? This reveals the ground-level standards that straight men are expected to comply with in relationships. There should not be any reason for people to praise a man they don’t know for saying he loves his wife in the first place. But unfortunately, the way society views men and women’s responsibilities in heterosexual relationships often leaves the woman with the role of providing affection and flattery. This props up the men who are simply willing to say “I love my wife” in public to be seen as a unicorn.

Whether it is Ned Fulmer talking about his wife in the midst of baking a cake without a recipe or John Mulaney’s inability of finishing a stand-up show without professing his love for his 5 foot wife and their famed dog Petunia, we have to quit tricking ourselves into thinking that these random guys are at the peak of romance. Furthermore, they should stop centering their relationships in their career if they don’t want to be at the forefront of the backlash. Especially if they know it is only a matter of time before it emerges that these personas may have been nothing but overcompensation for something that they should feel guilty about.