Here’s a fun riddle: What do a basketball coach, a “musician,” and a millennial YouTuber have in common? One very particular moral failing — allegedly.
It’s been a rough few weeks for married men who want to cheat on their wives, I guess. First, news broke that Nia Long’s fiancé, Ime Udoka — who I did not know existed until last week, but now I obviously hate him more than anyone I’ve ever met — was allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with someone he worked with as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. He’s since been suspended from his job while most of the internet has tried to wrap its collective arms around Long in a protective embrace, as she deserves.
Then, a model named Sumner Stroh claimed on TikTok that Adam Levine, who allegedly has the sexting prowess of a 13-year-old boy, cheated on his very pregnant wife, Behati Prinsloo, with her. More women came forward after Stroh posted her TikTok. (In a statement, Levine denied cheating but admitted he “crossed the line.”) Meanwhile, I’m personally still waiting for an apology for the Sanskrit tattoo on his chest that he claims means “tapas” and my mother tells me actually translates to “odor.”
The rule of three applies for both celebrity deaths and affairs, but who could have predicted the last one that would round out the group? The internet now is abuzz with news that Ned Fulmer of the former BuzzFeed entity the Try Guys, a group of four men who try stuff that other people do all the time, cheated on his wife and content collaborator Ariel Fulmer. And it gets worse: Redditors have been digging around and believe that he cheated on Ariel with producer Alex Herring, a member of the Try Guys staff and another former BuzzFeed employee. She has not made any public statement about the allegations. (Full disclosure: BuzzFeed Inc. has a financial stake in 2nd Try LLC.)
Wife Guys aren’t just men who are married, they’re men who won’t shut up about how married they are.
Fulmer has since confirmed on Twitter that he had a “consensual workplace relationship,” adding, “I’m sorry for any pain that my actions might have caused to the guys and the fans but most of all Ariel.” The remaining Guys released a statement earlier in the day announcing that Fulmer would no longer be working with them: “As a result of a thorough internal review, we do not see a path forward together.” Ariel Fulmer released a statement at the same time. “Nothing is more important to me and Ned than our family,” she wrote, “and all we request right now is that you respect our privacy for the sake of our kids.”
The alleged Udoka affair seems like a different beast altogether — he’s not a Wife Guy, or at least not yet — but what Levine and Fulmer have in common is the fact that they were (and are, for now at least) notorious Wife Guys. If you’re unfamiliar with a Wife Guy, you’re living a blessed life and I am jealous.
A Wife Guy is a man whose fame or branding is largely predicated on the fact that he’s in love with the woman he married. There have been several Wife Guys in history: Ina Garten’s husband, Jeffrey, John Legend, Ryan Reynolds, Curvy Wife Guy, John Mulaney (before, well, you know). Wife Guys aren’t just men who are married, they’re men who won’t shut up about how married they are. Their wives aren’t mere mortals, they’re goddesses who grace their husbands with vague tolerance of their middling failures and insufficiency. Wife Guys are so grateful to have wives — have always being the operative word.
Wife Guys write Instagram captions on their anniversaries about “another tour around the sun with this one.” Their Twitter bios list them as husbands and fathers and nothing much else. (Fulmer’s Instagram bio indeed still describes him as “@arielmfulmer’s husband.”) The wives of Wife Guys, meanwhile, stop having identities of their own postnuptials; in quick order, they are referred to almost exclusively as “my wife.” To be a Wife Guy is to put your wife on a pedestal so preposterously high that she stops being a person altogether.
Anecdotally, it seems to always be the worst Wife Guys who stray. It’s all a little lady-doth-protest-too-much, isn’t it? Adam Levine famously put his wife and child in the music video for Maroon 5’s 2018 song “Girls Like You.” Now he’s been accused of asking the woman he allegedly cheated with if he could name his unborn child after her.
Fulmer is an exemplary Wife Guy because he monetized it so well. The Try Guys started their own production company, 2nd Try LLC. And as their audience has grown up, so have the guys. In early videos, they wore labor pain simulators and tried out acrylic nails for a day. Now they’re married and having children of their own, which eventually begat the Try Wives. Ariel Fulmer isn’t just Ned Fulmer’s wife but a part of the business. Last year, the couple published The Date Night Cookbook, full of photos of them feeding each other croutons. (The chocolate cake decorated with “I’m sorry” certainly seems apt now, Ned. Let me know if it works.)
Ariel is an interior designer, but her income and public persona are inextricably tied to her husband. And what is her husband without his wife? What is a Wife Guy when he ruins his relationship with the wife in question?
Who can you trust if not the men who are effusively, publicly, and industrially talking about how much they love their wives?
Online drama gawkers, it seems, are both surprised by the allegations against Fulmer and not surprised at all, a fine balance of “I can’t believe a Wife Guy would do this” and “of course a Wife Guy would do this.” A June 16 Instagram video of Fulmer dancing (poorly, I really can’t stress enough — it’s so rough to watch) with Herring and Try Guys editor YB Chang now has a truly bonkers array of comments. “The alex girl kinda seems insecure and unsure of herself,” one user wrote earlier today. “I can tell from her insta too. Maybe that could be a reason to be a homewrecker.” Another was more succinct, and perhaps more accurate: “men bruh.”
The Try Guys encourage parasocial relationships; that’s what the business is built on. They want us to be invested in their lives. Sharing their personal lives with their audience helped build their careers. It was a strategy designed to make their viewers feel like they were a part of their lives and, in Ned and Ariel’s instance, their relationship. Why else would 4.8 million people earnestly care about Ned and Ariel’s house tour or Ariel’s first mammogram? Creators like the Try Guys want us to root for the Wife Guy, and plenty of us do; the other side of that is the same audience will bear witness to when the Wife Guy inevitably falls.
Moralizing isn’t usually very interesting to me — the only person whose opinion matters about Fulmer’s possible extramarital affairs is his wife. But can a Wife Guy blame us for falling for the very trap he laid out in the first place? Isn’t the point of being a Wife Guy to get everyone to think you’re a good guy — so good, in fact, that you would never step outside the confines of your traditionally monogamous marriage that you’ve been in since your mid-20s, especially not with an employee? If the Wife Guys are cheating, is anyone loyal? Who can you trust if not the men who are effusively, publicly, and industrially talking about how much they love their wives?
We all take our place in the internet content ecosystem. The Try Guys make the thing. Wife Guys like Fulmer ruin the thing. Then people like me — parasitic little barnacles, antennae wiggling around in glee knowing that food is here — round out the ritual by writing pieces like these. An added bonus? Writing it for the very media conglomerate that launched this Wife Guy into the world in the first place. ●