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What’s the Big Deal With Ben Affleck Working On His Marriage?

We should be patting Affleck on the back for his dedication rather than questioning whether his marriage is in trouble.

| February 27th, 2013
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Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner at the Oscars

When Ben Affleck accepted the Best Picture Oscar for "Argo" on Sunday night, his speech was filled with genuine emotion—about getting knocked down in Hollywood, about the people who helped lift him up and about his wife Jennifer Garner, whom he thanked for “working on our marriage for 10 Christmases.” He added that it’s “the best kind of work” and that “there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

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While Garner smiled and teared up in a reaction shot, Affleck’s words got less friendly reactions elsewhere. Social networks lit up with people scoffing at the actor-director’s choice to call his relationship “work,” and several articles questioning the state of his marriage appeared online.

It makes you wonder if, especially on such a star-studded night, people expect romantic relationships to exist in a state of Hollywood-esque ease and perfection. “Too many people still hold onto the idea that marriage shouldn’t be work,” says Rachel A. Sussman, relationship expert and author of “The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing From a Breakup or Divorce.” “We hope that we too will live the Hollywood fairy tale. That’s why we’re taken aback when we hear of celebrity couples ‘working’ on their marriage.”

MORE: The Health Benefits of Marriage

And yet the Academy Awards is about celebrating work—work as directors, actors, film editors and more. So if working at a successful career is such a praise-worthy endeavor, shouldn’t working at love be an even more ambitious and noble pursuit? Dr. Ruth thinks so. After Affleck’s speech, the famous sex therapist and author tweeted, "Nothing I could say about ur relationship that Ben Affleck didn't last nite: work hard, don't hold grudges, work harder!"

Sussman agrees. “The more you put into anything—exercise, gardening, friendships, a graduate degree—the greater the rewards and benefits,” she says. “All relationships, not just romantic ones, take work. We do this with our children, but we don’t call it work. We call it love.”

MORE: How to Fight With Your Partner—Without Ruining Your Relationship

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