Jonathan Van Ness's pandemic fairy tale marriage

The Queer Eye star talks newlywed life, couples therapy, and classic rom-coms.

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Key takeaways

  • Jonathan Van Ness says strong communication and mutual compassion have been key to navigating newlywed life.
  • Van Ness says it's important to recognize that every relationship is different, so couples need to define the relationship that works for them.

Growing up in the Midwest, Jonathan Van Ness always loved the idea of having a movie-perfect wedding.

"I wanted My Best Friend's Wedding," says Van Ness. "I wanted to be Cameron Diaz," who eventually marries the dashing Dermot Mulroney in the classic rom-com.

But Van Ness identified as gay, and the Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality decision was still many years away. So it seemed like an experience that might never be in the cards.

"I truly never thought that I would be allowed to be married," says Van Ness. "I thought that it was something that wasn't for me, but it's definitely something that I desperately wanted."

An Instagram meet-cute

Fast forward to 2019. Van Ness (who uses he, she, and/or they pronouns) had become a star of the Netflix series Queer Eye and the host of the podcast Getting Curious. They had hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, who loved Van Ness's authenticity, personality, and positive message of self-acceptance.

And then one day, Van Ness received a direct message from a follower—a red-head based in the UK—asking about the source of their "jumper," as the British refer to sweaters.

"Mark slid into my DMs," says Van Ness. "And I was like 'Oh my gosh, he's the cutest guy I've ever seen.'"

Before long, Van Ness and the mysterious red-head, Mark Peacock, had "a little baby date" in New York. And the rest was history. When Van Ness was in London for a comedy tour, the couple went on another date, then began seeing each other every day, ultimately launching a trans-continental romance.

"I felt like I didn't have to be someone else. I felt like I didn't have to be on," when they were together, Van Ness says. "I felt like he was someone who just really appreciated where I was—wherever I was."

A pandemic wedding

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and suddenly, a trans-Atlantic long-distance relationship was no longer feasible.

"I was like, 'Oh my god, I don't want to lose you,'" says Van Ness. Peacock managed to take one of the last flights out of London before travel was restricted. Then, the couple realized they were ready for an even bigger step. Van Ness and Peacock tied the knot in the summer of 2020.

"The pandemic has kind of laid bare that you're either going to go for it or you're not," Van Ness says. "It really makes you realize what you want, and what you're willing to work and fight for."

Married life, unfiltered

While Van Ness and Peacock's relationship may sound like a pandemic-era fairy tale, the couple have also had their struggles. The key to getting through them, says Van Ness, is the same thing that underlies any successful relationship: communication. Specifically, Van Ness advocates openness, honesty, compassion—and couples therapy.

"We can talk about our upbringings and the ways that our families may have been totally different," Van Ness says of their couples therapy experience. "It's really a safe, secure space for us to communicate our feelings."

Like many couples, Van Ness and Peacock discovered early on that they had different communication styles. "I am very direct and once I set my mind to something I am really focused," Van Ness says. Peacock, on the other hand, takes a more measured approach. "Mark likes to really think about things and be more discerning, which has been so good for me. I feel like we balance each other out."

That's not to say that every moment is bliss—disagreements and arguments do arise. When that happens, Van Ness tries to extend compassion to them both.

"Life is stressful, and we're all going through so much," says Van Ness. "We're all doing the best we can with what we know."

Van Ness also recommends waiting to have tough conversations with a partner until you're "in a clear head space." Depending on what resonates for you, exercise, time outside, or doing something creative may be able to help clear your head and bring clarity on difficult decisions, they say.

The marriage that works for you

One of the biggest lessons Van Ness has gleaned from marriage is that one couple's relationship doesn't have to look like anyone else's.

"Every relationship is totally different," Van Ness says. "What works for one couple may not—and will not—work for the couple right next to them, because everyone's lived experience is so different."

In Van Ness' marriage, for instance, the couple takes a relaxed approach to their finances. They discuss big financial decisions, like large purchases or investments, but trust one another to make their own decisions on smaller items, like gardening supplies for Peacock or a new bathrobe for Van Ness.

Making time for what matters

Today, Van Ness is busier than ever—with a new haircare company, JVN, launching, more podcast episodes underway, and frequent updates on YouTube.

But Van Ness makes their marriage a priority—getting to know Peacock's family, gobbling up the full English breakfasts Peacock prepares, and spending time with their 2 dogs and 5 cats. It's even better than the rom-com life, and marriage, that Van Ness once imagined.

"I just feel like it's been getting better and better and better," Van Ness says of their marriage. "And I look forward to every day."

Next steps to consider

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