Matt and Abbu Howard talking in their car
(Matt & Abby / YouTube)

This TikTok Couple Built a Following by Promoting Toxic Relationships in the Name of Tradition

Matt and Abby Howard have over 5 million followers on their TikTok channel Matt & Abby and another 7 million subscribers on YouTube. However, many have grown concerned about their social media influence, given they often promote toxic relationships in the name of tradition.

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The couple are high school sweethearts who married while still in college in 2019. After losing their jobs during the pandemic, they began posting to TikTok, quickly going viral. Since then, they have continued sharing their lives with social media and started a podcast, Unplanned, where they often talk about topics related to parenting and marriage. They have been open about how they have “traditional” marriage and are happy to embrace “traditional gender roles.” On the surface, they’re just a fun-loving couple sharing how they live their lives with the world.

However, the pair have become quite infamous on TikTok, frequently going viral for various controversies. What’s most concerning is that there are countless followers who want to model their marriage and their lives after this seemingly model couple. They frequently suggest that their way of marriage and parenting is ideal and what others should strive for. Questions have arisen, though, of whether they’re promoting tradition or unhealthy relationships.

Matt & Abby’s Father’s Day boycott sparks controversy

Most recently, Matt & Abby began popping up in users’ FYP on TikTok over their Father’s Day boycott. In one of their podcast episodes, the couple explained they were boycotting the holiday because Matt’s birthday fell on Father’s Day last year, and the holiday and birthday ended up getting combined and feeling less special. The decision to split the holiday and birthday this year was not controversial. It’s actually pretty common for people whose birthdays fall on holidays to have this feeling and want to ensure there’s separation.

The controversy arose because of how the conversation went down. Abby guiltily admitted that she “kind of combined the holidays.” Matt immediately chimed in, “You did combine the two of them.” However, they both then explain that Abby was very pregnant at the time and that they had come home from their babymoon that same day. She starts talking about how she tried to make the day special still by getting Matt a cake and grilling, which causes Matt to immediately interrupt her, stating, “Well, I grilled, but I know a lot of dads grill on their birthday.” Abby, seemingly trying to defend herself, reminds him that she was literally “growing” his child. However, Matt is still fixated on the combination and how it was “so sad” and “a bummer,” prompting Abby to admit that she “failed” him.

@unplanned_podcast

Have you listened to EP 69 of the podcast: Selling our house, boycotting Father’s Day & quitting breastfeeding #unplannedpodcast @matt_and_abby

♬ original sound – The Unplanned Podcast – The Unplanned Podcast

Naturally, the exchange didn’t sit right with most viewers. She “failed” him for doing the best she could while pregnant?! Many viewers wondered what exactly he was expecting, given they’d just gotten home from a trip and his wife was heavily pregnant. A DQ cake and having family over for a grill out sounds lovely. It’s understandable if they admitted that the timing wasn’t great and they wanted to do things differently this year, but what’s with all the shame and guilt-tripping? Did he really need to interrupt his wife multiple times to remind her he’s still salty that he had to grill a year ago?

@averybrynn1

don’t yell at me please

♬ original sound – Avery
@moonshot4589

I make light of it but my husband has sacrificed his birthday and fathers day for years and never complained. For anyone who doesn’t know I’m talking about just search matt and abby fathers day. #couplescontent #mattandabby #fathersday

♬ original sound – moonshot4589

Perhaps this exchange wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if it hadn’t been for the many past controversies.

Why viewers are concerned about Matt & Abby

As mentioned above, Matt & Abby have gone viral in the past for controversial videos and comments on their podcast. Back in 2022, a now-deleted video went viral where Matt decided to “surprise” Abby by cleaning the house for once and taking care of their newborn son so she could go to the gym. He explained that they had a “traditional household,” so she did most of the cleaning and child-raising. Viewers were shocked when he stated, “Don’t be fooled by me picking up my house because I’m not typically the one that does it. And don’t be fooled by me taking care of my son because most of the time, my wife does that, too.”

He reiterated that they just “naturally take on traditional marriage roles” and that there’s “nothing wrong with that.”

Essentially, Matt felt 100% comfortable announcing that he never cleans his house or takes care of his infant son. Not only that, but he actually seemed concerned that people would think he takes on household and child-raising duties. Perhaps what is most concerning about the video is that the “tradition” only extends to Abby doing the household chores and child-raising. One could possibly understand if Matt was the sole breadwinner and went off to work every day while his wife took care of the house.

However, Matt and Abby do the same job, as they both make content for the internet and participate in the podcast. So, why are the household responsibilities different for them when they both work? Abby later responded to those suggesting that Matt should be more involved in the child-raising and household chores, stating that marriage was more of a”partnership” if the husband and wife each take on separate roles. She finished by stating those critical of the video must not be married because every married couple should allegedly know that a healthy relationship depends upon taking roles.

@matt_and_abby

Replying to @wrigleycubs2016 and now back to your regularly scheduled programming…? #mattandabby

♬ original sound – Matt & Abby

There have been other instances where Matt’s behavior and comments have raised eyebrows, including when he filmed his pregnant wife having a breakdown and wrote a song about how his family is “not enough” for him. Having feelings of unfulfillment is understandable but Matt made the odd choice to voice these feelings in a public song instead of speaking privately with his wife or a therapist about them. Many were concerned about how Abby was seemingly blindsided by a song that would break any wife’s heart, especially since he released it shortly after her grandfather passed.

@matt_and_abby

Sometimes sadness can come for literally no reason at all. Sometimes you look at your life, and on paper everything is perfect, but you’re not okay. I wrote “still not enough” back in December when I was battling with some pretty depressing thoughts. Writing this was extremely therapeutic for me. I’m doing a lot better, but to be honest, there are still some days that I feel this way. My hope is that this song would help some people work through their sadness, and have the courage to seek help. Or if that’s not you, maybe use this as your sign to check in on someone that you love. I love my wife and kids more than anything, and my sadness has nothing to do with them. If you’re in the same boat, just know that you are so loved, and there are so many people that want to walk with you through your sadness. You’re not alone

♬ still not enough – Matt Howard

The problem with Matt & Abby’s content

Now, Matt and Abby have the right to live their lives in whatever way works for them. The problem is that they have an enormous following who frequently see the couple normalizing concerning behavior or claiming that this is what a “traditional” and “natural” marriage looks like. They make these comments and videos without thinking of the harm in the ideas they’re promoting. For example, Abby once declared that divorce is simply not an option for them, no matter what. She even recommended this mindset for other couples, warning that going into marriage believing divorce is an option will lead to them working “themselves towards divorce.”

Her sentiment and failure to acknowledge the numerous instances where divorce is necessary could be dangerous for women who take this advice to heart, even if they’re in an abusive relationship. Whether it’s claiming divorce isn’t an option, that men don’t have to help with the house or kids, or that it’s acceptable for husbands to disrespect their wives’ privacy and make them feel like they’re not enough or that they “failed,” this couple presents the idea that these things are normal and natural. Not only that, but they also occasionally introduce the fear factor, trying to scare viewers that they’ll get divorced or not have happy marriages if they don’t live this way.

Their influence is already apparent as any criticism of the couple is often met with defensiveness from their followers, who insist that Matt and Abby are the perfect couple. The pair have clearly reaped the benefits of having a huge following on social media, but they don’t seem to think much about the responsibilities that come with that following. They need to think about how their videos look to people who are mistaking unhealthy dynamics for a happy marriage. With over 5 million followers, they have such a huge platform to do good and demonstrate how you can have more traditional views and still have a marriage filled with respect, equality, and independence. It’s disappointing that they’ve instead chosen to present marriage as something in which you’re limited to gender-based roles and essentially stuck in regardless of how your partner treats you.


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.