January 9, 2017

It may seem today, more than ever before, that relationships are complicated. Scan any news channel and you're likely to find complications between races, between celebrities, between countries, and between President-elect Trump and, well, everyone else.

But the reality is, relationships have always been complicated. Be it between legends, politicians, artists, or soulmates, there will always be complications.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Two great artists, one complicated relationship. The volatile nature of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s relationship has nearly eclipsed their individual legacies. A union of passion—for each other, their art, Mexican heritage, and commitment to political activism—put the muralist and painter in the position of being all things to one another. Married twice and divorced once, their relationship endured their 20-year age gap and infidelities on both sides until Kahlo’s death. It was a relationship marked, like their art, by hardship and pain. And yet, even though Rivera later remarried, it was his wish that their ashes be combined. (Though, in another complication, they were not.)

Siskel & Ebert

“The original frenemies,” as Slate called them, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the duo that Americans turned to for movie reviews from the mid-seventies through the late nineties. The film critics, known for giving films a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, could perhaps be dubbed the grandfathers of the emoji. Their on-air chemistry led to multiple Emmy-nominations, but the legendary partnership was also known for heated debates that sometimes felt too real, or too personal, to be all for show. Crews reported tales of two men with divergent lifestyles and interests who were competitive pranksters and sometimes only reached consensus by flipping a coin.

JFK and Jackie O.

Whenever there’s a third, or a fourth, or a fifth person in your relationship, it’s going to get complicated. Had John F. Kennedy not been assassinated, Jackie Kennedy may have been the first (Catholic!) First Lady to divorce a sitting president. At least, that’s what some say. JFK’s affair with Marilyn Monroe was a known entity, but then, following JFK’s death, Jackie had her own affair with his brother Robert. In many ways, Jackie and JFK's relationship is ultimately unknowable, left to myth and gossip, even as it was lived in the public eye.

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Read more articles from our In the moment series—When life gives you lemons, (Un)common courtesy, and The blinders are off—and share your own experience in the comments below.

Suzanne Barnecut loves reading and writing stories of all kinds and duration. She is a frequent contributor to Relate, and creates brand content and tells customer stories for Zendesk. In her spare time, she can be found writing fiction, reading The New Yorker, and consuming (too many) pastries from San Francisco’s bakeries. Find her on Twitter at: @elisesuz.