Mr. Jennifer Aniston’s secrets to a healthy relationship

Justin Theroux is a successful star in his own right, but he doesn’t seem to mind standing in the shadow of his famous wife.

Justin Theroux has played everyone from John Hancock (HBO’s

Justin Theroux has played everyone from John Hancock (HBO’s John Adams) to Jesus Christ (The Ten). He’s cranked out screenplays for Iron Man 2 and Tropic Thunder. He’s played a director (Mulholland Drive), the charismatic leader of a hippie commune (Wanderlust), and a police chief trying to make sense of a rapture-like event (HBO’s The Leftovers). And in The Girl on the Train—which hits theaters today (October 7)—he plays the harassed divorcee of a disturbed, alcoholic ex-wife (Emily Blunt).

But despite his mile-long resume, Theroux may be best known not for his work in front of the camera or his writing behind it, but who he is when he’s not working: He’s the husband of Jennifer Aniston.

And he’s just fine with that.

Not everyone would be so sanguine about playing second-fiddle to a famous spouse. I’ve talked with a few people who—as much as they might love their more famous “better halves”—get a little tired of sitting in that shadow. “Why look, it’s the wife of Biff Charming! Why I just love him!” they hear. Or, “Everyone, this is Bob, husband of that famous artist we all appreciate so much!” We, understandably, like to be known for our own achievements, not those of somebody else. And it would be forgivable if Theroux wanted to be known as someone other than “Mr. Jennifer Aniston.”

Every response I’ve seen [from Theroux] has been gracious, supportive, and loving—just what real-life wives need from their real-life husbands.

But when The Times of London asked him if that title rankled him, he just laughed. “It doesn’t really get under my skin,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that’s a shorthand for describing who I am.”

Theroux was happy to elaborate even more. Never mind that he had a movie to promote, forget that this was his opportunity to burnish his own shine for the spotlight. He continued to talk to the Times about his wife, calling her a “proper bad–s.

Justin Theroux

Justin Theroux attends the photocall for the film ‘Zoolander No. 2’ in January 2016 in Rome. Ernesto Ruscio | Stringer | Getty Images

“Many people would have crumbled under some of the stresses that have been put on her,” he said, speaking of the tabloid press’s ongoing obsession with everything Aniston. “I’m very proud of her for that, for the way she handles herself. So in a weird way it’s an honor to stand behind her. Truly, in that sense, she’s amazing.”

An honor to stand behind her. That’s a telling statement—and telling in the best possible way.

For the last couple of weeks during the lead-up to The Girl on the Train, Theroux has been fielding a steady diet of questions about his wife. And every response I’ve seen has been gracious, supportive, and loving—just what real-life wives need from their real-life husbands.

Theroux talks with his wife the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, even when they’re literally thousands of miles apart. Talking with each other is key to any healthy relationship.

When E! News asked who the first person Theroux talked with the morning of the interview, he said, “My wife.” When asked who the last person he talked with that evening was, his answer was the same.

Now listen, I understand that Theroux and Aniston have been married for, like, a minute. (They officially tied the knot on August 5, 2015.) Anyone whose marriage is into the double-digits knows that wedded bliss isn’t blissful every minute. Relationship is hard. It takes commitment. And it’s not always easy to be loving, honoring, and gracious.

Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux arrive at the Oscars on February 2013 in Hollywood. Jeff Kravitz | Getty Images

But I think Theroux’s comments are good reminders to us all of what makes a marriage work.

First, never let the communication dwindle. I love the fact that Theroux talks with his wife the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, even when they’re literally thousands of miles apart. Talking with each other is key to any healthy relationship.

Second, you gotta stand by your spouse, through thick and thin. While most of our relationships don’t necessarily have the pressures of the paparazzi to deal with, we all have our good times and our bad, times of sickness and health. To be there when our husbands and wives need us the most is critical.

And finally, it’s okay to stand behind your loved one at times—to praise their gifts and to cheer their victories honestly and selflessly. And hopefully, your own spouse will return the favor when your turn comes.

Those aren’t the only keys to a happy, healthy relationship, but they’re a beginning. At least it’ll help protect us against the more dysfunctional unions we see in, say, The Girl on the Train.

Read more about life on the corner of “Hollywood & Reality” from movie expert and reviewer Paul Asay every Friday. If you have an idea for a future topic, feel free to drop Paul a suggestion in the comments.

Paul Asay
Paul Asay
Paul Asay is a movie critic for Plugged In and has written for a variety of websites and publications, including Time, The Washington Post and Beliefnet.com. He’s authored or co-authored several books, including most recently Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet.

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