Relationship Goals: Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka’s Romance Was Built on Open Communication
Welcome to #RelationshipGoals, where we’re giving the stage to the power couples we admire. From admirable long-term relationships to inspirational newlyweds, these are the couples we love and hope to take cues from in our own relationships.
It seems customary during Halloween time each year to look forward to the next over-the-top costume ensemble from Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka’s family of four, with twins Gideon and Harper.
But how did one of the most high-profile couples in Hollywood get their start?
“I ran into my friend Kate one day and she was with this brooding, James Dean–type guy in a leather jacket who gave me the head nod and then turned away,” Harris told Out magazine. “I assumed he was Kate’s boyfriend and said, ‘Nicely done.’ And she said, ‘David? He’s not playing on my team, but he has a boyfriend.’”
“I was performing in the Sam Mendes version of Gypsy on Broadway when I ran into Neil on the street. He was doing the Mendes version of Cabaret at the time,” said Burtka. “I wasn’t a big Doogie Howser fan — I had probably seen it once or twice when I was growing up — so I gave him a, ‘Hey, what’s up, nice to meet you,’ and that was really it. I thought it would be nice to know him, but I didn’t think in a million years I’d start dating him.”
Why Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are a true power couple:
A week after the two had lunch together as friends, Burtka broke with his boyfriend at the time and the two went out officially for the first time. “I think it was Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie,” says Burtka. “We started hanging out every single night, and after three months, it was just non-stop.”
Two years later, after Harris had snagged the role of Barney in “How I Met Your Mother”, the pair packed up their things and made the long trip from NYC to LA, where they stayed for the next decade.
“I assumed the show would be a short chapter,” Harris told Architectural Digest. “But the plan was always to come back to New York when the show ended and raise our family.”
Along the way, Harris officially came out in an interview with People and both Harris and Burtka each proposed to one another.
“We were on our way to an event at an Indian casino 45 minutes out of town in a limousine, and David wanted to stop for some reason that I didn’t quite get,” said Harris to Out. “And then he got on one knee and proposed, and I was so freaked out by it that I said, ‘Yes,’ but I didn’t know what it meant…and a year later, on Valentine’s Day, I proposed to him in Santa Monica.”
Four years later, on October 12th, 2010, the couple welcomed fraternal twins, son Gideon Scott and daughter Harper Grace. “We named Gideon after an artist we collect, Gideon Rubin, and Harper after Harper Lee. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of our favorite books,” said Harris.
And on September 2014, the couple finally tied the knot with a ceremony in Perugia, Italy, serenaded by the one and only Elton John.
“There’s something kinetic about him and his being. He’s classically sexy, yet he’s very much a boy in his energy. It’s a great dynamic,” says Harris of Burtka. “When I see people who are equally attractive, they tend to seem more quiet and kind of Marlboro Man-y, and David’s the antithesis of that. He’s more like Tigger. I’m, in turn, very introspective — the thinker, rather than the doer…We’re hyper similar and also incredibly opposite.”
“We are, in a way, very codependent. He’s my lifeline, in an amazing way. Without him, I can’t breathe,” says Burtka of Harris. “Don’t get me wrong– we fight. Our fights last five minutes, then we’re over it. And we’re both Gemini — we have a good twin and a bad twin, and the four of us get along really well!”
All the times they inspired us with their love
“I initially fell for David harder than he fell for me,” says Harris. “I remember saying, ‘I think I love you,’ and he was like, ‘That’s really nice,’ which is not necessarily what you want to hear. But I appreciated his honesty in not jumping the gun and saying something because he felt obliged to.”
Harris says that he values authenticity and, if their relationship has a fault, it’s over-communication.
“When I’m cranky, I’m admittedly cranky. When I’m in a hurry and distracted, I can’t act like it’s any other way. And he’s good with that, too,” says Harris. “So we talk things out. I don’t want to paint our relationship like we met and it’s been happy family fantastic-ness ever since. What defines a relationship is the work that’s involved to maintain it, and it’s constantly changing.”
Burtka, who has struggled with alcoholism in the past, says that when he and Harris had the twins, it was time to give it up drinking good. “It just didn’t mix well with me anymore,” he told NY Daily News. “I didn’t like the way I was acting and I think it was affecting me and I thought, ‘You know what? I owe it to myself. I owe it to my kids, to be there, 100%.'”
It’s hard to catch Harris or Burtka on Instagram apart from their kids, who both say children were always part of the plan for them.
“Even on that first date, we talked about kids,” says Burtka. “I always thought that family was the most important thing in life, and no matter what I do, whether being a chef or an actor or a dancer, being a dad is what I do best.”
And Harris said they both knew they wanted to become dads early on so they could, “Enjoy the process and to be young and vibrant enough to throw a ball with them, or to chase them around without using a walker.”
The couple, who this year will soon celebrate their 15-year anniversary and who just celebrated their 4-year wedding anniversary this past September, say they’re looking forward to what the future will bring.
“Four years ago today. How time flies — especially when you have someone special to share it with. After 14 years, two children, and thousands of adventures together, I’ve never been happier. Happy anniversary, David. Thank you for saying ‘I do’. #grateful#love@dbelicious,” Harris captioned on Instagram.
That day, Burtka echoed the sentiment: “@nph I am so very proud of us. Being in a relationship is hard work. There are many stresses to juggle within these 14 years. We have dealt with kids growing up, new jobs, the media, moving and even dogs pooping on the rugs. These last four years our marriage has had its ups and downs. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds. I love you.”
Their biggest relationship takeaway
Being one of the highest profile relationships in Hollywood, Harris and Burtka have had more than just the average relationship challenges to surmount.
However, despite them, the couple’s maturity and love for one another has helped guide them to create a bond between themselves, and a family, that prioritizes their goals instead of the drama.
“I don’t want people to think we’re a perfect couple. Nothing’s perfect,” says Burtka on overcoming the challenges of being in a long-term relationship. “A relationship is work and it changes. And you go with the changes. It’s more good times than bad times, but it’s not always good. You have to overcome those issues and move on.”
“We have a really great recipe for a wonderful relationship, but we don’t want to be the poster boys for gay relationships,” he continues. “We’re not trying to pretend that we are perfect. We’re just trying — in a good, positive, loving way– to live our lives.”