Power Couples: Because Love Does Not Always Belong In Disney Castles

I think we would all agree to call the obsolete line “behind a great man stands a great woman” off. With almost-equal opportunities here and there, ladies who could not make it to the top must either be: 1) not qualified, 2) not hardworking enough, or simply 3) not that brave to let herself lean in. Sorry to break the truth down to you, but we shall all deal with it somehow at the end of the day.

That being said, I think it is fair to shift our admiration from power people (individuals who happen to be talented and luckily achieve stuff while not letting their spouse to get on their way) into power couples: a man and a woman, both of whom involved in a(n arguably healthy) romantic relationship and independently hold high-level, influential careers.

There’s a number of reasons to why power couples are more awesome than power people:

  • Driving a huge truck is something, but driving a trolley-bus (with at least two
    connected cars) is an entirely different league. It is a considerably larger responsibility, requiring a lot of compromises and wider driving-awareness/sensitivity. If one manages to not only move from point A to point B but actually doing it gracefully well, I think he/she deserves a bigger appreciation.
  • Girls have the natural urge to be with someone who beats them in a game or two. To complicate that, however, girls also have the natural crave to be with someone who would let them pursue their dreams/ambitions/career. Statistically, the intersection between categories #1 and #2 does not provide us with many options. Hence, to know that there great women out there who manage to find such rare breed of men could be encouraging.
  • Well, we basically just love fangirl/fanboy-ing over power couples.

Among many, these are the top 5 power couples of my pick (some of which are fictional):

1. Francis and Claire Underwood

House of Cards, TV

I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood,” Frank told us once.

The word ‘romantic’ might not fit them best—if anything, their marriage is mostly platonic. But I swear to you there is something inexplicably intimate in those looks they exchange every now and then throughout the series. Frank, a Democrat with big ambitions (he went from being a congressman to vice president in just one season) and Claire, a cold president of a non-profit organization, makes a perfect combo for any political geeks. They are not particularly ‘decent’—together they manipulate the people around them to grab influence and prestige (although Frank orchestrated most of the work) and they might be united merely by their common hunger for power but I think it makes their relationship even more profound and realistic.

2. Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein


In the same realm of politics but the real version of it, there’s Power-Sunstein duo. Started off as a journalist, Power is now the ambassador for United States to the United Nations. She won a Pulitzer, graduated from two ivy league schools Yale and Harvard, as well as served as a professor at the latter. In 2008 she met Cass Sunstein when they both helped Obama’s campaign. Sunstein then worked for the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and taught at Chicago’s Law School for 27 years. Despite getting married to a divorcee when she was 38, Power (who, if you notice, retains her name) seems to be very happy, and they’re now both overjoyed with two kids. Just imagine all the insider’s news and high-level gossips they might be discussing in the bed.

3. Will McAvoy and MacKenzie McHale


Is it just me or are awkward relationships cute? If you watch Newsroom, you would probably agree that McAvoy and McHale’s under-the-table fondness for each other is just adorable. If Frank and Claire has that indisputable connection, I cannot exactly speak the same for this couple. Instead of trust or overflowing affection, their relationship is full of doubts, anger, and disappointments. That and my hunch about how Aaron Sorkin set them up with similar names aside, I love how they both worship the true goal of journalism i.e. to educate American people through relevant facts and stories. In News Night, Will acts as anchor and managing editor, while MacKenzie was invited back as executive producer. Although they fight a lot on the surface, deep inside, they share the same idealism of what journalism should be, and nothing could tie two people stronger than that.

4. Bill and Melinda Gates

(FILES) Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (L

The billionaires who save the day would probably be how we call them. Melinda, hired by Microsoft in 1987, met Bill four months later when they were seated next to each other at a press event in New York City. Since the day they got married in 1994, Bill and Melinda have funded countless projects in the domains of health, education, as well as global development in general, creating tremendous changes here and there. It was all kicked off when Melinda shared her travel stories to Bill, explaining how women and men in Indian villages suffer. Today, their joint leadership has given billions on helping individuals in need in various parts of the globe. How blessed, don’t you think, to have matching vision (that is also noble) as well as the resources to actually make it happen?

5. Hilary and Bill Clinton

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 1.48.58 PM

Enough said on this one. Both possessing sharp brains—essentially what it takes to lead the United States—they might as well end up being the first president-president couple in the near future. (Don’t jinx it. We’ll never know.) Looking at the picture from their youth time and the fact that they’re now married (still, despite the Lewinsky scandal) with Bill declaring his support if Hilary runs as the 46th, you sort of wish you were one of their college friends who said, “I saw this coming!” But no, darling, nobody saw it coming. One could only hope.

Bonus: Kate Middleton and Prince Wiliam

Okay. Maybe, just maaaybe, love ends up in Disney castles and still deserve to have that ‘power couple’ title. I mean looking at this one, it’s pretty singular, isn’t it? He’s the Duke of Cambridge, she’s the Dutchess—and they both live up to their names. It makes sense that an article once called them, ‘flawless royals who handle scandals with class’. Their power comes from the English monarchy, but it doesn’t mean they don’t work for for it.


I would love to also include, of course, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. Remember that part of the book where Watson says, “For Sherlock, she has always been the woman.” I think to have found an equal, the way Sherlock found Irene and the other six men and women above found theirs, is the most rewarding experience one could ever have in their life.

(Let alone actually living the rest of your life with them.)


The Sign of Four

To all Sherlock fans out there: apology—this post has nothing to do with that Jonathan Small case. It of course does not altogether mean that you shall not be interested in reading it through. For what it’s worth, it’s gonna try to answer (or at least start a discussion about) the mystery of constantly repeating quartet patterns around us. You see, sociology has probably explained so much about human’s dyadic (consisting of two people) and communal (typically uncountable) interactions, but little effort has been put into shedding more lights upon bonds between four individuals.

The more relevant question to begin this with is probably:
do such quadrangular connections actually exist, or is Afu just completely wasting my time into a delusion of a non-existent order?


Well, my shallow belief contends that either you’re part of one, or you know a group of four close friends who seem to be a real match to one another. I don’t just mean any random friendship of four, but a strongly-tied relation whose balance is reached exactly because there are four nodes and not less or more. Shall one of the people in the group leaves, things don’t seem to work out.

In case you’re none-of-the-above, then here are some fictional references of the Great Division of Four (different personalities):

  • The four female characters in Ayu Utami’s Saman surely have something in common, but they are four different animals by nature: Shakuntala the undomesticated, Cok the ever-thirsty, Yasmin the spoiled, and Laila the curious.
  • In Candice Bushnell’s Sex and the City, each of the foursome stands out with their own, unique qualities (Carrie Bradshaw the columnist, Samantha Jones the businesswoman, Charlotte York the art dealer, and Miranda Hobbes the lawyer) but they are also a perfect combination for one another and make a greater whole than sum of its parts.
  • Lastly, the fact that all of us feel like we belong in either of the houses in Hogwarts (Gryffindor the courageous, Ravenclaw the clever, Hufflepuff the nice, and Slytherin the ambitious), must mean that somewhat there’s gotta be an explanation behind J.K. Rowling’s division of four.

Have psychologists came across this interesting pattern?

Well, the truth is, they have. Despite the fact that it is not their mission to untangle the mystery of human interactions (since they usually focus on self-discovery or person-per-person psychoanalysis), they have—through the ages—been coming up with personality categorizations that focus on four quadrants:

  • Time-traveling back to the ancient times, there was Hippocrates who came up with four temperaments that he thought shaped us all: the Choleric, the Sanguine, the Melancholic, and the Phlegmatic—each of which reacts differently to various stimuli. Now I’m not sure why exactly he got the four combination, but it is interesting to further look at.
  • Only recently, psychologists develop personality test for companies/organizations to figure out what condition suits their employees best—it says that we’re either one of the four colors: blue (the relationship way), gold (the action way), green (the logical way), or orange (the organized way) in day-to-day working situation. Knowing this, companies/organizations can set up better, enabling conditions that would allow them to be more productive.
  • Last but most compelling to me, is the famous Myers Briggs Test Indicator (MBTI), which puts us in four major boxes: the Idealist, Rationalist, Artisan, and Guardian. It revolves mainly in four elements of personality: 1) introversion/extroversion, 2) intuition/sensing, 3) thinking/feeling, and 4) perceiving/judging.
    Later this builds up to 16 different combinations of personality that explains (or even predicts) an individual’s behavior.

Now literatures might not offer the same level of wonder since we can simply blame the authors for arranging stories around the omnipresent four, out of personal, arbitrary decision. But those psychological theories, typically based on close observation of human behaviors, really fascinate me.

Having said this, however, I would still have to say that the difficult part is to connect the dots in real life. Luckily enough, my laboratory for social experiment sits right here in my own friendship. Let me quickly introduce you to Diku, Kiki, and Ipeh—three girls who probably have the biggest impact in my life, especially for accepting my unusual obsession towards patterns. (Trying my best to maintain the scientific tone of this post and not get all emotional here.)

So one day Kiki, Ipeh, and I had a dinner where we laid out our MBTI results (after some 30-minute rants on boys and politics), which looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 16.37.51

Now I would lie to say that this finding did not excite me. As I’ve been repeatedly saying, yours truly is pretty much a bitch for patterns (why do you think I bother to make this post from the first place), SO YEAH IT DID REALLY THRILL ME TO HAVE THIS DISCOVERY!

From then on, some derived premises have been knocking on my overthinking brain’s door:

  1. It is not that the four of us happen to like the same things or possess identical personalities; rather, the four-node balance is formed because we are both similar and different from one another. To be precise, each of us is actually excluded from the rest at one specific aspect—Ipeh for being the sole extrovert, Kiki’s rather extraordinary sensing ability, Diku’s feeling-based rationality, and my, well, slow progress toward making conclusions (I have a subconscious tendency to keep things open-ended).
  2. We dig into really engaging conversation when we are together because there’s a shift of balance of power (a.k.a. topic-driver) every now and then, making a dynamic to its flow. Imagine if we’re all thinking machines or sensing analysts—our friendship might not be as exciting (and enriching) as I remember it now.
  3. Our friend (Diku’s boyfriend) Sindhu, later convinced me (through Diku) an alternative view: that we’re a circle of clicking personalities. It goes Diku-Afu-Kiki-Ipeh (and goes back to Diku). This would explain not only why Diku-Kiki needs me to connect, me-Ipeh needs Kiki to connect, and so on, but also how Kiki connects best with me and Ipeh, or Ipeh with Diku and Kiki.

Ah, patterns. I could continue talking all night but I’m sure you’re starting to lose interest at this point, so I’ll just stop. I also know that these are all premature hypothesis—ten years from now, I might find this post obsolete or the four of us might actually stop being friends to one another because we lose the balance (psychology does support the idea that personality is ever-changing). But even then, I would be grateful to ever experience being part of a sociological artefact that could explain the link between quadrangular personalities and sociology of four.

Even then, I would cherish this little infinity of (almost) five years we’ve been together. Cheers, girls.



  • Sindhu, for coining the phrase ‘sociology of four’ and being our first and so-far-only interested observer who came up with the proposal from the first placealthough, to be fair, I had it at the back of my head since the time of Ayu Utami and Candice Bushnell (long before we had our first conversation).
  • Diku, for shoving Sindhu’s staggering (yet effortless) examination into my head, and adding a lot more sense to it through your advanced comprehension upon human behavior and outstanding ability to elaborate.
  • Kiki and Ipeh, for simply being yourselves and finding us at the right place and the right time—you know how obsessed I am with patterns and your mere presence is already a gift (note that this is a sociological remark, of course you bitches mean a lot more).
  • Rizky (and plausibly two currently-non-existent boyfriends of mine and Ipeh’s as well), for stimulating follow-up questions in analyzing our respective counterparts—to be curious about whether or not a pattern of eight puzzle pieces exists at all.