The untold truth of Neil Patrick Harris' marriage

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are one of the most iconic power couples in the entertainment industry—matched only perhaps by the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. After dating for ten years, they wed in 2014, having already welcomed their adorable twins, Gideon and Harper, into the world in 2010. The cute pair's relationship has always seemed pretty much perfect, with The Advocate once dubbing them the "Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of the gay world." But how much do you really know about these two? Here is the untold truth about their marriage…

It's all about the timing

Harris and Burtka's meet cute was more of a slow burn than love at first sight.

"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 in 2012. "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.'" The Harold & Kumar star held out hope. "Then I just kept seeing him on the periphery, and in turn, catching up on him, but I didn't want to be that guy who was creating some sort of romantic interference." 

"I was in another relationship when I met Neil and was doing the long-distance, New York–to-L.A. thing," Burtka told Out. "It was sort of on the rocks. Long distance is so hard." An actor himself, he was aware of Harris' work, adding, "I thought it would be nice to know him, but I didn't think in a million years I'd start dating him." 

"I ended up breaking with my boyfriend," Burtka said. "And a week later, Neil and I had a date. We started hanging out every single night, and after three months, it was just non-stop. We talk on the phone at least eight times a day and text at least 25 times a day."

As they say, the rest is history.

Harris was head over heels. But Burtka?

Burtka wasn't always so comfortable with the L-word. "I initially fell for David harder than he fell for me," Harris told Out magazine. "I was in love with him before he was comfortable saying it, and I think that speaks to our past experiences. 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." Harris admitted, "I appreciated his honesty in not jumping the gun and saying something because he felt obliged to." 

We're guessing it didn't take long for Burtka to come around.

Harris was forced out of the closet

Two years into his relationship with Burtka, Harris was publicly forced out of the closet. As the former Doogie Howser actor revealed in his New York Magazine profile, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton went "on the attack" with rumors about his sexuality in 2006. Shortly after, Harris met with his team to develop a "succinct and positive" statement in response, but said, "No one was ever old-school Hollywood, with a cigar in their mouth, saying 'You can't do this, see! It'll ruin your career, kid.'"

When he came out that November, the then-33-year-old had been starring as the very heterosexual womanizer Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother for more than a year. "Rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me," Harris told People. "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." Well said.

Harris gave his two cents about open relationships

Harris opened up about their relationship in the bedroom during a candid interview on Howard Stern's radio show in 2008. After he confirmed that, after four years together, marriage was on his and Burtka's minds, the Tony-winner said he didn't believe in open relationships.

"That's part of being in a relationship, going through phases of things being great and things being not great," he told Stern. "I don't know that if you're gay you get this card that says when things aren't going great you can go f**k other guys. That doesn't make any sense to me." When pressed by Stern on the subject of long-term monogamy, Harris said, "I'm versatile. The best thing about being in a guy-guy relationship is sometimes you feel like being tough, sometimes you feel like being subordinate."

They're basically the same person

If you ask Harris, he and Burtka are two sides of the same coin. "We share a wardrobe. We have the same shoe size, body size, height, and weight," he told Out magazine. "We both like the idea of family. Not a nuclear family, but a social family. Yet, we're incredibly opposite in the way we process information." 

"It's a great dynamic," Harris said. "He's more like Tigger. I'm, in turn, very introspective—the thinker, rather than the doer. I tend to weigh options before making decisions, and David is the polar opposite of that. We're hyper similar and also incredibly opposite." 

As Burtka explained it, "We are, in a way, very codependent. He's my lifeline, in an amazing way. Without him, I can't breathe… He makes me a little more grounded, and I bring out the wild side in him… And we're both Gemini—we have a good twin and a bad twin, and the four of us get along really well!"

Who popped the question?

Harris and Burtka were so ready to get hitched, they both proposed!

"David first proposed to me five years ago on the actual street corner where we met," Harris told Out magazine—the exact location was on 9th Avenue between West 44th & 45th Streets in New York City. "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," Harris said. "I thought he wanted to get some booze or something. 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."

"Then I got the ring and loved it, and a year later, on Valentine's Day, I proposed to him in Santa Monica," Harris told the mag. "That was four years ago. The callus on my right hand is long-formed…[I'm] dying to move over to the other hand. I'd also like to call him my husband."

In 2011, their dreams became more tangible when same-sex marriage was legalized in New York State. "It PASSED! Marriage equality in NY!! Yes!! Progress!!" Harris tweeted at the time, adding, "David and I did propose to each other, but over five years ago! We've been wearing engagement rings for ages, waiting for an available date."

They're adjusting to fatherhood

Harris and Burtka always wanted to have kids, and since welcoming fraternal twins Harper Grace and Gideon Scott into their lives via surrogate in October 2010, these two dudes are inspiring some serious dad goals. But parenthood wasn't a seamless transition.

"I didn't love the first six to nine months," Harris admitted on Oprah's Next Chapter in 2012. "I struggled with it a lot… I didn't feel like I was bonding with them." The biggest challenge? "The sleep deprivation. You have to live in those spurts," he told People in 2010. To which Burtka added, "And with twins, we can't really take turns getting up."

"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," Burtka told Out magazine in 2012. "I am the maternal one in the relationship."

The guys make a great team. "Not only do [the twins] get older and more developed and interesting, but David's and my relationship changes too," Harris told People. "We're required to have each other's back, and I'm just amazed at the human being that he is. He's an amazing dad."

"And you're an amazing Papa!" Burtka chimed in. To which Harris laughed, and self-deprecatingly said, "We'll see."

David gave up drinking for the twins

Soon after the twins were born, Burtka made a big sacrifice. He gave up alcohol.

"It just didn't mix well," he told the New York Daily News in 2017 (via the Daily Mail). "That's a big thing… 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 percent.'" 

The stage actor admitted that he struggled with drinking in moderation. "I just think that, I'm not one of those people that can just have one drink or two drinks," he said, adding that sobriety can be tricky to maintain, "especially in this industry," where it's readily accessible. "I'm around it all the time and I'm a chef as well, so it's really part of my world."

Their wedding was a secret

After ten years together, Harris and Burtka finally tied the knot in a secret ceremony on Sept. 16, 2014.

Harris broke the news to fans with a surprise tweet. "Guess what? David Burtka and I got married over the weekend. In Italy. Yup, we put the 'n' and 'd' in 'husband,'" he said, alongside a sweet photo of the two sporting custom-made Tom Ford tuxes on their big day.

"It was nice, very small and intimate. Only about 45 people were there," Harris told The View (via Us Weekly). "We did it as a destination wedding, and it kept the numbers down. I just wanted to be able to say nice things about David to David in front of the people that mattered the most to us. It was less about a proclamation and more about a declaration that I was able to share in front of our kids." 

According to People, the ceremony was officiated by their good friend and How I Met Your Mother director Pam Fryman. While the wedding itself was a small affair, the epic reception featured an impromptu performance by none other than Sir Elton John. "He and [husband] David [Furnish] and their kids were coming as guests," Harris told the Sunday Express. "And there was a piano player that was playing anyways, so I said, 'Would you want to just go up and play one song at some time?' And he said, 'Sure.'" 

Yeah, no big deal.

They're American Idol fanatics

You'd never guess it, but for these Broadway alums, American Idol wasn't just a singing competition that ruled the noughties. The series actually played an important role in their relationship.

While discussing their pre-dating acquaintanceship, Harris told Out magazine, "I was always around when he was around, hoping the stars would align. When we all hung out for the first time—I was invited by [our mutual friend] Kate to an American Idol viewing party—I just stammered around him. I couldn't take my eyes off him. There's something almost kinetic about him and his being."

That night would stay with them both—an iconic American Idol ballad was featured on their wedding day a decade later. "Our first dance was Kelly Clarkson's 'A Moment Like This,'" Harris said. "We loved American Idol season 1, we were Team Kelly. That was always kind of our song. We started dancing to it and we had a plan that…when the song crescendoed—'Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this!'—fireworks are supposed to go off… Sure enough, it happened perfectly." 

Okay, be honest, are you aww-ing as much as we are? 

Making a home

After How I Met Your Mother wrapped in 2014, Harris and Burtka moved their family of four from Los Angeles to New York City.

"I assumed the show would be a short chapter," Harris told Architectural Digest in March 2015. (It lasted nine seasons.) "But the plan was always to come back to New York when the show ended and raise our family." When they found a place in Harlem, Burtka said he "just had that feeling" about it.

It took 14 months of renovations to get it to their liking, but their East Coast home, a five-story townhouse built in the late-19th century, is amazing. Complementing their respective styles, the space includes street-level offices for Harris' production company, a music room, a den area for quality family time, a decked out kitchen for Burtka, a professional chef, to show off his culinary expertise, and Harris' magician-themed office, which sits behind a trick door. No joke.

"I'm emotional, so if I see something I like, that's it and I want it," Burtka said, whereas Harris, the more practical of the two, added, "You have to weigh the value of things when you have two dogs who slobber and two kids who love to finger-paint." 

Their differing approaches seem to have paid off. In December 2016, Harris gave Vogue a tour of the pair's tricked out home, which even includes the ever-familiar MacLaren's Pub booth from How I Met Your Mother. "I stole it when we wrapped," he revealed.

A perfectly imperfect union

Harris and Burtka's marriage isn't all sunshine and rainbows. "If we have a fault, it's probably over-communication," Harris told Out magazine. "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." He confessed, "Sometimes I'm deeply in love with David and head-over-heels, and sometimes I question whether it's going to work out and is meant to be. It's like a business relationship, as well as a personal one; we have a business together and that's maintaining our love for one another."

Burtka agreed. "I don't want people to think we're a perfect couple," he said. "Nothing's perfect. 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. We're not trying to pretend that we are perfect. We're just trying—in a good, positive, loving way—to live our lives."

So, what's their secret? "We go to couple's therapy," Burtka told Life & Style in 2017. "Not that there's anything wrong, but it's nice to sort of just talk to someone who is a mediator. That's helped our relationship."

They're total relationship goals

After more than a decade together, Harris and Burtka are still the epitome of #RelationshipGoals.

As Nicki Swift previously reported, the cute pair celebrated its 13-year anniversary in April 2017, and both took to social media to mark the special occasion. Harris, 43, shared a photo of his husband and their son Gideon in a fit of laughter during a family dinner. "Thirteen years and one day ago, I crossed paths with the guy on the left," he wrote. "The adventures have never ceased. The love has never waned. The gifts are never ending (the guy on the right, e.g.). Happy Anniversary, @dbelicious. You're the best."

Meanwhile, Burtka, 41, posted a solo snapshot of Harris. "Yesterday was mine and @nph 13th year anniversary!!" he wrote in the caption. "Thank you Neil for being compassionate, adventurous, and an all around fantastic man. I love you more than ever."

These loving fathers often take to social media to share their humorous and heart-warming adventures with their adorable twins. In March 2017, they documented their fun-filled St. Patrick's Day festivities—a failed attempt to capture a Leprechaun for the kiddos.

We seriously cannot handle the cute.