Alum newlyweds reveal difficulties of marriage's first year in reality show

by Rebecca Szkutak / Beacon Staff • February 25, 2015

Emerson alumnae Samantha Abby and Laura Leigh Abby
Courtesy of Alex Martinez
Emerson alumnae Samantha Abby and Laura Leigh Abby
Courtesy of Alex Martinez

Any married couple can tell you that nuptial life brings forth new beginnings and challenges. But for Emerson alumnae Samantha Abby and Laura Leigh Abby, their triumphs and turmoils won’t be private—their first 12 months of marriage will soon be broadcast nationally on the second season of Bravo’s reality television show, Newlyweds: The First Year.

This show allows viewers to see into the private lives of married couples as they adjust to life after the ceremony. The second season, set to debut on March 10, follows the Abbys and three couples during their first year of married life—dealing with in-laws, managing careers, and facing the prospects of starting families.

Laura and Sam, who graduated from Emerson in 2007, said they originally decided to join the show to demonstrate that gay and lesbian marriages are no different than other relationships. Through the show, they said, they have learned to be more patient with each other and learn to respect each other’s independence in the relationship.

“We thought it was an opportunity to show viewers that we may be a lesbian couple, but we are just like other newlyweds out there: We bicker, we worry about our finances and plan for the future. We have date-nights and romance and sometimes we sit around in our pajamas and watch bad TV on a Friday night,” the couple wrote in a joint email to the Beacon.

The Abbys said they first met at Emerson in 2004 after they joined the same sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and have been together since 2007. Laura, then a writing, literature, and publishing major, met Sam, a visual and media arts major, when Sam pledged as a transfer student in the fall of their sophomore year.

The show follows them as Sam—who has her own production company, Penny Lane Pictures—struggles to manage the estate she had just inherited while living in New York City. Laura, meanwhile, is trying to launch her writing career, but she is worried she won’t be able to financially support Sam and herself in the process. The show also highlights the everyday struggles of being a lesbian couple in the early research stage of starting a family.

In a recently-published piece for Cosmopolitan magazine, Laura writes about the way outsiders view her relationship with Sam, explaining how many people don’t think her and Sam “look” like lesbians. Laura said that she doesn’t follow the stereotypical look of a lesbian. Onlookers see her manicured nails, long hair and well done makeup and just assume she is straight, she said.

“Although not every day, inquiries into our personal lives happen often. Women notice my diamond ring and compliment my husband's taste. The doctor asks if my husband is tall, like me.” Laura wrote in her Cosmopolitan article. “I meet friends and their coworkers for drinks, and the innocuous chatter follows: What do you do? Where do you live? I love your necklace! It would be weird to withhold the fact that I'm a writer, that I live in Manhattan, or that I'm wearing my wife's necklace.”

Laura’s article talks about how she and Sam sometimes hold off on telling people right away that they are married. Laura said she also plans on turning her writing website into a resource for lesbian brides to visit.

The couple said that having their marriage documented on camera was not as hard as they thought it would be, and they quickly forgot the cameras were even there.

Now that filming is over, the couple is trying to make strides in their personal careers. Sam said she hopes to use her production company to change the media scene in New York City. Laura said she is currently talking to Amazon about publishing her work in the Kindle Singles division, a division that includes essays, articles, and memoirs.

“We really enjoyed documenting our journey as newlyweds—the small moments and the big adventures,” the couple wrote. “Our honeymoon is a blur to us now, but we have this show as something of a time capsule of our first year as wives.”