The Most Awkward Moments We All Witnessed On Wife Swap

Remember "Wife Swap"? That late 2000s show where two completely opposite families swap matriarchs and hilarity ensues? We're obsessed again now that it's streaming. Additionally, many of the children of the featured families are all grown up now — and telling their sides of the story on TikTok


The show originally aired on ABC for seven seasons between 2004 and 2013. The premise is this: two women (or sometimes men) agree to trade their households for two weeks. They would then have to live in each other's homes, following the former wife's house rules, for a week. In the second week, the new wife gets to make her own house rules that the family has to live by, where they inevitably butt heads. After the two weeks, the wives swap back to their own families and discuss what they learned with each other.

But sometimes things get real awkward real fast. Neither of the two families know who or where they're about to end up, and we're along for the ride — popcorn in hand. Let's take a look back on the most awkward moments we all witnessed on the original run of "Wife Swap," and revel in how these people were allowed to be on television in the first place. You can see the cringe for yourself on streaming services Hulu, Tubi, and the Paramount Network. 


Stephen Fowler Hurls Insults, Gets Life Destroyed

Let's start with the episode that broke the internet at the time. In Season 5, Episode 13, the "cultural, sophisticated" Stephens-Fowler family of San Francisco swapped wives with the "paintball-loving" Long family from small-town Missouri. Right off the bat, the Stephens-Fowlers wanted America to know how intellectual and well-off they were — and boy, did it backfire spectacularly. After a walkthrough of the Long's house, swapped wife Renee Stephens remarked, "I guess we're not looking at advanced degrees here." Unlike her home filled with organic groceries and fine art, the Longs enjoyed fast food and ATVs. 


Throughout the two-week experience, Stephens' husband Stephen Fowler repeatedly berated swapped wife Gayla Long and snubbed middle-America (his British accent doesn't help). Some of the insults hurled include: "Your two languages seem to be bad English and redneck," "She's a very rude lady, but that's okay because she doesn't have an education," and, "God, that woman is the most stupid woman I've ever met in my life."

According to "Today," Fowler's comments sparked immediate disdain from the public online, inspiring a (now defunct), a Facebook group, "I Can not Stand Stephen Fowler from 'Wife Swap,'" and death threats. In an interview with the Noe Valley Voice, Fowler said he regretted going on the show, as he was subsequently fired from his job two weeks after the episode aired, and it put a strain on his marriage. "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy," he said.


Opposites Attract?

You wouldn't think a husband and wife would be this awkward with each other. In Season 1, Episode 3, the Smoaks, a conservative "gun-toting" family, swap with the liberal, free-spirit Beaver family. What makes this episode so awkward is the clear unaffectionate feelings between the Smoak spouses. Wife Aletha says she's refused to share a bed with her husband Glen for over ten years, on account of his snoring. The couple instead opts to sleep on bunk beds. "I would like to have my wife be more loving, being more close to me, and sleeping in the same bed," Glen said on what he hoped to get out of the swap experience. 


During the first week of the swap, Glen proudly shows off "new wife" Amy Beaver to friends and family at a bonfire gathering. Sexy stock music plays in the background, and the cringe intensifies as Glen glows with pride. "I wish I had her as a wife," Glen said in a confessional. Yikes.

While we don't know whatever happened to Aletha and Glen Smoak and their marriage, the Beavers have made a comeback recently on TikTok. According to Axios, daughter Emily designs and sells crocheted tops — which her parents proudly model — and actively posts with her parents on the platform. 

Superhero Mom Scandal

This episode got super uncomfortable. In Season 6, Episode 14, the Cyboran family of rural Wisconsin swapped with a superhero couple, the Owen-Ladinos. While the Cyborans moved out to the country to escape the "forces of evil" and big city life (the Cyboran dad's words, not ours), the Owen-Ladinos fight off boring relationships by running superhero-themed couples workshops in New York City. They dress in costume both in broad daylight as well as night, much to the chagrin of their teenage daughter. And we're talking the whole get-up: spandex, platform boots, headbands, the works. 


While you've got to admire the Owen-Ladino's confidence, they awkwardly didn't know how to read a room. When superhero wife Shanti meets her new, conservative family for the first time, she's dressed in her midriff-exposed, short-skirted costume, which horrifies everybody.  

"She looked like a stripper to me," said unamused teen daughter Brooke Cyboran. "I thought it was very inappropriate. She was wearing thigh highs and, trust me, I was sitting next to her, I got a very good view." Ick. Double ick. 

Casual Child Abuse

Whoever thought broadcasting this family on the show had an interesting take on what's considered family-friendly for prime time. In Season 1, Episode 7, the Reimers family of strict, militaristic vegetarians swap with the loose and rowdy Bittner family. 


In the Reimers household, parents Paul and Melissa prided themselves on raising their children with strict rules and boundaries, and violation of those rules got swift punishment. The Reimers kids each had a leather belt, called "The Whacker," menacingly nailed to the back of each of their bedroom doors for spankings. "Ideally children should always do what they're told, but they don't," Paul said. 

While we thankfully don't have to see The Whacker in practice in the episode, the image is still shocking. Swapped wife Cindy Bittner spoke her mind and shared our own concerns: "It's very controlling, the kids are treated like robots. I don't like it at all."

Goth Family

In Season 6, Episode 3, the Schroeders, a goth family, swap wives with the hockey-obsessed, uber-competitive Wardles. The cringe creeps in early as we're introduced to the Schroeders, who picnic in the cemetery in their haunted garb. Mom Sheila calls her children her "gothlings," and dad Eric, who worked for a ballet company, makes his sons take dance lessons rather than football. While to each their own when it comes to fashion and lifestyle, it's awkward to watch the kids admit that they aren't into the goth lifestyle as much as their parents. Son Alek even admits that he gets bullied at school for his look. "People sometimes make fun of my hair and say I'm a girl," he said in a confessional. 


Equally awkward on the other end of the spectrum are the Wardles, who call their sons "losers" and other names when they mess up on the ice. Mom Stacy is immediately uncomfortable when she gets switched into the gothic home. "They're freakazoids," Stacy said after a home walkthrough. 

Throughout the episode, Stacy and Eric get combative about each other's parenting methods and names of all kinds are swapped between them. Stacy calls Eric an "idiot" and Eric at one point calls Stacy "a cancer." 

Scent of a Woman

In Season 5, Episode 22, the off-the grid Padovan-Hickman family of Virginia swap with the suburban Burroughs family of New Jersey. 

The Padovan-Hickmans, who describe themselves as "modern pioneers," electively forgo electricity in a log cabin with their two kids and livestock. While the members of the family grow their own food and use headlamps to see at night, they do some pretty unsavory tasks in order to conserve resources, including using each other's bathwater to wash and not flushing the toilet. The parents, Delora and Steve, also get a little too unsavory on camera with each other. Delora shows off her armpit hair that she has grown out for six years, and Steve goes in for a big ol' whiff. Yikes.


"My nightmare is a woman that shaves every hair off her body so I can never get a scent of anything human," said Steve in a confessional. Much to Steve's horror, his wife is swapped with Shannon Nicole Burroughs, a materialistic mom who doesn't hesitate to drop serious coin to pamper herself, from cosmetic surgeries to the latest fashions. Steve takes time again to remind us how much he despises non-natural scents. "Shannon is wearing a lot of, I'm sure, expensive perfume," he said. "I prefer the au naturale one hundred percent of the time." Charming.

Monster Hunter Throws a Tantrum

In Season 6, Episode 12, the monster-hunting Robinson family swap with the talent-managing Parker family. Tracy and Rob Robinson are cryptozoologists who spend all their free time and money monster hunting in Florida. Their big game is the swamp ape, a cousin to Bigfoot, which they hope to take a picture of in the wild. 


After the wives swap, Rob takes new wife Andrea Parker on an overnight monster hunt-slash-camping trip to find the swamp ape. He shows Andrea that he uses special-ordered chimpanzee urine-soaked bait to lure the swamp ape out of hiding. "Are you serious?" Andrea asks Rob. He was. Unfortunately, no swamp apes were found on this trip. 

Drama begins to build around the household when Andrea flips the house rules to focus on son Josh, who doesn't enjoy monster hunting, but prefers music. Her new rules include Rob being instructed to sell some of his old action figures and monster hunting gear to fund studio time for Josh to record a song, which Rob rejects immediately. "You can't live every breathing moment for your children, I mean c'mon now," Rob said. 


As Rob throws a tantrum about selling his toys, Andrea, in a fitting punishment, sends Rob to his room to calm down. "He's acting like a big baby," she said.

Beauty Queen a Drama Queen

In Season 4 episode 1, the feminist Boss family swap with the Gustaferro family, who cater to every whim of teenage beauty queen Alicia. Described as the "Princess of Pageantry," we watch Alicia get pampered and flaunt throughout the episode and express zero self-awareness to anyone outside her bubble. Her parents keep a Christmas tree up all year long and even do her homework for her! "I do feel sorry for people that are not gorgeous people," Alicia said in a confessional. 


According to NY Daily News, Alicia sued ABC for $100 million after the show aired. The lawsuit claimed that "Wife Swap" staged scenes to "maximize [Guastaferro's] public embarrassment," including scenes of her dad spray-tanning her legs. She also claimed that the idea that she received daily presents under the year-round Christmas tree was a fabrication. The lawsuit also said that Guastaferro suffered from panic attacks and was forced to transfer schools due to the episode. 

Alicia would later find herself in court yet again for prostitution charges, which were subsequently dropped, and for a lawsuit against the owner of several strip clubs for unpaid overtime, per Buffalo News.

King Curtis Fights for Chicken Nuggets

Long live King Curtis! In Season 5, Episode 20, we meet the Hollands of North Carolina, who love demolition derbies and keeping their kids happy. This includes allowing son Curtis (aka King Curtis) to eat all the chicken nuggets his heart desires. They swap with the Browns, Joy and Demarcus (aka Sarge), who run a fitness bootcamp and partake in a healthy lifestyle with no junk food. 


What happens when a healthy mom with good intentions gets in the way of King Curtis' chicken nuggets? Absolute chaos. "I think Joy is too skinny and needs to eat a little bit and be happy," Curtis said in a confessional. 

When Joy implements her week of rules for the Hollands, including no more processed foods and more vegetables with a fridge clean-out, Curtis objects loudly. "Bacon is good for me!" Curtis says as Joy tosses the bacon away. In protest, Curtis literally packs a suitcase and leaves the house, claiming he won't return until Joy is gone. "She's gonna try and stop me, but she can't run in those little high heels," he said. All hail King Curtis. 

Raw Food Diet

This one isn't for the faint of stomach. In Season 3, Episode 16, we meet the Haigwoods of Iowa who are doomsday preppers and live a "frontier lifestyle." They swap with the modern, city-dwelling Hess-Webb family, who do not anticipate the end days. 


The Haigwoods don't cook their food and consume an exclusively "raw food diet," including raw chicken, eggs, and even rotting meat. Teenage son Lee is caught on camera multiple times drinking raw eggs for breakfast –he claims he "eats" a dozen a day. But just wait, it gets worse. The family also believes all bacteria is good and refuse to use any kind of chemicals to clean the house — or themselves. We see the family brush their teeth with raw butter, which they say tastes like bleu cheese. Hard pass.

During Kim Hess-Webb's week of rule changes for the swap, she takes the whole family to the doctor for check-ups and for father Mike to talk to a nutritionist. The dispute climaxes when Kim has the family eat cooked food at a restaurant for the first time, and the kids and Mike say they feel sick. Mike, in a bathroom confessional, is upset over Kim's rejection of the diet fearing for his kids well being. "I want to do the rules, but I don't want to do it at their death," Mike says before dramatically breaking down into tears and falling to the floor.