Why Did Frank & Claire Underwood Break Up? 'House Of Cards' Season 3 Was Tough For The Power Couple

With Season 4 of House of Cards set to premiere on March 4, get ready to spend the entire weekend marathoning the season in increasing disbelief that Frank Underwood still manages to cling to power. But there will be one big change in the new season — Frank & Claire Underwood had a break-up at the end of House of Cards Season 3, as Claire dealt the sitting president a huge blow. Frank and Claire always seemed like the OTP of House of Cards; no matter how many dead bodies, extramarital affairs or state secrets tried to come between them, they'd come back even stronger. But no longer.

In the third season, the added pressure of having Frank as the POTUS and Claire's desire to get her own career going complicated things considerably, and that all managed to drive a wedge between the two. I'd say the break-up was sad, but really it was more like the dissolution of a longstanding alliance between two nations. With both of the Underwoods as free agents, the upcoming House of Cards election could go any which way. But in preparation for the all-day, all-night marathon ahead, allow me to refresh your memory of exactly how and why the Underwoods decided to dissolve their seemingly perfect union.

Claire Fought For A Promotion

One of the first hints that the Underwoods' marriage was not in a good place was Frank's reaction to Claire's fight to become the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Frank initially asked Claire to accept the fact that the Senate rejected her nomination, but she refused. Frank did wind up appointing her to the position and overriding the Senate while they are in recess, but his initial dismissal was the first seed of conflict between them — and with good reason.

Frank Was Asked Not To Run For President

After fighting to make his way to the presidency without a single vote being cast, Frank's poor approval rating was met with the rest of the Democratic leadership asking him not to run for reelection. This clearly shook what we once thought was an unshakeable ego.

The Russian President Got Involved

Actually, this was one of the few moments where Frank actually seemed invested in his marriage. Of course, it only happened because Petrov rather aggressively flirted with Claire, and even kissed her, during a State dinner.

They Had A Disastrous Trip To Russia

Petrov's insistence that an American political prisoner in Russia deliver an apologetic statement led to a three-way stalemate between the Russian president, ambassador Claire, and the prisoner (a gay man named Corrigan). Corrigan opened up to Claire, and told her that his marriage had fallen apart and suggested that her marriage, too, was a sham.

The mission ended in a disaster, as Corrigan chose to commit suicide rather than make the statement Petrov was forcing him to give, and an emotional Claire made a speech that torpedoed a deal between Frank and Petrov.

They Renewed Their Vows

As Liz Lemon would tell you, renewing your vows might seem like a good idea, but just as often it turns into an ironic prediction of a couple's eventual split. And things were getting awkward between the Underwoods, especially during an uncomfortable portrait session. Their once-intimate connection was starting to deteriorate.

Frank Betrayed Claire

In a move that proved exactly why husbands and wives don't often work well together, Claire's entire professional career was destroyed — and it was Frank who brought down the hammer, as he is forced to publicly condemn her for being manipulated by the Russian ambassador during an international incident in the Jordan Valley. This not only ended Claire's attempts to form a peace plan, but forced her to resign from her U.N. ambassadorship. While Frank and the rest of the leadership were technically right — she was under-qualified to deal with such a complicated event — it still destroyed almost all of remaining trust between them.

Claire Campaigned For Frank

Though personally deeply unhappy, Claire headed out on the campaign trail to help Frank gain political points. Despite his tenuous alliance with Jackie Sharp, the only bright spot that helped him gain momentum was Claire, who still had a high approval rating and was an old pro at making charming campaign stops.

Claire Walked Out

Though Frank was galvanized by a win in Iowa, he made the mistake of threatening Claire by claiming that he is the source of her success. And in a powerful moment, she told Frank that their partnership was over. After an entire season in which she was forced to put her needs second to his, it was thrilling to see Claire forge out on her own, leaving Frank when he clearly needed her most.

Whatever happens to the Underwoods in Season 4, it's a lot easier to root for Claire as a free agent then as one of Frank's pawns. She's prepared to outsmart him at every turn, and I cannot wait to see how she does it.

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