Love and romance are often used in storytelling, and when they're done right they make us look at our lives and our own romantic attempts. Having watched hundreds of sitcom episodes in my lifetime, here are some of the examples of romance that have impacted me the most, and what they've taught me on the topic of love!
1. Jim And Pam (The Office)
- Lesson Learned: It takes hard work to make a relationship last
Our favorite office romance, Jim and Pam, had one of the rockiest roads in sitcom history. Initially we knew Jim was quietly in love with the engaged Pam, but when she broke it off Jim was dating someone else. Time never seemed to be on their side, until it was. Even when the couple finally got together their road was incredibly rough: During their engagement they accidentally became pregnant, Pam temporarily moved away to art school and met another man, and during the final season Jim was distant and busy with his new business venture and even admitted to having feelings for another woman!
Though Jim and Pam went through hell several times they constantly came out of their problems stronger and more in love than before. In a world where breakups and divorce are not only common but expected, and we get bored and move on to new things rather than to fix what we have, Pam and Jim stand as a great example of staying together and the hard work it takes to actually be a couple. Yes, work. It takes work to be selfless and care about another person more than yourself. Thank you Jim and Pam for, despite all obstacles, staying together to teach us things can be fixed, and that it's well worth it!
2. Roseanne And Dan (Roseanne)
- Lesson Learned: It's vital to keep a sense of humor when times get tough
Roseanne ran for nine years starting in 1988, and it was very much ahead of its time. Roseanne and Dan Conner were the leads in the show, and we witnessed their everyday struggles and life as they represented middle America. Throughout the nine seasons the couple had their shares of ups and downs, often in regard to their financial situation as both would go through many jobs and careers, even losing their family-owned business. But through it all, they survived with humor.
No matter what seemed to be thrown their way Dan and Roseanne were able to stay in love and work through it. That's what love should be. Even though they joked about divorce, they decided it wasn't worth it because they didn't have anything worth splitting. They always seemed to find the positive side of things, forgiving and remembering that they loved each other. Too often, I believe, we give up on things because they're hard, difficult or just because we aren't sure how to proceed. Dan and Roseanne proved that above all else it's important to stick together to get through it all.
3. Ross And Rachel (Friends)
- Lesson Learned: If you don't be honest with yourself and the other person about your feelings, you'll waste a lot of time
This couple defined the "will-they-won't-they" romance drama that is common in television today. The pilot episode featured both characters' romantic lives as fallen apart but they're brought back into each others' lives because of it. We know that Ross has feelings for Rachel, but it's a full season before Rachel understands she has feelings for Ross. During the following season they break up and get back together, and break up again. Ross even gets married to someone else (even though he says Rachel's name at the altar — oops!). The following year they get drunk-married in Vegas, but divorced. A year later they become pregnant during a drunken "accident". When the baby is born they nearly get back together, but don't. Then by the finale — TEN YEARS LATER — Rachel is about to move to Europe when Ross puts himself out there and asks her to be with him.
Ten years! We watched this show for ten seasons waiting for these characters to get together. Ten years wasted dating other people and bickering about their relationship. Ten years they could have spent together creating memories and building a life. Ten years they spent taking turns having feelings for the other, but never vocalizing them. Ross and Rachel taught me that when someone comes around that you care about you put yourself out there, you tell them and hope for the best. Love is amazing, and the potential for love should not be taken lightly. If you wish to experience it you need to be willing to put yourself out there. Sure, you may experience disappoint, but take the risk because if you don't you'll be more disappointed you did nothing!
4. Cory And Topanga (Boy Meets World)
- Lesson Learned: It can be scary to let yourself be vulnerable and trust in love, but you have to push past that fear.
Boy Meets World has become a '90s classic, and even spun off a sequel series, Girl Meets World, that focused on Cory and Topanga's kids. As children Cory and Topanga could hardly tolerate each other, but over the course of seven seasons we saw their love slowly blossom then grow as they became engaged and eventually married.
One of Cory's largest obstacles with Topanga was her disbelief in love since her parents divorce in the fourth season. The couple are even engaged at one point, but she breaks it off because she is unsure of whether love can be long-lasting. Eventually Topanga deals with her issues and the two become and engaged and married. From a viewer's perspective, it wasn't that Topanga no longer loved Cory, it was that she didn't trust that love could be forever. Even when they were engaged and married she had fears about whether or not their love would last; those kind of fears don't go away over night. They may not go away at all. Fear is normal. As human beings we're afraid of many things, but the fear of letting someone get close and potentially hurt us ranks pretty high.
Regardless of her fears Topanga eventually worked through them and let herself be vulnerable, not knowing how their life together would turn out. We got a glimpse of it thirteen years later in the sequel series, and it seems that life turned out pretty well for the young couple!
5. Jesse And Becky (Full House)
- Lesson Learned: Love isn't always convenient and doesn't always happen when we expect it, but we shouldn't deny it.
We all love Jesse and Becky from Full House and sequel series Fuller House. Becky was originally supposed to just have a six-episode arc in Season 2 but became a regular cast member for the last seven seasons, and it's hard to imagine Full House without her! She was initially introduced as simply a coworker of Danny's but falls quickly in love with Jesse — even though it took her a while to admit the truth. And the smooth ladies' man didn't exactly sweep her off her feet in their first meeting.
Why did it take her a while? At the time, Becky was starting a new career path, and Jesse was working on his band. Love was not on either of their minds, but it came to them anyway. Even though reluctant at first, the two have become one of the most iconic couples in sitcom history, and added some huge heart to both the show and to Uncle Jesse's rebel character.
We know from Fuller House that they stayed together, but imagine if they had both decided to focus on their careers instead of romance? They both could have potentially missed out on the greatest thing to ever happen to them. Jesse and Becky taught that love doesn't need to be convenient, and probably never will be, but if we take a chance it has the potential to change our lives.
6. Robin And Ted (How I Met Your Mother)
- Lesson Learned: Having a partner with different perspectives and beliefs can challenge you and make your relationship stronger, not lesser.
Despite your feelings about the polarizing series finale you have to admit that the entire story of the series wasn't about Ted meeting the mother, it was about Robin. It's where we started and it's where the series ends. Ted and Robin's relationship was extremely complicated, and even more and up and down than Ross and Rachel's! Ted and Robin are painted to be complete opposites and everything around them makes them believe they can't make it work.
In the episode "Brunch" Robin meets Ted's parents for the first time, and they quickly learn of Ted's parents' not-so recent but secret divorce. His mother and father describe how they're different people, and it's clear that they're also describing Ted and Robin's differences. The entire series outlines the contrasts between the two, not only their likes and dislikes but goals, ambitions, and values. Even though it's true at the time, the two still end up together in the series finale thirty years into the future. Remarkably, it was several years after Ted's wife has passed away and was at the urging of his two children — who, in fact, are the ones to point out this long-winded story was actually about Robin, not their mother.
Ted and Robin spend so much time looking at everything that divide them, but seem to miss all the reasons they actually love each other. Having a partner doesn't mean you'll agree 100% of the time. Both of you may have been raised completely differently, have different perspectives and will occasionally have different goals. Ted and Robin finally ended up together because they realize they have more things in common than differences, when in reality having a partner with different ideologies and perspectives can reshape you into a better, well-rounded person, and may even challenge some of your beliefs to make you try new things!
7. Penny And Leonard (The Big Bang Theory)
- Lesson Learned: It's as much about where the other person is at in life as it is about where you're at in yours.
Leonard may have fallen in love with Penny at first sight when she moved in next door, but it definitely wasn't love at first sight for Penny! It took her two years and a few months to realize she cared for him as more than just her smart-but-dorky next-door neighbor. Since Leonard had been in love with her for two years at this point it was easy for him to jump straight in and say, "I love you," but it freaked Penny out and the two broke up. Two years later, after they've resumed their relationship, Leonard "accidentally" proposes during sex, which causes Penny to freak out again. This time they don't break up, but decide that Leonard will not propose next time, and that he'll leave it to Penny when she's ready. At the end of Season 8 they decide to elope to Vegas, and in the premiere of Season 9 they finally go through with it.
Eight years of pining for Penny until the two were married. Leonard undoubtedly knew what he wanted when they first met, but it took Penny much longer. Unfortunately for Leonard, Penny had to get to a point in her life where she could trust someone, and be someone that could be loved. For this beloved couple timing was everything, and Leonard was a patient enough man to wait for it. Even though I wouldn't recommend always waiting around for someone, it certainly worked out for him and can be worth the wait.
8. Monica And Chandler (Friends)
- Lesson Learned: The best romantic relationships are often the ones that start out as genuine friendship before blossoming into something more.
One of the cutest couples in all of sitcom history is longtime friends Monica Geller and Chandler Bing. It took four seasons for these two to hook up, and it came out of nowhere to shock longtime fans. In retrospect, the two had had cute scenes together before their longtime friendship developed into something romantic. The two are often cuddling watching television or sharing secrets such as Chandler's third nipple. Monica even consoles Chandler during his breakups with Kathy and Janice. And the two see each other's flaws and accept each other just the same.
At the end of Season 4, at Ross and Emily's destination wedding, Monica becomes depressed and it's now Chandler's time to console her when he explains she's the most beautiful woman in the room, and in most rooms. The two spend their first night together, and continue their romance after returning to New York. Within a year they move in together and within two years are married. In the final season of the series we watch them struggle with conception and they finally end up adopting twins.
Chandler and Monica had amazing chemistry on screen, and watching their relationship begin it seemed like they should have been together all along. After such a long friendship, they perfectly complemented each other as they already knew each other's flaws. It was extremely satisfying to watch a successful relationship in a sitcom that was stuffed with failed romances. They already knew everything about each other, and yet their romance was extremely believable and satisfying to watch. Monica and Chandler are great examples of choosing a companion you have an incredible friendship with.
9. Leslie And Ben (Parks And Rec)
- Lesson Learned: Compromise is necessary in a long-term relationship; sometimes you'll shine and sometimes it's time for your partner to shine.
Leslie and Ben are one of the cutest onscreen couples ever, and I think many of us out there are hopeful that we'll find our Ben some day. Their romance does not begin immediately; it's years before Leslie sees what Ben sees. And even when she does, it's right before Leslie is asked to run for city council so the romance is put on an indefinite hold. Eventually they get together, regardless of the consequences to their careers, and are married in Season 5.
Throughout their entire relationship and marriage the two are both pursuing similar careers, and several times it comes into conflict between the two. Ben even steps down from his job so that Leslie can move forward in hers, and in the final season both are asked to run for the same seat in Congress. They communicate and negotiate on which of them should run and which should step down, weighing the pros and cons.
Eventually Ben makes the decision for both of them, announcing to their friends that Leslie has decided to run, all the while with them not knowing that he had also been considered. It's a very tender moment that shows a strong and confident husband who wants his wife to pursue her dream while his take a back seat. This is a great example of Ben's selflessness and sacrifice (and Leslie has other other moments where she does, as well) that are necessary in a healthy adult relationship.
So there you have it! Nine important love lessons we can learn from some of our favorite sitcoms. Share your favorites with me in the comments below!