What the Couples of “The Office” Taught Us About Loveby Jennifer Armstrong on September 20, 2012
When it came to coupling and decoupling, The Office held its own against the hottest nighttime soaps, from Dynasty to Gossip Girl.
Here, we revisit some of the best duos from Dunder Mifflin, and what they taught us about love.
Their engagement was a valiant effort—at what, we’re not quite sure. It just looked like a lot of effort. As it turned out, it was an exercise in denial for Angela, who was trying to get over her affair with Dwight. And poor Andy, who just wanted a wife, did his best to give her the wedding of her dreams, only to be crushed by the news that she’d taken up with Dwight again.
Lesson: When it’s too hard, that’s a sign you might not be with the right person.
It’s been clear since Andy first dueled with Dwight over Erin’s affections that Andy, who loves nothing more than a good a cappella concert and meticulously parted hair, was meant for the profoundly naïve Erin. When she called Andy “the coolest guy I’ve ever met,” it was official. Any of their ups and downs after that have been mere contrived plot twists on the way to them ending up together.
Lesson: There’s someone for everyone.
Their on-again, off-again affair—started in secret in season 2, and since made public—shows us that you can’t choose whom you love. Or at least whom you’re attracted to. Buttoned-up Angela has tried to find more appropriate relationships with Andy and now her new husband, the likely-closeted State Senator Robert Lipton, but she keeps coming back to Dwight. Their hookup a month before Angela’s recent wedding has resulted in the soap operatic twist that her baby is likely Dwight’s.
Lesson: Sexual chemistry is key to a stable, lasting relationship (or you might find yourself having an affair with Dwight Schrute).
Darryl and Kelly’s relationship had an inauspicious beginning: She started dating him to make Ryan jealous. And it only got worse from there. Kelly complained, “Darryl Philbin is the most complicated man that I have ever met. I mean who says exactly what they’re thinking? What kinda game is that?” What he’s mainly thinking is that he’s not that into Kelly, and soon enough she’s making out with Ryan again in the cubicle they share.
Lesson: You are always rewarded for honesty, one way or another.
Holly and Michael met when she subbed as HR rep at the Scranton office while Toby was away. And through Holly’s eyes, we could see how Michael could be an attractive partner. He lit up, loosened up, and stopped having to prove himself once he had that look of adoration from Holly. If we had to lose Michael and see the show fall apart in his wake, we’re glad we lost him to Holly.
Lesson: The perfect person for you is the one who makes you a better person.
Jan played the buttoned-up corporate boss irritated by Michael’s antics, but she fell prey to his charms after they celebrated a business deal together at Chili’s. They embarked on a long-term relationship with her always in charge, but things went downhill after she lost her job.
Lesson: Extreme power differentials always blow up in relationships.
Jim & Karen
Oh, poor Karen, caught in the machinations of Jim and Pam’s undeniable love.
Lesson: Sometimes you are, as Fall Out Boy once sang, “a footnote to someone else’s happiness.” Get out as soon as you realize it.
Jim & Pam
Jim and Pam are epic in their traditional suburbanness. They enacted, with the flair of a Shakespearean drama, the story of millions of couples who now live together in three-bedroom split-levels, eating casseroles and raising two children. One day, they will tell their children the shocking story from their past—that Mommy was engaged to someone else, and Daddy stole her away with his puppy-dog eyes and mussy hair.
Lesson: Even the most ordinary domestic life can be sexy with the right person.
Kelly and Ryan work well together—despite appearances to the contrary—because they both like to make their own drama. And if that makes them happy, if their misery over each other brings them a certain satisfaction, who are we to judge? They are both people who like to think of their lives as bigger and sparklier than the reality indicates; this is how they deal.
Lesson: If you keep being dramatically miserable with the same person, maybe it’s because you like it that way.