What I learned about love from sitcom boyfriends

I’ve always been a pop culture addict, and what better place to educate yourself on relationships than with sitcoms. Love, relationships, and heartbreak are hard to navigate, but I’ve always used what I’ve learned from characters on television to help me be a better person in relationships. It may seem silly and idealistic to put so much faith in love, especially based off of fictional characters, but it really has helped me understand what relationships should be about.

Love is about patience and timing

Nothing is more painful than being in love with someone and being unable to be with that person. As I watched Jim Halpert pine after Pam Beasley on The Office, I desperately hoped she would wake up and notice that he was perfect for her, and after four years, she finally did. . If Jim taught me anything, it was waiting for someone you truly love and know is a compatible match for you isn’t crazy. He didn’t stop living his life, he didn’t stop dating, he simply tried to make himself happy, while waiting for the right timing. People will tell you all the time not to wait on a person to change their feelings for you or their circumstances, but that doesn’t make it stupid to hope to be with them. Everyone knows that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you find someone who is right for you. It’s never crazy to love someone, because sometimes you get to fall in love with your best friend and that is the most beautiful thing there is.

You have to give relationships your all for them to work

Ted Mosby on How I Met Your MOther has always been a fan of the grand gesture, as idealistic and romantic as a person comes. I immediately latched onto him, considering myself to be the same sort of romantic. For me, love and relationships has always been something I put above everything else and ever since I cracked open my first Jane Austen novel I dreamed of finding that perfect person, that one person who will change everything for you. Ted was resilient in his search for his soulmater and worked hard on every relationship he had before it, each time hoping that that was the one.

I find myself acting the same way. What is the point of being in a relationship if you don’t give it your all? When you’re young, it’s easy to not see the potential big picture, and sometime those young relationships end up being the greatest. Even when he hated being single and wanted to give up on love, Robin pushed Ted to see that big picture. Love isn’t something you should give up on just because things aren’t easy or straight forward, because to do so is a disservice to yourself and to the people who love you. As Ted says in the second episode of the series, “It’s a game, I just have to keep playing.”

Love sometimes means sacrifice

Parks and Recreation is one of my all-time favorite shows. Not only is the show hilarious, but it is incredibly heartwarming and true when it comes to its portrayal of relations. I am a sucker for nerdy men—a good sweater, horn-rimmed glasses, and the ability to have an intelligent conversation about the politics of Game of Thrones is far sexier than washboard abs. Ben Wyatt is that sort of guy.

On top of his wealth of nerdy pop culture references, he is sharp and unafraid of a good debate. Remember when he first met Leslie and they hated each other? Ben is a great example of self-sacri fice in relationships. When Leslie wants to run for office, he doesn’t tell her to choose their relationship over her dreams; he gives up everything for her. That’s real love: giving up something to better the life of the person you love. So many people make decisions in relationships out of fear or selfishness, but loving someone is about recognizing your own needs and your loved ones, and realizing when their needs should be put first.

Compatibility is more than just the superficial things

Nick isn’t exactly the classic sitcom boyfriend. He works as a bartender, refuses to pay his bills, drinks too much, and seems to have a lot of gaps in his knowledge, but damn it if he isn’t a great kisser. He’s perfectly imperfect. I think a lot of people fall into the idea that they need to have everything in common with their significant other. Sure, it’s great to love the same movies, music, food, etc., and those things are important, but it’s the fundamental parts of a relationship that are the most important.

The big picture questions of family, faith, etc. mean a lot more in the end. It’s perfectly fine to love someone who isn’t just like you. Actually, it can be better. Having differences with some pushes to try new things, to grow. Love is about a lot more than just sharing taste, it’s about sharing yourself. When Nick finally opened up to Jess about his feelings, it changed their relationship for the better. Caring, communication, and support are essential to a healthy relationship, the rest can always be worked out.

I would give anything to have the relationships of Jim and Pam and Ben and Leslie, and I hope that one day I find someone to love like they do. While they may be fictional, the people who created them are real, they used their own experiences to write these characters. Jim and Ben aren’t perfect, nor are their relationships, but that’s what makes them great role models.

My love life has been far from perfect, but I am always trying, always learning, always giving everything I can to the people I care about. If there’s anything I can take away from the relationships I see in sitcoms, it’s that you should never apologize for loving someone, because as Ted Mosby says, “Love is the greatest thing we do.”

Sydney Johnston is a 22-year-old recent college graduate living in the Midwest. When not working as an alumni relations consultant, she spends her time stalking the IMDB homepage for new movie trailers, drinking wine to help write the next great American novel, and attending every concert she can afford. You can follow her on her blog.

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