jessica tholmer
February 22, 2016 10:10 am

I was late to the Parks and Recreation game, but since I watched all the way through last year, I have watched all the way through two or three more times. There is something about the show that I do not need to explain to you guys because you all already watched it a million years before I did.

But I will tell you that I watched Parks and Rec for the first time when I was going through one of the hardest (maybe the hardest) times in my life and watching Ben and Leslie fall in love was as heartwarming as it was hard to watch. When you are single, bitter, and going through a hard time, watching a perfect couple, fictional or not, is rough times, but you know what? Ben and Leslie are the truth.

EINTKILF Ben and Leslie

1. Pay attention to what your partner needs. 
This is a huge obviously when it comes to Ben and Leslie. These two have always been very in touch with what the other person needs, even way before they were together (either time). Ben brings Leslie a choice of homemade chicken soup OR waffles when she is super sick. Though Leslie (obviously) chooses the waffles, the homemade chicken soup gesture is not lost on her.

That’s just the beginning. The two have perfect chemistry and are always able to give each other what they need — except when Ben needs space from Leslie. That doesn’t work so well.

2. Sacrifices go a long way.

Well, in one of the most heartbreaking Ben and Leslie situations, the two abandon their relationship in order to avoid the secret dating scandal that might derail Leslie’s promising city council campaign. Leslie avoids telling Ben that she is running for city council for awhile but Ben is smart, and eventually presents Leslie with a pin that reads “Knope 2012,” showing his support for her career over their relationship. 

Down the road, when happiness exists again, Leslie acts similarly in support of Ben’s career. When Ben is offered a job in Washington, D.C., Leslie encourages him to pursue the awesome career opportunity rather than focus on being away from her and Pawnee for a few months.

3. Jealousy happens. 

You guys, we all have a Hot Rebecca in our lives. Maybe she isn’t hanging out in your mind right now, or maybe she is always kind of there, in the back of your mind. I certainly have a Hot Rebecca. Hot Rebecca is me, but smarter, more fit, funnier, and less whiny. Hot Rebecca lives in the deepest part of my insecurities and she certainly manages to show up when I’m really digging on somebody.

The point is, there is jealousy in all relationships — from Shauna Malwae-Tweep chatting Ben up at the End of the World vigil all the way to a fake woman named Hot Rebecca. It happens to all of us and the best we can do as human beings is work past it. (Or be adults and talk about it, but that’s like, super hard.)

4. Be your partner’s champion. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how many examples there are of Leslie and Ben championing for each other. When Leslie and Ben first start dating and Leslie decides to run for city council; when Leslie presents Ben with the little Washington, D.C. statue; when Ben quits his job so Leslie doesn’t get fired; when Ben runs Leslie’s campaign; when Leslie gets Ben the Game of Thrones iron throne; when Ben announces that Leslie will run for Governor of Indiana; when, when, when.

These two are the real deal Holyfield because everyone wishes they had a person that supported them that hardcore. I guess I have always been waiting for the partner that will stand up for me as much as I know I can stand up for myself. Where you at, pseudo-Ben-Wyatt?

5. Independence is everything.

And speaking of champions, Ben and Leslie are my actual dream couple for a lot of reasons, but honestly mostly because they remain independent as all get out. When I am in a relationship, I am super stoked to spend time with my dude as often as we can — but — I really, really, really like my independence. I live alone, I work a very low-interaction job, I have a freakin’ cat, I have friends that are all independent, I make my own dollas and I pay my own bills, I talk to my parents like once a month and that’s it–like I definitely am an independent person. And I honestly envy people who need people more than I do. I am not here to sound superior for needing people less than some, in fact, it has been my biggest relationship issue because everyone always thinks I am fine and need nothing from anyone and that just isn’t the case.

That whole ramble was all because I want you guys to know that I think independence in a relationship is amazing. I think it is the best when couples can spend nights apart, or when couples spend time with their own friends, or when couples still read books because they have time to do so, or when couples are identifiable as individuals rather than as a “we” or an “us.” When Ben corrects that silly group of protestors about Leslie’s name, I fall even more in love with him, and them.

6. People change their minds. 

When Ben and Leslie first meet, Ben is kind of a pretentious life-ruiner and Leslie is having none of it.

But Ben shows his soft side during the Harvest Festival (and forevermore) and Leslie warms up to him, slowly. I really appreciate relationships that start out in a “no way, dude” scenario and enter into straight up super in love stuff. In real life or on television. I’m not picky.

7. Be communicative. 

One of my favorite episodes of Parks and Rec is “Smallest Park,” when Ben and Leslie have to work together on a project even though Ben is trying to distance himself from Leslie and Leslie is in a full panic about losing Ben in her life, even though they have broken up at this point.

I guess I love this episode because it hits so close to home. After Ben and Leslie fight about her being a “steamroller, Ann eventually tells Leslie that she IS a “massive, enormous, runaway steamroller with no brakes and a cement brick on the gas pedal.” Ann continues to tell Leslie that she always does what she wants, she ignores what other people want, and she hears only what she wants to hear. She also reassures her that she is passionate, but she loves too hard sometimes. (If you don’t know why this hits close to home for me, you literally don’t know me.)

With Ann’s encouragement, Leslie finally realizes that maybe she is too much and she should listen to what Ben wants. Though she intends to tell Ben that she will give him his space, she instead tells him that she has feelings for him and wants to go for it, even if it hurts her job or anything else. AND THEN I CRY.

That all being said, I think it is really important to be communicative with your feelings. NO, I do not always do this, but YES, I wish I could. And I think you should. And I think I should too. And I’m glad Ben and Leslie did.

8. Weddings are what you make of them. 

I won’t turn this into a rant like above but I will just briefly tell you guys that I’m not into weddings. They are expensive and stressful and gorgeous, sure, but also just too much for my personality type. I really love when couples (IRL or on television) just do something small and intimate and amazing. Though I personally don’t see myself ever getting married, if I ever did, I’d want a Ben and Leslie wedding.

I would happily wear the Ann Perkins of dresses and marry the love of my life, as long as it cost like a couple hundred bucks and there were like fewer than 10 people present.

9. Involve your friends.

Speaking of 10 people at your wedding, Ben and Leslie are excellent at incorporating their friends into their relationship. Whoa, whoa, whoa, before you get me wrong, I do not ALWAYS think this is a great idea. I have been in not one, but two serious relationships that have been negatively impacted by friendships, either his or mine or our “mutual friends.” That all being said, I don’t have Toms, Chris-s or Anns in my life. (I mean, I have conglomerates, but not one individual representative for each character.) Ben and Leslie have excellent friendships in their lives that encourage them and root for them and support them through every stage of their relationship.

And that’s maybe even more #goals than Ben and Leslie are #goals. Find the people who raise you up, support you, love you, and trust you rather than the people you have to defend your relationship or feelings to. Stop doing that. It’s not worth it.

10. Love and like one another.
Stop. Just stop.

But also, I’ve dated people I feel like I have loved but haven’t liked, or people that I have felt attracted to but would not call a good ol’ buddy or pal. Stop that too (and not in the cute way). Be with someone you like and love. Be with someone you love and consider a friend. Like and love your person. It will make life that much sweeter.

GIFs via here, herehere, and here. Featured image via NBC.

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