I started watching Parks and Recreation after seeing the “Swanson Pyramid of Greatness” floating around the Internet. Who was this “Ron Swanson,” and how was he getting away with ranking buffets above friends, romantic love, and self-reliance? Google images revealed that he also sported the manliest mustache of all-time.
After this, I dove headfirst into “legal” streamings of the show and met some of the most memorable characters ever created.
Tonight’s the series finale, and as personal send-off, I’d like to reflect on everything I’ve learned about relationships from my favorite parks department. They’ve all endured crushes, new romances, break-ups, divorces, and loving marriages—and I’m all the wiser because of them.
If you like someone, let them know
It takes a lot of guts, but it’s better to get an answer than wrestle with an unknown. Leslie and Ben, April and Andy, Anne and Chris, Donna and Joe, and Tom and Lucy all had to take this first, terrifying step, but it was all worth it. Act now, worry later.
Timing is everything
It sucks when a relationship doesn’t work because the two of you are at different points of your life. In “Christmas Scandal,” (2.12), Officer Dave (Louis C.K.) tells Leslie that he’s transferring to San Diego – and he’d like her to come with him. As much as she likes the idea, Leslie knows that’s not where she’s supposed to be. She decides to stay in Pawnee, where she eventually meets a municipal budget consultant-extraordinaire named Ben Wyatt—and the rest is televised history.
Just because fate ends one relationship, doesn’t mean it won’t start another. It will all work out!
Relationships are built from friendships
This was a revelation. Love isn’t just sweeping romance, but also goofy moments that remind you how much you enjoy hanging out with this person. You could just sit in a tree and it would be the best day ever. And you don’t have to start out as BFFs—Ben and Leslie annoyed each other when he first arrived in the parks department. They got to know each other, liked each other, and gradually love each other.
You don’t have to change yourself
In the episode “Halloween Surprise” (5.5), Anne is ready to sell her boxes of ex-boyfriends’ stuff at the fundraiser for Jerry (who was hospitalized after a fart attack). She’s realized that when she dates someone, she “kind of adopts that person’s personality.” This can be confusing, exhausting, and expensive. Besides, the two of you hit it off in the first place because he liked you, not his clone.
Talk it out
Relationships aren’t perfect. They require patience, compromise, and communication. Ben and Leslie are such a strong couple because they are honest with each other and grow from their mistakes—like letting a chard stand come between them (episode 6.11). It happens to the best of us.
Be supportive of one another
It can be small gestures, like acknowledging someone’s awesome shrimp claw, or big ones, like supporting the person when they apply to the Police Academy, want to go back to school, buy a haunted house together, or move to a new city. April and Andy encourage every weird endeavor they encounter because they want each other to be happy. They’re also soul mates.
If they want to be there, they will be
A recent break-up has taught me that if your S.O. wants to make it work, s/he will. They could list all sort of reasons (school, work, distance, blah blah), but what it comes down to is wanting to make the effort. Leslie and Ben don’t let her campaign come between them, April and Andy work through his time spent in England/a dumpster, and Ron embraces fatherhood. Life is always throwing one hurtle after another, and it’s the person that stays with you through it all that matters.
Don’t let a crazy ex scare you away
One of my favorite episodes is “Ron and Diane,” (5.9). Tammy 2 shows up and tries all of her tricks to lure Ron back, but he stays strong. And so does his new love, Diane. That person is an ex for a reason—trust your S.O. when they say it’s over. If they’re on the Tammy 2 scale, just don’t get too close to an open car trunk. Or a dumpster. Or any sharp objects.
Embrace a relationship with yourself
Sometimes it feels like everyone and their brother is in a relationship except you. And that’s fine. It’s just as important and fulfilling to build a relationship with yourself. There’s a string of episodes in the fifth season when Anne tries to explain to everyone that she is “dating herself.” This just means focusing on yourself—your hobbies, your work, your goals, and your happiness. In the wise words of Donna and Tom, you deserve to:
(Favorite episode of all-time: “Pawnee Rangers,” 4.4).
So if you’re ever in need of relationship advice in the future, just turn to Parks and Rec.
Thank you for seven spectacular seasons! Wish them well tonight at 10 pm on NBC.