5 reasons Pacey and Joey on 'Dawson's Creek' were the epitome of true love
Today marks 15 years since one of our favorite television couples, Dawson Creek’s Pacey Witter and Joey Potter, first reveal their relationship to their friend Dawson. In honor of that episode, “The Longest Day,” we present one reader’s ode to their relationship.
Oh, Pacey and Joey: a phrase any woman who was a teenage girl in the ’90s is at the very least vaguely familiar with. But whether she was striving to be like Joey, searching for her Pacey, or arguing fruitlessly for Joey to choose Dawson instead, there’s one thing all us Dawson’s Creek fans can agree on: Pacey and Joey’s relationship was one for the ages.
In fact, my 13-year-old self swore up and down not to settle until I found my own Pacey because I could relate to Joey so, so hard on almost every level. And it’s not because my favorite episode, the one when they first kissed in, happened to be my birthdate, but because I didn’t stop until I found someone with whom I could have a relationship that fit the Pacey and Joey Criteria for True Love. Here’s what I came up with as to why they were TV’s model couple.
They were sort-of enemies, then friends, first
The very first scene of the series is one where Dawson is shooting a movie, because that’s what Dawson does. Joey is playing the main character and Pacey is, fittingly, playing a sea creature. After he pulls her into the lake, their very first on-screen dialogue exchange progresses like this:
Joey: You did it again—you grabbed my ass!
Pacey: Like you even have one.
Dawson: *Blah blah director talk, blah blah scolding*
Pacey: Hey, it’s Meryl Streep’s fault, OK? I’m doing the best I can.
Joey: Bite me.
Joey and Pacey’s relationship was always snarky around the edges and continued to be as the series ended, but even a not-so-seasoned Casanova knew where this coupling was going from the get-go. Fortunately for the longevity of their relationship, they were eventually able to find common ground as friends and put most—but not all, because where’s the fun in that?—bickering behind them.
By the time they figured it out, Pacey and Joey had pretty much seen the best and worst of each other, and knew that they loved each other before they were even close to being together. Laying that sort of foundation for a romance is something I think could benefit most people thinking of starting a relationship with someone—even though, of course, it isn’t always easy to wait.
They pushed each other beyond their comfort zones, and weren’t afraid to fight
For every moment of their relationship up until the moment Pacey breaks up with her at prom in the WORST EPISODE EVER, Joey works to connect with Pacey in a way that makes him feel…well, connected with. She knows he isn’t the most academically inclined, but continually assures him that her future lies with him, and does her best to make sure he feels loved and supported.
And as easy as it would be for her to play the martyr, Joey’s loyalty never wavers from Pacey from the moment she steps on that boat to sail away with him for the summer—an adventure the likes of which she may never have taken without him.
Pacey broke up with Joey because he knew deep down that she had a need to grow, away from Capeside, before they could make an adult decision as big as promising to be together forever. If that isn’t the best example of “If you love someone, set them free” I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.
They BOTH put in the work
You know that episode of How I Met Your Mother when they talk about one person in a relationship being “The Reacher” and one person being “The Settler”? That didn’t happen with Joey and Pacey. I’d argue that Pacey did a lot more of the work up front and those fans who clamor to paint Joey as a villain will tell you he did ALL the work, 24/7, but that just isn’t true. Sure he bought her the wall, and built a boat in her honor, and refurbished the restaurant her dad burned down and REMEMBERED EVERYTHING—the last of which remains one of the most popular and iconic scenes of the series.
But Joey remembered everything, too. The night she lost her virginity to Pacey, she gave him a list of things he’d done for her that proved she hadn’t taken any of it for granted:
“Pacey…this is about how you carried my bag off the bus yesterday. This is how when we go to the movies and you go and you buy popcorn, you always be sure you bring back a napkin so I don’t wipe all the grease on my jeans. And this is about how just last week when we were at miniature golf you took all of the shots first so I would know the correct path. You taught me how to drive. And last year at prom, you knew that the bracelet I was wearing was my mom’s. You kissed me first, sweetheart. The second time you counted to 10 before doing it again, just in case I wanted to stop you. You bought me a wall. We were alone on a boat for three months and you understood without a word why I wasn’t ready. Do you have to ask me now why I am?”
Pacey was a man of action, while Joey was a woman of words. And coincidentally, Joey—a girl without a present set of parents—appreciated action, while Pacey—someone with very present parents who barely gave him the time of day—appreciated words. Talk about love languages at work.
They cared deeply about the people they’d hurt, and took responsibility for their actions
A lot of fans of the show like to claim that Pacey “stole” Joey from Dawson, which is problematic for a couple of reasons. Mostly: There’s no such thing as “stealing” someone in a romantic context. Joey was an independent human who could make her own decisions. And also, Dawson asked Pacey to look after Joey after HE rejected HER. As Pacey did what his best friend asked, he and Joey grew closer and fell in love. Not the most unrealistic thing to happen.
But let’s discuss the “The Longest Day”–that a season-four episode that first aired 15 years ago today (anyone else feel old?). The episode plays out the day Pacey and Joey finally tell Dawson what’s up, and takes the entire 45 minutes because the situation was so serious it took multiple Groundhog Day-esque tellings for Pacey and Joey to break the news. The last thing Dawson’s BFFs wanted to do was hurt him, but they knew it was inevitable and would take time and patience and a lot of planning to do it right—if there even was such a thing as a “right” way to tell him.
And if that wasn’t enough, Joey literally waited for Dawson to tell her it was OK before sailing away with Pacey for the summer. And even though she tried her best to let him down easy, we all know .
They never put pressure on the idea of having to be soulmates
In the series finale, our titular character Dawson finally figures out what we’ve all been thinking when he explains to his little sister what a soulmate is:
“Well, it’s like a best friend, but more. It’s the one person in the world that knows you better than anyone else. It’s someone who makes you a better person. Actually, they don’t make you a better person—you do that yourself because they inspire you. A soul mate is someone who you carry with you forever. It’s the one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did or when no one else would. And no matter what happens, you’ll always love her. Nothing can ever change that.”
Nowhere in there does it say anything about a romance, and that’s the entire point: Soulmates can exist, but the idea of one true soulmate being anyone’s romantic destiny is nothing compared to the reality of what being someone’s soulmate actually means, and why it’s so different from the idea—namely, the ability to choose. Pacey actually sums up fantasy versus reality pretty nicely in my aforementioned favorite episode:
“Sometimes wishes do come true. Sometimes even in unexpected places. But reality always finds a way of creeping back in, Jo. The clock inevitably strikes midnight. Then it’s pumpkin city. The fantasy fades.”
So how can a woman possibly choose between the story-loving soulmate and the roguish realist?
Luckily for Joey, she got both.
Jen Juneau is a writer and editor from Orlando, Fla. who has accidentally pulled out her Walt Disney World annual pass instead of her driver’s license more times than she can count. She lives for the ‘90s, Harry Potter, anything with sugar in it, and occasionally running (mostly to offset the sugar). Check out her blog at jenislosingit.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @jenislosingit.