The Office first aired on NBC on March 24th, 2005. In honor of its upcoming 13th anniversary, one contributor wants to celebrate a Dunder Mifflin love story beyond Jim and Pam, one that fans might not consider to be as much of a “fairy tale.”
“How did you and your boyfriend get together? What’s your story?”
It’s not an unusual question to be asked, especially seven years into a serious relationship with a man who you live with, own dogs with, and plan to spend the foreseeable future with. But for me, it is a painfully awkward question that forces me to confront the fact that my love story, our love story, isn’t exactly a fairy tale. Rather, it’s a bumbling narrative with equal parts romance and heartache, pleasure and pain, pride and embarrassment. It’s one that, knowing where it ends, I wouldn’t change for the world — but one I’m not especially anxious to tell at parties, either.
For so long, I have wanted my “love story” to look more like the tales I admired in books, on TV, and in movies. I wanted to be able to tell people I married my high school sweetheart, like Topanga in Boy Meets World, or that I followed my true love across the country to college, à la Felicity. I dreamed of telling a story that swept listeners off their feet, one that left them thinking, Those two are meant to be, not, I can’t believe they’re still together.
Every time I watched those television shows, I saw a couple that made me feel like my love story was somehow inadequate. Our origin story wasn’t picture-perfect like the romances that played out on the small screen.
And then my boyfriend and I re-watched The Office, and I realized there was already a couple I could relate to on TV — one that perfectly captured how messy and utterly imperfect love can be: Angela Martin and Dwight Schrute.
As soon as the first episode of U.S. version of The Office aired in 2005, it was obvious that Jim and Pam were going to be the couple to watch. Over the course of nine seasons, PB&J (as they were affectionately nicknamed by fans) became best friends, fell in love, broke each other’s hearts, *finally* began dating, got married, and started a family. All the while, they expressed their love through deeply romantic gestures that often left Pam — and the audience — in tears. There was the time that Jim used a teapot to create the most thoughtful Christmas present for Pam, and the time Pam made Jim his very own comic book for Valentine’s Day. When they got engaged, it was at a rest stop in the rain because Jim just couldn’t wait to do it a second longer. He bought Pam a house, and several years later, she sold it so they could follow Jim’s dream job to Texas.
For 201 episodes, the Halperts lived out a fairytale romance through grand, deeply sentimental moments that hurtled them steadily toward a Happily Ever After that viewers never really doubted they’d get. It was sweet, romantic, and altogether swoon-worthy — but it also felt so unrelatable and unrealistic to a viewer like me who has had to travel a much bumpier road on the way to finding The One.
Pam and Jim may have been the most popular couple on the show, but for me, Angela and Dwight were the real relationship goals on The Office.
Angela Martin, Dunder Mifflin’s straight-laced accountant, and Dwight Schrute, the Scranton branch’s most loyal employee, had a will-they-won’t-they romance for the ages. For nine seasons, the two unlikely love birds were caught up in a mostly secret affair that brought them as much joy as it did sorrow. Things between Dwight and Angela were always passionate, but they were rarely easy. In the beginning, they hid their happy relationship from coworkers for fear of criticism, but after a genuinely well-intentioned cat murder, it ultimately ended in heartbreak.
Dwight and Angela tried to move on — she eventually even got engaged to their co-worker Andy Bernard — but time and time again, they found themselves back in each other’s arms. Their affair was revealed, a duel was fought, an ultimate betrayal was exposed, and halfway through the series, it seemed that the unlikely pair had run out of chances.
But they weren’t though — in fact, their love story was just getting started. They’d fall in and out of love, try and make a baby, attempt to get back together, and find (and even marry) other people. In the end, it wasn’t big romantic gestures or swoon-worthy moments that brought Dwight and Angela together.
It was a little forgiveness, a lot of growing, and plenty of hard work.
No matter what happened between them, Dwight and Angela were willing to put everything on the line for one another. And for these two that meant their jobs and their reputations.
In Season 2, when Angela forgot to turn in an important report to corporate, Dwight drove to New York to deliver it for her. In order to protect their relationship when Michael discovered the trip and demanded answers, Dwight chose getting fired over revealing his true motivations. Angela later came to his rescue when she was willing to tell Michael everything in order to get him to hire Dwight back.
When their romantic relationship wavered, their commitment to one another did not. In Season 6, the pair make a contract to have a baby together so they can both live out their dreams of parenthood, but when Angela meets another man, Dwight lets her go. She eventually has a son, Philip, with her new husband, In the final season, Dwight and his new girlfriend try to rig a paper airplane contest in Angela’s favor so that she’d win the much-needed cash prize. Right down to the show’s final moments, Dwight and Angela prove that they are willing to do whatever it takes to support one another, even if it doesn’t make them personally happy.
Dwight’s ultimate act of love acknowledges how complicated, messy, and imperfect love can be.
It took years for Dwight and Angela to get their timing right, and like so many other couples — including me and my boyfriend — theirs was a love story that didn’t follow a straight path.
Instead, they often traveled totally different directions on veering roads that looped and bended and hooked up with other highways that led far away from their starting point. Time and time again, though, their paths kept crossing, sometimes in perfect synchronicity, other times in a violent collision that left them both scarred.
When it came down to it, Dwight and Angela chose each other, not because it was the easy choice or even the right choice, but because it was a choice they had worked so hard at making a possibility.
They had to overcome shame and embarrassment, betrayals and lies, other failed relationships, and their own egos and fears in order to get to a place where they could be happy together. What their rollercoaster of a relationship taught the audience, and what it reminded me of when I re-watched it years later, is that building a loving relationship isn’t about leaving the baggage at the door — it’s about helping your partner carry what they cannot manage on their own.
In the end, Dwight and Angela do get their fairy tale moments, but they have to slay more than a few dragons first. There were no shared earbuds or rooftop pizza dinners, no professions of love over hot coals or underneath the mist at Niagara Falls, but there was patience, kindness, respect, and most importantly, love.
Angela and Dwight may not have had a storybook romance, but their journey created a stable, loving relationship, a committed partnership, and an enduring love. In other words, the exact kind of story I want.