Whether we saw them on screen or in real life, we took notice of these dynamic couples and their undeniable chemistry and love. They shared something special and showed us what it meant to care for each other and modeled for us what we could have some day. Here are the first couples we shipped and were our first #relationshipgoals.
What’s the first couple that made you feel hashtag relationship goals (irl or fictional)?
Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson
Alaina, Staff Writer
It started off so beautifully! Remember that episode of “Say Yes to the Dress??” And their adorable team rivalry! And they were black and in love with each other and it was beautiful and I was obsessed. And then it ended…..exactly the way you expect lesbian relationships to end — a mess. I loved watching all of it unfold though.
A.E. Osworth, Staff Writer
They’re a queer power couple that clearly loves each other hard yet they don’t meld into each other, thus retaining their own individual personalities and both have bombass careers and are also really pretty on the internet all the time and probably this is a really weird way for them to find out that I admire their relationship this much?
Crosby and Jasmine Braverman, Parenthood
Mey Rude, Trans Editor
I can literally think of two male characters in the history of media that I can relate to. One is Crosby Braverman from the NBC tv show Parenthood. The other is Héctor from Coco, but this isn’t about that. Crosby is a screw up, he makes lots of mistakes, he’s also cool and creative and ambitious. He wants to be impressive and loved, but he also is more than a little afraid of commitment and giving 100%. He’s the black sheep of his family. But he gets himself together for the woman and the children he loves. Crosby and Jasmine are one of the best examples of an interracial couple I’ve seen on television, and as a mixed race twenty-something, it really meant a ton to me to see this kind of love celebrated on TV. I love Jasmine, I love Crosby, I love their kids Jabbar and Aida. I want to have a beautiful family like that one day.
Raquel Breternitz, Staff Writer
This may seem late in life, but the clearest feeling of #relationshipgoals I’ve ever experienced happened during my first year of Design school in college. We were each paired up with a Senior on one of our first projects, ostensibly so they’d teach us the lay of the land. But my Senior Was Lauren D. (redacted for her privacy, AND so she doesn’t google herself and find this and I deeply embarrass myself)—one of the most badass, handsome soft butches I had ever seen in my life. Before I could develop any sort of crush, however, I also met her girlfriend at the time, Lauren G. (Yes, they actually had the same name and were dating, a phenomenon I’ve since observed several times since!) I don’t remember what Lauren G. was studying, but I do remember that she was gorgeous, had the best sense of style of anyone I’d met up until then, and was the frontwoman of a stupidly-cool band. For her part, Lauren D. was one of the funniest and most talented designers in her crew and did a lot of the design work for her girlfriend’s band. Together, they seemed like an unstoppable force of coolness and I dreamed of being even half as cool as they were. They also seemed to clearly love each other, and provided a model of what a healthy, badass, queer female relationship involving two highly individual and creative people could look like, something I’d never seen before and wanted desperately. When they inevitably broke up, I was, embarrassingly, probably an equally-devastated outside third party.
Han/Leia, Star Wars
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer
I looked to fictional characters for inspiration and goals all the time in my youth, but I was pretty cynical about fictional relationships, which is something that is definitely attached to my struggles with my sexuality, but we won’t get into all that in a simple roundtable! My totally honest answer is probably basic, and I can’t BELIEVE I’m promoting a straight ship but, uhh, Han/Leia were pretty much the pinnacle of romance to me when I was 12ish. I justify this nowadays by explaining to everyone how they were both badass bisexuals. Also, Han dresses like a lesbian, and everyone knows it! I would be lying to you if I said anyone other than them…I used to scribble ”I love you”/“I know” in my diaries. (A close second, by the way, was Lupin/Tonks…I just love when couples are prepared to die together in the name of a resistance?)
Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Heather Hogan, Senior Editor
No, listen. The thing about Elizabeth Bennet is she wasn’t going to settle. Not for Mr. Collins with his weird potato simperings and not even for Fitzwilliam Darcy who owned half the Derbyshire. And Mr. Darcy wasn’t going to shirk his family and career obligations for something as fleeting and ephemeral as attraction. And they were both jerks about it. Him more so obviously. Okay but then, as they were forced to dance around each other, they started to understand that maybe the other person had been a little right about the things they’d said, even if those things had been said less-than-kindly, and they both had the wisdom to actually make themselves better as individuals because of the self-interrogation they caused in each other. When Darcy approached Elizabeth that second time after giving her as much of the actual world as he could, he promised to be silent on the subject forever if her feelings remained unchanged. He gave up even his own sense of entitlement for her! And of course her feelings had changed because she believed in his ability to learn and grow. She forgave him! I actually don’t even think Pride and Prejudice is the most romantic Jane Austen book — it’s Persuasion, fight me — but after I read it I knew I’d never be happy in a relationship unless I found someone who could sharpen and comfort me in equal measure.
Jenny and Marina :/, The L Word
Erin, Staff Writer
Let me put this into some perspective: The L Word came out the year I realized I was gay. With that discovery, I all of a sudden found myself in a community of seasoned gay women, and whether I was ready or not to engage with it didn’t matter because the proximity of it made it so I had to. I was also being pursued by this equally intense older woman (lol “woman” we were 21 and 19.) Okay? I was mirroring Jenny’s arc in real time, so Jenny and Marina’s season one non-relationship was probably more formative than I care to admit. Your girl was thirsty for some gay content, and I think their intensity and false intimacy spoke to my newness. Also, they were literally the only gay “couple” I knew of on TV besides Bette and Tina. SUE ME.
Spencer and Ashley, South of Nowhere
Valerie Anne, Staff Writer
While Willow and Tara was the first queer ship I shipped, I was so young and closeted while I was watching them, it never occured to me to want what they had, not really. I think the first time I saw a couple and thought, “That. That right there, that’s what I want,” was during Season 3, Episode 11 of South of Nowhere, which I had discovered late so it was fall 2009 when I watched it. It’s so small, the moment; it wasn’t the first time they kissed or the first time they fought and made up or the first morning after — though I loved those moments, too. It was a moment where Spencer was at the refrigerator, and Ashley came up behind her, brushed her hair aside and kissed her shoulder. It sent what felt like electricity through my entire body and while I had been bordering on sure since I was 12, and bordering on accepting it since I was 18, finally right there in my first real apartment as a 22 year old adultish human watching a show that aired in the US on TeenNick that I knew for sure that this was exactly what I wanted.
Idgie and Ruth, Fried Green Tomatoes
Molly Priddy, Staff Writer
What can I say? I was young, and my parents, who were pretty controlling about what media their daughters consumed, thought Fried Green Tomatoes was a good one. Thank gods, because the pulsating potential passion between Ruth and Idgie was palpable, even when I was a kid and didn’t understand why I needed them to be there for each other, needed them to end up together, needed them to protect each other. I knew then that one day I’d be someone’s bee charmer.
Alanna and Liam, Song of the Lioness
Laura M, Staff Writer
I think the first couple I ever shipped was Alanna the Lioness and Liam Ironarm, in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet. Liam taught Alanna martial arts; in turn, Alanna expanded Liam’s worldview on things like magic and femininity. They were two strong people coming together to make each other even stronger. I liked that. They were also really direct with each other, which I found admirable.
There were valid reasons for their breakup, and I doubt I would still find their relationship as inspiring as an adult. As a pre-teen, though, Alanna and Liam were totally where it was at for me!
Mulder and Scully, The X-Files
Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor
I was deeply, deeply invested in the then-unresolved sexual tension between Mulder and Scully, a tension which has been completely ruined by everything that’s happened from the second X-Files movie onwards. These two knuckleheads had such wildly different ways of looking at the world, but loved each other fiercely for it – yet could never figure out how to verbalize it to one another. Did they even have to? They just knew, and 12-year-old Stef was deeply moved. Later, 12-year-old Stef would realize that while she was definitely deeply infatuated with David Duchovny, she wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to be Gillian Anderson or kiss her perfect face.
Anyway, this is probably why I prefer silently pining after people instead of having fulfilling human relationships.
Michelle & Barack Obama
Reneice, Staff Writer
The first couple I ever took notice of in a way that made me hope and pray that one day I’d have something like what they have was the Obamas. I feel like this doesn’t need explaining. They are everything. They are the picture next to the definitions of Black love and power couple in my dictionary. The unwavering support and care they have for each other was the first thing that drew me in. The next was the fact that they never lost the playfulness and enjoyment of each other in their relationship. In the hardest public positions to hold with stress raining on them for 8 years, they still managed to make their love for each other last and hold it at the center of all they did. I’m still amazed.
Cory/Topanga, Boy Meets World
Alexis, Staff Writer
You don’t know how much I love this question and I’m trying to be very calm and not bring up thirteen billion couples. A deep breath. Okay. They were my OTP before I knew what an OTP was. You know how your parents and grandparents have those soap operas that you’ve got to be quiet during or else you’ll get in trouble for making them miss their “stories”? That was Boy Meets World to me. No one could get between me and this show (this is also because I was in love with Topanga). When Topanga turned around in Feeny’s class and told Cory, “Give me your hand.” so she could do some strange magic, I was hooked. When Topanga kissed Cory when his hair was all messed up so he’d know he was loved because of who he was not because of how he looked? Cory making these epic monologues to declare his love to the homie?? WHEN MY GIRL CAME BACK FROM HER AUNT’S HOUSE TO BE WITH CORY AND SHOWED UP IN THE RAIN???? No one screamed louder than me and my sister. WHEN CORY PUT THAT LIPSTICK BACK OVER HIS FACE WHEN SHAWN’S DAD WAS DYING AND TOPANGA WAS LOSING HOPE AND HE HAD TO REMIND HER WHAT KIND OF AMAZING PERSON SHE WAS AND ALWAYS WILL BE? When Cory walked into the apartment and yelled, “I have seen the Promised Land!!!” because Topanga showed him her butt?? This is my all time favorite couple. They learned to communicate and were each other’s family (for real did Topanga have a family? Where are they? I need answers.) They were the strangest couple and would be the lighthouse to the other whenever they forgot who they were or what love they were worthy of. And they also lowkey introduced me to OT3 because Shawn’s love for both of them and their love for him was amazing. I’m doing a rewatch I love these damn kids.
The Babysitter’s Club
Vanessa, Community Editor
I grew up reading The Babysitter’s Club books and they gave me very unrealistic expectations for relationships — but not romantic relationships, friendship relationships. I just figured it was totally normal and entirely possible to have 5-10 best friends and go on wacky road trips and international adventures with them and fight but then make-up and run a small business together and always have delicious snacks. Uh except wait, actually, I thought this was an unrealistic expectation but then I realized I just described Autostraddle, so maybe it’s actually totally doable and The Babysitter’s Club was just preparing me well for my future life endeavors. In any case, the friendship between those wacky babysitters was definitely my very first, and arguably most important, #relationshipgoals.
Roberta/Junior, Now and Then
KaeLyn, Staff Writer
Christina Ricci and Devon Sawa in Now and Then (and to a lesser degree in Casper) were my actual middle school #relationshipgoals and also my first celesbian obsession. I wanted secret kisses outdoors on summer nights. I wanted a bad boy who secretly had a soft heart. I wanted to be the girl who kicked a boy’s ass in basketball and earned their damn-well-deserved-and-shouldn’t-have-had-to-earn-it respect. I’m realizing in this very moment that a lot of my actual relationship choices revolved around these themes, honestly. Secret kisses / summer night kisses: check. Bad bois with a good heart: check. Making respect sexy-as-hell: check. Wow, I think I just learned something about myself.
Jim/Pam, The Office
Most TV couples who get extended relationship arcs are heterosexual, so that’s the field I was working with when first sorting out my #relationshipgoals, and most heterosexual couples on TV and in movies pretty much hate each other. Except they don’t call it “hating each other” they call it “men and women are so different lol!” Jim and Pam’s relationship was never gendered, it just was. They were just two humans who found each other hilarious and delightful, who collected private jokes and secret nods and used those gathered gems of interpersonal connection to make it through soul-sucking, garishly-lit days in the office of a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I also loved, specifically, an episode when they were long-distance and all their phone convos that day just fell flat. One would make a joke the other couldn’t hear, or didn’t understand, stuff like that. The episode ends with them leaving each other voicemails simultaneously apologizing for being “off” that day and not connecting, and those messages contain the unspoken and so important element of: an off day is not the beginning of a decline, it’s just a down, and there’ll be another up. And there were! (honorable mention: Coach Taylor and Tami Taylor)
Levin and Kitty, Anna Karenina
Abeni, Staff Writer
OK, so this is so dumb and nerdy, but Anna Karenina is my favorite book? I don’t even know why. I just love getting lost in the 1,000 pages of often-incomprehensible story. It made no sense when I first read it at like age 14, and it still makes not that much sense now. Anyway, for some reason I always loved Levin in this novel. Looking back, Levin and Kitty’s romance is pretty problematic and silly — he’s twice her age and she’s a pretty one-dimensional character who only really seems to care about being a wife and mother? But honestly though there are like 40 main characters in this novel, and Levin is the only halfway-decent dude of the bunch. He works hard, attempts as best he can to actually apply his philosophical and political beliefs into his actual life, mostly respects his peasant workers as actual human beings unlike all of the other aristocrats in the book, and — most importantly — seems to really care about and want to do right by Kitty. All the other dudes are cheating and being assholes consistently and don’t give a shit about it, but Levin actually wants to be a good dude and treat his wife well.