They’ve played with each other’s heart probably as much as they’ve played with ours. Still, we rooted for them and cried with them as they faced adversity. Here are our top 20 TV couples that broke our hearts—probably more than our exes, if we’re being honest…
1. Meredith & Derek, Grey’s Anatomy
Tragedy follows this couple like a shadow, doesn’t it? Miscarriage, near-death experience, actual death… What started as a one-night stand for these two doctors sure has evolved into something quite interesting and binge-worthy. That is, if you like to have your heart broken over and over again. And not just because it’s tragic: we’ll confess to having shed a few tears of happiness here too! Writing your vows on Post-it notes? So darn cute. Meredith’s love me speak? YES, please! We certainly hope health workers generally don’t face that much drama on a daily basis in hospitals.
2. Lorelai & Luke, Gilmore Girls
You might relate to Lorelai for her caffeine addiction, but we bet you might also relate to her having the love of her life right in front of her eyes, and yet needing so much time to realize it. In a few words, these two have probably suffered from miscommunications more than any other couple on this list. And yet. Here they are. It sure took a lot of energy (caffeinated or otherwise), one business investment from Luke into Lorelai’s Inn as well as a lot of trial and error for this to work.
3. Dawson & Joey, Dawson’s Creek
You might have shed quite a few tears about this pair, or at least if you were not team-Pacey. You thought these long-time friends could be the perfect couple, didn’t you? Not only did their couple not last after one cheated on the other (we’ll spare you the details), but they also destroyed the friendship they had beforehand. This is as tragic as the ’90s could go in teen shows. We certainly hope you learned valuable lessons, such as how to treat your friends and partners…
4. Dwight & Angela, The Office
Forget Jim and Pam, Dwight and Angela are undoubtedly the best couple of The Office. Which made it even more heartbreaking when the pair split up over Dwight mercy killing Sprinkles in season 4. Despite hooking up on and off over the next seasons, the pair actually took five seasons (and many relationships with other characters) to actually be back together and even marry in the series finale. The nine seasons are well worth the investment of time, we tell you.
5. Will & Lisa, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Don’t look at this wedding picture too long; you might be fooled into thinking there could actually be a happily ever after for these two, when, in fact, one of them left the other on the altar. That’s right! If you’ve never watched The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, get your 90s nostalgia on and be ready to go through a roller coaster of emotions.
6. Leonard & Penny, The Big Bang Theory
So. Many. Breakups. Sure, opposite attracts, but here we’ve wondered quite a few times if it was all worth it. Spoiler: yes, it was! Despite gigantic miscommunications, misunderstandings, jealousies, secrets and misfired proposals, we’re so overjoyed that these two finally tied the knot and finished the series together, happily ever after. Here’s yet another proof a Ph. D nerd can end up with someone totally different from them!
7. Veronica & Logan, Veronica Mars
These two went through so. much. From “my-father-killed-my-girlfriend-who-was-also-your best-friend-and-tried-to-kill-you” to surviving multiple near-death experiences where they ended up in each other’s arms, only to break up after too little happy time together, it was such a relief to see them end up together in the movie and in season four. BUT THEN. Mean, mean, mean writers ended up the series finale on an event we’re still not over. If you haven’t cried over you-know-what, you have no soul; the recovery will take time, we tell you. If you have not yet watched Veronica Mars but plan to invest the time, make sure you don’t spend too much emotional energy into this couple, as it will be brutal in the end.
8. Jane & Michael, Jane the Virgin
Look at these babyfaces, aren’t they so cute? If only their story was as cute… After writers ended their story taking the easy way out (one of them was shot and presumed dead), they then brought the pair back, only the person that had been shot was now suffering from amnesia and had to be reminded of everything they shared. But then, when you thought they were gonna be happy … nope!
9. Lucas & Peyton, One Tree Hill
First couple from One Tree Hill to make it on this list (but not the last, rest assured), you either love or hate “Leyton.” These two sure had a lot of drama between them—and a lot of different hookups and partners when they were not together. If relationship drama wasn’t enough, they’ve also each had near-death experiences and mental health problems (we hope they had health insurance, seriously…). Still, in the end, we saw them leave the series on a seemingly happy ever after note, and that’s probably for the best. Otherwise, what else could the writers come up with to challenge their love? We don’t really want to know.
10. Sun & Jin, Lost
Sun and Jin were among the first Asian couples shown on American TV; beyond that, they have been separated so many times in Lost‘s six seasons that it felt like our heart was being ripped out of our chest at times. Despite a stereotypical depiction at first, the show quickly nuanced them, and the pair quickly became the most star-crossed lovers of the series. The island sure provided a strong foundation for these two.
11. Buffy & Angels, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
What could go wrong with a vampire slayer dating a vampire? So. Many. Things. Luckily for us, those things unravelled in quite a few seasons, which kept the show interesting. Although it was clear that the pair could never truly be together despite loving each other so much, we couldn’t help but love them.
12. Poussey & Soso, Orange Is the New Black
What started as Poussey pitying Soso when she overdosed on Benedryl in the library ended up in a full-blown romance between these two, who found in each other understanding, compassion, and company. We really didn’t see how their relationship could end, UNTIL… Yeah, we’re still not over it. Are we ever gonna make a full recovery? Probably not.
13. Lily & Marshall, How I Met Your Mother
These two really hit it off from the start, didn’t they? From their first encounter in college to the end of the ninth and final season, these two really have a strong foundation. You will cry tears of joy most of the time, but that doesn’t mean the pair hasn’t made us cry with them in their tougher moments. Sure enough, these two have built a beautiful home for their love.
14. Ross & Rachel, Friends
We certainly couldn’t keep Friends out of our pick, especially with a pair such as Ross and Rachel! They went through so many love tropes: they grew up together, nerdy Ross loved popular Rachel, then when they did end up together, one cheated on the other after a misunderstanding, resulting in an accidental child (!). Luckily (for us and them) they ended up together, but it sure was a long process.
15. Haley & Nathan, One Tree Hill
Second One Tree Hill couple on our list, Nathan and Haley have been through a lot. Like, a lot. They broke up many times, had many doubts about the faithfulness of each other, had a kid while they were still teenagers, car accidents, a psychotic nanny, serious injuries and mental illnesses. Anyone else noticed OTH characters really needed a strong health insurance plan? In addition, Nathan was chased by the mafia, only to be kidnapped a few seasons later. And yet. They are still together. True love? Or is it just the shared experience of sheer trauma binding these two? Probably both.
16. Clark & Lexa, The 100
Space bisexual warrior meets enemy lesbian warrior queen, can it get more epic than that? Despite all odds, these two reunited and fell hard for each other, and we all rooted for this epic couple. The brutal ending to their relationship sparked a mediatic outrage, as queer characters all too often meet their ends in random accidents and turn of fates (40% of LGBTQ+ characters are killed in TV shows, far more than straight characters). They will join the many other queer couples who met their ends in tragic turns of faith.
17. Eric & Donna, That ’70s Show
After investing our emotions in this fictional couple for seven seasons, we could only be sad to see the pair broke up as one of them left Wisconsin and the other one behind (we won’t say whom in case you aren’t done watching yet). Who said sitcoms couldn’t make us cry our eyes out? Certainly not us.
18. Piper & Leo, Charmed
When Piper, one of the most powerful witches in the world, fell for her handyman Leo, who was, in fact, an angel placed in her house to protect her and her sisters, we knew things would be complicated. In a few seasons, they managed to fight too many demons to count, break up and get back together, have kids, fight the end of the world caused by one of the said kids… Needless to say, all of that took a toll on our emotions.
19. Cory & Topanga, Boy Meets World
These two were so cute! It’s so crazy that we saw them grow up on the screen. From their tweens to college, we followed the pair as they went through the ups and downs of teenage years and couple life. Although they might have had their moments of doubts, it’s fair to say we never doubted they would end up together. They would never trade each other for anything in the world.
20. Suzanne & Mike, Desperate Housewives
Here’s to yet another couple that broke up and came back together many times, only to end very tragically. What is it with happy couples on TV, we wonder. We sure hope you have less drama in your life than our picks for the 20 most heartbreaking couples on TV!