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7 Useful Love Lessons From The Office

Find your soup snake.

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1. Take things slow, and be yourself.

The Office / NBC

Michael's problem is that he's desperate to be liked, and loved – both in platonic and romantic relationships. This means sweeping gestures (Sandals! All inclusive!), bravura behaviour (hiya "Date Mike"), and ill-placed trust (two words: Ryan Howard).

And if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile. Whether it's his disastrous affair with his realtor Carol (remember when he photoshopped his face on top of her ex-husband's for a Christmas card?), or the illicit fling with bartender Donna, Michael keeps being told that being himself isn't good enough. I mean, do we even have to talk about Jan?

Meanwhile, Michael dumps Pam's mum, Helene, because she's too old for him – in a twist, simply being honest about her age and experiences means that she's not good enough for *him*.

But at the heart of it, Michael wants to be loved for who *he* is – goofy, childish, and a romantic. It's only when he pushes down his over-eager inclinations, and builds a real relationship, based on friendship and trust, with Holly that he succeeds. Yeah, they could have hooked up when they first met – but do you trust Michael not to fuck it up? Once he felt truly comfortable with Holly, he could then ask her to run the gauntlet, and become his soup snake. When it comes to relationships, you're only going to be happy if you can be yourself – and find someone who loves you for that.

2. Because the wait is worth it.

The Office / NBC

Yes, Jim and Pam could have got together much earlier than they did. But in a way, their timing was perfect.

If they had got together in Series 2, after the kiss at the Dundies, or in Series 3, after the casino night, Pam would never have been brave enough to firewalk on the company beach day. And Jim would never have pushed himself to take a new job in Stanford, or to manage liaisons between the two branches after the merger.

Because they've learned to negotiate challenges separately, they're super strong as a team. Can you imagine nervous, cautious Series 1 Pam reacting to Jim's nonsense in the Finer Things Club (Series 4)? Or can you imagine Series 1 slacker Jim sticking with a three-month long-distance relationship when Pam goes to the Pratt Institute? Can you imagine forlorn, codependent Pam in Series 2 quitting to join the Michael Scott Paper Company? Can you imagine boy-man Jim in Series 2 (we all saw his bedroom in "Email Surveillance") being excited about a surprise pregnancy?

Taking the time to grow separately as people (whether by choice or not), meant that when Jim and Pam finally got together, they were ready for whatever life was going to throw at them. And boy, did life throw some stuff at them.

3. Know what you want out of your relationships. And know what they're taking out of you.

The Office / NBC

When Oscar dated Angela's husband, Robert, he thought he had the upper hand. Robert was in a loveless relationship, Oscar justified. Angela was in love with Dwight, Oscar rationalised. Robert loved Oscar, Oscar believed. But though Oscar truly cared about Robert, Robert was using Oscar in the end – just as he was using Angela. Robert wanted to show his voters that he had Latino "friends", and he wanted Angela to play Jackie O on the campaign trail.

Oscar and Angela both realise their worth, and band together – with Angela moving in with Oscar after the divorce. Your relationship doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be an equal trade-off.

4. Try and see in yourself what they see in you.

The Office / NBC

There was never any doubt that Phyllis and Bob "Vance Refrigeration" Vance were made for each other. Bob worships Phyllis, but Phyllis has low self-esteem and finds it hard sometimes to see herself as he sees her.

Bob's love helps Phyllis stand up to Angela in "Launch Party" (Series 4) and physically, they're doing just fine (for example, their ~bathroom break~ in "Valentine's Day"). But Phyllis still worries deep down about what Bob sees in her.

In "Cafe Disco" (which, FYI, is my personal favourite episode), she confides in Dwight about her worries. Is Bob cheating on her with his secretary? As soon as she says it out loud, she laughs. She is so secure in Bob's love that she can start to have fun – even participating in a prank in "The List" (Series 8).

It's not easy to see yourself through the eyes of your partner, but the right one will prove to you how worthy you really are.


5. Prove to them that you're committed.

NBC/ The Office

Ryan and Kelly's relationship was truly exhausting. Ryan kept making false promises to Kelly – and it seemed like Kelly didn't really know what she wanted. On their first date in Series 2, Kelly is stoked, but seems to enjoy the drama of their relationship more than the actual relationship.

Kelly thrives on attention, and Ryan thrives on being revered – meaning that they're never able to give each other what they really want. What relationship can be based on one party feeling superior to the other one? Or one party being constantly on their toes due to the whims of the other?

Ryan and Kelly both needed to commit to each other, but both were too proud to say it.

But when they meet in the finale and Kelly seemingly has it all, it's Ryan who entices her away. Yeah, it's worrying that Ryan threatened baby Drake's life to get a moment next to Kelly (he gives Drake a strawberry, knowing that he's allergic, then hands Drake to Ravi), but finally, Ryan and Kelly are both in. All or nothing.

6. You need to learn your boundaries.

NBC/ The Office

Dwight keeps pushing these boundaries of his hidden romance with Angela. This is to be his downfall – Angela's finally loosening up, telling Pam about her love interest in "Traveling Salesmen" (Series 3), when Dwight kills Sprinkles and they break up.

After the breakup, they continue to hook up, but Dwight tries numerous methods to officially win Angela back – including tricking her into marriage ("The Surplus"). But Angela hurts Dwight just as much – she reveals that she's slept with Andy twice.

Both Dwight and Angela push each other's boundaries too far, and it's only when Angela is kind to Dwight's aunt ("Moving On", Series 9) that Dwight realises that Angela could be the long-term woman for him. By asking her to wash his aunt, Dwight shows that he trusts Angela with his close family members. And by completing the task (which disgusts her), Angela shows that she understands the latent meaning of the request. Meanwhile, Dwight's declaration that he doesn't care who Phillip's father is shows Angela that he truly cares about her.

They're comfortable enough to let down their guard with each other, and finally reconcile.

7. Aim high, and never doubt your self-worth.

NBC/ The Office

Erin had a tough time with relationships. Pretty, young, and the definition of "chipper", all she wanted was someone to call her own.

She went out with Gabe, simply because he asked. She was too polite to say no, and too junior at work to question going out with the boss. But Gabe made her so unhappy, with his Japanese soundscapes and obsession with horror films. Erin then went back to Andy, but Andy didn't make her any happier.

Erin spent both relationships supporting her partner – watching Saw with Gabe, and trying to help Andy with his family problems. But neither partner helped Erin find out who her biological mother was. Nor did Gabe take time out to teach Erin how to play Scrabble, and Andy never tried to help Erin understand his cultured family. Even when Erin learns Dothraki to impress the Bernards!

It's only when Erin strikes up a friendship with Pete (aka Plop) in Series 9 that she begins to blossom. In contrast to Andy and Gabe, Pete loves sharing experiences (like Die Hard) with Erin, and encourages her to talk about her past (like when she breaks down about her childhood in "Paper Airplane").

Dating Pete means that Erin finally realises how unhappy she had been with Andy and Gabe. She works up the courage to talk about her birth mother in the finale, and is greeted with the perfect response: a family of her own.


Erin dated Andy, then Gabe, then Andy. An earlier version of this post said she dated Gabe, then Andy.