Confession: I love Parks and Recreation. Like, a whole darn lot. It’s one of my all-time favorite TV shows, comedy or drama, coming in first place (with The Office trailing behind in a close second) each and every time I sit down to think about it. It’s a show that mixes absurdism with light drama, that finds sharp ways to critique major social issues (chiefly sexism, generational divides, economic issues and the intricacies of bureaucratic life as it relates to regular civilians) and that gives us a cast of characters so distinct in their unique personality traits it’s hard not to identify with at least one of them on a deeper level.
Naturally, that’s why I’m always quick to tell folks that one of the show’s primary couples, Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope, is maybe the ultimate in #CoupleGoals — and that goes for real-life couples too (except my parents; love you, Mom and Dad!). What makes Ben and Leslie so special is that the course of the love, as the saying goes, didn’t run straight. It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t a rush to the altar. It wasn’t easy. And yet when Ben and Leslie finally got married five years ago in Season 5, Episode 14, “Leslie & Ben,” it was crystal clear these two were meant to be together and they were a perfect match for each other.
And so, on the very special day that is Valentine’s Day, I feel it’s only right to celebrate the couple I adore the most, who has taught me the most about what it’s like to love someone and navigate this wild, weird world by that person’s side. Are you ready to get some love lessons from Ben and Leslie?
All right. Here we go.
1. You can’t hurry love
Ben and Leslie took a long time to get to the altar. Basically, you can’t rush through love and expect things to work out seamlessly. In the case of Ben and Leslie, it took, like, approximately four years from the first moment they really got together until the day they said I do. They took it slow; they focused on their relationship as much as they focused on their careers; and in the end, it all worked out. Slow and steady, folks, is how you win the race.
2. Sometimes friendship can lead to true love
Ben and Leslie actually started as workplace enemies of sorts, and things changed as they got to know one another. Ben and his boss, Chris Traeger, arrived from Indianapolis to Pawnee, Indiana (where Parks & Recreation is set), to shut down and restructure Pawnee’s government — a thing that workhorse Leslie wasn’t fond of. But as time wore on and the initial head-butting ended, they became friends. That friendship lasted for quite some time, and even when they dated other people, it was their ability to be friends that formed the foundation of their relationship and appreciation for one another.
3. Your soul mate will love you for who you are
This may seem like a no-brainer, but Ben and Leslie really are proof that your soul mate loves you no matter what. Leslie loves things like Murder, She Wrote, strong female politicians, scrapbooking, waffles and surprising her friends with elaborate gifts. Ben is all about ’90s alternative music, calzones, crunching break-even spreadsheets, showing off his Game of Thrones knowledge and treating himself to Batman memorabilia. And neither Ben nor Leslie find anything weird about what their S.O. likes and what gets ’em going; they may gently poke fun, but it’s all meant lovingly.
4. Your true love knows all the little things about you
It’s all about the details, and Ben and Leslie not only appreciate each other’s quirks, they know them all inside and out. They are mindful of each other’s feelings, habits and choices because that depth of knowledge about one another runs so, so deep. In paying attention to each other’s quirks and the intricacies of one another’s personalities, Ben and Leslie figured out a way to speak the same language and become even closer through their similarities and their differences.
5. Loving someone means supporting them no matter what — even when it’s tough
Ben and Leslie have been tested time and time again. Perhaps the biggest and most notable hurdle during their time on Parks and Recreation was when Leslie wanted to run for city council, but it meant breaking up with Ben because it would have been scandalous. Ben supported Leslie because he knew it was her lifelong dream and broke up with her for a short while so she wouldn’t feel conflicted. Love, like life, is never breezy or easy, and Ben and Leslie proved that if you can see your partner is dead set on achieving a goal, sometimes you have to support them even if it’s not advantageous to you.
6. You & your partner don’t always have to agree on things
Oh, you think it’s all sunshine and rainbows for Ben and Leslie? Think again. These two have had more than their fair share of disagreements and tension over the years. Whether it was squaring off over the best kind of ad to create when Leslie was running for city council or the time Leslie tried to get extra parks funding from the city even though Ben and their boss, Chris, couldn’t really help, these soul mates always work through their problems, even when it feels like the problems are way too overwhelming to surmount.
7. Love can be fun
Ben and Leslie have so much fun together, and they don’t hide it from us. Sure, their version of fun is role-playing Supreme Court justices and making out hardcore, maybe writing Lord of the Rings fan fiction love letters to one another or just getting drunk on a weeknight as a way to decide who should run for a high-ranking government office, but when these two get together, the good times really roll.
8. You’ll know they’re the one when you know you want to grow old with them
Happily, Parks and Recreation shows that Ben and Leslie grow old together. A love story that began with workplace enemies turning into friends turning into partners ended with the pair growing old and gray together. The show made it clear from the start these two were meant to be together, and everything that brought them closer and kept them different enough so it didn’t get boring was the stuff of a long-lasting relationship. Basically, if you can’t be weird, silly, moody and endlessly supportive of one another, then you’re probably not meant to be with someone until the very end.
I don’t know about you, but I’m so full of love right now just thinking about Ben and Leslie, I’m tempted to just re-binge Parks and Recreation, but only the scenes between them. This is one TV couple I will forever love and kinda hope I get to emulate going forward. Stay golden, you two.