Living vicariously through TV romances was, by far, one of the best things about the '90s. From swoon-worthy make-outs and awkward sexual tension to heartbreaking betrayals and fights, these fictional pairs taught us nearly everything we needed to know about falling in love. Of course, not all of these TV couples had strong and stable relationships. For instance, there was Ross and Rachel, who had countless breakups and could never quite figure out if they were "on a break." And then there was Martin and Gina, the latter of whom settled with a problematic and self-centered know-it-all who disrespected her.
But thankfully, '90s TV couples that gave us hope outnumbered the ones that made absolutely no sense to us. They were never perfect in the sense that they didn't have problems, but they put effort into making things work and consistently brought out the best in each other. See which iconic pairs were actually relationship goals.
They're one of the first couples that come to mind whenever we think about '90s teen couples because honestly, they were too cute for words. By the time they officially got together, they already had a strong foundation and the strongest chemistry. Sure, they broke up three times and yes, Cory actually cheated at one point (we're still not over that, for the record). But because of their transparency and determination to stay together, they bounced back from those hard times and became even stronger in the process.
While Cory and Topanga were more like the fairy-tale couple on the show, Shawn and Angela were one of the more complex couples that felt a bit more like a real-life relationship. Both had their flaws and both came from broken homes, but their personal dysfunctions didn’t mean they had a less stable or healthy relationship. Shawn helped Angela, who’s usually very guarded, be more open with her feelings while Angela encouraged Shawn to embrace his artistic side. Plus, as their bond deepened, they were free to be their authentic selves when they were together. It was so heartwarming to see!
Lisa was just the girl that Will needed to help him give up his womanizing tendencies. During his romance with her, he grew into a wiser and more mature guy who wasn't as afraid of commitment. Of course, he was still goofy at heart, but he wasn't the same girl-crazed teenager who relied on cheesy pick-up lines. He was actually pursuing a serious relationship for once and that was quite refreshing to see. He and Lisa went as far as trying to get married twice, but they decided against it both times (much to our dismay).
Martin and Gina are usually hailed as the golden couple of the series because of their strong chemistry, but we'd beg to differ. Though their relationship was sadly short-lived, Pam and Tommy were actually a much better (and more mature) couple. Their countless flirty exchanges turned their friendship into an adorable romance that made all of us melt. It didn't hurt that Tommy was a perfect gentleman who treated Pam with the utmost respect. Sure, living together proved to be a challenge for them, but even despite that, they always supported and stood up for each other. It really breaks our hearts that they didn't last.
Seeing Maxwell continually confess his love, propose, and then take it back was just as frustrating for us as it was for Fran. Despite the cultural conflict between these two, they clearly had a romantic connection, but they often denied it to keep things professional.
On several occasions, however, Maxwell proposed to Fran for selfish reasons and she always said "yes," and he always regretted it. It wasn't until Fran finally said "no" that they moved out of that exhausting will-they-won't-they phase when Maxwell confessed that he was really in love with and did want to marry her. It finally happened in season five and they went on to have adorable twins.
Jamie practically chased Fancy for years before she gave him the time of day, and when they finally got together, he actually struggled to commit to her. For that reason, their courtship nearly ended for good, but because of how strongly he felt about Fancy, Jamie stepped up and admitted his insecurities about not being good enough. Fancy, being as patient and forgiving as she was, told Jamie that she still loved him, although she expected him to stay committed from that point on. That's exactly what he did before he married her in season five.
These two couldn't have been more different. Whitley was a stylish but entitled southern belle and Dwayne was a flirtatious math nerd, but throughout the series, their friendship turned into a deep romance that actually made perfect sense. As Dr. Tykeia N. Robinson wrote in Essence, "We saw them grow from immature, inexperienced, short-sighted kids who didn’t like each other into maturing adults who came to appreciate their complexities and recognize the ways that their differences complemented and enhanced one another."
By the time they got married, Whitley wasn't nearly as insufferable as she was in season one, and Dwayne had finally moved on from trying to be a ladies' man.
Roseanne was the one who wore the pants in this relationship and we loved every second of it. Dan was calm and laid-back while Roseanne was bold, controlling, and more outspoken. They were pretty much complete opposites but they loved and supported each other still. They taught us about the importance of honesty and not taking yourself too seriously all the time, but most importantly, they proved that the even the strongest marriages have to deal with drama. Roseanne and Dan had their fair share of ups and downs, but what we love is that they worked through their problems as a team.
No, Rachel and Ross's toxic relationship wasn't the most important love story on the show. Monica and Chandler deserved all the props because they'd grown mature enough to commit to each other and were determined enough to make their relationship work. At first, it truly felt like a sarcastic executive and a super competitive neat freak could never make it as a couple, but these two proved that the strongest relationships don’t always boil down to similar personalities. They shared the same values, dealt with their conflicts head-on and always supported each other. If this isn't the definition of relationship goals then we don't know what is.
Of the 8,000 couples that were introduced on this show, Dylan and Brenda were the most popular, and for good reason. Dylan was the bad boy with a dark past, but a good heart, while Brenda was the style icon who was ambitious, but often naive. They made the perfect match because they dealt with each other's baggage and they matured together. They survived so many things that tested their relationship, from Brenda's insecurities and her pregnancy scare to Dylan's drinking problem. That just goes to show how much they cared for each other and, obviously, that they were meant to be.
They're still considered one of the most memorable '90s TV couples, but these two even weren't supposed to end up together. As everyone had initially guessed, Joey and Dawson were going to be endgame, but when a different showrunner took over, he changed the direction by building on the chemistry that Joey and Pacey already had, even despite their differences. They went from not really getting along to having a love/hate friendship to falling in love. While a tiny part of us did feel sorry for Dawson, Pacey and Joey worked well because they were comfortable together and willing to put in the work to maintain their relationship.
Lindsay and Nick's romance was one of the most realistic teen relationships we've ever seen. In this case, they didn't flirt effortlessly and share swoon-worthy kisses. They were incredibly awkward and naive, and half the time, they weren't even sure how to handle their relationship because they were so new to it all. Also, to be quite honest, it often felt like Lindsay didn't appreciate just how sweet Nick was. Still, they were so cute and it was refreshing to see them navigate their romance in a more realistic way.
On the surface, one would've never guessed that these two would end up together. Jesse was an Elvis stan with a passion for music and Becky was a sensible, hard-working talk show host. Even so, they fit together perfectly and they're still considered an iconic '90s TV couple to this day. We love that they were each other's biggest supporters when it came to their careers and achievements, whether it was Jesse taking his music seriously or Becky becoming a producer on Wake Up, San Francisco. Even after they got married and had twins, these lovebirds made sure their relationship never lost its spark.
Synclaire was quirky and lovable with a childlike spirit that was contagious, and Overton was the optimistic, kind-hearted guy who was instantly smitten by Synclaire's charm. They made such a beautiful pair because they were honest, unapologetically goofy, and super comfortable in each other's company. They didn't care so much about what people thought and, though people were quick to label them both as naive, they were arguably the most level-headed and sensible people on the show.
Words can't even describe how refreshing it was to see an ambitious, plus-sized woman of color with so many gorgeous love interests! But the best relationship that Khadijah ever had on the show was with her childhood BFF turned boyfriend, Terrence “Scooter” Williams. Hands down. The successful record producer harbored feelings for Khadijah for a while because he admired her confidence, drive, and intellect. So when he finally opened up about this and made a move, we felt the sparks fly between them right away. Their on-again, off-again romance wasn't always smooth, but they supported each other's dreams and brought out the best in each other.
These two were the perfect embodiment of how intense, awkward, and complicated first loves can be. There was Winnie, the sweet girl next door who remained Kevin's crush for years (despite her mixed signals and jealousy issues), and then there was Kevin, the genuinely kind, yet curious boy who just wanted to find his way and win Winnie's heart while he was at it. Both had enough on their plates with school and going through adolescence, but let's face it, their moments together were just heartwarming and so genuine. The fact that they never ended up together is just heartbreaking.
Sabrina was clever and quick-witted while her heartthrob boyfriend, Harvey, was rather dimwitted and easygoing. So it came as no surprise, really, that Harvey was rarely ever the knight in shining armor. He often took the back seat and supported Sabrina and, in some cases, she was the one who had to step up and rescue him. It made their pairing all the more refreshing to see, and even Nate Richert, who played Harvey, would agree.
"I loved being the damsel in distress," he explained in his interview with Romper. "With the magic, there were so many predicaments that you could be put in, that really play that role reversal, which — today it's pretty standard, I hope. To have the strong, female lead who has to rescue the boy in distress. That was a big thing at the time."
Okay, so they may not have had the healthiest relationship. Carrie could be selfish and so manipulative, and of course, Doug was way out of his league. However, their chemistry was stronger than ever. The way that they handled each other's flaws and issues was definitely questionable at times, but we just love how they accepted one another's shortcomings and worked through their problems as a team. Also, they weren't afraid to get playful from time to time (like when they made a game of tossing popcorn into Arthur's open mouth as he slept).
They were both goofy, impulsive, and a bit stubborn, but despite all the ups and downs, they stayed loyal and they encouraged each other. For instance, remember when Tamera convinced Jordan to let go of his past and give church another try, despite his fears? Or when Jordan convinced Tamera to apply to Michigan University despite her low SAT scores? They were honestly each other's biggest fans and, over the course of their relationship, they learned to be more transparent and handle things a bit more maturely. It's always so rewarding to see couples grow together!
Much like Tia, Tyreke was kind, hard-working and driven, though not as bold and headstrong as his BFF, Jordan. He and Tia had an on-and-off relationship that kept us at the edge of our seats, and yes, seeing Tia suddenly break things off with him for an older guy who was already taken was the absolute worst. But at the end of the day, they finally realized that they were much better off with each other. We can't be the only ones that melted when Tyreke finally confessed to Tia that he loved her.