There have been many sitcoms over the years in the drama-comedy genre, whose characters have ensnared our hearts and kept us rooting for them through thick and thin, but I think I speak for anyone who has watched it, How I Met Your Mother stands out special. Despite a finale season that left many fans not really pleased with it, the essence of the show still takes us through the vulnerable and heartfelt “long and difficult” journey of the protagonist, Ted Mosby to find the love of his life.
Created by Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, How I Met Your Mother aired its pilot episode on CBS in 2005 and was widely held as a successful dramatic comedy throughout the nine years it ran. With the opening scene set in the year 2030, it begins with the protagonist, Ted Mosby, telling his kids, Penny and Luke, the long and rambling story of how he met their mother, recounting the golden years of his youth and adventure in the bustling city of New York. The entire story features Ted’s college best friend, Marshall Erikson, his fiancé, then-wife, Lily Aldrin, bar-stranger-turned-into-best-friend, Barney Stinson and Robin Scherbatsky, the one girl he fell in love with at first sight and could never quite get over for his remaining lifetime. Together, the squad goes through “lots of stuff” as Marshall puts it in the end, and most of it really hits you right where it should.
The show delivers and overwhelms in its emotional quotient and explains love as it is – turbulent, overpowering, ever-changing, confusing but also, “the best thing we do”. For that alone, I will always be an ardent fan. All the relationships in How I Met Your Mother showed us something or the other that felt relevant to anyone in their 20s or 30s, dating and looking for their soulmate in the society’s sea, filled with plenty of fish. Some of them went well, most of them did not, and as Robin says, even if there’s chemistry, “timing’s a bitch”.
So, without further ado, let’s recap the ten best couples that How I Met Your Mother gave us and the couple goals they made us aspire to (or NOT)!
10. Ted and Zoey
An affair ill-fated from the start – Ted met Zoey when he was selected as the chief architect for the new GNB bank building, which was to replace the old and crumbling, but beautiful architectural structure, The Arcadian, and she was campaigning against the building being torn down. Their chemistry was undeniable even though Zoey was married to a rich, old-timey eccentric, who liked to call himself “The Captain”. Despite many difficulties shown through the sixth season, they got together after Zoey decided to divorce her husband in favour of Ted and while their first kiss was heart-melting, the rest of their relationship felt unnecessarily challenging and it was very evident they would not last, even before Ted broke up with her based on her stand against his dream career.
9. Robin and Kevin
Dating your therapist is definitely a deal-breaker for most, right? But that is a mistake Robin makes when she falls for her court-mandated therapist, Kevin. After she broke up with Barney, it was a natural course of the storyline that she fall for the very next guy she met; Kevin, on the other hand, with his degrees from Harvard and Princeton should’ve known better. They were pretty serious for a while, and though Robin did cheat on him by hooking up with Barney that one night, she chose him over Barney when he told her he loved her, giving us one of the rare moments that showcased Barney’s heartbreak. Even when they got engaged, fans knew it would have to be short-lived and they ended it when Kevin couldn’t accept Robin’s choice of never wanting kids.
8. Ted and Stella
Throughout the series, Ted makes some pretty questionable decisions, one of the more prominent ones being the butterfly “tramp stamp” tattoo. Stella is introduced in the fourth season as the dermatologist Ted goes to, to remove said tattoo. Knowing Ted and his repeated failure at taking “no” for an answer, it was no surprise that he pursued Stella despite her being iffy about it from the start. A whirlwind romance, that started with the iconic “two-minute date”, and a car accident later, they did get engaged and Ted made all kinds of accommodations for Stella and her six-year-old daughter, including moving to New Jersey. But it all crashed and burned, when she left him at the altar for her daughter’s father and her one true love, Tony.
7. Barney and Nora
We all know Barney Stinson as the “playboy king of New York City”, but even he fell for the charms of women thrice during the timeline of the series. Nora was Robin’s co-worker at World Wide News and in spite of her reluctance, Robin helped a lot of the cause with this relationship. Nora was British, straightforward and saw right through Barney’s lies, but they did have a strong undercurrent of chemistry, which when combined with Barney’s sincere efforts, led to a cute relationship, that saw Barney becoming a “better man” for her and being a perfect boyfriend all around. Nevertheless, their romance was brief and Barney broke up with Nora after telling her the truth about cheating on her with Robin.
6. Barney and Quinn
While dating a stripper may be awesome, it has still got to be a bad decision. Barney learnt that the hard way when he met Quinn, a stripper at the Lusty Leopard, Barney’s most-frequented strip club. Even though they vehemently deny liking each other, it becomes pretty evident that they have something special. Barney runs his plays on her and Quinn dupes him out of a lot of money until they eventually start dating and move in together. The gang also approves heartily, calling them “a perfect match”. However, Quinn’s stripping takes a toll on Barney, learning of which, she gives it up and in a legendary ploy, Barney proposes to her and they get engaged. The pre-nups don’t go smoothly though and both Barney and Quinn discover that they cannot trust each other, and consequently, break up. Quinn goes back to stripping at the Lusty Leopard and Barney has to choose a different strip club for his regular visits.
5. Ted and Victoria
Perhaps the best girlfriend Ted ever had, Victoria reminds us of a romantic midsummer night’s dream when she debuts in the first season. They meet at a wedding and spend this innocently romantic night, after which Ted hunts her down and they start dating. Everything progresses smoothly until Victoria gets a baking scholarship in Germany and they decide to try long-distance. But Ted messes that up when his lingering feelings for Robin make him cheat on Victoria and they have a nasty break-up. Fast-forward to the seventh season, where Ted meets Victoria again across a room, this time at the Architect’s Ball and they have a brief evening tryst, where Ted learns that she’s about to be engaged. But when he rings her up a month later, she comes to MacLaren’s in her wedding dress, having just run out on her fiancé. Ted decides to take her back to her wedding even though she might be “the one”, but ends up driving into the sunset, holding her hand. A relationship seven years in the making, we all think it will end well but they ultimately break up when Victoria asks Ted to cut Robin off from his life and he heartbreakingly, refuses, upon which, she walks away.
4. Barney and Robin
Having an entire season dedicated to their wedding, Barney and Robin make for an unlikely but heart-warming pair, not to mention the most pragmatic and real of them all. It all started when they hooked up back in season three; after a lengthy will-they-won’t-they situation, these two finally get together in season five. But being too similar, the relationship becomes challenging and they call it off shortly. But they have “the kind of chemistry that never really goes away” as worded rightly by Lily, so none of the relationships with their other counterparts work out, with even engagements breaking up sooner or later. Even though they admit time and again, how they were a disaster, Barney and Robin keep coming back to each other, until Barney decides on “getting her” once and for all; it gives us Barney’s most elaborate and iconic play of a proposal, to which Robin says yes. Their wedding is a whopper, full of twists and emotionally vulnerable moments for the gang, but it all ends well at “the end of the aisle”. However, the last two episodes of the final season show that they get divorced as Robin’s career kicks off into constant travel and their marriage becomes too perplexing to make them happy. Barney goes back to being the quintessential playboy and eventually has a baby while Robin immerses herself in her work. Their bond is shown to be strong and shining despite its premature end and it just brings to life the fact that love while true, always remains but isn’t enough.
3. Ted and Robin
Although not the titular affair, theirs was the central love story to the series. Starting from Ted’s falling in love at first sight with Robin in the pilot episode, this relationship was the equivalent of a wringing emotional rollercoaster till the end, when Ted re-steals the blue French horn and runs to Robin’s to ask her out again, two decades later. After falling for Ted’s perseverance and grand gestures of love, Robin agrees to date him in the final episode of season one, After an entire season of serving couple goals, these two break up over their differences in ideas about their future. Over the course of the next few seasons, we see Ted and Robin going back and forth, sabotaging each other’s relationships and never actually getting over each other. Ted gets his heart broken a couple of times over Robin when she says a no to his romantic advances. But as time goes by, Robin becomes further enmeshed in Ted’s life, making it clear that despite everything, Ted doesn’t let her go. When Robin finally says yes to marrying Barney, Ted describes it as all the pain he’s ever received multiplied by a million and while happy for his best friend, he decides to leave New York for Chicago because he thinks Robin is “the one” and it breaks his heart to see her go away. Although the entire series is about how Ted met “the mother” of his children, even Penny and Luke, comprehend the depth of his feelings for their aunt Robin and in the final season finale episode, urge their father to ask her out, which brings the story full circle, with Ted standing below Robin’s apartment and her looking out the window and the hopes for a new future between them.
2. Ted and Tracy
The build-up for this relationship is massive, being the title of the whole series, and though “the mother” gets a very short time to live up to it, Tracy McConnell really gives us what we need after watching Ted Mosby screwing around for nine straight seasons, looking for the perfect woman of his heart. After a couple of fateful missed encounters, they first meet at the Farhampton train station, both returning to New York from Barney and Robin’s wedding, where Tracy played bass as part of the wedding band. They hit it off immediately, so much so that, Ted abandons his plans of moving to Chicago and they begin dating that very same week. As we see through flashbacks, Tracy is every bit as goofy and endearing as Ted makes his ideal woman out to be and it feels like destiny. They decide to get married, but are interrupted by first Penny and then, Luke’s birth. They move to the countryside to raise the kids in perfect harmony while eventually, getting married and the “long and difficult” road to Ted’s happily-ever-after seems to have met the perfect ending. Except, Tracey gets sick of something terminal and sadly, passes away, six years before the current scenario. It is heart-breaking for the fans but Ted reaffirms that even if the time they had wasn’t nearly as long as he wished it would have been, he was glad to have experienced such love.
1. Marshall and Lily
And at last, we culminate this list with the backbone of modern-day perfect relationships – Marshmallow and Lilypad. Never has an on-screen sitcom relationship captured the kernel of enduring and affirming love more than this; Marshall and Lily portray the wholesomeness of two best friends, equals and partners-in-everything mature and grow old while falling in love, more and more each day. They met in college and it was love at first sight. After nine years of courtship, they get engaged, which starts off the pilot episode, but Lily gets cold feet and breaks off the engagement by the end of the first season in favour of an art program in San Francisco. After a distressing summer, they get back together and get married, their wedding is one of the sweetest in television history. By the fifth season, they try to get pregnant and after a series of disappointments, concerns, and the tragic death of Marshall’s father, Lily gives birth to their son, followed by a daughter and an unnamed third child in the final season. They move to Italy for a year after Barney’s and Robin’s wedding and Marshall achieves his dream of becoming a judge soon after he returns. The reason why theirs is the best relationship in the series is pretty simple – they stick with each other through thick and thin and show absolute and complete devotion towards each other, never losing sight of the strength and beauty of friendship and faith. In a world of people looking for the next best thing, theirs is a story of old love, something that Robin puts rightly as what “everyone’s looking for, but doesn’t have”.
Thank you for giving this a read. I hope it makes you crave a “legendary” re-watch.