As we head into the 15th season of Grey’s Anatomy (can you believe it’s actually been that long?), we’ve seen more characters come and go than we can count. Often, they meet tragic ends in the form of plane crashes, car crashes, bus crashes, and gunshot wounds. Occasionally it’s a little more tame, like moving across the country or to another country altogether. Throughout these 14 seasons, we’ve seen couples come and go, too, with every main character having at least two big loves during their tenure, which begs the question: Which ones hurt the show and which ones did we love?
There are fan favorites to every show, and some relationships, while not exactly ideal, still became beloved by the audience. Others which might potentially work on paper were either boring or simply paired two characters together who just don’t seem to mesh, no matter how much creative writing is involved! We’ve dug through the past seasons to find 10 couples we loved–and 10 who hurt the show more than they helped it. From season-defining relationships to ones that you might have forgotten about, these couples show that love is just as important as medicine when it comes to Grey’s Anatomy.
20 FAIL: Derek Shepherd & Nurse Rose
Nothing against Nurse Rose, but we all knew that she was just a pit-stop before Derek and Meredith finally got together. She was funny, smart, beautiful, and didn’t take any of McDreamy’s nonsense (which is more than we can say for early-seasons Meredith).
But overall, she was, well, kind of forgettable, especially considering that their relationship was pretty drama-free.
A lack of drama doesn’t bode well for a show that gleefully writes off its characters the way that Grey’s does. They were a nice, if bland, pairing, but one that felt more like a way to bide time before putting the two main characters together. Sorry, Nurse Rose.
19 LOVE: Cristina Yang & Preston Burke
Were these two meant to be? Probably not. But were they still an incredibly passionate pair that set TV screen on fire for a couple seasons? Definitely.
While Meredith was pining for Derek, Cristina had more of an equal footing in her relationship with Burke – at least at first. With him, she was able to get more action in cardio and thus, start further down the path to becoming the cardio god we know her to be. However, Burke was also manipulative towards the fiery Cristina and wanted her to be someone she wasn’t. It was better for everyone that they never got hitched, but it was still dazzling to see this couple together!
18 FAIL: George O’Malley & Callie Torres
Callie? Good. George? Good. Together? No thanks! While these two had a kind of cute beginning, we just can’t get over the fact that George O’Malley looks like a child in Callie’s tough ortho arms. The short-lived marriage between the couple was doomed from the start (remember how much Callie hated George’s friends?), and ended amid cheating, with each of the two being unfaithful.
In the end, we were almost glad to see them split.
There was definitely love between the two, and the scenes between them when George’s dad was sick were sweet and genuine, but, as a couple, they just didn’t feel believable, so we can’t give them a pass.
17 LOVE: Mark Sloan & Addison Montgomery
In the “so wrong it’s right” category, we have Mark Sloan and Addison Montgomery who, while not technically a couple, still had an affair that led to Derek moving to Seattle and the entire events of Grey’s to transpire, so we’re counting it.
As a couple that came from a series of bad decisions (and cheating with your best friend’s wife, to boot!), we can’t condone the action, but the charm and chemistry these two had was undeniable. These two understood each other thanks to their shared history, but it was that history that ultimately kept them from being together.
16 FAIL: Callie Torres & Penny Blake
Was there anyone who championed this pairing? Seriously, anyone? Since we all fell in love with Callie and Arizona Robbins, Penny Blake felt like an interloper from the moment she was introduced as the new girlfriend at Meredith’s dinner party, but adding insult to injury was the fact that she was one of the incompetent doctors who caused Derek to die!
That might be Penny’s greatest downfall, but putting Arizona (and the audience) through so much made us not enjoy this coupling.
The insane custody battle for Sofia and turning one of the most beloved TV relationships into an all-out brawl was way worse than a medical mistake, in our opinion. Plus, after the passion with Arizona, Callie’s relationship with Penny felt like lukewarm soup.
15 LOVE: Miranda Bailey & Ben Warren
Bailey dealt with a lot of turmoil in the early seasons as she fought tooth and nail to be the best at a job she loved and cared about while raising her son. Remember her ex-husband Tucker, who expected a housewife when Bailey was busy being an exceptional surgeon? Yeah, we’d like to forget him, too.
Fortunately for Bailey, she found someone incredible in Ben Warren – someone who loves, respects, appreciates and cares for her in ways that Bailey hasn’t experienced before. Even in their differences and the drama that came with Ben switching careers and Bailey’s OCD, these two still managed to stick it out.
14 FAIL: Izzie Stevens & Denny’s Ghost
A lot of people stopped watching the show when Izzie Stevens, after dealing with the trauma of losing Denny Duquette, kept the relationship going with her man – with him as a ghost. Even when Denny was alive, their relationship was doomed, and Izzie showed that she had more heart than brains when she lied to get him a heart transplant and cut his LVAD wire.
But then, the ghost stuff happened.
For a woman who is a doctor, who lives with other doctors, and is generally surrounded by medical knowledge 24/7, Izzie was remarkably chill about believing she was experiencing something paranormal rather than something that could be explained by science! For doing a disservice to the show and characters involved, this is a fail.
13 LOVE: Richard Webber & Ellis Grey
Were these two toxic? Absolutely! But their relationship is arguably what set the events of Grey’s Anatomy in motion! In flashbacks, we see that Ellis even encouraged Richard to return to drinking, that their long-standing affair was at the cost of their own marriages and children, among other bad decisions, and yet, there is still a sweetness there amid all the destruction.
Seeing Richard visit Ellis when she was in the clutches of Alzheimer’s is tragic and beautiful, especially when he sees similar issues later, this time dementia in his wife, Adele. These two were not good together, but forbidden love – even the poisonous kind – can still be delicious.
12 FAIL: Owen Hunt & Amelia Shepherd
Did Grey’s just run out of people to pair up when they chose to put these two together? Because between their shared trauma and self-destructive streaks, we can’t imagine two more broken people trying to create a life together – and utterly boring us in the process!
These two spend all their time fighting and crying while having convenient excuses to blame for their behavior (hello, brain tumor!).
Plus, Owen did exactly what he tried to do with Cristina, which was to force a family on a woman who didn’t want one. Hey, Owen, isn’t that a discussion you should have before you decide to get married? Watching these two make each other miserable is proof that misery does not love company.
11 LOVE: Cristina Yang & Owen Hunt
Another relationship that we knew wasn’t going to work out, Own and Cristina at least had more chemistry than Owen and Amelia, but that doesn’t make them perfect. We the viewers all wanted Cristina to have another “great love” (besides cardio) after Preston Burke abandoned her without warning.
And there was something between her and Owen that was compelling, if not exactly ideal. While Owen and Amelia’s fights and makeups feel repetitive, these two were fire and while they ended (and for good reason!), they were still an important relationship in the Grey’s universe.
10 FAIL: Arizona Robbins & Leah Murphy
Most of the relationships that begin out of infidelity are doomed from the get-go, but this one really rubbed audiences the wrong way because it was just so out of character for Arizona to step out on Callie, her great (and complicated) love!
Leah was just a whiny, clingy mess, and crying with a bone saw in your hand while in the OR with your ex and her wife is just not a good look.
Seeing Arizona cheat on Callie made her unsympathetic to fans and the fact that it was with someone as irritating as Leah rubbed salt in the wound.
9 LOVE: Alex Karev & Jo Wilson
Between the two of them, Alex and Jo could make a therapist very, very rich – if they ever had any intention of going to one, that is. As children who grew up in foster homes and come from “the wrong side of the tracks," these two understand each other in a way their other partners never did.
These two are prickly, hard, and streetwise on the outside, but on the inside, they’re soft and sensitive. Plus, they have a shared sense of humor! After seasons of “will they or won’t they," these two finally managed to get together, and, while not every fan may love them, they’re definitely a solid coupling in the newer Grey’s seasons.
8 FAIL: Richard Webber & Catherine Avery
Unlike Richard and Ellis, Richard and Catherine Avery just don’t have the same spark to make their relationship believable or even watchable. Look, in the beginning, they were actually kind of cute, in that forbidden romance way that Grey’s does so well.
Afterward, though, with all the Harper Avery controversy and Catherine buying up the hospital, and it feels like Richard is less invested in this relationship than in previous ones.
Plus, this was another coupling that came out of infidelity, even if it began when Adele Webber was dealing with dementia. And, these two gave us one of our most-hated and strangest couples ever, which we’ll discuss more below.
7 LOVE: Callie Torres & Arizona Robbins
As one of the longest relationships on Grey’s Anatomy and one of the first representations of a married LGBTQ couple on primetime television, Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins are incredibly important to the show.
They began as two beautiful people who found love in one another but, as time wore on, their relationship became more complicated and, unfortunately, uglier. Callie made the heart-wrenching decision to have Arizona’s leg amputated, and it didn’t feel as though Arizona was ever able to come back from that. They didn’t end up together (although this last season saw Arizona head to New York for Sofia’s sake), but they’re undeniably one of the most valuable couples in the show’s history.
6 FAIL: Izzie Stevens & George O’Malley
Born out of infidelity (poor Callie!), George and Izzie were the kind of cringe-worthy couple that made fans want to turn off their TVs and go somewhere else.
While they were great as best friends, there was just zero chemistry between the two of them to make a believable couple.
George and Izzie had never shown any romantic feelings towards each other before, which made this pairing seem that much more random and kind of ruined the friendship they had going. Neither of these characters had a great track record when it came to romances, and this uncomfortable relationship was no exception.
5 LOVE: Derek Shepherd & Meredith Grey
We know that for a lot of people, these two were the OTP of Grey’s. First, they were just a boy and a girl in a bar, and then, through all their ups and downs, they managed to get together and raise a family.
Grand romantic gestures like a house made of candles and a fake-prom date colored their early seasons, but as their relationship (and the series) went on, these two got more complicated.
While they didn’t always see eye to eye and, admittedly, their relationship could be toxic at times, there was simply nothing to prepare audiences for the death of Derek in season 11 and the emotional wreckage it brought to Meredith.
4 FAIL: Alex Karev & Ava/Rebecca Pope
One of the most notable of Alex’s romances, we have his strange caretaker-lover with Jane Doe/Ava/Rebecca Pope, the ferry crash victim who requires facial reconstructive surgery.
In the beginning, Alex was simply trying to help her out and be a dedicated doctor, but soon, the two fall for one another – and Alex should have known better.
She begins showing up randomly, even after she’s learned of her true identity and reconnected with her family, tells him that she’s pregnant, and more. It’s a lot of drama and heartbreak, and one of the most annoying relationships in Grey’s history.
3 LOVE: Jackson Avery & April Kepner
This is one of those relationships that was so powerful, you could feel the heat through the screen! #Japril, as they’re known to fans, was a case of opposites attracting, with April forgoing her morals for the undeniable appeal of Jackson. When these two start dating, it is straight fire!
Some fans may not have loved the fact that April walked out on her wedding to be with Jackson and that the two were doomed when it came to childbearing. But their highs and lows were so visceral, believable, and real that they have become one of the most beloved couples ever – which is why their split was so painful!
2 FAIL: Maggie Pierce & Jackson Avery
Where Jackson and April had sparks flying from the beginning, Maggie and Jackson feel like a child trying to cram two puzzle pieces together that simply don’t fit.
In addition to the very weird nature of being sort-of step-siblings, since Jackson is Catherine Avery’s son and Maggie is Richard Webber’s daughter, these two have zero chemistry whatsoever.
Even when they tried to introduce other people for each person on their way to finding one another (Stephanie for Jackson, DeLuca for Maggie), it never felt like the stakes were very high or interesting, and fans hated this couple from the beginning.
1 LOVE: Mark Sloan & Lexie Grey
Star-crossed lovers Lexie and Mark felt like they shouldn’t work but they totally, totally did. First, we have the fact that Lexie managed to make the womanizing Mark a monogamous man and, even though the arrival of Mark’s estranged daughter caused turmoil between the two, there was still a lot of love there.
What really hurt fans of the show was the tragic ending for the both of them. With the plane crash that ended them both (Lexie at the scene, Mark later) and broke all of our hearts, it was truly a sad end to this epic relationship. Their timing was always off, but they were undoubtedly one of the most beloved couples among fans.