When it comes to what makes a good relationship, I feel like there are two camps: There are those who believe wholeheartedly in romantic love — the kind of love that is full of chemistry and magic and moments of overwhelming certainty — and then there are those who believe that loving a person in the long-term sense is a decision that we choose to make day in and day out over the course of a long and happy life together. These two types of relationship believers have been at odds for ages, and there is no better example of how those sides clash than when fans argue over who had the better relationship: Dean Forester and Rory Gilmore or Jess Mariano and Rory Gilmore. And, at the risk of revealing my journalistic bias here, I’m just going to say it: Dean was a way better Gilmore boyfriend than Jess could ever be.
Was the relationship with Jess and Rory full of passion and sparks and drama that always seemed to reignite their flame? Sure. But was it actually a stable, sustainable relationship that helped Rory to grow in that ever-steady love? Yeah, not so much. But Rory’s relationship with Dean? Now that was something we all can aspire to. It was full of compassion and kindness, and those two were absolutely adorable together. And before you start arguing that Rory wasn’t that into Dean in the end, let me remind you that that was largely because she was distracted by the carnal appeal of Jess’s bad boy routine.
Don’t get it twisted.
So let’s break this down so we can all be on the same page about all of the reasons why Dean was a way better boyfriend than Jess ever was.
1. He Was Never Rude To Rory’s Family
Remember that time Jess showed up to dinner with a bruise on his face and refused to talk? I don’t care that it was really a bird that beat him up; his demeanor was short and rude, and he didn’t even try to make an effort to get to know Emily Gilmore. Shame on him.
2. Lorelai Loved Him
By the end of their relationship, Dean had become like part of the family, showing up at random to help out around the house and to chat with Lorelai, even when Rory wasn’t there.
3. Jess Was Clearly Lorelai’s Past Mistakes Incarnate
Come on, this connection was so clear. Jess was totally Chris in another life. He was charming, kind of bad, and completely unstable, just like Chris ultimately was for Lorelai. Like so many of the things that Rory did, choosing Jess was an obvious case of her mother’s history repeating itself.
4. He Encouraged Her Dreams
Dean never once stood in the way of Rory’s dream to go to Harvard. And, while Jess didn’t in an overt way, their relationship definitely had Rory wondering if she should go somewhere closer to home. Red flag, Rory. RED FLAG.
5. He Always Prioritized Rory
Do you remember that weekend that Jess didn’t even call Rory? I seriously can’t even think about that episode without feeling all of the high school feels about boys and rejection and how impossibly stupid every single 17-year-old is. It makes me furious. Dean, on the other hand, never left Rory hanging like Jess did. He always put her first. Always.
6. He Defended Her Honor
Dean didn’t let Rory go without a fight. And, although it may have been a touch creepy the way he went after Jess, it was totally coming from a place of love and not taking this breakup lying down. Jess, on the other hand? Well, this is the kid who can go an entire weekend without calling his girlfriend. Need I say more?
7. He Was There For Her After Their Break-Up
Let me tell you, there is no better test of character than what a person is like after you break their heart. Do they get bitter? Crazed? Angry and vengeful? And what did Dean do when Rory broke his heart? He still helped Lorelai around the house, was still was there for them when they needed him. Now that is the sign of a good man.
8. He Just Wanted To Be Rory’s Friend In The End
After their breakup, Dean was still interested in being friends with Rory, even though she had very obviously broken his heart. And their moments of meeting up in town post-breakup were some of the sweetest and most difficult to watch. Their love was such a tender thing. It literally hurt my heart to watch them be apart.
9. He Integrated Himself Into Her Life
Here’s a little test of a good relationship: How well does your guy get to know everyone else in your life? Your family, your friends, your day-to-day routine? OK, now think about all of the scenes with Dean where he was interacting with Rory’s family and friends. There were lots, right? Now. Try to think about all of the scenes where Jess was interacting with Rory’s family and friends. Can’t really think of a time that he and Lane hung out? Can’t think of a time where Jess and Lorelai were in the same room without some tense conversation about how he should be treating Rory better? That, my friends, should be evidence enough. Jess and Rory were great on their own, but he never put forth any real effort to become a part of her life beyond what the two of them shared.
10. Dean Was Smart, Too
I hate the argument that the Jess and Rory ‘shippers usually rely on: That Jess and Rory shared some sort of intellectual compatibility that Dean and Rory did not. Guys. Just because Jess and Rory bantered about books, does not mean that they are made for each other. Also, hi. Life is not some modern version of Pride and Prejudice being constantly played on repeat. Relationships are hard, and emotional intelligence is way more fundamental to their success than having read some of the same books. Dean, unlike Jess, had that in spades.
11. He Wanted What Was Best For Rory
When it came down to it, Dean wanted what was best for those Gilmore girls, whether it was help around the house, exploring a relationship that maybe wasn’t the best for her, or going to the school that was hours away but the one she loved. What other true test of love is there than the ability to put your partner and their happiness first? And Dean, god bless him, was always able to do that.
Say what you will about sparks and chemistry, but when it comes to who made the better partner for Rory, this one is obvious. Dean. Dean all the way.
Image: Warner Bros. Television; Giphy (11)