11 Lessons About Love And Life From ‘Gilmore Girls’ That Still Hold Up

Sometimes love is worth the wait.

It was pretty evident within the first episodes of the show that Lorelai and Luke had, at the bare minimum, huge crushes on the other. As time went on, those feelings only seemed to blossom, creating a long-running series of “Will they? Won’t they?” moments. However, things always seemed to be in the way—a new relationship, an unexpected interruption right when things were moving forward, or each one’s fear of genuine intimacy and commitment. Yet through it all, no matter what was going on in each other’s lives, they still held those feelings for each other close. While, naturally, no one should put their lives on hold to wait on someone, Lorelai and Luke eventually do end up together for the long haul—and it’s good to remember that sometimes love is worth waiting for.

You can’t hold onto your past forever.

So much of our lives feel as if they are determined by our past, and no one seems to prove this more than each of the Gilmore Girls. Lorelai stays hung up on her not-so-warm and fuzzy childhood, her connection to Rory’s dad Christopher, and even other past relationships she didn’t feel she had closure on. Rory stays hung up on her past relationship with Dean and how beloved she was in high school (as well as how easily things seemed to come to her back then). The tighter each one clings to their past, the more immense trouble it brings to their present. The inability to allow things to change, to grow, and to not let the past decide your fate is a lesson they both learn over and over again—and it’s a strong reminder to us all to not allow what’s happened to us to define us.

Love can be intoxicating, but that isn’t everything.

While falling in love can feel overwhelming and all-consuming, there is so much more to it than those initial butterflies. In particular, Rory experiences this with Jess, the quintessential bad boy and Luke’s nephew, as well as Logan, the incredibly charming and wealthy risk-taking suitor. Both make Rory feel intense things, especially in the beginning—however, reality quickly surfaces as each guy struggles to communicate their feelings, commit to a real relationship, or fully support her the way she needs. It becomes clear that while emotions are important and fun to explore, there has to be more than excitement and mystery to make a relationship work.

You don’t own anyone.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most infuriating parts of the show for me had to do with Rory and Dean’s storyline once he was married. Even more so, the intense possessive nature both seemed to have over the other was alarming—especially because both seemed to feel so justified in it. The moment Rory says to her mother, “He’s Dean. My Dean,” after Lorelai catches them sleeping together while he’s still married shows just how convinced she is that she has a claim over him simply because he was her first boyfriend. While Lorelai reminds her that this isn’t the case, Rory refuses to accept it until months later. The truth is, people can hold an important place in our lives, but even in relationships, we do not own anyone. They are their own person who can make their own decisions, and we can only hope they make ones that don’t hurt or betray us. 

Don’t cheat. Like seriously, just don’t do it.

Speaking of that storyline—just don’t cheat. Rory has a penchant for jumping the gun in her relationships based on her feelings, often causing a bit of an overlap. Whether she’s kissing Jess before she and Dean break things off, playing the other woman once Dean is married to someone else, or playing the other woman to Logan once he’s engaged in the revival series, Rory casts aside her usual level-headed, pro/con list-creating, logical decision-making to the side without much thought of what will happen next—and usually doubles down on those reckless choices before coming to her senses. The reality is, whether a person finds out about your cheating or not, it still impacts your relationship. Cheating on someone you’re dating isn’t a solution—it only creates more problems and is ultimately a betrayal between you and a person you care about. Rory’s actions do eventually catch up with her in each circumstance, but her repeated mistakes serve as a reminder that cheating never gives you what you’re longing for. Even if you end up together, trust is skewed, affecting your connection with the person long term.

People change.

While it’s tempting to keep seeing people as the same person they were when you met or when you were close to them, people do end up changing throughout their lives. They don’t freeze in place when you’re not in contact with them anymore. The complex and brooding Jess Mariano is the perfect example of this—starting out as an unruly, disrespectful teenager who had accepted he wouldn’t go anywhere in life, Jess eventually grows and changes into a person not only willing to take responsibility for their actions but as a responsible person pursuing their dream. While Rory struggles to believe this until she comes in contact with Jess again, she eventually does see just how far Jess has come and that people aren’t always doomed to stay who they used to be. It’s a lesson we could all stand to learn—people can, and do, change.

Generational trauma is more powerful than we realize.

Throughout the series, we are shown the colorful and distinct journeys of the Gilmore Girls. However, the constant theme interwoven in the show is family—for better or worse. Lorelai is so determined to make her own independent life, completely severed from the view and judgment of her parents. This often leads to intense arguments, plenty of hurt, and a constant strain in Lorelai, Rory, and even her mother Emily’s relationships with each other. While Lorelai is convinced that she is nothing like her mother, the show often proves that this isn’t the case—she is also guilty of being stubborn, overrunning other people’s boundaries, and projecting her past onto others. While Lorelai agonizes about how her parents were restrictive and determined to keep her on a particular path that didn’t allow for her own decisions, Lorelai also tenses up and becomes defensive with Rory any time she decides to veer from the set “plans” they had made for her. Lorelai spends a great deal of time complaining about how her parents treated her, but often doesn’t realize that she does the same thing to her own daughter time and time again. In the end, it’s a reminder that while we are not destined to be our parents, we still have the capacity to pass down unhealthy habits and structures based on how we were raised if we aren’t mindful and careful to do otherwise.

Love can be scary, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.

While love can be exciting and worth taking a risk on, it can also come with its own fears and concerns. We worry about whether we are worth loving, if we are ready, if the other person will really be there for us, or if the relationship will end and hurt us. Lorelai Gilmore was essentially a poster child for this—we watched her seemingly dive into relationships with others, only to have doubts and insecurities creep in that caused her to close herself off and even cut things off before anyone could hurt her. It took her so long to realize that love goes hand in hand with risk—you will never know until you fully try and go all-in with a person. 

Don’t run straight into a relationship to avoid your feelings about an old one.

This advice can’t be said loud enough—give yourself time to heal. While life goes on and new people can easily show up in our lives, it doesn’t mean we should jump in if we are fresh out of a recent breakup. Both Lorelai and Rory both had their moments where they dove into the arms of someone else after having their hearts broken—most notably Lorelai running to Christopher after things ended with Luke and Rory immediately dating Jess after being broken up with by Dean in front of everyone. In both cases, neither one was ready to commit or fall in love with the new person entirely, and both still had to process their feelings about their exes while being with someone else. In the end, it put too much weight on either of those relationships to succeed. It’s important to remember that the right people in our lives will be patient with us while we are healing and give us the time and space we need. And if they don’t? They weren’t a person we needed to be with.

You have to tell people how you feel.

For a show that is well-known for its characters talking extremely fast, the majority of them were terrible at communicating (I know it was a television show, but still). So many of the issues that came up in the series could have been fixed with a simple conversation, or at least an attempt at one. Yet repeatedly, we watch as the characters keep their feelings to themselves, get defensive, and rarely say what they really mean. Most times, while the characters are angry with each other, they notably are the ones preventing the issue from being resolved by refusing to tell people how they feel. People cannot read your mind, nor do you want them to make assumptions about what you’re thinking—you have to tell them.

You choose your family.

Family is an essential aspect of the show, but it’s not just about blood relations. The small town of Stars Hollow is so connected and supports each other in numerous ways, making everyone feel like family. Often, Lorelai considers the town her family in ways she feels her parents never could be—which does open up a complicated lens about what family truly means. While Emily and Richard Gilmore believe that those who are related should do anything and everything for each other due to a familial connection, Lorelai and Rory both challenge this idea in the ways they interact and care for their friends and the town they live in. It’s a good reminder that your family isn’t limited to who you’re related to—it’s chosen.