Many of the key conflicts at the heart of the epic genre fantasy series Game of Thrones can be boiled down to the love of the wrong man or woman.
Jon Snow’s lineage is shrouded in mystery, which means that he is disrespected for almost the entire series as Ned Stark lies about having an affair with someone other than his wife, Catelyn.
The illicit romance between Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, which led to the birth of Jon himself, in many ways reignited the flame at the heart of the series’ central battle for power.
The incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister has defined much more of the series than it perhaps should have, while Cersei’s romantic sway over other men have had their fair share of consequences.
The strong and selfless Sansa Stark is paired with abusive man after abusive man, all in the name of strengthening her character through the most misogynistic of means.
Jon Snow loved and lost a fiery haired member of the Free Folk, showing that he did know something about love after all.
Daenerys Targaryen has had her fair share of suitors in her sudden rise to power, most of whom were nowhere near worthy of so magnificent in Khaleesi.
It’s true that they say that all is fair in love and war, but in the world of Game of Thrones, romantic relationships that are worth rooting for are few and far between.
Here are the 12 Couples That Hurt Game Of Thrones (And 8 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell
When it comes to the pairing of a power hungry, inept individual with a purely evil one, Joffrey Baratheon’s marriage to Margaery Tyrell comes to mind.
To be paired with either one of these characters is hardly an ideal situation, as they both wreak havoc in their own unique ways.
Margaery is so determined to be queen that she will allow herself to be debased in any way, engaging willingly in Joffrey’s many perversions and tortuous flirtations.
Before their marriage can truly lead to a potential reign of terror, however, Joffrey is poisoned, putting an abrupt end to Margaery’s desperate attempts at claiming the crown once again, following her previous sham of a marriage to Renly Baratheon.
19 Saved: Daenerys Targaryen and Ser Jorah Mormont
Few things are more of a grand display of romance in any sort of fantasy fiction than the loyalty a knight pledges to his queen.
Since the very beginning of the series, Ser Jorah Mormont has been one of Daenerys Targaryen’s fiercest allies, defenders, and protectors.
He has atoned for the sins of his past time and again in order to regain her trust and to keep her safe, putting his own life on the line countless times.
Though his feelings may not be requited in the same way, he has professed his love for her in one of the series’ most earnest romantic moments.
It’s a bittersweet reminder that this isn’t a show where people are used to getting what they want, no matter the kindness they display.
18 Hurt: Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand
You’d be hard pressed to think of any sort of value or enjoyment that the Martells and Sand Snakes brought to Game of Thrones.
Beyond outstaying their welcome, this allegedly charming and sophisticated couple scarcely did anything more than flirt and engage in intensley charged scenes – because HBO could show whatever they wanted.
Oberyn’s sudden and violent demise then led Ellaria on a path of revenge against the Lannisters, one of the most drawn out and tedious storylines the show has ever constructed.
While the Sand Snakes did get their revenge for their beloved Oberyn, Cersei had the final upper hand as she took away what Ellaria loved the most once again, showing that the back and forth pursuit of vengeance was worth nothing at all in the end.
17 Saved: Jon Snow and Ygritte
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
It’s not exactly the most romantic line in the history of movies and television, but the repeated mantra symbolizes the intense, logic and status defying romance shared between Watcher on the Wall Jon Snow and Free Folk member Ygritte.
Their relationship was a tortured one, as they moved from enemies to allies to lovers and all the way back to enemies again.
However, they were truly changed by one another, softened through hardship and growth, and exposed to the best of each other’s worlds in the moments they were able to steal away with each other, including the now famous cave scene and the heartbreaking end to their story.
16 Hurt: Daenerys Targaryen and Daario Naharis
Daenerys has struggled to find the right partner for her entire time as an aspiring queen, but Daario Naharis is quite possibly one of the worst choices she could ever have selected for her mate.
Once she became involved with Daario, Daenerys’ logic seemed to fly out the window.
It was replaced instead with megalomaniac episodes and an unwillingness to compromise that had never been there before.
Regardless of which actor was playing Daario at the time, the chemistry between the two characters was never believable, and it was hard to imagine Dany lowering herself to his level in any way.
15 Saved: Tyrion Lannister and Shae
Sometimes, the most unconventional love stories are the ones with the most resonance, no matter their ending.
Tyrion Lannister was long derided as the embarrassment of the Lannister name, a man whom no one could love unless they were paid to do so. So, it was the greatest irony that a street worker named Shae would indeed fall in love with him.
Their love was so intense that they exchanged the marital words “I am yours, and you are mine,” but through the interference of the Lannister clan, heartbreak would follow.
By the time Tyrion stood trial due to being charged as Joffrey’s assassin, Shae had turned against him, now sleeping with his father, Tywin.
She even attempted to assassinate Tyrion, before he committed the heartbreaking act of taking her life in self-defense.
14 Hurt: Robb and Talisa Stark
Young love never really leads to anything positive in the world of Westeros, but the relationship between Robb and Talisa Stark may have produced one of the worst results of all.
As part of their treaty with the Freys, Robb had been promised to wed one of Walder Frey’s many daughters. However, upon falling in love with the nurse Talisa, Robb threw all reason aside in order to pursue what he felt to be true love.
However, due to this breach of agreement between the Starks and the Freys, the devastating event known as the Red Wedding occurred, wiping out the majority of the Stark clan – including the newlywed and expecting Robb and Talisa themselves.
13 Saved: Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth
The romantic implications between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth have long been one on a subtextual level, but it is something that the cast, crew, and creators have long since acknowledged.
They began their interactions with one another as polar opposites – the spoiled golden son that everyone adored, and the female knight who no one took seriously.
Despite their allegiances being at odds with one another, they truly come to care for each other, forging a relationship of trust and empathy through their shared adventures.
With Jaime apparently deserting King’s Landing and the Lannister agenda at the end of season 7, there’s always a chance that their relationship could finally come to fruition in the final season.
However, only time will tell.
12 Hurt: Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo
Khal Drogo was a problematic character from the beginning – violent and chauvinistic, he represented the polar opposite of everything that Daenerys stood for, even before she truly rose to power and prominence as Khaleesi.
From the brutality of their arranged marriage, to the repeated violent assaults that Drogo subjects the young Dany to, to the frequent arguments that they engage in, everything about their relationship represents the hallmark of an abusive one.
It’s difficult, because the series does not seem to view them in that way, as Dany comes to love Drogo before his passing quite intensely, even reflecting on him in the years that follow.
However, the cognitive dissonance on the show’s part makes it hard to care about their relationship in any way other than worrying for Dany’s safety.
11 Saved: Arya Stark and Gendry Waters
Most likely due in large part to their ages at the beginning of the series, the relationship between Arya Stark and Gendry Waters has never been outright romantic or suggestive.
However, it’s clear that the series has been subtly hinting over time at something more, no matter how little interaction the characters have actually had with one another.
Fans have long hoped that they would find their way to one another again, as Gendry seems as though he may be the rare person to actually keep up with Arya’s spitfire personality and bold adventurous ways.
Theirs may be a rare example of young love that could work in Westeros – that is if the world of Game of Thrones allows them to ever get to that point, before the series ends forever.
10 Hurt: Margaery Tyrell and Tommen Baratheon
Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why a series puts two characters together, especially when there are so very many to choose from.
Unfortunately, as we’ve already discussed, Margaery Tyrell was one of the most desperate for power characters in the entire series, as she would charm her way into whatever lofty position was available.
Eventually, this included luring in the adolescent Tommen Baratheon in order to become his queen.
For some reason, the series felt it necessary to even feature scenes suggestive of their consummation of their relationship, despite the disturbing age implications.
Even worse, as Tommen found himself swayed by the cult of the Sparrows, Margaery soon found herself banished to prison, proving that all she had achieved in the name of social climbing was utterly pointless.
9 Saved: Grey Worm and Missandei
The Unsullied as a group are rarely ever given a voice, let alone an interior life of their own. So often are they referred to as a unit, rather than a group of living, breathing, thinking, feeling individuals, that it’s hard to imagine what is going on in their minds at any point in time.
With the character of Grey Worm, however, the series does offer an inside look at the emotional world of these men – no matter how little verbal communication he uses.
Over the course of the most recent seasons, Grey Worm is shown to fall in love with Daenerys’s loyal handmaid, Missandei.
Their scenes rank among the most tender love scenes that the series has provided so far, as the chemistry between he characters and their actors is entirely believable and effortless.
8 Hurt: Joffrey Baratheon and Sansa Stark
Poor Sansa Stark may have picked the worst possible person in the world to have her first crush on.
From the moment they meet, it’s clear that Joffrey never views Sansa as a romantic partner, but rather as a pawn in his scheme of power and cruelty.
Yet through her naïve eyes, she views each of his actions as kindness and courtship – until suddenly, it’s too late, and she finds herself trapped.
The destructive relationship plays a large part in the untimely demise of her own father, Ned, as well, which leaves Sansa with plenty of trauma to deal with and no real source of solace.
So when their relationship finally comes to an end, it is with great relief on the part of all viewers, and Sansa herself. However, the damage has already long been done.
7 Saved: Samwell Tarly and Gilly
We’re not sure what it says about the series that the most successful, longest running, and most genuinely heartwarming romantic relationship takes place between secondary – if not tertiary – characters, but there’s undoubtedly some commentary to be made there.
As Jon Snow’s righthand man and best friend, Samwell Tarly was always the lovable oaf, too nerdy for his own good and too afraid of the world to be a soldier.
When he fell in love with Gilly, a long-abused daughter of Craster, it was clear that this was what he felt could be his moment of heroism.
However, in saving Gilly from her horrible upbringing, Sam didn’t just become a hero: he became a man.
Growing up from the awkward little teenage boy he once was, Sam has now become one of the series’ smartest characters, and a wonderful father to Gilly’s young son, Sam, as well.
6 Saved: Ned and Catelyn Stark
There is no question at all as to who the best, strongest, and healthiest romantic relationship in the series’ entire run has been.
Despite how little viewers actually were treated to of it, the marriage between Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully was portrayed entirely as a partnership of equals. Faithfully devoted to one another, and helplessly in love even after all these years and children, they both served as each other’s guiding stars.
Following Ned’s untimely demise, Catelyn’s suffering was incomparable, masterfully acted with just the right mix of heartbreak and thirst for vengeance by Michelle Fairley.
While we didn’t get that many scenes of the reigning Starks together, the immensity of their love that is conveyed in each of these scenes just makes the limited time all the more precious.
5 Hurt: Cersei and Jaime Lannister
There’s no world in which the relationship between twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister could ever be considered one of the series’ strongest aspects.
Through their unhealthy union, three children were born – with a fourth potentially on the way – including the tyrannical King Joffrey and the utterly incompetent and overpowered King Tommen.
Their union has done nothing but lead to destruction, whether of their family or of their kingdom.
Certain scenes in particular have also been doubly problematic, with implications of assault stirring up many a debate on the internet.
Thankfully, season 7 ends with Jaime seeming to come to his senses as he abandons his sister and sets off to chart his own course.
We can only hope that things stay this way.
4 Hurt: Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark
Arguably one of the biggest mistakes that the series has ever made was the decision to change Sansa’s plot to include the arranged marriage to – and eventual horrifying assault by – Ramsay Bolton.
The furor online among fans of both the television series and the book series was seemingly never-ending when the offending episode aired. There was truly no point to including the scene, or the plot entirely, in as graphic detail as it was written and portrayed.
Ramsay was already a truly psychotic, unpredictable, violent threat long before he assaulted and repeatedly abused Sansa.
Subjecting her character to this incessant abuse did nothing for the series as a whole.
It offered a bit more incentive for the Battle of the Bastards, but there’s no way that Jon would have fought that battle any less intensely had possession of Winterfell been the only matter at stake.
3 Hurt: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen
On the one hand, the relationship between Jon and Daenerys can bee seen as an inevitability of the series. Representatives of fire and ice finally meet in the middle and find themselves lost in passion with one another, just as their predecessors before them.
However, a plotted inevitability does not necessarily mean that the development feels in any way earned – or worth rooting for at all.
While the series condemns the behavior of the Lannisters, it expects viewers to go all in on the pairing of Daenerys with her nephew, Aegon.
Their courtship is essentially nonexistent, consisting of screaming matches and threatening barbs hurled at one another, before suddenly, we’re meant to think they love one another.
Coupled with the utter lack of chemistry between Clarke and Harington, it wouldn’t be a shame if this blend of fire and ice led to a puddle instead of steam.
2 Hurt: Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon
To be fair, absolutely nothing that has come from Melisandre’s character that could be considered a good choice. Her character is maddening, malicious, and entirely one dimensional.
For a series so nuanced as Game of Thrones has always been, it’s entirely a mystery as to why they chose to portray the aged witch in so simplistic a way.
Yet since that is the choice they made, it leads to the undesirable consequence of her terrible, utterly destructive relationship with the power hungry amd truly inept Stannis Baratheon.
The fact that their relationship leads to the sacrifice of Stannis’s daughter Shireen comes as no shock, given the level of Melisandre’s madness.
However, it does guarantee their status as one of the worst couples the series has ever had.
1 Hurt: Lysa Arryn and Petyr Baelish
Nothing says true love like plotting your husband’s demise and believing that you’ve allured a man who’s always been in love with your sister — and possibly niece, as well.
Somehow, that logic made perfect sense to the mad Lysa Arryn, one of Thrones‘ most dysfunctional characters to date — and one who outstayed her welcome from the very beginning.
For her whole life, Lysa longed for the wily Petyr Baelish, known to most as Littlefinger. However, for his whole life, Petyr longed for Lysa’s sister, Catelyn Tully turned Stark, and therefore, he never viewed Lysa as more than a means to an end.
When his ultimate goal was close enough within his reach — namely, power of the Vale — Petyr didn’t hesitate to remove Lysa from standing in his way.
What couples do you think have hurt or saved Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!