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Every Couple In One Tree Hill, Ranked

The familiar scenes of Karen's Cafe, the River Court, and the Scott residence bring any "One Tree Hill" fan back to the comfort of Tree Hill, North Carolina and all of the characters we've grown to love. For nine seasons, countless couples, many tragedies, and a whole lot of love, "One Tree Hill" aired on The CW and had fans hooked. We watched with love and sometimes frustration while Lucas (Chad Michael Murray), Nathan (James Lafferty), Peyton (Hilarie Burton), Brooke (Sophia Bush), Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz), Dan (Paul Johansson), and the rest of the ensemble cast went through their lives and navigated family, friends, and romantic relationships. We stuck with them through the good and the bad, and developed a real love and concern for the characters.

Part of what made the show so great was the many different romances to invest in. There were high school love triangles with Brooke, Lucas, and Peyton, adult relationships like Quinn (Shantel VanSanten) and Clay (Robert Buckley), and marriages with kids like Brooke and Julian (Austin Nichols) or Peyton and Lucas. With so many different couples on the show, it's hard to decide who the best couple is, or who you're really rooting for above all the others — especially with how much overlap there was between the characters and their love lives. Whether or not you had couples you hated or couples you loved, read on to see the main couples in "One Tree Hill," ranked from worst to best.

Dan and Rachel

This coupling is just vile. First of all, Rachel's storyline should've ended when she ditched the prom and was kicked out of school for Brooke. Instead, it felt like the writers tried to shove Danneel Ackles' character into random plotlines throughout the show, just to keep her relevant or try to maintain the remnants of the original "One Tree Hill" days. First, she comes back to Tree Hill in the high school episodes. Then, she returns with a drug problem after the success of Brooke's company. And finally, she shows up again... as Mrs. Dan Scott. 

As for Dan, it was obvious he was always going to be a large part of the show: It starts with him abusing his children, and ends with his death. However, we don't think anyone could've predicted Dan and Rachel as a couple. Rachel is the same age as both of Dan's sons. There's at least an 18- or 19-year age difference between the two, and when they're married, Rachel isn't older than 22 or 23. Additionally, it's clear from the start that their marriage is just a business arrangement, one that's advantageous for both parties. For Dan, he gets someone to manage his revitalization career and a hot wife to satisfy his needs and image. For Rachel, she gets endless money and can take the wheel for once about her own life. Their relationship is toxic and just plain gross — making it the undeniable worst.

Nathan and Peyton

Nathan and Peyton are our first introduction to a romantic coupling on the show — and from the get go, it is immediately apparent that they wouldn't last. 

For one thing, Peyton is introduced as Lucas' love interest, which all but guarantees they'd be together in the end, because that's how teen television shows work. Nathan and Peyton aren't compatible at all, nor do they have a healthy relationship. Let's not forget how mentally abusive Nathan is toward Peyton, how he mostly uses her for sex, and how he immediately has sex with Peyton's best friend after they break up. Throughout their relationship, they yell at each other and make each other miserable. Plus, Peyton isn't concerned with popularity or the trivial things that Nathan likes; she is more into art and deep conversations, just like Lucas.

It is important to note, however, that Peyton and Nathan's relationship serve as the catalyst for most of the show's events. Sure, Nathan and Haley were mostly responsible for bringing Lucas and Peyton together (and generally caring for everyone in the show). But without Lucas' concern for Peyton causing friction between the two, Peyton and Nathan never would've broken up, which wouldn't have led Nathan to pursue Haley, meaning the brothers never would've become friends. Nathan and Peyton were always meant to be better friends than in a romantic relationship, but it's good that they're together in the beginning, because it eventually leads to Nathan and Haley's nine-season relationship.

Brooke and Lucas

Is there anything more frustrating than a love triangle? Perhaps, there is: When two people you're rooting for get together, despite being clearly wrong for each other. Separately, Brooke and Lucas both go through some intense and much-needed character development. Though Lucas is initially depicted as "the perfect guy," he quickly shows that he has quite a bit of learning to do. Brooke, on the other hand, experiences significant character development. She starts as a shallow, wild party girl, but eventually proves that she has the biggest heart you could imagine, and would do just about anything for the people she loves.

Seeing the two of them together is really disappointing. It's clear that Lucas loves Peyton, and is only with Brooke because he couldn't have Peyton. Though he ends up feeling genuine love for Brooke, he never falls for her the way he does for Peyton. As a result, Brooke becomes someone who is always jealous and paranoid about what Lucas is doing, and is eventually proven right because of Lucas and Peyton's affair. Meanwhile, Lucas represses his true feelings throughout the whole relationship. And this love triangle turns out to be more than just a one-off: After they all forgive each other and move on, it persists. 

Basically, there is no scenario where Lucas and Brooke would have truly worked. The only silver lining in this mess is Brooke's relationship with Karen, who becomes a mother figure for Brooke for the rest of the show.

Lucas and Lindsey

Unfortunately, outside of his relationship with Peyton, Lucas isn't really "best boyfriend" material. This becomes pretty clear during his relationship with Brooke, but is never clearer than it is during his relationship with Lindsey — a pairing so poorly handled, it's downright baffling. 

In a nutshell: Lucas and Peyton finally got together after high school, but when Peyton isn't ready to say yes to Lucas' marriage proposal, he ends their relationship. Then, he goes to New York and meets Lindsey (Michaela McManus), the editor of his book. They hit it off, eventually getting engaged and even making it to the wedding. However, they end up not getting married because... you guessed it, Lucas is still in love with Peyton. (Of course, it's not really Peyton's fault; after all, Lucas was the one who ended the relationship and put them in this mess.)

It's not like Lucas and Lindsey don't have their issues, either. For one, Lindsey starts out as Lucas' editor, which already seems like a bit of a conflict. Moreover, Lindsey's job is to edit Lucas' love letter to Peyton, Tree Hill, and the rest of his friends. Going into it, shouldn't she quickly understand that Lucas wants to be with Peyton? Still, this is really more of Lucas' fault for making Lindsey believe that he is no longer madly in love with Peyton. Needless to say, their relationship was frustrating for fans, who were simply waiting for Lucas and Peyton to get back together.

Skills and Deb

Though it may seem surprising that Skills (Antwon Tanner) and Deb (Barbara Alyn Woods) aren't ranked lower, it's clear that the two of them had a much more mature relationship than many of the pairings on the show. 

It was admittedly a bit of a shock when Skills and Deb got together, but quite frankly, they aren't a terrible pair. They only rank so low because of the inherent awkwardness of dating a close friend's mom. At first, the two aren't aware that they're messaging each other online. They swap risque photos, talk almost all day, and form a real connection. Then, when they meet in person for the first time, they almost decide to call off the date. However, they quickly realize they have palpable sexual tension, and begin a friends-with-benefits/secret relationship.

Still, Skills and Deb are both consenting adults: Despite their slightly uncomfortable circumstances, they're legally allowed to be together. They struggle with telling Nathan the truth about their relationship, but after doing so, they are able to have a pretty solid relationship for a while. But, when the relationship becomes too unrealistic with their age gap and different ideas of marriage and kids, they act really mature and adult about their breakup. It's extremely respectful, and it's a good example of how an amicable breakup should be. It's weird, but not the worst of Tree Hill's couples.

Skills and Bevin

Skills and Bevin (Bevin Prince) seem like an odd match at first, but eventually make a lot of sense. Skills gains popularity through Lucas, who becomes popular through the Ravens basketball team. When Lucas starts dating cheerleaders like Brooke and Peyton, Skills is invited to all the parties, and meets Bevin after some time. She cheers with Brooke and Peyton, and is known for being a bit ditsy. However, the audience finds out that Bevin is actually smart — she just is better at playing dumb. The two of them instantly connect. Bevin claims him when all the girls are choosing their boys in Season 3's fantasy boy draft. Skills shows Bevin his soft and vulnerable side, and he understands Bevin like no one else does — even better than some of her closest friends.

The two of them struggle to keep their relationship going after high school. Normally, Deb and Skills would've had a more mature and healthier relationship that would make them rank higher. However, there are a few reasons why Skills and Bevin win out. First, most of the immaturity in their relationship comes from the fact that they're still in high school and have yet to develop the skills to be in a relationship. Second, after they grow apart and go through their lives as adults, they realize they're right for each other and, as teased in the series finale, they get back together. Ultimately, they're the best matches for each other.

Chase and Mia

Another unexpected (though not terrible) couple is Chase (Stephen Colletti) and Mia (Kate Voegele). The audience meets Chase early on in the series, while Mia debuts when the main characters are already adults. Chase comes back to Tree Hill because of Owen, but he meets Mia through Haley, Peyton and Red Bedroom Records. After Mia becomes a successful musician, she returns to Tree Hill and meets Chase, who is bartending at Tric and is instantly taken by her. They start going out and navigating what it's like to be in a relationship while Mia has a full-time music career. Mia goes on tour, and effectively ends their relationship via text. This is already not a great look for their relationship, but everything becomes more complicated when Mia comes back from tour, regretting their breakup, and finds she's in the middle of a love triangle with Chase and Alex (Jana Kramer). 

Mia doesn't handle her relationship with Chase well at all. When she breaks up with him, she breaks his heart, and when they sort of get back together, it only further confuses Chase, who has already moved on. But the reason they rank higher than some of the other couples is because there's an undeniable romantic spark between them, at least at first. He's so enthralled with her and cares so much about her, which is really amazing for the audience to see after Mia's confidence journey. If they hadn't broken up, they would've been great together.

Chase and Alex

Part of why Chase and Mia end up not working is because of Alex, an actress who comes to Tree Hill to be the face of Brooke's fashion line and ends up staying for most of the show's remainder. 

At first, Alex is in love with Julian (Austin Nichols), which poses a difficult position for Brooke and Julian. But after a lot of drama and tragedy, Alex and Julian just become very close friends with no love involved. Alex gets over Julian partially through her feelings for Chase. They come on suddenly and intensely, and at first, everything is going well between them. Even when Mia comes back and tries to get between them, Chase is always clear about his feelings for Alex, and they form a very cute relationship.

But Mia isn't the only obstacle they face. Alex starts working at the bar, which Chase really likes, but he realizes she's just doing research for a movie. She tells him that has no impact on her feelings for him, but Chase ultimately feels betrayed. Though their relationship is off and on from that point, when they first get together, they are clearly perfect for each other. Alex has the same level of goofiness and seriousness as Chase, who has an immense amount of respect for Alex and her work. It's clear there's more passion in their relationship than in any of their other relationships. 

Mouth and Millie

A solid, staple couple of the show is Mouth (Lee Norris) and Millie (Lisa Goldstein Kirsch) — a fact that secured them a spot on the upper half of this list.

Mouth often finds himself exiled to the "friend zone," typically bypassed in favor of his good-looking friends Lucas, Nathan, and Skills. Though he does have one high school relationship, she's pretty evenly matched with Mouth, and it doesn't last long. Then, once they're all adults, Mouth meets Millie, and it's a match made in heaven. The only reason they don't rank higher is because of the struggles they face and the long time they spend broken up. But Millie understands Mouth in a way no one else does, and Mouth is the first person to really see Millie as a beautiful, strong woman. They both show each other what it's like to be loved.

They aren't always perfect, though. Millie ends up getting addicted to cocaine and Mouth tries to help her, to no avail. Millie eventually gets the help she needs and recovers, but it drives a wedge between her and Mouth that lasts for a while. They do get through it, though, becoming stronger in the process. They even host their own morning TV show for a while ("Mouth and Millie in the Morning"), which becomes a huge part of their relationship. Millie and Mouth's romance emphasizes how important it is to work on yourself before being in a relationship with someone else.

Lucas and Peyton

You can't think of "One Tree Hill" without thinking of Lucas and Peyton. This can be said for a few couples on the show, but in particular, these two are the romantic heart of a significant chunk of the show. Their on-again, off-again relationship forces us to hold our collective breath while waiting to see if they'll officially end up together. It would've been cruel of the writers to not have them end up together; fortunately, that's not the case. Lucas loves Peyton from the moment the show begins, and Peyton is always destined to be with Lucas, as he's the only one who truly sees her romantically.

Admittedly, Peyton and Lucas struggle to find common ground. They often don't communicate well, but once they finally get on the same page and resolve their love triangle with Brooke, their relationship becomes healthier than ever — that is, until Lucas proposes before Peyton is ready. While she doesn't say no forever, Lucas still ends the relationship after being rejected. However, they eventually get back together, get married, have a beautiful child, and finally overcome all the obstacles in their way. 

Peyton and Lucas value art almost as much as they value each other, and both serve as the other's muse for their work. In Peyton's case, Lucas' love inspires her comics and drawings. Lucas, on the other hand, wrote not one, but two books that are basically his love letters to Peyton.

Quinn and Clay

This might be controversial, because a lot of people could argue that the relationship between Quinn and Clay was a rushed element of the show that only served to replace Lucas and Peyton after their departure. On the contrary, though, there's more substance to this pairing than initially meets the eye. After Lucas and Peyton left, Nathan and Haley were left with no confidants. Quinn, who is Haley's sister, joins the show and becomes part of Haley's support system. Meanwhile, Clay serves a similar purpose for Nathan; he's also the latter's sports agent. 

Clay lost his wife earlier in his life, and Quinn helps him get through some of the trauma of moving on. After this, they are able to start their relationship. That said, they did have to get through some significant struggles. They had to deal with a stalker, an encounter that leads to both of them getting shot and being hospitalized. And then there were Clay's fugue states, plus the revelation that Clay has a son named Logan (Pierce Gagnon). However, after they both meet Logan and he feels comfortable with them, they become the cutest little family. 

Clay and Quinn are fun-loving, passionate about their respective jobs as sports agent and photographer, and incredibly selfless toward the people they love. They are the perfect match for each other, and a good example of what a fun, healthy adult relationship should be like.

Jake and Peyton

It's impossible to rank Jake (Bryan Greenberg) and Peyton lower than this. Though Lucas and Peyton were the clear endgame and heart of the show, Jake was also right for Peyton in so many ways. 

Their romance starts quietly and intimately, just the way any good relationship does. Jake sees Peyton for who she is, and sees through all the superficial high school popularity that comes from sports — a viewpoint that Peyton shares as well. He appreciates her art, and though Lucas becomes her official muse, Jake serves as her strongest motivator for the longest time. They can communicate with each other in a way they can't with most people, partly due to their own respective traumas: Jake with his baby and ex-girlfriend, and Peyton with the death of her mother. More importantly, Peyton not only respects that Jake is a teen father, but also loves Jenny like her own daughter. Peyton helps Jake take care of Jenny, choosing to protect her and leave Tree Hill when Jenny's mother returns and tries to take her. 

Peyton even envisions a life where she and Jake would be happy, but ends up choosing Lucas. One could argue that Jake and Jenny would've been the perfect life for her; though she ends up being happy with Lucas, she likely would've been even happier with Jake. In fact, we'd argue that Jake and Peyton should've been the true endgame, because their relationship was always less toxic and complicated.

Brooke and Julian

Though many of the couples on "One Tree Hill" face endless hardships throughout the show, Brooke and Julian are one of the most persevering couples of them all. Their relationship is unexpected, like some of the best ones on this show are. 

Julian initially comes to town to turn Lucas' book into a movie, and the audience quickly finds out he used to be in a serious relationship with Peyton. Brooke and Julian initially butt heads, but soon find themselves attracted to each other. With Peyton's permission, Brooke starts a relationship with Julian. They struggle to get on the same page and are off and on for a bit, but then deeply fall in love. Julian even moves to Tree Hill for Brooke — but from there, their problems only continue. When Brooke loses her business, they struggle to plan their wedding with low finances. Then, Brooke finds out she can't have children (though they are eventually, miraculously able to). At one point, Brooke almost dies trying to save Jamie (Jackson Brundage) from a car accident, and Julian ends up saving them both. Julian also accidentally leaves their son Davis in the hot car, and though the child is unharmed, Julian mentally struggles with his mistake. 

Through every hardship they face, their love only grows and becomes more passionate. Julian shows Brooke what real, dedicated romantic love is, and Brooke gives Julian the same. They're excellent for each other in every aspect.

Nathan and Haley

You might have expected to see these two in first place, and though they are a natural contender, they just lost out. Haley and Nathan have been together the longest out of all of the couples, and have definitely faced the most obstacles throughout the course of their relationship. 

First, they get together and marry in high school, and have to deal with Haley's music career and Nathan being pressured by his father to become a star athlete. They weather through the death of Nathan's uncle Keith (Craig Sheffer) and survive car accidents. Plus, Haley gets pregnant right as they finish high school, and even has her baby on graduation day. They make it through college, as well as Nathan's accident (which forces him to remove himself from the NBA draft). They endure friends leaving, a crazy nanny, Nathan being kidnapped, another pregnancy, and the death of their parents.

What's crucial to understand about Nathan and Haley is they are undeniably better together. Nathan completely changes, becoming a better person for Haley. Meanwhile, Haley learns how to dream big and have fun from being with Nathan. Without Haley, Nathan never would've been able to make his dreams come true, or triumph over years of childhood trauma and have a stable family. Without Nathan, Haley would never pursue her music career — or know what true love really feels like. They're excellent friends to the people who they love, and they're incredible partners and parents.

Keith and Karen

While it's controversial to knock Haley and Nathan out of first place for any reason, Keith and Karen definitely deserve the top spot. 

Keith had been in love with Karen since they were in high school, and even assists her as she raises her son. Karen, on the other hand, always saw Keith as the best friend type. She mainly viewed him as a father figure for Lucas and a reliable rock for her. They had, of course, been friends for 15 years, which is admittedly hard to break. But everything changes when Keith kisses Karen before she leaves for cooking school in Florence. Though they plan on being together when she's back, Lucas and Keith's car accident causes Karen to rethink her love for Keith. Eventually, the two reunite. They get engaged, Karen becomes pregnant, and Keith gets adoption papers to officially make Lucas his son. 

Keith and Karen suit each other so well. They value the same things and have matching priorities, which is important in a relationship. But more than anything else, they were close friends first. It's a healthy relationship where both of them have their own lives, but make each other better. Sadly, Keith gets taken from Karen and from their daughter much too soon, and his death changes the entire course of the show. But during the short time we see them together romantically, it is clear that they are undeniably a perfect match.