The most messed up parts of Jim and Pam's relationship on The Office

On the surface, the U.S. version of The Office is a fake documentary about an average American white-collar workplace, specifically, the Scranton, Pa. branch office of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The main plot orbited around the hilarious, ill-advised, and ridiculous actions of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) — the "world's best boss" who was actually a sensitive, awkward man-child. The rest of the office just had to deal with him, and that pulled them closer together, particularly paper salesman Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and receptionist-turned-paper saleswoman Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). The Office is a mockumentary about the relatable awfulness of work, but it also became the love story of Jim and Pam, who evolve on the show from friends to lovers to a married couple with two kids. 

But upon a closer inspection of the series, their romance isn't a perfect little fairy tale. There was trouble in paradise, or rather in an office park in the Northeast. Let's examine the most messed up parts of Jim and Pam's relationship on The Office.

Jim and Pam's relationship begins in a mean-spirited way

Romantic relationships can start in a lot of different ways. Sometimes two people meet and experience immediate, intense chemistry or "love at first sight." Maybe something blossoms between two college students who first meet in a class. No matter the circumstances, every relationship has some kind of starting point, or foundation, and it probably bodes well if it's something healthy and sweet. That's not really the case for Jim and Pam from The Office

It's true that they started off as friends before things developed into something more, but the basis of that friendship was arguably toxic. These two got through endlessly boring, soul-killing, tedious days at Dunder Mifflin by executing numerous mean pranks against their coworker, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Willson). While the stunts were usually Jim's idea, he could always count on Pam to help him execute them. Spending all that time avoiding work to be mean to Dwight is what bonded them together, and they continued to bust Dwight's chops even after they were married with children. Pervasive nastiness just can't be good for a couple's dynamic.

Their first kiss is a hostile act

In movies and on TV, a man's relentless pursuit of the initially disinterested woman he loves is considered bold and romantic. In reality, if a man did what Jim does to Pam in the early season of The Office, he could get fired or arrested. 

At the beginning of the series, Jim is in love with Pam, but Pam (who considers Jim one of her closest friends) is engaged to a guy named Roy. Jim does not accept that Pam is taken and that he should just back off. His actions come to a head during the "Casino Night" episode, when Jim tries to claw his way out of the friend zone by getting Pam alone to tell her he wants to be her boyfriend, not just a boy friend. Shocked by his confession, Pam gently turns him down, telling him he "misinterpreted" her friendly gestures and explaining that she wishes to remain engaged to Roy. Pam immediately calls her mother to talk about what transpired, hinting that she may have similar romantic feelings, but it's what she said to Jim that matters — and what she said was "no." 

After that call, Jim ignores Pam's refusal of his verbal advances, comes looking for her, and wordlessly plants a kiss on her. This "romantic" moment wouldn't be so romantic in the real world, where it would be considered sexual assault by a coworker.

Jim doesn't attend Pam's art show

After Jim confesses his true romantic feelings for Pam and she doesn't immediately dump her fiancé for the prankster paperboy, he tries to get over her with an "out of sight, out of mind" ploy, transferring to another branch of Dunder Mifflin. It all backfires when that office closes, and the Scranton branch absorbs the survivors. By that point, Jim is dating Karen (Rashida Jones) and tells Pam he's cool with the two of them being "just friends," but he's clearly not fine with that. He's a little distant to Pam and tries to enlist Karen in the kind of pranks on Dwight that he used to pull with Pam.

In the episode "Business School," a bat gets trapped in the office and Jim convinces Dwight that he was bitten by the bat and is slowly transforming into a vampire. This also happens to be the day of budding artist Pam's first art show. Jim, supposedly her close friend, is a noticeable no-show at Pam's exhibit because he's apparently too beat from pretending to be a vampire to show up to support her. You know who does show up? Roy. Bottom line: It's shady that Jim appears to have zero interest in Pam's happiness unless she demonstrates romantic feelings for him. 

Jim throws Pam under the bus

A wonderful aspect of a long-term relationship is having a partner to help you navigate life, share in the happy moments, and offer support during the difficult ones. Jim has a tendency to focus on his own needs, ignoring Pam's in the process. At the dinner party in the famous "Dinner Party" episode, Jim, unbearably uncomfortable after Jan (Melora Hardin) erotically dances to a song her former assistant wrote and recorded about losing his virginity to Jan, tries to make a run for it. He pretends to have received a message from his landlord with the news that his apartment flooded and claims he and Pam need to bolt. Michael points out that both of them don't need to leave, to which Jim responds, "That's true. Dinner sounded delicious. Pam, see you at home." Yep, Jim tries to abandon her at this horrible party, although she shuts it down and forces him to stay.

Two years later, Jim gets his unseemly revenge. Pam and Jim have to go out to lunch with Michael and his new girlfriend, who his Pam's mother, Helene (Linda Purl). Pam, vocally and aggressively against the relationship, tries to bail with a fake important business call. "Shipping emergency," Pam says. "I don't think I can go to lunch." Jim doesn't buy it, grabs the phone receiver out of her hand, and says, "Hello? Well, that's great," and hangs up, saying that the "paper was there all along."

Jim essentially steals five grand from Pam

A marriage pulls a number of disparate elements of two people's lives together under one metaphorical umbrella. It's traditionally a romantic and monogamous arrangement that also involves cohabitation, splitting chores, raising children, and combining finances. Because married couples share money, the duo has to engage in difficult conversations about how best to spend those pooled financial resources. That includes everything from a monthly budget to retirement planning to investments. No good person would just spend somebody else's money, and a lot of it, without asking for and receiving approval, right? Jim Halpert does just that to his own wife. 

When he's trying to get his sports management company, Athlead, off the ground, Jim persuades a reluctant Pam to let him invest in the venture. However, when he goes off to a meeting with his partners, Jim feels pressured to invest $10,000, the absolute high end of what he and Pam had discussed would be appropriate. Jim essentially drains their joint savings account without talking to his wife first.

Jim buys his parents' house (and doesn't ask Pam)

Making major financial decisions without consulting the other people who will be affected by his choices is just something Jim Halpert does. That sizable sum he dropped on a Philadelphia-based sports management company is nothing compared to the six-figure, 30-year-sized hole Jim got him and his wife into in the 2008 episode "Frame Toby." Yes, the average American home costs a few hundred grand and takes three decades to pay off in the form of a mortgage, and taking that on was a decision that Jim made alone. 

When his parents put their house on the market, Jim buys it, without consulting Pam. He gives her opinion only a passing thought — after examining the shag carpeting and an ugly, non-removable painting, he wonders if what he's doing is a terrible decision — before he goes through with it. Then he presents his act of irresponsible financial spontaneity as a grand romantic gesture. He even tries to preemptively sweeten the idea for Pam by building her a crummy little makeshift art studio in the garage.

Jim isn't exactly father of the year on The Office

When Jim helps start up Athlead, he's forced to split his time between Scranton and Philadelphia, where the new company is based. That means he leaves Pam to deal with the daunting challenge of working full-time and caring for two very young children alone. In the episode "Vandalism," viewers learn that Jim shares an apartment in Philly with fellow Dunder Mifflin and Athlead coworker Darryl. The apartment is the quintessential filthy, single-guy crash pad, complete with a disgusting bathroom and piles of laundry and dirty dishes. "As much as I miss Pam and the kids, it's kind of nice to live the bachelor life again. You know, let your hair down?" Jim says. With a huge smile on his face, he adds, "How much fun is this?" Evidently, Jim would rather use an old T-shirt as a towel than spend time with his wife and children. 

Does Jim even want to be married with children? Maybe not. In Season 7, he does win a prestigious Dundie for "Best Dad," delivering an acceptance speech that is shockingly smug, sarcastic, and self-centered. "I don't know, maybe being a good dad is just all in your own compass. I don't know, I don't know. Thank you!" Pam then points out that he failed to mention her — you know, the mother of the kids he fathers.

The situation between Jim and Cathy is messed up

Jim Halpet would never have an affair, but he doesn't do enough to assuage his wife's fears that he could be seduced by an Office version of a femme fatale. In the 2011 episode "Pam's Replacement," Pam is pregnant with her and Jim's second child and about to go on maternity leave. She needs to train her replacement, a temp named Cathy. This new character is young and attractive, and this gives Pam pause, to the point where she straight-up asks Jim if he thinks Cathy is good-looking. Jim says he doesn't think so, but Pam doesn't believe him and gets Dwight to prove her right with a series of tests (including a pants-check for signs of physical arousal). 

While Jim truly isn't into Cathy, he isn't sensitive to Pam's fears that this newcomer could wreck their marriage — fears that are confirmed when the crew catches Cathy talking on the phone about her plans to bed down with Jim during a business trip to Florida. Cathy comes on strong, joining Jim in his hotel room to watch a movie, dressed in a tiny tank top and short shorts as she tries to get as close to him as possible. She flirts and knowingly bends over, and he backs away to the point of sitting on the floor. We've got to ask: Why did he let this (scantily clad) woman his wife didn't trust into his hotel room in the first place?

Pam's near-emotional affair with the boom mic guy

The vast majority of issues and incidents in the marriage of Jim and Pam Halpert are squarely the result of Jim's behavior, but Pam isn't always a perfect angel of a wife. Consider the time she comes perilously close to engaging in an extramarital affair. Oh, but never mind that: Jim kind of pushes her in that direction.

During Season 9, stressed-out Jim is off in Philadelphia all the time dealing with Athlead, and one night he misses his daughter's ballet recital. He asks Pam to send him the video she took, but she wasn't able to get one, sending Jim over the edge. He scolds her over the phone, and after she hangs up, Pam sobs at her desk. That's when Brian (Chris Diamantopoulos), the documentary crew's long-time boom mic operator, breaks the protocol of neutrality and steps into the shot to comfort Pam. Later on, during a moment of levity, a camera catches Brian looking at Pam and smiling, heavily implying that he's developed at least a crush during his time on The Office. Brian turns downright chivalrous when he intercepts an attack on Pam from a warehouse worker (angry over the reveal that he vandalized Pam's mural). Brian gets fired, but tells Pam he'll always be there for her … as if to suggest that Jim won't.

Does anybody in The Office actually like the Halperts?

It's a bit odd that once Jim and Pam Halpert get together, they don't seem to have any friends. In the early seasons of The Office, viewers get a glimpse of Jim's roommate when he throws a barbecue, but that's about it. Neither he nor Pam is seen hanging out or talking with friends on a regular basis. (There is that time that Pam sets up Michael with someone she knows — her landlady.) This could be attributed to having busy lives — both Jim and Pam work full-time jobs and are raising two children, or it could be a subtle implication of the show's mock-documentary format. Maybe the camera crew isn't allowed to delve that deeply into their off-the-clock lives. 

However, even in the show's world of Dunder Mifflin, Jim and Pam don't seem to have much of an interest in anybody but each other. Their most notable workplace relationships are adversarial. Jim constantly pranks Dwight and can't stand Michael Scott, while Pam often butts heads with Angela. Think about it: This couple seems toxic and self-absorbed.