If you’ve binged Netflix’s Stranger Things, you already know that the action-packed show has a lot to say about mental health, friendship, and trust. But what about love? There are many romantic relationships portrayed in the show between adults, high-schoolers, and young teens, but none of them stand out quite as much as the bond shared between Mike Wheeler and Eleven.
Though teens may not be the most level-headed sometimes when it comes to love, Mike and Eleven’s relationship is surprisingly mature despite their age. Their friendship blossoms into love as the show progresses, and audiences are treated to one of the most wholesome, positive representations of a television couple in modern media. Read on to see what adults could learn from Mike and Eleven’s relationship that might make their own real-life romance stronger.
10 They put effort into their relationship
Though Mike and El may not have the most conventional teen romance, that doesn’t stop them from putting in the effort it takes to keep their connection strong and healthy. Throughout most of Season Two, Mike is unsure of El’s fate following her disappearance after the Demogorgon terrorizes Hawkins Middle School. Despite the uncertainty, he attempts to communicate with El telepathically using his walkie-talkie.
El also tries to talk to Mike using the skills she’s gained from practicing with her powers, but the two are unsure if the other is actually listening. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, as the possibility of hearing one another’s voice is enough to keep them trying for nights on end.
9 They are gentle and kind with one another in the face of hardship
Even though Mike and El are under a tad more stress than the typical couple, that never stops them from being tender with one another, even if it’s only in small instances.
In “Chapter 7: The Bathtub,” El stares at herself in a mirror, running her fingers through her shaven hair. She is clearly insecure about her appearance, having removed the wig disguise Mike and the other boys crafted in order for her to better fit in with Hawkins locals. Mike notices her discomfort and replies that she doesn’t need the wig—she is still pretty without it. El and Mike’s respect for one another is touching, and the positive way in which they express their emotions is definitely applicable to adult relationships as well.
8 They protect each other at all costs
Eleven and Mike are protective of each other in different ways, demonstrating their shared devotion to their newfound relationship. El physically protects Mike and his friends with her telekinetic powers throughout the series, most notably in sacrificing herself to the Demogorgon at the end of Season 1. However, she also saves Mike from falling off a cliff when provoked by school bullies, and destroys a van that stands in their way while being pursued by Hawkins Lab agents.
Mike also protects Eleven, though in a more subtle way. He hides her existence from his family at first, gradually letting her become more comfortable with life outside the lab before making her a disguise that allows her to travel freely without detection from others.
7 They show just the right amount of affection
With the often limited time they have together, Mike and Eleven know how to show each other just the right amount of affection.
Even though Eleven is at first forced to live in Mike’s basement, their relationship develops in a relatively healthy manner, and they do not rush physical contact. They progress from hugs to small kisses and even get their well-deserved first dance together in the last episode of Season Two. Their relationship is built on small consensual displays of passion, and adults can learn much from the way in which the teens pace themselves and take care with their actions.
6 They are accepting of one another’s’ quirks
Eleven’s unusual past does not seem to bother Mike. He is not as much provoked by El’s strange upbringing as he is the abuse and emotional neglect she suffered at the hands of Hawkins Lab. In Season One’s “The Monster,” El apologizes profusely to the boys, as her abilities caused the gate to the Upside Down to open in the first place. Mike is understanding and assures her otherwise.
Though Eleven is likely still dealing with the traumas she experienced as a young girl, Mike is in for the long haul, choosing to accept Eleven for the wonderful person she is, not for who the scientists wanted her to be.
5 They are able to balance their friends and their relationship
A disapproving friend group usually indicates a questionable romantic relationship, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem for Mike and Eleven. Like all great couples, Eleven and Mike are able to ration the time they spend with their friends and the time they spend together as equally as they possibly can under their circumstances.
Though there is some reluctance from Dustin and Lucas at first, they both eventually see Eleven in a positive light as she begins to aid them in their quest to find Will. Eleven quickly finds herself in favor with the boys, effectively making her a fourth member of the group upon Will’s disappearance.
4 They are loyal to one another
Even though El isn’t around for most of Season Two, Mike stays faithful to her. It would be easy to focus his attention on Max, the new girl in school who arrives after El’s disappearance, but he chooses not to do this and continues to contact Eleven.
Eleven also harbors the hope that she might see Mike again and desperately tries to answer his calls, but finds that she can’t talk back to him. However, Mike’s attempts do not go unnoticed, as El remarks upon their reunion that she heard him trying to find her, and greatly appreciated his devotion.
3 They are able to make up after a disagreement
There will likely be a certain time that even the most perfect couples don’t see eye to eye, and that is no exception for Mike and Eleven. In season one, Lucas is distrustful of Eleven after she feeds the group false information in their search for Will. In reality, she is scared of approaching the Hawkins Lab, but the boys don’t know this, and a fight ensues. Though Mike initially defends El, he is understandably upset when she uses her powers to injure Lucas. She is nowhere to be found after the incident, but eventually meets back up with the boys after saving Mike from being hurt by school bullies.
Though the fight is harsh, Mike and Eleven are able to make up after she proves she is not working against their interests. Mike is able to trust her, and they are able to put their differences behind them to work together again.
2 They complement each other
Eleven and Mike complement one another with their approach to problem-solving. El’s raw power is very apparent, and since she has been granted such unique instantaneous ability, she rarely has time to contemplate decisions before making them, and sometimes suffers the consequences of snap judgment.
Mike tends to use a more logic-based approach when tackling a problem, preferring to divide work between parties and plan a course of action. This is especially important in the search for Will Byers, as nobody has very probable leads on his whereabouts after he suddenly vanishes. The two may approach situations in life and love differently, but their personalities and skill-sets are a perfect blend when considered as a unit.
1 They have an undeniable spark
Mike and Eleven’s connection is not immediate, but as they warm up to each other against a backdrop of tumultuous events in Season One, it is clear that they share an unquestionable bond.
At the end of Season Two, Mike and Eleven are finally reunited after nearly a year of separation. The emotion in their eyes is almost enough to ignite tears, and without words, they are able to convey the intense happiness and relief of seeing one another again after such a long time apart. A good relationship may develop from an initial spark of interest, but Mike and Eleven demonstrate that a lasting relationship is built on continued love and admiration for a partner.