Grey's Anatomy: Why Meredith's Post-Derek Romances Don't Work

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Once upon a time, and the night before her first day as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, Meredith met someone dreamy at a bar. Things between them heated up. The next day she found out he was world-class neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd and her boss.

Despite that and other complications, they fell and stayed in love.

Seasons may have passed since Derek's tragic demise, but the MerDer romance will always be one of the most beloved aspects of Grey's Anatomy. It was sexy. It was romantic. It has yet to be replicated.

Mer and Der at Work

What made Meredith and Derek work as a couple? The love triangles with Addison and then Finn that kept them apart made for riveting television.

We still sigh and squee over the proposal in the elevator and the Post-It wedding. However, it was time they shared in the OR that made them extraordinary together.

Performing surgeries and saving lives no else could save together brought out their best selves.  It also made them realize how much they trusted and needed each other. The unbreakable team they became in the OR made them the Grey's Anatomy couple.           

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At least it seemed unbreakable  When it was discovered Meredith had tampered with Derek's clinical trial to find a cure for Alzheimer's, their relationship was suddenly more vulnerable than it had been in years. They were able to patch things up, but there was a cost.

Meredith made the decision to no longer work with Derek. The choice saved their marriage but also created a rift from which they never really recovered.  

Derek vs. Meredith - Grey's Anatomy

The central tension in Grey's Anatomy is whether to choose love or surgery and more often than not, the characters choose surgery. Meredith and Derek were not immune to this. So as their careers diverged, they drifted.

For the next few seasons, Meredith would struggle to balance being a mother and a surgeon.  Meanwhile, Derek's career began flourishing again: taking on cases no one else would take, working on groundbreaking research, and then came the offer from Washington D.C.

Derek Gets An Offer

With neither one of them being willing to compromise their careers, Meredith stayed behind in Seattle while Derek took off for D.C. Although Meredith found her surgical groove, they kept fighting, and Derek nearly had an affair with his research fellow.

That was the wakeup call for Derek, who rushed back to Seattle and reconfirmed his commitment to their marriage.  Unfortunately, because of Derek's fatal accident, we'll never get to see if they would've completely healed their relationship. Instead, Grey's must now answer the question: how does Meredith go on without Derek?

Derek? Derek?!? - Grey's Anatomy Season 11 Episode 21

Careerwise, Meredith is at the top of her game.  She also formed a solid family unit with Alex, Amelia, and Maggie. But can she romantically move on from Derek?

Will Thorpe was the first man Meredith was intimate with after Derek's death, but their relationship was short-lived. Not a surprising outcome as the first post-Derek relationship was always going to be more about Meredith coming to terms with moving on than a full-blown romance.  

Related: Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Trailer: Meredith is Sleeping with WHO?!

Besides, someone else was waiting in the wings.

Martin Henderson's character of Dr. Nathan Riggs was a handsome, hotshot surgeon who was immediately pegged as being McDreamy's replacement. Rigg's destiny as Derek 2.0 seemed all but fulfilled once the Meredith/Riggs/Maggie triangle formed. Riggs choosing Meredith over Maggie just echoed of the early seasons.

GQ Riggs - Grey's Anatomy Season 13 Episode 19

Then Grey's threw another wrench into the Meredith/Riggs relationship. The return of Megan, the believed-to-be-dead sister of Owen Hunt -- and Rigg's fiance -- had been heavily foreshadowed.   On the one hand, Meredith stuck in yet another love triangle was frustrating. On the other hand, Megan was genuinely likable.

Likable or not, Megan was a guest star, and Meredith is the lead. Just as Derek chose Meredith over Addison and Rose, Riggs would inevitably choose her over Megan. Except Meredith prevented that and told him to choose Megan. While the door is technically open for Riggs to return, it seems unlikely.

Nathan's Happy Ever After

So why wasn't Riggs the one? Riggs may have had many things in common with Derek, but his connection with Meredith was entirely different. Although they worked together plenty of times, Meredith and Riggs didn't become an extraordinary team who needed each other. Instead, their relationship was rooted in the grief of losing loved ones.

The commonality brought them together because they were safe to acknowledge there would be no them should Derek or Megan miraculously come back. Although it seemed like they were moving on, in reality, Meredith and Rigg's relationship was another way for them, especially Meredith, to hold onto to the past.   

With Riggs out of the picture, what romantic options were open for Meredith? Enter Dr. Nick Marsh, a transplant surgeon turned patient who charmed Meredith and the audience alike.  Although they only had one episode together, it was easy to think maybe, just maybe, Meredith had finally found a partner as well as a lover.

Nick Mars

Alas, Nick has not been seen since that one episode, and nothing hints towards him coming back. We may never have enough information to know if he and Meredith could have worked out.

Meanwhile, Meredith continues to wade into the dating pool.  Her first serious foray into dating this season was with John.  Things between them seemed promising until he mentioned not wanting to be involved with a single mother which put an abrupt halt on their date.

Whether or not John will be in future episodes has been neither confirmed nor denied.

Related: Grey's Anatomy: Josh Radnor Checks in as Meredith's New Love Interest!

Meredith seems to think there's no hope of anything happening between them. However, the look of regret on John's face as she walked away seemed to suggest he's not ready to let her slip away.  

If John does make a reappearance, what are the odds that he and Meredith could wind up in an epic romance lasting until Ellen Pompeo calls it quits?  Based on the little we know, it seems unlikely. It also seems improbable Meredith could ever 100% commit to someone she couldn't work alongside in the OR.

The Beginning or The End?

For Meredith, finding sexy, intelligent men who seem more than willing to be with her is not the issue.  However, until she finds a person who makes her fight for a relationship because she believes they can be extraordinary together, it's not going to last.            



Share your thoughts about Meredith's love life in the comments, and watch Grey's Anatomy online for more ammunition in your argument.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.

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