Arguably — it’s me, I’m the one who’s arguing it — the only good thing about Seinfeld is Elaine Benes, played by the illustrious Julia Louis-Dreyfus. A vivacious woman in a band of idiot schmucks, her storylines and shenanigans make the most captivating plot points of the beloved sitcom. Can you believe creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David didn’t even include her in the pilot? What a shanda! Apparently, the only note NBC gave was “add a girl.” And boy did they.
One of the things I love most about Elaine is her blasé attitude toward men. She’s a prolific dater, not prone to serious relationships, and is known to end things over some fairly arbitrary reasons. And I’m not just talking about the infamous “sponge-worthy” episode, when Elaine ends it with her boyfriend Billy because she has a limited supply of the sponge birth control. Actually, measuring someone’s worth by how “sponge-worthy” they are is kind of genius. I stand behind Elaine for that one.
With Elaine, there’s always a “but.” She’ll be dating a hunk of a mensch who adores her, but he wears body paint to a sports game, and for that he must go. She’s also gotten involved with her fair share of legitimate creeps whom she dumps and runs, rightfully so. Are Elaine’s standards impeccably high because she knows her worth as a charismatic, bodacious vixen? Or does she suffer from emotional intimacy problems and rocks the boat at the first sign of smooth sailing? Honestly, I don’t care, because they’re both relatable as hell.
It’s been 30 years since the Seinfeld pilot — sans Elaine — first premiered on television in 1989, so to honor the iconic show, I’m reviewing my favorite character’s love interests — and her reasons for dumping them. Notably, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all her beaus, rather a collection of all the reasons Elaine broke up them. Enjoy!
1. Jerry Seinfeld
The show’s titular character, Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld, le duh), is Elaine’s first known serious boyfriend. Who broke up with whom was never verified, but we do know a few things: They broke up because they knew they’d be better off as friends, and Jerry never gave Elaine an orgasm — she faked every single one. We discover this in the fifth season’s premiere, “The Mango,” when Jerry gets a second chance to give Elaine the big-O. He does not. And for that, I can only assume Elaine is the one who initiated the break-up in the first place.
We also mustn’t forget the time when Jerry proposed to Elaine in “The Serenity Now” (season nine, episode three). Perplexed by the sudden onslaught of invitations to bar mitzvahs from Jewish men who are infatuated with her, George Costanza explains that it’s because Elaine has “shiksa appeal.” He reasons that Elaine — in this episode it’s confirmed she’s not Jewish, though Louis-Dreyfus does have Jewish family on her dad’s side — is attractive to Jewish men because they don’t remind them of their mother. Anyway, after a rabbi comes onto Elaine, she bursts into Jerry’s apartment lamenting her “shiksa appeal.” Gazing at her longingly, Jerry gets down on one knee and proposes. Elaine avoids the question and promptly leaves, explaining with a mouth full of banana that she’s got a lot going on with work right now, only to return the next day to ask for his hand in marriage. Alas, he said no. But she said no first!
“The Bus Boy”
Season 2, Episode 12
In the second season finale, Elaine houses her long-distance boyfriend Eddie (played by Doug Ballard) for a week. “Jerry, you cannot imagine how much I hate this guy… and he hasn’t even done anything!” Elaine says. “It’s the situation. He’s a wonderful guy, but I hate his guts!” For no reason at all, Elaine ends it with poor Eddie. She doesn’t get off scot-free — Eddie has to stay with her for several more weeks after injuring himself during a fight.
3. Owen March
“The Alternate Side”
Season 3, Episode 11
In season three, Elaine breaks up with her much older boyfriend, Owen March (played by Edward Penn), because, you guessed it, he’s old. Here’s what went down: At first, Elaine found her 60-something-year-old boyfriend alluring and exciting, but soon tires of him and says she just doesn’t enjoy spending time with him. In true Seinfeld fashion, right before she’s about to end the relationship, Owen suffers a stroke and is unable to communicate. Naturally, she breaks up with him in the hospital. Later on, Elaine bumps into a recovered Owen who says he was just using her for sex. Yikes!
“The Red Dot”
Season 3, Episode 12
This is kind of a sad one. In the episode following the Owen situation (Elaine rebounds quickly) she dates Dick (played by David Naughton), a charming dude with an unfortunate name. Dick, a recovering alcoholic, accidentally drinks out of Jerry’s alcoholic drink, sending him into a relapse. While not explicitly shown, we must assume Elaine broke up with Dick over his alcoholism.
5. Keith Hernandez
“The Boyfriend Part 2”
Season 3, Episode 18
Yes, that Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets baseball fame. Smitten with Elaine, Keith asks his new friend Jerry to set them up. The comedian complies, but eventually turns green with envy when his favorite baseball player spends more time with his ex-girlfriend than him. That’s a whole other storyline that I’m not going to get into, because you’re here to find out that Elaine breaks up with Keith over his smoking habit.
6. Dr. Reston
Season 4, Episode 6
Ah, Dr. Reston. What an interesting romantic storyline. In season four, Elaine goes to Europe on vacation with Dr. Reston (Stephen McHattie), her psychiatrist. When they return, Elaine tells the gang she wants to break up with him because as her doctor, he knows all her insecurities and has a manipulative, mental hold over her. She calls Dr. Reston her “Svengali,” referring to a fictional character who seduces, dominates, and exploits a young woman through hypnosis.
Unable to break up with her psychiatrist herself, Elaine puts Cosmo Kramer to the task. Posing as her boyfriend, Kramer is invited to Dr. Reston’s office, where he’s convinced to “break up” with Elaine so that Elaine can stay with the doctor. All the while, outside, Elaine bumps into one of Dr. Reston’s patients, “Crazy” Joe Davola, and gives him her number. “You’re not a nut, are you?” Elaine asks him. Reader: he is.
7. “Crazy” Joe Davola
Season 4, Episode 9
The Dr. Reston/”Crazy” Joe Davola storyline continues. Unaware that her new boyfriend Joe (played by Peter Crombie) is the same nut stalking Jerry, Elaine accidentally becomes his new target. While at his house, Elaine finds photos of herself that Joe took from afar. Creeped the fuck out, she sprays cherry breath spray into his eyes and gets the hell out of his place. So, yeah. That’s why she broke up with him. This one isn’t arbitrary at all.
8. Russel Dalrymple
Season 4 finale
The president of NBC, Russel Dalrymple (played by Bob Balaban) would, and literally did, die for Elaine. She went on one date with the divorcee and told him she didn’t want to see him again, but Russel persisted anyway. He called her incessantly, so Elaine told him she didn’t respect his job, but in reality she thought he was super creepy. To impress Elaine, Russel joins Greenpeace (Elaine is not impressed) and dies from falling out of a small boat in the middle of the sea. BDE.
9. Jake Jarmel
“The Sniffing Accountant”
Season 5, Episode 4
Elaine’s break-up with Jake Jarmel (played by Marty Rackham) is my all-time favorite relationship that ended over something super silly. Notably, although Elaine initiated it, Jake was the one who officially broke things off. Peeved by his refusal to use exclamation points, especially in a message he jotted down for Elaine about her friend giving birth, Elaine brings up the issue and makes a mountain out of a molehill. The fight escalates and Jake breaks up with her. They get back together, but Jake ends it again when he learns that instead of rushing to the hospital after he got into a car accident, Elaine bought Jujyfruits.
Look, I understand that Elaine didn’t technically break up with Jake, but she instigated it. And besides, it’s too good of a storyline to pass up.
10. Joel Rifkin
Season 5, Episode 9
Elaine did not date real-life serial killer Joel Rifkin, but she did date a fictional character who happened to share his name. Disturbed by the unfortunate coincidence, and after a public confusion at a New York Giants game, Elaine urges Joel to change his name. (One of the first suggested names was O.J, after O.J. Simpson, which is super eerie considering just a few months after the episode aired, Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife and her friend…). When the pair can’t decide on a new name, Elaine breaks up with him.
Season 5, Episode 12
Elaine denies only dating Tony (played by Dan Cortese) for his good looks, but Jerry stands his ground. Ultimately, he was right. A “male bimbo” or “mimbo” — Jerry’s choice of words — Tony suffers a horrible rock climbing fall which mars his face. When the bandages come off, a horrified Elaine breaks up with him.
12. Phil Totola
“The Stand In”
Season 5, Episode 16
Jerry sets Elaine up with his pal Phil (played by Mark Tymchyshysn), who takes “it” out in the car after a great date. And for that, Elaine breaks up with him (rightfully so!).
“The Raincoats Part 1”
Season 5, Episode 18
In season five, Elaine dates Aaron (portrayed by Judge Reinhold), an unusually nice man and “close talker.” Weirded out by Aaron’s interest in Jerry’s parents — he takes them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — Elaine breaks up with Aaron for the sole reason that he’s abnormally nice to the Seinfelds. The close talking may not have helped.
Season 6, Episode 5
Elaine’s most feminist breakup has to be when she ended things with her hunky boyfriend Carl (played by David James Elliot). The madly in love couple met while Carl delivered Jerry’s old couch to Elaine’s house, and after discovering his stance on abortion — pro-life — Elaine had to end it. Poor girl, Carl was perfect on paper except for that one, tiny, but actually huge issue.
Season 6, Episode 19
While looking for a male blonde bombshell in the gym, Elaine inadvertently makes a date with Jimmy (played by Anthony Starke), a dude who refers to himself in the third person. Despite how annoying and bizarre his speech mannerism is, Elaine continues to date him because she thinks it’s charming. But Jimmy doesn’t make a return in the series, which I think we can infer is because Elaine grows tired of his “charm.”
Season 7, Episode 9
In “The Sponge,” one of Seinfeld’s most iconic episodes, Elaine runs out of her favorite birth control method and is dismayed to find that the sponge contraceptive is being taken off the market. Fortunately, she finds a stock of sponges and loads up. With a limited supply of birth control, Elaine puts her boyfriend Billy (played by Scott Patterson) through a “sponge-worthy” test. At the end of the episode, Elaine chooses to conserve her sponges, deeming Billy not “sponge-worthy.”
“The Bizarro Jerry”
Season 8, Episode 3
Oh boy, this one’s a doozy. Elaine’s new boyfriend Kevin (played by Tim DeKay) is the “bizarro” version of Jerry. He gets himself a vasectomy because Elaine said she didn’t want to have children. The pair then go to reverse the vasectomy, and in the following episode, she breaks up with him because they’d be better as friends. “Like you and Jerry!” Kevin says. Exactly.
“The Little Jerry”
Season 8, Episode 11
After a pep talk from George Costanza about going bald, Kurt (portrayed by John Michael Higgins) proposes to Elaine. Despite being turned off by his lack of hair, she accepts. But, after getting into a fistfight with a police officer, Kurt is jailed for 10-14 months. Realizing by the time he gets out of jail Kurt would be totally bald, Elaine dumps him and returns the ring.
“The Andrea Doria”
Season 8, Episode 10
Alan is the WORST. Set up by a mutual friend (a lousy friend, IMO), Elaine actually likes Alan (played by Tom Gallop) but breaks up with him when she discovers he is a “bad breaker-upper” and drives his exes crazy. Breaking up well and leaving on good terms is one of the most important parts of a relationship, Elaine believes. So, she beats him to the punch. However, her strategic plan backfires. The reason Alan is bad at breaking up with women is because he makes fun of his ex-girlfriends based on their appearance. Determined to show Alan that she’s not upset that he called her a “big-head,” she meets up with him but winds up attacking him after he says she has a big head and a bump on her nose. Fuck him!
20. Hal Kitzmiller
Season 8, Episode 18
This breakup is one of my top five favorites. Hal Kitzmiller (played by Vince Grant) buys Elaine a custom-made mattress, which offends her because of the implication that he wants to sleep with her. In reality, Hal suffers from bad back problems and wanted his lover to have proper back support.
“The Junk Mail”
Season 9, Episode 5
While dating David Puddy, Elaine meets Jack (played by Toby Huss) at Monk’s Cafe and is immediately taken by his good looks. She breaks up with David to date Jack, but has an on-again-off-again relationship with him after Jerry tells her about his bizarre alter ego of “The Wiz” in a series of commercials for an electronics store. Despite being her “dream man,” Elaine finds out Jack reprised “The Wiz” and ends it for good.
Season 9, Episode 14
After catching her new boyfriend Glenn (played by Nicholas Walker) avoid a woman on the street, Elaine deduced she was his wife, and they were married. It was a good guess, but in reality the mystery woman was Glenn’s welfare caseworker. As it turns out, Glenn was not only poor, but after snooping around, Elaine discovered he was, in fact, married. Obviously, she dumped his cheating ass.
23. David Puddy
“The Finale Part 2”
A strong, strapping man, David Puddy is Elaine’s second most notorious boyfriend (after Jerry). We really need a timeline of their relationship to review their on-again-off-again dalliance, but here are some of the reasons Elaine ended it with the mechanic: he wore body paint to a New Jersey Devils ice hockey game; he’s religious, she’s not; he’s stupid, she’s not.
The last straw for Elaine and Puddy is complicated. In the series finale, the gang and Elaine are sentenced to jail for one year. “Don’t wait for me,” Elaine tells David, officially breaking up with him. Out of all of Elaine’s boyfriends, Louis-Dreyfus told the New York Times that David was the only real marriage prospect for her character.
“Elaine and David are so dissimilar,” she said. “He’s so stupid, and she is so amazed at how stupid he is, and he’s so clearly irritated by how neurotic she is, that is must be explosive sexually, because that’s the only reasonable explanation for the two of them being together.”
Elaine, wherever you are now — single or married, divorced or dating — I hope you’re very happy (and have all the sponges you could ever desire).