‘Law & Order: SVU’ Fans Wonder If Stabler Really Loved Kathy

by Allison Hambrick

Law & Order: SVU fans can be an opinionated group. The SVU subreddit is all of the proof you need, with around 22,500 members. Popular topics range from roasting Detective Rollins’s skepticism to debating the “will they/won’t they” that is Stabler and Benson’s relationship.

In a thread called “Did Elliot Love Kathy or did he stay with her out of religious reasons?,” fans speculated on the detective’s love life. Throughout the show, Stabler and Kathy’s marriage was tumultuous. They broke up, got divorced, and reconciled after a fifth pregnancy. When Stabler left the show, their marriage was in tact.

Unfortunately, this happiness wouldn’t last, as Kathy was murdered in the SVU spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime. Much of the first two seasons has focused on solving her murder. Another thread in the first seasons is the Benson-Stabler relationship. Now with Kathy “out of the way,” fans question why Stabler stayed with her before.

“We saw cracks in their marriage from season one,” wrote user ButterscotchPast4812. “Elliot never wanted to bring his work home with him. So he literally never opened up and talked to Kathy about what was going on in his head. I understand the need to not let the darkness touch your family. He should have opened up emotionally about how the work was affecting him.”

Like many others in the thread, this user cited Stabler’s catholicism as the reason he stayed. Stabler “is commitment and faith to his core.” Moreover, the character’s childhood was rough. It is possible that the SVU detective “wanted stability in his kids lives that he himself lacked as a child.”

Did Stabler Love Another SVU Detective?

Additionally, the majority of users saw Kathy as the only reason Stabler and another detective never had a romantic relationship. Of course, who could forget the intense chemistry between Chris Meloni and Ice-T? Joking aside, the chemistry between Stabler and Benson has been decades in the making.

“Ten years and an ocean away, Olivia was still very much the third person in their marriage,” wrote the same user. “I honestly think that if Kathy had survived and they had still stayed in NY, then their marriage wouldn’t last much longer. Not with Olivia back in his life and them falling back into their emotional affair.”

However, some fans took offense to the slight against Kathy. After all, while their marriage was rocky, there was nothing to suggest that Stabler didn’t love her. Many couples love each other, yet cannot make it work. In addition, some users called out the idea that his catholicism trapped him with Kathy.

“Elliot never said explicitly that he didn’t believe in divorce,” wrote user malifact. “Lots of Catholics get divorced nowadays. We never saw any real evidence that he didn’t love Kathy. They had problems like a lot of married couples. It’s just convenient for some shippers to think that Elliot stayed with Kathy due to some religious straitjacket.”

Regardless of how fans may feel, the powers behind SVU have teased more between Benson and Stabler. Law & Order: Organized Crime showrunner Ilene Chaiken maintained that their relationship is a top priority. Whether or not it will blossom into more is a big question moving forward with both shows.

“They’re very busy cops who have a lot of other very urgent things on their plates that [kept] them away from one another and from having these conversations,” Chaiken said. “But the truth is that they will have those conversations. Like I keep saying, we’re really determined not to be coy about it and to just really let them grow.”