Some surprising characters just missed our 50 Greatest Soap Couples list. Were critics and fans torn about who was really the love of someone's life, or the most interesting, or fun, or exciting, or relatable? Whatever each person enjoyed most when watching a soap opera couple, there were years of memorable stories and couples that just missed our countdown. We are starting with a quick look at "The Many Loves of" AS THE WORLD TURNS heroine turned vixen, Barbara Ryan, played for 32 years by three-time Emmy nominee Colleen Zenk.
Who was the love of Barbara's life?
James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) arrived on the scene in February 1980 after it was revealed Barbara had a love child with him, Paul, that she gave away to friends to raise. James and Barbara had magnetic chemistry and two months after his arrival she dumped fiance Tom Hughes at the altar. The Stenbeck family did not approve and tried to split James and Barbara up, but eventually they married in her hospital bed. But James was a cad and started fooling around with Margo Montgomery. Later, after Barbara fell for the real Stenbeck heir, Gunnar, James turned pure evil. His return from the dead in 1986 was one of the most memorable moments in soap opera history. Rotating writers and producers did the character of James no favors in the last 15 years with him being killed off and returning multiple times but he always had his sights set on Barbara.
Gunnar St. Clair (Hugo Napier) first appeared in Barbara's visions straight out of the 18th century. When she met him at the funeral of James's brother, they instantly formed a bond. They fell in love and he became like a father to Paul. Barbara and Gunnar faced numerous obstacles, mostly coming from James evil schemes like gaslighting Barbara or locking her in a bull ring in Spain. Eventually it was revealed that Gunnar was the biological father of Dusty Donovan. Gunnar left town when he learned he was suffering from a terminal blood disease breaking Barbara's heart. It took years for her to open her heart in that way again.
Hal Munson (Benjamin Hendrickson), a cop with the Oakdale PD, and fashion designer Barbara were part of a very complex quadrangle story with Tom and Margo. After Douglas Marland became head writer in 1985, Barbara took a darker turn and schemed to break up Tom and Margo. Meanwhile, Hal and Margo had an affair which resulted in Adam's birth. That secret was kept for years before Adam finally learned the truth as a teenager. Barbara and Hal married and divorced three times and had two children, Jennifer (he raised her as his own) and Will, but each time were always drawn back to each other. Twenty years after they first came together Hal tragically died in the line of duty.
Henry Coleman (Trent Dawson) knew Barbara but it wasn't until ATWT's final years did their relationship change. Henry, who turned out to be the illegitimate son of James, grew closer to Barbara, but was torn by his feelings for Vienna Hyatt. Vienna was no match for Barbara and, after surviving a horrible kidnapping, Barbara married Henry. In the words of Damon L. Jacobs, Barbara's relationship with Henry "ended with her demonstrating a level of maturity, strength, and confidence that she never had with any other man."
Tom Hughes (Tom Tammi) loved Barbara and wanted to marry her. He stood by her when she revealed the heartbreaking truth about giving up Paul. His reward: Barbara left him at the altar and became engaged to James!
John Dixon (Larry Bryggman) went on a date with Barbara in the early 1970s but it was the birth and loss of their child, Johnny, in 1997 that broke the hearts of fans, and nearly destroyed Barbara. Hal helped her put the pieces of her life back together.
There were many other men along the way as well. Perhaps her biggest obsession was her son, Paul.
Which couple that Barbara was involved in was your favorite?