Ethan Winthrop is the oldest child of Ivy Winthrop Crane and Sam Bennette. Ivy was with the two men within a 24 hour period, and Ethan was born exactly nine months later...a beautiful ten pound baby. Sam is his biological father, even though Julian is his legal father, and is the man listed on his birth certificate. He met Gwen Hotchkiss at age 12, and the two immediately hit it off. They even proceeded to go to the same Connecticut boarding school, Choate Rosemary Hall Boarding School. While they had many other opportunities, they remained a couple (despite Ethan's infidelities), not only through high-school but also once Ethan went off to attend Harvard law (while Gwen attended another university). In July of 1999, Ethan had recently turned 24 and graduated from law school, and came home to Harmony to work for Gwen's parents, then spent some time in private practice, but soon went to work for Crane industries.
Ethan has always been in love with Gwen, but he was reluctant to finalize their relationship, until his aunt Sheridan pushed him into it. Knowing that he was proposing for other reasons, Gwen turned him down -- if she couldn't marry for love, she wouldn't marry him. That issue was pushed to the back-burner when Ethan began being the victim of mysterious 'accidents', and became determined to learn who was stalking him. With the help of private detective Frank Lomax, he eventually realized that Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald was his stalker, but decided to give her a second chance, and soon began to believe that Theresa was his friend, not realising that she was really trying to be close to him in an effort to break him and Gwen up and get him for herself. He has never saw her as more than a friend, but she assigned meaning to even the most trivial events. Her dreams almost backfired, though, when all her talk of 'true love' helped Ethan to see how much he loved Gwen, and prompted him to propose to her. The engagement almost didn't happen when Theresa refused to give him the engagement ring (that she claimed was stuck on her finger), but luckily, Gwen and Ethan loved each other enough to work it out.
Plans for the wedding were going ahead as scheduled when Gwen was called out of town on business. Believing she had their best interests at heart, Gwen and Ethan approached Theresa with the idea that she handle the wedding arrangements while Gwen was out of town. Gwen would, of course, still be involved every step of the way through fax and e-mail, and would have final say, but they wanted someone there to do the wedding. Gwen was only out of town for a few days, but Theresa capitalized on that time, and spent as much time with Ethan as possible. While his heart still belongs to Gwen, Ethan has felt stirrings of feeling for Theresa, not realising that Theresa has this whold thing planned out. Knowing that he was feeling conflicted, Ethan begged Gwen to return home. Although initially she was unable to, she quickly wrapped up her business, returning to Harmony the next day.
The real trouble came after Gwen returned home, when Theresa told Ethan she loved him on the prom boat. Ethan had no idea -- and immediately wrote it off as a crush. Theresa had told him about her boyfriend Chuck, who broke up with her, and he assumed she was looking for a rebound love. Theresa couldn't possibly love him -- she was a child, with a teenage crush, and he was a man. Theresa tried to explain that she DID love Ethan, and it wasn't a rebound, but then she would have had to confess that she really was stalking Ethan and had lied all about 'Chuck'. Gwen was immediately suspicious when she caught the two together in a compromising position, but Theresa smoothly lied her way out of that, and is now Gwen's maid of honor!
Since that night on the prom boat, Theresa has made every opportunity to be alone with Ethan. It doesn't help matters that in addition to Theresa manipulating him, Ethan's father Julian is encouraging him to sow his wild oats with Theresa, and Ethan's friend Chad is manipulating things to push Theresa and Ethan towards each other. Ethan continually tells Theresa that it's Gwen he loves and he only thinks of her as a friend, and has tried to tell her that he knows and loves Gwen, and a few months with her can't compare to years of love with Gwen, but Theresa refuses to believe him. Ethan has no idea the lies she has told to land her Crane, or the extent of her obsession. He has finally gotten through to her that he's not in love with her, but unfortunately, an accident (caused partly through her own negligence, partly because of sabotage) has landed her in the hospital, and is leaving Ethan conflicted about his feelings. Is it his long-time love and soul mate Gwen that he wants, or is it Theresa, who he honestly believes to be an innocent young girl rebounding from a broken heart?
A few weeks before he was to marry Gwen, Theresa nearly died in a motorcycle accident. Ethan suddenly realized that he returned her feelings of love, and told her so in the hospital. Less than 12 hours before he was to marry Gwen, in the middle of their engagement party, Ethan informed her that while he was still in love with her, he was also in love with Theresa, and called off the wedding. He did not, however, call off the engagement. On Christmas Eve, while still engaged to Gwen, he took Gwen to Church, then surprised everyone by proposing to Theresa. The next day, Gwen broke off their engagement.
Theresa and Ethan's relationship has hit a snag now though. At his engagement party, Ethan was rocked with the news that his father is not Julian Crane, as he'd always thought, but Sam Bennett. Rather than being the heir to the Crane fortune, he is the illegitimate son of a man he hates. Lost and confused, Ethan goes to Theresa and tells her he wants to call off the wedding...but they decide to go through with it. Ethan immediately turns his back on the Crane family, and walks away from them, dropping the 'Crane' name.
Ethan made a promise to Ivy that if Theresa continued to lie to him, that he would break off his future with her. When Theresa lied to him about sleeping with Julian (which he discovered when her pregnancy was announced to the whole world), he had enough, and broke things off...not because of her pregnancy, because because it was the latest in a string of lies. He forgave her for most of them, but he couldn't forgive her for this. Theresa continues to insist that he still loves her and wants her back, but he reminds her that her lies ruined their future.
Ethan continued to decline Theresa's advances, feeling that he just couldn't trust her any more. Despite all of that, though, he is still drawn to Theresa, despite also being drawn back to his first love, Gwen. Ethan and Gwen get closer, and become lovers again, but when Ethan learns that Theresa has confessed to killing Julian Crane, he and Gwen try to get her off, both believing that she is innocent. What Ethan doesn't realize is that Theresa thinks she's covering for him! He begs the Crane attorney, Davis, to help her, not realising that Davis has been instructed to make sure Theresa is found guilty. When the judge declares Theresa's fate, the two go on the run together.
When Theresa goes into labor at the cabin, she refuses to tell Ethan because she needs more time to convince him that he still loves her. Ethan would have remained clueless if Gwen had not shown up on the scene, and finally forced Ethan to realize that Theresa was actually in labor. With Ethan and Gwen's help, Theresa gave birth to a baby boy, just as the police burst in! They took Theresa back to the city, where they prepared to execute her. Ethan went to the governor's office, hoping that he could convince the governor to delay the execution in order for them to file an appeal, but Alistair had gotten there first.
Ethan watched the investigation with his lady love, Gwen Hotchkiss. She was there to comfort him throughout the entire event, but after Theresa's death, needed to know if Ethan wanted her, or the ghost of Theresa. Ethan assured her that it was her he wanted, and the two retired for an evening of love-making. Both were shocked when Theresa turned up alive, all part of Alistair's plot. Theresa immediately made a play for Ethan, despite her marriage and his commitment to Gwen, and at first he bought into it, until he realized that Theresa was using the baby to manipulate him.
Ethan was unaware of Theresa's continued manipulations, and was soon torn between her and Gwen. He was about to break up with Gwen and ask Theresa to marry him when they found out Gwen was pregnant. Although she planned to move to New York, after much thought and a talk with his father, Ethan realized his heart and his future lay with the mother of his child. He asked Gwen to marry him and began looking for a new job. He didn't realize that Theresa had ruined all his possible job opportunities in an effort to break up him and Gwen, so he ended up stuck working at Crane Industries until he is able to find someone who isn't afraid of the Crane name.
Ethan and Gwen finally decided to go to Los Angeles to see a specialist and to take a break from Theresa. Unfortunately, she was already out there. Ethan was initially able to resist her, until Theresa and Fox (unbeknownest to him and Whitney, their intended targets) launched a full-out attack to get the objects of their affections. Ethan couldn't forget the innocent young girl he still believed Theresa to be, and was drawn to her again, even though he made it clear that he was not leaving his wife or child, and told Theresa it was over. Unfortunately, Gwen had seen the two kissing on television, and came to the apartment to talk to Ethan.
After a confrontation with Theresa, Gwen was rushed to the hospital, where Ethan was told he had to choose between her and the baby. Theresa encouraged him to let Gwen die and to save the baby, as it was the Christian thing to do. Unable to forget how willing Theresa was to end her own baby's life, Ethan called her a heartless monster, and after much deliberation, decided to save Gwen...but the decision was taken out of his hands when the baby died. Although Theresa continued to try to manipulate her way close to him, Ethan told her he wanted nothing to do with her again, and promised Gwen that he would never let Theresa's manipulations cause him to go running to her side again.
Ethan and Gwen decided to go the surrogate root to have a baby, and were thrilled to find Heather, who seemed perfect. Unfortunately, the day that Heather was supposed to be implanted, she was kidnapped by Theresa, who had herself implanted with the eggs so she could blackmail Ethan and Gwen into giving her back her child. When they learned she was expecting twins, Ethan and Gwen were initially thrilled, until Ethan began remembering a night he thought he was with Gwen, and soon realized he had been raped by Theresa and one of the babies she was carrying belonged to the two of them. Despite his conviction that Theresa had drugged and raped him, Theresa claimed that their sex that night was consensual, leaving Ethan uncertain as to what actually happened, but as time went on he became more and more certain he did not consent to the sex.
After one child had to be aborted to save the life of the other, Ethan prayed that the baby girl Theresa carried was his child with Gwen. Unfortunately, Theresa announced her intentions to keep the child, and Ethan was forced to admit to a disbelieving Gwen that Theresa had been with him and that what she said might really be true. The baby inevitably turned out to be Theresa's, leaving Gwen devastated and Ethan distressed. After attempting to kill Theresa, Gwen went on the run with the baby. When they finally caught up to them, Ethan shocked Theresa by telling her that he had the charges against Gwen dropped and, in return for Theresa not re-filing, Ethan would not take the baby from her. After learning that Theresa had the charges reinstated in a bid to break up his marriage with Gwen, Ethan called Theresa on the carpet, furious with her. He made good on his threats, and he began a custody battle with Theresa as Gwen faced the judge for what she did.
Gwen and Ethan won temporary custody, and before long, Theresa's visitation was limited as she continued to scheme to get close to her daughter. The custody arrangement seemingly became permanent as Gwen and Ethan attempted numerous times to leave the country with Jane but Theresa, who married Alistair, blocked them at every turn, making it impossible for Ethan to get a job anywhere in her attempt to keep him close. Ethan confronted Theresa after finding proof that she had sabotaged his job prospects, only to be confronted with a proposition -- if he would agree to let her become his mistress, she would leave him be. She continued to try to get him to work at Crane, but Ethan finally decided to be a stay-at-home dad to Jane after Gwen got a good job. Ethan headed to Rome to protect Jessica after she took off, and while there, Theresa attempted to convince him again that Gwen had sent the truth about his paternity to the tabloids, claiming that tabloid editor J.T. Cornell, whom she had found in Rome, could prove it. Although J.T. claimed Gwen had sent the information, Ethan didn't believe him, as Theresa had just offered the man ten million dollars. But when Gwen showed up in Rome, he wanted answers from his wife as to why Theresa was so certain.