Love stories capture our hearts. From Disney Princesses finding their one true love to the fabulous enemies to lovers tropes, we can’t seem to get enough romance.
We tend to idealize relationships, both real and fictional, pointing to them as examples of true love to strive for.
In reality, many of these relationships we romanticize are toxic at best, while others are downright abusive. We should be idealizing respectful, healthy love instead.
While scrolling through the R/Askreddit community, I came across a question asking users to give examples of seriously flawed relationships that everyone tends to idealize.
Redditors responded with a mix of real and fictional relationships, many of which showcase how messed up our ideas of love really are.
Charles & Diana
When looking from a modern lens, most of us can see how messed up the royal relationship really was. However, in the early 1980s, their romance was celebrated as an epic love story.
“Obviously, we know a whole lot more now, hindsight and all, but people definitely talked about Prince/King Charles and Diana that way when they first got married,” responded one user.
Others added that the couple likely knew, and neither wanted to follow through with the nuptials, but the public perception showcased marital bliss.
“Both tried to call off the marriage before it happened but were essentially told, “it’s too late now, sorry,” claimed one user.
Everyone loves their grandparents, so no one wants to consider how their match came to be.
“In rural Mexico, it was scary common for men to just kidnap teenage girls to take as wives, often with parental consent (and often in exchange of farm goods or hard cash). Nowadays, it doesn’t happen as commonly, save for some indigenous tribes in Oaxaca, but entire families were born from kidnapped brides,” responded one user.
“In light of the recent feminist movement in Mexico, these accusations were brought to light, exposing just how many people’s families hid this in plain sight, often portraying the abuelitos (grandparents) of the family as loving couples with old-timey heartwarming love stories when reality is often closer to a horror story,” they added.
Others mentioned the horror wasn’t limited to Mexico. It happened in the US just as often.
“Happened in the US too. My great-grandmother told us that when she was 14, a guy showed up at the door, and her parents handed her a suitcase and said, “this is your husband now” they went down to the courthouse and got married. She was with him long enough to have 7-8 kids before she managed to escape. Some of the kids never forgave her for leaving them. It’s hard for me to not to judge them for it,” shared another Redditor.
Elvis & Priscella
Some users rightly pointed out the disgusting age gap in Elvis’s marriage. Priscella was only 14 when the relationship started, and although she stated they didn’t become intimate until after their marriage when she was 21, many users claimed that’s not the whole story.
One user mentioned what they read in her book, saying, “They didn’t “sleep” together, but she even says in her book they did plenty of other stuff. He would even take racy pictures of her long before she was legal.”
Others said it was clearly grooming regardless of whether they were intimate, and that was Elvis’s entire point.
“Yeah, he made his intentions to “raise the perfect bride” pretty clear,” stated one.
Joker & Harley Quinn
Joker and Harley Quinn are the epitome of a toxic relationship, yet some fans sometimes see them as couple goals.
“Joker and Harley are the definition of toxic relationships,” said one user. However, they added that the toxicity does make for a compelling story. “Don’t get me wrong; I love them together much more than apart because it can definitely lead into some great stories.”
Toxic relationships are fascinating to watch on the big screen, but it’s not something any couple should aspire to.
Ross & Rachel
One of the most iconic “will they, won’t they” relationships in television is pretty toxic when you dig into it.
“They were together for exactly ONE season, then proceed to sabotage each other’s relationships until season 8 when they have a baby together,” said one user of the oft-idealized coupling.
Ross was a toxic mess before their relationship ended. He was jealous, insecure, and dismissive of her career. Rachel sabotaged a number of his subsequent relationships.
One user was mad that Rachel ended up with Ross in the end. “They should never have ended up together, in my opinion, because he never truly respected her; he was just obsessed,” they said, mentioning how Rachel grew so much throughout the series only to give up her dream job for a whiney, insecure, jealous Ross.
Celine Dion and René Angélil
Celine met Rene when she was just 12 years old. He, however, was a fully grown adult.
“They met when she was 12, and he was 36, and she’s never been with any other man in her life, apparently. She even chooses to stay faithful to him after he died to this day,” said one user.
“I have said this for decades now. It’s truly awful but not surprising, given the context. He groomed her, plain and simple, and was allowed to do so on all fronts,” replied another.
The Notebook is often hailed as a beautiful love story, and many young women try to emulate the relationship.
However, many users rightly pointed out the toxic elements we tend to romanticize.
The first glaring red flag came in the Ferris Wheel scene. “I remember looking up during the Ferris wheel scene and thinking that was so horrible and she should have told him to fall for putting pressure in her like that. Most of the girls around me seemed to think it was extremely romantic,” said one user.
Nobody should be coerced into a relationship that way, and we shouldn’t celebrate movies claiming this toxic behavior is romantic.
The male lead continued his toxic ways. One Redditor said he “writes her a letter every single day for a year with zero response from her etc. He’s a psycho who couldn’t let go of his obsession with her.”
Romeo and Juliet
The original tragic love story gets romanticized by high school students, but most realize it’s a cautionary tale rather than a romantic one.
People focus on the epic love that couldn’t be rather than the reality of two silly teenagers who don’t even know each other and are willing to give up everything for each other.
“When we studied this play in high school, our teacher explained to us that this all basically happened over the course of a weekend. He invited us to try to relate it to our own lives to comprehend how bizarre that was,” stated one user.
Snape and Lilly
Snape and Lilly were never a couple, but many Harry Potter fans idealize Snape’s obsession with his only friend.
“Snape’s obsession with Lily Potter isn’t sweet. It’s stalking,” stated one user.
“Also mistreating her kid (a child expressly under his care as an educator) because she rejected him is repugnant,” added another.
Some users didn’t understand why anyone would consider it a love story. “Do people actually consider that a love story?” they asked. “It’s a story of somebody tragic and pitiful who turns that flaw into heroism. It’s a neat character arc, but if you’re romanticizing the love part of it, then that’s kinda weird,” they added.
Daenerys and Drogo
The classic pairing from Game of Thrones gets heavily romanticized because Daenerys eventually came to show affection for Drogo, but as many users pointed out, what choice did she have?
“It really bugs me how there are fans that shipped them,” said one user. “I get she grew to show affection towards him, but I feel like she only did that in order to feel like she had some control when she didn’t really.”
Another agreed, adding fans seem to forget that “Drogo purchased her, had total domination over her life, she was surrounded by his army and culture.”
Buffy & Angel
Buffy and Angel were hyped as the ultimate taboo relationship. What’s more romantic than falling in love with your mortal enemy?
One user found the dynamic creepy. “Wasn’t he like 250 and her 16?” they asked.
There was a lot more wrong with the relationship. Angel was controlling; he constantly lied to Buffy and manipulated her into saying she loved him. He refused to take her to prom, only to show up and “be the hero” near the end of the dance. He even erased an entire day without her consent!
Buffy’s other relationships are just as toxic, but they make for compelling television, and the drama surrounding her love life is part of what makes Buffy such an iconic show.
Celebrate Healthy Love
We often celebrate these toxic relationships because they’re fun to watch on television or because we don’t know the truth behind how the couple got together.
Instead of idealizing questionable relationships like the ones we find in this thread, we should look to healthy examples of love we see in fiction, like Gomez and Morticia, who, despite their odd quirks, clearly love and respect each other.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.