The toxic rom-com 'tropes' people are tired of dealing with in real-life relationships

Stock image of bride and groom figurines on wedding cake, separated by a knife
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It's no secret that rom-coms and their fluffy, flirty world of meet-cutes, oh-so-predictable 'lightbulb moments' and montages (usually featuring a laughing woman frolicking through a field or rolling around under a bed sheet in slow motion) actually influences how people act IRL. 

From the dishy princes of Disney flicks that set our expectations ridiculously high to the fairytale endings, grand gestures and overarching narrative that a couple in love can conquer all, we're conditioned for disappointment basically from birth.

Romantic films have a lot to answer for, particularly their long history of normalising potentially harmful tropes: for example, changing yourself for a partner (Grease); sacrificing your life for love (Titanic - literally); relentless pursuing, i.e. stalking (The Notebook); and falling for unavailable men (The Wedding Planner). Oh yes, not to mention the proliferation of emotionally stunted 'bad boys' the protagonist desperately tries to wrangle into a relationship when in reality, leopards (or toadstools) rarely change their spots. 

With that being said, there's a lot about on-screen romances that shouldn't translate into real-world relationships because in reality, these behaviours can be incredibly toxic.

Taking to the Reddit forum r/AskWomen, user u/Cute_Character_1603 prompted an intense discussion when she posed the question: "What is something that is romanticised but shouldn't be romanticised?" 

It's safe to say, many of us have had enough of the same-old sing and dance; here are a few of the answers I thought were particularly pertinent, many of which were rounded up by Buzzfeed

  • "Men breaking down a woman's boundaries until she gives in and goes out with him. I told this guy that I wasn't interested in going out with him multiple times and the next day, he shows up at my grandmother's house and tells her, 'She does not know it yet, but I am going to marry her someday'. Seriously, if a woman makes it clear she's not interested and you continue to push, it is not sweet! It is intrusive, manipulative, and creepy!"


  • "Emotionally unavailable men. The tortured misunderstood Byronic character that women can save from himself with her feminine touch."


  • "Having an affair. Yes, Hollywood makes it look so beautiful on screen but really... Does that make affairs turn into true love? Look at all the hurt it causes. Is it really worth it?"


  • "I hate shows, movies, and books that show affairs in any positive light. It ruins the whole film/book for me. Don’t support it. Not approved by me."
  • "Fighting as a couple. 'Oh, it means we are passionate and love each other, like The Notebook'. No, it means you have shitty conflict resolution skills and need to work on it. I've never had it escalate to fighting with my BF because we talk things out reasonably when things start going awry. We seek first to understand, then to be understood. It was hard work. I came from a shouting household, and if you didn't shout, you were weak. That was the message I absorbed. So when we disagreed the first time, I started shouting, and then he turned around out the door and went for a walk. I was puzzled, as that had never happened before. When he came back, he explained he never yells and fights, he learned to peacefully talk things out — which says a lot since he came from foster care and a lot of yelling. So I figured if he could do that, I could. Then I realised I yelled because I felt powerless, and promised to work on that. Conflict resolution skills are one of the best things you can learn."


  • "Men who are aggressive and have a lot of trouble dealing with their emotions. It's not sexy and attractive, I don't want to feel like I'm dating a child or someone that is going to punch a wall because they are annoyed."


  • "Stalking, a la Fifty Shades."


  • "The way men treat women in Fifty Shades/365. A lot of bored housewives will eat that shit up but it always turns my stomach when young girls romanticise the abuse."


  • Romeo and Juliet is an example of what you shouldn't do when you meet someone and how it can destroy your life, yet everyone romanticizes it."


  • "Touching your partner while they're asleep and doing that to wake them up to have sex. It's not romantic and sexy, consent should be given in the moment. You CAN NOT suppose that your partner is giving consent just because they are your partner."


  • "Giving chance after chance after chance to the same guy. It sets us up for so much hurt. Forgiveness should be earned."


  • "Prostitution as in Pretty Woman. Most women in prostitution aren't high-class escorts. Most Johns aren't super attractive, sensitive millionaires. And most of those women certainly don't need a John to rescue them. Sex work is work. Much like how women don't need a man to rescue them from their current employment, sex workers don't need the same. What they do need is more safety nets to help protect them from being abused. Similar to how a customer can't just throw hot coffee back onto a barista, sex workers should expect the same courtesy of physical respect/safety from their customers."


  • "Society encourages women to find a man who can take care of them for life. It sends the wrong message to women. We should be encouraged to take care of ourselves. It’s not healthy to become so dependent on another person to take care of you if you are capable of being able to do it yourself. If your partner leaves your life for one reason or another, the woman depending on them is put at a major disadvantage and [she] is not fully prepared and equipped to sustain herself - that should never be the case."


  • "It sends the wrong message to men, too. They view the most important value they can bring to the relationship as financial stability. Instead, we should be working to ensure we are complimenting boys/men on the same traits we admire in women: emotional regulation, social skills, forming healthy boundaries, respecting someone else's boundaries, creativity, humour, ability to care for oneself and one's environment, etc."


  • "Playing hard to get when you like someone and they like you - why? What does this gain?"


  • "Giving up financial stability for your dream job or something important to you 'for love'. People make it out to be, 'Oh, if you love him, you’ll choose love over money'. Yeah, well, being financially dependent on your partner is the number one reason you then can’t leave when the relationship turns bad. Stop romanticising women giving up their independent careers to be more convenient/available to men."


  • "Doing everything together."


  • "Jealousy. 'It's because he loves me so much'. No, it's because he's paranoid and doesn't trust you at all. Trust is the bare minimum in any relationship."


  • "'Losing' your virginity. You don't lose anything, you gain an experience."


  • "Extreme dependency. It's not healthy for your entire life to revolve only around your partner; it's impossible to grow together if you don't also allow yourself the space to grow independently. You cannot rely on a partner to be your only source of happiness and companionship, because despite how many promises you can make, there is never any guarantee that they will be with you forever."


  • "Toxic lesbian relationships with no boundaries, misogyny, and soft-core abuse. It's portrayed so cutesy on TikTok, but all I see is a cringey couple who eat each other alive."


  • "Giving all of you to someone or something else. To your job, or your children, or your family. To literally everything but yourself."


  • "Struggling financially together. My ex had this idea that if we struggled together, we can overcome anything. I left him and now he's mad that he's struggling alone."