Problematic Romance Tropes

Throughout many stories there have been a variety of situations where people get together that tends to be problematic. We often love these stories that tell of two people getting together and we watch enthralled sometimes as we watch them unfold. At the same time they are often unrealistic or unattainable goals for a relationship. It makes sense because simple romance is not as interesting and we love to watch the drama, but we also need to recognize when what is presented demonstrates potential problematic ideas.

The problem can be that if we don’t recognize the problematic elements then we can fall into a trap of thinking that it is realistic or having expectations that don’t line up. Now some of these are borderline problematic, which is some of the issue because they can go either way.

Hate Leads to Love

This outcome is shown over and over again, where two characters are the complete antithesis to each other. They get on each other’s nerves and are often derogatory toward each other. Then they are having a heated argument and suddenly it goes from a heated argument to violent passionate sex. This sexual encounter often ends up being a breaking point where the characters realize their feelings for each other and start to look at the other person in a new light.

Now I know the whole line that hate requires passion, which is what leads to such a powerful love, but really? We are expected to believe that two people who just bug each other and have been at each other’s throats are suddenly going to fall in love to live happily ever after? At the same time the most likely scenario is that they have a relationship for a while, but then realize that all the things that bothered them originally still do – but that tends to happen after the end of the story.

Grand Gestures

Now this example is the idea that a girl does not notice a guy, but somehow he does such a grand gesture that she sees him in a new light. It is amazing for someone to do something big for you, but is that really what makes a relationship work? In movies and TV shows it makes for great stories and great television, but in reality the grand gesture is not enough. There has to be more behind it for it to mean anything. In the end the little things are what’s important, but that doesn’t make a good story necessarily.

Sometimes the grand gesture can come off a little stalker-like because somehow this person that you have never had a conversation with knows everything about you and that is supposed to make you swoon. I know that getting someone’s attention isn’t always the easiest, but saying you know everything someone likes before actually getting to talk to them is a little creepy. Also, because then what do you actually have to talk about on a first date?

Obsessive Persistence

It can be funny to see someone keep asking someone out and obsessively going after someone, but in the end that usually doesn’t lead anywhere. When the story does have that somehow become something more they make it seem like their persistence paid off. Again it is not persistence in and of itself that is a problem, but the idea that being persistent is okay can be problematic.

Again it is that line between being harassed at a bar and just having someone who pays extra attention to you every day. It borders the idea that even when someone says “no” they don’t really mean it and that it just takes time to make a no into a yes. This can be extremely dangerous thinking on both sides because who knows when that persistence can go too far and become harassment? Then the person who is being persistent doesn’t think of it as harassment and the cycle can just continue.


These are just a few examples from romance storylines, but there are plenty more. The big thing to remember is that these are stories and usually do not relate to reality. When we think about people that we want to be in relationships with it should be about the little things and the people that are there for us. We need to expect more from people and not settle for something because it is there. We also need to be careful because many of these stories demonstrate examples that pushed just a little further can lead to harassment and stalking, as well as unrealistic expectations.


One response to “Problematic Romance Tropes

  1. This is an excellent post! We really need to be more mindful of the messages we internalize from pop culture – especially about romance – when we’re trying to find a healthy and meaningful life for ourselves.


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