Simon and Daphne in Bridgerton on Netflix

TV’s worst couples: 13 romantic pairings everyone loves that are actually super toxic

Posted by for TV

You better believe that Friends’ Ross and Rachel made this list of toxic TV couples (sorry not sorry). 

TV has given us some brilliant depictions of love over the years, but it has also given us some truly terrible ones, too. Worse than this, though, is the fact that it’s tricked us into believing that these toxic relationships are shining examples of #couplegoals.

Case in point? Look this way…

Simon and Daphne – Bridgerton

Yes, theirs is a Regency-era romance for the ages – but it’s not an admirable one. Firstly, the Bridgerton duo’s love affair is born out of a mutual deception. Secondly, her naivety and his inability to even try and express his emotions is… troubling. Thirdly, the pair are completely at odds with one another in terms of what they want for the future; he has sworn off ever marrying and having children, she’s absolutely desperate for both.

As we all know, of course, Simon eventually marries Daphne when it becomes apparent her reputation will be ruined if he doesn’t. He then lies to her about what sex really entails, to ensure he doesn’t get her pregnant. And, when Daphne figures this out, she takes it upon herself to trap him into finishing inside her when they’re having sex – without his consent.

For a while, it seemed as if this betrayal would be the end of their relationship forever. Somehow, though, the duo managed to piece things back together and get their mutually disrespectful mess of a marriage back on track.

Yours truly, Lady Whistledown.

Carrie and Aidan – Sex And The City

Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie) and John Corbett (Aidan) act in a scene from the HBO television series "Sex and the City" third season, episode "No Ifs Ands Or Butts". (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Newsmakers)
Big might be toxic, but so is Sex And The City’s Aidan.

Everyone knows that Carrie and Big’s on-off relationship is a toxic mess, but so was her relationship with the seemingly kind, sweet and considerate Aidan.

Don’t believe us? Instagram fan account Every Outfit On Sex And The City has explained why this “manic pixie artisan boy” comes with a ton of “red flags” – like, say, the fact that he told her their relationship was over if she continued to smoke cigarettes (it’s good to have boundaries, sure, but ultimatums like this are always bad news).

Then, there was the time he seemed relieved when Carrie lied and told him she never had an abortion; this, the account explains, is indicative of Aidan’s need to put his own narrative of his partner ON his partner in order to feel secure. 

How about the fact that, despite Carrie communicating to Aidan that she was deeply anxious and overwhelmed with the prospect of getting married, he “swiftly ambushed her with the suggestion of a shotgun wedding”?

“He wanted to be married so much that it didn’t seem to matter if Carrie wanted to or not,” the post notes.

Finally, there’s Aidan’s response to Carrie and Big’s affair. Yes, infidelity sucks and it takes a while to regain a sense of trust in a relationship afterwards, but Aidan didn’t do his best to move past what happened. Instead, he used it as an excuse to torture Carrie at every possible opportunity.

He “inferred that he might fuck a bartender from Scout as a form of retaliation” – which is undoubtedly “emotionally abusive behaviour, towards Carrie AND the bartender Shayna,” the post explains.

“Feigning availability to someone while actively withholding from your current partner is a classic dick move.”

Food for thought, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Marge and Homer – The Simpsons

Oh sure, they might be TV’s golden (golden-yellow, anyway) couple, but Marge and Homer Simpson’s marriage is mired in problems.

Think about it; Homer actively considered having an affair with his co-worker, Mindy Simmons (and Lurleen, the country singer he temporarily manages). He was photographed getting cosy with a beautiful belly dancer. Then, he upped the ante during a trip to Las Vegas, got blackout drunk, and married a cocktail waitress. And let’s not forget the time he went drink-driving, crashed, and framed his long-suffering wife, either.

It’s not just the big stuff, though; it’s all the tiny problems in Homer and Marge’s relationship that makes us grimace. Like the time he forgot his own wife’s birthday, then attempted to make up for it by buying her a last-minute present for himself. Or when he screamed like a toddler after Marge signed them up for some much-needed marriage counselling. Or, y’know, when he told the entire population of Springfield intimate details about Marge’s sex life.

He treats his wife like a domestic caretaker, actively hates it when she pursues her own interests and hobbies (remember how mad he got when Marge signed up for Am Dram?), drinks heavily, and slobs around after work, point-blank refusing to help his wife around the house. And, when she calls him out on his behaviour, he brands her “a loveless slab of bossiness.”

Right. Anyone else wondering when TV’s worst husband is going to be kicked to the kerb already?

Danny and Mindy – The Mindy Project

Think Danny is the sweet and dreamy love interest of The Mindy Project? Think again.

This is the man who fought hard to prevent Mindy getting her Stanford fellowship, even going so far as to approach the doctor she asked for a recommendation letter and convince them not to do so. Who lied about the fact he was still legally married to his ex-wife. Who decided that his and Mindy’s baby shower was the best place to publicly announce that he a) didn’t want to get married again and b) didn’t see himself marrying her.

Worse than all of this, though, was how he treated her after baby Leo was born. Because, despite Mindy being an incredibly talented obstetrician/gynaecologist, Danny expected her to put down her career so that she could stay home and be with their son all day. He even tracked her ovulation to try to get her pregnant again, just in case this might convince her to see his POV.

Diagnosis? Terrible, terrible, terrible case of toxic boyfriend, in our opinion.

Rory and Dean – Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls gave us a lot of bad boyfriends, but none more terrible than Dean.

Think about it; Rory is an ambitious young woman, which is what makes her relationship with Dean feel so… iffy. Setting aside the fact that he seemingly believes that women should be domestic goddesses (because we just don’t have time to dissect this internalised misogyny right now), Dean wasn’t supportive of Rory’s Harvard dreams, dumped her when she didn’t immediately respond to his ‘I love you’ with an ‘I love you, too’, and is incredibly jealous of any guy that pays his girlfriend even the slightest modicum of attention – so much so that he even ends up in the odd physical altercation.

Later, he marries Lindsay – despite still being hung up on Rory – and cheats on his wife with his ex-girlfriend, too. So remind us again why everyone has Dean pegged as the ‘good guy’ of Rory’s exes?

Daphne and Niles – Frasier

Daphne and Niles in Frasier
Daphne and Niles eventually became a couple in Frasier... after much obsessing by the latter.

Confession time: this writer loves Frasier’s Daphne and Niles – but you’ve got to admit that their relationship is mired in (for want of a better word) creepiness. Within minutes of meeting his brother’s new employee, married psychiatrist Niles Crane falls head-over-heels in love with her. He loves the way she looks, the way her voice sounds, the way she (gulp) smells. And he doesn’t care that his feelings are entirely unrequited; instead, he gives into his obsession, sniffing her hair without her knowledge whenever he can, referring to her as a “working-class Venus” and even videotaping her while she sleeps.

Niles is ridiculously jealous of Daphne’s boyfriends throughout the series, even going so far as to try and convince several of them not to date her (despite the fact that he, as mentioned, is married himself already). And, when they do finally get together, Daphne feels so pressured to live up to the ‘perfect’ image Niles had imagined that she responds by overeating and gaining 60 pounds. 

It’s worth noting that, despite a few hiccups, the pair’s eventual relationship is a healthy and happy one; it even goes so far as to dissolve many of Niles’ eccentric nervous tics. Still, though… any psychiatrist worth his salt would have recognised that “unrequited love” stuff as borderline obsessive behaviour, right?

Serena and Dan – Gossip Girl

Blake Lively and Penn Badgley filming on location for "Gossip Girl" on August 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Dan (as Gossip Girl) spread rumours that Serena had an STD, was pregnant and that her relationship (with him!) was incestuous.

Now, don’t get us wrong here; Chuck and Blair aren’t great, but Dan is the eponymous Gossip Girl. This means that a) he’s basically been Serena’s stalker for years, and b) that he’s actively chosen to make her life a misery for the entertainment of others.

Throw in the book he wrote about her (the one that caused Serena to lose her Hollywood job), and his extreme lack of remorse over it, and you have the perfect archetype for You’s Joe Goldberg.

Olivia and Fitz – Scandal

Right from the moment they first clapped eyes on one another, Olivia and Fitz had chemistry. And what a power couple they made; she was a powerful Washington DC crisis manager, he was the US president… but he was, of course, the married US president.

Naturally, the pair enjoyed a forbidden love affair. When Olivia tries to move on, he fights hard to keep her, even ensuring his security team keeps her under constant surveillance. He starts a war for her when she’s kidnapped; like, an actual war. He lies constantly. He strings her along for season after season after season. And, when he does eventually divorce his wife and embark on an actual proper relationship with Olivia, she finds it stifling playing (white) house with him. Go figure.

Kate and Jack – Lost

They were the confusing show’s endgame romance, but let’s not forget that Lost’s Kate drugged Jack with pills when she found out he was having trouble sleeping at night. That, when he found out about her criminal past, Jack began judging her in a very big way – and accusing her of all sorts of things, like poisoning Michael (“I don’t know what you’re capable of”). That he kept her in the dark about almost everything. That he was incredibly, incredibly, incredibly jealous of her relationship with Sawyer (fairly, as it turns out, but still).

That they only realised they fancied each other after spotting one another shirtless. Which, y’know, isn’t so weird… until you remember that they’d literally just unearthed two skeletons at the time.

Things are just as bad in the flash-forward scenes, which show us Kate and Jack as an established couple, living together in Kate’s house. He still doesn’t trust her, though, and constantly demands reassurance as to where she is and what she’s doing at all times. And, yeah, he’s heavily drinking and taking clonazepam to help him deal with all that emotional turmoil, too.

Nice.

Owen and Cristina – Grey’s Anatomy

GREY'S ANATOMY - "We Are Never Getting Back Together" - Cristina looks to Meredith for advice as she assesses her future at the hospital. Derek and Amelia work together on a difficult surgery involving conjoined twins. Meanwhile, Jo is spread too thin when she tries to work on several cases at once and Stephanie realizes the truth about Bailey's bubble boy case, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MAY 1 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
Cristina Yang deserved so much better.

Forget Burke; we’re here to talk about Owen. Because Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang is a goddess and an icon, and she 100% deserved better that hot mess.

Yes, they had chemistry. Yes, their relationship had a nice slow burn to it. But this is the same man who, despite Cristina making her feelings on the matter perfectly clear from the get go, point-blank refused to accept the fact that she didn’t want children. He threw her out of the house when he learned she was considering an abortion, blanked all of her calls, and then – despite having gone along to support her at the abortion clinic – publicly announced in front of all their friends that she had “killed our baby”.

Throw in the fact that he cheated on her and attempted to do everything within his power to stop her leaving for her dream job in Zurich, and you have a serious case of awfulness.

Spike and Buffy – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Yes, Spike is a vampire – and not even an ensouled vampire at that – but this relationship had way more problems than his blood-slurping habits. 

It begins, for starters, as a series of sexual encounters which Buffy is too ashamed to tell anyone about. Spike stalks her obsessively, too, stealing her belongings to create a sort of… a sort of Slayer shrine in his subterranean lair. And he has a robot likeness of her made, too, which he keeps in his crypt for (ahem) ‘company’.

As if further proof of the relationship’s toxicity were required, there’s the fact that he kidnapped Buffy to prove his love to her. That he lured her away from her friends, attempting to convince her that he was the only person who could ever hope to understand her. That she violently attacks him on multiple occasions, even after he can no longer physically defend himself. That he violently and sexually assaults her.

Yes, the duo have their occasional good times; it is his loyalty that gives her the strength to carry on during the show’s final season, and it is his ultimate sacrifice which allows them both to save the world. But there’s no denying that their relationship is horrible, when you get right down to it. And Hellmouth-horrible at that.

Adam and Eric – Sex Education

Eric has a beautiful, healthy and life-enhancing relationship with Rahim, a man who is entirely confident in his sexual identity. Still, though, he engages in a clandestine affair with his ex-bully, Adam – prompting Otis to, quite rightly, inform him that it’s “so self-hating that you’d let yourself fall for someone who literally treats you like shit.”

Yes, Adam has since found the courage to accept himself for who he is. Yes, he has changed for the better. Yes, he’s finally conjured up the confidence to openly be with Eric (they even held hands in public in season two).

Still, this is the same man who berated Eric and made him feel unsafe for years – can the fan-favourite couple of Sex Education ever hope to overcome all of that hurt and mistrust?

Ross and Rachel – Friends

Ross and Rachel in Friends
Ross and Rachel's on-again-off-again relationship was one of the defining features of Friends.

We learn, in the very first episode of Friends, that Ross has been obsessed with Rachel (aka his little sister’s best friend) for many, many, many years. And, when they eventually do get together, Ross proves to be a horrible boyfriend.

He bullies and berates Rachel over her burgeoning career and gets overwhelmingly jealous about her platonic friendship with a male colleague – to the point where she feels so unbelievably stifled that she needs to take a break from their relationship. Ross, just hours later, sleeps with “the hot girl from the copy place” and attempts to hide his one-night stand from Rachel the next morning.

Then, after their breakup, Ross continues to actively pursue Rachel – even saying her name at the altar during his wedding to someone else. He hides messages from men who call her when they’re living together. He’s endlessly threatened by the men she dates. He sabotages her career. And when Rachel drunkenly marries him in Las Vegas, he refuses to file for divorce and attempts to hide their marital status from her.

We’d go on to talk about, y’know, everything else he did (his horrified reaction when he found out she was pregnant, his ridiculous behaviour after she begins dating Joey – despite the fact he’s now with Charlie), but we think our point is made.

If these two are the ‘lobsters’ of Friends, then we’re allergic to shellfish. 

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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