How your favorite TV shows are enabling your Toxic Relationships

Taylor Ford
3 min readMar 21, 2021


When me and my husband started dating we had no arguments what so ever and it honestly freaked me out. Before then I was use to relentless fighting and the traditional break up and make up that is most commonly seen in television shows and movies.

The most common cliche is that you are what you eat, but one that most people don’t recognize is that you are what you watch. Time and time again the media, television shows, and movies romanticize the idea of having a toxic relationship that makes toxicity look like something that should be admired instead of feared.

For instance, look at the picture below and let me know the first thing that comes to mind. The average person would say “oh Ross and Rachel had the best relationship,” but in reality their relationship was nothing to envy. At the core of their relationship they were two people who played each other time and time again and called it love.

If you’ve never watched Friends that’s okay because this relationship is seen throughout countless of television shows that depict this cycle of hurt and trauma if you will. It may be hard to identify, but most people unconsciously use these model of relationships to shape their own.

With that being said, here are the 3 reasons why this is the case and if you practice this in your own intimate relationships.

1. Television Shapes Perception

Watching television is the number one leisure activity in most Western societies. As a result, television not only shapes perception but they also help define modern societal norms. That’s why when you get into a relationship you have expectations of what a relationship will look like and mirror the examples around you. Of course your parents, friends, and family members play apart in this process as well, but nothing quite compares to the hold that the media has on the mind.

According to cultivation theory (Gerbner et al., 1980, 1986), our expectations and judgments about the world can be influenced by the conventions of television programs, with the stereo- typed plots and characters of television coming to be viewed as representative of the real world.

This Cultivation theory does not exclude the complexity of romance seen on television and how romanticizing unhealthy relationships on TV can eventually shape our own interaction with others. That is why it is important to assess your expectations on relationships and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. How realistic are your expectations for your spouse or partner?
  2. Where did these expectations come from?
  3. How can these expectations be altered too things that reflect my own values and feelings about what I want in a relationship?

2. Toxic translates to entertainment

There is a reason behind why television show writers lean into the same type of romantically involved characters and the main one is because it is entertaining to the audience. If a healthy relationship was depicted in most shows it would be nothing more than a bore because essentially there’s no “fun” in a good relationship.

Earlier I mentioned that the lack of argument in my relationship was something I wasn’t use to and at one point I said it was “boring.” When I say I wasn’t use to it you would assume that I’ve had tons of relationships, but I was honestly comparing my relationship to those I saw on television. At the time it was something I was doing unintentionally, but in hindsight I saw how ridiculous I was for secretly criticizing my healthy relationship.

Toxic relationships are a part of life, but it is often exaggerated and praised on television. unhealthy habits may define most relationships in the media, but it doesn’t have to define yours.



Taylor Ford

Hello, I’m Taylor and my interest include the following: Reading, Poetry, television shows, and photography.