10 TV Romances That Are Uncomfortable To Watch Today

The list contains discussions of sexual assault.


  • Characters like Barney from How I Met Your Mother and Ezra from Pretty Little Liars have not aged well due to their unacceptable behavior.
  • Relationships where characters have fundamental disagreements, such as having children, are destined for misery and would be better off broken up.
  • Many popular TV show romances, like Blair and Chuck from Gossip Girl, showcase toxic dynamics that involve manipulation, abuse, and sexual assault.

Some of the most popular romances from TV shows are now uncomfortable to watch because, in retrospect, there are a multitude of emotional and ethical reasons that the characters shouldn’t be together. If it was not clear then it is clear now that certain characters’ behavior is unacceptable. For example, the characters of Barney from How I Met Your Mother and Ezra from Pretty Little Liars have not aged well in general.

In other cases, the characters want such different things that they will never be able to make their relationship work in the long run. The audience was caught up in the emotions and drama when the show first aired. However, now it is apparent that two people who can’t agree on something as fundamental as having children are going to make each other miserable, and they would be better off if they broke up.

10 Rory Gilmore & Logan Huntzberger

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

Rory meets Logan at Yale and the two have an on-and-off romantic relationship that lasts until Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Logan embarrasses Rory in front of her family, teachers, and peers. He is also jealous and possessive when either of Rory’s other two major love interests, Dean and Jess, make an appearance. He does not bring out the best in Rory either: By the time of A Year in the Life, Logan is engaged and Rory has a boyfriend, but they cheat on their partners with each other.

9 Blair Waldorf & Chuck Bass

Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

Blair sitting with Chuck in Gossip Girl

Most of the relationships on Gossip Girl are toxic. The main characters Serena and Blair constantly stab each other in the back, while Blair and her long-standing love interest Chuck aren’t any better. While Blair manipulates Chuck, he is far worse because he treats her like an object, reveals her secrets to Gossip Girl, and is physically and verbally abusive. Chuck has also sexually assaulted other women, which should be unforgivable for Blair. Despite this, Blair and Chuck get married at the end of Gossip Girl.


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8 Mary Crawley & Kemal Pamuk

Downton Abbey (2010-2015)

Mary Crawley and Kemal Pamuk in tophats in Downton Abbey

In the third episode of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary Crawley ends up in bed with a visiting Turkish diplomat, Kemal Pamuk. When Pamuk has a heart attack and dies in Mary’s bed, Mary is dependent upon her mother Cora and her maid Anna to help her cover up the scandal. The next two seasons are dominated by Mary and members of her family trying to keep these events buried.

While the series frames this incident as a lady engaging in a torid affair, Mary does not readily consent to sleeping with Pamuk but is pressured into it. She tells him that she is not interested and threatens to scream when he comes to her room. He says that it would only create a scandal if he was found in her room. Cora later asks if Pamuk forced himself on Mary and she says no, and the matter is never brought up again. Mary then spends years of her life dealing with the consequences of meeting Pamuk.

7 Ross Geller & Rachel Green

Friends (1994-2004)

One of Friends’ running gags is Ross insisting that he slept with another woman because he and Rachel were “on a break.” The truth is Rachel called him to make up and he heard that Mark was at the apartment and slept with another woman out of jealousy. Ross never fully trusts Rachel and is possessive of her. He acts the same way with some of his other girlfriends, obsessing over Emily’s friendship with Susan and crashing Elizabeth’s Spring Break. These secondary storylines are both played for laughs. It is surprising that Rachel didn’t break up with Ross sooner when he was so paranoid and controlling.

6 Jughead Jones & Betty Cooper

Riverdale (2017-2023)

Jughead and Betty standing together in Riverdale

Jughead is asexual in the Archie Comics, but the creators of Riverdale ignored this and wrote in his long-running relationship with Betty. Betty and Jughead have an on-off relationship for the first few seasons before she dates Archie later on. There is a lot of romantic drama and jealousy between this trio and Archie’s former girlfriend Veronic. Neither Jughead nor Betty ever get married in the series (via Variety). Jughead also struggles to balance his life with the Serpents and his relationship with Betty while they are together.

5 Barney Stinson & Any Of His Girlfriends

How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)

Barney constantly makes jokes about winning sexual harassment lawsuits and finding drunk girls to sleep with. All of Barney’s major girlfriends in the series (Robin, Nora, Quinn) are aware of all the lies he has told to have sex, yet they still date him. Nora even implies in season 7, episode 2 that no self-respecting woman would ever date him because he is a “sociopath,” and then dates him anyway. It does seem implausible that any woman who knew the extent of his behavior would have a relationship with him, especially since he always returns to his old ways after they break up.

4 Regina Mills & Robin Hood

Once Upon A Time (2011-2018)

regina robin once upon a time

In the Once Upon a Time season 3 finale, Emma and Hook go back in time and save a woman from the Evil Queen’s (Regina) dungeons. Hook argues that it is too risky to leave a woman who was supposed to die in the past, so they bring her back to the present. They then discover that she is Robin Hood’s wife Marian, which is a problem because Regina is dating Robin in the present.

However, the show never addresses that the time travel adventure essentially revealed that Regina killed Marian in the original timeline, or at least ordered her execution. It is unlikely that Robin didn’t know this, or he would have thought his wife was missing instead of dead. And yet he is dating the woman who killed his wife and the mother of his child?


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3 Elena Gilbert & Damon Salvatore

The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017)

Damon Elena and Stefan Talk on the Street in The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries normalizes murder in the characters’ lives. Yet Damon often kills people for selfish reasons, including Zach, Lexi, and Gail. When Elena starts her relationship with him, she is forced to reckon with Damon’s past and present behavior. Caroline calls Elena out on this in season 5, episode 8, saying that “the outside world is not nearly as dangerous as the person [Elena is] inviting into [her] own bedroom.” While the redemption arcs are an interesting aspect of the show, it is going a bit far for Elena to want to be with someone who has intentionally killed so many people.

2 Christina Yang & Owen Hunt

Grey’s Anatomy (2005-Present)

Christina and Owen’s relationship ultimately falls apart because he wants children and she does not. Some of Owen’s comments about Christina not wanting kids are emotionally abusive. He says that she killed their child, there is something wrong with her because she does not want kids, and she will regret not being a mother. Yet they both try to hold the relationship together for years to come. Both of them should have ended it earlier: Christina has enough self-respect to get out of a toxic relationship and if having kids is Owen’s priority, he needs to find a woman who also wants that.

1 Aria Montgomery & Ezra Fitz

Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)

Back in the day, scores of fans wore “I Love Mr. Fitz” T-shirts to Pretty Little Liars events. Yet the relationship between Aria and her high school English teacher Ezra is inherently problematic because she is underage. Pretty Little Liars heavily romanticizes Aria and Ezra’s relationship. They even get married in the series finale, and Aria tells her friends that they are going to look into adoption. Except for no adoption agency is going to give them a child when it would be too easy to discover how they met. Controversial and unhealthy relationships such as this are uncomfortable for viewers to rewatch today.

Source: Variety