Bridgerton: Why Daphne Bridgerton And The Duke Of Hastings' Relationship Is Toxic AF
Watching Bridgerton, it's easy to get sucked in to all the flirting, frills and amorous spoon-licking.
The Shonda Rhimes Netflix blockbuster follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) as she falls for Duke Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page) - a handsome singleton who has caught the eye of just about everyone in Regency London.
After weeks of building a rapport and a lot of side-eye in the ballroom, the lusty duo enter into the 19th-century equivalent of a shotgun wedding - only to realise there are real feelings between them (cue a lot of love making, passionate fights and kisses in the rain).
Romantic, right? Well, not really.
While Daphne and Simon's infatuation with each other might appear swoon-worthy to begin with, on closer inspection there are also several toxic red flags, too.
Alexander Patall, relationships and dating expert at Datingroo tells Tyla: "Most successful relationships thrive due to a mutual understanding of each other's needs and trust.
"For Simon and Daphne, deception and manipulation is the very environment from which their relationship is born.
"Daphne seeks companionship with Simon to escape her previous engagement and Simon sees Daphne as a front to hide his promiscuous behaviour. Once the pair establish they clearly want different things from any potential future relationship [they push on] instead of coming to a mutual decision or parting ways.
"The veneer of romance only clouds what is truly a relationship based on selfishness."
Here are a few of the biggest warning signs from throughout the series...
The Duke's vow
Looking back at the series, it's certainly true that from the very beginning, neither Simon nor Daphne is willing to consider the other's desires above their own.
One example of this is when the Duke announces he "can't have children" before their engagement, with absolute conviction, presenting this as biological difficulty she has to accept, rather than explaining it is because of a vow he made to his abusive father.
While he does love Daphne, he's literally willing to die in a duel rather risk breaking this vengeful promise - or, you know, talking through the intensity of his feelings with her.
Alexander says: "Simon's reasons to not want children are valid for him, but the toxic elements of this occur after he lies as to the reasons why.
"There are incidents to suggest elements of gaslighting, too. By making Daphne think he physically cannot have children, they begin their relationship on lies. Daphne is led to believe it's not his choice, and he plays on Daphne's sexual naivety to conceal the truth from her."
The forced marriage
Faced with the Duke's bombshell, Daphne literally has to coerce him into marriage (which is never a good sign, if you ask us).
Problematically, Daphne doesn't actually give Simon a say in their engagement - she announces it to her brother after interrupting their duel, framing it as a mutual decision, to protect her integrity.
"Simon is likely to feel forced into the marriage with Daphne, he's not starting out on his own terms," Alexander reflects. "A solid relationship is entered willingly by two mutual partners, and being forced to protect Daphne's honour is likely to harbour feelings of resentment."
The intense passion
Now, don't get us wrong, despite their shaky start, there are moments when Simon and Daphne seem pretty idyllic. In episode six, for example, they can't keep their hands off each other.
More Like ThisMore Like This
But as great as this period of non-stop love-making looks, we don't see the pair connect any further on a personal level during their honeymoon.
"Much of their hot and cold relationship is visualised by intense and passionate sex, which only darkens the emotional relationship between the pair," Alexander says.
When the newlyweds finally stop sleeping together for long enough to realise they aren't going to change each other's radically different plans for the future, it is then that the cracks really start to show.
"They both use [sex] as a tool to feel close to one another, before using it to self-gratify," he says. "Daphne to try and conceive, and Simon for his own pleasure."
Impact of their upbringing
It's not uncommon for people's family lives to get in the way of their relationships, of course - but these psychological road-bumps can pose very real and irreconcilable issues if they go unaddressed.
"In reality, past trauma or distress from any meaningful relationship can have an effect on present relationships [too]," explains Alexander.
"If one party has experienced neglect, a breach of trust or been mistreated by any close familial or romantic relationship, this could lead to withdrawal and caution when entering new relationships as a protection mechanism, to avoid future heartache."
In this case, an example would be Simon picking a duel over commitment, or later telling Daphne he doesn't know how to be the man she needs him to be.
However, Daphne's own desperation to emulate her parents' love match, and to be a 'successful' wife and Duchess, also comes across as selfish and all-encompassing, and puts significant strain on their relationship, too.
"[She's] using Simon to elevate her position within the Ton and to become a mother [while] not considering his reasons once she discovers the truth," Alexander says.
As time goes on, it emerges that the Duke's deep rooted vendetta is more important to him than Daphne's happily ever after. But equally, starting a family holds greater weight - in her eyes - than any feelings he is harbouring.
While Daphne's dismissive attitude towards the Duke's desire not to be a parent is framed as little more than certainty that he'll change his mind, Alexander warns that this sort of assumption could also "have toxic effects on a relationship".
And sure enough - heartbroken that the Duke wasn't honest about his fertility - Daphne acts on the blind assumption his vow simply doesn't matter, and shows just how unhealthy and the inherently selfish their relationship really is by doing the unthinkable.
Without discussing what she has discovered, Daphne goes on to rape her husband by ensuring he ejaculates inside her, despite his obvious desire not to.
"Simon has deep-rooted emotional reasons for not wanting children, but Daphne belittles these," says Alexander.
"After Daphne discovers the truth, instead of trying to confront it she manipulates in her own way - showing that their relationship isn't at the stage to have open conversation".
Essentially, both characters attempt to manipulate each other at different points to get the life they want.
"Thinking that you can change your partner's mind by hoodwinking and manipulating is not a mature way of approaching a situation.
"At no point are the wants and needs of each party discussed at length, instead both employ emotionally manipulative techniques to try and win the upper hand. It's the deceit that makes this toxic."
You could almost forget just how dark this moment is, due to the whimsical ending of the series, which seems to suggest Daphne has miraculously shown the Duke a family is what he truly wants, after all.
The narrative presents the idea that Daphne was 'right' all along and his promise to his father was unfounded, while glossing over the abusive lengths both characters put each other through to reach this conclusion.
We mean, come on, do we truly think that neither Daphne or Simon would harbour resentment and guilt towards each other after what had gone down?
If we were Lady Whistledown we'd be speculating about a divorce, tbh...
Featured Image Credit: Netflix
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read