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'We Need To Stop Overusing The Word Toxic', Says Dating Expert

Kimberley Bond

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'We Need To Stop Overusing The Word Toxic', Says Dating Expert

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Love Is Blind has had us in a chokehold since the second season dropped on Netflix earlier this month, as a brand new set of couples set out on a mission to find The One without setting eyes on them.

With cameras following their every move, it's hard not to scrutinise the new cohort of romantic hopefuls and their respective relationships, sparking lively furious debates over which contestants are in if for the right reasons - and which are the 'villains' of the series.

Fans have been quick to label Shake Chatterjee and Shayne Jansen's behaviour as ‘gaslighting’ and ‘toxic’ following their actions in their pods.

Viewers have been super critical of Shake (Credit: Netflix)
Viewers have been super critical of Shake (Credit: Netflix)

Shake has been lambasted by fans for his focus on all things superficial, asking the women in the pods their dress size and focusing on his match, Deepti Vempati.

Meanwhile Shayne's flip-flopping between Natalie Lee and Shaina Hurley in the pods, and his defensive nature when he makes a mistake, has been derided.

It’s something Shake has poked fun at, posting a picture of his and Shayne’s “red flags” on his Instagram page which only served to rile up viewers even more.

“[You’re] professional level gaslighting, gross,” one wrote.

“You’re sick,” said another viewer, as a third described the pair as “toxic”.

It’s safe to say that neither Shake, nor Shayne’s behaviour (in addition to Danielle Ruhl and Shaina) has been exemplary throughout the series. But are we being too quick to write off people’s unpleasant behaviour as “toxic”?

Dating and relationship expert Clarissa Bloom from The Stag Company believes the word is being used to describe a wide term of behaviours – and could lead to potentially dangerous and abusive behaviours being minimised.

Shayne's behaviour in the pods was also criticised (Credit: Netflix)
Shayne's behaviour in the pods was also criticised (Credit: Netflix)

“The lines are blurring on what the word ‘toxic’ really means,” she tells Tyla, adding the term has becoming increasingly subjective.

“A toxic behaviour involves being manipulative and self-centered. However, toxic behaviour can also be described as 'upsetting your life or bringing you negativity' and for that purpose it's individual and subjective.”

Bloom asks particularly vocal fans calling out behaviour they see as problematic to be mindful that Love Is Blind is a TV show, with its narratives and storylines carefully constructed by savvy TV producers to elicit the most conversation online.

Love Is Blind is not the only dating show which has these issues - Love Island regularly has 'villains' routinely accused of toxicity, from Adam Collard being accused of 'gaslighting' to Megan Barton-Hanson receiving her fair share of criticism when she made a move on the then-taken Wes Nelson.

Bloom points towards one of her clients who appeared on a dating show over six years ago, with her generally unfavourable depiction causing problems after the series aired.

Shake poked fun at criticism of himself and Shayne (Credit: Netflix)
Shake poked fun at criticism of himself and Shayne (Credit: Netflix)

“On a dating show such as this, we scrutinise every word, every action and then share our comments on social platforms which are picked up and discussed in even greater detail,” she explains. “This doesn't defend what happens on dating programmes, but also that contestants are often not ready for the repercussions of what happens afterwards.

“When people react online to a TV show, they must remember that quite often, producers will tell contestants to speak about certain subjects or will direct a conversation or inflame situations intentionally."

Instead of dismissing poor dating etiquette as intentionally toxic behaviour, Bloom says it’s vital we discuss certain behaviours that may cause our hackles to rise.

“Communication is critical,” she explains. “Poor dating etiquette is far from rare, dating isn't a skill that people are trained at school, while it can also be nerves showing through.

Will Shayne and Natalie go the distance? (Credit: Netflix)
Will Shayne and Natalie go the distance? (Credit: Netflix)

“However, proper communication can help to ensure the person showing poor dating etiquette or 'red flags' can correct their behaviour and demonstrate their understanding of what they did wrong. However, if you have sufficiently communicated about how their actions or words make you feel, in a respectful manner, and it doesn't lead to the outcome you're hoping for, then it is most definitely worth walking away.”

Bloom adds that a genuinely toxic partner may have learned their traits from early, formative relationships, bringing previous trauma into their new relationship.

“One thing I have found fascinating when talking with 'toxic partners' is how much of it seems to root back to an early form of toxic relationship they have witnessed or been part of,” she says. “It could be watching the way their dad spoke to their mum, or could involve being bullied at school, or it can be a form of depression. If they were truly committed to making the relationship work, some form of therapy could help them to deal with any underlying issues and could make both parties much more happy in the long term.”

Will Shake and Deepti make it down the aisle? (Credit: Netflix)
Will Shake and Deepti make it down the aisle? (Credit: Netflix)

And if you believe that the relationship you’re in is truly toxic and unfixable, Bloom urges people to assess the situation their in and plan a way out to prevent any further harm.

"If the relationship doesn't seem solvable then you need to take the next step," she says. "While I strongly recommend speaking to the important people in your life, whether that be family or friends, I'd first recommend speaking to a domestic violence helpline or looking up support, there are a huge amount of groups and charities available to help in these scenarios.

“Remember that violence can be verbal, not just physical. Work out an 'exit plan' and make sure you have somewhere where you can stay and sort everything out.”

Topics: Love Is Blind, Sex and Relationships, TV And Film, Netflix

Kimberley Bond
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