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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

We Need To Stop Idealizing Over-The-Top Celebrity Romance & Toxic Behavior

On January 12, Megan Fox announced on Instagram that she and Machine Gun Kelly were engaged after about a year and a half of dating. Fox wrote, “Having walked through hell together, and having laughed more than I ever imagined possible, he asked me to marry him.” Fox ended the caption by adding that “[they] drank each other’s blood,” but whether or not this is true remains a mystery. MGK also shared to Instagram that he designed Fox’s wedding ring with British jewelry designer Stephen Webster who is known for his customer-specific jewelry. “The emerald (her birth stone) and the diamond (my birth stone) set on two magnetic bands of thorns that draw together as two halves of the same soul, forming the obscure heart that is our love,” wrote MGK.

MGK shared further details about the ring in a January 17 interview with Vogue. The band actually contains sharp spikes, which make the thorns dig into Fox’s finger causing her extreme pain when she tries to remove it. While this does not seem abnormal for the couple, many people were concerned by the potential dangerous meaning behind the design. Writer and producer Kim Caramele took to Twitter to comment that MGK’s “love is pain” rationale pushes a harmful rhetoric that suggests that toxic behaviors in relationships suggest an intense love between the couple.

Celebrities can influence our perceptions of our own relationships.

MGK and Fox are not the only couple to raise eyebrows for their behavior. Their friends, Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian, have also been known for their extravagant PDA. On an episode of The Kardashians, Penelope, Kardashian’s nine-year-old daughter, winced as her mom and Barker shared a passionate kiss. Reign, Kardashian’s seven-year-old son, also was similarly embarrassed. People have criticized the pair’s PDA, but the couple seems unapologetic. TODAY states that while children need to see warmth and affection between parents, those who witness too much intimacy, like anything with tongue, may want to mimic this behavior either alone or with their peers. This runs the risk of titillating or oversexualizing children as well.

According to The UCSD Guardian, seeing such ideal and over-the-top portrayals of love and commitment in the media and the people who surround us can have a significant impact on how an individual perceives themselves. Ray Sadoun, a mental health and addiction recovery specialist, tells Her Campus, “​​When people do not have examples of healthy relationships in their lives, they may look to the media and conclude that relationships should be unpredictable and exciting.” Constant exposure to such public relationships in the media may foster a false ideal of what a healthy relationship is, and usually, the public only sees one side of a media relationship. 

Seeing “love is pain” messaging can cause us to excuse love bombing & toxic behavior.

While I am not claiming that MGK and Fox or Barker and Kardashian have a toxic relationship, many people have criticized both couples for the potential harmful messages that their relationships send to the public, especially MGK’s “love is pain” message. Both couples’ obsession with one another may be harmful or damaging for audiences, potentially even normalizing cases of love bombing. Solace, a London-based organization that supports women and children who are victims of male violence, defines love bombing as a form of emotional abuse and coercive control and could incorporate extravagant affection, unwarranted compliments or declarations of love, gifts, and excessive admiration. 

Love bombing may also include wanting to commit to a relationship too quickly, over-the-top treatment, and extreme promises of a future together. Love bombing can act as a red flag and indicate early signals of a potential abusive relationship. It may be commonly used during “reconciliation” phases of an abuse cycle, particularly following a case of abuse.

At the beginning of a love bombing relationship, everything may be seemingly perfect, possibly even too good to be true. You may believe that you’re talking to or dating someone who is not only invested in you and your life, but they also give you endless amounts of attention or love that may make you feel validated and happy. You may even believe that you are finally receiving the love and affection that you’ve deserved all along. However, the relationship may morph into something that is toxic and abusive.

Abusers may utilize love bombing as a tool to gain control over their partner. Valentina Dragomir, a psychotherapist who specializes in couple’s relationships, tells Her Campus, “[Love bombing] can be a way to reel someone in quickly and easily. Love bombing is often used as a form of manipulation, so that the person doing the love bombing can control their partner and have them wrapped around their finger.”

Love bombing accelerates a relationship, and this sudden increase of romance quickly destroys the barriers or boundaries that an individual puts up. It may cause an individual to become hooked onto the love bomber as they secure the victim to the relationship. These signs of affection and declarations of love and feelings may be strategically utilized if the abuser thinks that they are losing control over the relationship or that the victim may wish to end the relationship. They may promise the victim a “perfect” or ideal future together.

Health states that the most apparent signal of love bombing is how your partner’s behavior makes you feel. It’s natural to cautiously approach a new romantic relationship, so if an individual moves a new relationship along too quickly, it’s vital to question why they are doing so. Other than consistent affection and bold gestures and comments, one-sided conversations may also indicate love bombing. Love bombers frequently discuss their own lives or needs while ignoring the other persons. While they may compliment you frequently, those compliments may start to seem artificial or unbecoming.

Cosmopolitan claims that love bombing is a kind of psychological manipulation. However, it is completely normal to continue to feel a strong connection to a love bomber or even want to defend their actions, especially when you see obsessive behavior mirrored in celebrity tabloids.

We need to know how to protect ourselves from toxicity, including in the media.

If you ever find yourself the victim of love bombing, or any other kind of manipulative or toxic behavior, you should try to safely remove yourself from the relationship and find support outside of the relationship like friends or family. Even if it’s early in the relationship and you think that this may be an intense crush rather than love bombing, a simple “I think that this is moving too quickly, and I need to establish some boundaries” can be effective. 

It is also vital to not take everything that you see in the media at face value. Saba Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Her Campus, “People are also attracted to the ‘excitement’ of toxic relationships, and are similarly conditioned to believe that the constant conflict and explosive arguments they see between couples in media are an indicator of how deeply they love each other.” But remember that these are real people, and no relationship is perfect no matter how it may seem. If you or someone you know is a victim of an abusive or toxic relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or donate to national domestic violence organizations.

Nikki is a senior at LMU from Honolulu, Hawai'i and is majoring in Communications Studies with minors in Journalism and Health and Society. She is also the president of Her Campus LMU.