How do you write a relationship without romanticising it? In my story the two main characters are deeply in love, however not in a completely healthy relationship (one being very emotionally dependent, clingy/possessive and anxious, the other verbally abusive and somewhat manipulative). The story is about them realizing their mistakes and trying to become better people for each other … how can i go about that? All similar stories I read are either based on shallow conflict or end in a breakup

heywriters:

“realizing their mistakes and trying to become better people for each other” is loving and wholesome. Pointing out the problems in the first place and not letting them define the romance is anti-romanticising.

Romanticisation is often shown as taking extremely negative things like war, immorality, alcoholism, disease, etc., and portraying it in an extremely positive and beneficial light. Addressing these problems head-on to try and fix them through compassion and understanding is not

romanticisation.

In a relationship between two people, romanticising would be taking the bad aspects of the romance and making them seem like the primary reason this should be considered a romance. 

  • The Beast holding Belle hostage and scaring her because he’s a selfish creep with a grudge is not romantic.
  • The Beast improving his behavior, her standard of living, and letting her live freely outside of his control all because he genuinely loves her is romantic.

In your case, if your characters’ problems are complex and deep-seated they won’t be able to overcome them through “the power of true love” alone. They will need strong external help like therapy, family support, religion, community, etc. They can still end up happy together as long as they’re both quick to resolve problems, avoid relapses, and immediately recognize and cease their own toxic habits.

Besides Beauty and the Beast, other examples I considered including are:

  • Twilight (romanticisation++)
  • I, Tonya (toxic relationship turned necessary breakup)

  • Pride & Predjudice (flawed individuals improve for love)

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