6 Red Flags Romantic Comedies Have Taught Me To Avoid

As someone who loves to surround herself with stories of love and relationships (aka, a huge rom-com fan), it can be annoying talking to people who don’t get the genre. They say that romantic comedies are unrealistic, that they teach women to be too picky. First of all, women should be as picky as they want to be. Second, there’s a lot to be gained from watching these love stories unfold. Sure, life won’t go exactly as it would in a movie, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t gleaned some serious truths in those 90 minutes of sugary sweet kisses in the rain. Romantic comedies have taught me to avoid these serious dating red flags, and I’m all the better for it.

1. He doesn’t give you butterflies.

Sometimes the villain of a rom-com is obvious. He treats you like shit, he cheats, he’s mean to your mom. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. A guy could be perfectly fine, treat you well, have similar interests. That’s the case for Meg Ryan’s relationship with Greg Kinnear in You’ve Got Mail (1998). He’s fine. She just doesn’t have those emotional feelings for him. If he doesn’t give you butterflies? Then it’s time to be single for a while until you find the person who does.

2. You feel like you need to change yourself in order for him to like you.

Take Anna Faris’s character in What’s Your Number? (2011). She cares so much about her boyfriends liking her that she’ll take up cycling or veganism just to keep them around. She learns in the end–and so should you–that a truly stellar guy will make you feel comfortable being exactly who you are. If you’re changing for someone, they’re not the one.

3. He thinks a grand gesture will absolve him of all transgressions.

This happens too often in romantic comedies, especially from ’80s and ’90s. A guy will ignore the woman he supposedly loves, then, when she’s all but gotten over him, he’ll hold a boombox over his head to make everything better. While it usually works out in the end of these movies, it’s taught me to be critical if someone makes a grand gesture. Is it really enough to forgive all the things they did? The answer is usually “no.”

4. He keeps popping up everywhere you’re going to be.

Sounds romantic, right? Yeah, no. That’s stalking, my loves. Sometimes rom-coms have a stalker that’s bad from the start. Others use stalking as a sign of romance. Take Meg Ryan’s character in Sleepless in Seattle (1993). She stalks Tom Hanks and his kid all the way across the country, falling in love with someone she’s never even talked to. Big yikes. Romantic comedies taught me that, though they think stalking is romantic, it’s a big ol’ red flag.

5. He thinks repeatedly asking you out until you say yes is “romantic.”

Here’s another old trope that got overused in the early days of rom coms. A guy would get a “no” from a woman and, instead of taking no for an answer, would double-down and continue to pursue her. Retro romantic comedies wanted us to believe this was cute, but newer rom coms have ditched the trope–and for good reason! A guy not taking no for an answer is the biggest and reddest of all the red flags.

6. He holds a place of power over you.

There’s something kinky in the idea of some sort of power imbalance in a relationship. Teacher/pupil, boss/employee, priest/parishioner–whatever it is, it can sound hot on paper. In practice? Nope. A power imbalance is a quick way to tipping over the edge into abuse. Luckily movies like 27 Dresses (2008) showed us that we should probably stick with people who are on our level.