While TikTok is the go-to place for ingenious recipes, DIY hacks and beauty tips, we've also seen an explosion of more serious conversations on the platform, from activism to medical and mental health advice. But sometimes, those tips and trends, especially when it comes to building and maintaining healthy romantic relationships, don't seem exactly, errr, healthy. We spotted a handful of uber popular TikTok relationship trends and asked neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, for her expert take. Spoiler alert: They’re all relationship-destroyers.
3 Toxic TikTok Trends That Are Absolute Relationship-Destroyers
1. The Trend: The $700 Question
In this viral TikTok trend, you ask your partner a trick question: “Would you rather kiss me for $100 or the hottest person in the world for $700?” Of course, if your partner takes the $700 bait, they don’t look too noble. But the real trick is if your partner responds, “You,” but not “you because you’re the hottest person in the world.” (Just ask this couple.)
- Unnecessary intentional conflict
- Unsettled insecurities
- Projecting feelings onto your partner
The expert take: While this trend may seem relatively harmless, Dr. Hafeez sees a potentially bigger story bubbling beneath the surface: “Let’s say Amy asks her boyfriend Jack the above question. Amy may have asked this question because she is feeling insecure or unsure. If Amy tests Jack with a question that creates unnecessary conflict, she may do it because she doubts his love for her and/or is scared to make herself vulnerable and share how she feels. She may feel that Jack is always thinking about other women or thinks she is less attractive than other women. By conducting a test, Amy is trying to find more security in the relationship (by hoping Jack will give her the response she wants to hear), rather than discussing her insecurities or fears with Jack. Another reason for conducting this type of test is to start a fight intentionally. Amy may intentionally start a fight to see how far she can push Jack until their connection breaks, if she had a bad day, or because she is projecting her negative feelings onto Jack.”
What to do instead: “Instead of asking these types of questions,” Dr. Hafeez advises, “try discussing your feelings, be honest and ask for what you need and want in the relationship. Also, examine how you feel about yourself. If you aren’t confident and don’t love yourself, it may be hard to believe that someone else would.”
2. The Trend: Loyalty Tests
In this TikTok trend, a concerned “client” will ask a “spy” to run a “loyalty test,” where the spy essentially baits the client’s significant other into flirting (or not) over DMs. The spy relays the info to the client, and the client then decides whether they want to stay together with this person. You can see the whole thing unfold here where creator Chesathebrat DMs a woman’s boyfriend with a cute selfie and a flirty correspondence follows, which leads the woman to wipe her hands clean of her boyfriend.
- Sabotaging trust
- Controlling habits
The expert take: “This is not a healthy way to address the concern of cheating,” Dr. Hafeez says point blank. Because for real, how would you feel if your partner ran a covert operation against you? Could you ever trust them again? Would you think of them as less mature? Would this lead you to break up with them? “No matter the outcome, when you have someone DM your significant other, you become an untrustworthy person. If your boyfriend/girlfriend passes the test, you will have to live with the guilt of testing them, and you are sabotaging your trust and your overall wellbeing of the relationship,” Dr. Hafeez explains. “And let’s say your partner doesn’t pass this test, you are setting yourself up for developing unhealthy ways of coping with concerns you have in the relationship. You could develop a habit of snooping on their phone or hacking into their social media profiles or conducting this type of test again (to them or another person).”
What to do instead: Says Dr. Hafeez, “Honest communication is the best way to handle your suspicions about cheating. First, identify why you may be feeling like they are cheating. Then, write down your thoughts, feelings and red flags so that when you confront your partner you are clear about how you are feeling. Make sure you are both in an environment where you feel comfortable and safe. Lastly, listen and really hear each other.”
3. The Trend: Caught Cheating
More and more, people are using TikTok (and other social media) to put cheatings exes on blast for past indiscretions in big and small ways. In this quick-hitting video, creator Sydneykinsch shares how she discovered her boyfriend of four years was cheating on her after he sent a selfie and she zoomed into the reflection of his sunglasses to see the other woman. Other “caught-cheating” vids out there can be even more deliberately humiliating, like this one, where a group of friends playing Never Have I Ever on camera surprise-attack the one friend who purportedly kissed another girl’s boyfriend.
The expert take: There’s a lot of motivation behind the desire to publicly shame a cheater, says Dr. Hafeez—you might feel they deserve punishment, or you desire to feel superior or in control or express that you disapprove of their behavior. But, warns Dr. Hafeez, publicly shaming someone has damaging long-term consequences on both parties. “Shaming is inappropriate because it makes people feel bad about themselves and question their worth, and it usually does not achieve change or eliminate certain behaviors of the person being shamed.”
What to do instead: “For those who are struggling with being cheated on, first and foremost, remember it was not your fault. Some other tips for coping include surrounding yourself with those who love you for emotional support, practicing self-care, asking for help and reaching out to a therapist or mental health professional to discuss your emotions,” instructs Dr. Hafeez. It may take more time to heal than you anticipate, and that’s OK.