3 Wild Love Lessons in TV Show “Charmed” That Nailed Modern Dating and Toxic Relationships

Sometimes the charmingly handsome guy you fall in love with is actually a demon and the source of all evil – and other wild love lessons tv show Charmed got right about modern dating and toxic relationships.

Growing up, Charmed was one of my favorite shows. When it first aired with the cleverly named episode “Something Wicca This Way Comes,” it gained a huge viewership and cult following — even the first few episodes were just that good. Even to this day, I rewatch it periodically because it is so mesmerizing and fun, and every episode introduces some riveting new plotline or spell. Who doesn’t love the badass Halliwell sisters? The show was the perfect homage to sisterhood, true love, reclaiming your power and overcoming your demons (literally and figuratively speaking). It’s an exquisitely made show, and although primarily supernatural, its plotlines about love, relationships, career, and self-discovery can serve as metaphors that nail modern dating, self-discovery, and toxic relationships even today. Here are the top three lessons it taught us about toxic love, true love and self-love that still ring true today.

Sometimes you fall in love with a secret demon with a hidden agenda that is secretly the source of all evil and you’ll have to “vanquish” him from your life – and it’s probably best to heed the red flags and warnings of others, and not to go with him down to the underworld and become his wife. In real-life terms, you may fall in love with a narcissistic or toxic person who wears a false mask and be forced to make numerous sacrifices and hide your relationship from those who care about you – if so, this is a good sign you need to stop investing in the relationship.

If we’re seeing underworld as a metaphor for the dark pit of despair that is a toxic relationship and demon as a stand-in for “toxic person,” the show nailed it on the consequences of falling in love with someone who is very much incompatible with you. As the second longest relationship on the show, Phoebe and Cole’s forbidden romance as powerful Halliwell witch and Balthazor, a legendary demon, sure taught us a lot about the consequences of being in a relationship with someone who wears a false mask. Cole is sent on a mission by the Triad to kill the Halliwell sisters, and in doing so, he targets Phoebe as the youngest and most vulnerable sister, feigning romantic interest in her so he can make the sisters powerless. While Prue does catch Cole in a trap meant to lure in the demon and Leo also tells Phoebe Cole is half-demon when he’s unable to heal him properly, Phoebe denies what is right in front of her and minimizes the incident, reminding us to always trust the red flags and what your friends and family are telling you about your toxic partner, if they have no reason to lie. Since Cole is also half-human, Phoebe’s love appears to tap into his human side eventually despite the initial ruse, and he proves his love for her by defending her against a demonic bounty hunter. Phoebe has to keep their relationship a secret and hide it from her loved ones, and later even ends up becoming his Queen in the underworld and almost gives birth to the source of all evil when she becomes pregnant.  Cole switches back and forth from his light and dark side so many times it gives us emotional whiplash. On the screen, their relationship is captivating. But in real-life terms, it’s never a good sign when you have to hide your chaotic relationship from those who love you and make so many sacrifices just to maintain a toxic relationship. In reality, this is more of a trauma bond than true romance.

Your true soulmate will choose you, over and over again, and if anything does keep you apart, it’s circumstances rather than compatibility in a healthy relationship.

Perhaps there’s no more romantic couple on the show than Piper and Leo, a match made in heaven (literally). Leo is a guardian angel Whitelighter who protects the Halliwell sisters from harm and heals them whenever they are attacked by demons. Pretending to be their handyman, Piper and Leo fall in love, but it’s another forbidden romance as Whitelighters aren’t supposed to entangle themselves romantically with the witches they are sent to protect. These two are wildly compatible and destined to be together and it’s clear from the affectionate, attentive way they treat each other and how they are willing to choose each other’s best interests. Both are willing to make the sacrifices to be with each other or do what is best for the other person – Leo is willing to clip his wings to be with Piper, but Piper is willing to let the relationship go so Leo can continue his healing work as a Whitelighter. It’s important to note that in this long-standing relationship, this is a rare case where it is not a lack of compatibility but rather circumstances that keep them apart.  Most toxic relationships would not stand the test of time, but theirs is (for the most part, not counting supernatural interference) is a healthy relationship that persists because it is based on a strong foundation. Even as Piper gets involved in other relationships with mortals, her feelings for Leo persist, and she ultimately keeps choosing Leo over any new love interest and they begin a family together. When Whitelighter Chris comes back from the future (spoiler alert: he is actually their future child) to protect them, the Halliwells are turned into Greek Goddesses and Leo becomes an Elder (with the help of his love for Piper). Leo and Piper are forced to hit pause in their relationship and Piper’s memory is erased temporarily to save her the pain. However, even when circumstances keep them apart, their love is so strong that they inevitably reunite.

In the search for true love, don’t forget self-discovery, self-love, and personal growth.

The Halliwell sisters go through difficult self-transformation as they navigate their inner demons, literal demons, and romantic relationships and as they come into their own, both as witches and as mortals. Whether it’s Piper turning into a Greek Goddess who wreaks havoc on the mortal world, unleashing her rage due to Leo being taken away from her or transforming into a Valkyrie in her time in Valhalla, or Phoebe turning into a banshee due to her heartbreak from Cole or going on a mystical vision quest that reveals the future that awaits her at The Magic School, these sisters definitely search deep within for the answers or are forced to do so. Phoebe also becomes a famous advice columnist with her column, “Ask Phoebe,” using her own relationship experiences to lead the masses in dating and romance, and Piper continues to grow her club P3 and later opens up her own restaurant known as the Halliwell’s. Phoebe also has to date a lot of men before Cupid himself “helps” her find the right one (hmm, wonder who that could be?).

These powerful sisters go through beautiful, brutal, and at times supernatural, periods of self-discovery as they reconnect with their authentic grief and anger – and as they renew their sense of hope and reconnect with their strengths, pursuing their ambitions and goals. These otherworldly transformations serve as metaphors for how people inevitably change due to their experiences life experiences, whether it be battling the forces of evil, becoming entangled in toxic relationships, or finding true love, and highlights the process of healing and moving forward, looking toward the future and chasing your dreams. Spoiler alert: the Charmed sisters do get their happy endings. But part of these happy endings include them willing to embrace their full inner power and goals outside of relationships. They must choose themselves, healing and transforming themselves and go on a journey to self-discovery of lessons learned, to invite even more magic into all aspects of their charmed lives.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.