Have you ever watched a movie or TV show, seen a character, and then said, “Hey, they remind me of (insert name here)”? Well, fiction can be one of the best ways to approach reality because it gives us the distance to realize things we might not understand about our own lives. Those characters in movies or shows can really help us see the different types of personalities out there. In this article, we'll focus on a TV archetype that, as new as it might seem, reveals a personality trait that can be traced back to ancient mythologies and depicts an unhealthy and even dangerous behavior disguised as one of the purest feelings in the world: love.
The yandere is a type of character that’s commonly featured in Japanese anime, manga, and graphic novels. The term is a combination of the words yanderu (‘sick’) and deredere (‘lovestruck’), and it refers to a character who appears to be loving and gentle but is actually obsessed with the person they’re in love with, to the point of violence. In anime, yanderes are often depicted doing extreme things, like killing the person they're jealous of, or even their partner's loved ones, so that no one else can “have” them. But if you think about it, this type of character is not only a Japanese thing. If we go back in time, we can find examples of yandere-like characters in ancient mythologies. The best example is the goddess Hera, an apparently benevolent deity whose jealousy made her kill and torment many of her husband's lovers, as well as their offspring.
As I said before, movies and series tend to show these characters losing their mind or recurring to lethal measures to isolate their lover from other people and keep them only for themselves. These are, of course, extreme situations. However, obsessive love, the core of this archetype, is far more common than you would think. According to Roxanne Dryden-Edwards MD, obsessive love or delusional jealousy is a symptom that appears in 0.1% of adults. The problem with this behavior is that you might think it's just garden-variety jealousy and ignore it until it becomes abuse.
Of course, just like the yandere, an abuser will probably not do anything extreme at the beginning of a relationship, and they might not even realize their behavior is unhealthy. However, there are ways of identifying “yandere-like” behaviors in a relationship. For instance, gaslighting is a common way of manipulating their partner and making them dependent on them, which helps the abuser keep their “lover” under their control. Another common behavior is stalking, and yes, that means literally following someone, but it's also checking their phone calls, text messages, and social media, or showing up unexpectedly at their house or workplace just to make sure their partner is not cheating on them.
However, behind all this manipulating and controlling, there’s infatuation and excessive idealization of the loved one. The yandere romanticizes their loved one so much that they might end up believing they can’t live without them. Then, love bombing could be a measure to ensure their partner stays with them. Just as they want their partner to be dependent on them, they depend on the presence of their partner. Thus, the worst-case scenario would be a codependent relationship, where one person can’t live without the other.
There are ways to avoid being in an abusive relationship. If from the beginning you feel there's something off about your partner's or date’s behavior, listen to your gut. Also, if you think that the dynamics in your relationship aren’t very healthy, remember that your physical and mental integrity always go first. Ask your friends or family for help, or seek professional guidance to leave that harmful relationship behind. Remember that love is nurturing, and being in a relationship is about sharing moments and growing with someone, not a scary, anxiety-inducing prison where neither you nor your partner can live without the other.
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Photos by Jesse Herzog