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There are a whole bunch of TikTok trends that are more hurtful than helpful. Another one to add to the list: the “golden retriever boyfriend/black cat girlfriend” theory. The trend, which was coined a few years ago and has since continued to rack up a ton of videos on the subject, describes a relationship between “golden retriever” boyfriend who is easygoing, extroverted, and loves his girlfriend, a “black cat,” who appears to have an attitude of indifference, low responsiveness, and is introverted. According to TikTok, this dynamic is one that couples ought to look for if they want a successful relationship and marriage.

One TikTok video lists examples of celebrity marriages and relationships that exemplify the “golden retriever” boyfriend and “black cat” girlfriend dynamic, and why they worked. In another video, a user talks about how, whenever she was the “golden retriever” girlfriend, her relationships never worked out—and only did when she was the “black cat.”

This typology, according to Sarah Melancon, a sociologist and sexologist, tends to reflect negative stereotypes about men and women in relationships, only reversed from cultural norms. “Stereotypically, we expect the woman to be more relationship-focused and eager to please, while we expect men to be more detached and less ready to commit or connect.  Either way, when there is an imbalance of interest and effort in a relationship, it won’t be very satisfying,” she says.

As for why this dynamic doesn’t tend to be the healthiest, Melancon points out that a “golden retriever” boyfriend might be someone who’s actually clingy, people-pleasing, or has an anxious attachment style, while the behavior and actions of a “black cat” girlfriend could indicate lack of interest, standoffishness, or an avoidant attachment style.

“Ideally, we want our relationships to be a two-way street,” Melancon says. “While things will not be perfectly equal on a day-to-day basis, we want a reasonable balance of love and support flowing between both partners.”

And, sure, opposites can attract, and sometimes we tend to be attracted to qualities in others that we lack in ourselves, but the risk involved in a golden retriever/black cat typology, says Melancon, is that “one partner puts in more effort, while the other may not even appear to appreciate it. Any relationship can have those moments, but as a general pattern, both partners will become increasingly dissatisfied with the relationship over time.”

Red flags about the “golden retriever” boyfriend

A “golden retriever” boyfriend isn’t just about being friendly and generous. Sometimes what looks like an attractive quality is actually hiding a deeper issue that could spell trouble for your relationship down the line.

  • He identifies as a “good boyfriend.” He always initiates every text message and date, always apologizes and never takes any blame, surprises you with gifts for no reason at all, and seemingly does everything “right” by you. The problem? “Wanting to be a good partner is great, but wanting to be seen as a good partner turns the relationship into an achievement or source of approval rather than an opportunity to be present,” Melancon explains.

  • He’s codependent. He texts you all day every day and he wants to see you every day. The issue? “A healthy relationship allows each partner to express themselves and pursue their interests with adequate personal space,” Melancon says. “Enmeshment collapses the space between “you and I,” resulting in feelings of pressure, being stifled, or smothered.”

  • He’s highly extroverted. While this is not a red flag in itself, Melancon says that if there is a major difference in social interest compared to a partner— he likes to be the life of the party and loves having people around him, and you don’t—the relationship may not be sustainable.

Red flags about the “black cat” girlfriend

A “black cat” girlfriend might at first appear to be demure and a prize worth chasing, but her qualities might not actually be well-suited for a healthy relationship.

  • She appears disinterested. She takes days to respond to your text message, doesn’t insert herself into your life, and generally appears she’s not that into you. The problem? “While we don’t need to be our partner’s literal cheerleader, we all need to know that we’re loved and cared for,” Melancon says. “A ‘black cat’ may unintentionally communicate a lack of interest or love,” which won’t feel good if you’re not receiving the attention and affection you deserve.

  • She struggles with communication. She will leave you on read without having a discussion about something that bothered her; she won’t ever tell you how she’s feeling, good or bad, and doesn’t initiate heartfelt conversations. The issue? “No one is a mind reader, so when one partner often shuts down, it can put a major strain on the relationship,” Melancon explains.

  • She’s highly introverted/anti-social. Again, while this isn’t necessarily a red flag, says Melancon, if she is someone who prefers to be alone and doesn’t like to engage socially but you do, that will be an issue for your relationship.

The potential challenges that this relationship could face

The “golden retriever” boyfriend may wind up feeling unappreciated, unloved, or even used, says Melancon. Meanwhile, the “black cat” girlfriend may feel overwhelmed or smothered. “Both partners may struggle to attune to one another’s needs and learn to share love in a way that resonates most with their partner,” she explains. “Over time, issues like this can degrade the sense of closeness and intimacy between partners.”

Melancon says a relationship between a “golden retriever” boyfriend and a “black cat” girlfriend could work out if both are willing to make adjustments and grow together.

“What matters most in a relationship is how both partners feel—whether their needs are met, if they feel safe communicating and setting boundaries, and how much they respect one another,” she says. “All of us have shortcomings when it comes to relationships, but as long as partners are willing to grow, unhealthy relationships can transform over time. We all feel anxious at the uncertainty of life and especially love, so utilizing tests and typologies is a common way of trying to control the future. But please don’t end or start a relationship just because of something you see on TikTok.”

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