Whether you believe in other-worldly forces or not, there’s one thing we collectively believe to be true: the “Strictly Curse”.
The phenomenon hails from the BBC’s annual reality competition Strictly Come Dancing wherein celebrities and their dance partners compete each week for audience votes, and often work together for long hours in the process.
The term “curse” started being thrown around after a series of high profile breakups occurred involving show’s participants, with nearly a dozen couples splitting after one member of the couple appeared on the show.
Notable breakups include Stacey Dooley, who split up with her boyfriend of three years after the show and later got together with her Strictly partner, Kevin Clifton.
The 2018 series also saw dancer Dianne Buswell split up from her boyfriend after her and dance partner, Joe Sugg fell in love during the competition and Seann Walsh was pictured kissing dancer Katya Jones - both who were in separate relationships at the time.
“Over the years of the show we have seen many dance couples partner up in real life, often rupturing their existing relationship in the process,” relationship expert and psychotherapist, Lucy Beresford, tells The Independent. “The idea of the ‘curse’ is trailed every year, and often provides an additional reason to watch the show, to answer the question ‘which couple will fall in love this year?’”
Beresford, who has done a TED talk on infidelity, says there’s a high level of relationship breakdowns in Strictly as dance is a “powerful channel for emotion”.
“It requires two people to work closely together physically and emotionally,” she adds. “It is an intense form of communication and can lead the non-dancers to access emotion they haven’t accessed before. Trust develops quickly and it can be a time of feeling seen and heard, which can be very seductive. The whole Strictly experience is so unusual that couples going through it together will deepen their bond through this shared experience.”
This year Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty set Twitter on fire after “nearly kissing” his dance partner Katya Jones. He later said he “understands” how the curse occurs, telling The Times, “My hips are here, hers are here, and then we do this. You get close. I can see how it happens.”
Beresford says what she sees occur to Strictly couples is “very similar” to workplace infidelity where people can “feel seen and admired”.
“It can be very hard to resist having your head turned this way,” she adds.
Relationship expert Margaret Bankole agrees, saying that working with someone can create an “unrealistic view” of what it would be like to be in a relationship with them because you “mainly see the good”.
“This can make you pick holes in your own relationship,” Bankole continues. “You only get a true sense of who someone is when you spend time with them outside of work, and this is why most Strictly romances fizzle out over time.”
If you suspect your partner may be cheating on you with someone they work with, Bankole says some “telltale” signs include them being less emotionally invested in you; they seem disinterested or distracted; they start going out for more work drinks and dinners and they slip away to take “important” phone calls.
Beresford adds: “Your partner may become very preoccupied with work, and more withdrawn while they focus on their newer relationship. Or you may find them bringing their colleague into the conversation more and more.
“My clinical observation is that people cheat when they find a situation where they are seen or validated in a way that is not happening in their primary relationship. They are not always conscious of this deficit but it is usually there.”
Bankole says the reason people cheat is “rarely about sex”.
“People usually cheat because they are lacking something at home - it’s rarely about just sex,” she explains. “They might need to be heard, or the thought of being with their colleague seems more romanticised, when the reality is different.”
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