Two therapists weigh in on the couple’s complicated dynamic.
On the surface, Daphne and Cameron’s marriage in The White Lotus looks perfect. They’re both attractive, rich, and on a luxury vacation in Sicily. However, there’s no denying that their relationship is more complicated under its manicured surface. From their constant need to one-up each other to their proclivity towards infidelity, the couple’s dynamic is full of surprises — especially since they seem to be happy together in their own, slightly twisted way.
Throughout Season 2, it’s clear that Daphne and Cam’s relationship has layers. Though she claims they “never fight,” there’s a lot unsaid between them. They unapologetically play games with each other, as Daphne tells Harper, “It's like hide and seek. Keeps things interesting.” Those games involve Daphne running off to Noto for a night to provoke Cam’s FOMO, Cam cheating on her with Lucia, and the implication that their children aren’t Cam’s at all, but Daphne’s trainer’s.
So, what do therapists think of this dynamic? “Daphne and Cam’s relationship is toxic,” Gabrielle Morse, LMHC and psychotherapist, tells Elite Daily. “It is toxic because there is a push-pull of affection and attention, and they resort to game-playing rather than attempting healthy emotional communication.”
However, Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist, has a different take. “Given that I don’t know the arrangements and discussions they’ve had, I would say it’s emotionally disconnected, rather than toxic,” she says.
Ahead, the two experts share their thoughts on the complicated relationship — and according to them, Daphne and Cam’s situation is more nuanced than you may think.
Daphne & Cam Think Ignorance Is Bliss
Despite their abundance of screen time in Season 2, Daphne and Cam are rarely shown communicating directly and honestly. Instead, their conversations usually take on a teasing, glib tone. “When we disagree, you just give in, right?” Daphne asks Cam in Episode 2. “Yes, ma'am. Happy wife, happy life,” he responds. It’s not exactly the truth. In reality, Daphne and Cam’s disagreements often result in infidelity, though they never mention it to each other.
“Their worldview is ‘Everything is wonderful.’ They are inattentive to current events, as evidenced by their conversation with Harper and Ethan at brunch [when Daphne says she isn’t sure if she voted]. This is a parallel to their relationship. They choose to remain ignorant,” Morse says.
Without communication, it’s impossible for them to trust each other fully — or in a healthy way. “Trust is taking a risk and letting go of control. Trust is also relying on the integrity or fidelity of your partner. By this definition, there isn’t healthy trust in this relationship,” Morse says. However, there is some sort of mutual understanding between them. “I believe that Cam and Daphne fall into a gray area because they trust that each other will be reliable about coming back to each other and continue to play their game,” she adds. Even if the game is unhealthy (and the rules unclear), it’s one they’re committed to playing out.
Cheating Seems To Work For Them — To An Extent
Cheating has always had a bad reputation, but Daphne and Cam’s relationship challenges the notion that cheating is unequivocally a betrayal. Both times Daphne is confronted with Cam’s indiscretions, she seems to be OK with it. At one point, she even encourages Harper to try it — albeit indirectly. “Maybe you should get a trainer," Daphne tells her, after showing Harper a photo of her kids, who look just like her blonde-haired, blue-eyed trainer.
When Ethan confronts Daphne with his suspicion that Cam and Harper hooked up, she responds in a similar fashion — encouraging him to find a way to accept it. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” she tells him. “You don’t have to know everything to love someone... I think you just... You just do whatever you have to do not to feel like a victim of life, you know? You just use your imagination.”
They rely on unhealthy tactics for achieving each other’s attention and affection.
On the surface, it appears Daphne is right — all the couples seem happier post-vacation, despite the explicit and implied infidelity. Still, therapists warn against Daphne’s approach. “Daphne and Cam’s relationship is working for them based on the framework of an unhealthy pattern. They rely on unhealthy tactics for achieving each other’s attention and affection,” Morse says. “You can think of it like an addiction in the sense that they feel a ‘high’ from the temporary feelings of power and the other partner’s jealousy. They become reliant on retaliation to feel in control.” Following Ethan sharing his suspicions with Daphne, she invites him on a walk — one that heavily implies some kind of revenge cheating.
However, the avoidant nature of Cam and Daphne’s approach may feel familiar to some people who have experienced infidelity. “Society typically highlights how unacceptable cheating is and favors leaving. I think the reality is that many people stay with their partners who have cheated,” Prescott explains. “Sometimes people don’t actually want proof or discussions around it because it allows them to continue in the relationship without dealing with the direct and conflicting emotions.”
This allows them to keep up a convincing facade. “Many relationships outwardly work when people cheat,” Prescott adds, “but we don’t know how they feel in the relationship or what needs they are minimizing to make it work.”
They’re Non-Monogamous, But Not Ethically
Ethical non-monogamy is an arrangement where one or both partners consent to date outside of their relationship. In a lot of ways, it seems like that’s what Daphne and Cam are doing — but without the (extremely necessary) consent and communication. Morse says, “People can be intimate and have relationships with more than one person if there is both communication and understanding of each other’s expectations, boundaries, and comfort levels.”
Cheating, on the other hand, is dishonest and lacks the foundation of trust. “Cheating is a lie, and lying doesn't allow for a safe and secure relationship,” Morse adds. TL;DR: Without clear consent and communication, ethical non-monogamy isn’t achievable. In Daphne and Cam’s case, their silence is what qualifies their indiscretions as cheating — but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their marriage. “Their lack of communication is a way to protect the relationship to avoid dealing with feelings and emotions around it,” Prescott says.
So, Are They Happy Together?
Despite all the turmoil, Daphne and Cam end Season 2 planning their next trip — this time, to the Maldives. By all accounts, they seem happy. So, what do experts think of their apparent marital bliss?
“Only they know how happy or unhappy they are in a relationship. They’re the only ones who know what needs are being unmet,” Prescott explains. “I felt they had good chemistry and passion towards one another, which can mimic happiness. I also think there was a decent amount of acceptance on Daphne’s end towards Cameron, which probably helps her stay.”
Morse adds, “This mix of denial, avoidance, affection, and sexual passion can make them appear happy” — yet, as White Lotus fans very well know, appearances can be deceiving.
Though viewers may love Daphne’s unbothered attitude, her relationship with Cam comes with a host of problems that are never fully addressed. Even if she is content with the arrangement (and that’s a big if), their romance isn’t worth idolizing.
Gabrielle Morse, LMHC and psychotherapist
Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist