There are no spoilers! I’ll discuss broad psychosocial themes that I noticed without getting into details about the participants or their relationships. Comment with your thoughts below!
It’s so bad, it’s good.
Perhaps you’ve heard of, or already watched, Love Is Blind, the Netflix reality dating show in which participants talk with each other from isolated pods and decide to get engaged based on conversation alone — and then live together for a month before getting married. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this show, especially since quarantine conditions of COVID-19. I figured I’d make fun of the show for five minutes before never watching it again.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I got sucked into the drama of an outrageous process to find love, and after the whirlwind I was left with a handful of thoughts and questions. As a psychotherapist much of the work I help clients with surrounds relationships, emotions, and intimacy. Watching this show was an unusual experience, to say the least, and I’ll share some reflections and critiques that I formed along the way.
Misnomer of a Title
Titling the show Love is Blind didn’t nearly encapsulate its content. I do believe it’s possible to fall in love with someone without seeing them if there’s a strong emotional bond. However, the aftermath of the blind conversations and marriage proposals in this show entailed living with each other for a brief month before getting married. Love Is Blind quickly unfolded into an emotional vortex that conflated romantic love with a hasty decision to get married.
Love ≠ Marriage
Romantic love does not necessarily lead to a hurried marriage. Forming an emotional connection with someone can be blind. On the other hand, considering various facets of compatibility and choosing to get married one month later is not. The implicit message was that participants’ love was real only if they followed the pre-established process that culminated in a rushed marriage.
In reality, it’s possible to fall in love with someone and not marry them. For example, some people don’t want to get married to anyone. I imagine that the outrageousness of portraying marriage proposals and weddings as such swift decisions largely contributed to the show’s popularity. However, a byproduct of decisions based on instant-gratification resulted in the conflation of romantic love with impulsive marriages.
The Role of Sexuality
The couples who had “successful” relationships after meeting in person, and proceeded to get married a mere month later, expressed physical attraction toward each other. Unsurprisingly, two of the three couples whose relationships failed did not find their partners very attractive. While the show touched on differences in sexuality through one of the participants, it could have done much more in acknowledging how sexuality can influence romantic relationship.
Sexuality is fluid and can be thought of as a spectrum, and one’s sexual identity can heavily influence whether they perceive love as “blind.” For example, for those who identify as asexual (little to no sexual attraction) or sapiosexual (sexual attraction based on intelligence), their experiences of emotional intimacy with their partners may look different than someone who identifies as heterosexual (sexual attraction to the opposite sex). Further exploring the roles of sexuality and physical attraction in romantic relationships would have added depth to the show’s somewhat homogenous depiction of “falling in love.”
Interracial? No problem.
Love Is Blind took every opportunity to highlight an interracial couple’s differences. While this added twist probably boosted the show’s ratings, the topic of ethnic and cultural diversity in relationships is an important one. The show touched on how ethnic and cultural differences can make or break a relationship.
Cultural differences in a relationship can be beautiful. They can reflect diversity of thought, values, or lifestyle. On the other hand, these differences can create an unbridgeable rift in a relationship. When conducting therapy with individuals who struggle with cultural differences in their relationships, I aim to help them more clearly define their personal values. When in a relationship with someone significantly different from oneself, it can be easy to lose sight of one’s own values. However, if there’s a mutual desire to honor each other’s identities, differences such as ethnicity and age may enhance an emotional connection rather than weaken it.
“I lost my butterflies.”
The rushed premise of this reality TV show largely contributed to its scandal and popularity. Based on a model of instant gratification, many participants based their relationship success on how strongly they felt the “honeymoon phase,” in their relationships. One of the participants seriously considered ending her relationship because she “lost her butterflies” for her partner and was therefore no longer confident in her feelings for him.
I sympathized with the participants. They met their partners under strange conditions, were hurtled toward life-long commitment, and didn’t get much time to make thoughtful decisions. Outside of reality TV, most successful relationships are not emotionally-charged as the “honeymoon phase” might be, but rather have an endurance to withstand challenges over time.
You, Me, and Alcohol
Although it was comical to see the prevalence of alcohol in the show, it reflected the very real normalization of alcohol in American culture. Participants would take liquor shots when they were anxious and seemed to always have a drink in hand. I couldn’t help but wonder how intimate their emotional connections really were since alcohol was involved in most of the scenes.
As a therapist I work with some clients who struggle with substance abuse (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, cocaine), and was curious about how substance use may have impacted the participants’ prior relationships. It was also challenging to watch scenes in which they were intoxicated and just acted — stupid. While reality TV supposedly documents unscripted real-life situations, it felt unethical to watch an intoxicated person make a fool of themselves in such a vulnerable setting.
Can Love Be Defined?
Love is a unique experience for each individual. How it forms, what it feels like, and what it looks like is different for each person. For example, love can be based on people’s attachment styles and love languages, among other things. The generalization of falling in love as portrayed in Love Is Blind minimized the unique journey that each individual has with experiencing and understanding love.
Love Is Blind didn’t fail in its entertainment value and provocative conceptualizations of love and emotional intimacy. It was cringey at every turn, but highlighted common human experiences such as vulnerability, rejection, and dependence. Although it touched on factors that contribute to differences between partners (e.g., sexuality, ethnicity, and age), it failed to meaningfully expanding upon these topics. The premise of the show conflated romantic love with an impulsive decision to get married, and sought to answer the question, “Is love blind?” After finishing the show my answer to this question is: “Yes — and no.”
Am I expecting too much from a reality TV show? Perhaps.
Should we continue to examine the human condition and engage in self-reflection? Absolutely.
Will I watch reality TV shows in the future and analyze them too? Of course.