*Writer’s note: Spoiler’s ahead. You’ve been warned!
It’s May 16, 2020. Whether you’re reading this at present or in the future, the COVID-19 quarantine is happening right now. Which can only mean one thing: I’ve been given whole hearted permission to watch trash television to my heart’s content.
But this isn’t just any kind of trash. This is reality TV gold. I just finished watching Love is Blind on Netflix, and truly, since I started watching it, I haven’t been able to stop until I finished the season. I have so many thoughts and feelings about it, both as a human and a therapist. My friend summed up my opinion of the show quite concisely when she said, “I’m not watching [this show] to learn healthy relational practices. I’m watching because what the fuck is G going to do next and will Jessica find love before she dies.” To be fair, Netflix did advertise the show as an experiment and not as a healthy way to find love. But the truth is, there are elements of this show that society as a whole has been taught through songs, books, shows, social media, and movies of what love is “supposed” to be and feel like. And it’s perpetuating relationship dysfunction. So I’m going to go over the take aways and leave behinds for the reality of our love lives from the reality TV show Love is Blind.
Take Away: It’s normal to have doubts leading up to your wedding day and in your relationship in general.
Cameron says in his confessional that he has absolutely no doubts about marrying Lauren five weeks after meeting her for the first time. This was a cringe-worthy moment for me, because contrary to popular belief, doubts are actually a healthy thing. It means you are acknowledging and honoring the parts of your partner or relationship that are not so great or need work as well as the parts that make you guys compatible. People are annoying, and our partners are no exception to this — and that’s okay. As long as the annoyance ebbs and flows with spark and passion, you’re rocking and rolling in a healthy relationship. Doubts don’t mean you’re doomed. It means you’re human and open to seeing the imperfections in your partner — and making a choice to love them anyway.
Leave behind: As soon as you connect with someone, you know that they’re going to be “the one” forever.
Mark shared that as soon as he heard Jessica’s voice, he knew he wanted to be with her forever. As a therapist, I’ve heard this notion echoed in the walls of my office from my clients who expect to find their soulmate on a first date. The truth is, it takes time to really get to know someone. And I’m not just talking two weeks. It takes a lifetime. It’s about peeling back layers, not biting into the whole onion. Sure, maybe in two years or so, you can have a strong understanding if someone is compatible with you. But couples who have been together for decades note that the person who is next to them today is totally different from the one they met years ago — and that comes from making a choice to continue to explore your partner.
Take away: A “spark” or strong emotional connection is essential for a relationship, but a spark alone isn’t enough to sustain it.
Upon arriving in Mexico, host Nick Lachey asks the question, “Is love enough?” Alone on my couch in my pajamas and stuffing my face with a giant bowl of popcorn, I answer out loud, “No.” I know we as a collective want to believe that love is enough, but so much more goes into a healthy relationship than just a strong emotional connection or a “spark.” Are these two things essential for a healthy relationship? Yes! But don’t forget, a spark can also be developed over time. Just because you’re not feeling it with someone on a first date or even a third date, doesn’t mean you won’t on a fourth or fifth. If through talking on your date you find your values and ideals align, don’t hesitate to see them again. A spark doesn’t have to be an all-consuming connection that makes you forget what planet you’re on and who you are. In fact, that can actually be unstable, unhealthy, and playing into unresolved trauma from childhood attachment dysfunction. A spark can be attraction, a longing to know someone more, excitement to see their name pop up on your phone, or counting down days until your next date.
Now that we’ve covered what spark is, why isn’t it enough to sustain a healthy relationship? Because so much more plays into relationships than connection and shared experiences. Finances, how you spend and save money, religion, age, spirituality, culture, race, gender, morals, values, family, children, raising children, love languages, communication, emotional intelligence, occupation, interests, hobbies, our own traumas both resolved and unresolved, egos, etc. are just some of the many important factors that play into relationships and make them much more complicated than just a spark or lack thereof. It’s not to say that you guys can’t make it through any of these differences — it just means it needs to be addressed and worked through, or it could be a deal breaker. For example, no matter how strong your spark is, if one partner passionately wants children and the other does not, the relationship ultimately won’t work — even if all the other elements are in alignment.
Leave behind: Physical attraction doesn’t matter in romantic relationships.
The entire show’s premise is that love is blind, but I think the real lesson is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our romantic relationships are the only relationships we have where physical attraction does matter. We do not base our familial relationships and friendships off physical attraction. But for our romantic partners, there has to be some level of physical attraction — and there is no shame in that.
Take away: Age, race, and culture matter.
To deny a generational gap, someone’s race, and culture is to deny a part of who someone is. I’m not saying that interracial relationships can’t work, because of course they can and they do. But if you’re white and with a person of color and you’re not open to understanding their struggles as a person of color, honoring that your children will be perceived as people of color, celebrating your culture differences, etc., then your relationship will crumble. In the show, Cameron was able to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate the aforementioned, and Lauren felt seen and heard by him as a black woman. This dynamic is essential for the pair to understand each other’s identities, struggles, and values as it pertains to race and culture.
And as Mark and Jessica have shown, age also matters. Are you open to celebrating your partner’s childhood obsession with He-Man and are they willing to understand the origins of your Spongebob quotes? Age also plays into retirement and older years as well — 30 and 40 doesn’t seem like a big difference, but 70 and 80 can mean going from having a partner to being a caretaker. It’s all about expectations and knowing what you’re signing up for. If it’s something you’re truly insecure about and not comfortable with, that’s okay. Don’t be like Jessica, who was obviously uncomfortable with the age difference from the get-go and ignored her feelings. Just own it from the beginning instead of trying to make it work.
Leave behind: I want to have the perfect marriage.
At the beginning of the show, Jessica shares her expectations about finding a husband and wanting to “have the perfect marriage.” Bubble pop: there is no perfect marriage, and if you’re looking for perfect, you’re going to be divorced within the year. There is no perfect marriage because humans aren’t perfect. We are wildly imperfect with our egos, unresolved trauma, quirks, and bad habits. And that’s okay. What makes marriage perfectly imperfect is looking through the lens of seeking to understand your partner. Lowering your defenses and taking a look inward to see what your role is, too. Supporting them through their shit. And being open to celebrating who they are, even if you totally don’t understand it.
Take away: It’s okay to grieve your single life.
After their engagement, Lauren shares with Cameron that she wants to keep her apartment. She was so proud of the life she alone created there, and losing her apartment meant grieving a part of her single life. Some may take this as a sign that she isn’t ready to get married, but in my eyes as a therapist, it’s completely okay and understandable to grieve the loss of your single life. Gone are the days that you can just pick up and do whatever you want for however long you want to with no regard for anyone else but yourself. Considering Lauren and Cameron got engaged and married in so little time, it’s even more understandable why Lauren wanted to hang on to a piece of her single life for a little longer.
Leave behind: Your partner is supposed to know what you want, like, and need in all occasions.
Giannina mentions in her confession that she doesn’t want to have to tell her fiancé, Damian, how she wants to be touched when they are intimate; she just wants him to know what to do. Hard facts: your partner isn’t always going to know what to do or what you like, and not just in the bedroom. Differences in love languages, communication styles, upbringing, and past experiences all shape the way we perceive our reality with our partner. It’s okay and even imperative to tell our partner how we like to give and receive love, how we are feeling, and what we need from them when we are feeling a certain way. Your partner isn’t just “going to know” — it’s our job to tell them what we need, especially in the early stages of dating. Once we’ve been with our partner for some time, then we are more able to see and know what they need in the moment. But you don’t get there after a month of knowing each other and not having any conversations about what your needs are.
While Love Is Blind was never meant to be a show to learn what healthy and stable relationships look like, it does have lessons about love and relationships that we can take away and use in our own lives. Be prepared to be wildly entertained along the way! And don’t forget, the reason we are in quarantine is because Jessica is 34 and Mark is 24.