What 'Love Is Blind' Can Teach You About Your Own Relationships IRL
Let's be honest, most reality TV shows teach us what not to do in our own lives. It's pretty easy to sit in comfy pajamas with a sheet mask on, watching someone stumble through a conversation and think, 'I would never do that'. But, in truth, reality TV is really an enhanced, petri-dish version of our own lives. (And it can make you feel more empathetic toward others.)
Is it produced? Yes. Is it still real and relatable? Yes. Otherwise, we wouldn't watch it.
We see ourselves, our friends, family, and partners in the people or characters on the TV screens. So, while, sure this "trash TV" is "guilty pleasure"-binging at it's finest, you can also leave your couch a little wiser than when you plopped down if you truly want.
Let's consider Netflix's widely popular reality TV show, Love Is Blind. The show begins with a bunch of single men and women speed dating in "pods"—never seeing each other and only hearing a voice from the other side, with the goal of establishing a connection based purely on conversation, taking physical attraction and chemistry out of the equation (at least at first).
The show poses the question, "Is love blind?" asking participants to narrow down who they have the strongest connections with to eventually pick one person, fall in love sight unseen, and then issue a forever proposal or accept one. Yes, propose marriage...through a wall! Once engaged contestants can finally get to see and interact with each other.
Not going to lie: When I heard this premise, I rolled my eyes. It sounded like Married at First Sight meets The Bachelor meets Big Brother. However, since I am the co-host of a Bachelor franchise recap podcast and a relationship therapist, multiple people started writing to me asking about Love Is Blind.
"What do you think of Giannina's behavior toward Damian?"
"Wait, how did you think Carlton handled that situation?"
"Do you think Jessica ever really had strong feelings for Mark?
I was quickly intrigued. (Gwyneth Paltrow's new Netflix show is stirring the pot, too.)
So, you may be wondering what you can learn from a show with such an outrageous premise to inform your real life. The answer? Quite a bit, actually. Here are four lessons everyone can learn about relationships from Love is Blind:
1. Emotional connection is important…but so is physical attraction.
From the beginning, Love Is Blind couple, Kelly Chase and Kenny Barnes, had a rock-solid intellectual connection, but once they got into the physical realm, Kelly said Kenny felt more like her brother than a sexual partner. This stopped her from exploring any sexual relationship with him, which is unfortunate.
The one question the show asks over and over—"Is love blind?"—is an important one to consider. IRL, we ask ourselves this question too, it just sounds a little different. "Which matters more: emotional connection or physical connection?" or "Is it better to have an emotional connection and then build a physical one or start with a physical connection and build the emotional piece?"
Ideally, there's both; You are attracted to the person's physical appearance, their personality, and you have sexual chemistry that you can build on. But, what if one of those elements is missing? What if you really love someone's personality, but you don't have that *spark*? (Related: 5 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Sex and Dating, According to a Relationships Therapist)
While, you shouldn't feel pressured to do anything you don't want to do or that doesn't feel comfortable, as a sex therapist, I would highly recommend exploring what a physical/sexual connection could feel like before deciding that it's not possible. For some, this could mean having sex to see how it feels on both a physical and emotional level and for others, this could mean simply exploring intimacy in conversation or touch. How can you definitively say that there is no physical connection when there is no opportunity given to develop one?
2. Sex is an important part of a romantic relationship.
The difference between a couple that has instant sexual chemistry and one that doesn't is displayed perfectly through Love Is Blind couples Matt Barnett (aka Barnett) and Amber Pike versus the aforementioned Kelly and Kenny.
Almost immediately, Barnett and Amber are physically drawn together, barely able to keep their hands off of each other. This, of course, wears off to a certain degree as time goes on, but it gives a foundation for a potentially long-lasting, fun, and exciting sex life (as long as there is good communication).
Some people believe that if an emotional connection is present, the sex will just work out from there. That is simply not true. Some people are truly sexually incompatible.
But, don't panic! Most relationship struggles can be solved with good communication and maybe the help of a sex therapist. While in rare circumstances you could actually be allergic to your partner's semen, it's typically the plethora of other factors that make navigating your desires (or lack thereof) challenging.
Think: differences in libido, poor communication, different preferences and ideas as to what makes a "good" sex life. The best way to combat all of these things is to learn how to communicate effectively and learn your own body and desires. It's really challenging to communicate what you want and like when you don't even know that answer yourself.
Sex isn't everything, but it's a huge part of any romantic relationship. You can absolutely fall in love with someone, have mediocre sex and work toward it becoming mind-blowing. It just takes effort, on both people's parts—and a commitment to do that work together.
3. Upfront honesty is ALWAYS the way to go.
Love Is Blind couple Carlton Morton and Diamond Jack hit it off instantly in the pods. Carlton proposed to Diamon while in the pods, and she accepted, but once they got to their tropical vacation in the 'real world', Cartlon admitted to his new fiancée that he's bisexual—quite the bomb to drop after a proposal, right?
Carlton goes on to explain that he has been rejected by women in the past after sharing that he has slept with and is attracted to both men and women. Unfortunately, when he breaks this news, Diamond does not exactly handle the news well. She has since talked about what she would do differently, telling People, "I would change the approach of it. I was trying to be very understanding, but I had questions because I've never been with a bisexual man."
The lesson here is to put all your cards on the table. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Carlton being bisexual. What's wrong is withholding important information about yourself and proposing to spend a life with someone without giving them the chance to know the complete you.
In the real world, this could be omitting important info about your sexuality, political affiliations, debts, family issues, sexual desires or kinks...it doesn't matter the topic, just be honest—period.
Whether you meet in a pod on the set of a reality TV show, at a bar, or on a dating app, honesty is always the best policy. This doesn't mean you need to tell a potential mate everything about yourself in the first 30 minutes, but it does mean that you need to be honest about who you are and what you want sooner rather than later. Wouldn't you rather find out on your third date instead of the third year that you're not as in sync as you thought?
4. We create a lot of our own issues in relationships.
Love is Blind's, Jessica Batten and Mark Anthony Cuevas fell for each other quickly in the pods, even though Jessica also had feelings for Barnett, who ended up with Amber. One of the primary themes of Jessica and Mark's relationship was a 10-year age gap that Jessica could not see passed.
It was a textbook example of creating an issue in a relationship and blaming it on other people. It was very clear that Jessica was uncomfortable with the fact that there was a decade between their birthdays. However, instead of saying as much and talking through it with Mark, she continued to harp on how others would perceive their relationship instead of owning her own insecurities about it. This concern is what (spoiler alert!) ultimately led to the demise of their relationship...at the altar, no less.
If you're seeing someone younger, talk about the age difference together. Talk about how the gap could affect your present and future. Talk about concerns other people may have based on societal misconceptions and how you want to address them together.
We can create issues that aren't really there when we're uncomfortable or not sure we want to be in a relationship. Jessica was using this age difference as evidence that their relationship wouldn't work, rather than simply saying that perhaps she didn't find him attractive, wasn't happy, or wasn't ready to commit.