I’m emerging from an intense TV binge watching a Netflix reality show called Love is Blind. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend as a way to escape from the 24 hour news coverage of the Corona virus pandemic. Has any topic so obliterated everything else and taken up residence in our collective psyche? We need all distractions possible.
Love is Blind involves men and women carrying out conversations through a wall, which means they can’t see what each other look like. After a few days the men select one of the women to propose to (yes it is all rather traditional and heteronormative), she accepts and then there is a big reveal: they see each other.
At first I was reminded of Blind Date, a programme I watched a lot growing up. Contestants could often be won over by banter and a good personality, but be taken aback by the physical appearance of their chosen partner. This was the 80s and 90s so they only had to survive a holiday together. Now the stakes are higher. The couples commit to getting engaged and moving in together, deciding at the end of the series whether they will actually marry.
Looks aren’t important according to Love is Blind. However all the contestants are in their 20s and 30s, conventionally gym-honed and attractive. So there aren’t any big shocks there. What’s more interesting is that all the couples profess to have fallen in love and found their soulmate, despite only knowing each other a matter of days. They all want to be loved and get married, hoping the other person is the missing piece that completes them.
Initially I thought this kind of rapid attachment must be fake or exaggerated, but actually it will feel familiar to anyone who’s ever corresponded with someone online at length. In the early days of the Internet, I used to spend hours in chat rooms. You could easily find yourself messaging someone you knew nothing about, marvelling at the connections, how they always seemed to respond just the way you wanted, how engaging the chat was. Imagination powerfully fills the gaps for us, picturing people just the way we’d like them and filtering out any fact that contradicts our desired vision. Reality is different.
So the show gets really compelling when the couples spend more time together, going straight on holiday in Mexico and then living together whilst meeting each other’s friends and family. It’s an accelerated rollercoaster that mimics the reality of many relationships. There are many of those awful or wonderful moments where you realise a lack of compatibility or a new benefit of being together.
Since most of us now meet partners through online dating, we expect to meet someone and decide very quickly if they are worthy of consideration. This was something I struggled to adjust to when I was new to online dating. I was used to romantic relationships evolving from friendships, which allows a natural shift and gradual build of feelings. You get time to consider. But many people I met online appeared to want to commit nothing more than a coffee in order to decide if I was ‘the one’ or at least ‘a one’ for them. I couldn’t understand this, often going on multiple dates but still being none of the wiser. If I’d had a reasonable time, did that make them a valid partner? How would I know?
The nature of attraction is mystifying. Like some contestants on the show, I’ve met people who ticked all the boxes, but something was missing. I’ve also met people with whom there was an instant attraction, but nothing further. In the end all I’ve learned is wanting the same sort of things helps. That, luck and choosing to keep going.
When the Love is Blind couples finally get to the alter and decide whether to marry, it reminded me that commitment is a gamble. You’d think they have less chance of success than couples who have know each other years, but it’s always a gamble to make a choice.
As the final pronouncement, I’ll leave it to an Arctic Monkeys lyric:
“So all that’s left
Is the proof that love’s not only blind but deaf”.