Put a bunch of seriously good looking 20-something single people (“on paper”) into a sunny villa in Spain, ask them to play a myriad of ridiculous games that include as much sexual body movement as is possible, have them “couple up” and share a bed, all the while drip feeding even more good looking people into said villa, sign a contract promising to wear a uniform of the tiniest bikini or tight little shorts and ridiculous shades, insert silly voiceover, offer the winners £50,000 and you have a reality TV show that I cannot take my eyes off.
Taking the exploitation of young people aside, this show offers us a window to observe ourselves through another. It is an opportunity to become aware of our own patterns in relationships. It showcases the surprising ways some of us think. A 21 year old contestant referred to a guy she is getting on really well with (over the past 24 hours) as a potential “baby Daddy”. How many of you think this way after only meeting someone? As a relationship coach, I support singles to attract healthy intimate relationships so when I hear these disempowering statements I feel disillusioned. It may not sound romantic but balancing your heart with your head is so important, we must not let chemistry override logic and common sense. Take time to discover who you are and what you want in an intimate relationship. Rushing in leads to poor choices that will result in you having to start all over again.
Another reason I can’t stop watching the show is because it illustrates our humanness. One beautiful contestant spoke about how she compared herself to all the other girls, didn’t feel attractive and wanted to change her physical attributes to accept herself. Yet that girl is beautiful inside and out. For me, their real beauty shines when I get to see their authentic self with all its frailty rather than an edited version. I think the notion of perfection keeps us trapped in this faulty thinking loop - in this girls case she believed if she acquired a breast enhancement she would feel better. For others the “if only” can be “that half a stone” or “I could meet someone”, we all have them. But ask yourself, will life really be all that much better. No, you’ll probably just find something else to “if only” about. We have to learn to accept and be happy with what we have. Acquire whatever skills you need to anchor yourself in happiness and contentment now as “if only living” is a poor substitute for a full life.
And my final justification for this guilty pleasure of mine is the fact it normalises the challenge of intimate relationships, whether single or coupled. Since the show started, think of all the attraction, flirtation, distractions, worry, disappointment, guilt, hurt, boredom, combined with all the anticipation, excitement and joy. Watch the language each contestant uses before they “couple”, once they become a couple, and then the language they use when confusion and frustration creeps in about their partners. The simple option offered on this show is to “decouple” and find another. But is it always the partner that needs changing or is it the mindset? Or, perhaps it is the fact they are in their 20’s and it is a right of passage to move from one relationship to the next without too much introspection. My concern is, the conditioned messages we acquire when we are young stay with us unless we become aware of our damaging self-talk and behaviours and commit to changing them. Otherwise, they can continue to perpetuate our intimate relationships for a lifetime and we can forever unnecessarily blame the other. There are obvious exceptions when “the other” is a contributing factor to a break up but it is important that this is not our go-to in the face of discomfort and a seemingly “better alternative”.