3 Big Relationship Mistakes on "Love is Blind"
Season 3 has given us examples of behaviors that can negatively impact our romantic relationships.
I will discuss examples and plots from season 3 of Love Is Blind in this post. If you haven't seen it, you may want to watch it first and read this after.
This season of Love is Blind has provided much fodder for analysis. The contestants are complicated, and their relationships are, too. As a trained couples therapist, I can't help but see problematic behaviors and interactions when they occur. And these behaviors and interactions are problematic because they create distance, contribute to negative cycles, and do emotional damage.
Let's acknowledge that this is a television show with excellent editors who work hard to make it entertaining and dramatic. It's likely that we are missing lots of important context, that moments are elongated or emphasized in a way that they weren't in the moment, and that there is some artistic license in how scenes are edited. In short: We don't have the full story.
So, knowing that we have an incomplete picture, let's look at what we do see on-screen.
Here are the three mistakes contestants have made, ordered from least to most egregious.
1. Raven's divided attention
Exercise is great. It's good for your physical and mental health. It makes you stronger and gives you endorphins. I have no problem with making exercise a priority in one's life.
However, exercising when someone is being vulnerable with you is a problem because it sends a clear signal that you don't care.
Bartise explicitly stated that he was being vulnerable with Raven before he shared more, but Raven didn't give him her full focus. She started doing jumping jacks in her pod, thinking she could work out without him noticing. Raven showed her lack of interest in Bartise by not giving him her full attention, and he felt it. It was a big reason why he ended things with her.
Even if you don't want to pursue a serious relationship with the person you're dating, people deserve respect and gentleness when they take an emotional risk by sharing a vulnerable part of themselves.
If someone is being vulnerable with you, give them your full attention.
2. Zanab's withdrawal and passive aggression
The morning after their first night together, Zanab felt Cole was giving her the "silent treatment." Cole said he was trying to let Zanab sleep by quietly slipping out of bed, but she experienced it as Cole suddenly being less interested in her.
Even if Cole was being distant, Zanab's reaction didn't do her any favors. She responded to the perceived withdrawal by also withdrawing. This creates a negative cycle because Cole will withdraw when he senses Zanab's coldness, which will make Zanab withdraw further, and then Cole will pull away more, and around it goes. Both of them will feel distant and disconnected.
Reach out when you feel your partner withdrawing from you. It's a bigger emotional risk to reach out instead of shutting down, but pulling away or retaliating through passive aggression will only increase the distance.
3. Matt's behavior during conflicts
I have watched the fight scene from episode 4 several times, and my stomach drops every single time. The trigger was when Matt observed Colleen and Cole talking, and Colleen later told Matt what they discussed (as most participants do when they finally meet in person). Matt became very jealous and angry with Colleen, leading to their first fight.
Let's be clear on this: Matt was engaging in abusive behaviors. He was controlling, unempathetic, sarcastic, withholding, and punishing. These behaviors fall under emotional abuse. His cruelty towards the person he loves was concerning to witness.
I was also concerned with how he discussed their fight the following day when he explained it as, "We weren't able to communicate," and it wasn't as big a deal as "we" made it out to be.
What do you mean by "we"?
He puts the blame on both of them instead of taking responsibility for his inappropriate behavior.
This feels just a little too close to the cycle of abuse: building tension, abuse incident, reconciliation, and calm. Here's how it breaks down:
Honeymoon phase: It was all rainbows and sunshine at the beginning, with Matt loudly proclaiming that he "only has eyes" for Colleen.
Building tension: The conversation between Colleen and Cole triggers Matt's insecurity and jealousy.
Abuse incident: Matt lashes out, accusing Colleen of being disloyal and coldly disengaging as punishment, despite her obvious distress. Colleen is crying and trying to talk with Matt while he threatens to end the relationship (or apparently does end it, per Colleen's self-report in the next episode).
Reconciliation: Colleen tries to apologize and fix things. She takes full responsibility for the problem, blaming herself for not being firmer with Cole. Matt frames the fight as both of them not communicating well and does not acknowledge his problematic behavior. If Matt apologized, it didn't make it into the show.
Calm: They return to being their "lovey-dovey selves," and Colleen's relief at not being in trouble makes her feel more attached to Matt. She is happy to be in a good place again, and as far as the viewer knows, she doesn't confront him for how he behaved.
Don't normalize this type of behavior. It's abusive, and it's unacceptable.
The Importance of Self-Awareness
In my previous post, I recommended that contestants (and everyone, really) do their own self-work before entering a marriage.
Identifying the things you do that push others away, like Raven not giving Bartise her full attention, can help you be a better partner.
Knowing your defense mechanisms, such as Zanab withdrawing to protect herself, can help you learn to connect instead of protect.
And developing awareness that your behaviors are abusive, just as Matt's were, will be the start of a crucial self-growth journey.