Love Island truly has its catchphrase mainstays: “I’ve got a text”, “it is what it is” and as of this year, “moving mad”. But one common phrase that’s frustrating viewers and (female) contestants alike is the ‘being tested’ trope.
During the Casa Amor segment of the show, where the male islanders are shipped off to a swanky new villa with six new girls while the original women stay in the main house, all the relationships are “tested”.
Every year, there’s a marked gender difference – more of the men tend to crack on with the newbies while the women stay loyal to their initial partners. And the boys then return, touting the excuse of needing to be “tested” to really know how they feel about their oft faithful counterparts.
In the recent season, we’ve seen Liam (who decided to “test” himself by kissing new girl Lillie three times) offer it as an explanation to Millie, who rightfully asked why he had to be tested to know that their relationship is special.
The boys seem to think that kissing a few frogs helps clarify your feelings (the frogs being impossibly attractive blondes and brunettes). Toby is a testament to this – after coupling up with Abby, then Mary, he decided he likes Chloe best.
So are they on to something? Is testing the waters with other people necessary to strengthen your relationship? Or is it just an excuse to justify cheating?
Dating and relationship coach Kate Mansfield explains that it’s all about timing. “It’s important to make the distinction between a couple, which means there is already a commitment and you are in a relationship, and two people who are casually dating or in the early stages of getting to know each other,” she says.
To avoid getting attached and invested too quickly, Mansfield suggests talking to several potential suitors.
“It’s way better to date several people slowly until you get to know them enough to be able to hone in on the most suitable person for you. This takes time, asking the right questions, and really understanding your own needs, values, and what would make you happy in a partnership.”
But how should you approach it if one of you wants to test their feelings and the other is content with how things are?
“If you find yourself in this situation, you need to question why you are invested and committed to someone who is not reciprocating and showing up mutually with the same level of investment and commitment that you are giving,” Mansfield says. “If so, you need to confront your partner and either dial down your commitment level or leave the relationship if it doesn’t suit you.”
Ruby Payne, a dating and relationship expert at UberKinky, says if a potential partner is keen to chat to other people to test their feelings, it sends a clear message that you’ll do – until they find someone better.
“Still sound like a good idea? Didn’t think so,” says Payne.
“Being keen on getting to know new people in a romantic way can absolutely come across as snakey. It’s a sure-fire way to leave your partner feeling totally mugged off. It can make your partner feel like they’re not good enough, or they have to prove themselves to you. No one wants to be a stepping stone for the real thing, we all want to be first choice. All or nothing.”
So is it even necessary to be tested to strengthen relationships?
“Life is full of tests, but relationships shouldn’t be something you set out to test,” Payne says. “There’s usually a reason why people might want to ‘test’ their relationship. They might be insecure, feel like their partner isn’t giving them enough attention, or they might be holding out hope that something better is around the corner. It’s the classic Love Island position of ‘I’m happy, but could I be happier?’
“The idea of testing your relationship, to me, is utter bull. As Millie said on Love Island, if you know, you know. You won’t need to be waiting for someone to come and change your mind.”
There’s only one way to find out where you stand with another, and that’s the good old fashion method of communicating. It might not be what you want to hear, but it’s better than waiting for the results of your partner’s ‘test’. Because no one wants to do that.