From lining up multiple dates in one week to swiping right for future matches while your date is in the loo, current dating culture works on the assumption that there could always be someone better out there, if only we carrying on searching.
Never has this been captured more brutally than Love Island’s recoupling, where contestants have the opportunity to stick with their current partner or choose another member of the villa to shack up with, including any of the new arrivals.
For relationship psychologist Dr Anjula Mutanda, the show is a microcosm of the seemingly infinite choice on dating apps. “It [Love Island] has a steady supply of good looking people being poured into the show almost on a daily basis. It’s similar to dating online where you are putting your best face forward, everyone’s smiling and looking fabulous,” she explains.
Much like the new arrivals to the hit ITV show, with online dating there is the constant temptation to scroll through more profiles.
The now-infamous line “I’m happy but I could be happier” – as uttered by Wes, Josh and Jack as they ended things with their respective partners for someone new – is the epitome of this throwaway culture and the idea that the grass could always be greener.
Dr Mutanda says this excuse for a break up sounds like a ‘dissatisfaction gap’. “When you live in a world where there’s so much choice and something has gone wrong in a relationship, there’s a compulsion to be better off in a different situation” she says. “Instead of working on what you have, you’re looking over your partner’s shoulder constantly.”
Dr Sheri Jacobson, counsellor at Harley Therapy, agrees that a show like ‘Love Island’ plays on our desire to be tempted, reflecting current attitudes that render relationships and people disposable. But, she adds, that the contestants, and those watching them, will quickly realise that love isn’t about ”trading in” but rather it is about “finding someone really good - good enough to be doing the work together”.
“It’s easy to find someone else, but it’s really difficult to work on an existing relationship that will benefit both parties as that doesn’t come to us naturally,” she says.“Shows live ‘Love Island’ play on our desire to be tempted.”
But eternally swiping right whether that’s in person, on a reality TV show or on a dating app can be dangerous because though your choices may seem infinite, as Dr Mutanda puts it: “When will you know when you’ve found them?”
While dating apps are often be blamed exclusively for this insatiable behaviour, for Dr Mutanda the apps don’t cause dissatisfaction, but encourage human nature. “We are programmed to be novelty seekers and as humans we are excited by something new, whether that’s a person, a shiny object or even a show,” she says.
The idea that there is infinite choice can “stop you from being in the moment and working on what you’ve got,” says Dr Mutanda. “Going from one person to another ends up in a misery cycle.”
Dr Jacobson believes that the “I’m happy but I could be happier” mantra is not as gendered as the general public may believe. Both psychologists have stated this happens to both men and women; whether they are getting their heart broken or doing the breaking.
“Always seeking the possibility of better is problematic because it’s the same as looking for another person to complete you and add meaning to your life. The best relationships happen when you’re at ease and peace with each other and accept and love yourself” says Dr Jacobson.
But this can only occur when you’re emotionally mature and in tune with yourself. Dr Mutanda says this has nothing to do with age, as you can have an incredibly mature 25 year old versus an immature 55 year old, due to differing life experiences. “The biggest gift you can give yourself is knowing who you are. When you don’t know who you are, you are chasing everything around and that’s when you’re not satisfied because you don’t know what happy means to you”.
The beginning of a new romance is an exciting time, but there will come a point when the excitement starts to wear off.
“The honeymoon period is a literal chemical high where you can’t see any flaws and when this period is over, you start to see the differences,” says Dr Mutanda. There is nothing wrong with seeing differences or having conflicts, but it’s how you deal with the disagreements.
So what can couples do after the honeymoon period is over - whether it’s a ‘Love Island’ two week situation or after two years?
“Know how to communicate with your partner. Saying ‘I hate you’ is an insult in comparison to saying ‘I didn’t like how you spoke to me’. As long as you can pay five compliments to every criticism, then it’s a sign it’s a good relationship for you that could be meaningful” advises Dr Mutanda.
However, if concerned about keeping the spark going after a period of time when your significant other doesn’t feel as shiny and new, being responsive to your partners needs and asking what they desire is a good way in reintroducing the initial attraction. “That means getting off your smart phone and listening to each other. This makes your partner feel cared for. Make an effort to be intimate outside of the bedroom like holding hands, kissing each other or having a laugh together. This builds deeper intimacy and desirability.”
But when a partner is normalised in your life and routine, it’s also important to schedule time together advises Dr Jacobson. “Internally working at something will be more time and emotionally consuming than the alternative of finding someone else but it will be more worth it. Therefore nurturing your relationship in a healthy way, whether it’s couples therapy or going on a retreat or just setting out specific time together facilitates deeper feelings”.