As a support worker for women fleeing abusive relationships, I refused to watch Love Island.
Anything that promotes unhealthy relationships and normalises potentially toxic behaviour gets a hard pass from me. As infuriating as it is, it almost becomes just as difficult to avoid hearing about it then it is to just sit through it.
This year I decided to see what the hype was all about. Had I judged the show before giving it a chance? Or was I about to lose all hope in humanity?
Fast forward four weeks and I am fully invested. Come 9pm each night, I am ready with my group chat and king-size chocolate bar, ready to dissect the show and its contestants.
Let’s jump straight to it: Wednesday’s episode left me absolutely reeling. Without beating around the bush, I want it to be clear that Michael’s behaviour toward fellow Islander Amber is dangerous and gaslighting at its finest.
“Stop raising your voice,” he says. When Amber (very calmly) replies she wasn’t, Michael snaps “see, no point in talking to you”.
The enraging conversation continues, and so does Michael’s toxic behaviour.
“You disrespect me,” he tells her.
“You made me not open up,” he says.
Throughout Wednesday’s episode we see Michael attempt to justify his actions by picking faults in Amber’s character, and using it as a stick to beat her with – his aim being that eventually she believes that it’s her own fault he left her, choosing to recouple with Joanna.
At one point, Michael could even be heard questioning “maybe [she] shouldn’t have laughed” when it was clear to everyone watching at home that this was Amber’s defence mechanism. It doesn’t take long to plant that seed of doubt, especially when the perpetrator is so adamant that the other person is at fault.
In an ideal situation, Michael should have been clear with Amber that he made the choice to choose Joanna simply because he liked her better, and apologised to Amber for hurting her.
Instead, Michael was clearly angry Amber didn’t give him the reaction he wanted. Perhaps he was hoping for the tears he was used to? Or should I say he was angry because he didn’t have the power to control Amber’s emotions?
The scariest part of all this is that conversations like this take place every single day, where one person in a relationship will continue to put the other down, or make them feel like they’re going crazy, and wear them down to the point where they start to doubt themselves. If everyone wasn’t watching and Michael insisted that Amber was raising her voice, can we really say the rest of the villa would be confident that he was making it up?
With Love Island being such a cultural phenomenon and the nation being intimately privy to conversations like these, it is absolutely imperative that more awareness of healthy – and indeed unhealthy – relationships is raised and the behaviour of people like Michael is called out. It is not okay, and I for one respect Amber for handling the situation with such grace and dignity.