Let’s be honest – modern dating sucks. Hookup culture is the norm, and you can’t help but wonder if someone is actually interested in you, or if they’re just interested in whether they can get you in bed.
If you’re looking for a real relationship, the terrain seems even bleaker. Finding a like-minded person who is ready for commitment often feels like you’re waiting for the fabrication of some Disney fantasy.
Modern dating – a.k.a. hookup culture – is all about the physical with no promise of commitment in return. So it’s no wonder why blind dating shows like Netflix’s Love Is Blind are so popular! Could getting rid of the physical aspect of dating altogether be the secret to falling in love in today’s hookup culture? Could love truly be “blind”? This is the promise that Love Is Blind claims to deliver – “blind love.” Yes, it sounds crazy, but given the modern dating scene, Love Is Blind purports to be the crazy solution we need.
In Case You Haven’t Binged Love Is Blind
If you’re one of the five people who haven’t binged Love Is Blind yet, here’s the scoop. 15 men and 15 women go on a series of blind dates in small “pods” – no phones, no distractions, no physical contact. The participants get to know each other solely through conversation without ever seeing each other. If any of the participants “fall in love” during the blind dating process, the only way that they get to see each other is if one of them proposes and the other accepts.
If you think that’s not crazy enough, the engaged couple has to commit to getting married four weeks after their proposal. GASP! You might be thinking, are any of the participants actually crazy enough to propose to a person that they’ve never seen before? Yes, yes they are. In fact, a total of 12 couples have gotten engaged throughout seasons 1 and 2, and four of the couples across both seasons have gotten married and are still together.
You might be thinking that only crazy, desperate, fame-seeking singles would participate in such a weird experiment. That’s what I thought when I first started watching the show, and yes, it does have its fair share of crazy, desperate, fame-seeking characters. It’s a reality tv-show after all – it has to have at least some cheesy drama to live up to the category. However, I was surprised by how relatable many of the participants were.
Take Natalie for example, one of the favorites from season 2. Natalie says during her first appearance on the show that “my dating experience has sucked. I am here for the one – the one who loves me for my personality and not what I look like.” Anybody else raising their hand? Who doesn’t want to find a person who loves you for your personality and not just for what you look like?
Could getting rid of the physical aspect of dating be the secret to falling in love in today’s hookup culture?
Or take Lauren, one of the most lovable participants from season 1 and *spoiler* one of the only participants who got engaged, married, and stayed married. Lauren says, “I want a man who is going to love me for me, not what I look like, but for who I am on the inside.” Preach, girl! Who doesn’t want that?
I could also relate a lot to Chassidy on season 2, though she only made minor appearances on the show. She says, “My physical insecurities have definitely affected my dating life. This experience allows me to be judged as a person versus the physical.” As a woman who also battles physical insecurities in my dating life, the thought of dating where my physical appearance isn’t a factor sounds quite appealing.
There’s a reason why Love Is Blind, as cheesy as the plot may seem, has taken the world by storm. The show promises something profound in a dating landscape defined by hookup culture: it promises love based on who a person is rather than what they are. Imagine that – to find a person who loves you rather than attraction based on what you look like, what your career is, what culture you come from, etc. Can Love Is Blind actually deliver on this promise? Is “blind love” too good to be true?
My answer is yes and no. Yes, the “blind love” that Love Is Blind promises is not true love. Before you call me a heartless soul-crusher, let me quickly get to my second answer, which is this: no, “true love” is not “too good” to be true because “true love” is actually better than blind love. How can this be? The assumptions behind “blind love” that Love Is Blind promises actually accept the faulty terms that hookup culture assumes, and I, for one, think “true love” can do much better. Let me explain.
Yes, Physical Attraction Is Important, but It’s Not Just Thinking Your Partner Is “Hot”
Let me be a soul-crusher first. Yes, “blind love” is “too good to be true” because blind love doesn’t actually exist. I’m not arguing that love doesn’t exist and that everyone secretly only cares about how “hot” their partner is. That would be soul-crushing indeed. In reality, love is not divorced from physical attraction; physical attraction is still a necessary part of the foundation that love is built upon.
A social psychology professor at UK’s Anglia Ruskin University, Viren Swami, commented on Love Is Blind, saying, “There is this common sensical notion that people who care a lot about physical appearance are shallow, or they’re investing in the wrong thing. But in reality, romantic relationships are based, partly at least, on the fact that we find other people physically attractive.”
That doesn’t mean that physical attraction defines love, but the reality is, as Swami further says, “Attraction is a complex thing…physical appearance and physical attraction is one of the key ingredients, and to take it out of the equation doesn’t make sense to a social psychologist like myself.”
Ironically, Love Is Blind actually proves this point. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t end when the couples – who conveniently all happen to be insanely attractive – see each other for the first time and have their romantic, Cinderella-like reveal. That’s just the beginning of their journey. The engaged couples head to Mexico to build a physical attraction to complement their “emotional foundation.” Unsurprisingly, many couples break up when they spend significant time with each other in person. Interestingly, only a few of the couples break up due to a lack of pure physical attraction. It turns out that there are other facets of attraction and compatibility that you can only discern when you’re in close physical proximity with a person.
There are facets of attraction and compatibility that you can only discern when you’re in close physical proximity.
Love Is Blind actually proves that physical attraction isn’t as superficial as it seems. As Swami further says, “The question is: Is it going to be a viable relationship for someone in the long term if your initial judgment is based on a limited set of cues?” It turns out, there are a certain set of compatibility cues that you can only discern when you’re in physical proximity with your partner and see them interact in social situations. Do you like the way that your partner treats the waiter when you’re out at dinner? Is your partner financially responsible? Do they put effort into their appearance and live a healthy lifestyle? How do they handle conflict? All of these cues are part of the complex web of physical attraction, and our ability to discern whether we’re compatible with our partner based on these cues is only possible when we share physical, real-life experiences with our potential partners.
It’s a disservice to reduce physical attraction to the question, “Do I think he’s hot?” Although this is definitely a facet of physical attraction, physical attraction actually encompasses a multitude of vital cues to help you determine whether or not you’re actually compatible with your partner to build a healthy, long-term relationship.
True Love Accepts Your Mind, Soul, and Body
Ok, now that I have crushed your dream of finding “blind love,” let me offer a better option: true love. Wait a minute, you may ask, if true love isn’t blind then what could it possibly be? Blind love assumes that true love can be cultivated on a mind and spirit level connection separated from a physical connection. However, the idea that we can separate our physical selves from our emotional and spiritual side is a new, modern notion. Though I’m a philosophy nerd and would love to rant about the philosophical history of this phenomenon – Kant or Hume anyone? – you can just take my word for it.
For most of human history, humans were viewed as a unified whole of body, mind, and spirit. You can’t separate the physical from the mind or the spiritual because doing so would reduce a person to a physical object rather than a unified being. In the same way, separating the mind and spirit from the physical was considered absurd because the physical body is what contains the mind and the soul and is an integral part of what makes us human. Plato, at this point, would be raising his hand in slight objection, but I will leave him on the sideline for the moment.
Hookup culture is founded on the modern notion that we can separate the physical from the mindful and spiritual. We can use our physical bodies for purely physical ends and have one-night stands until we collapse. At the same time, it also purports that we can try to find emotional and spiritual fulfillment separated from our sex lives. Most of human history would find this notion impossible.
The classical view of being human purports that our bodies were never meant to be separated from our mind and spirit, and our mind and spirit were never meant to be disembodied. Several decades into hookup culture, we’re realizing that using our bodies for sex severed from our mind and spirit is actually super unfulfilling.
The classical view of being human purports that our bodies were never meant to be separated from our mind and spirit.
However, instead of challenging the terms of hookup culture itself, shows like Love Is Blind accept the terms and run with them. Love Is Blind assumes that true love must be founded on an emotional and spiritual connection alone because trying to find fulfillment in a physical, sexual connection alone has proven to be a lost cause. This is just simply a (different) false start.
Here’s the problem. Just as hookup culture will inevitably result in unfulfilled disappointment because it’s impossible to separate physical intimacy from emotional and spiritual intimacy, shows like Love Is Blind will also result in disappointment because they’re based on the false assumption that you can cultivate true love based on emotional and spiritual intimacy alone without physical attraction.
As aggravating as Jessica from season 1 could be, she hit the nail on the head when she said, “For some people, love might be blind, but for me, it's definitely not. It's a mixture of mind, body, and soul, and I never got there.” You’ve got to give credit where credit is due – if true love involves loving the totality of who you are, that includes mind, soul, and body. You can’t separate one facet from the other two.
Closing Thoughts: Beauty Is in the Eyes of Our Beloved
Before I run the risk of being called a soul-crusher once again, may I venture to ask, doesn’t this love sound better than blind love anyway? Just as we think it’s shallow for someone to pursue us just based on our looks, wouldn’t we also feel unfulfilled if someone pursued us in spite of our looks? Women especially desire to feel beautiful in the eyes of their beloved – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That doesn’t mean that every man needs to think that we’re beautiful. But wouldn’t we want our beloved to view us as such?
I want to be clear that I’m not saying that those who society views as “physically attractive” are the only ones who can find true love. That would be soul-crushing indeed. There’s a difference between how society defines beauty and being held as beautiful in the eyes of your beloved. When you love, you love the totality of the other, which includes their physical self. When you are loved, you’re loved for your entire self – body, mind, and spirit. Wouldn’t it be unfulfilling otherwise?
Furthermore, unlike blind love, true love endures. It endures not in spite of changing and aging bodies, difficult circumstances, loss and disagreement. It endures because you are your partner’s love and are beloved as a unified whole, not just your body, your mind, or your spirit. When bodies change, when the mind grows dim, or when your spirit is discouraged, true love endures because all of these facets constitute you. And you are beloved as the full package.
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