Whether single or loved up, dating shows can teach us all a lesson in love


If they like you, you’ll know. If they don’t, you’ll be confused (Picture: Netflix)

The most important dating advice I have ever received came from a source I’m embarrassed to admit: a motivational quote on Instagram.

‘If they like you, you’ll know. If they don’t, you’ll be confused.’

It’s overly simplistic, but boy did it summarise my experience over the past decade and a half of dating.

I’d spent years dating men who would alternate between romantic gestures or encouraging remarks, to unexplained lack of contact or outright apathy.

How I wish I had read that quote in my early 20s rather than two years ago.

Single again – for the 17th-or-so time – I embarked upon the degrading yet familiar act of archiving my WhatsApp history with my newest ex, accepting defeat and re-downloading The Apps.

If only I had known during those cumulative months spent in a state of confusion, that confusion itself was the answer: they weren’t interested.

Now, as a happily un-single human, I’m cautious not to be the person who smugly imparts dating advice on their unattached friends. That said, I cannot not share my own special nugget of dating guidance for those who are navigating the dating scene in their 30s: watch dating shows.

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Whether it’s First Dates, Married at First Sight or Love is Blind, dating shows are an encyclopaedic resource for anybody looking for love. They show the highs, lows, misconceptions and misunderstandings of romantic relationships and you can learn about them all from the comfort of your living room and without having to decide whether or not to split the bill. 

Dating show contestants make the mistakes so you don’t have to. Take the latest series of Love is Blind, for example, which follows six couples who become engaged before ever having seen each other in the flesh.

After spending several days talking to each other through the wall of a ‘pod’, the candidates choose who they would like to spend more time with, before settling on one person (or two) to propose to.

One of the most shocking and disappointing moments in the show came when Shake, a 32-year-old veterinarian/house DJ, was on a date with Deepti, a 31-year-old data analyst, and he asked her if she would be able to sit on his shoulders at a music festival – clearly trying to ascertain how much she might weigh.

Not only does he appear to have misunderstood the whole purpose of the show (clue’s in the title), but Shake clearly demonstrates his superficiality and subtlety deficit.

If I had a pound for every time a single girl friend blamed herself for not being ‘attractive’ or ‘skinny’ enough for a man, I could pay for my annual Netflix subscription.

We the audience can clearly see how much of an absolute smoke-show Deepti is, and that if Shake were unable to carry her on his shoulders, it would be down to his waif-life arms, not her BMI.

The next time a man makes my female friend question her physical viability, I will simply show her this episode and save my breath. Watching scenarios like this play out on TV is the relationship education – and self esteem booster – we didn’t get taught at school.

Seeing Kyle and Shaina bash their heads against the wall of religious polarity sure is entertaining, but if this is happening to you in reality, get out (Picture: Netflix)

Love Island is essentially a production line of future protein powder influencers and fast fashion CEOs who have barely escaped puberty, so it is of limited use as a tool for education. Love is Blind, however, uses castmates who are in their late 20s to 40s and have lived, loved and lost – and bring all their experience and baggage to the table.

I can guarantee that by the time you hit 30, you will have had an experience in common with a dating show contestant; whether you’re yet to have sex, have had all the sex, or your partner had sex with someone else and you’re single again.

Watching these people fumble their way through the dating scene is an invaluable tool – especially if you’re the sort of person who feels like you’ve tried everything but to no avail.

Most singles on these shows give monologues to the camera about how they have no idea why they’re so unlucky in love. It then usually becomes abundantly clear to the audience that they are the reason they’re so unlucky in love.

They make poor decisions, ignore red flags, say stupid things or commit dating faux pas, all the while blaming lady luck instead of the man in the mirror.

And it’s not just singletons or casual daters who I believe could benefit from a binge watch of dating programmes – those in relationships could also learn a thing or two. I’d always had a niggling gripe with my other half about the fact that he hadn’t offered to pay for dinner on our first date.

Not because I’m a bad feminist, but because he had been the one who invited me out, and I would have insisted on splitting anyway but the fact that he immediately opted to go Dutch made me think that he just wasn’t interested. He didn’t get why it had worried me.

Nine months later, when I persuaded him to join me in watching First Dates one evening and we saw a similar situation played out on screen, he cringed, laughed and immediately got it.

Watching Love Is Blind is an opportunity for singles to see where they may be going wrong (Picture: Netflix)

Sometimes it’s easier to understand someone else’s point of view when it’s told objectively and it helped me understand that an unquestioned split bill wasn’t a cause for concern after all – he was just trying to be a good feminist.

Dating programmes show us the oft extreme differences in what people think is or isn’t acceptable within a relationship. Dating two people in the early stages of courtship? Some might be cool with it, others might be doing the same, but for many it could be a deal-breaker.

And you might not know how your other half feels about a situation until you’re in it and it’s too late. Watching Love Is Blind and Married at First Sight is an opportunity for singles to see where they may be going wrong and for couples to see what they’re getting right.

But above all else, I wish that the couples who seem to go round and round in circles of deciding whether or not to be together are able to see how painful it is for everyone around them to watch.

Watching Love Is Blind’s Nick and Danielle painstakingly assess and reassess their suitability, witnessing Shake try to bury his clear indifference towards Deepti while still dating her and seeing Kyle and Shaina bash their heads against the wall of religious polarity sure is entertaining, but if this is happening to you in reality… Get. Out.

And once you do, pour yourself a wine, curl up on the sofa and tune in to the season finale of Love Is Blind (which dropped at 8am this morning) and download those apps.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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