Love Island is 2015 TV show, where a group of men and women participate in a series of tasks with a partner that they keep swapping till they meet the love of their life.
In this TV show the contestants have the opportunity to stick with their current partner or choose another member from the group, including any of the new arrivals. For relationship psychologist Dr Anjula Mutanda, the show is a microcosm of the seemingly infinite choice seemingly offered by society. The show offers “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.
Their now-infamous tagline “I’m happy but I could be happier” is the “epitome of this throwaway culture and the idea that the grass could always be greener.” Dr Mutanda calls this excuse 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 Love Island plays “on our desire to be tempted, reflecting current attitudes that render relationships and people disposable.” But, she hopes that the participants and viewers recognise that love is not “trading in” but rather it is about “finding someone really good – good enough to be doing the work together”.
But eternally swapping and seeking for new partners can be dangerous because though your choices may seem infinite, as Dr Mutanda puts it: “When will you know when you’ve found them?”
This insatiable search for novelty lies in the human nature, according to Dr Mutanda. “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 illusion of 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 true of both male and female. “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,” asserts Dr Jacobson.
But this can only occur when you’re emotionally mature and in tune with yourself, writes journalist Tahmina Begum in HuffingtonPost. Dr Mutanda adds that this tendency has nothing to do with age, as you can have an incredibly mature 25-year-old versus an immature 55-year-old. “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.”
But we need to realise that this excitement wears off and real life begins. “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, that really shape our lives and our love.
To be constantly searching for the mirage of perfect and happier life itself may lead us to unhappiness. This is the paradox of love and happiness.
(The writer is professor of science and religion and author of Death: Live it!)