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As 24 hours of footage is cut down to 40 minutes of TV on Love Island, Jake and Faye become 'villains', Liberty and Priya 'princesses' and Toby the permanent 'joker'. But instead of simply gossiping about last night's Casa Amor antics, a love expert insists there's lessons in 21st century love we can all benefit from learning when the hit series comes to a close on Monday.
Earlier this week we reported a source had likened the show to a soap opera, with cast members told what to do via a tannoy. Meanwhile, friends and family pleaded with angry fans to remember 'it's just a TV show' after certain islanders were trolled on social media.
Psychotherapist Dr Audrey Tang exclusively tells OK!: "The twists and turns of this year’s Love Island have kept viewers captivated yet again. Yet in some ways, it has become an opportunity to explore our own views on relationships.
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“It is the proverbial #askingforafriend as we discuss with horror the ideas around friendzoning, gaslighting, sex pacts and a whole set of NVQ levels I wasn’t party to when I was at school!” says Dr Tang.
According to the psychotherapist, watching the smash-hit series can help us reflect on some of our own issues, through low level projection, that may have gone unresolved.
Perhaps you find yourself getting a little too angry with Toby’s immaturity? Or utterly infuriated by Jake’s Iago-esque goading of the boys to “Do bits” in Casa Amor while keeping his own hands clean?
How this and everything else witnessed on the show can be a great chance to glean some critical insights into 21st century loving.
“We must remember that we watch 24 hours of footage edited down to around 40 minutes of a TV show, which is the Hunger Games of relationships,” explains Audrey. Do you find yourself "testing” your relationships, in the way that Liam might have tested his relationship with Millie, with Lillie in Casa Amor, returning later to his original squeeze?
“If you have to ‘test’ – how secure is that relationship?” says Audrey. “Testing a relationship is akin to making the point ‘I'm only with you until something better comes along…and OK, right now, there's not something better.'"
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We’ve all been guilty of that, right? And life is more complex than a TV show. But according to Audrey, if your partner says they are trying to choose between you and someone else, you need to muster the self-respect to say – “If you need to ask, you need to leave, because even if you don’t know what you want…it is likely not me.”
And if it’s YOU in that position, it’s fairer on your current partner to let them go. “Even if the other relationship doesn’t materialise, because real love needs to be selfless,” she says.
Audrey says that good old fashioned flirting – as seen in the early days with Shannon and Aaron, and Hugo and Sharon should be encouraged IRL – especially in an age when too many of us rely on sexting and emojis.
“Eye contact and banter are so important,” says Audrey. “We spend so long on our socials that we don’t appreciate how powerful traditional methods of communication are. And remember banter is two way – it’s not about "demanding others make YOU laugh" – banter is collaborative.”
She also recommends thinking about what are genuine relationship ‘deal breakers’. Early on, Aaron and Shannon talked about kids and Shannon said she didn’t want them.
“There is no point then getting upset when Aaron said he was going to get to know someone who was on the same page where kids are concerned. Of course rejection hurts, but some things are deal breakers in relationships, and kids is one of them…religion may be another – and better to make that decision early leaving BOTH parties the best chance of future happiness with others,” advises Audrey.
“Recognise what you want out of a relationship and what you are not willing to compromise on, and actively seek those values. Just because someone has a pretty face or sparkling personality does not make up for something that is important to you and how you want to live your life.”
And don’t put off potential partners if there is no instant attraction. Jake’s view of Liberty that he didn’t want to immediately “rip her clothes off” is NOT a deal breaker, but a situation for some ‘wiggle room’.
“This can perhaps be changed,” says Audrey. “Healthy, long term relationships rest on more than sex.” And don’t fall into the ‘Sex Pact’ trap either warns Audrey. “Sex is about you making a decision to share a valuable level of intimacy and depth with another person – this is not something you need to decide as a group.”
Worried you’re being ‘Friend Zoned’ – don’t be!
“It's a shame when ‘friend’ seems to be such a degraded word, we should be celebrating the depth of friendship. The word ‘platonic’ now has been relegated to "friendzone" which is tragic because the true meaning of the word is lost. “A platonic love is one that has the potential to make you both better people as there are no demands, expectations or pressures that romantic love can bring,” she adds.
So in short – Audrey thinks that the best lessons to take from this year’s Love Islanders is what NOT to do. “A final example of this is why not talk about sex and boundaries directly?” she says. “Doing bits” or “NVQ levels” is both somewhat repressed and reduces the value of intimacy.
"As a psychologist I believe the secret to love is being honest and open and finding someone else who can be honest and open with you to – not trying to shape others into what we think we need.”
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, mental health & wellness expert and author of new book The Leader’s Guide to Resilience , Pearson, £14.99
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