Stuck in a Dead-End Relationship With Love Is Blind? Try Showtime’s Couples Therapy

Stuck in a Dead-End Relationship With Love Is Blind? Try Showtime’s Couples Therapy

Love Is Blind is merely a TV show about TV relationships. Showtime’s Couples Therapy, however, is one big psychoanalysis session bursting with real vulnerability that’ll make you want to ditch your golden goblets forever.

Netflix’s social experiment sets up singles in adjoined rooms — called pods — in hopes that they might fall in love without the distraction of physical appearance, and ultimately forces couples to walk down the aisle where they’ll either say “I do,” or walk away from each other forever. But the series gets bogged down by pretend people and exchanges completely devoid of flirtation, while Couples Therapy offers an intimate look into the inner workings of real couples as they sit down for psychoanalysis with Dr. Orna Guralnik.

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On Love Is Blind, contestants are constantly signposting to viewers that a relationship is underway — despite no actual evidence that it’s there. They use buzzwords and common phrases to convince viewers that they’re more deeply entangled than we might reasonably assume. How often do we hear Love Is Blind couples say they’re willing to fight for this? That relationships take work? That they’ve just never felt this way before? Or, if you’re Season 6’s Clay, that you swear you’ll go to therapy one day! But we never see the fruits of these conversations — work is never put in. Season after season, Love Is Blind ultimately lets the experiment — and the show — override any actual intimacy-building as contestants try to keep up in the race to the altar.

Couples Therapy is also all about talk, but the talk is substantive. You won’t find banal platitudes here — and if you do, you’ll be stopped by Orna and asked to explain: What do you really mean by that? We watch real couples navigating serious issues — in terms so honest, we almost get distracted by the fact that they aren’t playing more to the camera.

In Season 4, Orna works with Josh, Aryn and Lorena — a polycule consisting of three people in a committed relationship who also engage in other romantic connections. In Episode 2, Aryn tells Orna that she’s been having conflict with Josh since telling him she would no longer be traveling so much for work, meaning she’d be around more at home. Josh says: “That’s definitely exciting, but the conversation around something that would impact me dramatically, was never had.” He goes on to say he’s frustrated because he’s able to be more clear about his “emotional range” than Aryn, but understands why women in the United States might not be able to do that. (Yes, you’re not alone. We are confused!) Orna interrupts him and says, “Josh, you’re getting abstract. Let’s stay a little closer to what actually happened.”

This is an important difference between Love Is Blind and Couples Therapy. In Netflix’s experiment, contestants are never pushed to go beyond what they say — words have no meaning! One moment Clay declares he loves A.D., and the next he reveals he wasn’t really ever that into her. In Couples Therapy, Orna can pinpoint when a person is making a claim that doesn’t reflect the truth behind a situation. In other words, what the hell is Josh doing talking about sexism in the United States instead of sorting through the conflict directly in front him? And with a little push, unlike in Love Is Blind, Josh can make some progress where Clay could not.

And then, over the course of just nine episodes, something remarkable happens: In exchange for the typical Love Is Blind trauma dumps and hyperawareness of filming a TV show, we get a more pleasurable journey into understanding who people really are. Love Is Blind tells the SparkNotes version of a flimsy relationship, but Couples Therapy is the whole, juicy, bestselling book! Even though we only know Orna’s clients in therapy, the sessions reveal more about who they are than any surprising factoid dropped by a young professional hoping to become Internet famous after filming wraps.

Let’s look at Joey, another of Orna’s Season 4 clients. In the finale, Joey surprisingly verbalizes a realization: She’s internalizing her mother’s negative behaviors. We watch in real time as the wheels turn in Joey’s head; we see her arrive at this epiphany — something the viewers have already realized after watching her relationship unfold since Episode 1. All the things she used to fight with her mom about — how everything needs to be done exactly the way she wants it — is how she’s acted toward her husband, Rex. Now, Joey sees herself how we see her, and it feels so authentic and so satisfying.

And there aren’t empty promises, or expectations that Joey do something with this realization, she is simply able to come to an understanding and bask in it. In Love Is Blind, there would be pressure to announce how things will change! Things will now be different because Joey knows all there is to know about herself after discovering this buried nugget of truth! This will never, ever again in their whole, long lives impact their relationship again! We know this realization is huge; it doesn’t need to be played up with empty platitudes for the camera because Couples Therapy trusts its viewers.

Love Is Blind talks the talk — and yes, the talk is loud, often meme-worthy, surprising and fun! — but the things we really want out of a relationship reality show will never be found. If you’re looking for the kinds of things we crave in reality TV — intimacy, honesty and vulnerability — check out Couples Therapy. (Plus, there’s a polycule! Love Is Blind quite literally could never!)

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