It comes as little surprise that only one married couple emerged from Season 5 of “Love is Blind,” the hit reality TV dating show. “Love is Blind” has received consistently high viewership, with The Hollywood Reporter noting that “it closed out 2022 with 13.1 billion minutes viewed, more than any other unscripted series on any platform.” Americans are obviously obsessed with this show.
Although a number of happy couples have emerged from the show, only a few out of the entire five seasons have lasted. As entertaining as the show is, the model of blind dates to marriage in less than five weeks is unrealistic for the vast majority of people. Cameras, artificially induced drama, and a lot of alcohol are ripe ingredients for a sensational television show, but not for healthy marriages. As the season progresses, most of the usual relationship problems come up: issues with communication, struggles to understand family background, or jealousy when couples interact with other people they dated in the “pods.”
But one couple in particular highlighted a cultural misunderstanding about the reality of marriage. Izzy Zapata and Stacy Snyder were a good match on the surface, both boasting extroverted, fun personalities, with a similar taste in hobbies and a fiery level of attraction right off the bat. As the season progressed, however, Snyder’s attitude toward their relationship waned. She lamented in an on-camera interview about the unfair deal she’s received following an argument.
“I want all the stuff he promised me … the rose petals, the bath when you get back, the candlelight, the home-cooked meal, and it feels like I’m trying to express myself and he’s not having it,” Snyder complained. “But I’ve been in here with the same time constraints he’s had, and I’ve cooked, I’ve cleaned. So I’m really sick of the excuses. I have no question on me. I’m good. I’ve given. I have given.”
Her phrase “I’ve given” showcases a common cultural expectation about the meaning of marriage. In 2023, young people are getting married later and later with a history of more sexual partners before marriage. The need to test the waters and enjoy being young and single is the mantra of the day; commitment and tradition seem outdated and constricting.
But the core of this mindset is selfishness. It’s the idea that a marital partner has to be someone that fits your list of requirements, satisfies you sexually, and perfectly serves your needs. It’s the idea that marriage exists to make you happy, and you must therefore test out a potential spouse before marriage to be sure he or she is the best you can get.
A healthy and happy marriage is not about the self. At the heart of the happiest marriages is the principle of selflessness. This means denying yourself for the purpose of serving the other person. It means giving when you’ve already “given.” According to a study in 2006, the most happily married couples are ones who express altruistic love for one another. Altruism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.” It is the truest form of love — giving without expecting anything in return.
This concept of altruism receives no praise in contemporary American society. With top music stars like Lizzo promoting “self-love,” the opposite of selfless love, young people are encouraged to steer clear of sacrifice and commitment. “I’ve given,” as Stacy Snyder put it, is a pretty accurate description of how most people feel when searching for their life partner. Dating apps amplify this as people can scroll infinitely, accepting or rejecting others based on appearance, job status, personal views, and hundreds of other factors.
This is not to say that dating apps are all bad (in fact, I met my husband on Hinge) or that you shouldn’t commit to someone who shares your values and treats you well. However, once you’ve decided to commit to them in engagement and then marriage, your viewpoint shifts, and the healthiest relationships are those in which each partner commits to placing the other’s needs above his or her own.
This idea harks back to Scripture as well. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This is a call to altruistic love. As men commit to lay down their lives, women are called to submit to their godly husbands. While no relationship is perfect, a love founded on this level of selflessness has a foundation to stand the test of time.
A strong marital foundation is not built upon romantic gestures, rose petals, or even home-cooked meals. A strong foundation is built upon selflessness: choosing to honor the other person’s needs above your own. For a strong marriage, each person must commit to love with their eyes wide open, knowing they will both fail but choosing to love in spite of it all.