Can people fall in love before ever having seen each other? The hit Netflix show Love Is Blind has been setting out to answer that question since its premiere in February 2020.
But the show's most recent season looked different from past iterations. In Season 5, which wrapped on Oct. 13, only two couples made it to the altar surrounded by family and friends — and of the two, only one couple tied the knot. It seemed as if the premise was on shaky ground.
While the show can prove it has had success — some pairs who met in the pods are still together to this day — Love Is Blind has also produced plenty of breakups and drama. Can couples who fall in love sight unseen before getting engaged really form a lasting and loving relationship outside of the reality-TV bubble?
Here's what dating and relationship experts have to say.
A journey to find love
Love Is Blind is considered a social experiment "where singles meet each other through a wall in pods to decide if love really is blind — to the point of becoming engaged in the pods and getting married within a matter of weeks," according to Variety. "The show may even have a better track record of engaged-or-married couples than have come from long-running shows like The Bachelor."
Chris Coelen, series creator and CEO of the production company Kinetic Content, said the show's "experiment is very simple."
"I think the beauty and the broadness of the potential of what Love Is Blind can become every season is really elevated by the individuals who come on and enhance the story through their authenticity and their real journey to find love. It doesn't evolve over time in terms of, 'Oh, we're going to do something different as producers,'" he told Variety ahead of the Season 5 premiere. "There are no secrets on this show. We tell the participants everything. We tell them what they should expect, and what might be challenging."
Throughout the Houston-based Season 5, the couples quickly shift from new romance to rough waters. For the pairs who advance from the pods to the next stages of their relationships, viewers witnessed issues arising over physical appearance, finances and age difference.
"This season showed many issues and dynamics that can occur in relationships that we all experience and reality television can be used to either mindlessly 'tune out' from one's life or to actually 'tune in' and become aware of how we relate in our own lives," Kelsey Latimer, a licensed psychologist who uses reality TV to help her clients reflect on their own lives and dynamics, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "We also saw a lot of examples of toxic relationship behavior — [JP] telling his partner [Taylor] not to wear makeup was especially cringe."
"Only one couple struck me as being serious about each other and not the drama, glitz and romance, and that was the one couple [Lydia and Milton] who remained together after the cameras left," says Amber Brooks, dating and relationship expert and editor in chief of DatingAdvice.com.
James "Milton" Johnson, 25, and Lydia Velez Gonzalez, 32, exchanged I do's this season after navigating issues around their age gap. Johnson told People that he "wouldn't change anything" about his experience on the show.
"I first engaged with this experiment because I wanted to see if I could potentially find my wife," he said. "I think our age difference, it was the elephant in the room at first and then quickly got past it. It was making sure that the rest of our community, the extensions of us, understood what was going on and that we were generally there for one another."
"The couple proved that love works when two people are willing to make the effort and have the hard conversations," says Brooks.
As of the Oct. 15 reunion, Johnson and Gonzalez are still married but face new challenges as a long-distance couple.
"We just miss each other so much, so every second that we have together, we try to really cherish it and try to be there as much as we can for each other when we are actually in the same place," Gonzalez told Entertainment Weekly.
Reality TV, real feelings
Courtney Bagby Lupilin, CEO and founder of Little Red Management, which represents some cast members from Love Is Blind, tells Yahoo Entertainment that while this season was "disappointing" in terms of matchmaking, the show's "experiment can definitely work."
"As a viewer, it is so discouraging to not be a fan of any of the couples. Part of the show's success is that viewers are rooting for a certain couple, so that they can go on that emotional journey with them," she explains. "I've heard firsthand from my clients that all their feelings were as real and authentic as it looked during filming."
In addition to Gonzalez and Johnson, some fan-favorite couples from previous installments are still together, including Season 1's Lauren Speed-Hamilton and Cameron Hamilton; Season 3's Alexa Alfia and Brennon Lemieux; and Season 4's Tiffany Pennywell and Brett Brown, and Zack Goytowski and Bliss Poureetezadi.
Latimer believes there are some "wonderful aspects" to Love Is Blind.
"On this show, the script is flipped to first focusing on the deep bond and romance, then adding in and determining if there is passion to back the values bond, and then finally whether the commitment is going to be made," she says.
It's also worth noting that not every relationship gets shown on camera.
"Each season, there are are lots of stories that we don't tell, regardless of whether couples get engaged or not,” Coelen told Variety. "Some of them even, we will follow for a little bit and not show their story on the show. It's a little bit of a judgment call."
'It is an experiment'
Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do, believes the premise of the show doesn't translate to real life.
"Essentially, any successful couples need the three Cs: chemistry, compatibility and commitment," she tells Yahoo Entertainment. "On the show, couples are able to determine emotional chemistry by talking with one another. But they don't know if they have physical chemistry. Not being attracted to someone doesn't mean someone's shallow. It might just mean that special spark isn't there romantically."
"It's important to remember it is an experiment," adds Latimer. "They note this multiple times throughout the show and the cast members also state this. Can it work? Sure it can, but on a mass scale? My answer as a psychologist to that is likely no. We have to remember that the people who even apply to be on the show are likely 'romantics' in their personality style — they believe from the start this could work and that's powerful!"
Liv Talley, a dating coach, isn't as optimistic.
"The show itself, in my professional opinion, is a flawed premise. No, love is not blind and attraction matters. The couples who work out only do so because they happened to choose someone that they physically connected with [after they meet in person]. Every couple that meets and doesn't have chemistry breaks up," she tells Yahoo Entertainment. "There’s no legitimate connection to be found in this setting of Love Is Blind — and rushing them to the altar to either pressure them into a marriage or humiliate them — is destructive to these singles. ... The initial infatuation phase can often cloud our judgment, even in unconventional settings."