Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will find something to relate to on Love Island.
The nation’s favourite show has a penchant for putting couples through their paces and throwing in the odd game changer or two (think new love interests entering the villa or a partner being snapped up by someone else during a recoupling) all of which makes for seriously addictive, cancel-all-your-plans type viewing.
And last night’s episode was no exception, as it tackled a topic most of us are painfully familiar with – heartbreak.
There were tears – and outbursts of rage – up and down the country as we watched Olivia finally end things with Chris because, ultimately, he always “wants to be the nice guy”.
The catalyst for the moment came as Chris made an effort to comfort their fellow housemate, Tyla, following the departure of her love interest, Jonny. However, Olivia herself was feeling upset at being voted in the villa’s bottom four contestants by the public, and thought he should have comforted her instead.
Slamming his lack of loyalty, she drew a line under their relationship and finally ended days of arguing between the pair.
Which you might think sounds fair enough – but you would be wrong.
Furious Love Island fans took to Twitter to vent their rage at Olivia, all for the crime of daring to break up with a bona fide “nice guy”.
“Olivia is like one of those mean girls at school. Targeting people for just being nice,” wrote one user.
“Olivia is the perfect example of a narcissist!! What an awful person...” added another.
But before we condemn Olivia entirely just for having the nerve to end a relationship that wasn’t making her happy, perhaps we should take a step back and imagine ourselves in a similar position.
After all, does stumbling upon a nice guy mean we should grab hold of him and never let him go, no matter how awful he makes us feel? Should we be prepared to “walk on egg shells” and push down certain aspects of our personality for the rest of our lives, just for the privilege of being with a person who pays us the odd compliment or two and brings us breakfast in bed?
As someone who has taken the “risk” of breaking up with a real life nice guy before, I have no problem relating to Olivia’s desire to put herself first for a change. And I call breaking up with said nice guy a “risk” because society seems to view such men as a rarity that should be held up as the most precious possession a woman could ever hope to own, and the pathway to all future happiness, etc. etc.
I can still remember the shocked reactions of my friends when I told them about the break up, with the main cause for concern seeming to be that I might not find a man as nice as the one I had just let go. I was alternately told I was being too picky, or indulging the perfectionist side of my personality, and in the initial few weeks after the relationship ended I panicked that I had made a big mistake.
But ultimately, what I learnt from the experience was this: nice guy or not, if someone doesn’t make you happy, they don’t make you happy – and if you’re not happy, then what on earth is the point?
And it seems that psychology is in agreement with me. In an article (brilliantly) titled Four Reasons Not To Settle In A Relationship, Dr Juliana Breines makes the case for following your heart in a relationship, rather than bowing to societal pressures and sticking it out with someone you know isn’t quite right for you.
“Settling is an ugly, depressing word,” she writes. “Few people would suggest outright that you should settle for less than you want and deserve in a relationship.”
She goes on to outline the four reasons we should never settle, by listing the benefits of being single, the importance of recognising which shortcomings we can accept in our partners and how the chance of finding true love could be worth the risk of never finding it at all.
Most intriguingly, however, she references a set of scientific studies that found people who had a fear of being single were more likely to prioritise being in any relationship over being in no relationship at all. In other words, their fear of being alone lowered their standards to the point that they would prefer to be in a bad relationship than be by themselves.
“Given the importance of social connection to our well-being, it is understandable that we seek out intimate relationships,” Breines writes.
“But when fear of being alone drives our romantic decisions, it can lead us to exercise poor judgment and to choose relationships that are unlikely to last, that make us depressed, or even leave us vulnerable to abuse.”
It’s a valid point, and one that sits perfectly in line with the idea that you can never be happy in a relationship if you can’t be happy by yourself.
To which I say – life is too short for beige relationships with nice guys who don’t set your heart on fire. Take that risk and swap being 70% happy for the opportunity to upgrade to 100%.
Be more Olivia, and put yourself first before you commit to a lifetime of the most boring word in the English dictionary.
Images: Rex Features