Dublin is hooked on Love Island - what does it say about desire?

Love Island, desire and counselling in South Dublin?

In many of the cafes and bars in Dublin, one topic of conversation can be overheard at many tables - Love Island. The reality TV show which finished this week (with an Irish winner!) is a huge success, airing six nights a week for what seems like the entire summer. And it is not just South Dublin counsellors who take a professional interest. 

There is a cottage industry of podcasts and opinion pieces that dissect every aspect of the show and the contestants’ actions. If you haven’t seen the show the premise is fairly straight forward - a group of young, single people are sent to an island villa and left to couple up, with the most popular couple being voted the winner by the public. As simple as it may seem, the reality is anything but. 

The miles of column inches, hours of podcasts, and millions of online comments produced around Love Island is the latest example that when it comes to romance, nothing is ever simple. No single topic seems to affect us more than romance and its bedfellow sex - both the highs and the lows. But increasingly, it is the negative and harmful side that has come under scrutiny. 

Relationship Counselling, South Dublin

As a counsellor, relationships feature frequently in the clinic. The ‘rules’ of dating have never been straight forward, but there has been an upheaval in recent years with the proliferation of dating apps and the timely revelations of #MeToo. These two events have further complicated dating by, on the one hand, commodifying dating - reducing people to a few photos and comments and allowing people to ‘browse’ for a date - and, on the other, finally bringing into mainstream conversation some of the more odious and damaging expectations some people have when it comes to sexual encounters. 

Expectation, entitlement and consent have been put front and centre in discussions about sex, and there are many, many situations between people where these three things do not coincide. In the extreme, this can lead to cases of violence, aggression or worse. The current focus on the social and cultural environment in which dating and sex occurs is extremely important and will hopefully go a long way to reshaping what people expect and tolerate. But most commonly, issues around dating and sex are much more subtle and ambiguous. Even in situations where consent has been clearly established and relationships formed there is still ample opportunity for misunderstanding to arise and harm to be done. 

Low self-esteem and confidence 

At an individual level we often experience disappointment in our love life when we are surprised or taken aback by our partner’s actions. We feel let down or frustrated by their position or behaviour. Sometimes we may begin to doubt ourselves and our judgement, our confidence may be shaken in our partner, our relationship and our self-esteem could be affected. 

Often, this is because our idea about a person is just that - an idea. It is a fantasy of what that person is like and it is based on our experience of them. But the problem with fantasy is that it isn’t real, and we so often become frustrated or hurt with someone when they don’t live up to the idea that we hold of them in our head. This cuts both ways, as we often confuse ourselves with our own actions. 


The question ‘why did I say that?’ has been uttered by most people at some point in their lives. This gives a sense that there are unconscious elements at work too. ‘Why did I say that?’ can become ‘why did I do that?’ which can become something more complex and baffling. ‘Why did I allow myself to be put in that situation?’ or ‘why do I keep choosing the wrong partner?’ are common questions in the clinic that can often have uncomfortable answers. 

People are frequently motivated or influenced by unconscious thoughts and motivations, and we are not necessarily hard-wired for the good. There is a conflict between what we consciously say we want and what we may unconsciously be bringing about in our lives. The increased understanding of how social norms and other external expectations influence what we come to expect of ourselves and others, and how damaging some of these norms and expectations are (especially around sex and relationships), can paradoxically sometimes make us feel worse when we continue to make the same mistakes in spite of supposedly ‘knowing better’. 

Counselling and Psychoanalysis

By engaging in a course of counselling or psychoanalysis at Sandymount Psychotherapy these unconscious desires and motivations, and the grip they have on us, are softened. By aiming to recognise our unique and singular desire for what it is, psychoanalysis can help us to find a way of living that is more at ease. As we hopefully move towards a culture that is more equal and respectful (in the bedroom at least), we may yet find that our singular desire clashes less with the outside world, and can become the source of pleasure and happiness in our life that it has the potential to be.

If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other issue, please contact us.