Can an emotional connection be more powerful than physical attraction?

Chelsea Blackwell and Jimmy Presnell on Love Is Blind on (Netflix)
Chelsea Blackwell and Jimmy Presnell on Love Is Blind on (Netflix)

Viewers have been glued to their screens as Netflix has released episodes from the latest series of Love Is Blind, with plenty of drama to unpack.

The dating experiment sees people meet one another and attempt to form a relationship without seeing each other. In order to meet in person, they have to decide if they want to get married.

One couple in particular have been scrutinised by viewers during this new series, which is the sixth. Chelsea Blackwell and Jimmy Presnell formed a connection while in the ‘pods’ - rooms separated by a wall in which contestants speak to one another.

In one conversation, Blackwell told Presnell that she had been told by others that her celebrity look-alike was Megan Fox because she has “dark hair and blue eyes”. She added that she did not see the resemblance herself.

But, after the couple meet in real life, Presnell says Blackwell didn’t tell him the truth about her looks, and later complimented how another contestant looked, sending Blackwell into tears.

Love is Blind. (L to R) Jimmy, Chelsea in episode 601 of Love is Blind. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
Love Is Blind participants Jimmy and Chelsea speak to one another in the 'pods'. (Getty Images)

As the saga unfolds, many viewers are left wondering whether an emotional connection can ever really be stronger than physical attraction.

Is love ever blind?

The concept of love being ‘blind’ is one that has been long debated. While true romantics insist that real love would not be interested in how a person look, sceptics might be more inclined to emphasise how important physical attraction is.

There’s no doubt that physical attraction plays a huge role in forming a romantic relationship. A number of studies have shown that, across the globe, people do prioritise attractiveness in a partner. But they also want people who are warm and trustworthy.

Georgina Sturmer, counsellor MBACP, tells Yahoo UK that the rules of romantic relationships aren’t as simple as Love Is Blind can sometimes make them seem. There is no black-and-white explanation for whether emotional connections can - or should - indicate stronger feelings than physical attraction.

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When it comes to romantic relationships, a number of factors come into play that determine our attraction to one another. (Getty Images)

“Physical attraction is often what draws us into a relationship. But for many of us, it’s the sense of an enduring emotional connection that keeps us there,” she explains.

“So it’s not necessarily the case that one is more powerful than the other. It’s the way that they coexist and overlap that matters.

“In an ideal relationship, we would experience physical attraction and emotional connection. But the reality is that these might wax and wane over the lifetime of a relationship. As our looks fade, or change, the emotional connection can strengthen the bonds between us.”

Are men more fixated on looks than women?

In Love Is Blind, Presnell’s less-than-impressed reaction to Blackwell’s looks upon seeing her for the first time has led to a number of viewers to accuse him of only choosing Blackwell because of her comment about looking like Megan Fox.

To some people, it may reinforce the idea that men are more interested in physical looks when searching for a partner, compared to women. Studies have shown that this is true of younger men - a 2021 study found that men aged 18 to 25 placed attractiveness and physical build as higher priority than age, education, intelligence, income, trust and emotional connection.

Chelsea Blackwell and Jimmy Presnell on Love Is Blind on (Netflix)
Chelsea Blackwell and Jimmy Presnell on Love Is Blind on (Netflix)

However, as men get older, how a romantic partner looks becomes less important, researchers found. In fact, men over 60 rated personality traits more highly than women in the same age range.

Sturmer posits that there is a “social expectation for men to value looks more than women”.

“Some of this might be down to the messages that we all internalise as we are growing up. Films like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ portray the beautiful young princess who is able to look beyond the outward appearance of the beast,” she says.

“Young girls are often complimented on how pretty they look, while young boys are often complimented for their strength or sporting prowess.

“Popular culture also primes us to notice and compare if one party is deemed less attractive than the other, and is therefore ‘punching above their weight’.”

Other values in relationships

Love may be blind in other ways. Researchers say that we tend to be “overly positive” about our partners despite being able to make accurate assessments on their qualities - this means that, while we seem to be fairly good at judging other people, we tend to inflate their qualities slightly when it comes to our partners.

Speaking to the BBC in 2019, Garth Fletcher, emeritus professor of psychology at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, summarised this phenomenon and explained: “Your job in a relationship is to encourage your partner, to be a cheerleader.

“People want their partners to see and accentuate their positives. If you want to have a good, happy relationship then it is helpful to have a charitable bias towards your partner.

“When you stop doing that, your partner might interpret that you want them to change. It sends a powerful message that they’re not good enough for you.”

At the end of the day, in a healthy, loving relationship, attraction and connection are both important things, and looks are a part of this.

However, they are “part of a wider picture that includes communication, intimacy, support and compatibility,” Sturmer emphasises.

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