EXCLUSIVE: Does Love Island really work? Scientist says it IS possible to forge a long-lasting relationship just by spending 24 hours a day together – but warns being stuck in the villa may mask what a potential partner is really like in the outside world

  • EXCLUSIVE: Speaking to MailOnline, psychologist and relationship coach Sam Owen explained strong romantic relationships can come from proximity alone
  • Couples can talk about the future and instigate touch to strengthen a connection
  • But the lack of necessity to prioritise each other could mask negative attributes
  • The key to success is to ‘fantasise’ about life together on the outside world

It’s the go-to reality TV show for attractive, young singletons looking to find love – but does Love Island actually work? 

The contestants on the current series were thrust together at the beginning of June with the expectation of forming romantic relationships.

Over a month later, the islanders have only seemingly been allowed to leave the villa for the occasional date to the beach or for a picnic in a vineyard. 

To find out whether it is really possible to form a long-lasting romantic connection just by spending 24 hours a day together, MailOnline asked psychologist and relationship coach Sam Owen.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she said: ‘Yes, because it affords you the opportunity to build a deep emotional connection and emotional intimacy leads to closeness and romantic feelings.

‘Researchers have found that self-disclosures increase liking between two people getting acquainted and that, over time, such self-disclosures are associated with relationship quality factors such as satisfaction, love, and commitment. 

‘We do gauge how similar we are and how safe we feel when we disclose personal information, and the more at ease we feel and the more we feel inclined to share, the greater closeness we feel with that person.’ 

However, the relationship expert does warn that being stuck in one place, say a villa in Majorca, may mask what a potential partner is really like in the outside world.

Scientists say it is possible to forge a romantic connection just by spending 24 hours a day together – but being stuck in the villa may mask what a partner is really like in the outside world

The contestants on the current series of Love Island were thrust together at the beginning of June with the expectation of forming romantic relationships. Sam Owen thinks it is really possible to form a proper relationship through proximity alone

Physical touch is also encouraged on Love Island, with ‘coupled up’ contestants sharing a bed together at night. Research suggests that touch triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which can influence feelings of attraction and love

WHAT LOVE ISLAND GETS RIGHT 

  • Going for a chat – disclosing personal information can help build trust and closeness.
  • Physical touch – Islanders in couples must share beds with each other, and touching can increase attraction.
  • Lack of input from friends and family – Some islanders may feel like they can be more themselves without pressures from their loved ones.

A study in 2015 found that when two people build trust, their heart rates synchronise, but whether that is the cause or effect of the trust is still unknown.

Tuning into that bodily sensation can help tell you who is worth giving your time to, according to Ms Owen. 

‘Given humans are wired for survival, safety in a romantic relationship is paramount,’ she said. 

‘Therefore, emotional intimacy, when spending time with someone all day, every day, can be a great way to work out whether they make you want to dive head first into a pool of friendship, lust and love.’

Physical touch is also encouraged on Love Island, with ‘coupled up’ contestants sharing a bed together at night.

Research suggests that touch triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which can influence feelings of attraction and love.

The islanders on the ITV2 reality show are occasionally sent out their villa on dates in couples, but they do not get to choose what that activity involves. 

Ms Owen thinks that the lack of ability to choose dates that reflect their interests could hinder the potential relationships.

She said: ‘With that much time on your hands, you’d need to ask questions, and fantasise together by playing out scenarios.

‘For example, what types of restaurants they’d like to go to with you, what are your favourite guilty pleasure pastimes, what sort of life do they envisage for themselves in 10 years.

‘Also, this is how people in long distance relationships spend most of their time getting to know each other, through conversations and video chat for visuals. 

Sam Owen (pictured) has been a professional relationship coach for over ten years

Most islanders are unable to have any connection with their partner’s friends or family on the outside world until they leave the show, so can only compare their relationship to those of other contestants.  This may too provide a roadblock in the relationships in Love Island, as Ms Owen says the contestants don’t get a complete understanding of who their partners are

In the current series, business owner Davide accuses actress Ekin-Su of being a liar. Ms Owen says that the lack of necessity for the islanders to plan their lives around each other ‘can remove learning moments that show you what they are made of’

‘A couple of months in a house together might just be the catalyst you need to either grow that passion or save yourself wasted weeks of sporadic dates only to find out that they weren’t who you thought they were.’ 

One of the most well-known successful Love Island couples is influencer Molly-Mae Hague, 23, and boxer Tommy Fury, 23, who met each other on the show in 2019.

They discussed their future on camera and, despite mixed opinions from viewers at the time, are still going strong today.

On the current series, Gemma Owen, the 19-year-old dressage rider and daughter of footballer Michael Owen, is coupled up with 23-year-old fishmonger Luca Bish.

The pair have said that they love each other and Luca has expressed his desire to make Gemma his girlfriend when he has met her mum outside the villa. 


On the current series, Gemma Owen, the 19-year-old dressage rider and daughter of footballer Michael Owen, is coupled up with fishmonger Luca Bish, 23. The pair have expressed that they love each other and Luca has expressed his desire to make Gemma his girlfriend when he has met her mum outside the villa 

However, removing the necessity to plan or prioritise could also allow a potential partner to more easily hide negative aspects of their personality.

‘It can remove learning moments that show you what they are made of,’ said Sam Owen, who has been coaching relationships for over ten years.

‘Also who they are in stressful situations, how good they are at juggling their personal and work life, how much they engage in healthy behaviours, how fun they are and what a good friend they are going to be to you. 

‘At the root of all healthy, happy relationships is a friendship basis.’

The islanders on the ITV2 reality show are occasionally sent out their villa on dates in couples, but they do not get to choose what that activity involves. Ms Owen thinks that the lack of ability to choose dates that reflect their interests could hinder the potential relationships

WHAT LOVE ISLAND GETS WRONG 

  • Too much structure – Islanders don’t need to plan dates or prioritise each other in their lives, which could allow them to mask disinterest or other negative attributes like how they react to stress.
  • Lack of opinions from friends and family – Some of islanders’ loved ones may be able to recognise when something is wrong better than they do.

A study of nearly 2,000 couples by the University of Victoria in Canada found that two thirds of romantic relationships start out as friendships.

The authors suggest that establishing a platonic connection with someone first is conducive to a solid romantic relationship later.

In the current series, popular islanders Indiyah Polack, 23, and Dami Hope, 26, started off as just friends when they were coupled up with other people.

However when those respective relationships ended, their friendship blossomed into romance.

Most islanders are unable to have any connection with their partner’s friends or family on the outside world until they leave the show.

This may too provide a roadblock in the relationships in Love Island, as Ms Owen says the contestants don’t get a complete understanding of who their partners are. 

The relationship expert said: ‘The benefit of seeing your partner around family, friends and within the community at large is that you get a true sense of who they are, their character, their integrity, their authenticity. 

‘However, over time you can take your relationship into the real world so even if you can’t to begin with, make sure you do as soon as you can.’

Islanders are also unable to meet up with their own circle of family, friends and colleagues to ask for advice or to put their relationship in perspective. 

Last year, islanders Liberty Poole and Jake Cornish were in a couple right until the end of the series, even becoming boyfriend and girlfriend.

But it wasn’t until after the other islanders told Liberty that they were unsure their relationship was genuine that she eventually called it off.

Ms Owen says the lack of outside opinions from loved ones can both help and hinder any romance. 

‘If your family hold you down and/or they see you in a way that the rest of the world doesn’t, then it can be of great benefit to get to know one another away from them,’ she said.

Last year, islanders Liberty Poole and Jake Cornish were in a couple right until the end of the series, even becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. But it wasn’t until after the other islanders told Liberty that they were unsure their relationship was genuine that she eventually called it off 

‘You can be your authentic self and judge who your partner is, yourself, rather than your opinions being shaped by those who sabotage you or, ironically, don’t really know you. 

‘Equally, friends and family who have your best interests at heart and who really know you, will have the mental clarity because they’re not the ones in the romance.

‘They may recognise that your new partner doesn’t empower you or respect you or that you’re not being you’re true self around them.’

Overall, research suggests that the Love Island experience provides an environment where proper relationships can begin and blossom.

Ms Owen said: ‘It just depends on what happens when you leave the island!’

Is love at first sight real? Perfectly-matched couples become biologically in sync within 2 MINUTES of a date, study finds 

A new study suggests the actual time for romance to blossom is around two minutes.  

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have investigated how skin sweat and physical movements change when men and women meet during speed dating. 

Couples who were interested in each other romantically had similar skin sweat rates – an indicator of being biologically ‘in sync’ – within two minutes, they found.

But women are more attracted to in-sync men, than men are attracted to in-sync women, the experts claim. 

Interested couples also synchronised their physical movements throughout the date – such as smiling, nodding and moving arms and legs. 

Read more here

This illustration shows the experimental set-up – volunteers were filmed as they had a date lasting five minutes. Electrodermal activity was also recorded using wristbands 

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