People like you and me, who live in the Western world where arranged marriages faded into nonexistence long ago, often have a bit of a fascination with the concept. Given all the time, stress, energy, and expense we go through to meet someone, date, break up, start over, all in an effort to find “the one” to partner with for life—the fascination is maybe not that strange after all. Imagine if all you had to do was rely on a trusted “other” to make that tough decision for you? Ahhhh, the pressure is off! Of course, most Americans are all about free will, so maybe it’s just an occasional fantasy… what if?
Still, the popularity of the reality TV show, Married at First Sight , attests to the fact that there is a very real allure to the idea of having the work done for you. But once the marriage takes place—whether it’s been arranged or not—that’s when the rest of the work begins. So what can those of us who are not contestants on this fascinating show learn from watching it?
In case you haven’t seen it, Married at First Sight (based on a Danish series) features three couples per month. The couples have been chosen out of the 20,000 applicants (that’s right—20,000 people vie for the chance to marry a complete stranger!). They are not chosen at random, but carefully vetted by experts, and paired up based on numerous factors. The four specialists in charge of this major undertaking are sexologist, Dr. Logan Levkoff; psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cilona; sociologist, Dr. Pepper Schwartz; and spiritual advisor, Greg Epstein.
They have a wealth of material at their disposal, from personality profiles to personal histories, and of course interviews. Each participant has agreed in advance to marry whoever he or she is matched with. They meet for the first time at their own wedding ceremony. You’ve heard of “taking the plunge”—well this is a blindfolded plunge into a deep unknown pool.
The most important (in my mind) and interesting aspect of the show is that the specialists don’t just stick the couples together and leave—they support them throughout the process, helping them with concerns and conflicts as the “trial month” unfolds. After the wedding, the subsequent episodes deal with the honeymoon and living together as a couple. At the end of the month-long series, the couples decide whether to divorce or stay together.
This show has a devoted fan base. I polled some die-hard MAFS connoisseurs who have watched the series since the first airing in 2014. (It is currently in its third round). I asked the question: “What have you learned from watching Married at First Sight?”
My participants had some great observations to share. Here is a sampling:
√ People have quite different expectations of marriage. This is true, and most people do not discuss these prior to marrying, whether they’ve met one another or not. Not a bad conversation to have.
√ Even though carefully matched, the couples often seem to be different, even incompatible. There are so many nuances to why a couple will or will not work—“opposites attract” or “common ground” are both valid approaches that can fail… or succeed.
√ Chemistry has to happen between two people and cannot be measured on paper. With each couple, the initial physical attraction factor is inevitably more important than the other person’s character. This is reality no matter how you find your partner. The trick is to look past the chemistry to find what lasts. These couples are forced to do just that, and either do, or don’t, find it.
√ The participants are courageous. It’s true that these couples must put a lot of faith in a panel of experts and bravely take the plunge. Still, is it ever not an act of courage to link your life to that of another? This show simply highlights that fact.
√ It takes time to get to know someone, to build trust, to fall in love. This is something most of us know intellectually but don’t come to grips with when we are in the flush of infatuation. This show highlights how little time four weeks actually is. Next time you find yourself swept off your feet and rushing ahead with plans ask yourself, “Have I given this enough time? Or am I still under the influence?” For more on the effects of infatuation, check out my blog titled “Is it Love or Infatuation?”
These were all great answers. Thank you to everyone who participated!
From my perspective, what struck me as especially meaningful about the show was what took place as the couples sought and received support and guidance from the experts. As issues, concerns, conflicts, and fears arose, having someone there to offer educated advice was consistently of high value. We can all learn from the advice offered by the experts. Some of their lessons involved:
√ Communication of feelings, fears, expectations, etc. with a partner
√ Remaining open to another person (why it’s important and how to do it)
√ Overcoming fears
√ Conflict resolution and the skills/tools needed to do that
A huge takeaway from Married at First Sight is this: there are relationship therapists and coaches out there for a reason. We really can help! That’s what I do, day in and day out, and it is a worthy profession indeed—dedicated to helping people like you find and hold onto love. Just because people are capable of love and even though they decide to commit to a relationship does not make them automatic experts about navigating what can be mysterious and sometimes stormy seas. Don’t drown! Reach out to someone who can help guide and support you along the way.
(If you or someone you know would like to apply for the a Married at First Sight series here is the link: http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/married-at-first-sight/articles/mafs-casting)