|Doug and Jamie meet and get hitched (image from fyi.tv)|
Apparently, we have the Danes to thank for this televised series billed as "an extreme social experiment." The concept is relatively simple. Four "relationship experts"—a psychologist, sociologist (Dr. Pepper), spiritualist and sexologist—culled through lengthy questionnaires and personal information to pick six straight singles that formed three pairs. Most of those who decided to participate have busy lives with long hours at work and were frustrated that they hadn't yet met the right person on their own.
The couples meet for the first time at the altar—in front of family and friends—then marry, go on a honeymoon and live together on camera. The experts hope that because the couples are married, they will be more committed to work out their differences. Over the course of the show, the experts interacted with the couples as the newlyweds navigated their relationships. The culmination of the series, in episode 10, is the decision by the couples of whether to stay married after five weeks.
Many are ridiculing the show's concept and saying that the show is crass and basically ridiculous. An article from The Hollywood Reporter said, "The concept is based on a popular Danish series and apparently a desire to make the idea of marriage as frivolous as possible." But honestly, when our nation is batting .500 on lifelong marriage, is the concept, at its core, that crazy? It's certainly not a one-sided, voyeuristic meat market with years of ineffective pairings, like the Bachelor/Bachelorette. Rather than simply going on multiple dates with a bevy of blondes and brunettes, MaFS couples actually deal with some of the realities of relationships, such as talking about finances, feelings, hang ups and concerns as well as hopes for the future. As a result, it seems more like a dose of reality rather than passing out roses and hanging out in hot tubs.
So, whether or not you like the show, can we apply any of its concepts to our own experience? Is there merit in the betrothal-by-experts method? Maybe.
In the real world, individuals are supposed to self-select their spouses. Today, online dating takes center stage, but meeting through friends, at a bar or at work are still popular ways to identify a mate. However, considering our poor collective track record, perhaps we should be looking for outside assistance. While the idea of a panel of experts dictating who we will marry without any input is pretty odd, the proposition of having professionals evaluate us as a couple before we take the plunge doesn't seem insane. People might resist this process as it intrudes on passion and romance, but remember that many believe prenuptial agreements fly in the face of true love even though some of us know firsthand how important these can be. In addition, some people already use matchmakers who provide a somewhat similar service.
Beyond the entertainment value, MaFS makes an interesting case that maybe we should spend a little more time being pragmatic and a little less time focused on fueling our passion. For those of us who have moved to Splitsville, we know that the everyday issues we all face can drag us down, such as stress (jobs, finances, kids) and drudgery (paying the bills, visiting in-laws, caring for ailing parents). I certainly don't recommend settling for a bore at the dinner table and in the sack, but remember, the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship typically lasts from a few months to a couple years, so if you can't happily embrace everyday life together, you probably won't make it as a lifelong couple.
It was a short, strange adventure, but two of the three MaFS couples learned to love and commit after being exposed to some of the challenges of married life. Building up to passion, rather than just starting with it, seemed to work for them, and might work for others, too.
Note: Interested in seeing if the couples last? Then you are in luck. The FYI network is now working on Married at First Sight: The First Year.