Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting "Married At First Sight": Drivel or Something to Think About?

Doug and Jamie meet and get hitched (image from fyi.tv)
Those who are dating are always looking for new ways to meet interesting men or women—often people that they hope could be part of a long-term relationship. Cosmo used to suggest the Laundromat. I've heard some say the golf course could be the answer. Online dating has been in the spotlight for some time, although a recent study suggests it might not lead to happily ever after. Once in a while, you might hear someone joke about an arranged marriage. While marrying the person mom and dad picks might seem archaic, what about relying on experts in human behavior, sex, psychology and spiritual matters? Could that approach lead to eternal bliss? Married at First Sight (MaFS), a reality show that premiered this season, attempted to answer that question.

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.


  1. I would love to participate in the show! Am I late, oh no!

    I would love that experts pick my partner, but there needs to be a physical attraction too. People change and grow, but basic traits of character do not change. One can decide to change, but it is hard to do so.
    Being in love may not let one see how certain types of behavior and likes may be not bothersome to a partner at the moment of Love at the First Sight, but may become bothersome later.
    For example if one likes to drink alcohol, the kind of alcohol may change, but it will likely be a part of one's life. It may be first beer in college, and then change to wine. Wine is still a form of alcohol. Drinking expensive wine has become a major hobby of my ex. He drank beer and wine when I met him, but we did not have enough money to have more alcohol than what was consumed that day or week. I am sure that the experts would have caught that. I did not and do not care for any type of alcohol. One of his friend's wife started to drink more, so her husband wouldn't drink so much. The problem is that her husband would just open another bottle. That was not for me.
    Basic character traits and basic behaviors will come to light with the help of experts. Then the matching of participants may assure that partners are a better fit not only at the moment, but also as time passes and years go by.

    Participants better be honest when they fill out the questionnaires.

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