Feel like you just wasted two months watching Married at First Sight Australia? Don’t be so sure that was time wasted… in fact, MAFS can teach you a lot about your own relationships (both romantic and platonic).
Along with the rest of Australia and New Zealand, I’ve spent most of 2018 absolutely #MAFS obsessed. Having now spent 32 hours watching the latest Australian series, and another 30 stalking the couples’ every move on facebook, instagram, and Daily Mail… and it got me seriously thinking about:
What MAFS Teaches Us About Relationships
Though we watch it for the drama, entertainment and (let’s be honest), to laugh – sorry, Troy – Married At First Sight teaches us about relationships too (30 hours of free relationship counselling, thanks experts ;).
The ‘experiment’ is designed to mimic that of a real relationship and marriage, and like those on the show (contestants? actors? stars?), many of us go through similar issues with our partners. So, before you relegate MAFS down to being just producer-written-reality-TV-garbage, consider how it can actually give you a useful perspective on your relationship.
If you’re reading this, I know you’ve invested a lot of time into this show, so the least you can do is learn from it.
Challenges will Make or Break Your Relationship
Perhaps the hardest thing for the MAFS couples is that the challenges they face are so early on in the relationship. They barely know each other, and are thrust into a “marriage” with a stranger – not to mention the pressure of full-time filming for TV.
When challenges arise in your relationship, it can be so tempting to want to just give up on it altogether. It is all too easy to forget the best times, and how good it will feel when you get past the challenges, but if you persevere and make it through, challenges make your bond stronger. Challenges in a relationship quickly teach you a lot about your partner, as well as yourself, and encourage personal growth. Blair and I have weathered so many storms together, I think we’re practically unbreakable – and I’m sure those challenges are the reason we’re as strong as we are.
An example of this is on MAFS comes from Charlene and Patrick. Charlene was challenged by Patrick and how he wore his heart on his sleeve, constantly challenging Patrick to be more ‘manly’ and alpha, and putting a strain on their marriage. However, this challenge also taught Charlene that she needs to show more emotion if their relationship was to continue – which she did, and their relationship became stronger for it. Are they still together…?
Trust is everything.
Trust is everything in relationships. I have recently written about jealousy and mistrust in relationship, so at the risk of repeating myself, trust is one of the key determinants of an intimate relationship. If you are unable to trust your partner, you often end up putting up your own walls so high that you hold yourself back from falling in love. If someone gives you a reason not to trust them, the tension put onto the relationship is a hard thing to mend.
If trust is broken at the beginning of the relationship, unfortunately it is unlikely to work out favourably later – you need a strong foundation of trust and reliability. When Dean broke Tracey’s trust very early on in their “marriage” with Davina, the relationship was tarnished. From that point on Tracey might have forgiven Dean, but she definitely could not forget (as we saw, Tracey brought up Dean’s mistakes every chance she could). If someone breaks your trust early on in a relationship it can be easy to believe that it is their normal behaviour.
However, when trust is broken later on in a relationship, it does not necessarily mean it is the end. It is definitely easier to repair trust if you are in a long-term relationship, and have a solid foundation. This is because if your long-term partner breaks your trust, you are more inclined to believe that it is a one-off mistake that will not happen again as it is not their normal behaviour.
You Can’t Force a Connection
Sometimes, it happens instantly, whether you believe in ‘love at first sight’ or just instant sexual chemistry – in which case, it’s a lot easier to build on that ‘spark’. So if there’s not an instant connection, how long do you wait for, or try for – when is enough enough?
If we do not click with someone new, especially if we feel emotionally ready and willing for a relationship, we may debate with ourselves whether we have given the connection enough time to develop. The reality is that you cannot be a match with everyone, and trying to force romance is never going to be successful. Sometimes the match may make sense; you both may get along like a house on fire, but if you do not also have a physical connection then it’s really only a friendship. You can’t force a connection.
In MAFS, Sean and Blair tried from the moment they met to form a connection. No matter how hard they tried, that spark was just not there. It was hard for Blair to comes to term with, but Sean had to break it to her that it would never work. While there was nothing wrong with Sean, and nothing wrong with Blair, their connection wasn’t right, and couldn’t be forced.
It can be tempting to ‘settle’ with someone you know is wonderful and would make a great partner, even if you don’t really experience ‘butterflies’ (or want to rip their clothes off) but it’s unlikely to work out in the long run, so save yourself the heartache.
Don’t be Closed-Minded
We like to think we know what we want and who we want – a mental ‘checklist‘ if you will, criteria in a person to tick off before we can accept that there may be potential. We’re told not to “judge a book by its cover” as we grow up, but as adults, many of us are still guilty of judging people too quickly. While sexual chemistry and instant connection can’t be faked, we mustn’t close ourselves off to people before a) getting to know them, and b) considering that maybe everything we think we want/need to get from a partner isn’t unrealistic.
Just because somebody doesn’t immediately appear to be the Prince Charming you’ve dreamed of doesn’t mean they won’t be your perfect match. Married At First Sight demonstrates that it sometimes takes a little while to warm up to someone – until we get to know them properly. The two couples which came out of the experiment (Tracey and Sean and Troy and Carly) didn’t instantly see each other as potential relationship partners, but as they got to know each other over the course of the show, their bond deepened, and the realised that they were compatible.
When we first meet someone, it is easy for us to act in ways that are different how we normally would. It is not until you get comfortable that your true self does come out, so don’t be too quick to judge other people.
Another example is John’s match from last season. Deb was set on marrying a Polynesian man. John was not a Polynesian man… meaning that John was not good enough for her from the start and meant that Deb did not even give him a chance. Hey, at least it gave him a great instagram bio.
You Need to find Balance
If your partner’s work/life balance doesn’t have an impact on your life, consider whether yours might on his (I am guilty). This is something so many of us struggle with – work has a tendency to take over our lives, but the real key to happiness (in ourselves and in relationships) is not to let it. As MAFS teaches us, relationships can be tarnished if you do not take enough time out of your life to dedicate to the other person.
Justin was so focussed on his ice-cream company, that he let it sabotage his relationship with Carly. Carly interpreted his failure to pay attention to her as a lack of interest, which ultimately saw their relationship fail.
While our careers are important financially, for life satisfaction and independence, our jobs and businesses can also drain us of energy that would otherwise go towards a relationship. Successful relationships require that we be emotionally, physically and mentally available. When someone’s life is completely engrossed in their work success, and the need to feel important, this can make their partner feel like they do not exist and are of lesser priority.
I know that I am guilty of doing so, but having recently discovered Blair and my ‘love languages‘ and recognising that Blair needs undivided attention to feel loved, I’m going to be more conscious of his needs.
So, with all of those relationship take-aways and life lessons, who’s looking forward to Married at First Sight New Zealand!?!