Married at First Sight has generally split social media with one half declaring participants as “crazy” and “insane”, whilst the others feel fascinated by the entire social experiment.
If you haven’t caught an episode yet, the premise of the series on Channel 4 is to use science in order to match singletons looking for love. Through vigorous tests and analysis, a pool is formed where relationship and psychology experts match couples based on their results and other findings. Couples meet for the first time on their wedding day where they exchange vows in a legal service attended by family and friends. Following this, they embark on a honeymoon and then move in together for six weeks, living together as husband and wife. At the end of the six weeks, they have to decide whether they would like to continue their relationship or split up.
There are several types of arranged marriages, which have become synonymous within the South Asian community. However prior to the 18th century, they were common across most parts of the world. Before the 20th century, arranged marriages were the norm in Russia, where these would mostly be endogamous. In China, it is said that “marriage was a negotiation and decision between parents and other older members of two families. The boy and girl, were typically told to get married, without a right to consent, even if they had never met each other until the wedding day.”
Fast forward to today and you still find arranged marriages taking place. However, with the addition of online matrimonial sites, the definition of an arranged marriage has completely changed. Nowadays a mere introduction is all the input external individuals have and it is down to the couple themselves to decide whether they like each other enough to spend the rest of their lives together.
This particular experiment isn’t based on family input, but science. Relationship experts, psychoanalysts and psychologists have all come together to find out as much as they can genetically and personally about candidates. Using saliva samples, personality questionnaires and even facial symmetry, five experts will all work together to narrow down a pool of people who are suited to one another. Taking careers, values and future aspirations into account all plays a crucial part in determining who they match.
Scientifically speaking, all of these tests and analysis should produce near perfect matches for candidates who make it to the final pool. However, there is an argument that because these candidates are looking for a committed relationship, they’re more likely to try and make their marriage work – even if it means compromising on some elements, whether that be physical attraction or mutual interests. Having dated or gone through failed relationships, most of these candidates are at their wits end when it comes to trying to find their other half. You could say Married At First Sight is their last resort and they’re up for the experiment to see where it leads, but at the same time, could it be that those who conceived this social experiment are actually exploiting individuals who are emotionally vulnerable because they long for a committed relationship?
The end of the experiment does give the option for divorce, should a couple find that they cannot or do not wish to continue the marriage. But who really wants to be married and divorced in the space of six weeks? The Australian version has seen both successful relationships and couples who choose to call it quits. Although getting quite emotionally involved as episodes went on, I couldn’t help but feel slight scepticism. You can’t help but wonder whether participants feel a certain fear of being set back free into the single world and feeling like they’re back at square one, if they end the marriage.
The concept of using science to determine life partners is an interesting one. The matches that have come about as a result of this approach have been realistic and carefully thought about. However, throwing a couple straight into married life and essentially fusing the dating stage, where couples get to know one another, with marriage, places them in a very peculiar scenario. Using science to match couples and allowing them to go on dates seems like a less scary and much more sensible prospect than walking them down the aisle. The pressure of taking vows, meeting families and friends and then having an entire nation watching can weigh very heavily on a person’s mind, forcing them to settle and train themselves into thinking that perhaps this is the very best the world has to offer them.
In reality though, they’re potentially sacrificing true happiness for the sake of televised entertainment.