The Ninja Blog

Cate Ellink studies Married At First Sight

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In Australia recently this TV show aired called Married At First Sight. I’m not a great fan of reality TV shows but when I heard about this one, my ears pricked.

“Experts” were choosing couples in an “experiment” to see if they could “get it right”. Could they find love for people who hadn’t found love for themselves?

As a romance writer, I’m often faced with my characters being too alike – there isn’t a great divide separating my heroines and heroes. If I try to make them opposites, or too different, I feel false and struggle to work out how they could possibly get together, or even like one another. So this was a chance for me to learn from experts as to pairings – and maybe see some succeed that I didn’t expect to work.

Plus, I have a science background, and this is an experiment – how could I resist?

Weeks 1 and 2 were meeting the couples and watching their wedding and reception. I took notes. (I know, sometimes I horrify myself too!) These are my notes (copied word for word) and [ ] indicates later thoughts added now.

Roni & Michael

Can two people with big friendship groups merge? Would it be better for one loner & one big person? [meaning big friendship groups, not big sized, of course]

She’s been married; he’s only had short-term [relationship]s – how does that work maturity-wise?

[At their wedding, they were really showy, flirty, over the top, which made me wonder how they’d be together without a crowd to play for.]

Clare & Lachlan

Common goal: kids. Is that enough?

She’s fiery … is that too much for him? [he’s laid back and calm]

She’s city & he’s a farmer…clash? [But later I wrote ‘affluent’ near farmer, so that changed my opinion a bit]

Zoe & Alex

Cultural differences

‘class’ differences: she’s stuck up, over-the-top; he’s relaxed suburban

She’s needy & he can’t give

[I later realised she wasn’t so stuck up, or OTT, or needy, and he could give – not sure why those were my impressions initially]

Michelle & James

Seem good and solid.

(End of notes.)

The couples first met at their commitment ceremony (marriage) in front of friends and family. They had a ‘reception’, went on a ‘honeymoon’ and ‘moved in together’ over the course of one month.

In about the third episode, all four couples met for dinner, the first time they’d all met each other, and this was brilliant. The experts watched from hidden cameras and commented on what they were seeing. It was pretty obvious that one couple just hadn’t got together. They sat apart, didn’t touch, didn’t support each other in conversation, and were quite different to the other couples.

Then when the girls and the guys separated and got chatting, the ‘estranged’ couple were the ones who hadn’t had sex (Roni & Michael – overly demonstrative in a crowd, distant together). One of the pair had sex on the first night (Lachlan & Clare), another on night two (Alex & Zoe), and the third didn’t say when (Michelle & James). The experts said that sexual intimacy was important for the experiment as it increased the bonding and trust between the couple.

Before the end of the experiment, Roni and Michael parted ways. He said there was no chemistry between them. From an outsider watching, he didn’t seem to give much to the relationship – he was guarded, hesitant, didn’t share a lot – and she backed away as he did. I think he was really put off by her previous marriage, and by her larger-than-life personality. It seemed like she over-shadowed him at times and he couldn’t handle that. Not sure, we only see what the TV producers want us to see.

The other 3 couples continued after the experiment. But 2 months after, Michelle & James had broken up. In the last week of the experiment, Michelle had gone to James’ parents place. They’d decided to sell the farm and seemed to spring the news on James, who didn’t seem to be expecting to hear that. He withdrew, and Michelle lost confidence in the relationship. She never got that back.

A year after the experiment, Lachlan and Clare has also split. She was quite fiery and argumentative and loud. He didn’t like that but they kept coming back together and talking things out. I don’t know what happened over that year but I wonder if she never stopped that pattern of behaviour? She also had a very busy life and didn’t seem willing to give up any hobbies to spend time with him – I wonder if that played a role too? We’ll never know.

Alex and Zoe remained together. And from my notes, you’ll see that I thought they were the least compatible couple…yet they worked. I’ve been wondering why, and here are my theories:

Communication: these two talked a lot. They ate dinner together and chatted about themselves, not so much their day but what they wanted for the future, where they’d been in the past, how they were different.

Open Minded: both came into the experiment to find love and were willing to give things up for it. Alex went to the city and checked out Zoe’s city-life even though it wasn’t his cup of tea. He also went to the Art Gallery with her and took an interest in the art (which she loved). Zoe lived in the suburbs with Alex catching public transport to work (which she’d never done), she tried her hand at cooking and being domestic, she embraced his dog.

They had good friends who gave good advice: early on, a friend of Zoe’s said to her (not in these words) you’re just being a bitch, if you don’t whinge about where he lives, what he wears, and what he does, is he a decent person? You could see Zoe stop and listen. It probably took her a while to let that soak in…but she did…and she learned from it.

Married At First Sight taught me that sometimes opposites do work, especially when they’re prepared to work at their relationship, acknowledge and accept their differences, learn from each other, and aim towards a future together.

Watch out! I might have to write about a couple who you’d never think could make it!

Did you watch the show? What did you think of the couples and the results of the experiment?