For my money, Channel 9's juggernaut reality show "Married at First Sight" is equal to Tinder in damaging our perception of what love actually is.
Many Australians can simply not look away from the Nine Networks' trainwreck reality drama, Married At First Sight. For those of unaware, the premise is thus: two hopeful and expectant strangers meet for the first time at the altar and participate in a commitment ceremony. They spend their wedding night in a hotel room together and then the leave for a honeymoon. Once they return they begin living together for the remainder of the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, the couples decide if they want to remain as a couple or end their relationship.
The couples are matched to their “perfect” partner by a panel of experts consisting of two relationship psychologists and a neuropsychotherapist. The idea is that the couples are matched using a scientific approach. The first three seasons saw only one couple out of thirteen continue with their union after the cameras stopped rolling. This season has seen half of the couples already call it quits, with some participants feeling very hurt and disappointed that their “perfect” match was really not a good match at all.
So what does this tell us?
Shows like Married At First Sight can cause us to think that there is a specific formula to finding lasting love, and in doing so they can greatly inflate our expectations. A former cast member has gone on to called the show “life ruining trash”.
The problem with shows like Married at First Sight is that they feed into the current dating culture where we are told and ultimately believe that there are shortcuts to finding that someone special. It suggests that there is a formula that makes for a perfect match when the reality is completely different. Apps such as Tinder have given us the impression that all we need to do is swipe right. We have a generation of some singles who are treating others as disposable, because if it isn’t a “perfect” match at first sight then another opportunity is just a swipe away.
This current way of thinking is causing singles to have completely unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of what a real relationship is. They are finding themselves questioning their relationships viability and longevity based on what they see on social media and from heavily edited reality television. Many of them, I have found, have lost all sense of what actually makes for a happy and healthy relationship, simply because that kind of example is less frequently shown. We are fixated on creating a list of demands that our ideal partner must meet and when they don’t stack up we are left disappointed, bewildered and hurt, leaving us at the start of a that familiar painful loop.
The truth is that science doesn’t hold the answers to love. There have been many studies done over the years to try to help us understand why we fall in love and the chemical concoction that occurs when we are doing so. The science is only part of the puzzle.
My experience as a relationship counsellor has shown me that if you want to love someone long term and in a deep and intimate way, then you must disperse the unrealistic expectations and compromise on some of the small stuff. You will not find perfection but if you give a worthy suitor a chance, you may just find that love is far more surprising. He or she may not tick all of your boxes but they most likely have many wonderful attributes that you neglected to put on your list in the first place. Falling in love is an adventure. You will experience soaring highs and crushing lows but this is what makes love one of the greatest forces that we experience in life.
The act of falling in love is amazing but the staying in love is what creates lasting fulfilment. Long-term love is a choice, and you choose it and show it day in and day out, if you want your relationship to last. Love is wonderful and you should expect it to be, but it is unrealistic to expect love to be perfect or effortless.