The reunion show for Married at First Sight aired last night to update the audience on all the couples — and none of the couples are still together. Why is it so difficult for this type of reality TV show to create healthy long-term couples? As a family and marriage therapist, I see some of the issues in the format of the show, time limitations and heavy attention to matching people on paper. Let me explore some of these thoughts and figure out some answers and end on a positive note.
Love should be valued and built upon each day. Couples need to spend time together to create long-lasting, healthy bonds and not just be thrown into a quick marriage without a foundation to grow from, like a friendship or dating relationship. Just by having the commitment of the ceremony of marriage does not necessarily equate to long-term, healthy relationship.
I think the show's experts do a fantastic job of advising and guiding the couples through the journey, but the limited time does not fare well here. The idea that the couples need good communication skills and needed to understand possibly each other’s love languages are concepts that grow with a couple over time, not all at once.
Now, a few interesting positive things happened to a few of our couples. We see Samantha Role and Neil Bowlus sit down with Dr. Pepper Schwartz and discuss that they were able to learn about themselves and cultivate a friendship. Samantha seems to have gained a lot of insight about herself and learned very important lessons that will help her understand herself in relation to relationships. This is so valuable because you must have a good relationship with yourself to have a good relationship with another person. She is on her way to healthy future relationships.
The next couple, David Norton and Ashely Doherty were seen separately. The conversation with Dr. Pepper Schwartz was focused heavily on Ashely’s inability to see past physical appearance, which is why she felt the couple lacked chemistry. That is a match lacking something more than just on-paper compatibility — the magic was not there.
The final couple, Tres Russel and Vanessa Nelson, who had originally chosen to stay married, were no longer together. We see a very sad moment as Vanessa tells Dr. Pepper Schwartz about a conflict and inability to connect intimately. This couple appeared to have great chemistry from the onset of the show. Another good lesson to learn here is that great chemistry does not necessarily make a healthy marriage either. It is only a part of marriage. It's OK if a couple needs to develop intimacy throughout the relationship, as a strong physical connection from the start is not always indicative of a long lasting union. Make sure you have an emotional connection or strong emotional intimacy as well.
The reunion show seemed to emphasize the journey and learning experience for each person, and this should be applauded. The couples did not make it, but the individuals learned about themselves and appeared to come out of the experience with a wealth of knowledge about themselves and what might be important in a relationship for them. I find that the cast should be given a lot of credit for opening up and sharing; even though the marriages ended, the understanding of each person about themselves was something to be noted. This experiment did not end up with marriages, but it did help the audience to learn about relationships and gain insight into the process. For that reason, it is something to learn from.
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