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Married at First Sight: A flawed concept or a match made in heaven?

2 November 2017

Married at First Sight is the reality show that has taken New Zealand by storm. In the four years since its debut on Danish television, the series has screened in 130 countries. The show features six couples, matched by two experts, who agree to marry when they first meet. But what does this show say about the changing ways of seeking out love?

Dr Cate Curtis, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Waikato, finds a few similarities between Married at First Sight and arranged marriages. “The idea of marriage being based on love or attraction is quite new in many societies. A key factor in the success of relationships is the motivation with regards to preparedness for a long-term commitment. In some cases, participants in these shows might genuinely want to find a long-term partner. In addition to actually wanting it to work out, there are a few other things that increase the likelihood of any relationship lasting, such as having shared values. No matter how attracted you are to someone initially or how much you might seem to have in common on the surface, if your core underlying values don’t match up, then there are probably going to be difficulties. In the case of Married at First Sight, perhaps the fact that they have both volunteered and got on the show gives them a bit of a head-start, because they already have something in common – being prepared to put a fairly intimate aspect of their lives on public display.”

Putting together people who are serious about finding love and who both have shared values could mean you are partway there to a solid match. But can these unions work long term or are they doomed?

Dr Curtis agrees that there is room for criticism of a show that gets participants to agree to marry each other the very first time they meet – on screen. “Participants in these shows may be there for fame or money, with little intention of making a serious commitment and without social pressure to do so. If that’s the case then it’s very unlikely that the relationship will work out. Reality shows also tend to be focused on getting viewer attention and aren’t particularly realistic.” Married at First Sight explores the idea that relationship experts can help the contestants find a better fit than they could under their own steam. But is this a recipe for success?

"Having shared values is not always enough; willingness to compromise and to see ‘the big picture’ as well as having some other things in common, such as hobbies or interests that you can do together, is also very important. Some disagreements are inevitable, but being willing to put the relationship ahead of ‘being right’ can make a big difference."

If studying Psychology and exploring human behavior and experience is something you are interested in, the University of Waikato offers plenty of flexibility to adapt learning to suit your desired focus. Psychology can be taken as a major for the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Sciences and Bachelor of Science - unlike any other university in New Zealand.