Lifetime’s arranged marriage experiment, Married At First Sight, has been going on for nine years and the results prove it’s time to end the series.
Married At First Sight first premiered on July 8, 2014. The series was the first of its kind and was marketed as an experiment to see if two people matched by experts could form the basis for developing a marriage. And the caveat? Every couple had to legally marry. Nine years later, the show has evolved more into a spectacle than a social experiment. And it’s time for it to end.
It’s really easy to hop on Google and see which MAFS couples are still together since the show’s premiere in 2014. The lists seem long, and to someone who’s never seen the show, it sounds like it works.
This is the image the series gives off: they keep their successful couples involved in the programming as proof that the experiment works. Its structure was more realistic when it first started.
The couples faced issues such as cohabitation, work schedules, and the occasional counseling session. The structure of the experiment was not as composed as in years past.
These elements made the show exciting to watch; watching two complete strangers try to get to know each other, fall in love, and decide whether they want the marriage to last forever, or get divorced after the timing has run out.
It was fascinating to watch them deal with unforeseen issues, such as not being attracted to their new partner. It was even more exciting to watch the couples really start to fall for each other, and to see how they chose love on Decision Day.
The couples who stay together on Decision Day immediately become a permanent fixture on Lifetime. From baby specials to Where Are They Now specials, MAFS showcases its successful couples as much as possible to prove that the program can create solid marriages. The problem with this? It’s a big lie.
All experiments are based on the scientific method. MAFS’s hypothesis is that if relationship experts match two total strangers in a marriage based on their own personalities and desires, they are more likely to stay married. The real question now is: Is the experiment a success?
The answer is no. In fact, it should be seen as a huge failure. The series has been airing for 9 years and has run for 16 different seasons since its inception. 64 couples have gone to the altar to marry, mostly, complete strangers.
And how many of those 64 couples are still together? 11. That’s right, only 11 couples in the series’ history have stayed together. Granted, this number is based on who is still married, not who said yes on Decision Day.
If the experiment were judged only on Decision Day, those numbers would be much higher. But Decision Day isn’t a good barometer of the series’ success rate, as many couples have broken up in the weeks following the day when they agreed to stay married.
For the series to be considered a success, the percentage of couples remaining married would be slightly higher than national divorce rates, which are between 40 and 50%.
The current MAFS pass rate is extremely low at 17%. In fact, six of the sixteen seasons aired have had zero successful marriages; seasons 2 – 4 and 13 – 15. If there are more failures than successes, it means the hypothesis is false. The experiment is a failure, which means it’s time to end it.
It’s time to talk about the “experts” of MAFS. Dr. Pepper Schwartz and Pastor Calvin Roberson are the most well-known and consistent advisors mentioned.
Dr. Pepper has been involved since the beginning of the series, while Pastor Cal joined the series in the fourth season. The idea behind the experts is that they bring the couples together and give them post-marriage advice with the aim of keeping them together.
The show has had many additional experts come in and out over the years, and from a variety of fields (but one of them is usually a sex therapist).
In theory, each expert has the qualifications to be involved, but most likely they also have a contractual obligation to do everything they can to keep the couples together for as long as possible.
They come across as extremely likable on the show, but as always, actions speak louder than words. They may not try to encourage instances of emotional abuse, but they certainly don’t do much to stop them when they do occur.
The idea has been seen over and over in the series’ nine-year history but has definitely become more prevalent over the past three years. In fact, fans were very vocal about the pairings being a clear and obvious mismatch from the jump.
The experts claim to match everyone based on their values and other deeply personal things that can affect relationships, but that seems to be a half-truth.
There is always that one couple that leaves many wondering how they ever managed to match them. Serious contestants like Paige Banks, Kate Sisk, Chris Collette, and Derek Sherman were paired with incredibly toxic partners.
Both Paige and Kate were paired with partners who played with them physically and emotionally, while their new husbands were constantly told they weren’t attractive enough.
Chris was paired up with a woman who didn’t find him attractive and went to great lengths to make him look like the villain, which failed miserably for her.
They also had different political ideologies, something you would think the pundits would pay attention to because of the extremely divisive state of politics in the United States.
Derek was working with a woman who told him not to dream, and in addition to being emotionally abusive to him, she allegedly was unfaithful in their marriage.
In all these situations, the abusive party was severely addressed by the experts, but nothing more than that happened. The emotionally abused party would stay that way unless they decided to leave the process altogether.
The idea of convincing people to stay in unhealthy relationships doesn’t sit well with a series that claims to be about love. Not only that but living in that situation can have extreme consequences for one’s mental health.
Mental health as an aspect of reality television is an idea that has come to the fore in recent years, and the main complaint is that these big production studios aren’t doing enough to protect their casts.
As it stands, each new season of MAFS is worse than the last. The number of toxic matches is starting to outnumber the relationships that have potential, and that’s not okay.
Imagine how triggering watching the show is for people who have been in relationships with emotional abuse.
The series is reaching a point where it’s doing more harm than good, and it’s time to let it go and pave the way for something new.
The experimental aspect of the series has proven to be a failure, and now that experiment must end.
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