My partner demands a reality TV free home environment as he is convinced it’s frying the brains of the world. He may be entirely correct on that point however once a year he raises the embargo for the trashiest of addictions, Married At First Sight.
My excuse is that it’s “research” which he reluctantly accepts. He pretends to hate it but his enthusiasm says otherwise. Needless to say, most people who watch will soon get attached if for no other reason than to witness poor behaviour and feel better about themselves. Whist witnessing this bizarre experiment of human behaviour, I came upon a few patterns I’ve also witnessed in my clients from time to time and felt it warranted a comment
Lesson 1: Your first feeling is not necessarily how you will feel
In business someone is always chanting the value of the first impression. Hell, we do it ourselves when preparing our new clients to begin dating their matches. But after 14 years of matchmaking I’m left wondering if we are all overvaluing the ‘first impression’.
Whilst watching MAFS I found myself thinking how strange it is to watch people who are quite laissez faire in their first meeting, sometimes particularly unimpressed, to later find themselves feeling deep emotional attachment or even love for someone. Now obviously, no one is going to meet a date and then proceed to spend every waking and sleeping moment with them (unless you met them holidaying in Santorini), so this is an abnormal scenario, but the pattern is consistent with what I have witnessed countless times when my clients meet someone new. They will often be not-so-keen on a second date, come up with a pretty lame excuse not being able to identify anything in particular and opt out of the match to ask for a new match. On the other hand, the ones who have taken a ‘wait-and-see’ approach seem to have a much higher relationship success rate.
Similarly the ones who felt the required spark in the first meeting, tend to experience a fizzle-out after a few dates, significantly diluting the power of ‘love at first sight’ myth.
My assessment- your first impressions are letting you down when it comes to matchmaking- take a breath and just “be” with your prospective partner for a few dates at least. Give yourself time to appreciate who they are and take the time to decide if they match your values, and if they worth further exploration.
Lesson 2. Your negative assessment of your prospective partner is probably more about you than them
During any particular episode it can be quite entertaining watching people thrust their criticism of their experimental spouse onto the recipients shoulders when, from the outside, it’s pretty clear that the “issue” lies with themselves. But, before you wallow in your shadenfreude take a look in the mirror my dear, for this is a common trait amongst us humans. It’s so easy to spot faults in others or even worse, spot our actual faults in others with no identifiable connection to ourselves.
One of the couples started off with flying colours but hit a major speed bump when she became jealous of him relating to other women at a dinner party. She confronted him and he was quite insulted at the slight on his honour. His reaction was to threaten to exit the relationship as her lack of trust did not meet his standards.
Fascinating to watch. After going along so well, streaks ahead of most other couples, the whole thing was on the rocks in a moment.
Standing on the outside, it seems a little clearer that her jealousy was misplaced as he evidently has strong feelings for her and did not appear to cross any boundaries with the other women. At the same time, his harsh response may have something to do with his overly strong connection to his mother who doesn’t appear to have allowed any criticism of him his whole life. After them going so well in the beginning and becoming quite intimate, their relationship threat, although strongly blaming the other, seems to be more about their own issues than their heavily judged partner.
I wonder how much better they may be managing if she understood that he is not the men who have cheated on her previously and is well within his rights to relate to others as long as boundaries are respected. Perhaps she just felt a little ignored and as he adores her, I’m sure that if she just told him that she loves how open, friendly and social he is but to please take a few moments through the night to focus just on her and show her she’s his girl, that the problem may go away completely.
Also, I wonder if they would benefit from him not feeling so threatened when she challenged him, making it about him, but instead, felt confident enough in himself as well as of her love, saw that she was merely seeking comfort and reassurance, and kept asking questions until he really understood her and showed her that she had nothing to worry about.
When you feel threatened by the other, take a breath and turn the finger back around to you. What is it about you that has you react this way? And… Can I find a way to ask for an adjustment that will help me and the relationship keep moving in the right direction?
Lesson 3 Stop justifying your poor behaviour with euphemisms
This is a classic. Probably as a result of poor parental choices, it’s so common for us to invent a nice positive description of a negative characteristic
One of the participants was horrendously controlling and aggressively critical. None of the efforts of her experimental spouse were enough. She was relentless and over time simply wore her partner down to tears. When challenged by it, her default response was, “That’s who I am. I’m a very passionate person.” Somehow she’d managed to completely excuse her behaviour and mask it behind what she regarded as a positive trait. Now in her defence, beneath her harsh exterior was the broken heart of a rejected woman and the safest place for her to seek refuge was in the criticism of the other (see point above) but to completely dismiss her bad behaviour as “just passionate” is a mistake and abdicates any accountability for poor choices.
Other examples of pride shrouded excuses by other members of the experiment were, “I’m not backwards in coming forwards” equals I’m insensitive and domineering, “I’m not done talking/I speak my mind” equals I’m a complete bully, and “I like to let my hair down and go have a drink with the boys” equals I’m an alcoholic with no memory of terrible behaviour in blackout periods and I need to be in rehab. Seriously!
Be careful of your euphemistic dismissals of your poor choices. We must stop living by our mother’s descriptions of our poor character traits and take at least some of the responsibility for what people walk away with when they leave our space. If your behaviour is challenged, don’t dismiss it with a positive justification, especially if it’s not the first time you’ve been pulled up on it. Take ownership of who you are and let your character and ability to relate be a constant and never-ending work in progress. In other words, own your shit and do something about it or you’ll die alone.
So you see, now my man will have to accept my “I watch it for research” story and I am safe to finish the season and plan for next year. Sweet.