The 7 Things I Learned From “Married At First Sight”

Photo by Nevels Media, Unsplash

Add up my 2 husbands, and I can chalk up over 30 years of marital life. You’d think I’d have learned a thing or two. Almost be an expert myself. But dammit I’m still learning how to be a wife.

The pandemic had my husband and me engaging in the new national pastime of binge-watching. Don’t get me wrong we did some binging before, but now it’s with more fervor.

We stumbled on Married At First Sight, season 9 to be exact, and got hooked. After we completed that, we had to back it up and start at the beginning with season 1.

We’re sociology drop-outs, so understand that we’re kind of wired to be interested in people, dynamics, relationships, and the like.

We find this show fascinating, in a social experiment, trainwreck kind of way.

For those of you who remain so innocently unaware, it’s a show that has experts pouring through thousands of applicants to “scientifically match” couples to be a good long-term marital match. The couples literally meet each other at the altar, and their life together begins.

From wedding day to honeymoon to living together, they have 8 weeks to “gel” as a couple. They begin the process of growing in love (MAFS lingo) by trying to create emotional and physical connections.

Part of the premise is that if you were just dating each other, and you had a disagreement, some would tend to just break it off, and not deem it worthy to muster their way through the struggle. People are lazy about relationships. They don’t want to put in the work. But that’s exactly what marriage is. Work. But when you’re legally married, and you have a spat, well, then you need to try to understand, compromise, and work through it.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, marriage makes a relationship really real.

At the end of 8 weeks they have to decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce. About 30% stay married, but follow them, and as years go by, the divorces add up, and success rates continue to drop.

The couples have these experts- a pastor, a sociologist, and a psychologist (they even had a sexologist in the early seasons!) who work with them over the 8 weeks as problems arise. They also assign homework that makes each person be open and vulnerable, and helps them emotionally connect, thereby growing their love together.

Unashamedly it’s engrossing to watch what at times seems like a relationship waiting to implode. My husband and I play armchair expert, examining the couples’ problems. Nope, never gonna work. What were you thinking signing up for this show?

But it’s equally mesmerizing to see what appears to be legitimate chemistry and maturity in two people really trying to connect and make a marriage. They seem like a match. They just might make it.

Here’s what I’ve learned from MAFS-

1. Communication is a problem for me.

I thought I was pretty good at communicating. It turns out I’m not.

2. Communication is a problem for my husband.

I never really thought my husband was a good communicator or listener. And I’m right. (He’s still a great guy!)

3. I lack vulnerability.

I’m in my second marriage, and for the first time, I can really see how I lack vulnerability which I’m learning (at 59, jeez!) is really key to a good connection. This in turn begs many questions: Why did I never learn that? HOW do you learn that? Is that something you learn from your parents? College? Cosmopolitan? Why was I never told, “you know, Della, to have a really good relationship you have to be vulnerable and put yourself out there.” I missed that lesson. I now share that with my children.

4. Emotional connections are a challenge.

I’ve learned I have a hard time taking the lead at making emotional connections. I can see other people doing it, I can recognize it, I admire it, but I’m on the bench, and not in the game. Putting myself out there for anything isn’t my strong suit. I’ve spent my life being self-conscious, carefully hiding my true self, afraid of not being liked or accepted, so vulnerability and emotional connection is a stretch for me. Dammit, it’s just true.

5. I have an attachment/detachment trait.

I’ve always been a one-on-one, few people in my circle kind of person. I’m already a relatively quiet person, but get more than 6 people at a gathering, and I move to Quiet 2.0. I know this makes people wonder about me. My feelings aren’t just out there. I’ve learned that my connections are slightly 2-sided, and kept a little under wraps. I’m attached on the inside to you and you and you. But I’m a little detached on the outside, putting up this damn guard I like to haul around. This circles back to #3 and #4.

6. My husband and I are still bonding after almost 20 years.

We have bonds that bind us on all sorts of levels that have been built up over the years. I feel very much connected to my husband, and yet I believe there could be more emotional connection if we both just tried harder. It’s as though our sometimes mutual silence bonds us in some mystical knowing of one another. It’s cool. We know one another. No need to announce it. Somehow our lack of sometimes meaningful discourse works. Tell me, experts, how’s that?

7. Maybe my divorce is ultimately from lack of connection.

My earth-jarring revelation is that I can now see my lack of deep connection with my first husband, which makes me believe that ultimately on some level our lack of connection is what led to his infidelity and our eventual divorce. I’m not giving him an excuse to use for his behavior, mind you. I would like to also point out that he was not a put-it-out-there-vulnerable-show-his-emotions kind of person either. Yup, there it is.

Married At First Sight has shown me a few things. I see what I lack. I see how my reality could stand to have more vulnerability and true connection. And that inspires me to be well, better. Our marriage is just fine. We are more in love today than ever before. But I do try to push some of my walls down, and let go of some of the fear.

There’s more to marriage than just “being in love.” It’s also about letting love grow. If you’re mature and selfless then that paves the way for evolving and growing together with a healthy connection. The experts on the show always talk about the relationship process, and how as a couple you move forward with these baby steps, and grow in love. That’s such a perfect sentiment to bestow upon a couple.

Grow in your love for one another.

Grow in love together.

Grow. In. Love.

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On a writing journey to somewhere. I like talking about life lessons and self-awareness. Proud mom, happy wife, just trying to leave something behind.

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Della Jennsen

Della Jennsen

On a writing journey to somewhere. I like talking about life lessons and self-awareness. Proud mom, happy wife, just trying to leave something behind.

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