The outrageous TV reality show Married at First Sight could turn out to be a modern-day morality tale.
‘If reality TV has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep people with no shame down,’ says Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Never has this been more outrageously on point than on Married At First Sight—which may be exactly why it’s a ratings bonanza.
We don’t watch it, of course. It’s unjustifiable and shallow. But, if we did stumble across it, we might be surprised to find it has something to teach us—if for no other reason, than that it highlights just how shallow our culture’s attitude to marriage is.
It never ceases to amaze (not that we watch it) when one of the soon-to-be-hitched cast members claim that if their partner is too short, too tall, wears the wrong jacket, has ugly toenails or sports a monobrow, it will be an absolute, set-in-stone deal breaker.
Surely, the whole foundation of an arranged marriage is that it’s not about attraction. It’s about choosing to be committed to the person and building your relationship from there. Attraction and love grow out of this commitment.
The overarching belief about romance in our culture is that ‘having a spark’ is the most important part of compatibility. When you bring that false ideal to an arranged marriage you get … well … Married At First Sight.
In fact, attraction has very little to do with compatibility. Even having shared interests has little to do with compatibility. When it comes to building a life together, what is really needed is shared values. That’s why Christians are often urged to be ‘equally yolked’—meaning our values and beliefs mirror each other’s.
Robert Taibbi of Fixing Families, has some helpful pointers for building compatibility:
1. Individual vs. couple time: Work out your needs as introverts and extroverts. Agree together your expectation of alone time and couple time.
2. Handle each other’s stress: Do you know your partner’s signs of stress? ‘This is about compassion and stepping up for the big stuff—not taking things personally for the small, not falling into tit-for-tat over who’s got it tougher,’ says Taibbi.
3. Work through conflict: Don’t sweep it under the carpet without ever resolving the underlying problem.
4. Support each other’s dreams: ‘The notion here is that,
“I want to help you be happy, live the life you want to live, and know that I’ve always got your back”,’ reflects Taibbi.
5. Feeling safe: This is about having equal power in a relationship. ‘Feeling safe is ultimately what all these other issues come down to,’ sums up Taibbi. ‘Both partners being able to say what they think and want without fear, without holding back.’