'Married at First Sight' Asks an Important Question Every Married Couple Should Ask Themselves

married at first sight"Do you want to stay married, or do you want to get a divorce?" That's a question couples who met and married six weeks ago will have to answer soon on the FIY show, "Married at First Sight." It's also a question I think all couples should be asking themselves all the time.

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In case you're not as obsessed with MAFS as I am (and I never watch reality TV, I swear), it's a show where strangers get matched together and married. It's the real deal, too: Dream wedding dresses, friends and family in attendance, reception and honeymoon. The other catch is that the three couples each have six weeks to figure out if they can make their marriage work.

Think about your own wedding. If you're like the average couple, you spent a few years dating and getting to know each other before you married. Then, you spent the first year or two adjusting to life together. What are your roles? How much sex will you have? How are you going to communicate with each other?

Now imagine doing all of that in six weeks. In front of cameras.

It's way too much pressure, obviously. And yet, as my boyfriend and I watched together week after week we've learned a lot through the couples' struggles. 

1. Get therapy before you have problems. These couples got a lot of help from sex and relationship therapists, and they needed it. But watching this, I think every couple could stand to see a therapist right before the wedding and then several months into the marriage to help navigate their new situation and start healthy communication practices.

2. Watch yourself from another perspective. We don't have the "luxury" of having a camera follow us around so we can watch ourselves later. But I think it's a helpful exercise to get out of your own head sometimes and try to replay events from the perspective of an unbiased outsider.

3. Create a safe space to communicate your feelings. In one couple, the husband complains that his wife doesn't communicate what she's really feeling. But when she does express herself he flies off the handle in a defensive rage. Dude, if you want someone who talk more you've got shut up and listen without judgment.

4. Do not promise what you cannot deliver. In another couple, the husband had agreed he'd be willing to relocate, while the wife had said she'd never leave the island of Manhattan. So when they moved in with each other, guess what happened? The husband never really "left" his former home in New Jersey. He promised more than he could deliver.

5. Do not put your partner on trial. When you've been hurt in the past it's easy to go on the defensive in the next relationship, always hyper-vigilant for ways your new love is going to do you wrong. But staying in constant "gotcha!" mode is a terrible way to conduct a relationship.

You're starting fresh with a new person. Give them a chance! Start off with the rose-tinted glasses. You have plenty of time to get wise later on. But if you want your relationship to have a chance, you have to give each other the benefit of the doubt and stay in a hopeful frame of mind. You may actually be surprised.

6. Be the first to set the tone for your marriage. You set it by the way you talk with each other, the way you joke, the way you touch (or don't touch) each other, and the way you respond to each other. Don't wait for the other person to "do the right thing" whatever you think that is. Set the example. Be the spouse you want him to be. Do the kind of marriage you want.

7. Make it fun. Marriage is serious business, but you need joy, spontaneity, and playfulness to make it work. Don't neglect that aspect.

8. There is no perfect, but there can be wonderful. This is what spiritual advisor Greg Epstein tells the couples. And honestly, which would you rather have? 

9. Every marriage is an experiment. The show is a kind of experiment, but isn't every marriage, as well? It's a series of trial and error. You see what works, what doesn't. Hopefully you're learning and applying the results. 

10. Ask yourself often: Do I want to stay married or do I want a divorce? If you want to stay married, commit, for that day, to give it your all. See what happens. (And if the answer is "I want a divorce," well, see item #1.)

Next week we get to see who stays married. Of course even after Sean and Davina split (ahem, my prediction) and the other two couples make a go of it (again, just my prediction) divorce will always be an option. But isn't that what makes marriage precious? You always have the opportunity to choose each other.

What do you think of starting a marriage with therapy before you have problems?

 

Image via Married at First Sight/Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

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