MAFS has arrived well and truly and it’s taken the country by storm. The public are all talking about the couples, the experts, the group dynamic and the explosive drama. Social media has gone into overdrive.
MAFS is a social experiment whereby 10 couples are scientifically matched by 3 experts and then inserted into an 8-week experiment to see if they can fall in love. They go through all the rituals and ceremony attached to a traditional wedding, they go on honeymoons, live together in an apartment complex, meet family and friends, and every week they have to decide if they want to stay or go. Then at the end of the experiment, they have to decide if they want to renew their vows and be together as a couple in the real world, or to go their separate ways.
I have been fortunate enough to be there from the very beginning as one of the experts who meet and match our singles. It’s been an amazing ride since day one, only to see Series 4 now become the #1 rating show in Australia. And through all of this, the couples have been at the heart of its runaway success.
So what can couples out there watching MAFS take away from the social experiment? What are the gems that can help you all function better in your relationship? Here’s 5 lessons that I think stand out:
1) Side with each other
Right from the outset I have noticed one very important pattern for the successful couples on MAFS. The ones that side together stay together. What this means, is that when the going gets tough and challenges happen, couples that turn towards one another and deal with it as a team rather than blame each other last. You must always have your partner’s back through thick and thin if you’re going to get through the tough times. Empathise, side with one another and avoid the blame game.
2) Be a team with in-laws/ friends
All of the couples on the show have to deal with meeting family and friends. It’s a very important part of the experiment, as the approval of these people is highly important for all the participants. In the end they will help them in their decision making process. The couples that go in with a game plan before they meet them, and discuss a blueprint about how to handle them do very well. So operate as a team with family and friends, have an agreement and support one another so you can deal with whatever the inner circle throws at you.
3) Discuss issues softly
The couples on MAFS all have different fight styles. Some are very good at handling conflict, while others struggle to express themselves. Those that tend to bring up issues with a sledge hammer and throw personal attacks, push their partner away and make them withdraw. The more it goes on, the less connection they have. On the other hand, those that are respectful and bring up issues softly stay engaged and remain connected. So talk about problems with your partner in a gentle way and be friendly rather than attacking.
4) Adjust your relationship expectations
One of the biggest issues for all our couples on MAFS is their ability to modify their relationship expectations. All of them come in with criteria of what they want and don’t want – some of them can adjust this, while others simply opt out because it hasn’t ticked the boxes. For couples that do well, they open up and look to learn from each other rather than rule them out immediately. So be curious and embrace your partner’s differences. Open up your mind to new experiences and perspectives and give them a chance to show you who they really are.
5) Say “yes” and let your partner lead
Power and control is a common theme in romantic relationships and this is always on show in MAFS. Some participants have very forceful outspoken personalities and they like to lead and to make decisions. By contrast, some are more than happy to follow along and keep the peace. The couples that do the best are those that can say “yes” to one another and allow each other to lead. So be prepared to compromise and share the decision making and leadership. Create an atmosphere of equality and respect and watch the love grow.
John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship psychologist, as seen on the hit show Married At First Sight, and on Ch 9’s Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, runs a private practice in Sydney, and is a sought after speaker. (www.johnaiken.com.au)