Married at First Sight expert says couples need to avoid negativity, look for positives
OPINION: Our obsession with negativity and what's broken in a situation is a shame - and yet unfortunately expected. If even for a minute we try to re-frame what we see, we will realise there are so many fascinating questions that are posed in the early stages of a relationship.
Brett and Angel have both stepped away from types to varying degrees, including age gaps and geographical flags, but as we will see on their honeymoon, they appear to be blossoming at a relentless pace. What's working for them? Firstly, the positivity and energy from each of them is contagious. Also, they are just so damned authentic in terms of being themselves, that none of that energy is wasted on presenting a desired image of who or what they are.
How amazing, and fascinating that the biggest challenge so far is Brett's niceness! It's interesting to see and hear Angel's maturity and insight as she realises this is not a relationship she is accustomed to, and that she had set the bar way too low in terms of relationship expectations. In Brett she continues to get the awesomeness she deserves, and vice versa.
Andrew continues to impress with his honesty and empathy. When he is so eager to please Vicky, though, it could be easy to lose sight of his own needs.
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When Claire and Dom connect, they are a sight to behold - as we saw on the wedding night. They both bring a raw emotion that ensures their partner is under no illusion of how they are feeling.
Despite the way their honeymoon ended, Luke and Lacey are developing a fantastic foundation that really has incredible potential. Luke is eager to drop the funny guy performance and Lacey is certainly showing an equal eagerness to see just that. I just hope he doesn't leave his run too late.
And Ben and Aaron need to realise some approaches to expressing thoughts and feelings are certainly better than others. However, if you really pay attention to their wedding day, you will see the glimmer of potential. Think back to when Ben was talking to Aaron's family on the deck.
The critical point is the timing of these bumps for all the couples. Leading up to the first episode, we spoke a lot about how this seven-week experience will present relationship dynamics that would ordinarily play out over years outside of TV land.
Remember, in just four days these 12 people have got married, met new families and are now on honeymoon.
'Ordinary' couples reach this gritty point often years down the line, and with the knowledge and experience of their partner, and what does and doesn't works. It's an incredible ask for all of our couples to do what they are doing. Some thrive and others struggle, but it's an experience that only they can talk to.
So even when I am watching, much of it for the first time, I see that they are finding their way in a high stress, and unique, context without a rule book or precedent.
If we were to think of relationships as running over phases, we are possibly seeing some of our couples transition out from the romantic phase. This is the time you put the toilet seat down and you certainly wouldn't be showing off to your husband how you can recreate the Star Wars theme tune through farts in an enclosed space. It's a time of serenades and loving messages left in lunch boxes.
The commitment phase is suggested to come next. Here couples struggle to navigate and figure out what life looks like as they change from an independent wonderer to the life of coupledom. It's a reality check moment, where some of the niceties start to fade and expectations of what we want become very black and white. The problem can be that we shift from, 'what does the relationship need from me?' to 'what do I want from this relationship?'. If one or both people want and expect the finished, idealised version of their partner without compromise, this can be confronting for both.
Let's put the future in terms of running. Who will talk a good game but then not even make the start line? Who will set off fast and freak out at the first big hill? Who will make it to the top of that hill and get to enjoy the view? And who will keep going across all the ups and downs, find the rhythm that works for them and get the relationship they want and deserve?
Luckily, we will get to see all of this, and then some. And hopefully it can offer food for thought in terms of our own relationships. Far better use of time than preaching negativity from a wobbly high.
Tony Jones is a qualified counsellor, specialising in relationships and trauma. He has worked with individuals, couples and families for more than 12 years in the UK and New Zealand.