Ro­mance is born

Could dat­ing shows be help­ing us at home find our hap­pily ever af­ter? By TIF­FANY DUNK

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

AUS­TRALIANS are in the midst of a pas­sion­ate love aff air with watch­ing love un­fold – or im­plode – on TV.

Whether it’s an ex­trav­a­gant date on The Bach­e­lor, fol­low­ing cou­ples in cri­sis on Seven Year Switch, feel­ing the awk­ward­ness of peo­ple on First Dates or wit­ness­ing strangers get­ting Mar­ried at First Sight, our ap­petite for dat­ing shows has never been stronger.

But while cyn­ics scoff that love on cam­era is as un­ro­man­tic as it comes, ex­perts in­volved ar­gue that not only are the for­mats suc­cess­ful in creat­ing cou­ples who last the dis­tance, they also help view­ers form stronger and more mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships of their own.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Jo Lam­ble works with the four un­hap­pily mar­ried cou­ples on Seven Year

Switch. And she cred­its the show’s rat­ings suc­cess to the take- home mes­sages it de­liv­ers each week for us watch­ing at home.

“The peo­ple on our show are nor­mal peo­ple with pretty nor­mal prob­lems,” she ex­plains. “Cou­ple coun­selling is re­ally hard to ac­cess and ex­pen­sive. So the op­por­tu­nity to talk about these com­mon is­sues, and present some skills and strate­gies to an au­di­ence, is a big in­cen­tive for me ( to do the show).”

Re­la­tion­ship psy­chol­o­gist John Aiken agrees, say­ing that his show

Mar­ried at First Sight is filled with ad­vice for both sin­gles and ex­ist­ing cou­ples watch­ing at home.

“For sin­gles it re­ally gets you to chal­lenge, ‘ What are your deal­break­ers? What pat­terns from your past are keep­ing you sin­gle?’,” he says.

“For cou­ples there’s a lot of real gold about how to com­mu­ni­cate in a way that doesn’t cre­ate de­fen­sive­ness and con­tempt. What to do in terms of talk­ing about sex and nav­i­gat­ing your way through that awk­ward­ness early on. Also goals and a shared vision: Are we mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion? Do we have the same core hopes and dreams?”

In­com­ing Bach­e­lor Richie Stra­han is no stranger to TV ro­mance, hav­ing lost the race for Sam Frost’s f inal rose on The Bach­e­lorette last year.

De­spite it not work­ing out, he be­lieves he’s a bet­ter po­ten­tial life part­ner be­cause of the show – a les­son he hopes male view­ers will also em­brace.

“I’m an Aus­tralian man, it’s very dif­fi­cult to talk about your feel­ings and ex­press how you feel,” Stra­han says. “On The Bach­e­lorette I learnt, it’s OK to open up. It’s OK to show more of your­self to a girl you’re in­ter­ested in and can po­ten­tially see an amaz­ing fu­ture with. ”

Stra­han isn’t alone in find­ing him­self im­proved by what at times can be an emo­tional jour­ney.

Ja­son and his part­ner Michelle – who ad­mit­ted to not hav­ing been phys­i­cally in­ti­mate for more than 17 months be­fore film­ing – were at break­ing point when they signed up to do Seven Year Switch.

“Be­ing so far out of my com­fort zone on the show… I didn’t like it at the time and it’s still a bit yuck to think back to,” Ja­son says of the tests he and Michelle went through.

“But it was re­ally im­por­tant to feel those feel­ings as it’s made me a more em­pa­thetic and un­der­stand­ing part­ner.”

As the dat­ing for­mat gains trac­tion on com­mer­cial net­works, SBS is even get­ting in on the ac­tion.

Un­told Aus­tralia: In­dian Wed­ding Race fol­lows two sin­gles at­tempt­ing to find a suit­able part­ner be­fore turn­ing 30 and, in the words of 29- year old par­tic­i­pant Tarun, be­ing con­sid­ered “dam­aged goods”. The show in­ves­ti­gates the unique chal­lenges many young In­di­ans in Aus­tralia face on the road to a lov­ing mar­riage. It also off ers some uniquely mod­ern tech­niques we can all utilise in our search for love.

Lam­ble says re­al­ity TV for­mats – not just those around dat­ing – off er a unique and can­did per­spec­tive on how to make love work.

“Sit­coms and movies do the op­po­site be­cause they make it seem like all you need to do is meet the one and it’s won­der­ful,” she ex­plains.

“Whereas re­al­ity shows, even if it’s a show like My Kitchen Rules or

The Block, you watch real peo­ple in stress­ful cou­ple sit­u­a­tions… You ei­ther re­late to them or you have a the­ory for why they act like they do.”

SEVEN YEAR SWITCH

SCT, TUES­DAY, APRIL 19, 9PM

UN­TOLD AUS­TRALIA: IN­DIAN WED­DING RACE

SBS, WED­NES­DAY, 8.30PM

MAR­RIED AT FIRST SIGHT

WIN, MON­DAY AND TUES­DAY, 7.30PM

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