Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Dr Pani Farvid u@Pani Farvid

Mar­ried at first what? Yes. Mar­ried at first sight. That’s what hap­pens on Three’s new re­al­ity show, which uses psy­chol­ogy and re­la­tion­ship ex­per­tise to cou­ple up 12 keen sin­gles who will get legally mar­ried — at first sight.

These brave hope­fuls will be part of an in­ten­sive six-week so­cial ex­per­i­ment to see if they can make their ar­ranged mar­riages stick.

When we think of ar­ranged mar­riages, a tele­vised so­cial ex­per­i­ment is not the first thing that comes to mind. The im­age is prob­a­bly of a dis­tant non-West­ern so­cial con­text be­tween fam­i­lies.

But what many don’t re­alise is ar­ranged mar­riages his­tor­i­cally were part of West­ern cul­ture, too. Dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era, mar­riages were ar­range­ments made be­tween cer­tain blood­lines aimed at so­cial and eco­nomic se­cu­rity.

So although modern mar­riages are based on ro­man­tic love and sex­ual at­trac­tion, in Vic­to­rian times they were de­sex­u­alised and more like a busi­ness trans­ac­tion. And the ex­pres­sion of sex within mar­riage needed to be re­strained and con­trolled, as op­posed to “lust­ful”, fun or plea­sur­able — and it was to cul­mi­nate in (the godly duty of) pro­cre­ation.

Oh, how things have changed. We ex­pect a lot more from modern mar­riages. We are meant to find “the one”, our soul­mate, our “other half”. (Note: these things don’t re­ally ex­ist.)

Modern spouses need to be best friends, ex­cel­lent par­ents, have a great ca­reer, be smart, funny, of­fer an ex­plo­sive sex life and be great life com­pan­ions. No pres­sure. No won­der 50 per cent of mar­riages end in di­vorce.

And no won­der the search for modern love has be­come con­fus­ing, haphazard, un­ful­fill­ing and, at times, grim.

De­spite some of the most ef­fi­cient ways of meet­ing new peo­ple via hun­dreds of on­line dat­ing sites and mo­bile dat­ing apps, the search is al­most harder than ever. Ev­ery click or swipe, leaves peo­ple paral­ysed by the abun­dance of choice, and in­creas­ingly dis­il­lu­sioned over the dif­fi­culty of mak­ing a “real” con­nec­tion.

This might ex­plain why over 4000 sin­gle Ki­wis ap­plied for Mar­ried at First

Sight. They were sick of the modern dat­ing game, or swip­ing to find The One. One sin­gle said to me: “I’m sick of be­ing on Tin­der and you’re an ex­pert. Can you just sort it out for me? Find me a good match!”

Peo­ple are over­whelmed by the pres­sure to find The One and by the dif­fi­culty in do­ing so, and it has them out­sourc­ing their search for love.

Can this work? Mar­ried at First Sight is a Dan­ish con­cept that has gone global — screen­ing in 25 coun­tries and gar­ner­ing huge pop­u­lar­ity and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

The rate of mar­i­tal suc­cess sits at about 30 per cent and some it­er­a­tions have been ac­cused of cast­ing for TV, rather than mak­ing gen­uine matches. I’m pleased to say this was not the case in New Zea­land.

We worked hard over some months to iden­tify gen­uine, au­then­tic and com­pat­i­ble matches.

Tech­ni­cally, all six cou­ples should be able to make a re­la­tion­ship work. They were matched on their back­ground, re­la­tional de­sires, core val­ues, per­son­al­ity traits, com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles and con­flict res­o­lu­tion tac­tics.

Each in­di­vid­ual brings strengths to the re­la­tion­ship as well as ar­eas where they can grow. The process is de­mand­ing.

The ex­per­i­ment con­denses into six short, sharp weeks some ma­jor re­la­tion­ship mile­stones (wed­ding, hon­ey­moon, co­hab­i­ta­tion) that could nor­mally take years.

What un­folds is not only a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­play of raw hu­man be­hav­iour and com­plex psy­cho­log­i­cal in­ter­ac­tions but also a prompt to start se­ri­ously think­ing about where this thing called mar­riage should sit in con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety.

What does mar­riage mean to­day? Where does it come from and is it still rel­e­vant in the 21st cen­tury? If mar­riages based on love fail half of the time, could science do a bet­ter job — should we be let­ting “ex­perts” match peo­ple?

We know ar­ranged mar­riages last longer than mar­riages for love — could this be the same in the West­ern con­text?

Should we even be aim­ing for life-long cou­ple­dom — is the idea of monogamy out­dated? What does love, ro­mance and com­mit­ment mean in 2017?

These are some of the is­sues I hope to tackle in the weeks to come, as we watch six cou­ples go from strangers to hus­bands and wives. Can they make their mar­riages at first sight work?

MAFS ex­pert Dr Pani Farvid is a se­nior lec­turer in psy­chol­ogy at AUT. Each week she will dis­sect the show.

Oh, how things have changed. We ex­pect a lot more from modern mar­riages. We are meant to find “the one”, our soul­mate, our “other half”.

Mar­ried at First sight premieres tonight at 7pm on TV3. Hope­ful Mar­ried at First Sight bride Bel Clarke.

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