I’m tasked with writing about the Black couples on Married at First Sight, but this week, I need to get something off of my chest pertaining to the non-Black couples, and the overall way the show handles some of the toxic marriages they put people through.
As entertaining as it is to watch Married at First, and to see these couples try and go from strangers to a long-term partnership, there is something unsettling about watching participants be constantly mistreated by the individuals they were matched with. It makes sense that there will be a number of moments where both parties bump heads because they are not only getting to know one another, but they are also living together and are attempting to forge a lasting bond in a short amount of time. With that being said, the pressure is on. However, it is one thing for that pressure to create disagreements, and another for it to lead to ongoing emotionally abusive circumstances.
Over the last few seasons, there have been multiple instances where people have been matched with individuals who say really ugly things to them off-camera, sometimes even on-camera, but would go back and tell the experts that they think their relationship is doing fine.
In Season 6, Jon and Molly had a few very unpleasant confrontations due to the fact that she would do things to entice him sexually, but didn’t actually want to sleep with him. Not only that, but it seemed that Molly didn’t really even like Jon at all, because she told him that his touch made her feel like her skin was crawling. She said more than once to Jon that he made her feel gross.
To prove to the experts that he was the only one fighting for the marriage, Jon taped her taunting him and calling him “disgusting” because he put on blast that he caught her flirting with another guy at a bar. Former expert Dr. Jessica (whom he would later date and become engaged to, hence her absence from the series) would go on to call Molly out for “her lies.” She told both parties that if they were clients of hers and not on the show, she would ask John why he is staying with someone who is treating him in such a way. Still, she let them decide what they wanted to do about their marriage and advised them to “stop faking for the cameras.” He dumped her on Decision Day.
Who could forget Season 7 with Luke and Kate? There were way too many examples of him breaking her down emotionally. He told her that kissing her made him feel dead inside. He told her that she wasn’t his type physically. He told her she was putting a lot of pressure on him to kiss her yet he had no trouble having sex with her off-camera and telling her not to share that with anyone. He was using her for sex but wasn’t attracted to her, which he made clear more often than not. And while Pastor Cal called him out for his comments about being repulsed by her kiss, he still gave Luke the chance to promise him that he would be “the man I’m expecting you to be” and stay in the marriage. For the rest of the show he continued to break down Kate’s self-esteem until she finally found the courage to divorce him on Decision Day.
This season there have been two emotionally destructive relationships, which is why I’m finally writing about the poor way in which such toxicity is handled on this show. Yes, Elizabeth is a tad obnoxious and overbearing at times, but Jamie is quite manipulative and mean. He has called her a c–t. During arguments he has maligned her career as being handed to her by her father. During last night’s episode, he basically called her a tease and said she was dishonest because she wanted to slow down on having sex with him. He also told her to shut up in front of the other couples at an outing, and then was angry with her over the fact that she was rightfully upset about it. Even in happier moments, he has to find a reason to nitpick her words, start an argument and throw the threat of bailing on the marriage around.
But no one could be worse than Matt. Despite knowing good and well that Amber has abandonment issues that do make her somewhat clingy, instead of using his words, Matt has not come home on multiple occasions in Season 8 so he could get a break from her. He has somehow forgotten to call or text her on nights when he’s chosen to be out until the wee hours, and despite writing a song for her and telling everyone else he is all in for Amber, he really doesn’t seem taken with her. Though he enjoys sleeping with Amber, he didn’t realize that creating a sexual bond with her could cause her to feel more attached to him, and his response has been to flee her grip. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in last night’s episode, we finally found out that when Matt is out all night, he is indeed, at times, out with another woman. That revelation left an already emotionally injured Amber broken and balling in front of cameras.
Not to mention, where the hell is his family!?
In both Jamie and Elizabeth and Matt and Amber’s situations, Pastor Cal, Dr. Pepper and Dr. Viviana have spoken against the behavior they’ve seen, but they’ve just tried to offer advice on how to make the marriage work because as Pastor Cal likes to say, “I believe in marriage.” With that advice and hope, these women, along with Kate and Jon, went back into their relationships just to have the poor behavior continue to Decision Day.
I understand that the hope is to encourage these couples to fight for their relationships, and to make good TV, but at some point, it’s odd to not consider the damage these situations could be causing people. Living with someone who tears you down, calls you foul names and is the physical embodiment of all your triggers can leave you broken down even in just eight weeks. Imagine how such experiences could impact future relationships.
With all that being said, I do wish that the experts would intervene when necessary to encourage the couples to either do real work to better themselves for their partners (not just talk), or help to pull them apart. A short separation of sorts to allow both individuals to see if they are better off solo or together could work. Or how about the experts give certain couples intense therapy sessions after emotionally jarring confrontations as opposed to coming around every once in a while to catch up? Or, maybe everyone could go through that intense therapy before they marry the stranger…?
All I’m saying is, for future seasons, I would like to see the experts do more than just try and push people to give their all to situations that are not healthy and to people who are not being motivated to do the same. I know that all the background checks in the world can’t help weed out potentially toxic partners, but once they’re chosen and wreaking havoc on the emotional well-being of a participant, I wish everyone involved would do more than let individuals be disrespected and demean themselves in destructive speedy relationships for ratings. It’s not as entertaining at a certain point as it is sad.