Michelle and James were paired on the TV series Married at First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.
Michelle and James were paired on the TV series Married at First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

What can Married at First Sight teach about relationships?

SABINA Read hopes Married At First Sight gives us food for thought about our own relationships.

The Melbourne-based psychologist, is one of the three relationship experts on Channel 9's hit new reality show, which pairs eight singles who meet at the altar.

As well as working at her private practice, Read is also a media commentator, speaker and the resident psychologist for Victorian radio station 3AW.

Psychologist Sabina Read
Psychologist Sabina Read

Q: Why did you decide to be a part of the show?

A: When I first was asked to sign up I said no. I thought the premise was too extreme, but when it was explained that these marriages weren't legally binding and the process transparent for all involved, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to create a conversation about who we are in relationships. It invites us to ask something about ourselves and I think that's gold.

Q: What was your role in matching the four couples?

A: I was particularly interested in looking at family of origin influences, beliefs and behaviours we bring from our younger years and how those form the templates we take into adult relationships. The line of questioning I used initially was around all of those kind of factors that are formed in our younger years, like how we manage money, conflict, thoughts on religion, parenting, holidays, saving. These are issues that come up for couples a few years into a relationship and often we find that people say "You know what, we never had that conversation". Wouldn't it be great if we were more mindful about the ingredients we put into the relationship?

I did a lot of home visits as well. I was interested in how someone operates in their own home. What a great starting point to start a conversation about what's important to you and what some of your fears and dreams are. We all have little things around our home that invite a story to be told. I don't think the way we build and create our homes is random.

Q: How does this 'social experiment' differ from an arranged marriage?

A: A lot of arranged marriages are almost forced marriages in that for the bride and groom it's not their choice. For whatever cultural reasons they are going to be put together and it's not their place to give their feedback. What's expected is that they go along and jump through those hoops.

These participants (on Married At First Sight) are willingly asking to try something new. Although there have been a lot of comparisons with arranged marriages on this show, there's a different dynamic going on here primarily because these guys have signed up. It is 100 percent their choice.

Q: Unlike overseas versions of the show, the Australian couples do not legally marry. Do you think this takes away from the experiment?

A: Other countries have done legal weddings, and I think our participants are as invested and as nervous and raw and vulnerable but without that loaded element of divorce hanging over them. I don't think that (a legal marriage) was a necessary factor for this to be a meaningful and emotional journey. I don't think that takes away from the people who signed on. I like the idea that they do have the choice to get on and off however they choose. It's really empowering.

Q: Which of the show's couples is the strongest match in your opinion?

A: I think, interestingly, Zoe and Alex have a beautiful sense of humour between them. Couples who are able to find humour and laugh together, it's a really important ingredient in any relationship.

Married At First Sight airs Mondays at 8.40pm on Channel 9

Married At First Sight contestants Alex and Zoe. Supplied by Channel 9.
Married At First Sight contestants Alex and Zoe. Supplied by Channel 9.

Would you marry a stranger you've never met before? Are you watching Married at First Sight?

"It's an embarrassment. Same sex couples can't marry but we can have a man and a woman who've never even met marry - where's the justice there?" - Jo Casley

"It's not something I would do, but I'm actually really enjoying the show. I have heard one of the couples is expecting. A lot of cultures have arranged marriages so I like that people are trying a very altered form of this. It's no different to any other TV reality show." - Brooke Osborne

"Scientifically this could actually work if the basis of love is lust." - David Morris

"What a fantastic social experiment! Love it!" - Karen Ambrose

"The premise show is awful, insulting and a slap in the face for anyone who cherishes marriage and/or striving for marriage equality." - Vivienne Ellis

"I'm actually enjoying this show, unbelievably. For those who haven't watched it, it is a social experiment. These couples are not legally "married". - Keryn Augustesen

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