Arranged Marriages and Problem Solving: Is TV’s ‘Married at First Sight’ on to Something?

It might seem like just another reality show… but Married at First Sight brings up important points about love and relationships.

Recently I’ve been obsessed with Lifetime’s hit Married at First Sight, now in its 7th season. In this reality show, relationship experts match three sets of strangers who have agreed to meet (and marry) their future spouse at the altar. The show follows the first months of their marriages, and in the final episode, the couples decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce.

At first, the show’s concept sounded absurd to me.

It used to be that reality shows were about answering quiz questions or eating worms… not getting married. Sure, there were relationship shows— but signing up to play The Dating Game or going on NEXT was one thing. Getting legally married on TV? To a stranger? That’s another.

But after watching a few episodes, I started to think that maybe these couples aren’t so crazy after all. It occured to me that maybe this show was on to something. Here are the top four relationship lessons I learned from Married at First Sight:

1. Looks (really) aren’t everything

Over the years, I’ve watched a lot of single friends swipe left on potential matches because, “her hair is weird” or because, “I don’t like his nose.”

With all these dating apps where the picture pops up first, it’s almost too easy to make decisions based on appearance. But Married at First Sight proves that looks aren’t always a good indication of a good match.

Season 1 star Jamie didn’t like her husband when they first met. She wasn’t attracted to him physically and, on day one, considered giving up on her marriage. But it’s lucky she didn’t, because today, they’re one of the show’s greatest success stories. Jamie and Doug are one of the few couples from the show who are still married, and now they have a baby girl.

Meanwhile, Season 2 stars Davina and Sean were immediately attracted to each other when they met at their wedding—but things went bad quickly. They fought about where to live and ended up barely seeing each other over the course of the show. Their passion fizzled out and it was no surprise when they got a divorce.

Whether this changes the way you Tinder (or not) it’s definitely something to think about. It’s funny to think that if Jamie had first seen her now-husband Doug on a dating app, she would have swiped left and that would have been the end of it. But if Davina and Sean had seen each other on an app they probably would have been a match.

It’s proof that looks can be deceiving.


2. It doesn’t always matter how long you’ve been together

When it comes down to it, the show is simply about arranged marriages, a tradition that was very popular for many generations and is still practiced today. While a match maker can’t always guarantee marital bliss, there were (and are) many loving, life-long, arranged marriages.

But even if you’re not up for the whole arranged marriage thing, there’s a lot to be learned by watching these Married at First Sight couples because, as it turns out, their relationships aren’t that much different from many other new marriages.

They still have to worry about finances, their living situation, and family planning. They also set goals together and they enjoy their honeymoon phase… just like any other married couple. Of course, these TV spouses have the added challenge of not knowing each other well, and that can add a lot of stress, but a lot of their issues, problems, and even their joys are similar to ones any newly married couple would have.

When I started watching Married at First Sight, I thought I would have nothing in common with these people who were marrying strangers… after all, my husband and I were together for nearly ten years before we got married. But as it turns out, I definitely saw similarities.

When Ashley and Anthony from Season 5 were decorating their new place together with mementos from their wedding, it reminded me of the fun my husband and I had putting up wedding pictures. When Mia and Tristan from Season 7 first considered moving for Tristan’s work, it reminded me of how hard it was for my husband and I to decide to move.

Like anyone trying to make a life together, these new couples practice communicating, try to account for each others’ needs, and even learn how to best show affection. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how long a couple has been dating, marriage will always carry new challenges, new perks, and plenty of changes.

3. In a relationship, and especially a marriage, it’s important to not give up too fast

Throughout the show, every couple hits roadblocks. They fight about where they’ll live and how many kids they want. They argue about families and chores and careers—all typical things for couples to clash on at one point or another—but that doesn’t make it any easier. Like many couples who are faced with one of their first big disagreements, they sometimes talk about calling it quits.

Of course, these Married at First Sight couples can’t do that so easily. They’re married (and, I suppose, have a TV contract) so they can’t simply walk out of each other’s lives. But in typical new relationships, a lot of people decide to do just that.

Shawniece and Jephte from Season 6 had some issues early on, mainly about Jephte not opening up. Shawniece would get frustrated and start saying that she couldn’t be in a relationship with Jephte if he didn’t change. There would be a lot of tension, like they were about to break up, but after a talk, or a counselling session with one of the show’s relationship experts, the problem would be solved and everything would be fine.

The problem, which had seemed like grounds for divorce at the time, ended up being nothing. In fact, a lot of times those fights ended up being an opportunity to bond and get to know each other better.

It’s important to remember that sometimes small arguments can seem like a big deal, but that doesn’t mean you’re incompatible or you can’t build a relationship. Shawniece and Jephte ended up staying together after the show ended, and now have a baby on the way.


4. Know when to not waste your time

While Shawniece and Jephte made it work, that doesn’t mean that sticking with a relationship is always the right choice. Some couples are simply not meant to be together, sometimes people change, and often breakups and divorces are the best option.

Season 6 couple Molly and Jonathan had a difficult time from the beginning. Molly didn’t feel comfortable getting physical, they had explosive fights, and it seemed like they never got along. So, it was no surprise when they decided to get divorced before the show ended.

They knew that the marriage wasn’t going to work and they didn’t want to waste their time. They came to the season finale to talk about their decision and left on good terms.

While there is value in not giving up on a relationship, of maximizing the best parts of your chemistry and not dwelling on your challenges, there is a point where a couple has to acknowledge when they’re simply not compatible.

While you may want to put all your energy and time into a relationship to try to make it work, sometimes you shouldn’t. And that’s okay.

These Married at First Sight stars took a big risk when they agreed to marry a stranger, and while most of us would never agree to get married at first sight, we can still learn something from these couples. Their relationships show viewers how to get passed differences, how to find and create love, and how to create a life together. Not every relationship is built to last, but some are worth fighting for, and I think, in the end, that’s all that really matters.

How Our Brains Are Designed To Look For What’s Wrong

How to turn it around in a relationship

We all want to live our best lives and have the healthiest relationships possible. But we may not know how to get there and what to do. I spoke with Barbra Russell, MA a counselor, speaker and author of Yes! I Said No! about how we can create and maintain a relationship of optimal wellness.

Creating Boundaries

We know that boundaries are important. We understand that we should have them and we know when it feels like someone has crossed them. But how do we set and maintain good boundaries? The biggest fear most people have with boundaries is coming across as rude, harsh or mean, especially when it is someone we care deeply about. We may also worry that we may hurt someone’s feelings or that they may not want to continue to have a relationship with them if we have a serious discussion about boundaries. We want to compromise, but we also need for our own needs to be met. 

Barbra Russell gives us 3 steps to follow when setting a boundary. 

“Step 1: Say what you don’t like (without attacking the others character) Step 2: Say what you want (specifically) Step 3: Set a consequence.”

This sounds pretty simple, but let’s look at exactly how to put it into practice. Barbra explains two examples. Here is an example of a woman who might set a boundary, “Step 1: We’ve been so busy, we don’t take time to show affection and that’s important to me.  

Step 2:So I’d like for you to kiss me every morning before work and we talk to each other for at least half an hour after the kids are asleep. Step 3: I’ll remind you for a few times until we make this a habit.”  

Here is an example of a boundary a man might set, according to Barbra, “Step 1: I need time to myself when I first come home from work so I can clear my mind.

Step 2: I’d like 30 minutes of quiet time before I help with dinner or with the kids. Step 3.I’ll go into my ‘man cave’ every day for 30 minutes.” 

It can feel scary or needy to ask for more affection or for time away from your significant other and kids. We may worry we will hurt their feelings or make them feel judged or criticized. But if we don’t communicate our needs, we can feel stressed or resentful and that can be toxic to a healthy relationship.  

When expressing what you don’t like, try to make it a request that your partner can easily fulfill. Try to keep emotions such as anger, frustration, etc out of the equation. Make sure what you want is something reasonable and specific. The consequence should not skew negative. It may take some time to put the new actions into place, since it can take some time to change and break a habit. So be patient and kind to your partner as this transition is happening. Also ask for your partner to be patient with you.   

relationship goals

Communication Between The Sexes

Communicating with anyone can be hard, and there are some fundamental differences in how men and women think and communicate. Understanding these differences can help us feel more seen and heard. Barbra explains it very clearly, “She ‘connects’ more memories, words and thoughts faster, and tends to talk ‘in  circles,’ bringing up one thing, then another before arriving at the final thought or solution. His brain works more efficiently, thinking in a ‘straight line,’ solving a problem by quickly giving advice or a solution.” 

Communicate directly what you want from your partner. Barbra gives the examples, “She says, ‘I just need you to listen, while I talk this through.’ He instructs, ‘Write down what you need me to do, because I’m likely to forget.”

Again, ask for what you want and communicate what you think can be helpful to your relationship. Make sure it is a request and an actionable step, such as writing something down or listening as someone processes their thoughts. Keep any judgements out if, you don’t want to judge your partner for thinking and processing things differently that you do. Use positive reinforcement to encourage each other. 

One main reward is your relationship will probably start to feel easier and you will both feel more supported. Compliment each other frequently and let them know how much you appreciate them doing what you asked for and explain how it makes you feel so much better. 

This is a process, so patience is key. Understanding these communication differences can help same sex couples and can also help you communicate in friendships as well. If you identify as gender fluid or non-binary then you may find yourself falling somewhere along this spectrum.   

How Our Brains Look For What’s Wrong

Sometimes couples that have been together for a while start to focus more on the negative aspects of their relationship and less on the positive ones. They may lose sight of what brought them together initially. 

This can become even more challenging as couples build a life together, raise children together, focus on extended family and career obligations. Barbra states, “Our brains are designed to look for what’s wrong – a survival mechanism to keep us alive – but in a relationship, the ratio often becomes 90:10, with the 90% of what’s right, what you like about the other person is taken for granted and we focus on the 10% — what you don’t like, what’s irritating, etc.” This can start a negative pattern or downward spiral. Barbra explains, “What you focus on gets bigger.  Therefore, the more you focus on what’s wrong, the bigger problem that becomes.” We have all experienced this in other aspects of our lives as well, where we focus on the negative and the problem spirals. We can begin to feel discouraged or even hopeless that our situation can change.

Barbra offers some helpful solutions, “Compliment more than you complain.” If you find yourself complaining alot, take a step back and try to turn the situation around. Try to compliment your partner on what they are doing well and make them feel appreciated for all of their positive qualities. 

Her second tip is, “Do the things you used to do that made them fall in love.” Maybe you used to go on dates to your favorite restaurant in the beginning but now you don’t anymore because you’d have to get a sitter. Or maybe you used to cook together, but with work schedules you don’t have the time. Try to make an effort to do these things together to make you feel more connected and to just have more fun together. 

Lastly, Barbra states,”Provide safety by listening before you talk.” Let your partner get their full ideas out there before responding. Try not to interrupt. It can be easy to get defensive or feel misunderstood. Even if you don’t agree with their comment, try to really see their point of view and why they may feel this way. You want to get to a resolution and both be understood, not be right or wrong or assign blame. 

relationship goals

Trying It Out

Personally I used to be more hesitant to bring up these conversations for fear of hurting the other person’s feelings or worrying how they would react. I also felt like I didn’t know how to communicate what I wanted to say in the most productive way.  But then I would feel as though the issues would remain and that was stressful in it’s own way. Learning how to communicate in a positive and healthy way has made me feel like my relationships are stronger. 

Try using these skills in your relationships and see if you feel more confident and positive about your relationship and yourself. Being a great communicator can help you not only in your romantic relationships, but friendships, family and work relationships. Setting boundaries and having a positive mindset can make you feel like the best version of yourself. 

A Honeymoon to Remember, 10 Years of Love in the Making

How our love began?

Sooo on July 23, 2011, he likes to say I was bored on Facebook, which is what one is when they decide to scroll facebook lol. Anyway, I came upon his sister Kara’s page and I saw a pic of him so I texted her “your brother is cute.” To which she replied, you saw him? Unbeknownst to me, he was living in GA and only lived about 15 mins from me. She then said that I should send him a friend request to which I responded why, so he can say who the hell are you? Lol, she said no I’ll tell him about you. So I sent the request and a message saying who I was and whatnot, then I laid down to take a nap before I went out later that evening. When I woke up, he had messaged me back with his number. So, I called him and he ended up coming over that day and we sat and talked for a while till I realized it was getting close to the time I needed to leave.  I went out with my friend that night and he sent me pics for his contact photo and that was over 9 years ago!

happy black couple at the beach


One of our most memorable dates if you will, was the very first time we hung out at his home. We were sitting on his couch playing each other music. He asked me if he could kiss me, which was so refreshing because in my 29 years at the time, I don’t recall any man ever having asked to kiss me and I thought it was the nicest thing. Some time later in the evening, he asked me to dance to one of my all-time favorite songs by Musiq Soulchild who also happens to be his cousin.

fun at the beach

Our first trip✈

We took our first trip before we were an official couple in January of 2012, which was 6 mos after we met and a month before we made things official.  We went to St. Thomas; one of the Virgin Islands and had an absolute ball! From touring the mountaintop that has since burned down, walking the island in search of an open gas station,  downing Painkillers at Megan’s Bay to making love in that very bay was a first and highlight!

How he proposed?

It was my birthday on August 28th in 2017 and we were in Australia because I love to travel for my birthday! We took the train from Perth to a town called Cottesloe and went to their infamous beach known for its beautiful sunsets along the Indian Ocean. We were playing music and just enjoying the sights and each other. I started playing Loved By You by Mali Music ft Jazmine Sullivan and I remember hearing him say this is perfect and then next thing I know he was on one knee in the sand. We shared some beautiful words and I said YES! After we took in the moment some more, we went to eat some fish and chips at a local restaurant and then took the train back to our Airbnb and remained on cloud nine for the rest of the trip across Australia to Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, and then to New Zealand.

happy black couple at the beach wearing towel

👰🏾🤵🏾Fast forward to just under 3 1/2 years to October 10, 2020, our Wedding Day! The whole thing was a blur lol but a beautiful one despite all the drama (losing bridesmaids one after another,  vendors canceling, Covid-19) leading up to it. Our colors were red, black, and bling and it was a beautiful, hot day in Palm Springs, CA. Our wedding party consisted of friends and family we’ve known practically our whole life and some who just stepped in and increased their value in our lives substantially with grace. Our years of being together prepared us for marriage. Our trips to counseling, love for each other, failed 1st marriage for him, and my determination to succeed fuels this marriage of ours. Our day was the perfect blending of friends and family that has blossomed into new friendships and it was a beautiful thing to see. My husband and I don’t have any children together but together we have 5. He has 4 children from previous relationships that live with their mothers and I have a son who lives with us.  During the reception, my son took the opportunity to let Joel know that he was going to start calling him Dad from now on since it was official! That was one of the absolute highlights of the night and my life to see their relationship reach that point of love.

happily married

🏖Happily Ever After

The night after we officially became Husband and Wife we left for Moorea and Bora Bora for our 10-day honeymoon. We spent 5 days and 4 nights on an island called Moorea a mere 30 min ferry ride from Tahiti. We stayed at the lovely Sofitel where we had a beachfront bungalow and the views were to die for. As most honeymooners, we spent a lot of our time consummating the marriage🤣 Honestly we were just happy to be away from responsibility and drama so we took in the views, got a massage, and met a few other guests, and kept it low-key for the most part.

mother and daughter

Most Difficult Mix of Emotions

On our last full day in Moorea, we Iearned that my grandma had passed away and it was THE ABSOLUTE most difficult mix of emotions I’ve ever felt. Here I was, feeling so in love and happy with my best friend that I married just 5 days prior. Then boom came the 🔨 and I’m devastated that the woman who once cooked me breakfast before school, took pics of me in her yard and the reason I fell in love with taking pictures was gone!

Celebrating Our Love and Honoring Life

Thankfully, I had my husband by my side and another beautiful destination on the horizon to take my mind off it somewhat. We headed to Bora Bora the next day; a 45 min flight and subsequent 15 min boat ride and I was in awe! This was the perfect background for my impending photo shoots for the next 5 nights and 6 days. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor her, than by doing something I learned to love with her. The journey that Joel and I took to becoming one was easy in the sense that I never had to force how I felt for him but it was trying to go through all the things one does to see if love is enough. Love is a choice and I would choose him every single day!