So the programme has finished and we all know the outcome of MAFS, and rather like the morning after a party, we are left exhausted, with the debris and the post mortem. Why did Emma and James work so well? What on earth happened with Kate and Jason? And……. Oh my goodness! up pop Jack and Sam who have found each other, despite leaving the project after matching.

I am not going to talk in detail about the participants this week but am going to try and make some sense out of relationships as we survey the landscape post MAFS and talk about themes that emerged.

A couple of years ago I was travelling with a group of girlfriends in a remote area of India. One of them changed her T-shirt everyday and threw it away. When I asked her why she replied, “ Oh they are only cheap and cheerful, not worth washing”. I confess I was a bit shocked and confused as we were surrounded by poverty and this seemed decadent. I tell this tale because in our society we have become like this with relationships. If there is the slightest hiccough we throw away the relationship, the person and move on.

Many people old and young want a long-term committed relationship, however, relationships take a considerable amount of time and effort to sustain and in today’s world this can be difficult to find. The work place, particularly in our major cities, demands long hours and on top of this there is often a commute leaving little time to devote to our relationships. Many of us find that the intense pressure of balancing the two is too much and so the relationship breaks down. As a relationship therapist this is not an unusual tale, and I have seen this happen very quickly in new marriages, even when the couples have known each other for years. Sometimes it is just easier to leave than stay and work at it.

It is often thought that attraction is the most important thing in a relationship, however were that the case all the “beautiful people” would have great partnerships and happy marriages, and, as we can see from the pages of our magazines, they do not. In a short intense relationship instant attraction can be important, but in a long-term relationship how “agreeable “ you are as a couple is key. The ways you deal with difficulties, work on joint tasks together and compliment each other are very important skills to help you through the difficult times. Undoubtedly a sense of humour is also helpful and puts the world in perspective when the going is tough. To succeed in a relationship you also need to be able to show your vulnerable side and take a huge leap of faith into each other’s world. This is not always easy, especially for those who have been hurt before.

MAFS has undoubtedly been a challenge for the more religious members of society and there is certainly a debate to be had about the dating game and the state of romantic relationships in modern day Britain, which brings all of us who work with romantic relationships together. If Series 2 does go ahead it would be good to use this opportunity to develop a more focused research project which can be published, and I hope this will happen.

MAFS has been a tremendous experience and I have learnt a great deal. Though a novel and contentious approach, I am pleased that I took part and was able to hear the dating and relationship stories from such a vibrant group of young people. I admire the brave steps that Sam, Jack, Emma, James, Kate and Jason took in the quest of love and I am sorry that the relationships did not all work out well for all. I hope that in time all the 1,500 who entered the project find a partner and love and will benefit from a long-term committed relationship. I wish them all well.

“Married at First Sight” series 2 is commissioned by Channel 4

Picture Caption: The “Married at First Sight” panel: Mark Coulson, Anna Machin, Andrew Irving, Jo Coker and Nick Devenish Photographer Dave King / Channel 4 Television  

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Joanna Coker is a Counselling Psychologist registered with HCPC, a BACP accredited psychotherapist, a COSRT accredited psychosexual/relationship therapist and an accredited clinical supervisor. She is Clinical Director for Local Counselling Centre and Professional Standards Manager for the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists(COSRT) as well as being an Accredited Mediator.  


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