As we head towards the last instalment of “Married at First Sight” everyone I speak to wants to know the outcome of the weddings. Will Jason and Kate sail into the sunset? Will Emma and James crash and burn, as they were so awkward, a phrase that Emma used liberally. Well of course I cannot tell you, but what I can do is update on my experience so far.
I have been surprised about the range of age groups that have tuned into this programme, from teenagers to grandparents, with many multi-generational viewing groups. Some have been strongly opposed to the idea, many have been fascinated as the events have unfolded and others have got behind the couples willing them to make it together. From my discussions, what has been clear is that many older people do not appreciate the complexity of the modern dating game and how soulless it is for their children. The gender demographic changes in the work place and the changes in social and sexual behaviour, mean that many young people are not looking for long term commitment but short term highs in time limited interactions, especially in their early twenties. Relaxed views about sex and living together now enable many to choose this as a lifestyle instead of marriage.
In “Married at First Sight” marriage was a very important component and was not, as some Church of England spokesmen have said, intended to devalue the institution, but to highlight its importance in a stable relationship. Marriage signals long term commitment and involves us all as family, friendship groups and a society at large. The fact that this came first in this project does not deter from the seriousness of the intent of our couples or the panel.
A Church Leader has accused the show of being “seedy” and further more said Nick Devenish, the inspirational vicar, who bravely prepared these wonderful young people for marriage with me, should not have taken part. Why? In case it all went horribly wrong? Well many marriages that occur in churches do go wrong, and clergy can never be fully confident that those they marry have serious intent; many just say what the clergy want to hear because they want the “pretty church” in the photo. In fact if you want to marry in your parish of residence as long as you are not marrying a relative, you have a legal right to marry regardless of what the church thinks of you or your intent.
I am saddened that the church has not risen to the challenge and used this incredible opportunity to make themselves relevant to the debate, or tried to understand the plight of these tremendous young people. Without any true knowledge about the procedures involved, it has damned the programme, personalised the debate, and exhorted, rather piously, that those taking part do not understand the institution of marriage. That is, I feel, a rather sad and negative stance for a supposed forward-looking institution. I hope you all tune in to see how our couples cope with their marriage and I will be back next week to discuss the end of the programme and the outcome.
“Married at First Sight” will air on Channel 4, Thursday 23rd July at 9pm
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 & Development Manager for the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists(COSRT) as well as being an Accredited Mediator.