With Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Married At First Sight returning to our screens this week, it seems likely that plenty of people might find themselves evaluating the strength of their relationship.
The controversial reality TV show certainly provides a lot of drama, and a good long list of do's and don'ts, with only a handful of couples eventually making it in the real world.
With a new batch of strangers set to get married, we spoke to relationship coach Anna Swoboda for her insights into the show.
Why do so many MAFS relationships fail?
“Most of the MAFS relationships do indeed fail. I think it’s only about 5 relationships still going in Australia after 8 seasons,” Anne, who is founder and principal matchmaker of personalised offline dating service HeartMatch, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Compare that to Matchmaking services and experiences around the world, where Anne says "most relationships become long term".
"To get this high success rate, there are four red flags to look out for and four things that matter, and most of these are not present on MAFS," she explains.
4 red flags to look out for
Grab the wine and popcorn, because this is about to get juicy and just might help you predict which couples will sink or swim this season.
Anne warns to watch out for these red flags in your own relationship, too!
Anne says this can be the undoing of many relationships. “As an example, Sam was very critical of Coco and her one liners, so things fell apart very quickly after a good start.”
Treating a partner with disrespect, ridicule, eye rolling and scoffing makes the partner feel despised and worthless. “Coco complained about Sam’s eye rolling and scoffing.”
“When people don’t accept their part in the situation, it’s a way of blaming the other person. Sam took no responsibility.”
The listener withdraws and will often leave the room.
What makes a good relationship?
“You need to exorcise your ex and become aware of your past relationship patterns,” Anne warns.
“If you are too negative or positive about your ex, if you are still easily triggered by hurtful past experience, you will see the smallest things your new partner does as either bad ‘ here we go again’ or you compare them unfavourably to another. As a matchmaker you would conclude that person is not ready for a relationship and you would support them with an experienced relationship coach who can help (as John Aiken started to do in the first commitment session last season with Jake and Rebecca).
Anne says there is a sweet spot of 86 per cent compatibility, not 100%.
“It’s good to have some differences to learn from each other. Compatibility is about shared life goals and attitudes to family, career, money, fitness and health (and now vaccination status!). It’s not just traits of a partner, it’s having a bigger picture of your life.
"Most of the MAFS couples are not compatible enough. For instance last year, the two almost-virgins Belinda and Patrick got off to a good start but broke up later saying publicly they had a wonderful relationship, but their perspectives on love and life goals ultimately did not align. Sometimes the contestants don’t live in the same city, and are geographically incompatible.”
According to Anne, chemistry really matters.
“Our animal instincts are very strong when it comes to relationships. Looks matter to both men and women," she explains.
"Interestingly, women rate smell as the most important factor when choosing a mate. As a Matchmaker, I take clients to a busy place like Pitt St Mall, we sit on a bench and check out everyone that walks by. I get them to tell me what turns them on, what doesn’t and why. Often they don’t know themselves, but once we check out 50 people together and talk and laugh about it, the patterns become really clear. We don’t waste our time matching them with people who don’t approximate their look.
"On MAFS last season, the Cameron, Sam, and Coco saga was a classic example of this. Sam and Cameron who were matched didn’t have the chemistry, but Cameron and Coco clearly did. Makes for great television, but not a good match.”
Communication, vulnerability and commitment
“Once you are in a relationship, as the water level comes down the rocks appear,” Anne explains.
“Even highly compatible people are not the same and in the early stages of a relationship, issues will come up. Many relationships don’t get through this stage. Issues come up, people get hurt, they don’t have the tools to step back from it, learn and get stronger.
"To do that, one needs to be vulnerable, which means being honest about your real feelings and able to accept your part in the flare up. When I work with clients as a Matchmaker, I continue as a relationship coach for the first year or so."
Anne stresses this stage requires strong commitment from both parties.
"What makes great television is conflict, drama and tears, so yes, it’s great television," she says.
"I see a missed opportunity in the format, because if you really used the relationship science to match people, and show how it’s done, you could have a feel good show with lots of matches, still with plenty of drama.”
Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.
Or if you have a story idea, email us at email@example.com.