Attraction is overrated, says 'Married at First Sight'
If "Married at First Sight"'s second season plays out the way the first season did, it will provide more evidence that initial attraction between couples is overrated at best, and destructive at worst.
Yes, finding someone's appearance to be meh might be exactly what you need to for a successful relationship.
If you missed its outstanding first season last summer, know that "Married at First Sight" is the kind of reality TV show that actually is "a social experiment." Its cast members are strangers who get actually, legally married minutes after seeing each other for the first time. They're matched by experts after an incredibly detailed casting process.
When you think about it, this is really insane. It's crazier than going on "The Bachelor" or any other show. Of course the wedding and the show are not irreversible or inescapable, but entering into such a public and legal commitment is no reality TV joke. Yet one season of the show has produced two successful marriages, something "The Bachelor" wishes it could do.
Among the many remarkable things about season one was that Jamie and Doug, whose initial meeting and attraction was the most fraught, eventually grew into the couple with the most successful relationship. Doug and Jamie are so popular and their relationship is so engaging that their vow renewal just aired as a one-hour special.
Meanwhile, the couple with instant attraction that was having tons of hot sex, Vaughn and Monet, got divorced.
Season two -- which debuted last week after
Ryan R., 28, was thrilled when he saw Jaclyn, 30, for the first time, but she was not. "My initial reaction is, like, shit," she told the cameras later. Her complaints were specific: she didn't like the Long Island real estate agent's accent or his appearance. "The initial physical attraction isn't really there right now," she said.
She said "I do" and got married anyway, resolving the annoying episode one cliffhanger.
Still, the lack of attraction really freaked her out. "I have a lot of doubts right now," she said. "I'm not attracted to him at all. I was really hoping for love at first sight. That's not what I'm feeling. Why did I do this? Why did I agree to marry a stranger?"
Jaclyn also told the cameras, "I don't look him and see my husband at all." Again she came back to attraction: "There's just something about his face that is just doesn't feel--is just not what I pictured." Then she mentioned the movie "The Notebook," which seemed to be her model for an idyllic relationship.
One of Jaclyn's bridesmaids called her on this: "You always expect fireworks. That's a movie. You have to get to know the person; that's the whole point of this."
She's right. And if she takes the same journey that Jamie did last season, her attraction to Ryan may grow and they may live happily ever after.
Despite the lessons of season one, "Married at First Sight"'s participants and producers focus heavily on initial physical attraction during this wedding episode.
"He's hot!" Jessica's mom said of Ryan D. when she saw him. "Perfect!" Ryan D. tells the camera, "She had a nice dress and that very pretty face and a nice body. And I'm like, okay, let's do this." He continues, "I'm immediately attracted to this girl. She's naturally pretty, naturally beautiful, and this is my wife."
There's no other focus here, no sense that there's more to their new partner than their external shell. Of course, this makes sense. When you meet someone for the first time, the visual information comes first. Their personality and intelligence aren't as quickly discernible.
It's just ironic that the only thing anyone seems to be paying attention to is initial physical attraction, which season one proved isn't an automatic path to success.
Sean and Davina, who seem to be perhaps the most well-matched of the three couples, also had initial attraction. "She's beautiful. She far exceeds my expectation," Sean said. Davina told us, "He looks great. He's very handsome."
At the alter, Davina said, "You're handsome." Sean said back, "You're beautiful." That's all they could say!
That attraction led to the most physical interaction of the three couples. During their first dance, they kissed a lot; in the elevator on the way to their room, they were making out, despite Davina's earlier insistence that she wanted to abstain on her wedding night. They really seem to be into each other.
Attraction doesn't doom a relationship, of course, and they're not necessarily another Vaughn and Monet. And season one couple Jason and Cortney, who are still together, weren't repulsed by each other, but they also weren't as magnetically drawn to each other. And as the spin-off series "Married at First Sight: The First Year" has shown, their relationship is still a work in progress, with not-inconsiderable conflict.
At the very least, what "Married at First Sight" proves is not that initial physical attraction ruins a relationship, but that it is not as important as everyone thinks.
During the episode, one of the matchmaking experts, Dr. Logan Levkoff, said, "people are consumed with the idea of physical attraction." Another expert, Dr. Pepper Schwartz: "physical match is not the most important thing."
If this season plays out like the first "Married at First Sight," will that be enough to convince everyone swiping past faces on Tinder, Grindr, Match or OkCupid?