OPINION: 'Jack's behaviour on MAFS is textbook. And we've all been there.'

Whether the producers of Married At First Sight Australia are truly committed to helping lovelorn people find their true match has never been a question (spoiler alert: they aren't).

But over the last few seasons, I've come to realise that the MAFS team are on a much holier mission—to shine artificial sunlight on toxic behaviour. Yes, for the ratings (always the ratings), but also as a public service.

I’m going to call it 'warning-tainment' and put it on the same level of Border Security. Its recipe for success being one part schadenfreude and one part a reminder to the world that 'Come to Australia? This is what awaits you'.

We love to watch it because we see elements of ourselves in every character. Or we've been at the mercy of one.

With every negging comment ("I have a high sex drive but I'm not attracted to you."), every joke that isn’t a joke ("Oh the whales are in the pool."), and every blatantly sexist line ("Can you muzzle your woman?"), MAFS is throwing visual antiseptic on a type of behaviour that rarely gets discussed. 

Lurking beneath the surface of far too many relationships, is the kind of behaviour that doesn't leave the same bruises and scars of physical abuse, instead it operates in the shadows, manipulating victims through psychological tactics and insidious power dynamics.

The most devastating thing about it is bruises may heal but the emotional effects of this live on.

Watch: Coercive control is a deliberate pattern of abuse. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Which is why Australia is collectively screaming at the television almost every evening trying to tell Tori to run away from Jack, all while quietly understanding why she isn't.

Because it's just not that simple. After all, we've all fallen for the subtleties of this behaviour at one time or another.

And it's not just Jack. Married at First Sight has a version of Jack and a similar display of this type of behaviour in almost every single season. 

How it starts.

Often, but not always, this type of behaviour stems from childhood. We project to the world is very often an inverse reflection of who we are on the inside. A man who does not grow up feeling strong or might cultivate that image to protect himself. 

Image: Nine.



Am I reading too far into this? Tori might say so. But we all do it. Even you.

As psychologist Melanie Klein says, "The more intense the [emotion], the more intense the projection."

Or as we might say, "You fake it until you make it."

Of course, projection isn’t a bad thing. That is until the nuclei of emotional baggage fuse together causing a chain reaction of emotional blackmail, isolation, and manipulation radiation throughout the entire relationship. 

How it plays out.

The atomic reaction then plays out like something out of a Christopher Nolan film where time plays out differently depending on which level of the relationship you've entered.

Those initial sparks at the beginning become arguments.

The allure of mystery becomes a manipulation of your own experiences and emotions.

Your own little world becomes isolating, where it feels like you two against the world.

Floods of affection get drip fed in a mercurial lab test where you never knew what to expect.

Questions of "What should we do today?" become "Will today be a good day?"

"Are you okay?" becomes "How can I be better?"

Over time, you become like Tori, emotionally whiplashed to the point where emotional safety relies solely on the stability of your partner.


Listen: Sis, Is This Your Man? Post continues after podcast.

Dr Lisa Fontes from the University of Massachusetts describes the feeling as, "a perpetual state of uncertainty and self-doubt, making it incredibly difficult for the victim to trust their own perceptions and decisions."

For the rest of us who've experienced it, we just call it 'better the devil you know.'

How it ends.

Which brings us back to MAFS, with all of Australia (and audiences across the world) waiting to see if Tori (our proxy-selves) will finally see the light.

Whether it be through dinner party intervention or self-recognition, we're so invested in this story because we inherently know what's at stake.

At best we’ll have a 27-year-old woman risking the prime of her life for a man too emotionally repressed to see the damage he's causing.

Or at worst, we'll witness a woman step off the precipice of possibility towards replacing her sense of self with PTSD, anxiety disorders, as well as a damaged immune system and premature ageing from the impacts of chronic stress.

All life-threatening issues in more ways than one.

We’re at the halfway point in the experiment but maybe this will be the season where the hypothesis of the show shifts. 

Instead of "Can these three experts help these people find love?", this season we’re all collectively asking, "Can these 17 people learn to love themselves?"

Or maybe it’s just TV. 

Feature image: Nine.

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