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"MAFS ruined my relationship with my partner but I'm still going to watch the finale."

We fell in love quickly. She was intelligent, funny, passionate and gorgeous. Within no time, we spoke of future childrens’ names, of wedding venues and dates, of the countries we wanted to explore together, of houses and of other dreams for our future.

In less than a year, we had moved into her tiny apartment, started renovating it and got an irresistibly cute puppy. Every evening I cycled home from work as fast as I could, excited to get back to the little home we had created and the woman and puppy I loved.

What life is like single and in a relationship. Post continues after video. 

Admittedly, by the time season six of Married at First Sight aired on January 28, 2019, we were already experiencing some challenges. We both started on new career paths which we found stressful in different ways.

She was under intense pressure to produce a huge amount of work in a short period and became very preoccupied with it. In contrast, my new position started slowly, giving me too much time to worry about her wellbeing and the impact her stress was having on our relationship. I was too sensitive to her moods, and became upset when I perceived her to be snappy or distant.

Nonetheless, when the first episode of Married at First Sight (affectionately known as MAFS by its huge following of viewers) aired, I was still feeling excited for our future together and was optimistic that our issues would settle down after an adjustment period.

I had never seen an episode of MAFS before and was initially very skeptical about the entire premise – 20 strangers, selected by supposed relationship “experts”, fake marrying each other on their first meeting and then following the aftermath.

I couldn’t recall watching a reality TV show since the first season of The Block in 2003 and was slightly horrified at the time commitment involved (four nights a week for around 1.5 hours an episode).

However, my girlfriend loved it and it was clear that she was going to watch it with or without me, so I gave it a chance, thinking the shared experience of watching could be a bonding opportunity. Some of my new colleagues were also MAFS fans, so it also provided a way to bond with my workmates by participating in the morning debrief sessions.

I was hooked almost immediately. I cried (with happiness) watching Jules and Cam’s and Heidi and Mike’s weddings, thinking with joy of our wedding plans for later this year and how amazing it would be to exchange vows with the woman sitting on the couch next to me.

I felt smug watching some of the less compatible couples’ problems unfold – sure, while I might have been overly emotional in our relationship lately, at least I didn’t overreact to the same extent as Cyrell, and while my girlfriend and I might have a few issues, they seemed minor compared to what many of the couples were going through.

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However, as the season wore on and our relationship troubles continued, as we spent a significant portion of our spare time together sitting on the couch in silence watching MAFS, rather than chatting over dinner, going out or making out like we used to, my experience of watching MAFS started to change.

I started to feel sad watching Cam and Jules’ fairytale relationship blossom, mourning what our relationship had lost.

As the cracks started to show in Heidi and Mike’s relationship, I started wondering if I was doing what the “experts” claimed Heidi was – being too emotional and pushing Mike (or in my case my girlfriend) away. I also started to be able to relate to Mark and Ning’s physical intimacy problems.

Our relationship fell apart one Sunday night in early March, watching a MAFS dinner party episode. I won’t go into details, but I became emotional talking about my concerns about our relationship and the next day she realised that my concerns were valid and that she no longer wanted to be with me.

I was devastated and moved out quickly, leaving the little home we had created together and the adorable puppy behind.

It has been a couple of weeks since our breakup and while I’m moving on, I’m still feeling very sad about the loss of the relationship, the puppy and our future together and I’m still thinking a lot about what happened.

The MAFS “experts” mentioned on a number of occasions that they were engineering situations to ensure that the couples experienced in a short time challenges and pressures that most couples would experience over the first few years to really test the relationship.

Looking back, I realised that we had unintentionally engineered a similar “experiment” – moving into a tiny apartment, immediately getting a puppy who, while adorable, was also time demanding and had normal puppy destructive tendencies to deal with, trying to renovate the apartment while living there and both starting new career paths which we found stressful in different ways.

When we moved in together I thought our relationship was strong enough to weather any challenge. In retrospect, I wish we had been able to spread out the challenges more gradually to give our relationship more of a chance – it wasn’t fair on us and I feel for the MAFS contestants who had similar experiences.

I also wish that instead of spending those 40 plus hours watching MAFS with my ex, we had spent more of that time trying to reconnect over a romantic dinner, a fun activity or even just turning down the TV so we could talk about our day.

Rather than focusing on the fake relationships of 20 strangers, I wish we had spent more time working on our own. We had an amazing connection and an exciting future ahead of us, and I wonder if we could have salvaged it if we had redirected our attention away from “reality” TV to the reality of our relationship.

Having said that, I’m still watching MAFS and will do so until the end. Despite the show reminding me of what I have lost, I can’t resist the urge to know what happens to the couples I have invested so much time following for the past few months. I wish them all the best, and hope that their “fake” relationship works out better than my real relationship did.

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