reality tv

"It wasn't a relationship show." Three women on how reality TV changed their relationship.

It takes a brave (or naive, or stupid) person to sign up for a reality TV show in the hope of fixing their troubled relationship.

Reality TV ‘experiments’ are notorious for failing (MAFS, anyone?), yet somehow people still sign up. And with Channel Seven’s The Super Switch, it’s not individuals signing up for a reality TV stint (complete with social media harassment and a rise in Instagram followers), but couples on the verge of breaking up.

The basic premise is this: six couples at a crossroads in their relationship say goodbye to their partner to live in an experimental relationship with a total stranger.

Can going on reality TV save your relationship? Post continues below audio.

This year, the ‘social experiment’ will be taken a step further, with the six experimental couples living in two share houses together.

When something goes wrong with one of the experimental couples – or their real partners – they all have to hash it out in group therapy sessions, before making a decision at the end of the season as to whether they’re going to stay with their partner or go their separate ways.

We cannot possibly imagine how this could go wrong.

Now, maybe we’re being overly cynical (we’re not). Maybe reality TV really can save a relationship.

Mamamia‘s daily news podcast The Quicky asked those with experience: Jackie Martin and Michelle Guest from season one of Seven Year Switch and Sharday McAvoy from Nine’s The Last Resort.

Michelle, who appeared on Seven Year Switch with her then-partner Jason, said her experience on the show was very different to what she was told to expect.

The idea of a show designed to save their relationship gave the pair hope for their future, Michelle said, but it didn’t work out. She and Jason split after Seven Year Switch aired, something she thinks would’ve eventually have happened regardless of the TV show.

“They told us that we would be having couples therapy together and we would have professionals who would be giving us counselling,” she said. “It didn’t really work out that way obviously because we weren’t together. We had a little bit of counselling with our switch partners but what you see on television is basically all we got. There was no behind-the-scenes, there was no private counselling.

Michelle and Jason on Seven Year Switch.
Michelle and Jason on Seven Year Switch.

"It wasn't a relationship show, it was a reality TV show."

Jackie, who appeared on the same season as Michelle, is still with her partner Tim.

She doesn't believe the purpose of the show was to save relationships, but to stir up controversy and make good ratings.

Though they were given access to counselling, Jackie didn't believe it to be genuine.

Seven Year Switch's Jackie and Tim
Jackie and Tim with son Chadwick.

"The psychologists, both lovely people, but they were told what to say by the producers. I think they tried to give some advice but a lot of the time they were taken behind a wall and told what to say, then they'd come back out and try to remember their lines."


Meanwhile, Nine Network aired a show called The Last Resort in 2017. It saw five long-term couples sent to an island resort where they worked through their relationship issues.

Sharday appeared on the show with partner Josh. The pair had struck major trouble after Sharday told Josh he was not the father of her child, even though he was.

Sharday credited their appearance on the show for saving, and strengthening, their relationship.

"If we didn't go on that I can tell you now, we definitely wouldn't be where we are today. It saved us," Sharday told The Quicky.

Sharday and Josh.
Sharday and Josh.

"It was what we needed, to take that time away from our lives at home."

In contrast to Michelle and Jackie, Sharday said she and Josh were provided with worthwhile counselling which equipped them with tools they can continually apply to their relationship.

"We learned so much... Sandy, the psychologist on the show was our biggest help and she continued to see us after the show."

Jackie said she did believe a reality show had the ability to 'save' a relationship, but she questioned whether this was what these shows were truly designed to do.

"I think if reality TV wanted to save your relationship it could, but I don't think that's the intention."