True romance, or doomed-to-failure infatuation?
TV3’s blockbuster show Married at First Sight asks whether total strangers brought together at the altar by a group of experts – including FindSomeone’s own dating and relationships expert John Aiken – can fall in love.
The show explores what it takes to make love flourish, and whether two people can learn to love each other even if they didn’t choose each other.
But what type of love is more likely to last – head over heels, or friends who become friends with benefits?
Maybe love at first sight can be put down to pure animal magnetism. Researchers have developed a term called “assertive mating” to describe the way people tend to find partners who are like themselves.
While some people buck the trend – think of Mad Men hottie Don Draper dumping his wife for his secretary – most of us tend to find partners who are similar to us in wealth, status, education and attractiveness.
But do our feelings change as we get to know more about our partners? Psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin decided to find out whether first impressions of potential partners changed over time.
The psychologists asked a group of students to rate the attractiveness of their opposite-sex classmates. They students generally agreed on their classmates’ relative hotness as the term began, but three months later many had changed their minds.
Researcher Lucy Hunt, who published the results of the study with colleague Paul Eastwick, says our opinion of someone’s value as a partner changes the more time we spend with them.
So while first impressions count, your view of whether someone is hot or not is likely to change as you get to know them.
To test the theory further, the researchers teamed up with a psychologist at Northwestern University to study 167 couples. Each partner was rated for physical attractiveness.
The results of the study found that the longer couples had known each other before dating, the less likely they were to be matched on attractiveness.
Couples who started dating within a month of meeting were likely to be as hot as each other, while couples who were friends first often had different levels of hotness.
However, the study also found that slow burns and friends-first couples were equally happy with their relationship years later.
There’s more good news for the Married at First Sight couples from Paula and Zane Nicholl, who were married in 1999 after being brought together by The Edge’s Two Strangers and a Wedding competition.
Paula and Zane are still happily together 16 years on, and have three children.
Interviewed in The Spinoff, Paula and Zane said they loved Married at First Sight and that watching it reminded them of their own wedding day.
Relationships are about people’s intentions and how open they are to committing, said Zane. “It’s all about finding that right person, and spending the time to make the right decision.”
Paula said she liked seeing people get their “happy ever after”.
“Married at First Sight doesn’t have happy endings for everyone, but it’s all about taking a chance.”