Matchmaker, matchmaker, thanks for the match.
After last night's finale of FYI’s hit docuseries “Married at First Sight,” it seems America is ready for arranged marriages. Two out of the three couples featured on the show agreed to remain married after the show wrapped. The finale also set a network record for FYI, delivering 903,000 total viewers (most between the ages of 25-54) according to a press release.
The extreme social experiment had complete strangers meet at the altar and marry without knowing anything about their spouses — only that they had been matched together by a panel of experts.
Matchmaking is well entrenched in Jewish culture. Even today, most haredi communities use matchmakers to mediate between young couples. “Shidduch resumes,” documents that include information about the individual’s family, education, and values, along with references and a photograph, are traded between matchmakers and then given to eligible singles. Once both sides have agreed upon the match, the couple goes out. Depending on the community, the courtship can last between one date and several months.
The show officially introduced arranged marriage to the New York City singles scene.
Jamie Otis, 27, a labor and delivery nurse from Harlem and Doug Hehner, 31, a commercial sales rep, decided to stay together despite a rocky beginning. At their wedding (and first meeting), Otis was not attracted to Hehner, and described the experiment as the “biggest mistake of my life.” But after getting to know her husband on an emotional level, Otis fell in love.
“Physical attraction is not the be-all and end-all of relationships,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, sexologist and expert on the show, told the Jewish Week last month. “Attraction can grow. Emotional intimacy is a key ingredient in any relationship. The sexual attraction will follow.”
And it did.
“We already knew the worst of each other,” Otis told the New York Post. “Now we’re absolutely in love and definitely going to be staying together, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Jason Carrion, 27, an EMT from Brooklyn, and Cortney Hendrix, 26, a makeup artist, were the second couple to remain married. Unlike Otis and Hehner, Carrion and Hendrix had great chemistry from the beginning. Though they were the youngest couple on the show, the sacrifices they made to accommodate each other’s hectic work schedules proved the cement of their marriage.
“Even though they were the youngest couple, they showed an incredible level of maturity,” said Grep Epstein, spiritual advisor and expert on the show, in an interview last month.
The only couple to elect for divorce was Monet Bell, 33, and Vaughn Copeland, 30. Even though they were the first couple to be physically intimate, sharing with viewers that they had consummated their marriage on their wedding night, the physical chemistry did not develop further.
Despite one strike, the experts proved their abilities beyond reasonable doubt. Season two is already underway.
“It’s tempting to put your life in the hands of an ‘expert’ and say, OK — fix this. Find me love. But that was not the point of the show!” said Epstein. “If viewers take away one thing from this show, I hope it is the necessity of intense introspection before you look for a significant other.”
“Putting marriage first actually increases the likelihood that these couples will succeed,” said sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, one of the show’s matchmakers, in an interview last month. “With marriage comes an immediate commitment to try and make things work, no matter what.”