Forget Love Island: Why we’d rather couple up with Married at First Sight-style dating experiments

We might have our preconceptions, but there's just something about reality dating experiments that we just can't seem to get enough of, says Grace Henry.

Married at First Sight UK couples

Thousands of viewers tuned in as Married at First Sight UK returned to Channel 4.


Although many took the opportunity to tweet their shock and confusion at who would sign up for such a show – which sees two strangers getting married after being matched by a group of experts – and some argued the drama wasn’t on the level of Married at First Sight Australia, but the general consensus was that we definitely weren’t switching off.

Despite our reluctance towards slightly less-conventional reality shows, we can’t help but find ourselves glued to the screen whenever they’re on.

There’s just something about reality dating experiments that just keeps us coming back for more. In the case of Married at First Sight, we want to know if you can actually find lasting love the first time you meet someone.

We want our preconceptions to be proven wrong or to be taken on a journey that other dating shows, like say Love Island, can’t quite deliver any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely be tuning in every night when Love Island finally returns, but the unpredictability of shows like Married at First Sight outshines the “typical” dating experience (meeting, falling in love, and getting married etc.) of conventional dating shows.

In a world where the percentage of people meeting their partner online is rising, and sliding into the DMs of the person you fancy is no longer frowned upon, we want shows that reflect this. People fall in love in all types of ways, and quite frankly we want to see this in all its iterations.

Take Love Is Blind for instance. The series launched on Netflix earlier this year and within days of its release, fans were demanding more, leading to a reunion show filmed two years after the show was created.

Love Is Blind
Love Is Blind’s Cameron and Lauren

When we first saw these couples talking to one another through a wall, the same thoughts we had while watching Married at First Sight came to mind: “Who would do this? This is crazy! This can’t work.”

Yet, there we were watching it, loving it and falling in love with Cameron and Lauren – who we can confirm are still together till this day.

Gone are the days of meeting the love of your life at a bus stop, now you might just meet him at the altar, or in a pod or overseas –  as is the case with TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, which from the title alone immediately draws you in.

First, you want to know what that even means.  And then, when you watch the show – which follows a group of couples who have just 90 days to decide to marry before their fiancé’s visa expires – you can’t help but come back week after to week to find out if one, this is for real, and two, if 31-year-old Michael from Nigeria and 54-year-old Angela from America do actually get married.

You crave more information about that couple – who only communicate through a translator app due to language barriers – because while for some this might seem out of the ordinary, here we have it and they seem to be getting on just fine.

90 Day Fiance
Michael and Angela from TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé

We’re not saying reality dating experiments always work, because as Married at First Sight’s success rate shows, that’s not necessarily the case.

But what they do, is invite us to a place that gets us thinking about things so many of us are quick to dismiss.

They keep us on our toes with the many twists and turns along the way, and almost combine documentary with entertainment as we learn about how people do things differently.

When it comes to reality dating experiments, we don’t know what’s coming next, and for that reason, we keep coming back for more!


Series five of  Married at First Sight UK  is on Channel 4 on Tuesday nights. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.