Married At First Sight

FIRST PERSON: Why Married At First Sight has left me with a mental hangover

Watching three months of lying, cheating, fighting, ghosting and toxic masculinity has me feeling like I've been on the mother of all benders.

By Anita Lyons
On paper, the life of an entertainment reporter can sound so fun that it's crazy to think it's even considered work.
From interviewing celebs, attending red carpet events and writing about the biggest television shows in the country - it really is a dream gig.
And while I would never change my job for the world, in recent months, a very big part of it has not been as enjoyable as it may seem.
You see, I was given the prestigious job of being Now to Love's full-time MAFS correspondent for this latest season and to be honest, now that it's all over, I have a severe MAFS hangover.
To give you a little insight of a celeb journo working on a major reality show; it's our job to watch each episode – at least two to three times PLUS, psychoanalyse and re-watch the best (or in most cases "worst" bits) while transcribing the quotes, interviewing the cast and fully immersing yourself into the lives of the 24 participants.
There are Instagram deep dives, exclusive chats with the cast's family, friends, exes and anonymous sources that come out of the woodwork; ready and willing to tell you anything and everything about the stars on the show.
Inevitably, you begin to build an emotional attachment with the people you've watched for over 5242 minutes, which equates to 87.2 hours of your life.
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sobinoff reacting to footage on the reunion special. (Source: Channel 9)
I am a very outgoing person, a natural networker and an incredible empath – these, I consider strengths that have helped me succeed in my career.
But the last couple of months spent deep in the trenches of MAFS has severely tested my strength. In particular, the past four weeks of the experiment really took its toll on me, contributing to ongoing anxiety, exhaustion and let's face it – a little bit of a personal derailment.
The lying, cheating, fighting, ghosting, gaslighting, toxic masculinity and phoney advice doled out by so-called experts four nights a week has given me the mother of all mental hangovers and I know I'm not the only one feeling like they need a post-MAFS lie down.
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I spoke with psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip to find out why I had been triggered by a reality TV show and what was supposed to be a 15 minute interview, turned into a my very own counselling session which left me in a puddle of tears.
Dr Karen told me that when someone watches a TV show like MAFS in the intense and analytical way that a celeb reporter does, you start to believe that the participant's "behaviour is normal."
But what we forget is the incredible producers at Endemol Shine have deliberately chosen these people for the drama and salacious plot lines. We feed into their bulls—t and create a "false sense of reality" for ourselves.
"It makes love look transient," Dr Karen explained.
"It creates a false aspect of love. A lot of us don't have a good role model, or they've been hurt or bitten before, and we may not have had the opportunity to gain a balanced and healthy understanding of relationship and love."
Who couldn't relate to this?
(l-r) Cam Merchant, Me (Anita) and Jules Robinson - the poster couple for MAFS this season. (Source: Now To Love Supplied)
One thing that the team here at Now to Love have heard me say on numerous occasions is that I felt "triggered" by what was going on in the show, especially as a single 32-year-old wading my way through first dates, dating apps and looking for my own love.
And Dr Karen has an explanation for this.
"When we watch romantic comedies, we strive for someone to come and whisk us off our feet. The type of love you see in the movies," she revealed.
"But then, we are faced with the 'reality' of things - people are lied to, they're ghosted; they're treated very, very poorly."
All things I have experienced, and very recently.
"It doesn't matter that it's a male or female doing that behaviour – it gives us an overall view that love is intermittent."
"That love is very fragile. That what we say doesn't necessarily mean what we do or how we feel.
"These are the issues, particularly people under thirties, start to generate as real," Dr Karen concluded.
That's me with the gorgeous Lizzie! (Source: Supplied / Now to Love)
But it's not just someone like me, an entertainment journalist, who is immersed in the show day-in-and-day-out, who has been affected by the show.
I have plenty of girlfriends and guy friends of all ages and stages in life, who have stopped watching the show because they can't handle the awful behaviour or the fabricated drama anymore.
So, is this a social issue that requires a fix? I certainly believe so but with the MAFS finale reaching record-breaking 1.96 million metro viewers last night, there's no doubt the juggernaut show will be back with a vengeance next year.
Ultimately, we look to these reality programs as a guilty pleasure but in the back of our minds, we think: "Is this what life is really like?"
There is so much merit in what Dr Karen says about our search for love, within ourselves and with others, and how these TV shows really affect us.
If anything, I've learnt a lot about myself over the past few months – but at what cost?
Dr Karen Phillip has been a Counselling Psychotherapist for almost two decades, and a professional Clinical Hypnotherapist for over 10 years. Karen is an expert in the fields of relationships, parenting and communications and has helped thousands of couples and families resolve problems ranging from communication conflicts to parenting issues.You can find out more about Dr Karen HERE.