If you’re a single Bostonian with a desire to be married right this very moment, I have good news for you: Married at First Sight casting is open for the next four months (application here) for their 2022 Boston season. If that sounds mildly terrifying, I get it. I talked with sociologist and show relationship expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz about the casting process, the traits they’re looking for, and what it’s REALLY like to have a sight-unseen relationship play out in front of millions.
If you’re unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: Two strangers meet at the altar and enter into a legally binding marriage. The show follows five couples over the next eight weeks as they literally get to know each other, and then they choose to stay together or not on Decision Day. The show’s currently in its 11th season, and will be debuting its 12th (Atlanta) over the summer. Lots of couples end up with messy breakups—but there are some success stories. Schwartz proudly touts the numbers, 12 lasting marriages and at least eight babies, as proof that the concept can work.
If that sounds appealing, or at least something you want to explore, you should know that there isn’t any one profile or set of experiences that will make you the ideal candidate. That even includes one’s sexuality; even though the show has only worked with heterosexual couples in past seasons, it’s not a prerequisite. Per Schwartz, the show looks primarily at personality and dedication to the process. “It really helps if you stress how much you want to be married, that you understand the commitment it requires,” she says.
“The show’s about marriage, marriage, marriage,” she laughs. “We believe in the institution. We want people who are committed to all of it, the good times and the bad—people think it’s accelerated dating, and it’s not.”
“I’m a little wary of people who are too charming,” she adds. “We look for authenticity. But honestly, I’ll take a good heart over any other characteristic.”
Also important? Self-awareness, responsiveness, being able to listen and ask questions, tapping into your experience with previous loving relationships (romantic and otherwise), and—perhaps most importantly—being coachable. Aside from Schwartz, the two other current experts are Pastor Calvin Roberson and Dr. Viviana Coles; each gives advice and exercises throughout the process with the goal to help contestants hold onto their matches.
Schwartz insists the quality of contestants regularly astounds her, because it’s hard to find a partner in today’s dating environment. That’s especially true right now. “COVID gives people more time to think: why am I alone? There’s nothing like a solid partner to face things together, so of course the pandemic has made a difference in how people view relationships.”
Schwartz’s been with the show since the first season, and the experts have apparently honed their selection process. Fans have had occasion to wonder how some of the messier couplings could have been matched up, and this past season saw one of the show’s most divisive contestants, Chris Williams, who’s since left the show. Beyond setting them up for the obvious (getting into, you know, an arranged marriage on live television), Schwartz says the experts coach each contestant on the other unique stressors inherent to the premise.
“It’s not a perfect system, we make that very clear, but we tell them right at the beginning: How do you feel about documentation? Can you withstand the fact that you will not be alone a lot of the time? We will ask a lot from them, but we’re all on the same side,” she adds. “If they’re happy, the program is happy. We never encourage drama, but we need them to expect that strangers will sometimes have trouble getting into the mode of marriage.”
Schwartz also points out that because the audience learns from the couplings, contestants should view their show “journey” as an opportunity for viewers to learn, too. The married couples get far more insights and advice than they would off the show, particularly about communication and conflict.
“I wish we could do this for everyone. There’s a decent chance you’ll meet the love of your life, but most people who participated say they gladly did—they learned how to be a better partner for the future. This process is like winning the lottery. But you have a much better chance at finding success here than with the actual lottery.”
Annnnnd now I want someone from Southie on the show. So start applying!