Has the gaslighting on Married At First Sight Australia gone too far this time?

Amy Grier
·5-min read
Photo credit: Channel Nine
Photo credit: Channel Nine

From Cosmopolitan

It’s not really such a huge ask it is? That someone pick up their towels after having a shower, and not use all of the ones in the house so that there’s some left for yours?

It’s a pretty obvious human thing, surely, to expect that a 44-year-old male who has presumably had both showers and girlfriends before, understand that not leaving a towel for your ‘wife’ could be construed as at best, annoying, and at worst, painfully inconsiderate and lacking in any sort of empathy?

Well, apparently not, according to the ‘experts’ on cult dating show (and lockdown TV saviour), Married at First Sight Australia.

Fans of the show will be familiar with the provocative questions from the three psychological authorities that preside over the fates of the couples like headteachers that aren’t angry – they’re just disappointed. Disappointed, that is, at the continual desire of the women in the show to expect a basic level of human decency from their male matches. IKR? How dare they.

But last night, the level of this gaslighting reached new lows. Let me walk you through the scene:

In the commitment ceremony, a weekly stage where the couples get to talk about the highs and lows of their relationship with the show's three ‘experts’ John Aiken, Mel Schilling and Dr Trisha Stratford, Heidi, 38 and Mike, 44 took to the therapists couch.

Photo credit: Channel Nine
Photo credit: Channel Nine

They’ve not had the easiest ride this series as, despite their obvious chemistry, Mike has the emotional range of a sea monkey. His wife’s topknot has more depth and texture than him. Early doors on their honeymoon, when Heidi tried to explain her tough upbringing to the man who had just become her husband, he cut her off because he ‘wanted to go swimming’, before announcing he was ‘not her therapist’. Unfortunately, the people that actually are supposed to be their therapists did not do a much better job of actually being therapists so… you’re in good company Mike.

Anyway. Back to last night. After weeks and weeks of Heidi raising things about Mike’s behaviour which all amount to the same thing (he doesn’t hear me, he doesn’t make me feel safe and secure in our relationship, he repeatedly ignores quite basic requests on my part to act in different ways that will help us grow as a couple), she tried to do the exact same thing. This time about towels. Smiling maniacally in a very Ross from Friends ‘I’m Fiiiiinnnnnnnnnneeeee’ way, Heidi explained how they’d had a huge row that morning because Mike repeatedly used all the towels in the house when showering, leaving none for her.

Fair dinkum, I hear you say?

Well, no. Having been told to ‘choose love’ by the ‘experts’ for the last six weeks, like some Poundland version of the advice dished out on the Jerry Springer show, Heidi has quite understandably reached her limit. Anyone with an AS Level in Psychology should know that it’s not the towels. It’s what the towels represent: her husband’s complete inability to think of anyone else other than himself. However, rather than pointing this out to emotional plimsol Mike, the experts instead decided it was Heidi’s issue to work on.

After a joint counselling session in which John Aiken asked Heidi if she had "disarmed that pattern of getting too hung up on the past and getting inside your head too much,” things came to a head.

Mel Schilling chimed in: “Heidi my concern here is that Mike may well be exactly what you asked for, and you’re doing everything you can to sabotage that.”

Heidi: “I’m getting so much better I think.”

Mel: “Yes you’re making progress, but you’re still talking about towels.”

Heidi: “Yes and I know that sounds ridiculous but… I don’t have any towels!”

The woman does not have any towels. She is running around their house starkers and cold while her husband reclines on a throne of dryness. And no one cares.

I’m not sure what is worse: if the ‘experts’ do in fact give more balanced advice and the editors of the show cut it out – or if that advice never comes, and it is always seen as the woman’s place to ‘fix’ what is wrong with the relationship by moderating her own behaviour.

Look, I love this show as much as the next person trapped in their house for months on end, I do. It’s trash TV at its best and I have been borderline obsessed since series 4 hit last year. But – having watched three series back-to-back, I’m becoming concerned about the female contestants continually being told they are ‘self sabotaging’ and being brainwashed into staying in relationships with men who cannot pick up their physical or metaphorical shit. More importantly, I’m concerned about the message that sends to others living through more real versions of those relationships we see on screen.

So, to clear up something that last night’s episode did not: pointing out that something is a basic human need for you is not self sabotage. Asking someone to be respectful in a space you both share is not self sabotage. It is not your job to endlessly tolerate the flaws of others, if they affect your mental health or physical wellbeing (including the ability to be dry after a shower), and it is okay to gently point them out in a calm and measured way and expect that someone might act differently as a result.

Pick up your towels Mike. For all our sakes.

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