J., for instance, met his wife when we were in college. As far as I know, it was their first significant relationship with anyone. And yet, they continued to be husband and wife, happily, many decades years after.
G., an aunt, married three times—and all three husbands passed away. I admire her courage in the face of all these deaths, as she continues to be open to the possibility of loving again.
And there are others who have just plainly given up. Like R., who occupies herself with activities that enrich her life like caring for her pets, traveling and lunching with friends.
Who can blame the rest for keeping on hoping for that “one true love?” The significant other who will be one’s “forever after?”
And so I watch, with keen interest, who in the Millionaire’s Club will have interesting dates and will find a potential partner in life. The show’s host is Patti Stanger, who styles herself as a relationship expert and third-generation matchmaker. On the show, her clients are men with net worths of at least a million dollars, but have some difficulty finding wives. They are either bachelors, have been divorced or whose first spouses have passed away. (Her web site indicates that she also offers the same matchmaking services for millionaire women and those from the Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender community.)
I also recently stumbled on Married at First Sight, where couples meet their spouses-to-be for the first time at their wedding. It’s been billed as a “social experiment” to test if complete strangers, matched on the basis of scientific and psychological profiles, will be able to fall in love and stay married with their spouses. After six weeks, they have to decide whether to stay married or get a divorce.
If these shows appear unusual, they actually have some basis in real life and history.
Older generations of Jews and Chinese, for instance, relied on the services of a matchmaker to ensure the intended couple’s compatibility. (In the modern age, only Hassidic or ultra-orthodox Jews still strictly practice the shidduch, or matchmaking, although Huffington Post reported last year the growing number of Jewish dating web sites overseen by 21st century yentas backed by cloud-based databases of single Jewish men and women. Even Fiddler on the Roof’s Teyve would be impressed.)
The yentas or shadchanmim would arrange the matches based on the financial and social standing of the men, their age and social background. (Typically, Jewish women at the age of 19 were deemed ready to be married off.)
Among the Chinese, there was a time that marriages were also arranged between traditional wealthy families. When Communism took hold in China in the 20th century, all the old marriage traditions were abolished. The Chinese were then allowed to freely marry anyone they chose, divorce was legalized and it was unlawful to abuse one’s spouse. Yet, most Chinese continue to consult a feng shui expert or geomancer to check on their compatibility with an intended spouse and the best time to marry.
By consulting the Chinese zodiac signs of the couple to be married, the geomancer ostensibly will be able to determine if the marriage will produce healthy children, and if the couple will become prosperous and successful in their financial and social standing. (True story: A well-known businessman from the south was a known playboy. His feng shui adviser told him that as long as he remained married to his first wife, his export business would continue to prosper.
Many years after, we heard that he left his wife to hitch up permanently with his mistress. He eventually lost his business empire. In Millionaire’s Club, Patti interviews her male clients, finds out their backgrounds, and asks about the actresses they find ideal. She also tries to get to the root of the problem of why they are, yet, unable to find a significant life partner. Patti sets them up in a “mixer” with women who fit the physical profiles her male clients are attracted to. Usually, she finds something extra in these women (e.g. runs her own business, has a fun outlook, etc.) that makes Patti choose them as potential mates for her male clients. During the mixer, the men choose two potential dates and talks to them. Afterwards, he chooses who he wants to date.
I like Millionaire’s Club because Patti is a straight talker. She doesn’t take any BS excuses from her male clients and tells them to go beyond superficialities like a woman’s pretty face, for instance, to be able to find a partner in life. After telling this to one client, and he still does the same by choosing the sexy chick over the more accomplished woman, the episode ends with closing credits saying the man did not go out again with the woman he had chosen at the mixer.
As Patti had predicted. In Married at First Sight, the show tracks the lives of three married couples after their wedding and the audience is shown the day-to-day situations of the spouses.
In each episode, they consult with the resident psychologist who monitors each couple’s issues within the marriage (“I don’t like that he is confrontational. He shouts and makes me feel inferior.”) and she tries to help them address the problems.
I wasn’t able to catch the finale, but apparently, in Season 1, two of the three couples are still married. And since the series is now on its second season, the social experiment seems to be working.
What is clear from both TV shows, is that whether one chooses the old-fashioned way of dating and finding a life partner or the newer tech-driven ways (i.e. going on dating sites, speed dating, etc.), relating to a potential mate is hardly about how the stars are arranged in the heavens, or his fat wallet.
With one date (as in Millionaire’s Club), we can tell if we click with the other person and there’s something more worthy to explore. But it’s also about putting one’s best foot forward, opening up oneself to serious relationship possibilities, looking beyond the superficialities (i.e. the physique) and listening to what the other person has to say.
And in a marriage (as in Married at First Sight), six weeks may not be enough to determine whether one should remain in the relationship or take that fast exit to divorce (or, in our case, legal separation or annulment). But it shows how caring and respecting what one’s partner thinks goes a long way in strengthening a couple’s bonds. It is about constantly communicating about one’s likes and dislikes, and settling any problems, as amicably as possible.