“I match based on personality traits, in terms of their attachment style, which is how clingy they are, and also the communication style,” Aiken said.
“Vetting is done by production. Large-scale vetting. And it’s a long process, the actual matching side of it … it’s a good several months that we go through.”
MEN ARE HARD TO GET
There were 15,000 applications for this year’s sixth season, 80 per cent of them women, which Aiken puts down to the reluctance of men to open up.
“It’s gone to another level now, there’s a lot of people now wanting to get involved,” he said. “There’s definitely an element of people wanting to do the show because they have hopes of going somewhere further after, but men are the hard ones to get.
“Other [MAFS] production teams [across the world] say the same thing. When you’re on this show for 10 weeks for this experiment, basically you’re going to be exposed, you’re going to have everything essentially come out, you’re not able to wear a mask.
“And so maybe that scares the guys off a bit more.”
Viewers last season saw the pain farmer Mick Gould endured after being jilted by his bride, West Australian Jessika Power, who openly pursued a relationship with another husband.
While distance is often a barrier to most couples continuing after the show, Aiken said in his experience there were much bigger factors at play.
“Big barriers are a lack of chemistry, because you can’t control that,” he said.
“And exes … not over the ex. Or over-involved parents and friends that are toxic. They come into the mix.
“I think the other one I notice time and time again is they have these perfectionistic ideals, a really long list of ideals for the perfect partner, so when you put them with somebody, they rule them out immediately.”
WHY COUPLES KEEP CHEATING
“I think proximity is a big one. They’re going through a shared experience that no one else can possibly imagine or relate to,” Aiken said.
“While they go in saying ‘I want to be matched’, there’s also a part of them that says ‘I’m here to find love’ and if that means going with that other person … although it’s cheating [thumps desk with fist], they’re not looking at it that way. There’s some kind of perspective on it.”
Last year there was obvious chemistry between Cam and Jules, who remain married, but it failed to inspire the other couples to get lovey-dovey.
“What tends to happen to couples who are warring or in crisis during this experiment, they can’t look outside themselves. So it’s just points-scoring,” Aiken said.
“At the moment I’m trying to get one up on my partner, that happy couple over there might be just fine but right now I want to win.
“The comparison thing comes up, especially at the dinner parties. You’ll have this situation where if they are doing well, it winds [the others] up. Rather than inspire them, they get jealous, they get competitive, they start to feel envious that they don’t have what they’ve got. It makes them go the other way even more.”
While the infamous dinner parties always shock Aiken and the show’s fellow experts, he is continually fascinated by the impact family and friends of entrants have.
“These friends just seemingly come out of the blue and become enemies, it’s crazy,” he said.
“So you might have this wonderful person who is looking for love but they’ve got a diabolical mother, who is over-involved, and a friend, who puts them down all the time. We’ve got no idea what they will be like.”
Aiken promised the 2020 season had three bombshell moments “we haven’t seen before, on any previous series”, as well the first lesbian couple, which Aiken said was “the most emotional and moving wedding we’ve ever had on the show”.
So does the relationship expert have a piece of advice for the millions of couples watching at home?
“I would say … it would be … listen, don’t fix,” Aiken said.
“When couples are in stress, in crisis, the couples that do well, the partner turns to their stressed out other half, and they listen, and they empathise but they don’t give any solutions.
“That’s why Cam and Jules were able to survive [the tumultuous season] because, no matter how dramatic it got, and how volatile, they had each other’s back and always sided with each other and never fixed one another.
“And that’s something I think we do well with friends. But even as an expert in this area, I get in trouble with my wife over this, because she’ll be having a hard day and I’ll come in and I’ll start giving her solutions and that doesn’t go well … it never goes well.
“It’s the tendency to fix. I think men tend to do it a little more. But at the end of the day, if you can empathise and side with them but not fix, then that’s gold. Unfortunately in Married that’s severely lacking.”
Who’s looking for love from WA?
Aiken said men were hard to get and they appear even more elusive out west, with not one suitable WA bachelor represented this year.
That may mean we’re either very happy, or very closed – like everyone’s 2019 farmer of the year, Mick.
WA women were more fortunate, with two contestants in 2020 hailing from WA to add interest for local viewers.
There’s 31-year-old pharmacy manager Vanessa who, having suffered from aggressive acne throughout her teens, was badly bullied at school and still wears the scars both inside and out. Insecure with relationships, Vanessa shields herself from hurt by rejecting men before they reject her.
There’s also real estate agent Aleksandra, 26: In “Serbian years”, Aleks says she’s 100 now and ready to be left on the shelf, so it’s time to take drastic measures in an experiment that her parents completely disagree with.
Married At First Sight begins Monday February 3 at 7.30pm on Nine. Latest episodes are on 9Now.
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David writes about sports and lifestyle for WAtoday.