It's finally here. The final weekend of Married at First Sight.
We have three couples left and tonight - at the commitment ceremonies - we find out how many will say "yes" to continuing with their marriage.
Then on Monday night, we have a reunion episode, where all the participants get a chance to reflect on their journey in a group setting.
As we approach the end, what lessons can be gleaned from this experiment? When it comes to relationship success, what seemed to work and what didn't?
It is important to set the context. While watching the show, I realised three separate forces were at play in the relationship successes and failures.
I'd say 33 per cent was the matching, 33 per cent was the participants, and 33 per cent was the process and external variables.
As I've noted many times, all the matches were authentic, and all the couples had the recipe for success. But as the experiment progressed, certain things got in the way, just as they can in off-screen relationships.
The pressure is much higher when you're marrying a stranger on TV and condensing a series of important relationship milestones (wedding, honeymoon, cohabitation, meeting the family) into six weeks. And of course, all this is in front of cameras and for the whole country to see!
I have done an analysis of what seemed to go wrong with Luke and Lacey - mainly that pride, miscommunication and rumours got in the way.
Claire and Dom, on the other hand, were all set to give it their best shot for the six weeks. But then Claire became very ill, lost a close friend, and the text sent by accident by Dom created a scenario where her resilience, understandably, finally let up.
And then, finally, there was Bel and Haydn. The most passionate relationship on the show, proved to us that even when you have an intense and immediate physical attraction, things are not necessarily all roses. Communication and trust issues created the roller-coaster of our most on again off again couple.
So what have we learned? What worked and what didn't?
Some take-away lessons
1. Open and honest communication are hugely important.
2. Issues should be discussed at the first few signs of relationship disharmony - don't sit on things that are bothering you.
3. It's important to take ownership of your own feelings.
4. Don't communicate via text, when the stakes are so high and the issues so intense.
5. Don't let rumours get the better of you.
6. Watch out for group dynamics and the influence of others in your relationship.
7. Listen to your partner and try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
8. Practise self-reflection and try to get a grasp on your own patterning, and how this shapes your relationship tendencies.
9. Instead of trying to "win" - work on trying to understand.
10. Lastly - and possibly most importantly - listen to your partner and really try to hear them, rather than getting defensive or withdrawing.
Tips on how to maintain a healthy and connected relationship
1. Make space for uninterrupted one-on-one time, where you spend quality time together doing something you both enjoy (or take turns setting the activity). Perhaps try your own version of the "surrender date", where one partner chooses and activity and the other has to participate.
2. Learn about non-violent communication and practise it whenever possible.
3. Understand what your needs are in a relationship and communicate these directly, respectfully and with intent.
4. Have some therapy. I am a firm believer in doing work on ourselves, via individual therapy, even if you have had a "normal" or typical life. Just as we seek the assistance of an accountant for our taxes and the expertise of a lawyer for legal issues, I think we can all benefit from the professional input of a therapist who can help us with our emotionality, how we are patterned and what our tendencies are in relationships. Therapists, counsellors or psychologists are not just for when there is crisis, but can also help us understand our own psychological make up, and this gives us a better self-awareness and hence more options when it comes to navigation intimate relationships (with parents, friends, or lovers).
5. Lastly - as a colleague at AUT pointed out - don't necessarily wait until a relationship is in turmoil before seeking the services of a relationship therapist. Talking through needs, desires, boundaries and individual tendencies with the help of a trained professional could be really helpful - think of it as a relationship warrant of fitness!
As I sign off on this last MAFS commentary for this year, I want to commend our participants on their willingness to give this social experiment a shot.
And although some exited earlier than expected, the pressure and intensity of such an undertaking cannot be underestimated. Relationships can be hard work at the best of times, and the stakes are so much higher when you are marrying a stranger at first sight!
Well done to all for giving it a shot.
Tonight we find out how many have gone the distance and have made their married at first sight adventure, a married for life reality.