Married at first what? Yes. Married at first sight.

That's what happens on Three's new reality show, which uses psychology and relationship expertise to couple up 12 keen singles who will get legally married - at first sight.

These brave hopefuls will be part of an intensive six-week social experiment to see if they can make their arranged marriages stick.

When we think of arranged marriages, a televised social experiment is not the first thing that comes to mind. The image is probably of a distant non-Western social context between families.


But what many don't realise is arranged marriages historically were part of Western culture, too.
During the Victorian era, marriages were arrangements made between certain bloodlines aimed at social and economic security.

So although modern marriages are based on romantic love and sexual attraction, in Victorian times they were desexualised and more like a business transaction. And the expression of sex within marriage needed to be restrained and controlled, as opposed to "lustful", fun or pleasurable - and it was to culminate in (the godly duty of) procreation.

Oh, how things have changed. We expect a lot more from modern marriages.
We are meant to find "the one", our soulmate, our "other half". (Note: these things don't really exist.)

Modern spouses need to be best friends, excellent parents, have a great career, be smart, funny, offer an explosive sex life and be great life companions. No pressure. No wonder 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce.

And no wonder the search for modern love has become confusing, haphazard, unfulfilling and, at times, grim.

Despite some of the most efficient ways of meeting new people via hundreds of online dating sites and mobile dating apps, the search is almost harder than ever. Every click or swipe, leaves people paralysed by the abundance of choice, and increasingly disillusioned over the difficulty of making a "real" connection.

This might explain why over 4000 single Kiwis applied for Married at First Sight. They were sick of the modern dating game, or swiping to find The One. One single said to me: "I'm sick of being on Tinder and you're an expert. Can you just sort it out for me? Find me a good match!"

People are overwhelmed by the pressure to find The One and by the difficulty in doing so, and it has them outsourcing their search for love.

Can this work?
Married at First Sight is a Danish concept that has gone global - screening in 25 countries and garnering huge popularity and commercial success.

The rate of marital success sits at about 30 per cent and some iterations have been accused of casting for TV, rather than making genuine matches.
I'm pleased to say this was not the case in New Zealand.

We worked hard over some months to identify genuine, authentic and compatible matches.

Technically, all six couples should be able to make a relationship work. They were matched on their background, relational desires, core values, personality traits, communication styles and conflict resolution tactics.

Each individual brings strengths to the relationship as well as areas where they can grow.

The process is demanding.
The experiment condenses into six short, sharp weeks some major relationship milestones (wedding, honeymoon, cohabitation) that could normally take years.

What unfolds is not only a fascinating display of raw human behaviour and complex psychological interactions but also a prompt to start seriously thinking about where this thing called marriage should sit in contemporary society.

What does marriage mean today? Where does it come from and is it still relevant in the 21st century? If marriages based on love fail half of the time, could science do a better job - should we be letting "experts" match people?

We know arranged marriages last longer than marriages for love - could this be the same in the Western context?

Should we even be aiming for life-long coupledom - is the idea of monogamy outdated? What does love, romance and commitment mean in 2017?

These are some of the issues I hope to tackle in the weeks to come, as we watch six couples go from strangers to husbands and wives.

Can they make their marriages at first sight work?

MAFS expert Dr Pani Farvid is a senior lecturer in psychology at AUT.
Each week she will dissect the show.

Married at First sight premieres tonight at 7pm on TV3.