It could be argued that Married at First Sight is one of the most unique programs on the small screen right now. As the name suggests, the reality television show brings together different people who tie the knot upon their first meeting. However, two participants from the Australian version made some troubling claims about the series in April 2020.
From 90 Day Fiancé to The Bachelor, dating shows have continued to crop up on the small screen in the past few years. Each of those programs has its own spin on the format in an attempt to stand out, but in 2014 a new series hit the headlines. The show was Married at First Sight, which made its debut in America that year.
The original version of the show was produced in Denmark before FYI, a new channel on the A+E network, created its own take. As we touched upon earlier, it focused on six individuals who were paired off into couples, despite them not having encountered each other previously. From there, they got hitched in front of the cameras.
After the ceremonies ended, the show kept tabs on the newlyweds for the next few weeks, ahead of a significant moment. At that stage, the pairs would decide if they wanted to stay together or split up. While it proved to be a big success, two contestants pulled back the curtain to reveal some dark truths about the series in April 2020.
Before we get into that, though, let’s take a closer look at the show’s rise over the past few years. Following its debut, more than 150 episodes of Married at First Sight have aired on the small screen, with the tenth season kicking off at the start of 2020. In addition to that, another season is on the way, too.
Moreover, other nations besides the U.S. have developed their own versions of the show as well. For instance, the United Kingdom’s iteration made its bow in the summer of 2015. Australia’s take on the format debuted a couple of months earlier, and it went on to be a sizable hit Down Under.
Indeed, Married at First Sight quickly gained a large following in Australia, with the seventh season hitting the small screen in 2020. To give you an idea of the show’s popularity, the final episode of the sixth season brought in more than two million viewers in April 2019. And that meant it was the highest-rated program on television in the country that night – by some margin.
However, when compared to the other iterations of the show, Australia’s version of Married at First Sight has one key difference. For you see, the participants don’t actually tie the knot upon their very first encounter. To explain more, a representative from the program’s network spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in April 2015.
“In order to comply with the Australian Marriage Act (1961) which requires one month and one day notification, a marriage in law was not conducted,” the spokesperson explained. “Each participant embarked on a commitment ceremony with a wedding celebrant, with all due intention to commit fully to this union for the duration of the experiment.”
“At the end of the experiment, [the contestants] are given the option to continue with the relationship or go their separate ways,” the spokesperson added. And regardless of those changes, plenty of people still signed up for the program over the next few years. Indeed, 24 such individuals got involved in the seventh season.
One of those contestants was named Connie Crayden, who plies her trade as a store assistant. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, she was described as an “introvert” with dreams of becoming a scientist. Crayden had been without a partner for around half a decade prior to her appearance on the show.
Another singleton looking for love who joined Crayden in the season seven line-up was Mishel Karen. She lived in Brisbane, Australia, as a single parent. Since leaving her husband more than a decade ago, Karen tried to form bonds with a number of different men, but nothing had stuck.
On that note, Karen and Crayden were subsequently paired off with two different men as the season got going. The former was matched up with a guy named Steve Burley, who was three years her senior. As for the latter, she and Jonethen Musulin were put together by the show’s matchmakers.
Karen and Burley’s relationship proved to be especially rocky over the course of the season. The problems started to emerge when he revealed that he’d been unfaithful to an old partner. Unfortunately for the single mom, that struck a little too close to home, as several men had broken her heart by doing the same thing in the past.
Following Burley’s admission, he went through plenty of upheavals with Karen by his side, up until a pivotal moment. When the pair were brought together for the “final commitment ceremony,” she let rip at her partner. Unsurprisingly, that spelled the end of their tumultuous relationship on the show.
Going back to Crayden, her relationship with Musulin followed a somewhat similar path as time went on. To begin with, the aspiring marine biologist appeared to have been paired with an ideal match, but that positivity eventually evaporated. Indeed, the two started to pick holes in their coupling over the course of the season.
In Crayden’s mind, Musulin could be childish while they were together on the program. On the flipside, though, he found it difficult to give her what she wanted in a relationship. In the end, things became quite strained between the pair, which led them to make a big decision.
Much like Karen and Burley, Crayden and Musulin called time on their relationship. While they didn’t see a future together, the pair at least appeared to be in good spirits following the split and maintained a friendly bond. By March 2020, however, even that friendship looked to be done and dusted after a major falling out.
During that period, Crayden was preparing to celebrate her birthday in Melbourne. Musulin and some of the other Married at First Sight contestants informed her that they’d drop in on the party, but that didn’t happen. And after this disappointment, she offered a tearful response on a local radio station.
“I had my last straw with [Musulin] this weekend. I can’t play pretend. I can’t live a double life,” Crayden told Hit100.9. “It was my birthday this weekend. He was in Melbourne for the whole weekend. He said he would be there for me for my birthday. He was with Mikey, Ivan, Steve and Dave.”
“I get it, these guys are celebrities, they’re D-grade celebrities,” Crayden fumed. “They had this very important event to go through, and they said after it was done they’d come and meet me for a drink. I thought, awesome, that’d mean the world to me. But after saying they’d come, they didn’t even bother.”
Crayden’s angry response didn’t end there, either, as she continued her chat with the station. She admitted that she knew some of Musulin’s pals were unlikely to turn up, but she’d hoped that her TV partner would keep his word at least. However, after he backed out, the former contestant couldn’t contain her disappointment.
“I half expected it, but after everything we’ve been through together, I thought [Musulin] could [come],” Crayden added. “Even David and Steve I was really shocked with. I thought they could take an hour after lapping up that D-grade life to have a drink with a mate. They were too busy with their meet and greets, and thinking they’re really relevant and important.”
A few weeks on from that emotional interview, Crayden then hit the headlines again – this time alongside Karen. The pair took part in an Instagram Live conversation in April 2020 in which they discussed their time on Married at First Sight. And during their talk, they shed some light on the darker truths behind the show.
To kick things off, Crayden and Karen speak about the show’s editing choices, as well as how each of them was portrayed in the episodes. The former doesn’t hold back on this particular topic, either, revealing that contestants weren’t themselves on the program. And her hard-hitting words show no signs of stopping there.
“That’s a huge risk that you guys need to take when you’re going on to the show. Because it’s not just heroes and villains,” Crayden says of the ways the episodes are edited. “You are characters on a TV show. Okay? You play a character on a TV show, that I cannot stress enough.”
At this stage, Karen makes an intriguing point. After listening to her co-star’s thoughts, the mom says that the so-called “characters” still bear a resemblance to the contestants’ personalities outside the show. Crayden quickly agrees, noting that it’s an odd situation to find yourself in.
“That’s the thing,” Crayden continues. “You’re a real person, but you’re still a character. It’s very strained. And with some very creative editing, they can make you look however [they] want. Just because you’re not a villain, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be portrayed in a negative way.”
Off the back of this, Crayden then switches her focus to another aspect of the show. She delves into the “conversations” that were peppered throughout the episodes, which draws big laughs from both her and Karen. As it turns out, those discussions between the contestants were largely set up by the show’s producers.
So keeping this in mind, Crayden touches upon a thought she once had regarding the series’ format. The Melbourne resident believes that more genuine conversations could be captured with this method. “I used to always say, I kind of wished it was set up like Big Brother, where there were cameras rolling 24/7,” she admits.
“[That’s] because when the cameras were off, and there were no producers around or anything, and it was just Jonnie and I at home cooking dinner together, or sitting on the couch watching telly together, those conversations that we were having then and there, that’s what was real,” Crayden says.
From here, Crayden admits that she wanted the audience to see those interactions, rather than what eventually made it into the episodes. Furthermore, Karen also claims that she wasn’t allowed to hang out with Crayden on the show. Instead, she apparently had to deal with people whom she didn’t want to be around.
As for Karen’s relationship with Burley, she confesses that they weren’t together that much when the cameras were away. “You don’t spend a lot of time off camera with your partner,” the Brisbane resident reveals. “They don’t always want to spend time with you, and you don’t always want to spend time with them.”
After this, the conversation then starts to wrap up on Instagram Live. To conclude the video, Karen and Crayden sum up their experiences on Married at First Sight and ponder if they had any regrets. The former takes the lead on this topic, as she feels the need to get something else off her chest.
“I don’t think [I should’ve done the show]. Even with knowing all of you guys, and having you in my heart and my life, I would not do it again to myself,” Karen admits. “I don’t think that I needed that experience at all. And I think that I’m still going to feel the repercussions of it for maybe a few years.”
“The thing is, I’m very outwardly positive and stuff like that,” Karen adds. “And I am positive. It’s just that some things have really affected me. And it’s more about things that I didn’t really want to remember [from the show].” Following her admission, she asks if Crayden feels the same way.
And as it turns out, Crayden is of a very similar mindset, confessing that she shouldn’t have taken part, either. The former contestant also believes that she might well have been able to swerve the entire experience if she’d done more research initially. However, she does note that she still wouldn’t have been able to predict exactly what would happen behind the camera.
“Knowing what I know now about what really goes on behind the scenes, and what [the show’s] real intentions are and everything, I wouldn’t have done it,” Crayden begins. “[But] I didn’t really do my homework beforehand. I never followed anyone from the previous seasons. I never saw or heard anything super-bad or negative about what goes on.”
“So I wasn’t really prepared for what I was getting myself into. But yeah, knowing what I know now, I definitely wouldn’t have done it,” Crayden concludes. Karen then chirps in, “I think a lot of us would say the same thing.” At this point, the video finally comes to an end.
What’s more, while Crayden and Karen certainly weren’t shy in airing their grievances about the show, one of them did find romance soon after. Indeed, it’s reported that the shop assistant formed a relationship with a man named David Holder prior to the program airing in February 2020. The lovebirds were photographed together the previous month.