What I learned about love from working on 'Married At First Sight'

An interview with the show's spiritual advisor, Greg Epstein.

What I learned about love from working on 'Married At First Sight'

Greg Epstein serves as the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book "Good without God." For much of the last two years, he's also served on-screen as the Spiritual Advisor of the popular—and controversial—reality TV show, "Married at First Sight," which matches pre-screened men and women in real, legal marriages that take place the first time they meet. We spoke to Greg about what he's learned about love from the social experiment, the seduction of "magic" in marriage, and what his own first year as a newlywed has been like.

Motherly: What does marriage mean today in modern American culture?

Greg: For the widest swath of Americans, marriage is now about trying to find intentional fulfillment in a deep and lasting human relationship. It's no longer about economics for most of us—at least not primarily. It's no longer about religious requirements, even for most religious people. It's no longer about custom, tradition or honoring one's family, even though marriage does have elements of many of these things.

The primary reason why most American are getting married is that we are seeking a sense of fulfillment through a lasting, committed relationship with another human being.

That's a hard thing to achieve. It's a lofty goal. It's a goal that is of course realistic in many ways, but is also unrealistic in some ways. "You can't fool all the people all the time," and you can't be completely fulfilled all the time with another person. It's not something you're going to be able to feel or experience every moment.

Motherly: Talk to us about 'Married at First Sight." Do you see it as an arranged marriage, or something else?

Greg: It's not an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages often involve tremendous pressure, usually on the woman. The couple often locks themselves into an arrangement that is governed more by tradition and people outside than by what will be right or fulfilling for them.

Instead, we see it as a social experiment. The idea is that we are trying to help people overcome some of the difficulties they have around making good decisions in relationships.

We’re trying to see if we can take six individuals and help them, give them coaching, and select them for their potential for growth and help them to learn from us and one another about what it takes to be more happily married. We’re hoping that a large audience of people could get some educational benefit from watching that.

I just want people to make better decisions for their long term relationships.

Motherly: [Four of the couples from two seasons have broken up, but two have stayed together.] Why does it sometimes work?

Greg: It works sometimes because there are a lot of good people out there who really want a good relationships and are willing to work at it but really haven't had the opportunity to learn about themselves and about another person in a way that could make it work. There is a huge assumption in our popular culture that marriage and love is about magic. If all you want in magic in your love relationship you better go find Aladdin because it ain't coming from normal human life.

Motherly: What can we learn from the couples that stayed married?

Greg: From the couple that succeeded, these individuals were willing to look at themselves and do the required work to understand themselves better before pointing the finger at the other.

On the show, Jason, for example, was willing to do that. He has had tendencies to go off on his own and be emotionally unavailable like many men, but he was willing to look at that in himself and say 'I really want a good marriage so I'm going to work on that. Courtney was willing to work on parts of herself, too.

Doug and Jamie and rare very good example of this. Doug had to work very hard to win Jamie's affection but he also had to look carefully at himself when he screwed up and as he continued to make mistakes, I've found him often to be willing to say 'I screwed up. I apologize and I'll do better next time."

I give those individuals a lot of credit. That's what it takes first and foremost is a willingness to do the hard work of being the right partner as opposed to just finding the right partner.

Motherly: You, too, are recently married. As you've been working on the show and living as a newlywed, what have you learned about love?

Greg: I think love is surprising all the time. You can't predict it. Even when it's predictable you can't predict that it's going to be predictable. Like a lot of people I've learned both how hard love can be and how transformative, in a positive way, it can be when it's going well.

I'm a better person and I'm better at life because I’ve committed to loving a person who is a good person and who is good for me. We struggle with it like everybody else because we’re human beings and we have our flaws and we also have two different narratives and two different life experiences. There's plenty of surprise in terms of getting engaged and being married in the first year that I'm following these marriages of other people on the show whose lives we helped shape.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

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I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

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