In many parts of the world, marriage isn’t left to chance: Either Mom and Dad choose a spouse for you, or they’ll hire a matchmaker to find someone they deem appropriate. Unfortunately, “appropriateness” is all too often defined by family wealth or social status rather than sex appeal or personality, so there’s a very real chance of getting stuck for life with a repulsive dud. But for many singles who’ve spent their adult lives looking for love in all the wrong places, the idea of delegating the search to someone else can sound pretty tempting. And if that someone else happens to be a team of trained marriage counselors with the mission of understanding you and finding you a soulmate, that might be enough to seal the deal.
This was the situation that Johnny, half of the first-ever Asian-American couple on Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” found himself in when he was invited to join the show. And when he discovered what it had to offer, he was all in — and game to meet his designated “soulmate” for the first time and immediately start building a life together. Here, Johnny shares his thoughts on his “MAFS” adventures.
Johnny had never heard of Married at First Sight before being cast
How did you hear about “Married at First Sight”?
Oh, it is really funny. I actually had never heard of “Married at First Sight” prior to someone reaching out to me on Instagram. Somebody who didn’t follow me or I didn’t follow them. They reached out to me and just asked me three easy questions. And they said, “One, are you single? Two, do you want to get married? And three, are you okay being filmed?”
And so I said, “Yes,” to each one in order. And they were like, “Great! I want you to fill out this questionnaire.” And that’s how everything started.
Did you know exactly what the show was about when you started? What made you want to sign up?
Actually, I probably should have done some research before I responded back. But the way they explained it, it seemed like a no-brainer because I’m basically going to have a matchmaker vet all these people for me and find me a perfect match. And then they pay for the wedding. I was like, “Wow, they really appeal to the practical, logical side of you.” Because I’ve been out in the dating game for a really long time and I hadn’t had any success there. If dating apps was like a sport, I’d be like a pro bowler. I’d be a veteran of seven, eight years. I was around when dating apps first started.
Can you tell me what was challenging about the dating scene? What was the hardest thing about it for you?
Well, I would say one, it’s actually kind of hard for guys to get matches. Because I have a lot of female friends that are on dating apps and they seem to get 20 matches a day, and I will probably get a quality match every couple weeks, I guess?
So that’s already one struggle for guys. And so it’s kind of hard, especially if you’re not like model-looking. I feel like I’m pretty normal … A normal guy. And so I don’t get tons of matches in my inbox. And so numbers are part of the problem. But what I did do is I kind of tried to be witty. I try to look for something in their profile that they said, and I do the openers. And that’s exhausting in itself because I might send something like 10 to 20 before I could get one response. And all of those 10 to 20 are not like shotgun-blast template one-liners. Back in the day when I was on the dating apps, I tried to be creative. I’ll be like, “That’s who I am.” And I want that to come across on a first impression. Coming up with openers, icebreakers, got to be [appealing] to someone that might not necessarily give me a look.
Johnny found the MAFS matchmaking process seriously intense
You said that one of the things that appealed to you was the matchmaking process. So what was the matchmaking process like?
Oh, it was great. There was a really long questionnaire that asked some super personal questions.
So in the very beginning, if you pass the first questionnaire that just kind of asked what you’re looking for, your height, your weight, your ethnicity, your background, language spoken, stuff like that — the basic stuff — it goes into this super detailed [questionnaire]. I want to say it was like 259 questions. I remembered just because I kept [thinking] towards the end like, “When will this questionnaire end?”
And they’re not yes or no, either, by the way. They’re all short answer or ranking. They’ll give you a list of things and you either rank them or you provide a short answer and it gets really into it.
And the fact that the matchmaking process includes this as the starting point, I was really impressed by it. I was like, “They’re asking me personal stuff.” Like let’s say morals, ethical questions. And then on top of that, things that you’re looking for physically for your partner. They ask you how much money you make. They ask you if you’ve been cheated on. It’s very personal questions that you probably wouldn’t get to, even in the first month of dating someone.
And they’re collecting all these responses, probably putting them in a database or something and then matching people based on that as the first step. And then the second step of it is … I got brought in … Well, first I guess I did some Zoom calls, and they brought us in for workshops and it was a continuation. I could tell they’re asking me questions based on what I had answered in the questionnaire.
So was this anything like you expected it to be?
No. It’s funny because I had never watched the show before, “Married at First Sight.” I don’t watch a ton of TV, but when I do, it’s usually because someone recommends some sort of drama or something like that. The only reality TV I had ever watched prior to this was “Love Is Blind.” I thought that was a really cool show. Because everybody’s talking about it. I had to see what it was all about. And I dated a couple girls in the past that were really into “The Bachelor.” So Monday date night was reserved for that. And I wouldn’t have watched it on my own, but because I was dating someone at the time kind of long-term and she really liked to watch it, I also got into it. I mean, these shows kind of draw you in.
So I didn’t know what this was all about. I didn’t know who the relationship experts were. I didn’t realize that you actually had to get married. A lot of it was really shocking when I started the process. I was like, “Really? We have to do this?”
So looking back at your experience, would you go through this matchmaking process again?
Oh, definitely. I would recommend everyone that is looking for a long-term committed marriage, like not just dating for fun. If you’re going in with the right reasons, I think this is a great way to do it. I mean, I think that a certain personality fits this better than others. But for me specifically, just being somebody that’s really open, really honest, able to kind of put themselves out there and not be ashamed of themselves. I think that’s what made me commit to this and sign up. After I signed up, when I found out how public it would be, I watched a couple of the matchmaking episodes. I was like, “Wow.” They get real personal. When they visit your house, I saw they were digging through like underwear drawers.
And I think it’s my personality. Because most of my friends now are in their mid-30s, mid to late 30s, and they’re all married with kids and all that, they really want to want that for me too. They know I’ve been looking probably in all the wrong places, on dating apps and stuff, but the thing that I keep hearing time and time again from them is just, “People just don’t know you. You haven’t put yourself out there.” Like I’m on dating apps, but I’m not getting matches because nobody knows who I am. I’m just like a face and I’m a statistic. They see my profile, but they don’t know who I am. That’s really what it is.
And so people never give me a chance from the very beginning, just because on a dating app, I am just an age, a name, a height. But once they go on that first date and they realize who I am and my personality and my demeanor, if I make myself presentable, all that, they would give me a shot. But just nobody knows.
Johnny shares how his background shaped his MAFS experience
This whole matchmaking process sounds very personal, very deep. Did you learn anything about yourself? Anything surprise you that you found out about yourself?
Yeah. I feel like everybody kind of knows physically what they’re looking for and kind of like personality-wise what they’re looking for. But the questionnaire, not only did it dive into morals and values, which I think are the things that really make for a long-term, long-lasting relationship, it really brought up some uncomfortable things. It even asks you, like, for example, “Is there an age limit for your match? Ethnicity? Like family background, is it okay if they had divorced parents?” It asks me questions that I have always known in the back of my head, but I’ve never had to confront it. Which is, explain your relationship with your parents and how has that impacted your relationship life. And I’ve always known that coming from a house that split when I was pretty young. My mom, my dad divorced.
I didn’t realize how much of that actually impacted my dating life like it did until the question asked, “Are your parents divorced?” And I was like, “Oh, easy question.” Answered, “Yes. They are divorced.” And then it says, “Describe your relationship with your mom.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s a little weird.” And I did. And the follow-up question, I remembered, was this: “Describe how that has impacted your relationship life.” And I was like, “Whoa, hold on. We’re getting a little deep here.”
I love the process. I also am a big believer in processes. I believe in science, I believe in psychology, sociology, behavioral testing, and all that. We also had to go through a psych eval. That was a big thing.
There’s just so much to it and they’re doing it all for free. I was like, “Yeah, sign me up. I want to go.”
One other thing I heard about you was that you were rather interested in having a wedding that reflected your culture. So could you tell me a bit about that?
So my family is kind of a weird mix between Chinese and Vietnamese. Both my parents were born in Vietnam. However, all four of my grandparents are Chinese from different parts of China. … We consider ourselves Chinese. So I had actually … asked for a Chinese tea ceremony in my wedding.
And we ended up doing Vietnamese tea ceremony, which is not that far off. It’s just a little bit more glam. I’d asked for it and the producers asked for special wedding requests. And I definitely put that in there. I wanted something to showcase how my family handles weddings. Like everyone that’s gotten married in my family, my generation, especially recently, had a little bit more toned-down tea ceremony.
But it’s still a huge part of my family in the cultural aspect of it. So I listed out every detail. I even put the person to contact. One of my cousins Brian, he just got married. He was at my wedding. He and his wife did a tea ceremony, really chill. It’s like maybe like 15 minutes. It honored all of our traditions, but it wasn’t super extravagant or anything. It’s more the meaning behind it. … The whole idea of the tea ceremony bringing a new person into the family.
And so the tea party with my family, would be doing the ceremony to accept her into my family. And then vice versa. When I present tea to her relatives, they’re basically accepting me as kind of a symbol of, “Yes, we accept you. We accept this tea from you, and we accept you as our son-in-law.”
It’s really important for that to happen in our family. And I made sure I wrote that. I listed out every detail — which people have to be there, how many teacups, and what order it’d have to go in because that order is also very important in Asian culture. Usually they do the eldest male first and then they go by age after that.
Well, that sounds really nice. Anything else you’d like to share?
I would just say this has been a really great experience. I loved every minute of it. It was something I never thought I would ever … I would do, but when they reached out to me, I feel like I kept a pretty open mind.
And this has obviously worked for people in the past. I Googled it before I agreed to it. People have been happily married on this show before. And so going in with that trust of the process and just optimism, glass half full, I think if you go in with that in mind, you’re going to have a great time. And yeah, this is a once-in-a-life opportunity, to get matched with the person that’s going to be your forever person. I don’t know how anyone could pass it up.
Season 13 of “Married at First Sight” launches July 21 on Lifetime.
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