Should you travel together to test a relationship?
So you’ve asked the love of your life to marry you, they said yes, and now you’re engaged. Congrats!
Most people would probably celebrate and eventually start planning their wedding. PJ Madam and Tim Noonan aren’t most people though.
The Australian couple are the producers and stars of a new Netflix series, Extreme Engagement. The show follows the pair, who are engaged, as they travel the world together for a year to “explore marriage customs in diverse cultures”.
In order to find out if they were “really ready for marriage”, PJ and Tim put themselves in some truly pressure-filled situations, navigating cultural and language barriers, as well as each other.
Tim, who works as a filmmaker, and PJ, who is a TV presenter, wanted to “see if we were compatible”.
In the first episode of the show, the pair spend a few weeks living with an indigenous tribe in Cameroon, who claim to have the happiest marriages in the world.
“It was extreme traveling. The first week we basically ended up getting extreme diarrhea next to each other,” PJ said.
How do you know if your relationship will make it?
The show navigates difficulties in relationships and learning about your significant other under intense pressure, in situations that Tim and PJ purposely put themselves in.
Testing your relationship in ways like this isn’t always the way to go, though.
Elisabeth Shaw is the CEO of Relationships Australia New South Wales and a clinical and counselling psychologist.
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She told Hack that artificial relationship tests, like Extreme Engagement, “don’t have a lot of value in the real world”.
“Of course these tests can demonstrate certain things about you, but you’ve also got to ask, well, ‘what is it we’re really testing?’,” she said.
If you’re a scuba diving instructor, for example, it might be useful to know if your partner can swim, or if they have a fear of drowning.
But testing whether the pair of you can navigate cultural barriers and marriage customs while staying with a Papua New Guinean tribe is probably not going to come up on a regular basis.
“How are you going to feel when you’re sleep-deprived with your first child? You can’t really test that beforehand,” Elisabeth said.
“If you have been able to test some of things before marriage, that can be useful.
“But artificial tests, I think, are tricky ones because you may be testing the wrong thing.”
Life isn’t #couplegoals
PJ said if anything, Extreme Engagements taught her that life will “throw you a curveball”.
“Hashtag couple goals is dead in the water, I think,” she said.
“We shouldn’t be aspiring for that, it should be real. If we’re screaming at each other, that’s real.”
Elisabeth says testing how you fight with each other will give a better sense of compatibility.
“What couples often need to test, when we’re really upset, is how do we fight? Couples fight, but how do we work under pressure when we’re upset with each other,” she said.
“Testing teamwork because you’re lost in the jungle is very different to testing whether you’ve got problems with each other.”
At the end of the day, PJ and Tim said they wouldn’t change a thing.