Married At First Sight Season 12: Why the dogs were such a big deal

A frustrated Virginia vents at husband Erik, over their continuous fights over her dog, Rockie.
A frustrated Virginia vents at husband Erik, over their continuous fights over her dog, Rockie. Pic credit: Lifetime.

We all knew and followed along with the ongoing saga between Erik and Virginia Lake in regards to her spunky little canine, Rockie. Rockie was as free-spirited as Virginia, bounding through the apartment, chewing on his toys, and generally driving her husband, Erik, crazy.

But Erik was not the only partner on the show being introduced to new doggy daddy-dom, the show’s experts stated that all the women in the Season 12 season were coming in with dogs, which was a first for the show.

In fact, an entire episode centered around that very thing. During the show’s airing, there was a lot of confusion from fans around the issue of the dogs, and the episode focusing on the dogs elicited a lot of questions from the followers of the show as to its importance.

So, what made the dogs, such an important part of the Married At First Sight Season 12 Experience? Why were they such a big deal?

Chris Williams’ attitude toward Paige’s dog

The dogs are a big deal because they represent something deeply personal to the women of the show, they represent the most vulnerable parts of themselves, and how a new partner reacts to the dogs, or to what they represent, is a true indicator of their ability to be sensitive to their partner’s feelings.

Take for example, when asked in the episode to share his feelings about his new role as a dog dad, Chris Williams, states that he could not care less about Paige’s dog. No surprise there, that is a very accurate representation of how Chris felt about Paige’s feelings.

The couple’s very publicized and ongoing marriage battle featured such outlandish behavior as Chris revealing to Paige, his wife, that he bought his pregnant ex-fiancee a new car and then figured he should tell her about it afterward.

The couple went back and forth on divorcing even past Decision Day due to Chris’s constant wavering and the couple was even undecided all the way through the Reunion Special.

Ryan is the perfect dog dad

On the other hand, Ryan Oubre, (who recently celebrated his 30th birthday) dove right into getting to know his new wife Clara’s fur baby, Miska.

Ryan embraced his role as new dog dad and even took Miska to training sessions to ensure he was able to accurately communicate and bond with her.

Before taking Miska to the training, he asked for dog mom Clara’s permission and input. He asked if there was anything Clara wanted to be covered in the sessions or anything she would rather them not do with Miska.

It was a perfect representation of Ryan’s care for Clara’s feelings, he was dedicated, mindful, and committed. He also followed through on his promise of taking Miska to the trainer, and even watched her for several days on his own while Clara was out of town.

These actions and follow-through helped foster a sense of trust in their relationship, that continued to grow and thrive throughout the show. Respecting the things that are important to our partner, is key to building a sense of emotional security and trust.

Well played Ryan, well played.

Erik and Virginia struggled over the dogs

Meanwhile, as Erik and Virginia continued to struggle with the role Erik would play in Rockie’s life, they reached out to one of the show’s relationship experts, Dr. Pepper, for advice.

Dr. Pepper explained to Erik, in one of their counseling sessions, that if he were coming into a marriage, and Virginia had a child from a previous relationship, for example, that he would not be expected to have a completely equal role in raising that child, right off the bat.

Dr. Pepper goes on to say that they would hope that eventually, Erik could take a more active role, but that to ask for it immediately upon entering the relationship, was not realistic or appropriate. What Dr. Pepper highlights here, is an underlying struggle all the couples in Married At First Sight, are truly facing.

In a “usual” marriage situation, a couple will most likely have been dating for some length of time before the marriage, whether that’s months or years, it has at least given them a head start in building relationships with their spouses and pets, new in-laws, etc.

There is a natural progression to the relationships as far as combining homes and lives. The levels of intimacy would have developed over time and the combining of their lives and homes would have been at a slower, more progressive pace.

The struggle the Married at First Sight Couples are facing is they are being asked to reach a very high level of intimacy at first sight. They are then being asked over a very short time to completely combine their homes and their lives with someone they do not know very well. No wonder there were so many fights.

Vincent bonded with Briana’s dog but Haley and Jacob’s dogs were at odds

Fans watched the comparison of Vincent Morales’ smooth transition to father figure of Briana’s small pooch, Cookie, as opposed to the struggles faced by then-couple Haley Harris and Jacob Harder.

As the two attempted to bring their set of dogs together, they could never quite get them on the same page, or in the same room, much like the owners themselves. Tense calm would erupt in vicious fights among the dogs, causing the then-couple to have to keep the dogs separate most of the time.

As it became increasingly obvious that neither the humans nor the dogs, were going to come together in marital bliss, Haley and Jacob seemed to stop trying, and eventually, all two and four-legged friends went their separate ways.

In the case of Erik and Virginia, Erik was expressing concern over Rockie’s behavior as something that he too, was going to have to live with as a member of the home. His concern was valid, especially if the behavior was disruptive.

However, Erik’s dominant approach and demand of taking a lead role caused free-spirited Virginia to feel attacked and ultimately shut down, throwing Erik into even more panic that he would be forced to live with the consequences of a dog with problematic behavior, with no say over that outcome.

With these heightened emotions, each of them would act out from a very fear-based, reactionary place, causing more upheaval, fights, and ironically, since animals are so sensitive to people’s emotions, most likely an increase in Rockies’ problematic behavior.

It was also very reflective of the ongoing struggle Erik and Virginia had regarding Virginia’s lifestyle choices and her initial rigid response to changing them. Erik wanted Virginia to slow down her partying and understand her new role as a wife, while Virginia initially wanted to continue with the habits of her pre-marriage party girl lifestyle and appeared unwilling to compromise.

Erik continued to grow increasingly worried as the behavior began to affect their relationship. While the subject of the fights changed, the underlying theme remained the same as their cycle was played out over and over. Erik would express a concern that, although genuine, would come off in an almost domineering manner.

This would immediately panic Virginia, who was initially unwilling to compromise or see the problem. When Erik would escalate his concern, Virginia would dig in harder, and round and round they would go. The fight over Rockie was actually very reflective of their relationship trials overall.

Above, we see Virginia cuddling up with Rockie with the city in the backdrop. This is fitting, as the dogs further represent, a combining of households and a demonstration of what someone might be like, as a contributing member of the home, and even as a parent.

The dogs and how the MAFS cast treated them was indicative of their own relationship struggles

Caring for a pet, raises the question of if each partner is responsible for the animals, is one person expected to be the disciplinarian while one is the “fun” parent, who is taking a lead role in the day-to-day care of the animal?

All of these are important questions in a relationship and can often be an indication of someone’s parenting style, level of commitment, or ability to handle responsibility. Especially in the area of children, many couples can talk to the talk, but may not able to walk the walk, so to speak.

The day-to-day realities of caring for something or someone can be more of a shock than many couples are not ready for. So, beginning with something like a pet is actually a great way to gauge someone’s ability to handle responsibilities, daily commitments, and even stressful situations such as if the pet is badly behaved, or becomes ill.

So yes, as silly as it may have seemed to some Married at First Sight fans initially, the dog episode was a very important one for the couples.

The issues, or non-issues, it brought up for each couple, were reflective of deeper dynamics going in with the relationship and the couple’s ability to handle them. The way the partners took on their role as new pet parents really highlighted their level of commitment to both the partnership and their partner’s feelings overall.

The way the animal issues were handled was often very reflective of the way many of the other issues for the couples were handled. So yes, although strange, the dog thing, was actually, a big deal.

Married at First Sight returns on Wednesday, July 21 at 8/7c on Lifetime.

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