Lillian Vilchez took a giant leap into the unknown when she signed on for Married at First Sight. While the Miami-based realtor had instant chemistry with her husband, Tom Wilson, they’ve dealt with ups and downs since meeting on their wedding day.
Now that the experiment is nearing its end, Vilchez opens up exclusively to The Knot about the intense process and her upcoming decision day.
“I felt that the six weeks passed by really quickly,” Vilchez, 25, says of the experiment. “I guess that happens when you get married to a complete stranger!”
Balancing a busy work schedule while getting to know Wilson proved difficult for the newlywed. “Before I knew it, it was decision day, and there was still so much more I wanted to know about Tom,” Vilchez says.
In a recent interview with The Knot, season 4 participant Nick Pendergrast shared that being on-camera is stressful. Vilchez agrees, but she acknowledges that the pressure is multifaceted. “You are trying to get to know a stranger that is now your spouse while trying to make a relationship happen naturally and be yourself,” she explains, “but you have to do it in front of a crew of people that are following you around with cameras. It can be odd.”
On the latest Married at First Sight episode, Wilson expressed irritation about his wife’s busy schedule while she was working in his car. In the confessional, he shared that Vilchez was only putting 60 to 70 percent of effort into their marriage, while he was giving his all.
“I was surprised he said that!” Vilchez admits. “Especially since I had previously asked him if it was okay if I did some work in the car, and he was okay with it. I had taken the day off so we could go surfing, so I thought since I wasn’t really going to work, I could just do what needed to be done and then dedicate the rest of the day to my husband; that was my way of compromising. But watching the episode, I guess he didn’t take it that way, and I felt bad even though his reaction to the situation was so funny.”
For their one-month wedding anniversary, Vilchez and her husband decided to prepare new vows for each other. Wilson came to their anniversary dinner prepared, but Vilchez didn’t have her vows ready. But all was forgiven when she gave Wilson a framed painting inspired by one of his surfing videos.
“I love to make people feel special, and ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a knack for coming up with cool and different gift ideas,” Vilchez tells The Knot. “The most important part of gift-giving is making sure it coincides with the person’s personality. When I came up with the idea, I wanted to think of something he could potentially have in the bus in case we didn’t stay together. I knew he loved surfing and loves to be different from the crowd and is very proud of that, so I wanted a gift that alluded to that.”
While the gift was a hit, Vilchez acknowledges she felt guilty for not sticking to the original plan. “I felt terrible that my vows weren’t ready,” she admits. “Granted, I probably could have winged it and no one would’ve known, but my vows are real and rewriting them meant a lot to me, so I had to be honest with myself and with Tom, even with the possibility of him being hurt or upset. Plus, I was really hoping the gift would offset the vows not being ready… He took it like a champ!”
Married at First Sight viewers have witnessed Wilson and Vilchez’s chemistry and the fact that they have many commonalities. “I think we are compatible on many levels,” Vilchez tells The Knot. “We both love hard, and even though he is more guarded with his heart and feelings, I can feel his affection even when he doesn’t say it.”
The newlyweds share a similar sense of humor and enjoy laughing and playing like kids. “That helps us build a relationship as well as a friendship,” Vilchez explains. “We both enjoy many of the same things in life. Even though our lifestyles are so different, we can really relate to each other. Also, our relationships with our fathers helped us bond immediately on the wedding day.”
Vilchez acknowledges that the couple’s shared traits and values can cause problems on occasion. “I think our biggest similarity makes for the biggest incompatibility… We can both be stubborn and opinionated. We both like to be right, and it comes to a point where it’s not even about the initial conversation – it’s about ego.”
Despite their occasional setbacks, Vilchez seems smitten with her Married at First Sight match. “Tom is all about the little things that make me feel loved,” she shares.”For example, he always opens the car door for me or randomly brings me flowers. In the morning, he kisses me goodbye; he tends to wake up earlier than me, so before he leaves he comes into the room, and even though he thinks I’m sleeping, he will give me a kiss. I look forward to that kiss every morning!”
Vilchez has made it clear that she’s falling for Wilson, but she doesn’t take the “L” word lightly. “I love Tom as a person and human being and could see the potential of something marvelous growing between us, but my heart can be guarded,” she admits. “I’ve been hurt so much in the past that being in love is something I need to take my time with, and I think he can understand that.”
While there are differences among the season 4 couples, viewers have also seen similarities. Vilchez admits that watching the other marriages unfold on TV has been eye-opening for her. “I remember Tom and I would speculate about the other couples during filming – their outcome and who they were,” she recalls. “Watching the show now shows me how different each person is. We all have such different personalities and handle situations differently. Seeing some situations unfold with the other couples broke my heart, but I always try to see both sides of the story and be empathetic. This isn’t easy, and we aren’t perfect. There will always be bumps in the road. It’s marriage, and no marriage is perfect.”
Vilchez has learned that fears and insecurities often lead to the Married at First Sight participants shutting down. “But in order to make this experiment and our marriages work, [we] have to be completely receptive to the process and open to make the necessary changes within [ourselves] in order to grow,” she tells The Knot.
Open communication and owning their mistakes throughout the process has set Wilson and Vilchez apart from the other season 4 couples. “The key is being able to acknowledge your faults, which can be so hard to do, because we all like to think that it’s always the other person’s fault,” Vilchez tells us.
“Tom and I talk a lot and try not to bottle up our feelings, which is the easiest thing to do, but when you marry a stranger you don’t get the luxury to do that, because you could potentially sabotage your relationship,” she explains. “Whether we agree or disagree with each other, we are constantly communicating, even though sometimes it turns into an argument. [Even when] we aren’t happy with each other, we try to learn from our mistakes and apply what we learn for next time. We also went through some emotionally draining situations (like my surgery) that made our bond stronger and brought us closer together.”
One topic the couple chose not to discuss was their thoughts on decision day. “The fear of the unknown was killing me since I’m pretty controlling and like to know what’s happening around me,” Vilchez admits. “I wanted us to be on the same page with our decisions, but we also needed space and time to think. What if I wanted to stay married and he asked for divorce or vice versa? It was an emotionally draining last couple of days.”
Now that she’s been through the challenging six week Married at First Sight process, Vilchez is offering some advice to The Knot readers. “Always put your spouse first,” she encourages. “If both people do that, no one will ever feel neglected.”
Secondly, the newlywed suggests doing things out of love without expecting anything in return. “Also, communication and openness is key,” she shares. “Without that, you cannot build a healthy and sturdy foundation. Lastly, never stop enjoying your spouse, because marriage should also be fun.”
Vilchez knew marriage would be difficult, but she didn’t realize just how challenging it would be until she was newly married. “Marriage is an important commitment,” she concludes to The Knot. “You need to be sure that you are willing to work on it through the good times and the bad.”
Married at First Sight airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FYI.