Breakups are tough under any circumstances, but the Married at First Sight participants are coping with added pressures. Season 3 was jam-packed with ongoing ups and downs, but reality struck on Decision Day when two of the relationships fizzled out in front of viewers’ eyes. At that point, the authenticity of the Married at First Sight experiment became real; these couples weren’t simply onscreen to entertain fans, they were dealing with real-life heartache. Without a doubt the most difficult split we witnessed that dreaded night was when Neil Bowlus chose to divorce his wife, Sam Role. It was a heartbreaking moment viewers won’t soon forget.
But during the time between the six-week experiment and Married at First Sight: Six Months Later, hopes were high that this quirky couple would salvage their troubled marriage. Sadly, there was no reconciliation at the time, but Bowlus and Role told the show’s sociologist, Dr. Pepper, that they were building their friendship. Should we continue to hope for more? The Knot was determined to find out. We sat down with both Bowlus and Role, and they’re holding nothing back.
First, we talked with Role; she looked simply amazing in a sexy little black dress with sheer lace cut-outs. We sat down at her dining room table – the one she shared with Bowlus. We couldn’t help but think of them cooking in her kitchen, and how they’d shared matzo ball soup at this very table. One thing was apparent to us from our conversation with Role: She is very hard on herself and takes the blame for Bowlus’ request to divorce. She seems nothing like the person we saw on Married at First Sight in the beginning. She’s genuinely regretful for her behavior and has done a complete transformation. She’s a beautiful person, inside and out.
We asked Role how shocked she was on Decision Day. Did she have any inclination that her husband would choose to divorce? “I talked to him leading up to it,” she shared with us, “and I was like, ‘I don’t think it would be fair for us to end it here because of the cameras. We need to see what our life is normally. What it would be like with just us hanging out, working, coming home to each other,’ and he would nod or say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good point.’ I had no idea he was gonna ask for a divorce, and the way he led up to it was what really hurt the most. But one thing was for certain: He was sure of what he wanted, and so I had to respect that, but I had no idea.”
The day after Decision Day, Bowlus and Role met at the home they shared together. Role came across as nonchalant about the visit. We asked what was going through her mind that day. “I was breaking up inside,” she admitted. “I did not wanna see him, because I was hurt, but it’s like that bittersweet moment. It’s like, ‘I wanna see you, but then I don’t, because I’m gonna have a flood of sadness come over me as I see you, and I have to keep it together.’”
“I just wanted to make sure that I respected him,” Role continued, “because if I came in there and I was either mad or I was crying, nothing was gonna get accomplished when it came to talking to him. If anything, I didn’t want him to see me as some kind of pity party or a charity case where he would have to feel bad for me. I was never mad. I was never angry with him. I remember when I left, I got in my car and cried. I needed to respect him and his wishes and how he felt, and for that, I tried to maintain a very positive composure, because I didn’t want him to feel bad in any way, because the events that led up to it were what warranted him for asking for [divorce] anyway. The only person I could be mad at was me. I just knew that I didn’t want to lose him altogether.”
Understandably, Role wishes Bowlus had given her a head’s up prior to announcing his decision. “I was embarrassed and upset that we couldn’t have a conversation as husband and wife prior to going in, so that I could at least be aware of what was gonna happen,” she told The Knot, “but everything happens for a reason, so there’s no point in even holding a grudge. It just is what it is, and I think he’s a good person, which is why I really started to like him. There was a reason why we were matched, and it just sucks that it took me so long to see it.”
As mentioned earlier, Role is very hard on herself. She is quick to blame her actions for Bowlus’ decision to divorce. “I guess I’ve always taken the blame for it,” she acknowledged. “I don’t know that we’ve ever discussed if he felt he was at fault for anything, because even if he did, I would probably just tell him that he was wrong.”
“I know it takes two people to be in a relationship,” Role explained, “but if somebody that you’re completely vulnerable to just shuts you out at the very beginning, how can you expect that person at the end to want anything to do with you? In fact, I give him credit, because after watching myself, I would’ve put my body in a ditch somewhere.”
Viewers have commented that Bowlus and Role should have discussed the future of their marriage more in depth before going into Decision Day. Role was emotional as she responded to that observation. “Like, why would you if somebody’s so mean to you all the time?” she asked as she wiped away her tears.
Role told us that she and Bowlus have talked at least weekly since the Married at First Sight experiment ended. But they took a break following the six month reunion, because the emotions were so raw. “You can tell he’s still got a little bit of a guard or a wall up,” she shared with us, “and rightfully so, cause I’m sure he wants to know what’s true even though I’ve consistently, since the turnaround, remained the same way. I think I burned him in the fire, so now he’s being very cautious as to what he does and how he opens up. We still talk; I just haven’t talked to him since that day, just because it’s been kind of rough.”
Despite the emotional ups and downs Bowlus and Role endured during the Married at First Sight experiment, she’s not ready to give up on their relationship anytime soon. “I don’t give up hope. I don’t think divorce is the answer. I can even say that now,” she said honestly. “I don’t feel like divorce is fair at this point for either of us, because it’s not enough time to live under normal circumstances. So, I’m trying to continue to give things a chance and be there for him.”
“I feel like once six months is over after the airing, that maybe things will be a little less guarded and maybe [we’ll] wanna become a little bit closer,” Role explained. “But again, I don’t know what’s being whispered in his ear either. A lot of outside pressures and information can definitely help weigh on your decision, but my fingers are crossed that we’ll just continue to get closer. He always said he wanted to be married to his best friend, so the only thing I can hope for is to get close to him.”
“Hopefully he is willing to even consider it,” she continued. “We’ve talked about it several times, and he just constantly says it’s just not there for him. But I also feel like there might still be some anger and frustration with the beginning of it, so I just have to back off and accept it and come back later and hopefully he may…” her voice cuts off just then.
Is Role living with regrets after the Married at First Sight process? “If I had a regret, it would just be how I treated him at the beginning,” she admitted, “but other than that, there’s no regrets. I don’t like the way I treated him, but in reality, if I hadn’t been that way, I wouldn’t have become a better person. I guess my only regret was not being a better person going into this. I wish I was still married. I mean, to wear a ring, technically I am.”
We asked Role when she decided to remove her wedding ring. “I did not take it off until right after he asked me for a divorce,” she said sadly, admitting that she didn’t want the outcome to be true. “It took me like a whole week before I actually took it off of my body,” she shared. Her ring is waiting on the owl jewelry holder that Bowlus gave her. “I wish I could wear it, but it’s just hollow,” she said. “I don’t wanna seem like I’m desperate either.”
While Role continues to sift through her feelings, we were curious to find out Bowlus’ take on the Married at First Sight experience. We met up with him at Tres’ Russell’s apartment – a total bachelor pad! We spoke with Bowlus before the guys enjoyed a “bros’ night.” Our impression of Bowlus? He is a true gentleman and extremely funny with witty one-liners. He’s friendly, easy-going, and thoughtful. He seems to care a lot about Role and wishes her nothing but the best.
First up, we asked Bowlus how he’s feeling after viewing the Six Months Later special. “I feel pretty good,” he told The Knot, “I actually enjoyed the way that it ended for Sam and I. It was on a positive note. We both took away very big life lessons from it, and we got to see Sam have her reaction and turnaround.”
“Her apology was still difficult to see,” he admitted. “I don’t like that Sam keeps beating herself up; she does it a lot… in person, on Twitter. She’s her biggest critic, which is fine. I think that’s great. I think that everybody should be. But I think sometimes she may take it a little far, which is part of that learning process for her. I’ve tried to be a bug in her ear and be as supportive as possible.”
Because Role is adamant about taking the blame for her part in their marriage ending, we asked Bowlus if he feels he should take some of the blame as well. “I don’t like saying that anybody’s to blame or anybody’s at fault,” he told us. “Did Sam know she was going to react that way the first two weeks? No, absolutely not. Are there things I could’ve done better? Of course. Absolutely. I think it’s all part of the learning process you go through at Married at First Sight. I’d like to think that I tried to make the best effort in changing in communication and opening up and trusting, so I don’t have any regrets. I feel like I could have done better, but I don’t feel that I’m to blame for anything. I don’t think Sam’s to blame either.”
We asked Bowlus if he has forgiven Role following their Married at First Sight experience. “I think that everybody has a different level of forgiveness and how you forgive people,” he acknowledged. “For me, I do forgive Sam, and I equate that with being friends with her. I don’t hate Sam by any means whatsoever. Her change is admirable. I’m very proud of her. I understand our relationship and what we’ve had, and I’m thankful for that and I value it. But there’s the other part of forgiveness. I can forgive and still have an amicable relationship, but forgive to have a deeper romantic passionate relationship, that’s different.“
“She’s a different Sam than I knew coming into this, and for her, for me, for everyone, that’s a great thing and I’m extremely happy for that,” he continued. “Is that gonna change my feelings on it? I don’t believe so. After Decision Day, I had a ridiculous amount of therapy on my own to talk about it and work through all those feelings. It’s not that I have a strong resentment, hate or anything like that; it’s just been internal passionate love that I don’t have on that level.”
“I think for me, the friendship is what I’m really happy with,” Bowlus shared. “For us to go to dinner and hangout like we have, I enjoy that. Getting to something deeper where I feel comfortable, it’s not just something I can give on that.”
Bowlus’ grandparents met through a traditional arranged marriage. We asked if that played a factor in his Married at First Sight experience. “It played a little bit of a factor,” he acknowledged. “My grandmother told me it wouldn’t be easy, that their relationship wasn’t easy. I think for me, I didn’t know exactly what was going to be hard. But for me, my hurdles more lie in the disrespectful comments and things of that nature.”
“I’ve never had a friendship, even like a basic friendship where somebody would say things of that nature to a person, not even just a friend. Those comments were surprising, and that’s what kinda set me back in a place where I didn’t feel safe and I couldn’t open up.”
“Now if that’s part of a marriage… if it is, then holy crap… I might need to reevaluate getting married,” Bowlus said. “There are things that I would never say to somebody. To me, that’s the most shocking thing. It’s probably how I was raised by my mom and my grandmother; they’re extremely nice people. They’re kind and they’re cautious of your feelings and who you are as a person. To hear some of those things and be on the receiving end was very detrimental in the long run.”
Although a reconciliation may not be in the cards for Married at First Sight‘s Bowlus and Role, they did have an impromptu photo shoot wearing their infamous onesies. Bowlus rocked his “big spoon” version on the couple’s wedding night, and Role is now the proud owner of the “little spoon” sexy animal-print version. We asked Bowlus what he thought of Role finally donning her custom onesie. “It’s awesome, because things kind of came full circle,” he told us. “It’s kind of cool to see that come all the way back around and she’s embracing it, but that’s a testament to her growth as a person. It’s awesome to see that. It does make me happy. It was a fun moment.”
Role was equally as excited to pose in her leopard print onesie. “It brought out the playful side of why we were matched to begin with,” she told The Knot. “I was so keeping my fingers crossed that after that he would be like, ‘Okay, let’s try this again.’”
Whether it’s together or apart, we wish Bowlus and Role all the best. They are genuinely amazing people who deserve to find their happiness.