It was an unforgettable moment for Married at First Sight viewers when Vanessa Nelson announced to the world that she and Tres Russell had split. Although we enjoyed watching the newlyweds on television every week, Nelson’s emotional reaction reminded loyal fans that this isn’t just entertainment; it’s a real-life, unpredictable six-week experiment.
Following the March 8 Married at First Sight: Six Months Later special, fans took to social media to share their points of view. Many of those fans voiced their disappointment, leading Russell to issue a statement on social media. Those viewers who were hoping for a reconciliation may be having second thoughts following Russell’s candid words. Now, Nelson has a chance to respond. She’s expressing her own candor in an exclusive interview with The Knot.
“Marriages are hard work,” she begins. “Every day an effort should be made to continue growing and connecting in love. I do agree with Tres that some things cannot be forced. Although, I was unaware during the duration of our experiment and our time after the Decision Day that Tres did not have or lost feelings for me.”
“This is not a situation where you do not check-in with someone,” Nelson continues, “especially when you sense things are off, and so I was under the impression things were still based on mutual attraction [and] affection with hopes to grow a deeper connection.”
“There was still much work to be done,” she explains, “but I was up for the challenge and doing the work. But there is a time when you must accept when you are not on the same page in many areas that are essential to marriage and when your efforts are in vain. He is a nice guy who will meet the right woman for him and I celebrate that day. I am sincerely disappointed that our marriage ended, especially the way that it did.”
“I respect Tres’ decision and his freedom to choose what is right for him,” Nelson tells The Knot. “Everyone deserves that right, even myself. This experience has prepared me for marriage and my future relationships. I am forever grateful and thankful for this experience. I am still optimistic that love is in my future and this only solidifies I am on the right track.”
Nelson is clearly saddened by the revelation, as she was in the days leading up to the Six Months Later special. The Knot had the privilege of viewing the episode with participants Nelson and Sam Role, who answered viewers’ questions live during the airing of the show. Nelson also took the time to share more of her experience. Our impression of her? She’s stunningly beautiful, extremely polite, and an all-around sweetheart in person!
Nelson makes it clear that she had planned to stay with her husband following the Married at First Sight process; she had no hopes of the couple calling it quits following Decision Day. We asked her how she felt about viewing the Six Months Later special; she had not watched the episode prior to it airing on TV. “I kinda did feel overwhelmed with my feelings,” she shares. “I think that everybody who watched the show can really learn from it, so even though it didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted it to, I feel like it was still well worth it.”
And what has Nelson learned from the Married at First Sight experience? “I learned how to communicate better,” she tells us. “That was my major issue through the whole thing. When I’m upset or I don’t really know how to talk about a sensitive subject, I kind of shut down if I don’t wanna talk about it or just kind of avoid it. I definitely learned that when you’re in a marriage, you have to communicate openly and [be] very transparent. You really have to make sure that the other person that you’re with really understands what you’re saying, even if it takes you asking questions and following up. I thought I was such a great communicator until I was watching the show and I was like ‘Oh, my God.’”
We asked Nelson what she believes Russell has learned from the Married at First Sight experience. She takes a moment to think before she gives us her answer. “I definitely think he learned how to compromise,” she says. “I think Tres [is] used to getting what he wants and being on his own… having things go at his pace and his speed. I think he learned to compromise and just align with someone else [he’s] sharing a life with.”
Russell became known for his romantic gestures on Married at First Sight, especially surprising Nelson with flowers on a regular basis. She shared a funny story with The Knot that we’d like to pass along to Married at First Sight viewers. “The flowers were like once a week,” she tells us. “I used to think he was going out of his way to get flowers and things like that, and I went to go visit him at work and his coworker was like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a flower guy that stops by every Wednesday.’ I loved the flowers… I love getting flowers.”
“He was just really considerate; he was really thoughtful,” Nelson continues. “He thought about the little things, like my favorite candies and my favorite ice cream. I would just happen to get home and my favorite ice cream would be in the freezer. He was considerate in those ways.”
It seems as though Russell and Nelson made many happy memories on Married at First Sight. We asked Nelson to tell us where things began to go wrong. ““I would definitely say intimacy played a large part in it,” she admits. “When viewers are kind of seeing me feeling… a little insecure, some of it was a reflection of how we weren’t being intimate, and that just went away. Of course in your marriage, you wanna feel sexy; you wanna feel wanted; you wanna feel like the person you’re with is actually into you that way. That just totally went away overnight, and it never came back.”
Russell told Dr. Pepper, Married at First Sight‘s sociologist, that he wanted to build his friendship with Nelson as a possible reason the intimacy ceased. We asked Nelson what she thought of that comment. “Honestly, we never talked about it,” she acknowledges. “It just stopped, and I asked him, ‘What’s going on?’ He never explained it to me that way at all that he wanted to work on the friendship. It kind of felt like ‘I don’t like you.'”
During the experiment, the couples received homework assignments. They also went on adventures and hosted parties to help them bond. Nelson tells us that once the cameras were done rolling, Russell failed to continue the activities that allowed them to grow as a couple. “I felt like maybe he wasn’t putting in the same kind of effort,” she tells us. “We weren’t doing any of the things that personally I think we could have done to just keep getting to know each other.”
During the Six Months Later special, viewers learned that Russell and Nelson had a big fight. Russell stayed out until 5am with his friends. Nelson explains that the argument took place later that morning. “We got into a huge fight, and I think I was holding some things in, from our lack of intimacy and feeling kind of not so great about myself,” she explains, “because I’m wondering why my husband doesn’t wanna sleep with me. And then he let me know he kind of didn’t have feelings for me. Well, he did let me know, not kind of; he did let me know that.”
We asked Nelson if she believes her husband was being truthful when he told her he didn’t have feelings for her, or if he may have been upset and said those things out of anger. “I don’t necessarily think that he felt they were hurtful,” she admits. “I feel like he just thought, ‘Finally I’m gonna tell you how I really feel.’ I don’t think it was malicious at all. I don’t think Tres is a bad person. I don’t think he’s a bad guy; I think he’s a nice guy. I think sometimes he’s a nice guy to a fault where he feels like he has to be so nice, he can’t tell you what’s really going on in his mind. It’s a good and a bad thing.”
So, does Nelson believe that there were bottled up emotions? “I think so. Even after we had this discussion, I tried to reconcile with him,” she shares. “That took a lot out of me to do that. I tried to reconcile with him for weeks, maybe even months afterwards, and he was the one that said no. He wasn’t really extending himself.”
Nelson told The Knot that she and Russell stayed together for about two months following Decision Day. Afterward they saw each other “maybe once” before they reunited with Dr. Pepper on the Six Months Later episode. We asked Nelson how that in-between conversation played out. “It was kind of like, ‘Hey, I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I don’t like you. I don’t wanna be married to you still.’ It’s awkward,” she tells us.
Viewers could feel the tension between Russell and Nelson as they talked to Dr. Pepper. We couldn’t help but notice Nelson did not look her husband in the eye. “That was the first time I saw him in a long time,” she explains. “We had yet to really talk about things in a meaningful way. I felt like I was completely lacking closure at that point. It was just kind of like one day we’re gonna stay married; the next day you tell me you don’t even have feelings for me. I really didn’t get any answers about that for months. It was really difficult to just see him and not really know what was going on.”
So, how did Nelson’s dinner date with Russell go post-interview with Dr. Pepper? “It was nice to know that we could sit down and have a drink together and not claw each other’s eyes out,” she admits. “I guess I was optimistic in a way, feeling like maybe we can be friends one day; maybe we can reconnect one day. We didn’t really talk about anything too deep. It was very light.”
Nelson tells us she has not spoken to Russell since their “light” conversation. But would she like the chance to hash things out in the future? “I would say no,” she tells The Knot. “Only because I spent a long time wondering about that, crying about that, being heartbroken about that, And that’s what people really don’t know is that, when I was watching the show, I was heartbroken. I was really like getting over a failed marriage… well, not even a failed marriage, but starting to really like someone. Starting to really see someone as my husband, and all of a sudden they’re just like, ‘Oh, I don’t like you.’ That’s difficult to watch. It’s difficult to watch the show. It was hard.”
We asked Nelson, looking back, what she believes may have caused Russell to choose to separate following the Married at First Sight experiment. “I felt the red flags the whole time,” she admits warily. Nelson acknowledges she was picking up on the “little things.” “One, we weren’t having sex out of the blue,” she tells us. “It just stopped; it was weird. I would come onto him, and he’s like ‘I’m tired,’ or ‘I have something in my eye.’
Tres kept the guitar canvas that the newlyweds painted together. Nelson tells us breaking up has been a trying process. “It felt like a real divorce,” she shares. “We’re dividing things, and we’re splitting up things that we got from our wedding and I’m like, ‘I’ll take that wedding album.’ It’s sad. It’s strange.”
We asked Nelson if she has found her closure following the Married at First Sight experience. “I struggled with it for a long time. I really did,”she admits. “It was hard when it was on TV and I was watching it. I was sad, I was angry, I was confused, but I think I’ve definitely reached a place of closure and where things came full circle. I know that I did the best I could. I really did want to continue our marriage.”
And does she hold any hope for a reconciliation? “I think that Tres and I shared a special experience,” Nelson tells The Knot. “I’m so happy that I got a chance to meet him and grow from that experience, but I do not think that there is a future for us. I don’t. I feel very strongly that when a man is interested in a woman, he pursues her and he makes it known that [she’s] someone [he’s] interested in, and I don’t feel those things from Tres. I think it’s safe to say that we had a great experience together – a once in a lifetimes experience. I don’t think we would have met any other way. Even though I did wish things would reconcile and we would come back together… it did not happen.”
And does Nelson have any regrets? “I don’t have any regrets,” she says honestly. “It just didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, and that was hard for me. I learned so much about myself. I feel like I’m better prepared for future relationships. I think the experience overall was well worth it.”
“I feel great, honestly,” Nelson says. “I feel like there’s a new beginning; there’s a new start. I had a great experience. I learned so much about myself. I mean, everything in life doesn’t turn out how you expect it to; that’s just life, but you take what you can from it and you apply it to your life in a positive way, and you keep moving.”