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'Our money is our problem': 'Love Is Blind' contestants on life under the microscope

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 3/2/2020 By Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times
a man sitting on a bed: Chicagoan Mark Cuevas in the dating pods on Netflix's "Love is Blind." © Netflix/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicagoan Mark Cuevas in the dating pods on Netflix's "Love is Blind."

The following contains spoilers from the final episode of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind.”

He’s a charming player with a cute dog who had three women swooning over him through a wall. She’s an ex-tank mechanic who snorts when she laughs and splurges on makeup. Together, they found love on Netflix’s addictive dating series “Love Is Blind.”

We’re talking about Matt Barnett and Amber Pike.

The pair withstood the bizarre matchmaking experiment — which begins with a group of 20- and 30-something singles getting to know each other with a wall between them before any face-to-face connection can be formed — and emerged as one of its two success stories. And if you watched, you know the journey down the aisle, including the morning of, wasn’t without drama.

Here’s our conversation with Barnett and Pike:

How would you describe what this experience has been like, from that first day stepping foot into those pods to now?

Pike: Just really unexpected and surprising. I think I’ve said several times: I didn’t actually expect to meet anybody in this experiment, because I know how particular I am and what a big personality I am and how hard it is for a lot of people to stand up to that. So, you know, finding somebody that was on my level that I actually clicked with was really surprising. And, you know, the show coming out and blowing up like it has, that was definitely surprising too. I thought we were just being normal people. And I think we’re entertaining, but I thought I was just being biased.

Barnett: It was very overwhelming for me. I’m honestly very shy. And the whole first few days (of production) I was kind of getting comfortable in the situation and got hit with overwhelming emotions and things that I hadn’t felt, ever. It’s probably one of the most exciting, fun, overwhelming experiences of my life.

Did you go in with a strategy? What did you decide would be important for you to get to know during that pod phase?

Pike: For me, I did have one serious relationship before this that I thought that was going to lead to marriage and it fell apart because we didn’t talk about important things. We didn’t want the same stuff in our life. And so there were things like having a family and what type of family life you wanted and stuff that was important for me. I just knew I had to be myself, because I know I didn’t want to have any false advertising.

Barnett: I realized I had no … clue. So I was kind of flipped over my head and trying to figure out what I really wanted.

During the pod phase, were you allowed to really get into describing what you looked like or was that off limits?

Barnett: We didn’t really control what we said. I like describing myself wrong. It’s fun for me. I would say I looked like Jon Snow but balding.

Pike: Yeah, we could say whatever we wanted to. And there were people that asked. I specifically tried not to. That was kind of against the point of it, but if somebody did ask, I think my general go-to description, because I’ve been told this from a lot of friends, is I would say “Miss Congeniality,” like Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality.”

Barnett: I totally imagined her having red hair.

Pike: I scared him a little bit and he expected me to be like this punk rocker.

Barnett: I think there’s a movie called “Tank Girl.”

Pike: I know exactly what you’re talking about. Get out of here.

I know you guys were in there a long time and everything gets condensed. But we didn’t hear a lot of talk about politics or religion. Did those topics come up and just didn’t make it to air?

Pike: I think everybody was kind of tentatively talking about it, because it is so sensitive and when you’re on a date, you do try to approach it more cautiously. And on many of the dates, we all kind of glossed over whether we did or didn’t agree with generalizations. But I don’t think we really got into specifics about that in front of the cameras because that is something that …

Barnett: Is definitely very, very polarizing.

Pike: It was something that a lot of the couples talked about.

Barnett: They talked about it, but it was not, like, overly discussed. Kind of like, “Who did you vote for?” and then that was it.

How did you guys even hear about this show? Did you apply, or were approached?

Pike: I got a random message request on Instagram from somebody who was like, “How would you feel about being on TV?” And I was a little sketched out. Like, “Uh-huh, what do you mean? What do you want me to do? This is really suspicious. Will I have clothes on? Like, what do you want here?” And they said it was a legit dating show and asked if I was interested. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t try a dating show. I wasn’t seeing anybody and I’m always open to potentially finding love. So, like, let’s do it. Let’s play the odds.

Barnett: Same thing — I think they reached out to me on Instagram and I don’t know how they found me because my Instagram is private. I got lucky, I guess.

Pike: I think they were just searching Atlanta hashtags maybe. We’re still curious about that ourselves.

In being able to watch how everything unfolded, what surprised you about the experiences the other couples had in this process?

Barnett: I think I didn’t know what people were going through. I guess we were kind of doing our own little thing in our own little corner bubble, whatever you want to call it, while filming, so we weren’t focused on it. So now we can kind of understand looking back on it. And it’s sort of like, “Wow, I should have been a better friend.”

Pike: It’s interesting, because when we were in the pods and we were separated, the guys and the girls, we were all talking about everything. We were all really close and we all knew everything that was going on. And it seems like once we got engaged, we all kind of got caught up figuring out our own relationships and stuff. When we talked (with everyone) after that, our conversation kind of changed to more casual hanging out … I felt kind of bad. I feel like I lost touch throughout the process and I wish I’d been there more for the other girls.

Do you guys have any regrets? Matt, you had two other women, Jessica and LC, who thought you might pop the question and felt like you led them on.

Barnett: First off, the answer to the question: I don’t think I would change anything. And I think for everyone else, it may not have seemed like the most sensitive to other people’s feelings way to go about it, but I think it was my process and it got me to where I was in the right headspace to actually take that next step and then follow through with the person that I did love for the rest of my life. I felt terrible in the whole situation. There were days I’d just be crying randomly because I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to hurt someone. I’d never been in that situation before. It was tugging on my heart so hard, and I was like, “I should just leave.” But then Rory was like, “Don’t let fear control your life; let fear make you run toward something that could be amazing.” He talked me down.

Oh, that Rory. He was the sage of the whole group.

Pike: He really is.

Barnett: The craziest part was, he was going through the same stuff as everybody else. He’s a good guy.

Did either of you have a sense of how Jessica was struggling with Barnett’s decision? I know there was that moment where you guys were all hanging out and she pulled you aside, Amber.

Pike: I had no idea what she was struggling with, the specifics. I know Mark. Mark and I became friends in the pod. When we were out of the pods, Mark and I spoke several times, and as far as we knew, her only issue was over age, and nobody really knew — except for Jessica — that she was, you know, still fawning for the guy that turned her down. I had no idea. Lord, I wish I had. But I didn’t.

One of the striking moments in the show — something I had never seen on a dating show — was the moment where you both discussed your financial situation. And Amber, people have had a lot to say about the debts you disclosed.

Pike: Finances, obviously, is not a one-minute conversation, like you guys got to see in the show. That was a piece of a much larger conversation, most of which Matt and I had in private. And, yeah, I had student debts at the time, but so did Matt. I have one credit card, he has his credit cards, and we both discussed that whatever we come into the marriage with is our separate responsibilities. I don’t want to take anything on that I haven’t earned for myself, and vice versa. We’ve each agreed to take care of things separately. And then whatever we do together, that’s what we share. It’s a little unfortunate that people had such a limited view of that, but I had no regrets about talking about that because I am and always will be an open book. Like I said, I didn’t want to have any kind of false advertising or anything hidden. I wanted to be accepted fully. Matt knew pretty much all of my skeletons when got married.

Did you see the social chatter, of people saying they hope Matt got a prenup?

Pike: No. Mind your business, folks. Our money is our problem. Another thing that gave a bad representation was I was out of work at the time. But that’s because I was in the middle of a lawsuit over a workplace injury and blah, blah. That was still going on during the filming. And at the time, I couldn’t contribute, so I was stuck at home and I couldn’t work, but I work. I’m more than happy making my own money to pay my part of the bills.

How involved were you allowed to be with the planning of the wedding? Could you pick the colors of the bridesmaid dresses? The flowers?

Pike: I think you guys will notice a lot of the stuff that we all had was kind of similar. Netflix was pretty much taking over the financial part of the wedding, so we did get certain choices. Our wedding dresses and the style that we chose for the receptions, what type of food we wanted or our guests’ flowers — we got to choose those things for ourselves. But ultimately, I honestly didn’t really care much about any of that. I just wanted to do the wedding and I pretty much told them the things I cared about were the music and the dress and the flowers and everything else they could do what they wanted with because I trusted them. I’m not super stylish. I trusted that the people that they were using were better than me, and I know some of the other brides were a lot more involved than I was.

Barnett: I picked the cake.

What flavor?

Barnett: It was strawberry, with actual strawberries inside.

Pike: And cream cheese frosting. I love cream cheese frosting. It was so good.

What song did you do your first dance to?

Pike: When we were in Mexico, and the night after we all had those tequila shots on the beach with all the other people, Matt and I got turnt and I was laying on the bed, like, just trying not to have to the room spinning. I was lying on the bed, and Matt was stroking my hair and he started playing the ukulele for me, that Jason Mraz song “I Won’t Give Up.” And I was like, that’s our song now. That was such a sweet moment. Honestly, I wish you guys had gotten to see that.

Matt, we saw that your family had their reservations about this whole thing, as I think any family would. Have they come around to it all?

Barnett: Looking back at it, it didn’t feel that awkward or uncomfortable. Yeah, Amber came in and was nervous, but overall, my family was pretty chill and actually my dad had a beer with her. It wasn’t that big of a deal. My brother was just very protective of me. He’s my older brother. He’s guided me through a lot of relationship issues in the past. He was like, “Make sure you’re not doing this for the wrong reasons. Make sure you actually see the rest of your life with this person.”

Pike: He’s the logical one. He’s the reasonable, “Think hard about it” kind of guy. I understood the caution. That’s obviously a normal reaction if anybody’s like, “Hey, by the way, I’m getting married,” and they had no idea that he was really doing that. Right after our wedding, Matt took a trip to Amsterdam for Thanksgiving with some guy friends. And I spent Thanksgiving with his family. It was awesome.

Barnett: They were very impressed with how small she was and how much food she could eat.

Well, Matt, the morning of the wedding, we see that you’re having some nerves about all of it. What was going through your mind? And Amber, how were you able to move past his doubt?

Barnett: I’d call it a minor panic attack. I woke up at like 5 or 6 a.m. and I went to take a shower to start getting ready for the day and I sat down in the shower and just started crying. I was freaking out about, you know, this is the rest of my life. Am I making the right decision? Is everything going to work? So I called her trying to get my feet back on the ground —

Pike: You texted me.

Barnett: Oh, yeah, they wouldn’t let me call you.

Pike: He texted me, “I’m freaking out.” And I said, “OK, like cold feet freaking out or excited for it?” And he said “cold feet.” I tried to call him. But it was right when he was getting with the producers and everybody and at that point they were taking all of our phones so that we wouldn’t talk to each other before the wedding — sort of like, the bride isn’t supposed to be seen by the groom. So that was the absolute worst possible timing.

I can understand where he was coming from because I was freaking out a little bit too. I was sure that I wanted to marry him, but also, this was just a few weeks into a relationship and it was huge. I had a knot in my chest and I never felt anything like that, so I don’t think I was interpreting it the same way as him. I just felt like I needed to talk to him and thought we could talk through it, because I had no doubt that I wanted to be married and I had no doubt that he wanted to be married to me. It’s just the timeline of it was kind of scary.

When I was at the venue I was still really stressed because I couldn’t talk to him. Yeah, I was scared that, because I couldn’t talk to him, he was gonna — I wasn’t gonna be able to help him through it. I thought he was going to be the runaway bride. My mom went to talk to him. And she comes right back up just a few minutes later and goes, “Oh, you’re fine. He’s fine. You’re going to get married today and don’t even worry about it. He loves you.”

How did you celebrate your first anniversary?

Pike: One of my best friends actually got married an exact month before we did. So we all went on a cruise together. And then on the day of, since the first year is the paper anniversary, we got Chinese food and ate it up on paper. It was great.

Barnett: I re-created one of the dates, remember?

Pike: Oh, yeah. So, OK, there was really bad weather on our actual anniversary. And he was so excited about this. It was adorable. So on our first date we went on in Mexico, we had this picnic on a beach. I told him I wanted to do stuff like that when we were married. I don’t know if you noticed, but our anniversary was in November, so it was a little cold. And a little wet. We went for a drive one night and he’s like, “Stay in the car. I’ll be right back.” And he got this little blanket with a picnic and had these candles all lit up and you know we’re looking at the stars and we’re sitting down and it’s cold but it’s so sweet. And we go to get up and I thought my butt was just cold because it’s freezing outside. No, the dew on the grass completely soaked through the blanket and we were both so soaked and freezing. It was perfect.

Where are you guys living these days? Is it Matt’s house that we see on the show?

Barnett: No, I sold it to pay off all my student debts.

Pike: The house wasn’t really conducive to the type of relationship we wanted. It’s not really close to the city and we’re pretty active, outgoing people. So, the place that I was staying beforehand, we actually moved into that apartment. We live in this really awesome apartment at the Battery, which we both really enjoy because Matt’s a huge baseball fan. And we just get to do really awesome stuff all the time. It’s a little less pressure, which I think is great for us because we’re kind of working backwards in the marriage and taking the pressure off. We have the commitment, and now we’re taking time to have fun and be together like a normal couple would take time with an apartment before they got a house together.

How’s Koda?

Barnett: She’s the best dog in the world.

Pike: She loves going on hikes. We live pretty close to the Chattahoochee (River), so we take her down to the river a lot when it’s summertime. She’s living the dream.

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