Spoiler alert! The following post contains important details about the finale of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” Season 3.
It’s a moment for the reality TV history books.
After getting engaged sight unseen and living together for four weeks, “Love Is Blind” contestant Zanab Jaffrey said “I don’t” to fiancé Cole Barnett – but not without some searing words about his blatant disrespect toward her.
Throughout the third season of the Netflix dating show (all episodes now streaming), Cole and Zanab repeatedly argued about the ways he undermined her. Like the other couples on the series, Cole proposed to Zanab after roughly a week of dating in the “pods,” small rooms where contestants can only talk through walls. They then met in person and moved in with each other.
Shortly after their engagement, Cole flirted with cast member Colleen Reed at a pool party, telling Zanab that she’s less attractive than Colleen. Later in the season, just days before their wedding, Cole confronted Zanab about her apparent mood swings and asked her whether she’s “bipolar.”
So when it came time to get married, Zanab decided to take Cole to task in front of all their friends and family.
“The last two months have not been picture perfect,” Zanab said at their wedding. “You have disrespected me. You have insulted me. You have criticized me. And for what it is worth, you have single-handedly shattered my self-confidence. And I hate that you have had that kind of effect on me.
“And the messed up thing is, I know I love you,” she continued. “But everything in me, and the logical part of my brain, tells me that love shouldn’t feel this way. Love shouldn’t hurt like this. I can’t marry you, and I don’t.”
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Zanab ‘wanted to believe’ in her love story with Cole
In an interview with USA TODAY before the release of Wednesday’s Season 3 finale, Zanab says she tried to have “numerous” conversations with Cole about his insensitive behavior.
In return, “I was called passive-aggressive, not sweet enough, having a bad attitude – maybe even having my mental health questioned,” Zanab explains. And yet, “I wanted to believe in our love story and that we could get back to the man I fell in love with.”
On the morning of the wedding, Zanab still didn’t know whether she’d say “yes” or “no” to tying the knot.
“But when I looked at him and got up (to the altar), I was like, ‘Wow, this guy has to listen to me up here. He’s going to have to hear me. He can’t talk over me; he can’t dismiss me,'” she says. “I used the opportunity to state facts. … And I wanted him to have a very clear understanding of why it was a ‘no.’ ”
Despite how concise and confident she seemed while addressing Cole, Zanab says that she never rehearsed her speech before the ceremony.
“We didn’t know who was going to get asked (to say ‘I do’) first,” Zanab says. “I knew I would want to be kind but still direct, and definitely let him know what our relationship had been to me.”
Cole was ‘blindsided’ by Zanab’s speech, but says they still ‘care about each other’
Zanab nixed their nuptials before Cole had a chance to say “I do.” Even with the benefit of hindsight, Cole isn’t sure what his answer would have been.
“I wanted to marry her so badly,” Cole says in an interview. “If she would have said ‘yes,’ I really have a feeling I would have said ‘yes,’ too, because we had gotten to the best place in our relationship. But looking back now, it’s hard for me to say, seeing where she was at and how she was feeling. I was blindsided by the ‘no’ and the extent of the ‘no.’ ”
The former couple didn’t speak for a “long time” after the would-be wedding, Cole adds. But “now that we’ve seen each other and we’re talking, we’ve really cleared the air. Our relationship is where it needs to be. We’re not romantic and we’re not into each other in that way anymore , but we care about each other.”
Cole admits he was ‘too brutally honest’ on ‘Love Is Blind’
Cole and Zanab weren’t alone in their unhappy unions: Bartise and Nancy ultimately didn’t get hitched, nor did SK and Raven. (Matt and Colleen and Brennon and Alexa were the only two couples to wed this season.) The now-exes say they’ve learned a lot about themselves – and each other – after watching Season 3.
“My cringiest moment was just being completely naive up until the pool party,” Zanab says. “Knowing how that conversation went, and Cole’s (confessional) interview afterwards, where he was saying he was very much physically in love with Colleen and not with me … I didn’t love it. It stung. It still stings a second time (watching now).”
For his part, Cole learned that he has to be “more careful” about what he says about other people – especially when there’s a camera in his face.
“We were constantly asked about what we thought about the other girls we had been dating (in the pods),” Cole says. “And then you see me flirting with Colleen and saying all these things about women, but I was being questioned about all those things (for the show). I should have just said, ‘I don’t want to answer these questions,’ but the bottom line is I answered them – maybe a little too brutally honest sometimes, and it came back to hurt my relationship.
“I should have not been so honest, but it’s part of this experiment, right?”